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Warning Signs That You Might be Experiencing Depression

Depression can strike any of us. Regardless, there is still an unfortunate stigma attached to this condition which can prevent people from seeking help. While depression is an increasingly common diagnosis, many people still adhere to the old stereotype that depression is a form of insanity. This is not correct and not fair.

Do you think you might be suffering from depression? Here are some warning signs:

Compromised Brain Functions

Do you usually pride yourself on having an excellent memory? Depression can cause both long and short-term memory to be adversely affected.

Your concentration level may also not seem as good as usual. As a result, you might feel less sure of yourself and have trouble making decisions.

Low Energy

Are you usually the type of person who can’t wait to start the day, but you are now having trouble getting out of bed? Energy levels tend to drop due to depression.

Sleep Problems

People who normally get a sound sleep may find that they now have bouts of insomnia. Conversely, they may discover that they are sleeping longer, but not feeling any more rested.

Feeling Hopeless

Are you usually optimistic about life and your career, but now no longer see the bright side? Do you find there is nothing to look forward to in life?

Eating Problems

Are you now overeating, particularly “comfort foods,” in an attempt to make yourself feel better? Or are you no longer eating enough?

Physical Pain

In addition to mental anguish, depression can actually cause instances of physical pain, such as muscle aches and even headaches.

Thoughts of Suicide

Do you ever feel so despondent that you think about killing yourself? Is it just a passing thought or have you actually come up with a plan?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consider seeing a therapist to discuss your situation.

Why Cats Make Great Pets

Dogs vs Cats seems to be the eternal argument. Both sides have their ardent defenders, but today we have come to celebrate the joys of having a feline in your life. Cats can be more challenging and less predictable than dogs, but for some, that is part of their appeal. Here are some reasons why you should consider adding a cat to your life:

Independence

We all like our pets to depend on us to a certain extent, but dogs require a considerable commitment that can be quite challenging, especially if you work outside of your home. Cats are much less work: no walks (unless you have one of those few cats that are into this), no bathing needed, and you can easily leave a cat alone for two or three days without worry. Just put out adequate food and water and you’re good!

Playful

Dogs are known for being playful, but cats can be wonderful in this area, too. Just try dangling a string over your kitty sometime. Cats can be hours of entertainment; they may not play fetch, but felines still find ways to become and stay engaged. Felines don’t require the same degree of engagement as dogs, but you should still spend regular time with them.

Purr and Cuddle

If you have an affectionate cat, they can be a great deal of fun to be around. Warm and fluffy, they also emit that wonderful purring noise that can be quite relaxing and delightful.

You Can Train Them

Cats have a reputation for being untrainable, but that’s not true. It is easy to get them to use a litter box (just try doing that with a dog), and you can also train them to not scratch your furniture or do other destructive things. However, this does require some patience.

 

Do You Listen to Podcasts?

Podcasts have been around for a number of years now, but there are still quite a few regular internet users who have never listened to one. For the uninitiated, podcasts are essentially the internet’s answer to radio (though there are also video podcasts).

Unlike radio, however, you are not restricted to a station’s schedule. You can either stream or download a podcast and listen to it whenever you like. That freedom means you can easily keep up with several podcasts because you can listen to them in the car, at the gym, on a hike, or whenever you have some spare time.

Podcasts can be anything their creators want them to be. There are official podcasts put out by groups and organizations, and there are podcasts put out by teenagers from their bedroom. Some are very slick and professional, while others are endearingly amateurish. If there is a subject, you can do a podcast about it, and there is a good chance you will find one that conforms to your interests.

Podcasts can be highly factual and informative, or they can be irreverent and just a piece of disposable entertainment; both of these approaches have their merits and many people listen to a combination of podcast styles.

Most podcasts are free, though some creators charge subscription fees in order to help recover their costs or as simply a way to make some extra money. Some offer two versions of the same podcast: a short one that is free or a longer version that must be purchased (either individually or part of a subscription, the latter usually being cheaper).

You can download podcasts directly from the creator’s website or through a service like iTunes. Going the latter route is especially helpful because you can adjust your settings so that each podcast downloads automatically, saving you the time and effort.

The Internet’s Negative Effects on Education

 

The internet has changed the world in many ways. To site just one example, information has never been easier to access. However, this also means that it is now simpler than before to spread misinformation, which can have terrible results (e.g. fake news and Donald Trump’s election victory).

The accessibility of facts can certainly making learning easier and more efficiently delivered, but the internet has also had some very negative effects on education:

Corner Cutting

One of the main ways that essays and reports benefit students is that they help to stimulate creativity. You have to spend time and problem solve to come up with a topic or information that will allow you to fulfill the parameters of the assignment. With the internet, a pupil can just go online and instantly find examples to emulate. This hinders the development of the skills that they will need both in school and on the job.

Cheating

Another aspect of corner cutting is cheating. Previously a student would have to look for something or hire someone to write a paper for them. Now they can go online and cut and paste things in seconds. Not only does this hurt them, it is easily discerned as teachers can use the internet to check on sections of papers (or entire papers) that do not seem to be that student’s work.

There are also sites where students can buy pre-written essays or commission ones related to that particular assignment.

Time Wasting

There are so many ways to waste time on the internet that you could literally spend entire days doing just that. Students already find some classes difficult to care about; with their laptops and smartphones, they can instantly zone out. This can also tempt them to do the same even during subjects that would regularly engage them.

Technology for Seniors

Many people consider technology to be something that seniors have trouble grasping. While the elderly do have lower technology adoption rates than other groups, that number is on the rise. While you may not be as likely to see your grandmother checking out Facebook on her smartphone, there is still technology out there that is actually quite valuable for seniors to adopt.

Hearing Aids

These have been around for decades, but technological improvements have made them smaller and more accurate, with longer lasting batteries.

Tablets and iPads

“Use it or lose it” is an old saying that applies to a lot of things, including your mind. Seniors who do not make regular use of their cognitive functions are at greater risk of problems in this area. Even just a few games or puzzles on a tablet or iPad provides a convenient way for the elderly to easily exercise their mental muscles.

Skype

Seniors often feel isolated. While the telephone helped to alleviate that, long distance rates can be quite high. Online services like Skype help to keep people in touch, plus the video component allows everyone to see one another, increasing the value of a call.

GPS

We can tend to lose our way as we age, a problem that becomes more pronounced in cases of  Alzheimer’s disease. If your elderly loved one is getting lost, a GPS can be a great way to keep them on track.

Wireless Internet

This is pretty much a must for anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or iPad. Having a wireless set-up in the home helps to keep users from going over their data rates and incurring costly penalties.

Health Tracking Software

If a senior has trouble forgetting when to take their medications, you can install programs on their computer or laptop that provides reminders.

What is Coming for TVs? OLED and QLED are Leading the Way to a Brighter (and Sharper) Future

CES is always an exciting event for technology fans and this year’s show had plenty of fantastic gadgets to look at.

When it comes to televisions, the clear winner this year was the LG Signature OLED W7. If you are amazed by how thin and light TVs have gotten in the recent past, well, the OLED W7 4K set represents yet another step forward. The “W” stands for wallpaper; this TV can go right on to your wall and does not protrude out very far at all: just 1/10th of an inch! This is possible because the new OLED format does not require backlighting. Add in Dolby Atmos sound and improved color, courtesy of design input from Technicolor, and you have got one astounding television. Forget wallpaper: put on something like the BBC’s PLANET EARTH and it’s like looking through a window.

LG is pushing its OLED format, while rival Samsung has its own alternative called QLED. Both formats produce magnificent images, but QLED is more cost-effective to produce, so those sets will likely be more in the average consumer’s price range (learn about the QLED and how it differs from OLED here).

What is your take on these new advancements? Have you made the jump to 4K yet? While there are a good number of early adopters out there who will happily pounce on new tech, the average person waits until they need a new TV or the prices become more competitive. As a lover of 3D, I happily bought one of those sets early on and am sad to see that the format has declined (if you think 3D looks great in 1080p, it would be positively astonishing in 4K).

The prices of 1080p sets have declined sharply and will continue to do so in the wake of 4K. Whatever the case, even that small, low cost TV you want to add to your kitchen next year will likely look far better than anything enthusiasts could enjoy even a decade ago.

 

Does Turner Classic Movies Have a Future?

Established in the 1990s, Turner Classic Movies has been a godsend for fans of old movies. During a period when fewer and fewer stations are showing movies that date before the 1990s, TCM continues to embrace the format. On almost any given day, you can tune in to see a mystery from the 1930s, a western from the 1940s, a horror movie from the 1950s, or a romantic comedy from the 1960s.

Veteran TCM host Robert Osborne, who died earlier this year. By Peabody Awards (Turner Classic Movies) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

As you might expect, TCM’s regular audience skews older. Like cable news networks, this is a problem for the station as they will eventually lose them, not to other channels, but to death. Old movies are a wonderful way to learn about the past and appreciate the stars and cinematic techniques that led to the long-term development and popularity of the movies as an art form.

However, the key to ensuring continued viewership is through young people and that is increasingly a challenge for the network. When I was a child, there was not nearly as much to choose from entertainment-wise. I actually developed a fondness for old movies out of desperation; there was nothing else on, so I watched them. Nowadays, with hundreds of channels and so many other diversions available, getting young people interested in sitting down to a slow, possibly clunky, and (horrors!) maybe even black and white movie is a very tough sell. As the audience for such programming declines, the station is faced with some tough choices, including the possibility of adding commercials as a way of increasing revenue.

That would be a real shame as TCM feels increasingly like the last stop for old movie lovers. It’s a cultural source that needs to continue, not just for old fogies like me but for the knowledge and entertainment of generations to come.

How Many People Even Need TVs Anymore?

I recently posted about the new line of 4K TVs and their advantages. Chances are if you have seen one in stores, you would probably like to have it. They look great and the low prices/increasingly large screen sizes make it more inviting than ever to have movie night at home.

However, then I thought about how so many young people do not own TVs anymore. I guess it makes sense: so many people have dropped cable and rely on streaming for their entertainment. Many of them watch these video files on their computers, laptops, or even their phones. CNN reported last year that the average American spends about ten hours a day looking at screens of various types. Yikes!

Call me old-fashioned (or just call me old), but I like to see things on a big screen. It’s easier to appreciate the detail and craftsmanship on display in movies. Also, as my eyesight will get increasingly worse with age, bigger will also just be better.

However, young people are forward thinking when it comes to technology. They like the convenience and portability of laptops and smartphones, and the ability to watch things on the go. If that means, a six inch screen, then so be it.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to have cable or a disc player to justify owning a 4K or even 1080p set. More and more companies are offering 4K streams of content. If your internet strength is sufficient, that can mean a very nice looking and sounding presentation.

Will TVs go the way of landlines? Doubtful. People enjoy their large screens and the increasing ability to simulate the movie going experience at home with vivid imagery and great sound.  However, when push comes to shove and people are forced to make decisions on their home equipment, small and portable will likely win out over large and flashy.

Is It Time to Buy a 4K TV?

Technology seems to change on a monthly basis. It was not so long ago that we were being sold the glories of 1080p HD. But now the new industry buzzword is 4K. This new super HD format makes old cathode ray tube TVs seem like cave paintings. 4Ks resolution is 3840 pixels × 2160 lines. That’s a lot of information and that means incredibly vivid imagery that seems to supply image depth without the inconvenience of 3D.

A couple years back, 4K sets were super expensive. Technology is always costly for early adopters, but 4K prices have been coming steadily down and are now comparable with the cost of a quality 1080p set.

If your 1080p set continues to serve you well, there is no immediate reason for you to upgrade. Chances are prices will continue to fall and you could end up with a real bargain in a year or so. However, if you are in the market for a new TV, then you should absolutely consider a 4K.

Some streaming services already offer content in 4K and Canadian cable companies are catching up in that regard. Of course, with that huge data stream, you had better make sure there are no problems with your internet connection. If you like movies, this can be a great way to see them. But if you want the full benefit of 4K, you will need to invest in a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. No matter how good a data stream looks, it will suffer from some degree of digital compression. Ultra HD Blu-rays have some compression as well, but not nearly as much. If you are really keen to have the best image available under current technology, a 4K TV and this format are the way to go.

In short: if you need a new set, definitely go for 4K!

Are the Cameras in Smartphones Good Enough for You?

It’s getting more and more difficult to remember the days when you had to load film into a camera, take it out, schlep it over to a place that develops film, wait a few days, and then have to pay for the prints. Hell, for some of us, it’s even getting hard to remember what it was like to own a camera. Thanks to smartphones, we have mini photographic and video studios with us at all times. But is the picture quality from a smartphone good enough for your purposes?

The short answer appears to be, yes, they are good enough for the average person. The convenience of smartphones has caused camera sales to plummet, though there are enough hardy hobbyists out there to make their continued manufacture more than worthwhile.

However, for the average person, the smartphone camera meets their needs and the overall quality of these cameras continues to improve. They also make it incredibly easy to instantly share those pictures.

Another huge plus is image editing features. While not offering you as many options as Photoshop, the image editing features in most phones will more than suffice for basic changes and fixes. Image come out too dark? The brightness and contrast features will likely give you something usable.

Smartphones are also incredibly easy to carry around with you, often even more so than a compact camera. Most people would prefer not to carry around two things when one is good enough.

One drawback with smartphones is the lack of lens selection. You can always “pinch” the image and make it larger, but that usually means a noticeable decrease in quality. A proper camera’s zoom lens will do a much better job of enlarging distant detail without reducing it in quality.

Regular cameras will also give you greater resolution, but cameraphones are getting better and better in that regard, too!