Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays






One of the things I like about the Christmas holidays is the feeling that we are all in this together.   Camaraderie.   There are still grumpy and unhappy people around regardless of the season but many others adopt a little of that Christmas sparkle in their attitude and demeanour.   I was recently in a long line waiting to pick up some packages.   When I say long, I mean forty-five minutes long.   You might think there would be some grumbling . . . or cursing, even.   We're all busy at this time of year with lots to accomplish.   But this queue was a joy to behold.   New arrivals, admittedly with crestfallen faces, took their appropriate places without demur.   Some pleasant conversations ensued.   A few people took out cell phones and started occupy themselves with Candy Crush or whatever games these devices now provide.  All in all, a small tribute to the human race and as I inched my way to the front I felt a small satisfaction about being a member of this group.   Or perhaps I was becoming lightheaded as the blood had by this time pooled in my feet!

I wish my readers Happy Holidays in whatever way they choose to celebrate or enjoy this time of year when everything seems to pause and be held in suspension for an oh so brief period of time.

I will be taking a blog hiatus until the New Year.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DIAGNOSTIC BEES



                                                                       



I started writing my series When Bees Die after reading about and doing some further research into the importance of bees to our very existence here on earth.  I imagined a world, or at least a portion of it, where the bee population had been decimated.

But the potential loss of three quarters of our food source has not been sufficient motivation to reverse the trend and bees are still threatened worldwide.    When I read this article detailing one scientists research in the possible diagnostic talents of bees in determining the presence of diseases like cancer in the earliest stages, it gave me pause.   Here's a potential new talent.

Some may recall the film with Sean Connery, Medicine Man, where in a rare species of ant, whose habitat was threatened by logging, provided a cure for cancer.   The bees cannot perform this miracle, but an early diagnosis is worth something, sometimes a lot.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

FROM SIN TO SALVATION

                                                      



If you live long enough it is possible to become cynical about government policies.   Some behaviours and activities which are frowned on, criticized and possibly even illegal can, with the passage of time, become quite acceptable.   There can be downright encouragement to indulge from official quarters in the form of advertising, paid for with tax dollars, of course.

What has rendered this change?   Did the populace rise up in protest over the inhibition of their personal freedoms?    Did the local law enforcement find the prosecution of these crimes tedious?

Usually what occurred, in my analysis, is that governments, ever strapped for cash despite rising tax rates, decided that there was money to be made in people's pecadillos.   I imagine a group of politicians sitting around a conference table:  

 'Well, we haven't been able to stamp out . . . substitute drinking, drug use, prostitution, gambling, basement suites . . . so we might as well make some money off it.'

I find it amusing to watch and listen to government advertisements extolling the latest lottery scheme and encouraging us to get involved, join the fun, buy a ticket but 'use your game sense.'   The latter being the government's sop to responsible gambling, in this case.  In other words, buy lots of tickets but don't become so financial insolvent that it will cost us money to bail you out and require our support to your now destitute family.

I visualize the government, in the form of a porky child, reaching out to the cookie jar labelled 'Revenue from Marijuana Sales' and wonder how long they can hold out.    The transition from prosecuted offence to 'get with it and join the fun' seems only a matter of time.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

LOCATION INDEPENDENT

                                                                




If you are Location Independent you might also be a Digital Nomad.   Either one sounds exhilarating when you are sitting in rush hour traffic, going nowhere fast.  Unlike inhibited workers of the past, tied down to their croft or factory, a location independent worker can earn their income anywhere in the world.   You might be sitting in your living room in your pyjamas or you might be on a beach in Phuket, Thailand.  The term seems to apply mostly to those individuals who use a computer for all their activities.  

A relative recently resigned his employment in a downtown urban environment.   He was moving out to a suburb where he could get considerably more home for his money.  But,  at the same time, he did not want to join the ranks in one of the most congested cities in North America, listening to the daily traffic reports on the radio and trying to determine the most expeditious route.   There was also the issue that as the senior person in his department, he seemed to be spending a lot of time training and teaching more junior members and dealing with general office politics not to mention  the endless, sometimes pointless, meetings.  All of this ate into his time to complete projects but was somehow not really part of his job description.   He felt swamped at work.  A senior draftsman, using computer software as opposed to a pencil and slide rule of old, he advised his employer that he would be available to work on a contract basis from home.  

I must confess I was skeptical of his prospects.   Why wouldn't the employer hire someone more amenable to keeping things going as they were?  I've been surprised and pleased to have been proved wrong.   He's as busy as he wants to be but doing the drafting and design that he prefers to spend his time on.  I suspect he does excellent work and has proven his value.   Once he had bought the expensive software for his computer, he was able to produce and forward the work that before had seemed to require his attendance downtown.  The savings in gas in a year alone would cover the cost of the computer software.  

Writers can be location independent and I've written about this previously.   Plus if your book is set in your tropical/historic/stunning alpine location there are likely tax deductions available.   In the same way that the film industry can be mobile and set up in the most advantageous location, more and more people can consider the same.   Providing their family agrees!




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

BRING LOTS OF CASH

It is probably a truism to say that institutions need to evolve and change as time goes by.   Things change.  People change.   Times change.   Budgets change.   The world changes.
Large institutions like hospitals, law courts, post-secondary institutions and large corporations  are slow to change.    This is why small upstart companies are able to challenge and sometimes replace older behemoths.   Then they become the inflexible and ponderous entity.


                                                                         


Government institutions often don’t have much competition.   That’s because, although we are playing for them indirectly through our taxes, we don’t have much choice as to how they operate.   They may be monopolies or they may be run or at least overseen by government officials and bureaucrats who don’t necessarily feel obliged to consult the public or even the users of the service.   It can take loud and prolonged complaining before any change happens.   We hope election time will make a difference.

This post seems to consign the present university education system to the scrap heap along with buggy whips and eight track cassettes.   They just didn't keep up with the times and refused to change.   The apparent difference in my two analogies would be that something else (cars and DVD's or digital media)  replaced the whips and cassettes.   What will replace the gatekeeper system that colleges and universities provide?  Or is that necessary any more?
                                                                     * * *

On another note you'll see I changed the listing of my books up above back to Shelfari.   I think I like it better but I wish I could fit the books on one shelf.   I'll challenge myself to fix it over the holidays.

By the way, if you are thinking of purchasing A New Premise, it will be on promotion the week of January 17th with Amazon and the e-book will be on sale there for $2.99.  Just when your after-Christmas bills are arriving!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

LONGEVITY



                                                                         


I love to read about an older book that is being revitalized in some way;   made into a movie or re-relased with a new cover or introduction.   I suppose it is because it reinforces a catchphrase from Dean Wesley Smith:  Books aren't produce (as in vegetables)   If I may paraphrase, they don't wilt.   Books can endure, sometimes for centuries.  Every author likes to think that writing a book is a small route to immortality.

In a way this revitalization can be similar to old films.   Casablanca is an all-time favourite even without any special effects.   Sometimes special effects can date a film as the techniques move on.    The original Star Trek series can look downright cheesy in some effects and costumes today but that might be part of the charm to some.

It is worth consideration that actual physical books endure better than other forms.   We can still read them;  the text is accessible.  Museums in the world have he actual works, in the author's own handwriting.  For example, the original manuscript for Alice in Wonderland  by Lewis Carroll, hand written and illustrated with line drawings is available to view, in person and on-line.     Computer code and the media it is preserved on has a nasty habit of disappearing.   At the very least, the technology changes so that the hunt for an 8 track player or computer that accepts floppy discs can be a challenge.   And that's all in a few decades.

This article, The Trouble with e-readers, is interesting to read as are the comments.   One comment refers to e-books as being just the ticket for casual one-time reading while hardcover books are still preferable for well-loved volumes and classics.   It has been suggested that with e-readers, we don't really own the books, we just lease them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW


                                                                           




Long ago, in a galaxy far away . . . no, back up.   Just the long ago part.   I'll start again.   Long ago, in fact when I was in my last year of high school, my first career choice was journalism.   I went as far as applying to the journalism program in my local college.   Of course, knowing nothing about how these things worked, I duly showed up for my admission interview, all smiles, no clue.   I still recall a key aspect.    Unexpectedly, I was asked to write a summary of a recent newspaper story.  Any recent newspaper story.   This was when everyone subscribed to one of the two local newspapers.

At age eighteen this was not something I had thought to prepare for.   I wracked my brains for worthy details but alas I must confess that I had skipped right over the world affairs section and the current economic news  to read, in reasonable depth, a column to do with barnyard fowls--either chickens or turkeys.    The turkey part is apt because I fumbled my way on the keyboard to produce a brief and inept version of the article.  

I didn't get into the program.  

We've all had those experiences.   The job we didn't get . . . or take, the man we didn't marry, the house we didn't buy.   Sometimes, years later, we can become melancholy with the thought of the loss but other times it's  Phew!  Dodged that bullet.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

I'm sorry, but . . .


                                                            






I was listening recently to a movie critic review a recent release Twelve Years a Slave.   The virtues of this film was extolled and the words 'Oscar buzz' were suggested but what caught my attention amid the praise was the description of this film as being difficult to watch.  This from a film critic who has seen all manner of crime, horror and suspense films.   It reminded me of the description of a Mel Gibson Film, The Passion of Christ.   A critic ventured that the extreme violence obscured the message.   I heard someone describe it as watching someone be tortured for an hour.  

Sorry, not for me.   I'm not sure if I am meant to feel guilty for sparing myself this distressing experience.    It would be more suitable for perpetrators of such actions to be forced to watched these films, the theory being that they would be remorseful and amend their behaviours.  But since I never have or ever could treat another human being in that way I can't see that any benefit would accrue to me.   Can I go back and change what happened?   Should I abandon my present life and devote myself to eradicating injustice in the world?   Like many, I try to contribute small acts of kindness.

 I feel certain I would not be entertained by the film.  

I am aware that others, many others perhaps, find films like this meaningful, life altering even, and I don't intend to denigrate their point of view at all, only express my own.   I will venture to consider that, like books, there are movies for all kinds of tastes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE KEY TO FICTIONAL CHARACTERS


                                                                   






I've discovered that once I started writing novels I began developing an inner critic as to plot, dialogue and resolutions in other media as well as writing.   That's not entirely true, because as a teacher I seem to have always had an invisible red pencil in my hand.   This dubious talent comes to play even when I'm viewing television shows and I must confess it does impinge slightly on my enjoyment.

I watch the television drama show NCIS quite regularly.   Recently a popular character, Ziva David, recently left the show.   When I heard she was being written out of the program, I found myself thinking this would be a loss and inevitably this led my writer mind to trying to figure out what made this character  unique and intriguing.  What was the key to this character's value?   She was foreign born (Chilean) and played a character from Israel.   She came across as exotic.   She was attractive but didn't seem to care that much about her appearance except that she wanted to stay in good shape physically.   But that was not so that she could be appealing to men, it was so she would be effective in her job and in top form as far as self-defense was concerned.   I have a theory that there is a longing for strong female characters amongst readers and viewers.   She was vulnerable but didn't babble on about her issues.

There was the same under wraps, often hinted but never spoken, love interest with one of the other characters, Tony.   I found this similar to the relationship between Muldar and Scully, the protagonists in the X-files.    Viewers couldn't stop wondering if anything was there or if anything would develop since these two good looking people were in such close, almost intimate, contact in many of the storylines.    In an era where romantic relationships seem to initiate, develop, consummate and conclude in a day, this prolonged semi-courtship but not quite phase seemed at first quaint and ultimately tantalizing.

There's a new female character on NCIS and I found myself considering her with my critical inner eye. My conclusion?   She is too much like the quirky Abby and seems gawky and immature.  But perhaps I'm too harsh.   

I have a theory, though,  that the main  key to NCIS' success is the introduction and development of one-of-a kind characters.   And I'm sticking to it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Simplify . . . but you go first.

                                 





We love our stuff.  It doesn't help that it is so easy to accumulate it; the shopping opportunities are everywhere.  Holidays are well established gift giving occasions.   We hope it shows our love.   And for some perverse reason, many things are slow to wear out.   Think about it:   When was the last time you actually wore something out besides socks, which seem prone to developing holes or disappearing in the dryer.  The other  exception would be that dryer and other large appliances which these days seem to have a lifespan of under five years. Socks and large appliances are not so much fun to buy though.

When we move house is usually when we especially notice how many possessions we are responsible for.   It is relatively easy to move the mattresses and sofas--assuming there are several people with sufficient muscles for the task.   But moving the contents of your junk drawer from the built in shelving unit, packing your clothes or worst of all, your kitchen dishes and utensils are onerous tasks.   

We curse, we complain, we blame whoever gave it to us ten Christmases ago.  Sometimes we think about the last time we used it . . . maybe never.   We agonize over whether to keep it or donate it.   We contemplate organizing a garage sale--now there's a task to make you cringe.   But no sooner do we downsize than the urge to upscale our lifestyle and acquire additional accoutrements looms large.  What's the solution?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Travel Light


                                                             




I like to travel light, in fact carry-on, but this this post on Salon is beyond compare.   I read with fascination how a couple in the very early days of their relationship decided to travel with no luggage whatsoever for twenty-one days, starting in Istanbul.   The absolute essentials included a passport, bank card and, I was relieved to read, deodorant and a toothbrush.   The couple had no particular plans, no travel guide and no change of clothes.   I suspect you need to have youthful stamina to pull it off but there's no doubt that it is a good test of a potential relationship.   They also relied, as Tennessee Williams, in A Streetcar named Desire,  put it so eloquently, on the kindness of strangers.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY


                                            



From a Writers' Group Prompt  (post title)

"You know, little girl,"   my grandfather started, in that voice he used when he was about to pontificate on this point or that event.   "We're on this earth for a limited time only."

Grandpa leaned back in his chair, tucked his left thumb under his suspender strap and took his pipe out of his mouth with his other hand.  This would usually have been my cue to invent some task or errand that my mother had set on me that I had, until then, forgotten.  But it was just too darn hot in the middle of this July afternoon to think about moving.

"Yessiree,"   he went on,  "it's easy  for you young folks to think you have all the time in the world ahead of you but let me tell you -- you don't."

Grandpa's pipe must have gone out because he leaned forward in his rocker far enough to tap its side on the old Players Tobacco tin that he kept within arms' reach just for that purpose.  Sometimes when he droned on I would sit in frozen fascination, waiting for the rocker to knock the can over and spill a month's worth of ashes on my mother's Persian rug.   It wasn't really Persian, of course, and had been relegated to the front porch when the tasselled ends became unattractively frayed.   But my mother was the type who liked to elevate the standing of her possessions and mention them regularly in conversation like her one Royal Doulton figurine.

I tuned into Grandpa again when I heard him mention the name 'Jeremy', thinking it was the good looking fellow who delivered our town newspaper twice a week.   I could see his  tanned arms flexing as he tossed the paper in a graceful overhead arc, onto the neighbour's porch, four houses down.

"Jeremy and I spent six weeks in basic training . . ." Grandpa was saying.

Oh.   Another Jeremy.

But Grandpa was right about one thing.  Jeremy, who was new to our neighbourhood having moved here at the end of June would be available for a limited time only, especially to an only medium good looking girl.  Once school started in September at Elmwood High, one of the snooty girls in Eloise's gang would be sure to notice his good looks and consider him a suitable candidate.

I stirred myself when Grandpa paused for breath and got a word in edgewise as a headed down the front steps.

"You're so right, Grandpa.   There's only a limited time."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Synonym or antonym or snip it out?

                                                                                 


                   




In this post on The Passive Voice, a blog aimed at writers and readers, the writer postulates that the flood of soft core or hardcore erotica or porn (the descriptor depending upon your point of view) has screeched to a halt.  I suspect that is an exaggeration.   There will always be a market, just the size will vary.

 Some writers like to write to the current trend, assuming large profits await and for others it is their preferred genre.    I usually feel like a bit of a voyeur if I happened across a graphic scene in a novel and tend to skim over it.   Especially if the scene goes for for pages, I can't help but wonder how it adds to the plot or character development.   It would/might be pertinent that the couple moved their relationship to a different level but the second by second description seems unnecessary.  

In accordance with my thesis that writers (at least this writer) tend to write what they like to read, be warned there is nothing graphic  in any of my books whatsoever, much as the characters are real people (again, at least to this writer) and hopefully also to my readers.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This is amusing, but . . .




                                                                         




This won't be a long-winded diatribe on the attack on our personal freedoms caused by the multitude of laws and regulations in place in most countries around the world.   Sometimes humour is the best approach.   You might find this amusing, as I did:  This might be next.  (sorry about the ad at the start--must be another law!)    Bess, it's really beneath you!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Canine non grata?

The title of this post is my attempt at a play on words on the phrase 'personna non grata' -- an unwelcome person or undesirable guest or acquaintance.   Or maybe the title should be:  Love me, love my dog!  What I find annoying is some of the ways that man (or woman's) best friend is treated by various bureaucracies if you attempt to bring your pet to your vacation home, for example.

I recently looked into what is involved in bringing a dog to Panama.    If you looked at a picture of the Panama skyline:

                                                             



you might think it is Miami but it isn't, it's Panama City.   However, the way the country deals with its canine population is behind its architectural development.  There are many stray, unneutered dogs prowling through garbage on the streets and highways.   There are dog corpses lying in ditches and the sides of highways at times.   The organization Spay Panama has done much work to neuter and spay cats and dogs throughout Panama and has treated thousands of animals with limited resources, dependent entirely on donations.  

But this apathy seems at odds with the requirements to bring to Panama a dog or cat from the U. S. or Canada.   This website The Gringo Guide to Panama has this to say: 


Preparing to move your pet by yourself involves concentrated, almost full-time focus in the weeks prior to your actual move. Most paperwork must be completed within 21 days prior to your departure. If you screw this up, your pet will not be able to go with you, so pay attention!


The writer goes on to give details of the necessary action involving both the office of the Secretary of State (for Americans), the Department of Health and the Panamanian Embassy.  But I must not pick on one country.   Guatemala, for some reason, requires:

Certificate of pedigree legalized by the Guatemalan Consulate at origin.  The certificate expires 30 days from the date of issue.  The pet must enter Guatemala at least 5 days before the expiration date. More details here.

I can't decide if  the situation is laughable or embarrassing.  I can't imagine what difference the pedigree makes.   What if the dog is what used to be called a Heinz 57?

On the other hand, the United Kingdom's requirements can  all be met with one vet visit:


PART A Entry to the UK from other EU Member States and

approved non-EU countries:

For your pet to enter the UK from these countries, you must answer ‘yes’ to the following questions: • Is it microchipped1? • Is it currently vaccinated against rabies?

• Was it vaccinated after it was microchipped and was the rabies vaccination administered as per the vaccine manufacturer’s data sheet?
*    Have you got an EU Pet Passport or Official Veterinary Health Certificate2 from your vet certifying the microchip and vaccination?

 Have at least 21 days passed since it was vaccinated?


 • Are you travelling into the UK with your pet on an approved route with an approved      transport company?    

 Has a vet treated your dog for tapeworm 1-5 days before its arrival in the UK and recorded   the treatment (with exact times) in the passport or Official Health Certificate?



  I wonder  how many pets are left home with friends or relatives or kennels.  Look at this sad face: 


                                                                       

Saturday, November 2, 2013

BIG CITY LIVABILITY

                                                                            





I consider small cities to be more livable than large ones.   I grew up in a small one, unfortunately now of a large size,  and probably didn't appreciate it enough at the time.   There was a downtown core, easily accessible by bus or car with free or almost free parking.   

Big cities today have a certain qualities in common and generally I don't find them to be positive ones.   The traffic can be horrendous both within and upon approach.   The number of vehicles seeking to enter the city containing commuters on their way to work is in excess of the carrying capacity.   Invariably  the roads have not been added to nor increased in number or width.   Transit has not kept up with the demand for access to the city by the outlying suburbs.

Big cities in Europe tend to get a lot of tourists, especially in the summer.   It is easy for local residents to get fed up or at least frustrated with the added congestion.   Expats moving to foreign cities can also have the effect of driving up real estate prices beyond the reach of the local population.   I was surprised to see a recent segment on a television program called International House Hunters wherein the price of an albeit large condo near the beach in Puerto Vallarta was close to $800,000.00 U.S.D.  The average salary for a Mexico worker is, according to my brief research, around $400 to $500 a month.   Of course, there is considerable variation with airline pilots being the highest paid employees and Mexico City workers are  more highly compensated as are employees of foreign companies.   But my point is that these beach side condos tend to be built for an overseas market.

I've read recently that housing in London, a city that I do like,  has gone up ten to twenty percent in price in the past year as people consider a house or apartment there a better investment than a bank account.   Meanwhile, the workers needed in the City can't afford to live there.   

Livability is an issue around the world it seems.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All Hallow's Eve


                             




Many cultures, old and new, have holidays or celebration days on similar dates on the calendar.    I find it pleasing that they are often tied to the events in the natural world, thus demonstrating that history, as well as technology, has a place in the world.   Ancient Celtic cultures celebrated Samhain which meant the end of the summer.   Depending upon where you are in the world, you might agree or disagree with that but in Europe and even North America, there has usually not been a night of frost by October 31st.  

Harvest is over and, if successful, it would be a time of celebration in an era when people had to be self-sufficient and plan ahead for their needs over the upcoming winter . . . or starve.   The Celts also believed that this was the time when the supernatural world and the physical world were in closest contact.  The giving of treats originated in the custom of leaving food and drink outside our door to placate the pixies, witches and any random demons that happened to be wandering about.   In Celtic times cakes were made for wandering souls, to placate them, a preview of treats handed out to children today.  After a period of time, people began dressing up like the demons and witches in a version of whistling past the graveyard.
               

In the seventh century, the Christian Church chose the day after Halloween--November 1--as the day to honour all Saints who did not have their own day during the year.   I remember I was surprised to discover, pursuing some random research, how many Christian saints and martyrs there are and, in consequence, how many days during the year were feast days or holy days in medieval and earlier times.   Let's just say early Christians had more holidays than we do today, considerably more.


It's not too much of a stretch to connect Halloween with the other-worldly aspects of Samhain. The celebration of the harvest seems more indicative of Thanksgiving, held in early to mid-October for the colder Canadian climes and closer to the end of November for the balmier U.S. harvest.





Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pushing Christmas

                                                        



I saw the first Christmas decorations on display in a store on the past weekend.   I didn't like it.   There used to be an unwritten rule that Christmas decorations could not go up until after Halloween.   I've imagined scores of clerks drawing the short straw and spending Halloween evening switching out the displays.  It still seemed to be pushing things but since it was now November, I tried to accept it with good grace.

I used to first hide and then quickly  recycle or more likely throw out  (in the days before recycling) toy store flyers  that arrived before December.   A mother can only take so much pleading, nagging or whining and seven weeks was just too lengthy a period of time.   All that build up of longing and desire didn't seem healthy.

I try to see if from the retailers' point of view--after all, I want them to consider mine.   I've read articles and heard business analysts' statements that many (most) retail businesses only go into the black--start to make a profit--in the Christmas season.    There are enterprises that are basically in a holding pattern as far as sales are concerned and only gear up for the holidays.   This includes many independent craftspeople and artists.

I'm fortunate not to need anything any more but I enjoy the family get togethers and try not to over indulge in the food offerings.   If you have something to spare, consider remembering a charity you believe in.  Make it Christmas for someone else.

                                                                      
San Roque animal shelter, Panama City

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

LIBRARIES . . . AND READING



                                                                   


Reading is important, maybe especially so for children and young people and not just because I write books.   I'm always pleased when someone noteworthy like Neil Gaiman has a similar point of view.   In this post he discusses how important it is to  teach children how to read and to enjoy reading which in turn helps then think new thoughts and think them more deeply.

Unless it is wildly inappropriate, let children choose what they want to read.   I remember reading Nancy Drew mystery books by the bushel as well as comic books.    What adults may think is trite and hackneyed may be new and exciting to some children.   And that's fine.

An important point that Neil Gaiman makes is how reading creates empathy.   Empathy is an important part of being a well-functioning human in a society of other humans.  The connection between illiteracy and prison that Gaiman makes is thought provoking.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is this 'Great'?


                                                          



“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.” ― Alexander the Great

As a teacher, I should be flattered by quotes like this.

Alexander the Great was speaking of Aristotle, as far as the teacher was concerned, and it is difficult to argue with the credit given.    It is interesting that he didn't consider that his mother contributed to his life.   I have read that he wrote to his mother regularly, almost daily, so she must have been in his thoughts.

But before I start to feel too gratified, I must consider the speaker of the quote.  Alexander the Great, the well known Greek, was actually born in Macedonia.   His father was King of Macedonia and left him with an enormous standing army.   It cannot be denied that Alexander was a great military strategist and never lost a battle even when he went up against armies that were considerably larger.   He was daring, usually in the thick of battle himself, and able to make quick and accurate judgements while the action raged.

He was also ruthless.  Does a man deserve to be called ‘The Great’ who was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of his own men and for the unnecessary wholesale slaughter of the native people of the Persian empire?  Alexander would mostly  loot and plunder those who  immediately surrendered and kill or sell into slavery those who mounted a resistance and forced him into an extensive period of siege.   Once he had conquered an area, he would move on, having no patience with any kind of administration or governance.   He departed Macedonia when he was twenty years old with his army and never returned, leaving appointees in his place to govern.  Historical sources, written centuries after his death by Roman historians who based their reports on primary sources, report of his violent temper and his reckless endangerment of the lives of those under him.

Alexander believed he was divine, the son of Zeus yet  he died at age 33 of what is now believed to have been malaria.  I have to wonder what knowledge and wisdom exactly Aristotle imparted to his protege.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A LURCHING EXPERIENCE



                                                                         


Watching the news can be a lurching experience for the emotions.  Distressing, even graphic, information and pictures of conflict in a strife-ridden country on the other side of the globe is interspersed with  celebrity gossip and even cooking tips.  I suspect the show producers have goals of levelling out the offerings, offering something for everyone, and, above all, keeping viewers from changing the channel.  The latter would keep the advertisers content.


                                                            

Somehow we've become accustomed to it.  There's  political scandal--a government official is ripping us off, bombs are going off  in one oil rich state or another, followed by an amusing vignette about a raccoon in someone's garbage can who ends up with an ice cream bucket on his head.   Then there's a brief segment about the red carpet gowns worn at the recent Toronto Film Festival before we're back to a distressing segment about homeless veterans.




Our emotions see-saw back and forth:   How can people be so cruel--oh, I love that dress . . . isn't she separated from him now--why doesn't the government do something . . .   It's exhausting and somehow seems trivialize the important stories.   But I didn't change the channel so the news program producers achieved their goal.   Too bad I couldn't fast forward through the commercials.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A CUP OF GRATITUDE








Many living in what is still called First World Countries--a presumptuous expression--have enjoyed the blessings that access to health care, education and good housing and nutrition can bring.    I've read that one of the secrets to a long life and happiness is to practise gratitude on a regular basis.   I don't think I can say it better than Leo Babauta does here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ah, technology

I've been trying to format this blog to place a slideshow of the books I've published at the side.  If wishes were horses . . . (oops, another idiom.  I love them!)   I could put them on one post but then they would disappear from sight into the vacuum of previous posts.   As what sometimes (often) happens with technology, I know what I want to do but the question then becomes how to do it.

Over the years, I have upgraded my skills and abilities in this regard.   In some cases--perhaps many cases--computer programs have improved to be more intuitive and easier to use.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this out directly from Blogger, the program that this blog is on.  In this case it led me to the 'layout' tab and then 'Add a slideshow' but it seems I can only had photographs that are pre-selected.  These are various scenic and artsy drawings, some attractive enough, but definitely not my covers.    So I persevere.

Someone suggested to me once that I simply type my question into Google and I must confess I have found that this simple solution works quite often.      I try out something called Photobucket and go to the trouble to upload all my covers but alas, something goes wrong between steps and the slideshow fails to materialize.  I try another similar process, without success as well before ending up with the slideshow that now presents itself at the top of each post.


Whew!


Not exactly what I had in mind but I'll leave it for a while and see if it grows on me.   Meanwhile, I am also attempting to find out how to undo the present pagination in a book and re-place it so that will occupy me for a while.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wandering Wilderness

Now published and available in soft cover and e-book versions:







SEQUEL  TO  WHEN BEES DIE

Escape from the oppressive and depressive life behind the fences in Rossville  was the dream, but now what?

Are they each prepared for the hardships they will encounter?   Did they bring what they will need to start a new life?   Will they die in the barren wilderness, unknown to those left behind?

The Resistance  may be small, insignificant really, but they know that somehow they must   do  more  than survive, they must prevail.


This is the second book in a trilogy.