Thursday, August 21, 2014

At the risk of seeming coy


It almost feels like I have been cheating.
 
Blame it on summer.  Blame it on a lengthy, reflective vacation. Blame it on the company I have been keeping lately ;o)

It has been a while since I have shared my deep thoughts here.  I have been enjoying the company and appeal of another.  

The tabby cat encouraged me to wander over to another blogging platform for tastier treats and pats on the head.


Yes, I have been enjoying the attentions of another.  Specifically, I like the features and sharing community at WordPress.com
  • The WordPress blogging community seems more attentive and communicative than... here; 

I will keep this blog because of the interesting archives and will still maintain the blogspot presence for my novel - so don't forget to visit it from time to time.  

Please follow, like and comment on things that tickle your fancy at my new Deep Blonde Thoughts domain and blog.

Thanks!

T



 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to reduce the size of your inbox

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation is coming into effect July 1, 2014.

That means organizations will have to comply with rules for sending commercial electronic messages (CEM). It doesn't mean spammers will. 

This has been in the news for a while on how it will affect legitimate small businesses.
If you have an existing email list, you will want to read the CASL FAQs

Listen to Steve Dotto's advice on how to get double opt-in from your current email subscribers.



According to one source, there may be a three-year grace period.


Even the smarter than average bear could become confused by the information out there

Although it has good intentions, the introduction of this legislation provides an opportunity for spammers and other morally corrupt individuals to spread uncertainty, to get people to click on links, give away their email addresses or even worse - passwords.

You likely receive newsletters from various organizations and interest groups. You may have noticed messages requesting permission to keep you on their mailing lists. You may also receive vague messages that look like requests for consent but may actually be phishing attempts.

If I am not certain that the consent request is valid and will lead me to a trusted site, I would not respond to a message or follow any links.  I would go directly to the company's web site in my browser to locate the subscribe option and create a new subscription then let the other one expire, valid or not. 

My blonde logic is that if I can't remember subscribing in the first place, why put my computer at risk by following links and unknowingly giving personal information to criminals?  If our past relationship is not well-explained, I will likely delete the message or file it away.


We may attempt to clear the material clutter from our lives but what about all the electronic clutter? 

  • Not sure how to identify legitimate messages?  Take the Spam Quiz
  • Want to know when I post new entries here or on the blog for my novel, The Year of the Rabbit?  Look for the "Follow by Email" box on the right of each blog's web page. Google forces you to sign up with your Gmail address. Kinda dumb and limited...
  • You can do the same for my other blog where the Tabby Cat RulesWordPress isn't picky about what email address you use; you will receive a message to complete the subscription process. 



By providing an email address and clicking the subsequent message links, you will be opting in according to the blog platform's subscription conditions. 

Thanks for dropping by.  I wish you safe computing and a Happy Canada Day!

T

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What is the attraction to speed?

Why do some humans like to race?

Is the attraction to speed part of our competitive nature?  Is it hormone related? 

I can understand the need to ensure emergency vehicles arrive on time to save lives and property. I would like to understand the benefits of racing for racing's sake with burning fuel, producing harmful emissions and taking risks.  
 
Hop over to The Year of the Rabbit blog where Flo asks more questions about auto racing and explains why she killed off one of the characters in the novel.

That's right.  Sweet old Flo killed off another character.  

Thanks for dropping by.  

T




Saturday, May 24, 2014

Farewell to costly illusions

It was one month ago that I decided to end an unhealthy relationship.

Sure, it provided me with company throughout the long winter months, adding a flicker and glow of comedic relief after dinner and many a long day in the working world.  

Problem was that this relationship became stale, intrusive - and costly. I needed a change in lifestyle.  I wanted to discard some unhealthy habits - and cut expenses.  I was starting to feel like one of my furry, floppy roommates.




On April 23rd, I gave the 30-day notice to cancel our cable TV service.  Apparently, I am not alone:

In my new phase of life, I want to explore new interests and embrace new passions. I still want relationships that provide joy and laughter but more so through social gatherings, live theatre and the lost art of story telling.  How about you?

We still use our huge-ass television set to watch movies via Netflix, DVDs and yes, even our cherished old VHS tapes. 

Last night, one of the young folk and I watched our copy of The Truman Show. It had been a while since we last viewed this family favourite during one of our regular movie nights.  

It's a very interesting story with Jim Carrey portraying a character who starts to question his life, what is real and what is fabricated.  Some of us need to do that on a regular basis.   


Philosophy links regarding The Truman Show:


I've often advised my children to ask questions, to resist virtual distractions and encouraged them to read Sophie's World, A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder [a review].  One of them even helped me with an illustration for a wee web project many years ago.



Some of us need frequent reminders to jog our curiosity, to challenge our perception of what is real, what really matters in our life and in our varied relationships.  

In most areas of our lives, we have the freedom to choose.  We are each the star of our own TV show, each the author of our own life story. How will it end? 
  
I think it's healthy to ask questions, to challenge the status quo and leave one's comfort zone once in awhile.  We may just realize that we have been conveniently led back into the cave of illusions and shadows.  


Thanks for dropping by.  Feel free to rate this post using one of the check boxes below or offer a comment.  You have a choice :o)

If you like my writing style, you may enjoy reading The Year of the Rabbit - A Novel About Fate, Family and Forgiveness.



T


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Planning for one's death

It sounds a bit morbid

yet...

With all the baby boomers reaching their 70s, one cannot avoid talking about, planning for one's earthly departure. 

As someone who nearly met with an untimely death a decade ago, I wanted to ensure I had made proper arrangements come the time in the future - the far future, thank you very much!  I also wanted a sense of control over the entire affair. 


It was an interesting process last spring, meeting with the professionals who help arrange remembrance services, who document what you want to be done with your "earthly remains" and help you decide on a final resting place.  

Two out of three ain't bad. 

I'm still struggling with the final resting place concept.  I want to decide on an option other than expecting my adult children to take turns keeping Mother's urn on the mantle - or tucked away in the linen closet.

Some folks are taking the care of deceased loved ones into their own hands, due to the corporatization of the funeral industry and their need to reconnect with the ritual of death.  According to one professional, "...it’s important for our humanity to rediscover this sacred rite of passage in ways that each person is comfortable with and is comforted by.". 

Death is a part of Life. 
 
Some of us want to lessen our ecological footprint even after leaving our earthly bodies.  A recent article cites the increasing number of cremations in Canada, the growing demand for "green" funerals, and the advertisement of eco-friendly burials to attract customers.

One of my darlings once joked that come the time, about putting my ashes in a pot and planting a tree in memorial. 
 
I kind of like that. 

During the planning process, one can also purchase travel insurance.  Yep, that's right.  You can pre-arrange for your remains to be returned home if you meet your demise while exploring the world. 

I like that too because once the kids are out on their own, Momma wants to travel more - and not just jaunts about town and city parks or bus trips through wine country.  

Let's see how well these guys live up to their promise if they have to bring me back from some deep jungle trek or a tour of the great pyramids of Egypt.  

On a slightly related note, I invite you to read an excerpt from my novel where young Sera Fletcher discovers a beautifully carved casket in her father's workshop.  It's called Life After Death.  

Thanks for dropping by.  Next time I'll have something a little more lively to offer.

T

 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spring, New Life, Death and Taxes

I appreciated my recent days off to celebrate the beginning of my favourite month after many busy ones in the working world.  

It was a welcomed break from the long, cold winter in the Ottawa Valley.  I was ready to celebrate a renewal of life and was hopeful for decent weather. This Beatles song always comes to mind. 





Sure, let's celebrate and encourage the sun for growing those lush gardens and bountiful crops during summer.  This fair lady will be sporting a large brimmed hat and taking opportunities to enjoy cool drinks and charming company under the shade of large trees.




This weekend brings the tradition of Jane's Walk in many North American cities, presenting good opportunities to get outdoors and explore urban greenery.  Considering the weather forecast, I'm going to pack sunglasses and an umbrella.  You can't be too certain.  


In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
 - A quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin.  

After you've participated in the outdoor activities and walking exercise you can breathe easy knowing the CRA has extended the filing deadline to May 5th due to that inconvenient web security certificate issue


You probably don't know many people who need to take time off just to get their income tax returns filed.  Some of us can't focus while working with complicated forms and would prefer to pay someone else to process them on our behalf.  At least I know well enough to dump receipts into a shoe box during the year.  

Hmm... I'm running out of spare shoe boxes.  I should buy a new pair of shoes.  Justified?  

Things seemed to come together nicely one evening once I forced myself to sort documents, list items and calculate totals.  CRA didn't answer my question about claiming dependents that I still shelter and feed.  


 
My visit with the tax preparation services was relatively short and sweet.  The gentleman was impressed with my organized files, notes and totals.  I was relieved that after the computerized calculations, I would receive a modest return.  Whew!  There was no opportunity or need to shout obscenities. 





Stranger Than Fiction - a wonderful romantic comedy in which Will Ferrell was bearable and sweet. Authors struggling with writers' block will love it! 

Another bonus was that I felt the liberation in stating a single status while filing under my new name. That's another topic to share on another day.  

I'm running out of steam and must prepare to head outdoors.  You're likely thankful I have wrapped up anyway.  Thank you for reading this far.  Permit me to offer a detour to an earlier post titled "What's in a Name".  It will lead you into some interesting family name history and suggest you obtain a copy of The Year of the Rabbit - a novel about fate, family and forgiveness. Please indulge with me. 

Until next time, have a lovely spring weekend.

T
 


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle


This past week spun through with a whirlwind of family, work, volunteer and social activities.  I survived while practicing patience, professionalism and kindness. 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” 


Attributed to a Scottish preacher and writer Ian Maclaren.  According to this Wikipedia article, it is often misattributed to Plato or Philo of Alexandria.   Regardless, it is a good maxim or axiom for anyone to follow. 

It was also one of the themes in the Noah film I saw on Easter Monday.  In addition to the reminder to take care of the creatures and not misuse earth's resources, the words had particular impact while emerging from the kissable lips of a ruggedly handsome actor.  

 

I digress.  

Continuing with the theme of kindness... 

My writing women friends met on Friday for our monthly gathering at our usual restaurant.  In addition to my late arrival thanks to a public transit snafu, I learned that the establishment had not renewed its liquor license after recent renovations.  To add insult to tardiness, I would not be able to join some of them in a toast with wine.  Instead, we made do with ice tea or water and carried on.  We made do.

In-between rare visits from our waitress, we took turns with the usual introductions, stating our recent accomplishments, future plans and to ask for help with challenging situations.  My OCD nature had to be quelled in that we were not able to complete the circle around the table due to interruptions and side conversations.  

One concern and distraction was the waitress's mood and (a-hem) service.  This became a topic of conversation while empathizing, offering possible reasons for the attitude and blunt treatment.  One guest later mentioned that while she returned from the restrooms, she overheard a loud conversation between our server and one of the young managers

We knew something was out of balance, was not quite right.  Most were forgiving of the ensuing service with attitude and carried on with the meal.  We continued to enjoy each other's company and practice the art of conversation



While paying my bill directly to the waitress, I asked her name, stating that in all the months that we had come to this restaurant, that we had not learned her name.  That seemed to soothe her a bit.  The generous tip may have too.  

Prior to leaving, I took the opportunity to speak with her alone, asking how things were going.  After her generic response of "Okay, okay", I asked again how things were going with her - and with work.  Her eyes watered as she expressed her frustration of being an older woman, working for some young thing who didn't respect her and that she wanted to discuss the matter with her but was brushed aside. Wow, she was expressing feelings similar to those of many friends and acquaintances. 

I offered words of hope that things improve, a hug of reassurance, and that we looked forward to seeing her next month.  She said thank you.  



Most people would not be that patient with or understanding of someone who provides poor service.  Some would not have the imagination to consider the surrounding circumstances or be empathetic (benign interpretation).   Some would complain to the management. Some would walk out, announcing their intentions to never return!

What would you do?



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No longer a spring chicken

Well, Eastern Ontario was pelted with snow and ice pellets once again.

Half-way through April and Old Man Winter is still sticking around. I had to pull out my little boots and holey gloves.  

Many of us are ready for refreshing greens, spring flowers and a gentle breeze.  Give me colour, sunshine and hope. Of all seasons, I would like spring to linger - and not be rushed out by stifling summer heat and humidity.  I generate enough heat on my own, thank you very much!

I am no longer a spring chicken but I find it one of my favourite seasons.  It is a time to celebrate renewal and rebirth.  

As a former Catholic, I occasionally will read the bible, follow the Pope on Twitter and enjoy learning mythology from different cultures.  In particular, I really appreciate the one about Eostre, the Goddess of Spring. 

My drab workstation is already decorated with an Easter Egg Tree and eggs painted by a creative, former co-worker. 


These eggs were decorated almost 20 years ago and are still in good condition.  The act of putting those eggs on display has rekindled a spark, a desire for creativity.

Recently, I had one of the young folk dig a box out of the storage area because I knew that within that box was a protective case containing concept art I had done many years ago.



I created that Yin Yegg during a feverish winter cold in 1999.  It was during a time that I was learning about the art of Feng Shui, looking for ways to harmonize our then unhappy and cluttered home.  

It has been a while since I have painted or drawn.  Over the past few years, I have mainly illustrated with words in various blog posts, opinion articles and my bittersweet novel.  At least the latter is going through changes in preparation for the next print edition, with the help of a resident artiste

As we approach the Easter weekend, I will encourage my family to pause for reflection.  My offspring are too old for childlike craft activities so I doubt we will decorate any eggs.  I still like to look at ideas that others have come up with - especially those that use non-toxic materials and don't create waste. 

Pinterest is a great place for exploring decorating ideas, wardrobe collections and options for self adornment.  Being a low-maintenance gal, I think I'll create a board for cool summer blouses and comfortable shoes. 

Thanks for dropping by.

Happy Easter!

T


Sunday, March 23, 2014

My memory is fine thank you

Technology is making things easier in some ways and more complex in others.  

Call me grumpy with a twist of humour.  If you use a variety of social networking platforms, you may appreciate my lyrical impression of some, based on the tune from Sesame Street's "One of these things":

Two of these things are not like the others.
Two of these things are not the same.
Two of these social networking platforms make annoying assumptions -
And for that their owners should be ashamed. 


 Put on your grownup glasses and have a look:








Do you know the answers?  Do you know why I find them  annoying?  

No matter what I have selected during previous sessions, some platforms keep making the same assumptions that I want them to remember my password and/or to remain logged in.

Goodreads and Meetup are two of the platforms I find annoying in that they keep forcing this option.  Call me a grumpy IT person but I think it is not good practice to check  default options for end users.  Let the user explicitly make those decisions. 

Don't get me started about the practice used by third party software updates like Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader and Google Chrome! Oh... there I went.

It is recommended that you log out from social networking platforms when done else some of them will track your subsequent online activities.  

It comes down to personal responsibility and education if you want to ensure your online security.  

You may choose to download and/or purchase browser add-ons to help guard your privacy.  

Good gravy, Batman!  No wonder they call it the World Wild Web! 

In the 25 years that it has been around, we have seen  startups stall, bubbles burst and creepy criminals take advantage of others online.  



 
There are still not enough funny cat pictures...

Despite my ripening age, I have a memory like a steel trap and can recall most of my passwords.  I don't want them saved on my computer or entrusted with some third party password remembering app, thank you very much!  I may even resort to good ole pen and paper to write them down and store in a secure location.

Don't let me rant about apps for iPads and other tablets.  If you let the apps remember your login info, you better make sure you have a screen lock passcode in case you misplace the darn thing!  Oh... there I went again.

I also don't trust my browsers to remember web site passwords. No more cookies please.  I'm trying to cut back. 

Besides, most of the platforms have an option to send you a helpful email if you forget your password.  Now... do you remember which email address you signed up with?


If that didn't spook you, here's a picture of a black cat.


Thanks for dropping by.  You are most welcome to explicitly select one or more check boxes below to indicate that you found this blog post funny, interesting or inspiring.  

If you are on "Everything Google", you can submit a comment with your Google + or Blogger account.



That's if you remember how to log in...

T


Friday, March 14, 2014

Changing Times

Last weekend we changed the clocks to spring forward one hour.

Spring.  Ha!  We'll see come March 20th. 



All the smart devices in le petit apartment adjusted with the time change automatically.  

One young person camping out in the living room requested that we relocate the analogue clock since its tick-tock-tick sounds keep him awake. 

I gladly moved it into my bedroom, swapping out one of the small paintings.  I like the tick-tock sounds as they remind me of the clocks back at the old Muskoka homestead and provide me with a sense of nostalgia while reminiscing about my dear late parentsOf course, those clocks resided in hallways or dining rooms and not within a book's throw from one's bed.


Clocks provide a reminder of the measured seconds in our segmented mortal lives - or remind us when it is time to pause for short meditations throughout the busy day.  

Except for the digital clock radio, I keep the electronics in my bedroom to a minimum.   It's also a recommendation in order to maintain good Feng Shui.

A few evenings ago, I had to recharge three of the smart devices in my care.  I captured the following photograph with my iPad before plugging it in somewhere to charge its battery.  I later played with the image in Microsoft Word.


This represents my sentiment for a while with observing the new, smart technology that seems to distract people from real life conversations and social opportunities.  The new technology also seems to require a lot of updates, recharges and added protection.

I have been a hold-out for years with not wanting to own or not being able to afford a smart phone.  Well, I committed to one almost three months ago and am proud to say that I have not yet taken one selfie!  

I am getting hip with exchanging text messages with the kids and friends.

Within one week, I received my first telemarketer call. Ugh!  

This new gadget helps me check my email, news and bus schedules.  It lets me enlarge the font for the email app so I don't need to pull out my reading glasses.  I can also pinch and stretch web pages or images (similar to the iPad features).  

Heck, I could even view spreadsheets and edit basic documents with the SkyDrive apps. Microsoft has already changed that to OneDrive because of a lawsuit caused by their choice of names.

Does the immediacy offered by modern technology  cause us to make rushed decisions based on the need to keep up, to compete and one-up the other guys?
 

The smart phone camera has enabled me to take plenty of pics of bus stop observations, snowmageddon and resident cats as well using it to type short, poetic phrases on Twitter. 


 
On a slightly related note, the World Wide Web turns 25 years old this month.  

Does it have enough funny cat pictures -


 - or funny cat videos?






I wonder as well if we have matured, if we will continue for the next few years to use the technology responsibly and in a collaborative manner for the common good. Ha!

What do you think? 



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Something for everyone during Read An E-Book Week

Hello there, cowboy. What brings you to these parts of the wild web?





Ah, yes. It looks like you sauntered by for a bit of adventure - reading adventure with Smashwords, that is.  

You might be interested in a little mystery or romance too.  You may want to check if adult filters are turned on. There seem to be a lot of kinky, steamy submissions lately.  However you paint yer wagon...

Why don't you dust off your spurs and mosey on over to this blog post for my novel?  It's pretty tame. I think some parts might make you cry. It's okay for men to cry.  Some women admire and respect that trait.
 

Would you like to know more about The Year of the Rabbit?   


Did you like reading the novel?  Please submit a review to Goodreads or Smashwords.  Like the Facebook page and share a few comments there too.  I don't ask a lot, do I? 

Thanks for dropping by.  Don't be a stranger, you hear?


T

Monday, February 17, 2014

Awesome family long weekend

Well, it's Family Day and I have this ear worm. 

I have had this "everything is awesome!" tune in my head since going to the cinema to see The Lego Movie with my "kids" on Sunday.

There were many other families in attendance with children young and old.  Considering the loud, adult laughter in the packed theatre, I think that some of the parents were once master builders themselves. 


We are big fans of Lego blocks and the many hours of enjoyment they provided to the children.  I also have memories of stepping on the darn things left scattered around the living room. 

I recall teamwork and concentration after the kids would open a box for a spaceship or train model and painstakingly follow the instructions.  At times, each just wanted to build something alone.  That was okay too. 

Once they had built something "to code", they would eventually tear it down, share pieces and combine with the existing inventory to build their own innovative yet impractical creations.  We never thought of a double decker couch though!

I remember one four year-old lad's insistence on the symmetric use of coloured Lego Duplo blocks when creating airplanes. It became a hit in his kindergarten class, a model soon adopted by others.  

After the film, we went for dinner in a nearby restaurant and spent nearly the entire meal discussing the plot, the missed jokes and our favourite characters. 

One of my favourite characters was Princess Unikitty of Cloud Cuckoo Land where there were no rules and everything was fun.  


That's how play should be.  

If you enjoyed my whimsical recollection, you may also like to  read about an earlier activity from this long weekend involving comic book research and planning for an event. 

Our own Princess Kitty was not pleased with being pulled in to Cats, comics and getting through winter



- - - - - - - 

If you enjoy my writing style, I invite you to read The Year of the Rabbit, a Novel about Fate, Family and Forgiveness

  • Drop by the novel's domain;
  • Read some excerpts;
  • Read comments from others;
  • Download a few free chapters from Smashwords.

  • Thanks for dropping by. 

    T



    Thursday, January 30, 2014

    Turning it around

    Two weekends ago I attended a Feng Shui workshop.

    This was the third workshop I had been to in the past two years.  I'm a slow study in this 5000 year-old art and have a curious enjoyment of learning techniques in positioning element objects.




    I was looking for ways to improve my sleeping environment and ideas to enhance the energy of the common space I share with three young adults and two cats.  My attempts to provide a Zen like, minimalist layout were unsuccessful considering the space with which we had to work.

    I was happy to prepare a farewell to the Year of the Snake, its meandering paths and slippery characters I had endured. 




    Last year I brought one of my young adult children since her year was coming to a close; I wanted something to give her ideas, inspiration for the next year - plus to spend some time together.  

    This year I brought another offspring since The Year of the Horse is "his year" coming up on January 31st.  He was very patient and polite during the four hour session.  I was impressed that he asked questions while showing respect for this ancient tradition.

    During the workshop I took notes on recommended placement of elements and related objects.  I took a mental inventory of objects we already possessed rather than shopping on impulse and investing more money on others.  

    One can respect ancient traditions and the resulting advice while remaining practical. 




    After the workshop I treated my son to a Works burger dinner.  He remarked on the chart showing auspicious and inauspicious compass directions for energy of the different Guas.  He observed that the directions for our two Guas were opposite. Oh...

    I know he is eager to gallop away from our crowded home.  It is difficult for me to let go but I am so happy that he has new opportunities to embrace.  

    The powder room now possesses a poster of a mountain as recommended plus a Himalayan salt  lamp and a plant.  I do not know where we are going to fit a bowl of the recommended fresh rock salt and sage.  I wonder if it will replace the candle whose purpose is to burn off residual fumes...  




    My precious little writing desk has a new location - not at all related to any Feng Shui recommendations.  It just seemed to work best in this spot and is more accessible after turning the bed around.



    It was indeed auspicious that the Feng Shui master recommended turning my bed with the head pointing west to encourage wealth.  I had been considering ways to escape the annoying late night noises coming from the apartment to the east anyway.

    Sometimes it's a great feeling to change things around a bit and offload a few objects that don't enhance one's living space.  

    I have yet to obtain smooth flat rose quartz to slip under the mattress and encourage a relationship.  I think the two cats occasionally occupying the top of the bed would counter-act any chances of that happening anyway.





    The tacky framed print of a mother and babe at the head of my bed does not fit in with the recommended arrangements.  It is a keepsake from the family homestead and fits in with my continuing role as a mother, nurturer and guardian. 

    As one of my offspring readies to gallop off, I am happy that the other two will still be close by for a while. One continues to contribute towards rent by creating illustrations for the next edition of the novel.  

    Happy New Year and thanks for dropping by.

    T