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.