Category Archives: Musings
Back in the good ol’ days, we just shouted at the photocopier that we were sure was out to get us, as it ate the only hand-typed copy of our document. Then dawned computers – albeit without luxuries-cum-necessities such as Windows. I remember writing business letters in DOS.
Now, our lives are controlled by machines, and to a large extent, like proverbial frogs in a boiling pot of water, we don’t even recognize the fact – or if we do, we simply don’t know what to do about it. But we have an advantage that we didn’t have way back then: A voice on an international platform… blogs.
What’s brought this topic up recently is a string of frustratingly pointless emails back and forth with algorithms. Around Christmas, Pinterest introduced a new feature – sections within boards. It’s a great feature, theoretically, especially if you have tons of boards or tons of pins in said boards. Theoretically. While migrating my massive collections of pins to new sections, Pinterest constantly blocked me with their “spam filter”; when I did get things done, after the fact, they simply LOST three entire sections (not all at once… one here, one another day, one two days ago)! Now comes the useless algorithmic runaround. They have a limited number of options which you are required to choose from among; if your query is out of the “beginners problems” categories, you’re out of luck. I have never, not once, reached an actual human on Pinterest Help. I did once receive a response from some “one” named “Charlie” – but from the response, it was not human – just another algorithm. They neither help solve problems, take responsibility, or offer an apology. It is what it is, take it or stuff it.
When did “customer service” become pointless? The moment companies realized that they could make money off of the masses without actually bothering with them, that’s when. If that sounds cynical, it probably is – and I don’t often let things ruffle me, but honour is one area that will always get up my nose, as I have a strong sense of justice: When companies or people stop honouring those around them with common courtesies, they will hear about it from me. If Pinterest refuses to add customer service (not just “customer processing”) to their list of skills, it will only be a matter of time before someone comes up with an alternative service with that issue as their strong point; and every disgruntled person of the “mass” will leave Pinterest in the dust, including me. Because despite what some of these online upstart companies seem to think, humanity and human customers should always be the top priority; after all, we can and will make our own decisions, and we will go where we feel wanted, and taken care of.
Algorithms are everywhere; some are more intelligent than others. If you have any amount of online presence, chances are that mega-sites like Google know more about you than your own mother. So what can we frogs do? Unless you’re willing to jump off-grid and become a cyber recluse (which isn’t an option for authors, writers, or most people in the civilized world these days), then let your voice be heard: Write about it on your blog, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – wherever you have a voice. When we’re loud about it, we will be heard; it will stir others to action; it may be a single drop of water, but it may be the one that eventually causes the dam to burst.
If you don’t want to make those waves, then I’d suggest you just pour yourself a piña colada, topped with one of those little bamboo umbrellas, lean back and enjoy the sauna while you can. And if you decide to go for a swim while you’re in there, just watch out for the phishing lines…
For me, Christmas has never been about the commercialism or the food or the decorations; we do things low-key here in Switzerland, though we do decorate and exchange gifts. It’s about family, time together, specific gifts that the receiver wanted or needed (not just purchases to stuff the stocking or load the base of the tree). As a Christian, the true meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with Santa or sitting around a dead tree in the living room eating candy out of socks. It has to do with the single greatest event in the history of humanity, which was simultaneously a “non-event”… nothing like the people of the times had been expecting, and so most of them missed it altogether. Those who have ears to hear, or eyes to see, will hear and see; those who don’t, or who choose to remain deaf and blind, will do so; it’s that simple. So it is that many people today repeat history and miss the point of Christmas altogether. They get bogged down in materialism, commercialism, superficiality or social pressures of one form or another, and forget about the historical and spiritual aspects of the holiday.
Personally, we will continue to celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree, gifts, Christmas music and time together with loved ones, all the while remembering the true Reason for the Season, for the greatest demonstration of sacrificial love next to the act of Jesus’s obedience to the point of the crucifixion: That of coming to Earth in the vulnerable form of a baby, born into a family with no status, no wealth and no social power, becoming a human in order to identify with us in every way, and to eventually pay the ultimate price on our behalf so that, if we accept what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can know him intimately – on the deepest level of connection possible to humans in our limitations of time and space: That of the heart, the soul, the mind, and the spirit. The more I think about it, the more mind-boggling it is; the events that we celebrate at Christmas were set in motion for you and for me. It’s that simple.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year!
Hi everyone! In case you’re wondering, yep, I’m still here; real life has been busy, busy, busy! By the time I’ve gotten time to write anything this past fortnight, I haven’t had the energy to do so.
I’ve been busy preparing my manuscripts and graphics for publication, in the midst of preparing and then sitting at a crafts fair for 2 days, selling my wares, and then bringing home a bug that stayed for a couple days as an unwanted guest. I’ve also had more blood tests (all-clear on those, thank goodness!) in connection with the surgery I had in October; thankfully, the medication that I now take seems to have found an accurate balance from the outset, so that’s a relief.
In between the publishing process phases, I’m preparing my other books in various ways – adding new blurbs, etc., so I’m working with several checklists at once, and, I must say that the motivation is approaching “Christmas break” in my mind… it’s like teachers trying to motivate kids to focus in the week before holidays – ain’t happenin’ all that effectively! But, just one step after the other, and I’ll get there eventually. Before Christmas, that’s my only goal right now…
Speaking of Christmas, here’s a few Calvin & Hobbes cartoons to bring a smile to your face!
I’ve been thinking about faces recently; a friend of mine will be having reconstructive surgery on her face to restore the tissue and structure that was eaten away by a rare condition, and we were talking about the psychological effects of such a procedure, and the influence it could have on one’s own sense of identity.
After that talk, I did a bit of research online about the psychology of the face, and I found a series of photo montages called “Facial Expressions Reference Project” (just search that phrase on google images to see what I mean). What I found interesting about that series is that, though they used the basic range of emotions such as sad, or amused, confident or embarrassed, nearly every person’s interpretation was different. It highlights not only the differences of opinions when it comes to labelling particular facial expressions, but also potential misunderstandings that can arise from the varying interpretations of this key form of nonverbal communication – especially when in a cross-cultural situation. For example, when I lived in the Philippines, I had to get used to the fact that shaking their head side to side meant “yes”, and wiggling their head up and down meant “no” – the wiggle was to make “no” less direct, so as not to lose face or cause the other person to lose face.
This train of thought led me to wonder what kinds of English idioms refer to the face; there are dozens of them: You can have a long-, poker-, fresh-, or a straight face, or a face that would stop a clock, or conversely, traffic, or have a face that only a mother could love; you can be (not) just another pretty face, put on a brave face or be blue/red in the face, have egg on your face, or be two-faced. You can face the facts, consequences, the music, time, or, let’s face it, you can be in someone’s face, lose or save face, show your face (or not), stuff it, fall flat on it both physically and metaphorically, and – well, the list goes on and on.
Below is a series of celebrity photos, in various characters; as a writer, I find it helpful to have visual references when describing physicality in the written word, and this fun montage gives a wide range to choose from. Enjoy, and keep writing!
Everyone’s got them; no one necessarily wants them: Those moments in life when things go topsy-turvy and send us into tailspins. I call them “loops of life” – like a loop on a roller coaster… they come up fast; you may dread the thought of it more than the actual experience warrants; and it’s over before you know it.
Life has thrown me a loop lately, and as it has affected, and will likely affect, my rhythm of posting blogs here for the next couple weeks, I’d like to thank you in advance for a bit of patience.
In the summer, I found a growth in my neck; I knew it was the thyroid gland, as I’d had one in the same spot 30 years ago; by the time life got back into swing here after the summer holidays, it had grown further; long story short, they found three large, benign masses which have completely consumed my thyroid gland – miraculously, however, they seem to have taken over its function and are working perfectly fine. But it’s getting harder to speak, swallow, breathe, etc. So, in 10 days I’ll get to check into a luxury hotel, aka the hospital, and undergo a 4-hour surgery; the surgeon will take her time, especially as I’m a singer and the vocal cords / nerves are extremely important to me, as you can imagine!
Since beginning this process, I’ve heard from so many people who are having (or have had) the same problem; it’s comforting to know I’m by no means alone in this, and others have come through it well and whole. I may not post regularly for the next fortnight or so – but keep your eyes open!
Before the surgery, we’re going away for a much needed week’s holiday in Lugano, and are looking forward to it! Our cats are looking forward to being spoilt by a live-in flat sitter, too, so it’s a win-win!
There’s an old Native American proverb about two wolves: One is a black wolf, and the other, white. The black wolf is everything that is bad, and the white one is everything that is good. These wolves are constantly at battle inside each one of us: Which wolf wins? The one you feed.
This story has truth at its core, and we can apply this principle to any area of our lives: Thoughts; diet; exercise; writing; speech; relationships; habits, and anything else you can think of. Another adage comes to mind: “Garbage in, garbage out” – what we feed ourselves (any part of our trinity, whether mind, body or spirit) is what will come out of us. There are all kinds of sayings around this truth – roots and fruits, and all that.
Each one of us has a daily routine; it may vary greatly from person to person, but it’s there. We all probably have habits we’d like to break; they could be things that are time- or energy-wasters, or habits like smoking or overeating. I’d like to focus on the habits of writers.
Creativity, like caffeine, is a legal addictive substance; an addiction is formed from repeated applications (i.e. habit). If we feed the right wolves, we will reach our goals, whatever they are, but if we feed the wrong wolves, we won’t – it’s that simple. For some, it’s finishing the first chapter; for others, it’s publishing; for others, it might be collecting enough poems, artwork, or other creative forms until there’s enough for release (art show, cookbook, anthology, etc.).
Each creative expression has its own unique pair of wolves. One common black wolf is what I would name “NEDs” – Negative Energy Drains. It can be expressed through negative talk about yourself or your writing (whether its source is internal from a lack of self-confidence, or external from unsupportive environments or relationships), or a pressure placed on yourself (again, internal or external) to complete a goal based on unrealistic expectations. Another common black wolf is “Ambiguity”: As long as we don’t know what concrete steps to take to reach a goal, it’s difficult to move forward; as long as we allow ambiguity to feed, it will paralyze us.
In this scenario, the white wolves would be named PEFs (Positive Energy Feeds) and Preciseness. Those might simply manifest themselves as speaking positively to yourself every time NED tries to speak or putting up positive post-its of where you’re going with your goals. For the second wolf, define the steps needed – set yourself an appointment for the purpose of researching the steps, and finding concrete resources to help you reach your goals, then take one step at a time. Keep that appointment.
Which wolf do you feed?