Monthly Archives: March 2016

Lost in Translation: Barf

In Iran, where this laundry detergent is produced, the name means “snow”.  For obvious reasons I don’t think they should try to break into the English market…

In Iran, where this detergent is manufactured, that word means -snow

For other ads lost in translation, click here.

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Filed under Humor, Images, Mistranslations, Signs

To-Do or To-Be, That is the Question

 

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Credit:  www.acceleo.com

Working at home is a double-edged sword; most people think they would love to be their own boss, to set their own schedule, to pursue their own dreams.  But that’s just it:  You have to be your own boss, and not let meetings, schedules, appointments, to-do lists and sundry responsibilities outside of work consume you; you have to set your own schedule and stick to it, or time will hijack it; you have to actively pursue your dream (and success usually comes dressed in work clothes), or it will never come true.  It’s a lot like writing:  Most people don’t really want to write a book, as they claim; they want to have written a book, and there is a vast difference between the two.

If you’re like me, you’re organized; we need to be, to keep work, tasks and schedules from eating us alive.  Sometimes even with the best of intentions and plans, squirrels still come along… if you have no idea what I mean, just click on the link!  To keep the squirrels at bay, I keep a book of to-do lists.  I have one for my household tasks, telephones, repairs, appointments, administrative issues, etc.  I have as many as it takes for revisions and the like for my current manuscript, as well as marketing lists, etc… plus writing blogs.  Sometimes frankly they can all be overwhelming, and that’s where I need grace with myself.  It’s times like that when having a boss might be preferable, telling me what to do next (I just have to remember the last two bosses I had, and that wistful thought vanishes pronto)!

Despite the long lists, I still need to find time and space to just “be”, and that is a challenge for me.  Even when I’m sitting still, my mind’s going 1,000 RPM, percolating on a plot idea, developing a character or plot twist, thinking about what I’ll make for dinner – do I need to go shopping? – or what the schedule will be once others are home again.  Leaving work at the office is more difficult when home and work occupy the same space.  And, oh yeah, daily exercise would be a good idea too.  I have periods each day that are what I call “limbo time” – too short or chopped up by others to dive into a larger project.  I could fill the “limbo” time of my schedule with a myriad of micro-sized tasks; but I also need to learn to step back, take a deep breath or ten, and not be productive or feel guilty that I’m not being productive.  Such recuperation time shouldn’t be relinquished to the edge of “micro crumbs” of time left over; it is just as important to schedule a time of rest, and should be taken just as seriously as any task, though it often isn’t (I’m getting better at it).

Some of the things I’ve learned about time management so far are:

  • Know how your time is spent.  If you don’t, it will run through your fingers like fine sand.  In my article on productivity, I mentioned a few helpful apps; they help me track how my time is being used, and it helps me to focus.  Even my breaks are scheduled with the Clear Focus app mentioned.
  • Have a pad of paper nearby to jot down the random thoughts that come. I’ve found that jotting them down quickly helps clear my mind to focus better on the task at hand.
  • Schedule down-time: Take a power-nap, or do something you enjoy like sitting in the sunshine, going for a refreshing walk, or creating something crafty.
  • Create habits. One habit I have is a bit like “clocking in” at my desk:  I set both my landline phone and my cell phone into a holder on the desk, and this little action signals to my mind that it’s “time to focus”.  Another habit might be making myself a tea either before I sit down, or on a break.

How do you deal with balancing work and rest, real life and dwelling in the fantasy world of a writer?  Have you developed any habits that help?  Please share them below – we can all benefit, I know!  The next thing on my schedule is – squirrel! – taking time to swing by others’ blogs, and be inspired.  The squirrel is now caged.

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Filed under Articles, Lists, Musings, Writing Exercise

The Third Place

We humans are social beings; we crave, in varying degrees and in varying times, social interaction.  For extroverts that comes more frequently than for introverts; but at some point in time we all want to connect.  We each have what are known as physical “places” in our lives:  The first place is the private home; the second is often either the workplace or school; the third place is an environment in which we feel comfortable, “at home”, or refreshed in one way or another.  Some examples of third places are libraries, the barber’s or hair salon, Starbucks, pubs, public recreational centres, and restaurants that don’t breathe down your neck to order or clear your table.  The first two places are where we go because we need to, but the third is where we go because we choose to.

Bloomsbury Coffee House, London

Bloomsbury Coffee House, London; image credit – TripAdvisor.co.uk

Companies like Starbucks, or television shows like “Cheers” capitalize on this craving; they create an environment which feels like a home away from home, a place to slow down, to rest awhile, to read or write or study, and they attract people in droves.  In this cyber age we also have virtual places:  Facebook is the virtual equivalent to a pub, where people hang out and share their lives while friends are free to share and receive to whatever degree that suits them; in a way, it is essentially selfish:  We all have those friends who bask in the sunny parts of our lives, but shy away from our shadows; cyber platforms such as Facebook merely amplify that tendency.  Nevertheless, it provides a platform to connect with others with whom physical contact may be impossible; I have family abroad and friends in every time zone, and keeping up with them would be impossible without Skype and Facebook.

My third place varies:  We have a large flat with peaceful neighbours, so this introvert doesn’t necessarily need a third place on a regular basis; we have a library in our home, where I usually write, though I sometimes settle on our upstairs couch to work as well (just for a change).  When I go out, I go to a local restaurant during its slow hours, and I can unpack my laptop and work a few hours without a sideways glance from the personnel.  My favourite third place is actually in London; located in the cellar of the hotel (St. Athens Hotel, on Tavistock Place) I usually stay in while I’m there, Bloomsbury Coffee House is a friendly pocket-sized place with about twenty tables, and they are usually filled with students on laptops in work groups, and lone readers, writers and businessmen out for quiet breaks.  It’s dangerously close to (just around the corner from) London’s largest second-hand book store, Skoob Books.  The combination is irresistible.

Where is your favourite home-away-from-home place?  Where can you stretch your wings, sit back and relax, people-watch, read, write or simply contemplate the deeper things of life?  Let us know in the comments below, and inspire others with your ideas!

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Filed under Articles, Musings

Deaf Space

Take a moment to stop what you’re doing, and close your eyes:  What do you hear?  A tea kettle? The hum of your computer?  a television?  A car driving by?  All of these sounds tell you something about your environment:  That water is boiling; that your computer is working well, or struggling, or processing something that makes it slower at the moment; that someone, perhaps in another room, is occupied; that traffic is flowing, or that it might be dangerous for children outside at play.

Now take away all those sounds.  It can be disorienting; it makes you feel insecure.  It also makes you more alert to other environmental cues, and to your other senses – particularly sight.  If a person mumbles, or turns away, or moves their hand across their face while speaking to a deaf person, communication is disrupted.  People can be sensitized to the challenges, but can architecture?  Yes.  It can be made suitable for various perceptions and perspectives.

When I lived in Scotland, I translated regularly (BSL) for the deaf in our church, and would hang out with deaf friends sometimes.  Some of them lived in a flat complex designed for the visually or auditorily-impaired, with bold red counter tops, light switches and phones to help them navigate, as well as light signals for various things such as the door bell or the phone ringing.  The deaf sports club was a wide-open space, with room for a large crowd to chat in groups; as a hearing person, it was a unique experience to be in a crowd of signing people:  There are few secrets in the deaf community, because even across the room one can understand the conversation; and though we were all signing, it was not quiet – sounds made with the mouth to support the sign, or the slap of skin on skin, or a laugh, or the shifting of clothing could be heard.

Look at the layout of your room, or office:  If your interaction with the people around you needs to be visual, what could potentially hinder it?  A solid wall, a glaring light fixture, blind corners, stairs (which must be focused on, to navigate), or a narrow passage that makes it difficult to walk side by side, signing.  Deaf architects have begun incorporating their unique considerations into designs, and they not only offer a unique perspective on architecture but, by doing so, have created some stunning spaces:  Deaf Space.  To see a short video on the topic, please click here.  Do yourself a favour, and watch the video at least once without sound.  Below are a few images of deaf space from Google Images.

As a writer, it is always fascinating for me to explore new perspectives, and to try to see the world around me through the eyes of others; doing so enriches the writing experience, and opens new possibilities in developing characters, environments, or situational elements.

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Filed under Articles, Research, Signs, Videos