Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thoughts for the day

As Irma pounds its way up the Florida coast, my thoughts are with those caught up in its path.

As with all disasters like this, we see the best and the worst of people come out.

One sad story caught my eye this morning, of a city council opening up the floors of its parking lot for residents in low-lying areas to take shelter in. When they arrived, they found the space taken up by cars for sale, moved in there by an opportunistic car dealer.

This story seems to sum up the "me first" ethos that is taking over the world. All the arguments back and forth over the legality or otherwise of the car dealer's actions to me completely miss the point. The point is, in what universe does anyone think this kind of action is OK - a clear abuse of the intent behind a good gesture?

I think the real question we should be asking ourselves is - what kind of society I want to live in? What kind of values do I want to instill in my children?

Only by looking after each other as well as ourselves can we hope to stand against forces like Irma.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Inadvertent writing research

I visited the optician this evening for a two-yearly check up. As I suspected, my near vision is steadily going downhill (along with most of my physique). It’s that little thing called age.

On the plus side, my eyes - apart from the overall loss of shape - are in very good health. So I have an extremely healthy pair of eyes that can’t see a lot. Oh well.

But I digress.

Reaching that conclusion involved eye drops to dilate the pupils, and a lengthy examination staring into bright lights.

Very bright lights.

Painfully bright, in fact.

To distract myself from this torture, during which I completely forgot which was left and which was right when it came to following instructions, I thought about the technology in Tiamat’s Nest, and in particular the kind of nasty tricks hackers play on each other in that world.

This not-too-distant-future story includes implants that delivery fully immersive virtual reality through direct stimulation of visual and auditory centres. The implants are equipped with safety limits that stop any damaging stimuli, but hackers can override the implants and over-stimulate nerves to the point of inflicting permanent damage.

Several times in the story, there are examples of painful attacks of sound and vision, but I’ve always worried that they come across as a bit tame. After all, it’s only loud sounds and bright lights, right?

But picture staring into something as bright as the sun, and not being able to shut it out! Closing your eyes or turning your head does nothing because the sensations are being fed straight into your brain.

My experience this evening persuaded me that even safe exposures can be painful, so maybe it isn’t so wimpy after all.

Have you ever managed to conduct some writing research without even realizing it?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Advertising irony

Increasingly intrusive advertising may well go down in history as one of the greatest blights of the technological age.

Who honestly enjoys telemarketers and robocalls interrupting quality family time? Have you never dropped what you were in the middle of doing and rushed to the phone, no matter how inconvenient it might be because you were expecting an important call, only to be offered a “free” cruise?

Am I the only one to find many websites becoming nigh-on unusable due to pop-ups and overlays and auto-playing videos? It’s no longer enough to have adverts in the banners and sidebars. People have the temerity to ignore them, so they find ever more ingenious ways to force themselves into your vision and hearing, and many no longer have buttons to dismiss or pause them.

And have you ever wondered how much time websites these days spend downloading advertising compared with actual content? I wonder how long it will be before someone takes an advertiser to court for stealing their bandwidth by dumping unsolicited crap on them?

Yes, you may have guessed that I hate advertising in all its forms, which may be why I’m so stunningly bad at marketing.

And as far as I’m concerned, there is such a thing as bad publicity because any advert that makes it past my filters generally triggers a mental note never to do business with that company if I can possibly avoid it.

Which is why what happened on my way to work this morning was quite remarkable.

We are fortunate that highways where I live are mercifully free of commercial hoardings, except for one brief stretch of a few hundred meters that I drive through on my way to work.

Up ahead, a sign caught my eye ... but in a good way.

It was advertising the annual Greek Fest in Victoria, that only last weekend Ali and I had been talking about.

For once, I was ready to pay attention.

For once, and I can’t honestly remember when - if ever - this last happened, I wanted to read the advert. When is it taking place? Are tickets on sale yet? There must be dates up there but it’s still too far off to read properly.

But my curiosity went unfulfilled.

Before I got close enough to read, the electronic billboard switched over ... to advertise the advertising company that owned the sign.

Yes, they had a willing customer approaching and they chose that moment to advertise themselves at the expense of their paying client.

How ironic is that?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Thought for the day

As long as you start off with sufficient credibility ...
You can inspire whole nations with powerful and resonant  
"I will do"s

Witness the moon race in the 60s

But ...
you only earn lasting respect with meaningful  
"I have done"s

What have you done today to make a difference in your world?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Family matters

What a hectic seven days that’s been!

Just last week, Megan graduated from high school. I took time off work to manage all the driving around to and from the rehearsal and the graduation ceremony. It was a long ceremony with around 250 students graduating.

No caps and gowns here, because they followed straight on with a dinner/dance, then on to the Dry Grad party until the small hours. I volunteered to help out at the latter, knowing she’d need to be picked up anyway. We got home as it was getting light at 5am!

This weekend, of course, was Canada Day, and we had friends around for a curry last night. I don’t often post pics of food in progress, but here’s a few showing the initial preparation (there’s so many ingredients involved that I like to get most of it lined up before anything hits the pan), some dishes on the go, and the final products ready to serve.

Then, to cap it all, it was Megan’s birthday. She decided she wanted to go skydiving, so a tandem jump was our gift to her. We live near the airport, and can often see the plane circling the drop zone in the summer weekends, but it was a different matter knowing our own daughter was up in that plane.

Well, after all that excitement I’m hoping for a quieter summer! How about you? And happy July 4th to all those south of the border.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

June update

My goal this year is to publish The Ashes of Home before the end of the year, hopefully in November.

There’s a lot of work still to do before then. I’ve got a group of critiquers looking at the novel in depth, but this is a long process. I don’t expect they’ll be done before the end of August, which leaves little time for final edits and multiple read-throughs.

Then I need to get the whole thing in the hands of the book designer, which from past experience will take a few weeks of back and forth before getting back the final product.

All this stacks up in terms of timelines, many pieces of which are outside my control. But I think it’s still do-able.

One thing I’m doing differently this time around is getting a head start on the cover art. Previously I went to the book designer with only rough drafts to discuss, which meant a month or two elapsed time slotted into the process while I produced the final artwork. This time I am being a bit bolder and settling on the artwork ahead of time.

I posted some drafts back in January, and the overwhelming consensus was for design #2, so that is what I’m going with. While the critiquing process is ticking quietly along, the artwork is starting to take shape.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A tabletop exercise

I recently posted pics of our refurbished deck - a big upheaval this Spring that we are glad to have completed. Trouble is, we still weren’t properly able to take advantage of it during the week or so of fine weather at the end of last month.

We had an 8-seater table with a tiled top. Very nice to look at - when it was new - but over the years many of the tiles had cracked and were lifting. We checked reviews after the fact and found this to be a common problem with this design.

We were already thinking of renewing the top at some point. It was also very heavy, and we decided there was no way we were lifting it down off the deck and back up again. So this was clearly the time to strip off the tiles, making it light enough to move while they worked on the deck, with the intention of re-tiling afterwards.

Part 1 of the plan didn’t yield the result we expected. Instead of leaving a nice base underneath, the base (some sort of resin reinforced with wire mesh) was also cracked and came away with the tiles.

We were left with nothing more than a bare metal frame. Easy to move out of the way. Not so good for eating off.

After much agonizing over possibilities and cooking up alternative plans, I eventually came up with a design and spent last weekend busy with saw, plane, and wood screws.

Our outdoor living space is now officially back in action!
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