Off to an event at noon…

A massage therapy booth at the beach in Madeira. How unusual!

At 11:30, we’re driving to St. Paul to attend an event hosted by the law firm representing railroad workers whose health was impacted by exposure to asbestos and other chemicals while working for the railroad. Tom has completed all the paperwork to participate as a claimant, which has already been settled. Over the next few years, he will receive small sums periodically to compensate for his diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, a direct result of the exposure over 42½ years.

After considerable research, the following is a more detailed description of the consequences and long-term effects of asbestos exposure by workers in the railroad industry and other businesses. Tom has been examined, and it has been determined that he has developed this non-curable lung condition.

Pulmonary Fibrosis from Asbestos Exposure in Railroad Employees

Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious, often debilitating condition characterized by the scarring of lung tissue, leading to a progressive and irreversible decline in lung function. Among the various etiologies of pulmonary fibrosis, asbestos exposure remains a significant concern, particularly for individuals working in industries with high risk of exposure, such as the railroad industry. This essay explores the relationship between asbestos exposure and pulmonary fibrosis, focusing on its impact on railroad employees.

Understanding Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis involves the thickening and stiffening of lung tissue due to scar tissue formation (fibrosis). This scarring impairs the lungs’ ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream, leading to chronic dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest discomfort. As the condition progresses, it can result in severe respiratory failure and other complications. The disease can be idiopathic, but occupational exposure to harmful substances like asbestos is a well-recognized cause.

Asbestos Exposure and Its Health Implications

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals known for their durability, heat resistance, and insulating properties. These qualities made asbestos popular in various industries, including construction, shipbuilding, and railroads, particularly during the mid-20th century. However, when inhaled, asbestos fibers can become lodged in the lungs, leading to chronic inflammation, cellular damage, and eventually fibrosis. The latency period between exposure and disease onset can be several decades, complicating early detection and intervention.

Railroad Employees and Asbestos Exposure

Railroad employees, especially those in maintenance, repair, and operations, historically faced significant asbestos exposure. Asbestos was commonly used in locomotive brakes, clutches, insulation for boilers and pipes, and even in the construction of railcars. Workers involved in the maintenance and repair of these components were at high risk of inhaling asbestos fibers. The confined spaces these workers often operated exacerbated the risk, as disturbed asbestos materials could easily become airborne and inhaled.

Pathophysiology of Asbestos-Induced Pulmonary Fibrosis

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can penetrate deep into the lung tissues and become trapped. The body’s immune response to these fibers involves the activation of alveolar macrophages, which attempt to engulf and digest the fibers. However, the durability and size of asbestos fibers often prevent their complete breakdown, leading to a persistent inflammatory response. Over time, this chronic inflammation results in fibroblast activation and the deposition of extracellular matrix components, culminating in the development of fibrotic tissue.

Clinical Manifestations and Diagnosis

Symptoms of asbestos-induced pulmonary fibrosis, also known as asbestosis, typically include progressive dyspnea, a persistent dry cough, chest pain, and digital clubbing. Diagnosis often involves a combination of a detailed occupational history, imaging studies (such as chest X-rays and high-resolution computed tomography scans), pulmonary function tests, and sometimes lung biopsy. Imaging studies in asbestosis typically reveal diffuse interstitial fibrosis, often with a characteristic lower-lobe predominance and pleural plaques. Over the years, many of Tom’s co-workers have passed away from lung diseases, most of which were caused by asbestos and other chemical exposures.

Occupational Health and Safety Regulations

The recognition of the health hazards associated with asbestos led to significant regulatory changes aimed at protecting workers. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set stringent standards for asbestos exposure, including permissible exposure limits, mandatory protective equipment, and regular monitoring of air quality in workplaces. Despite these regulations, cases of asbestos-related diseases continue to emerge, primarily due to the long latency period and past exposures.

Legal and Compensation Aspects

Railroad employees diagnosed with asbestos-induced pulmonary fibrosis often face substantial medical expenses and loss of income due to their inability to work. Legal avenues for compensation are available, with many workers pursuing claims under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Successful claims typically require proving that the employer’s negligence contributed to the worker’s exposure to asbestos and subsequent illness. Additionally, asbestos trust funds, established by bankrupt asbestos manufacturers, provide another source of compensation for affected workers.


Pulmonary fibrosis resulting from asbestos exposure remains a critical occupational health issue, particularly for railroad employees with historical exposure. The insidious nature of asbestos-related diseases, characterized by a prolonged latency period, underscores the importance of ongoing surveillance and early intervention for at-risk populations. While regulatory measures have reduced current exposure risks, the legacy of past asbestos use continues to impact the health of many railroad workers. Ensuring access to medical care, supporting legal compensation claims, and advancing research into effective treatments for pulmonary fibrosis are essential steps in addressing this ongoing public health challenge.

Today, at this event, Tom will see some of his co-workers diagnosed with this condition and dealing with the consequences.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 20, 2014:

We were astounded as we approached the waterfall on the road in Madeira as we watched this van drive under it. Next, it was our turn to drive under it. For more and a video, please click here.

Part 2…Pet-friendly travel…Hotels….

Cute English Cocker Spaniel and suitcase indoors. Pet-friendly hotel. Not our photo.

During our stay at Residence Inn by Marriott, we heard and saw several dogs of varying sizes, including guests with two dogs, usually one small and another larger. Although infrequent during the day, barking has not been an issue at night. We’ve observed pet owners cleaning up after the dogs and keeping them on a leash when outdoors. The presence of dogs has not been an issue for us longer-term guests.

In 2024, the hospitality industry saw a significant transformation, with a growing emphasis on pet-friendly accommodations. This shift is driven by an increasing number of travelers who consider their pets part of the family and wish to bring them along on their journeys. Pet-friendly hotels now offer a range of amenities and services to ensure both human and furry guests have a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

Rise of Pet-Friendly Hotels

The demand for pet-friendly hotels has been steadily increasing over the past decade. This trend has accelerated as more people adopt pets, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when companionship from animals became crucial for many. Hotels have recognized this growing market and are adapting their policies and facilities accordingly. In 2024, pet-friendly hotels are not just a niche but becoming mainstream.

Amenities and Services

Modern pet-friendly hotels offer a variety of amenities designed specifically for pets. These include:

  1. Pet Beds and Bowls: Many hotels provide comfortable pet beds and bowls for food and water in the room. This ensures that pets have a designated space and that their needs are met without guests having to bring their own supplies.
  2. Pet Menus: Some hotels have introduced specialized pet menus, offering gourmet meals for dogs and cats. These menus often include healthy and nutritious options catering to various dietary needs and preferences.
  3. Pet Spa Services: Many hotels now offer spa services such as grooming, massages, and even facials to pamper pets. These services help pets relax and enjoy their stay as much as their owners.
  4. Pet Sitting and Walking Services: Understanding that guests might want to explore the area without their pets, hotels provide pet sitting and walking services. Trained professionals ensure that pets are well cared for in the absence of their owners.
  5. Pet Play Areas: Outdoor play areas and dog parks within the hotel premises are becoming common. These spaces allow pets to exercise and socialize in a safe environment.

Policies and Considerations

While pet-friendly hotels are becoming more common, there are still essential policies and considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Size and Breed Restrictions: Some hotels may restrict the size or breed of pets allowed. It’s essential to check these policies before booking.
  2. Additional Fees: Many hotels charge additional fees for accommodating pets. These fees cover extra cleaning and maintenance required for pet-friendly rooms.
  3. Behavioral Expectations: Hotels expect pets to be well-behaved. Owners may be asked to sign agreements ensuring their pets will not cause damage or disturb other guests.
  4. Vaccination Requirements: Hotels may require proof of pet vaccination to ensure the safety and health of all guests.

Top Pet-Friendly Hotel Chains

Several hotel chains have become renowned for their pet-friendly policies and services in 2024:

  1. Kimpton Hotels: A pioneer in pet-friendly hospitality, Kimpton Hotels welcomes pets of all sizes and breeds without additional fees. They offer a range of pet amenities and even have a Directors of Pet Relations program at some locations.
  2. Aloft Hotels: Part of the Marriott International group, Aloft Hotels is known for its Arf (Animals R Fun) program. This program includes pet beds, bowls, and treats, ensuring a pleasant stay.
  3. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts: Fairmont Hotels offers luxurious pet-friendly services, including pet menus, grooming, and pet-sitting. They also provide information about local pet-friendly attractions and services.
  4. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts: Known for their luxury, Four Seasons properties often welcome pets with open arms. They provide pet beds, bowls, and even pet-sitting services to ensure pets enjoy their stay.
  5. Loews Hotels: Loews Hotels has a dedicated Loews Loves Pets program, which includes pet room service menus, pet toys, bedding, and even pet-walking maps. They also offer pet-sitting and walking services.

Regional Variations

Pet-friendly accommodations vary by region, with some areas being more pet-centric than others:

  1. United States: The U.S. leads the way in pet-friendly hotels, with many chains and independent hotels offering extensive pet amenities. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are particularly pet-friendly, with numerous parks, restaurants, and attractions welcoming pets.
  2. Europe: Europe is also highly pet-friendly, with many hotels in countries like France, Germany, and the UK offering pet amenities. In some cities, pets are welcome in restaurants and public transport, making travel with pets more convenient.
  3. Asia: Pet-friendly hotels are becoming more common, particularly in countries like Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. While not as widespread as in the West, the trend is growing, and more hotels are adapting to meet the needs of pet owners.
  4. Australia and New Zealand: These countries are known for their love of pets, and many hotels offer pet-friendly services. Coastal areas and national parks often have pet-friendly accommodations, making them ideal destinations for pet owners.


In 2024, pet-friendly hotels have evolved to cater to the growing demand from travelers who consider their pets part of the family. With a range of amenities and services designed to ensure a comfortable stay for pets and their owners, these hotels are setting new standards in hospitality. As the trend continues to grow, we can expect even more innovations and improvements in pet-friendly accommodations, making travel with pets easier and more enjoyable than ever before.

For more details on pet-friendly airline travel, please see our post from a few days ago here.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 17, 2014:

We shot this pirate ship as it cruised past us. We’d seen this boat when we were here in April 2013. For more photos, please click here.

Amazon Prime Day sales for the travelers…

We embarked on a whale-watching catamaran trip while in Madeira in 2014. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much during that outing, but we saw many whales in Hawaii in 2014/2015.

While researching a topic for today, which I do when nothing specific pops into my mind, I stumbled across the following article, which could mean more to our readers than my mindless drivel during this quiet time. Amazon Prime Day is coming soon, on July 16 and 17. Today, I’m posting this money-saving article (see below) for our readers who may be Amazon Prime members or those considering joining Amazon Prime at some point.

We have been Amazon Prime members for many years for several specific reasons:

  1. Amazon offers free shipping on most purchases, many of which include same-day or next-day delivery. This is particularly interesting for us in the US since I don’t care about shopping in stores such as Target, pharmacies, and Walmart. Amazon’s prices are competitive, and searching for the best deals is easy.
  2. Amazon Prime’s streaming service, Prime Video, has a plethora of excellent documentaries, series, and movies. Most are free, although some may be premium releases for an additional fee. (We generally don’t pay for new films and series on Amazon Prime and will wait until they are available to stream at no added cost). With the higher costs for many streaming services, Prime Video is an excellent source of entertainment.
  3. Free Music on Prime Music for the first five months. We listen to free music on YouTube when the five months are over.
  4. Use the Amazon Kindle App to read books. Millions of books are offered at huge discounts for reading online, and many are free of charge.

As described on Amazon’s site, there are many more reasons to use Amazon Prime, which you can find here.

Amazon Prime is currently $139 a year, or a little over $11.50 monthly. For us, it pays for itself in its first few months by avoiding shipping fees alone. Even when we’re outside the US and plan to order a shipment of supplies, we have everything sent to our mailing service in Nevada (no shipping fees) and then have our mailing service ship everything to us in one package, costs varying based on speed of delivery and location.

In the past few years, after spending considerable time in the US, we haven’t had to have the items we purchase sent to our mailing service; instead, they are shipped directly to our hotel, wherever we may be staying, without shipping fees. Amazon texts us that the package has been delivered and that we can pick it up at the reception desk immediately.

As mentioned above, you can click on the Amazon black box on the right side of our homepage along with our other advertisers. We earn a small commission for your purchases, but you don’t pay more, which helps offset some of our site’s maintenance costs. You do not need to be a member to buy products on Amazon, and prices and services are the same when using our site or going directly to Amazon. Please click the link here

From this site: “Is Amazon travel’s newest metasearch site?

Amazon Prime Day is fast approaching, which historically has meant little in terms of news for the travel industry. But this year, Amazon has a dedicated page to “Prime Day Travel Deals” with big-name brands, including Carnival Cruise Line, Southwest Airlines, and Tripadvisor experiences brand Viator. Car rental companies Turo, Sixt, and Avis are also participating.

The opportunity to sell with an online retail giant is appealing, according to the travel brands included in the July 16 and 17 shopping event.

“Consumers are interested in unique experiences, and this Prime Day offering puts cruise vacations in front of a targeted audience that we want to reach,” said Amy Martin Ziegenfuss, chief marketing officer of Carnival Cruise Line.

She continued: “Amazon has been a great partner as we’ve worked together on other activations, so making our cruises available for Prime Day builds on our partnership and adds value for customers of both brands.”

Similarly, Viator recently partnered with Amazon Alexa and expressed excitement about selling through Amazon.

“As the first travel experiences marketplace to offer an Amazon Prime Day deal in the [United States], we’re excited to bring our more than 300,000 activities, tours, and experiences directly to the millions of travelers who shop on Amazon every day,” said Laurel Greatrix, vice president of brand and communications for Viator.

Greatrix said the partnership is one of “thousands” of ways Viator is seeking to reach travelers where they are already shopping as it continues to expand distribution for its operators.

Amazon said it offers discounted flights, experiences, and rides with Amazon Travel. Prime members are eligible to receive deals such as 30% off base fares with Southwest Airlines or 20% off experiences with Viator, for example.

It’s unclear whether Amazon will continue offering travel products after Prime Day closes.

While this marks the first time Amazon has offered a full page of travel deals, the company provided a Prime Day deal with Priceline last year. While Amazon did not immediately reply to a request for comment, there has long been chatter about its potential to enter the online travel marketplace. And in 2021, the company also announced it partnered with MakeMyTrip to offer travel in India.”

We hope this information is helpful and those of you considering travel can take advantage of some of these special travel prices.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 13, 2014:

The geese seemed to enjoy hanging out by this unusual palm tree in Madeira. For more photos, please click here.

Tom’s railroad guys get together…Worldwide traveler stats and lifestyle for those living without a home…

From left to right: Dale, Tom, and Jon.
Today’s photos are from a get-together of retired guys who worked with Tom at BNSF during his 42½-year tenure. Thus, the images are not related to today’s post. 

The life of a world traveler, especially one living without a permanent home, is a unique blend of freedom, adventure, and, often, unpredictability. These individuals, usually called digital nomads, perpetual travelers, or global wanderers, embrace a lifestyle that allows them to explore the world while remotely maintaining their work or personal projects. This essay delves into the statistics surrounding world travelers who live without a home, exploring their demographics, motivations, challenges, and the impact of this lifestyle on their well-being and the global economy.

The number of digital nomads and perpetual travelers has steadily increased over the past decade. According to a 2020 report by MBO Partners, there were approximately 10.9 million digital nomads in the United States alone, reflecting a significant rise from previous years. Globally, the figure is estimated to be much higher, with millions more embracing this lifestyle in Europe, Asia, and other regions. This growth can be attributed to several factors, including technological advancements, increased remote work opportunities, and a growing desire for a more flexible and fulfilling lifestyle.

Digital nomads tend to be younger, with the majority falling within the 25-44 age range. A survey conducted by FlexJobs in 2021 found that 42% of digital nomads were millennials (ages 25-40), while 19% were Generation X (ages 41-56). However, this lifestyle is not limited to younger generations; there is a notable presence of older travelers, including retirees, who also take advantage of the freedom and opportunities of a mobile lifestyle.

The guys got together for a group photo as Tom drove up to the restaurant.

The motivations behind choosing a nomadic lifestyle vary widely among individuals. For many, the primary driver is the desire for freedom and adventure. The ability to explore new cultures, learn new languages, and experience diverse environments is a significant allure. Additionally, the flexibility to work from anywhere allows individuals to craft a lifestyle that prioritizes personal well-being and work-life balance.

Economic factors also play a crucial role. The cost of living can be significantly lower in certain parts of the world compared to major urban centers in developed countries. For instance, living in Southeast Asia, Latin America, or Eastern Europe can provide a high quality of life at a fraction of the cost. This financial advantage enables travelers to save money, invest in their passions, or extend their travels indefinitely. For us, living in the bush in South Africa for extended periods has been so affordable that it has enabled us to spend more in other, more costly countries.

Despite the many benefits, living without a permanent home presents unique challenges. One of the most significant hurdles is maintaining a stable income. While remote work opportunities have increased, not all digital nomads have steady employment or freelance work, leading to financial instability. According to the same FlexJobs survey, 34% of digital nomads cited finding remote work opportunities as a primary challenge. Fortunately, we don’t require additional employment to support our world travels.

Another significant issue is the lack of a stable support network. Moving from one place to another can make building and maintaining meaningful relationships challenging. This transient lifestyle can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can impact mental health. Again, we have been fortunate to make friends worldwide, and with our close relationship, we never feel loneliness becomes an issue.

Most had the buffet, but Tom waited to eat homemade pizza when he returned to the hotel.

Additionally, navigating different healthcare systems in various countries can be complex and expensive, adding another layer of stress. We’ve covered this topic in many posts. The most imperative things are a quality travel insurance plan and easy access to quality medical care, especially for those with medical conditions that may need intervention.

Logistics can also be challenging. Visas and legal regulations for long-term stays vary significantly between countries, requiring travelers to manage and plan their movements continuously. Access to reliable internet is another critical factor, as it directly impacts the ability to work remotely. While many countries offer good connectivity, there are still areas where internet access is unreliable or expensive.

The impact of a nomadic lifestyle on well-being is multifaceted. On one hand, the freedom to explore new places and cultures can lead to greater life satisfaction and personal growth. Many digital nomads report higher levels of happiness and fulfillment than their previous lifestyles. The ability to escape the confines of a traditional office and live in inspiring environments can boost creativity and productivity.

On the other hand, the lack of stability and the challenges associated with constant travel can negatively impact mental and physical health. The stress of financial uncertainty, difficulty forming lasting relationships, and the logistical challenges of travel can lead to burnout and exhaustion. Digital nomads must find a balance and establish routines supporting their well-being.

Economically, digital nomads contribute to the global economy by spending money in various countries, supporting local businesses, and often investing in local real estate. Some countries, recognizing the economic benefits, have started offering special visas and incentives to attract digital nomads, not necessarily to retired travelers.

World travelers living without a home represent a growing and dynamic demographic reshaping traditional notions of work and lifestyle. While the freedom and adventure associated with this lifestyle are appealing, it also comes with challenges. Understanding the statistics and trends surrounding digital nomads helps to illuminate the motivations and hurdles they face, as well as their impact on the global economy and their well-being. As the world continues to evolve, the lifestyle of nomads is likely to become increasingly mainstream, offering valuable insights into the future of work and travel.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 12, 2014:

Tom was getting a haircut in Ribeira Brava, Madeira, Portugal. For more photos, please click here.

Fun day for each of us, separately, that is…Do we go camping?…

While touring Madeira, we encountered this waterfall that landed on the car. How unusual.

Last night, we had a great time. We went out for happy hour and dinner at Pizza Luce, close to our hotel. We were surprised by how few patrons were there when we entered but figured it was due to the upcoming 4th of July holiday and people being busy preparing for the long holiday weekend or having already left town for the festivities.

We had a great dinner of their gluten-free meatballs with sugar-free pasta sauce, topped with shaved mozzarella without added pasta. I had two small glasses of red wine, and Tom had two bottles of beer, each for $5.00. Our total bill with taxes and tips was $41.79, which isn’t much more than buying groceries for one night’s dinner.

With grocery inflation, we can easily spend $280 a week if we cook every night. Thus, eating out for around $41.79 wasn’t much more. However, that was the exception, not the rule. We often spend about $70 to dine out at a mid range restaurant. Most weeks, we dine out at least two times, maybe three.

Even fast food is expensive. Tom spent $25 at McDonald’s when he stopped for a meal, only for himself. I don’t eat at Mcdonald’s or most fast food establishments, except Chipotle, or rarely at Jimmy Johns for an “unwich,” which we now avoid when the cost for two sandwiches is over $40. Unbelievable!

At this point, we still don’t have any plans for the holiday, but we’re fine staying at the hotel if that’s how it rolls out. We’re used to spending holidays on our own while traveling worldwide, often barely noticing that it’s a specific US-celebrated holiday.

In South Africa, we’ve spent Christmas and New Year with friends, but here in the US, we’ve received few invitations from family or friends to partake in their planned activities. We prefer not to invite ourselves. Often, our kids and grandkids are out of town camping or planning to watch fireworks displays.

We aren’t much for camping, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t go. Buying a tent and all the necessary equipment makes no sense when we have nowhere to store it and may never use it again. When our kids were young, we camped occasionally and had everything we needed. But not now. Plus, I don’t think we would sleep well on the ground.

Today, we’re each going out separately. Tom heads to Mary and Eugene’s house in Andover at noon to play Buck Euchre. His nephew Kevin is in town from Florida. The card game is for four players, but there will be five players there without me, requiring one to sit out every few games.

Since they have enough players without me, I am not joining them since I’d already committed to lunch at the Asia Mall with my son Greg and grandson Miles today at 12:30. I didn’t want to cancel on Greg and Miles to do something else. Plus, I enjoy getting together with them whenever possible and would never cancel unless I was sick.

Most likely, I’ll be back at the hotel by 2:30 and spend the rest of the day chatting with friends and watching a few movies. When Tom plays Buck euchre with his family, they rarely get done until 1:00 or 2:00 am. Also, I have trouble staying up that late.

In any case, it will be a good day for each of us, and we’ll be happy to see each other after a short break when we are together all the time.

That’s it for today.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, July 2, 2014:

An outdoor lawn ornament store in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal. For more, please click here.

The social calendar is filling in once again…Feeling unmotivated…33 years and counting…

The veranda in the house we booked in Fiji. What a view!

Now that we’re feeling better, our social calendar has been filled with fun get-togethers with friends and family. Staying busy is the best thing we can do right now. It makes the waiting all the more bearable until we leave on August 25. Plus, looking forward to fun events is almost as exciting as the event itself! Well, maybe not quite as much!

Instead, when I got up, showered, and dressed for the day, I decided to do my nails in preparation for two social events this upcoming weekend: one, going to Billy’s Bar and Grill tonight with Tom’s siblings and two, out to dinner tomorrow night to Houlihan’s with old friends, Peggy and Maury whom we haven’t seen in quite a few years.

Last night, I slept well, never awakening during the night. I awoke feeling refreshed and ready for a new day, but for some odd reason, I felt unmotivated to go outside and walk. What’s the deal? The walking is tedious, especially when I can hear the sounds of the nearby freeway, and the scenery around the hotel grounds is boring and commercial. I need a nature and wildlife fix!

In my usual way, I would have done the walking anyway, hardly ever giving myself a break from obligations. Walking by myself is not fun, especially in this mundane location.

It is odd for me to feel unmotivated. I’ve always been a person of considerable self-discipline, although occasionally, I give myself a break, and instead of doing what I should do, I do what I feel like doing, and today is one of those days. I think, in part, I find the walking difficult, and I dread the painful process.

It’s hard to motivate oneself to do something that causes pain and discomfort, even when we know it’s good for us. After I have the surgery, I will need to walk several times a day to speed up the healing process. I’d better prepare myself for this eventuality and push forward. I’ll see if I can muster the determination to do what I must.

Today, it is 33 years since Tom and I met in 1991. it’s hard to believe so much time has passed. Despite our differences, we are very fortunate that we are still very attracted to one another and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, especially when we spend so much time together.

Even during the difficult recovery period we experienced after my last open-heart surgery, we have done so well. Now, facing another such period, I find comfort in knowing what a great caregiver Tom is and that we’ll breeze through it once again, hoping to come out on the other side and be able to continue our world travels.

That eventuality is up in the air right now. I’m five years older and not as fit as I was then. That fact alone should motivate me to get outside and do the walking.

OK, I’ve talked myself into it. I will put on my shoes and head outdoors on this cloudy day to walk. We’ll see how I do.

Have a fantastic weekend, and be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 28, 2014

We booked three months in Fiji. We lived on the island of Vanua Levu in the village of Savusavu, which is situated north of the main island of Fiji, away from the bulk of the tourist hubbub on the main island of Fiji. For more photos, please click here.

What streaming services do we use?..Can you end your cable contract for TV?…

It was often foggy in the hills in Madera.

Yesterday, we wrote about listening to podcasts, and today, we’re covering streaming services for those unfamiliar with using any services other than Netflix.

We use many streaming services, frequently switching back and forth based on certain movies and TV series we’d like to see.

Currently, we use the following services:

  1. Netflix (permanently): See this link for various plans
  2. Hulu (permanently): See this link for multiple plans. (Available with LIVE TV for a premium price of $76.99…we don’t use this premium feature).
  3. Paramount Plus (temporarily, depending on what we’d like to watch): See this link for various plans.
  4. Apple TV (temporarily, depending on what we’d like to watch): $9.95 monthly
  5. Amazon Prime (Prime Video is included with a Prime membership and other benefits such as pricing and free shipping on Amazon… A Prime membership is $14.99 per month or $139 per year if you pay annually.

Based on varying prices and plans (and the country in which you reside), we are paying less than $50 per month for the above. Some plans include ads, and some do not. We prefer plans without ads when the cost is not prohibitive.

In our old lives, 12 years ago, we paid over $200 monthly for cable TV.

Our occasional add-ons:

1, Max (includes HBO)

  • With Ads: $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year
  • Ad-Free: $15.99 per month or $149.99 per year
  • Ultimate Ad-Free: $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year
  • 4K: $21 per month

2. Paramount Plus with Showtime

  • The Paramount+ with SHOWTIME plan costs $11.99 per month or $119.99 per year, plus taxes. This plan includes content from Paramount+ and SHOWTIME and is commercial-free except for live TV and a few shows. It also includes everything in the Paramount+ Essential tier, plus additional benefits like a live feed of your local CBS affiliate.

3. Britbox

  • Free 7-day trial, then just $8.99/month or $89.99/year

Many streaming services offer a one-time 7-day free trial. You can cancel at the end of the seven days, but most likely, you’ll be asked to include a credit card if you don’t cancel on time. I always make a note on my digital calendar to cancel a service if we’ve been able to finish watching a show we were interested in in the seven days.

Some services make it tricky to cancel the service and may offer you special pricing if you stay with them. We handle these on a case-by-case basis.

There are many more streaming services, but we’ve found the above most useful for our interests. For more information on additional streaming services, see this excellent article here.

For those unfamiliar with streaming services, here is a link with an excellent explanation of other streaming services I haven’t mentioned above.

What happens to the regular network TV shows when you end cable TV? 

You won’t have ABC, NBC, or CBS (unless you sign for Paramount Plus, which includes CBS) and many other networks. You can find many of your favorite networks on various streaming services. You will no longer watch shows when they are on TV. You will stream them at your convenience.

How will I find the streaming services on my device?

You will add the app from the usual location where you download apps, entering the username and password you created when you signed up, where your credit card information will be stored for future automatic payments. You do not send in a check for payment as you may have done with your cable service.

Once the app, its service, and your account are entered, it’s a one-click process to open the app and use the streaming service. You will not have to log in each time since your device will remember your information. We keep all the services on my phone, taskbar, and desktop on Windows. You will add the icon for Apple users as you usually add apps to your device.

How do I get the streaming service from my device to the TV monitor?

Most US TV monitors are “smart TVs” where you can “cast” a show from your device to the TV. This is the easiest method; your TV may already have all the streaming services available through a one-click on the TV monitor. If this isn’t available on your TV, or you have an older TV, you can use an HDMI cord from your device.

The Cast button resembles a small TV screen with a WiFi signal. Depending on which app you choose, you’ll find the Cast button either in the top right or left corner of your screen once you open the app. Choose the device you’ll cast to, then tap Cast.

While in hotels, we find it tricky to cast all of our streaming services since they aren’t included as a default. In those cases, we use an HDMI cord. If your device doesn’t have an HDMI outlet, you can usually find an adapter that will work on your device. However, your TV must have an outlet for various HDMI cords by accessing the INPUT on the TV’s remote. Generally, you’ll select HDMI 2 since most TVs work best with that option.

“I see several free streaming services. Why would I pay for a service?”

Many of these free services collect your information and sell it. Also, there usually is a poor signal from the servers, and many ads pop up during the streaming process. However, some networks have free viewing for some of their shows, which may be worth checking out.

I realize this information is cumbersome and complicated for those unfamiliar with streaming. If you have questions, please write them down, and I will post the answers in another post. Often, unfamiliar users end up paying for a service rep to set up streaming services. This is an easy option if you can afford the service fee.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 24, 2014:

As it began to rain, little puffs of clouds dotted the hills in Madeira, Portugal. For more, please click here

How to listen to podcasts, if you don’t already…

Old abandoned house in the hills of Madeira.

When we tell some family members and friends that we listen to podcasts, they shake their heads in astonishment, uncertain of what we’re talking about. Many understand why we do this and are avid followers of podcasts themselves covering various topics that appeal to them, as in our case.

Podcasts are described as follows from AI:

“Podcasts have been steadily increasing in popularity since their invention in 2004, but some say they really took off after 2014. The term “podcast” was coined by Ben Hammersley, a journalist for The Guardian, in 2004 by combining the words “iPod” and “broadcasting.” The medium began to gain traction with the advent of broadband internet access and portable digital audio devices like the iPod. Adam Curry, a former MTV VJ, is considered the first big-name podcaster, starting the popular podcast The Daily Source Code in August 2004. In 2005, Steve Jobs introduced the idea of subscribing to podcasts through the iTunes interface, and George W. Bush became the first US president to deliver his weekly address in podcast form.”

The first podcast we started listening to was, at first, in the format of radio, specifically Garage Logic. Tom had been listening when it first began broadcasting in 1993, most often on the radio in his car if he happened to be on the radio during his drive to and from work, about 45 minutes from our home.

Over the years, I became interested in the show as well. We could listen to it while it was on the radio, at home using our computers, and were directed to the KSTP radio broadcast. It was in 2018 that the radio broadcast ended, and months later, the first Garage Logic podcast began.

As mentioned above, podcasts became popular beginning in 2004. At that time, we both began searching for other podcasts that appealed to our tastes, interests, and current topics of the day. Tom’s and my interests differ in many ways. He can listen to podcasts about sports, history, and politics. My interests revolve around health and wellness, cruise facts and news, science, and technology.

We both enjoy Garage Logic and listen to all five weekly episodes together, along with several others revolving around politics and the state of the economy. Also, we always enjoy the Bachelor TV series, and weekly, we listen to Chris Harrison, the former host of the show’s fun and lighthearted podcast, “The Most Dramatic Podcast Ever’ which may be found here.

But, for those who don’t listen to podcasts and would like to do so, here’s how to find them below:

“There are several ways to find podcasts, including using podcast apps or listening on a web browser:

  • Google Podcasts
    This app allows users to browse popular and trending shows on Android phones and tablets, explore recommendations, and customize their listening experience. Users can search for podcasts by category, such as comedy, news, or history.
  • Apple Podcasts
    Available on iPhones and iPads, this app allows users to search for podcasts by name and select them from the search results. As users type in a search term, suggestions will help them find what they want.
  • Web browser
    Podcasts can be listened to on a web browser like Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Edge.”

Also, it’s as easy as typing a topic in the search bar of your device’s browser: “podcasts…” followed by your favorite topic or name of a person who broadcasts via podcasts. Many options will appear. You can select any you prefer, and if you enjoy a particular podcast, you can bookmark it or save it as an icon on your device for easy future reference.

The fun thing about podcasts is that you can listen to many live or save to listen to later at your convenience.

You may ask, what app do I use to listen to podcasts, and do I have to pay for them?

Here is an excellent list of several apps suitable for listening to podcasts, but there are many more. When you search for a podcast, you’ll often encounter the app you will use to listen. Many are free. We do not pay for any of the podcasts we listen to.

Podcast app Best for
Spotify Music and podcasts
Player FM Android users
Castro Customized listening
Pocket Casts Simple app interface
Audible Audiobooks
Google Podcasts Google ecosystem users
Apple Podcasts iOS users
SiriusXM Flexible listening options
Overcast Social sharing
Why do podcasters have their broadcasts in an app? 
The answer is logical. Through the specific app, the podcasters receive compensation from advertisers. This is all set up by the app, making it easier for the producer to get their podcast up and running quickly and easily. Plus, being affiliated with certain podcasting apps lends to the credibility of the content provided. The more listeners the podcasters entertain, the more revenue is generated.
In the case where no advertisers are associated with the podcast, the presenter may ask for a monthly fee for a subscription. For free podcasts, don’t be alarmed if you are asked to “subscribe” to the podcast. It doesn’t necessarily mean you must pay If you particularly enjoy it. Subscribing to the podcast allows you easy access each time you return, and some offer notifications to your email or text. To avoid paying, if asked, research to see if there is an unpaid option.
You can easily “unsubscribe” anytime by simply unchecking the “subscribe” button on the app page.
We hope this article helps those less familiar with podcasts get into the groove of this entertaining and formative means of topics in your wheelhouse.
Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 23, 2014:

More Christmas holly was growing in the Campanario, Madeira neighborhood. For more photos, please click here.

“Home Alone”…On the mend…

A beautiful lily in the garden at our holiday home in Madeira.

This morning at 8:30, Tom left to go to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to meet up with his kids, Tammy and TJ, to participate in the “Back to the 50’s Car Show,”  as described, “Back to the 50’s Weekend is celebrating their 50th annual event at the fairgrounds! Stop by for classic cars, some fair food favorites, and more!”

TJ has a “classic” car, as shown in the photo below. Tom last attended this event with TJ on June 24, 2017. We wrote about it in this post here.

TJ’s 1954 Buick Special was next to his canopy at the Back to the ’50s annual event at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

It has rained almost every day since arriving in Minnesota in early May, and today is no exception. He’ll likely return before the next expected rainstorm around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. We’re scheduled to pick up our groceries at the local Cub Foods store when he returns.

We haven’t been scheduling delivered grocery orders at the Cub Foods store in Eden Prairie—the delivery cost here is $8.50 plus a tip, usually around $10. It makes no sense to pay $18.50 in extra charges when the grocery store is less than a mile from here. I place the order to be picked up at a specific time.

We drive up to one of the specific pickup parking spots, text our arrival to the number on the sign, and bring groceries to the car. They put together the order for the designated pickup time, so there is little waiting. It’s worth doing it this way, saving us almost $80 monthly instead of having the groceries delivered.

On another note, I am feeling better each day. My coughing has lessened in the past 48 hours since I started taking antibiotics and Prednisone. The only problem is that Prednisone has a severe impact on one’s ability to sleep. I’ve slept less than five hours the past two nights, making me sleepy during the day. But I make a point of not napping to possibly aid in sleeping better at night.

Taking the two tablets early in the morning is recommended, but doing so hasn’t helped. I only have to take them two more mornings until my five-day course ends.

As mentioned, we didn’t meet with Tom’s sister at Billy’s. In the afternoon, Tom drove to Chanhassen to pick up an online order for dinner from our favorite Chinese restaurant, Happy Garden. Their food is fresh and not overly processed. I ordered a dish with shrimp, chicken, scallops, veggies with sauce on the side, and pan-fried (not deep-fried) egg foo young, enough to last two nights.

Tom ordered his usual favorite, two orders of sweet and sour pork with fried rice, enough to last for two nights’ dinner. We’ll enjoy the delicious meals again this evening. We had a lovely evening streaming two shows on Apple TV, “Slow Horses,” a British spy MI6 spy thriller, and afterward, on Netflix, season two of Bridgerton, both of which we thoroughly enjoy.

As I continue to recover, we’ll do the same tonight. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I will feel well enough to make plans with family and get out and about. Tom is still coughing but is also considerably better than a week ago. He’s had the virus for two weeks, and it’s been one week for me.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 22, 2014:

An unusual type of cactus in Madeira. For more photos, please click here.

Great service by Marriott and others…Tipping in today’s world…

Billowing cloud view from the Madeira house, overlooking the sea.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a Marriott manager asking if we needed anything during our extended 70-night stay at this Residence Inn. If we think of something, we’ll let her know. She also asked why we are staying so long, requiring a lengthy explanation.

It made me realize why we like Marriott hotels so much. After all, we spent ten months in lockdown in Mumbai, India, during the pandemic and have stayed at many other Marriotts worldwide, never disappointed by the facility or the quality of the service. We are members of their rewards program, Marriott Bonvoy, and it was through that program that we got a better price for this current two-month stay.

Overall, we’ve had considerable success with quality service from all the rewards programs we use for credit cards, cars, vacation homes, and hotels. Even as Costco Premium members, we recently received a check for almost $200 for Tom’s upcoming hearing aid purchase.

Another recent example is that we used some reward points on a credit card to pay for the expensive hotel in Milwaukee this past weekend. During those times, it’s easier to digest paying premium rates using rewards points when few other options are available.

Speaking of good service, overall, we’ve found that service in the US has been excellent in most situations. That’s not to say that the service in other countries is inferior. It is not. We’ve had excellent service throughout the world from country to country, but we’ve noticed a variance in the expectation of servers receiving tips.

We have no problem tipping for good service. We consider ourselves good tippers, but we investigate what tipping customs and expectations are before heading to a new country. In Australia, for example, service people are paid a fair wage. Early on, when we embarked on numerous cruises in Australia, Tom attempted to tip the baggage handlers at the cruise terminal. In each case, they refused the tips, saying, “Sir, in our country, we make a living wage and don’t accept service tips.”

We spent two years in the South Pacific and found this true throughout Australia, including Tasmania (part of Australia) and New Zealand. In some tropical islands, the expectation for tips was comparable to the US, especially when wages were low in many island nations. We understood and complied accordingly. Then again, prices were low in many venues, whereas prices are higher overall in Australia.

In the past five months in the US, we’ve observed that tips are not only expected but often added to the bill with suggestions for the amount of tips based on the bill. But, on bills in some restaurants, we’ve also observed add-ons for the following:

  1. Credit card use fees as much as 3.5% of the total or more
  2. Health insurance and employee welfare as much as 3.5%
  3. Employee retention fees as high as 3.5%
  4. Tips are expected on the tax on top of the the basic food and drink items

We don’t calculate the tip amount on these extras. We only tip a percentage for the food and beverage amount, not these add-ons, nor do we tip on the sales tax or VAT. For instance, when dining in Minneapolis and other cities, there are city taxes, stadium taxes, and others. We don’t tip on top of these amounts. Why pay a percentage twice?

We may seem tightwads, but living on a fixed income that allows very little for cost of living increases with the current inflation rate, we must consider what works best for us. Of course, if one is wealthy and money is no object, they may never question this process.

This is not to say we don’t appreciate excellent service for food and beverage and the hard work of many servers throughout many fields of endeavor. We tip generously when the service is good, but only, as mentioned, for the service, food, and beverages provided to us.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 18, 2014:

When we went for a walk in Campanario, Madeira, we took this photo of the back of our holiday home. It was a fantastic home. For more photos, please click here.