Monday, November 30, 2015

Who's in charge?


Jerry Seinfeld joked that if aliens came to earth and saw people walking dogs, they would assume the dogs are the leaders. The dog walks out front, and a gangly creature trailing behind him picks up his feces and carries it for him.  I do wonder what my dogs think when I diligently remove their detritus from the neighbours' front lawns.   

I believe cats consider that the dead bird or mouse they place on the doorstep is their token of appreciation, their gift of thanks, to their owner.   Maybe a dog thinks it is giving a present.   Must work for them as long as they don't notice the bag being deposited in the nearest waste container.   Of course, they probably don't acknowledge it as a garbage can.   
I remember reading a suggestion that an alien race looking down on earth might think that it is populated by vehicles that periodically disgorges some of its contents.  Is that more likely?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Retail Therapy


                  I first heard this phrase--Retail Therapy--while on vacation in New Zealand, maybe ten years ago.   The meaning was explained to me as shopping to cheer yourself up, to make yourself feel better.  I suppose the phrase is somewhat self-explanatory.   And people do engage in this behaviour, some more than others.   

      I don't go to shopping malls much anymore.   Somehow the endless trudging under artificial lights, burden down by my outside coat becomes tedious before much time has elapsed.   I must also admit that as I became older, the models in the clothing store windows no longer reflected me in style, size or appearance.   That didn't help.    Nor did the changing room mirror should I venture to try on a garment.

      I do recall the pleasure, almost a thrill, of finding the perfect item, preferably at a perfect price.   Waiting in line only enhanced the anticipation.   I suppose the height of pleasure came when the item was wrapped in tissue and placed in the store shopping bag.   You'll noticed I skipped over the part about paying.

     I used to have the habit of purchasing clothing for the lifestyle I thought I had, or perhaps wanted to have.    Maybe it was the one reflected in the women's fashion magazines so widely available.   Hung in my closet the item might wait anxiously for some time, longing for just the right occasion to be debuted.   I might even receive the credit card bill before I'd even enjoyed the admiring comments that I secretly expected would occur.    I would pay the bill right away to remove the connection between expense and the garment.   Too gauche to consider money where such loveliness was concerned.

     But hanging in my closet with the clothing that received regular rotation, some of the bloom dissipated from the rose.   Perhaps, just perhaps the outfit wasn't me, a little voice whispered.   It was still lovely--wasn't it? But it wasn't quite me.   Could I change myself to be more like the outfit?   Would my lifestyle be upgraded in the near future?

       After a year I was forced to face reality.   I had worn the item three times and I'd had to make myself do it.   Yes, there had been a couple of compliments but had they been preceded by a raised eyebrow?   It was true the fuchsia tone was a shade on the bright side.   Yes, I loved fuchsia but realistically, in smaller doses.   I forced myself to face reality.   Navy blue would have been more useful;  I wasn't comfortable with the attention a bright colour could attract in winter.

     That was the bitter truth:   Retail therapy, despite the negative affect on my wallet, had not delivered long term happiness.   But there was a treatment, if not a cure.    The outfit was placed at the back of my closet where it could no longer laugh at my foibles on a regular basis.

Monday, November 16, 2015


A Spork

I've heard about travelling lightly and I'm a big proponent of carry-on only travel, even before airlines starting charging exhorbitant amounts to check a suitcase.   But I haven't considered living in the same way.   Leo Babauta who writes on Zen Habits is trying this out as a lifestyle change.   It seems he travelled for almost a month with one modest sized back pack and enjoyed the benefits so much he is going to try it at home.  As a life style counsellor of sorts he may feel he should test out things before recommending them.   I have always enjoyed reading Zen Habits so I never dismiss Mr. Babauta out of hand.  

One bag living  would mean a minimum amount of clothes, hand washed daily, one set of eating supplies, and  stringent limits on anything else that smooths daily life.   It is true that those folks who have an iPhone or equivalent Smart phone encompassing a computer, camera, telephone and GPS in one, not to mention Apps for just about anything you might imagine, manage to limit their technological baggage considerably.

Now that I am planning, and definitely not anticipating, moving house in 2016 I can't help but regard with  a mixture of scorn and regret all the things I have accumulated.   I was grateful to read that Mr. Babauta does allow himself--and his family--the luxury of furniture.   Too bad, that is the most difficult and expensive to move.   Denying himself a second spoon or fork means he would have to get up to wash off said spoon if a meal included both soup and ice cream.   But Leo is a vegan so ice cream wouldn't be on his menu anyway.  But I have a suggestion Leo may not have considered:   A spork!

Monday, November 9, 2015

You get what you pay for?

I've written before about not being a fan of free books (except for the library, of course).   Some/many writers disagree with me.   Those who find it is successful in increasing sales/adding readers say it works best when the first book in a series is free.   Kind of like the first shoe in a pair is free.  (I'm joking!)  Writers are sincere in their belief that it is unfair to ask readers to take a chance on an unknown (to them) writer.   Free takes away the fear.

With the new (as of this summer) subscription system at Amazon, writers sign up to have their e-books exclusively published on Amazon.   Paperback or hardcover books can be published/distributed widely.  Books in the Kindle Unlimited library (KU) can be borrowed by subscribers and authors are paid a varying amount based upon pages read.   I believe the present renumeration is $.0053 per page. 

On this blog  author Andrew Updegrove gives a lot of detail (probably more than most readers care to wade through) about the results he obtained with a recent free promotion where he made his books free for a period of time, presumably the maximum of 5 days.   The goal was to obtain follow up sales and some book reviews, hopefully favourable, or at least not lose money on the venture.   Judge for yourself if he was successful.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lottery tickets

     I'm old enough to remember when gambling was illegal.   The only lottery available was the Irish Sweepstakes, based on a horse race in Ireland.   You had to know somebody, who knew somebody to be able to purchase a ticket.  It all seemed deliciously semi-illegal.  The winnings were something around $135,000, an enormous sum in those days.  We could while away some hours, planning the best use from homes to cars to vacations to renovations.   

     While the goals for the funds have remained static, the methods of potentially obtaining them have not.    At some point the governments realized that gambling could be  a source of revenue for them.   What had previously been the purview of religious and charitable organizations could increase government coffers.  No more poker parties in someone's garage or surreptitiously purchased tickets;  casinos, on-line poker, bingo and lottery tickets became an important adjunct to government coffers.   Occasional trips to Las Vegas became weekly bus trips to the local slot machine heaven.

     I've read that your chance of winning a lottery ticket is as likely as being eaten by a shark or struck by lightning, fates I would prefer to avoid.  Some people seem to mess up no matter what.  But, as the ads state, someone has to win and you can't win if you don't play.  I've also read that a substantial percentage of people figure winning the lottery into their retirement plans.  The financial community has rebutted this, demonstrating calculations that indicate that the same $5 a week you invest in lottery tickets could provide you with a substantial windfall of your own after 20 years or so.

     My father used to buy a one dollar ticket twice a week on the federal lottery.   But at least he did it thoughtfully.   When the jackpot exceeded a pre-determined amount, he would refrain from buying a ticket.    His reasoning was that while a million or two could be divvied up and spent thoughtfully, $20 million would change things too much.   I don't know if he thought his children would end up lounging  their lives away on a tropical beach or in a downtown flophouse in a drug induced stupor.   Probably not that extreme.   More likely, he knew that too much money could be as much of a problem as too little.

     I related this to my daughter, who was delighted to offer a quote she had heard:  "I know money can't buy happiness, but it will do until happiness comes along."   I think she was only teasing!