Saturday, June 29, 2013



Here are some interesting links about the bee crisis:

National Geographic article


Global Research

I'll be on vacation off and on over the next two months and will be posting irregularly.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013



This is how a university student described final examinations to me:   You binge on studying--textbooks, notebooks, case studies-- and then you write that exam, regurgitating everything.   Or maybe the 'barf' part is afterwards when you attempt to empty your brain of the now unnecessary information and make room for the next load of material.    

 I remember reading a book maybe a decade ago  titled something like "What you remember about courses 5 years after you leave university".   A one or two page summary was given for courses like Economics 101 and Roman History.  The rest of the what you learned had disappeared into the shredder that resides in your brain.   You could, of course, consult the $150 textbook that you were required to purchase.   You wouldn't have paid that for a two page summary.    

Is this a good approach to education?  Perhaps once the student has persevered, survived and graduated, they are inclined to think that others, following, must suffer as well.   I must confess to feeling pride in my degrees but I doubt I could pass most of the courses today. It's the nitpicky details that have long since departed my recollection.   The degrees do serve as a screening device to limit the number of applicants for post-graduate jobs.    

A lot of exams require memorizing a vast amount of data and information.   Is this useful?  In the computer era, all that information is easily available.   Should a student be required to memorize the algorithm for the area of a triangle, if entering area of a triangle in the search box will almost instantly produce the formula?

Education is a controversial subject and there are many theories as to what is best at all levels of education from pre-school to post-doctorate.   What's your opinion?

Saturday, June 22, 2013



We're busy people; the to-do list is long, the commute takes longer, the responsibilities are greater. The alarm clock rings earlier.  Was life easier and less complicated thirty, forty or fifty years ago?  One reason for the sturm und drang--the anxiety and stress--individuals feel  may have something to do with the present lifestyle of both parents being in the workforce.   

Modern life is expensive.  It is true that if we lived in the 1000 square foot homes of the 1950's and had only one car that we maintained ourselves and kept for ten years and passed on all the technology we have today . . .   But you can't turn back time, or so it is said.

So we accept that two incomes--preferably two good incomes--are necessary to live a comfortable middle class life in North American cities.    But there's a downside.  With no supportive spouse at home, taking care of the minutiae of repetitive, dare I say boring, tasks involved in every life life, household maintenance has to be done on the fly.   Of course, when it is put like that, who wants to apply for  the  job of domestic engineer--the shopping, the bill paying, walking the dog, the kitty litter?

Who wants that job?  If it's yours, it helps to be appreciated!
Many women--and let's face it, it is often women who are SAHM'S, otherwise known as Stay at Home Moms--put tremendous effort into making it fulfilling for themselves and meaningful for their children.

It does mean that the other half of the couple is free to pursue a career, an education, cultural activities and . . . read  books!   Perhaps it would be better if everything was split evenly so that each person in the couple could pursue half a career or education and spend the other half of their time on life maintenance work.   It seems impossible to arrange.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


123rf stock photography

I love music.  I enjoy listening to live music;  I especially like watching the performers and musicians do their thing.   But, I rarely go to large concerts any more.   I suspect it's something to do with the fact that the audience mostly stands up the entire time, so I must as well, if I'm going to see anything.   But that's another thing.   Unless I've bought the most expensive tickets--which are now very expensive--I really can't see very much at all of what is happening on stage.   Oh, I know there is usually a large screen I can watch but that isn't very satisfying.

I prefer smaller, more intimate venues when I go out to listen to music.  I've been watching a BBC program called Later  with Jools Holland as host.   He's a musician in his own right.   On his program, where he is impresario and occasional house pianist,  are featured famous and undiscovered acts together on his program.   There might be The Who on one night playing on the same program as a group from a country in Africa playing a locally styled song.

I play an instrument myself, but not for public consumption.   Still, it's satisfying to transform an assortment of black lines and blobs into Beethoven . . . or Enya.   A little like writing a book.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


From a prompt at my writers' group.


Turning the corner, he was surprised to see the miles of barren wasteland that seemed unending, unrelieved as it was by a single tree.    It was difficult to  imagine that this land had once been a vibrant and fruitful tropical region  with daily, but brief, rainfalls that soaked the soil and dried under a brilliant sun.

Something must have happened, he mused.   An exploding volcano or a lengthy drought came to his mind.  He'd heard rumours that some had survived.   A few hundred had managed to carve out an existence  but as he wheeled his craft over the short rise in elevation  to the east and south and viewed still more desolation stretching before him, that belief seemed a fantasy.   No one could survive here.  

And yet, to the west, two pillars were standing, or rather leaning.   About two meters high they were, with a gate between them.     Fastened to the gate, askew but still legible was a hand lettered sign, 

                                                     'KEEP OUT'.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013



I recently read an article that provided both charts and graphs to demonstrate that the majority of people don't finish what they start to read on-line.  Quite a few drop off at the first sentence and from there continues a steep decline in readers.    Few people read to the end.

My theory is they've been  post-secondary students.   If you want to survive university you soon realize that you can't possibly really read the deluge of material that you are provided by the professors whose salary you pay, at least in part.   My recent advice to a frustrated and panicking student:   Read the first and last paragraph and the Abstract (that's the brief summary preceding a lengthy article).  The ratio decidendi.  The problem is that once you have that habit--depending upon how long your university career lasted--it's difficult to break.

I think that is why I came to prize succinctness.   I console myself that the reason my books could charitably be called mid-length--that is, most, except the novellas, are closing on 50,000 words--is because I deplore padding.   Articles that are turned into short stories or short stories that are reincarnated as novels.   That's when I find myself skimming.


Friday, June 7, 2013

I want it, must have it!

I wrote an earlier post about being in a location with limited entertainment prospects.  You are forced to choose what is available.  Sometimes this works out, other times, not so much.   I was recently in hospital for a few days.   A kind person brought me woman's fashion magazine, the type, I must confess, I haven't picked up for years.   Kind of a Mademoiselle/Glamour clone, if indeed those magazines are still in print.

This particular magazine was almost entirely fashion and geared to, I would say 18 to 35 year olds.  First, I noticed the price of the magazine - $5.99, as much or more than many indie e-books.   More than any of mine.   However, I think I can safely say that there was more advertising than copy and even what ostensibly passed for fashion editorializing seemed suspiciously similar to outright ads.  Books, including e-books, don't benefit from that advertising revenue.

There were a few photographs of up and coming or actual movie and television stars, some singers and athletic types.  A few recipes and a little health news rounded out the offerings.  Mostly the magazine was about clothes and shoes.   The prices were more than I can remember.  Three hundred dollar shoes and five hundred dollar dresses were liberally distributed throughout with the odd under $100 item.  This seems contrary with what I've read of the disposable clothing trend of cheap imports from Asia.

The interesting part to me was that I became caught up in it--at least briefly.   There were so many, many outfits.   Colourful clothing, pretty dresses, exotic shoes.   Before I knew what happened, I felt like shopping!   This must be how shopaholics are born!   One's own clothes, shoes, entire lifestyle, not to mention shape and physique seem entirely lacking.     A new outfit is the easy solution.   Fortunately, I was captive to an intravenous line.   By the time I was ready to go home, the impulse had passed but I had to admire the skilled psychology working behind the scenes.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Some authors have interesting names for their author blogs, certainly more interesting than mine.   I came across some unique ones recently:

The Skwib -  I was under the impression that a squib was the small device an actor wears under his clothing which, when pressed, ejects reel blood (that's what film blood is called) as befits the scene.  A squib is also is a miniature explosive device used by the military.

Hmmm  - This can frequently escape from the lips of writers as they search for just the right turn of phrase.

Ink in my coffee -  Do any writers still make long hand notes?   I guess it depends on the speed of your keyboarding.

Journey of an Enquiring Mind   -  I like this;  it sounds so erudite!

Me, Myself and the Manuscript  -  That says it all.

And finally:  Fight for Your Write

Reading these and other author blogs makes me feel a little simple minded in my choice of title.   A clever turn of phrase for a blog title  seems prescient of a well written book.  My only defence is that someone looking for my blog would find me easiest by name.   If I called my blog Music, Travel and Books  in an attempt to define some of my favourite interests I might run the risk that a reader would  think it was Banjo, Badminton and Bicycles,  and end up somewhere else, forgetting all about me and my books.





Would it be too ridiculous to be titled  NO MONKEY BUSINESS!?


In regards to the last suggestion,  I could be running into the Infinite Monkey Theorem:

The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.
 I can't complete with him!