The good life

Lifestyle/Technology | Resources for those beginning to think about alternatives to retirement

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

A recent New York Times story featured baby boomers thinking about retirement and not wanting to spend many of their hours hitting golf balls. Marc Freedman, founder of Civic Ventures, calls the trend away from leisure-based retirement "encore careers"; civicventures.com and encorecareers.org are both websites that provide resources for those beginning to think about alternatives to retirement.

Christians, who have been non-retiring for a while, can also get ideas from christianvolunteering.org, a website that operates like the job website monster.com. Several Christian ministries specifically target retirees with RVs. Sowerministry.org, Mobile Missionary Assistance Program (mmap.org), and Roving Volunteers in Christ's Service (rvics.com) recruit Christian retirees with RVs to work on short-term projects across the country.

Some people focus on the employment part of the encore career because they continue to need income or medical benefits. They also want more flexibility than their previous careers allowed. The survey showed most people chose encore careers because they wanted to use their talents in socially productive ways.

Tasty treats

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The days of low-key birthday parties featuring pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, homemade cake and ice cream, balloons, and simple party favors are long past, although I remember them well. Many parents now compete over exotic party venues and entertainment-although kids probably would be just as happy at an old-fashioned party.

An idea to jazz up any boy's party: food from edible.com, a British website that features items like "giant toasted leafcutter ants," "Thai curry crickets," and "chocolate covered scorpions." The website describes the last delicacy: "A farm-raised Scorpion hand-dipped in Belgian dark chocolate. Crisp wafer-like texture and a pleasant nutty taste similar to walnut." Customers are warned to check with customs to make sure they can bring the items into the country legally.

Child labor

Daniel Sheridan, a consumer design student in England, recently won a prize for inventing a children's seesaw that generates several hours of electricity for every 10 minutes of play. He hopes to turn the design into a nonprofit business to provide electricity to schools in poor rural areas of Africa where it is scarce. He's testing a prototype this year, and if all goes well will begin manufacturing more seesaws.

Far, far behind

According to The Guardian, a British newspaper, the Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide, leading to speculation that the books might one day pass the Bible as the world's bestselling book. Since the first Potter book was published in 1997, the series has been translated into 67 languages. The article noted, "Harry Potter will still have his work cut out to catch the Bible, which, according to The Guinness Book of Records, has sold 2.5 billion copies since 1815, and has been translated into 2,233 languages or dialects."

Waldo returns

Twenty-one years ago Where's Waldo? was born. The tall skinny bespectacled fellow in the red-and-white-striped shirt and beanie cap hides in plain sight in five original books and a sixth that came out in 2006.

Now Waldo's publishers are betting that kids who grew up on Waldo will be swept up into a Waldo revival. The website "Canyoufindwaldo.com" provides Waldo fun intended not for youngsters but for his original fans who are now likely to be bankers, teachers, lawyers, and nurses.

The site provides social networking features for Facebook and MySpace. Fans can download a creativity kit and learn about the artist who "created a 50-foot Waldo on her rooftop in order to make it appear in satellite photos taken for Google's Map and Earth service." The site also links to a clever video, The Waldo Ultimatum, based on The Bourne Ultimatum.

Going bananas

What does it mean to live simply? In southern India people eat meals off of banana leaves-and now green Americans can also, for a price. Verterra.com sells "environmentally friendly," disposable plates, bowls, and platters made from fallen leaves that are "sprayed with high pressure water, steamed and UV sterilized" before being molded into shape. The plates are more versatile than plastic; they can be used in the oven, hand-washed and reused.

Entrepreneur Michael Dwork founded Verterra as an MBA student at Columbia. While doing a summer internship in South India he saw a woman on the roadside pressing a plate from a leaf. He bought several of her plates, reengineered them to make them more durable and attractive to Western consumers, and began manufacturing them. Simple living-or affectation?

Roughing it

By Susan Olasky

One company way up north in the Yukon is putting alternative sources of power to more exotic use. Perfect Earth Tours offers lodging in luxury solar-powered teepees, equipped with two queen-size beds, organic mattresses and linens, personal outhouses, and two DVD players with wireless headsets, satellite radio, and wireless internet access. The website explains that "Perfect Earth Tours Eco Spa & Retreat is based on our love and deep respect for Mother Earth, our strong belief in personal and corporate environmental responsibility and our love of decadence."

Decadence seems to be the operative word for items featured on Bornrich.org, a website targeted to people drawn to bling-encrusted iPhones and Scrabble sets. Recently the website featured "The Golden Calf," a work by artist Damien Hirst that will be auctioned by Sotheby's in September. According to the website, "The artist has dared to submerge a bull in formaldehyde. And to boost its luxury quotient, he has crowned its head by a solid-gold disc while the hooves and horns are cast in 18-karat gold. This 2.15 meter bull sculpture sits on a marble base, is encased in a gold-plated box."

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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