Be aware, be safe

Over about the past six months I’ve twice posted “Don’t think you’re safe”, about being safe.  A friend, who has read that piece, suggested I post it every four to six months just to remind people, not just women, to be aware of their surroundings.  Like me, she is a photographer, so is constantly looking around for scenes to capture with her lens, but she has told me that after reading that posting, she feels she is now also more aware of things that may affect her personal safety.  I like her idea but feel that posting the same thing over and over will cause it to lose its effectiveness.

Summer is fast approaching, which means we’ll all be spending more time outside, with our bulky winter coats but a memory.  Keep in mind that no matter what you look like, there is bound to be someone who finds you attractive.  I’m 5′ 11″, usually in heels which boost me well above six feet, and transgendered.  That did not stop someone who found me attractive from stalking me for at least two years.  Keep in mind that if you see the same person twice in the same location you’re in, it could be coincidence.  Three times or more could be stalking.  And no, I don’t mean your usual cab driver – I mean strangers.

To repeat a suggestion from “Don’t think you’re safe”, if you think you’re being followed or stalked, take that person’s picture.  As I wrote above, I’m a photographer so usually have a camera with me, but most cell phones have very good cameras as well.  Don’t be afraid to use it.  Often the fact you’ve photographed them will be enough to discourage them.  If that doesn’t work, go to the police.


Don’t think you’re making sense

Recently (March 9) I reposted a piece called “Don’t think you’re safe” which was based upon the fact I was the victim of a stalker not all that long ago.  Here’s an excerpt from that piece that explains the situation:  About five years ago I had to deal with a stalker.  Yeah – late sixties, trans, 5 foot 11 and (at the time) about 180 lbs and being stalked by some wacko.  If any of my readers have had the experience of being stalked, you understand the terror at knowing someone out there considers you prey and is actively hunting you. If you haven’t read it, please do.  The advice is aimed mainly at women, but men do get stalked as well and some of my advice may prove useful to them too.

There’s the background and a brief plug for that posting.  In that post, I mention using a camera to photograph anyone you consider suspicious, which is how the following, sent from some camera company, ended up in my WordPress spam folder today.

Submitted on 2013/04/02 at 12:13 pm

Ridiculous story there. What occurred after? Take

First, the most sensible thing in this is the “Take care!”, which effectively boiled my post down to two words.

Can anyone explain how a brief essay on being aware of your surroundings to ensure you aren’t in someone’s sights can be considered a ridiculous story?  Having lived through the experience, I can tell you firsthand there is nothing ridiculous about it.

“What occurred after?”?  Well Ethan, or whatever your name is, I’ll tell you.  I wrote this blog deliberately titled “Don’t think you’re making sense” and posted it so people can see just how little you actually do think.

To my followers and readers, enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and intelligent comments) too.


It just isn’t in me

I’ve been told I’m a good, some say great, photographer.  I’ll agree with the “good”, but not the “great”.  No, this isn’t false modesty on my part.  Let me explain by telling of something that happened this past Saturday.

I was in the lobby of my building, waiting for a taxi, when one of my neighbours, a friend, came from the other building to go to her car.  This young lady is beautiful by any definition of the word and I have wanted to take her picture for years.  She doesn’t like having her photo taken, so I’ve not pursued the matter. I don’t know where she was going Saturday, but she was absolutely stunning, so much so that I was tempted to take her photo despite knowing her feelings.

I didn’t, but the reason wasn’t just to accede to her wishes, but because I don’t like candid photos.  I don’t like taking them and I definitely do not like having them taken of me.  It has been my experience that candid photos are rarely flattering. I don’t care if you look like Angelina Jolie, chances are a candid photograph is not going to flatter you.  Think about it.  When was the last time someone took a candid shot of you that you actually liked?  Honestly?  It was that long ago?

I’ll do portrait photography.  I’ll do nature photography, in fact I’ll admit a weakness for extreme closeups of flowers.  I’ve done boudoir photography – from both sides of the camera – and no, you can’t see them; in fact a friend and I have set up a company, C and C Exotic Photography for the boudoir photos (website coming soon).

But candid shots, or the kind of photos seen in newspapers, are just not the kind of work I’m willing to do.  As I wrote above, candids are rarely flattering, so why bother.  The subject probably won’t like it anyway.  As for news photos, well, those are usually scenes of someone suffering some disaster or loss and I just can’t see myself intruding into their problems by sticking a camera in their faces.  I don’t even like people in my scenic shots unless they are necessary for scale.

Maybe it’s the way I was raised.  I was born before the half-way point of the last century, at a time when people respected the privacy and personal space of others more than they seem to today.  I was taught to stay out of other people’s affairs and I consider both candid photos and news photos to be examples of meddling.  Perhaps only subtly and momentarily, but still I consider it meddling.

So, unless and until I can overcome this aversion to taking candid photos, I don’t think I can honestly consider myself a “great” photographer.  And since that willingness to intrude into others’ lives just isn’t in me, I’ll have to settle for “good”, which is fine by me. So if you see me near you with a camera, don’t worry, I won’t take your photo without permission.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.


Sometimes I despair

Two things have me shaking my head and wondering about people and/or organizations over the past couple of days.

Two days ago I posted a piece I called “Am I really Canadian?” clearly labelled and tagged as “Humour”.  This was intended to poke some fun at three of the stereotypes to which some Canadians cling.  From the first comment I received on this posting, obviously my attempt at humour failed, or the poster failed to notice the “humour” label and tag.  Maybe I should have thrown a few “eh”s into the piece. Perhaps it would have sunk in that way eh?  I won’t copy his comments here, but I’ll refill my coffee mug while you read the posting and comments.  There, I’ve now got a nice hot coffee beside me and you’ve finished.  Is there anything in that posting that honestly warrants his first comment?  As I wrote in my response to Rusty Blackwood, I credit my followers and readers with the intelligence to tell the difference between my serious postings and those I put up just for fun – to provide a laugh in someone’s day.  Obviously “snaughty” needs to lighten up a tad.

The other matter is more in the lines of being a frustration.  Last May I went to Future Shop to buy a laptop.  I felt I needed one for the photo business, at least the way I’ve got it set up.  I found a nice Lenovo B575 that seemed to suit my needs.  Unfortunately the only one they had left was the demo model, which they sold to me at a discounted price since it was the demo.  In my posting “Dear Mr Gates” of October 18, I lament that this new laptop runs Windows 7.

Since this was a demo, all I really got from Future Shop was the laptop – no documentation of any kind from Lenovo.  Granted there is a “Lenovo Users’s Guide” on the hard drive, but that basically tells me how to do things like change the battery or replace the hard drive.  That isn’t the kind of information I need.

Being a Canadian machine, this laptop has an English/French keyboard.  Every so often I will somehow turn on the French characters, but since I touch-type, I don’t often look at the keyboard when I’m working, so have no idea what key, or combination of keys I’ve pressed to perform that action. At the moment, I also have long nails for some photoshoots, which don’t help the typing either.  Nothing I’ve tried seems to turn the French off again. I usually have to exit the programme I’m working in and start it up again so the system will reset to English.  If I haven’t saved my work recently, that can be a royal pain.   Another problem is this: how can I clean the screen without damaging anything when a simple soft cloth to remove dust won’t work?   These are not covered in the installed manual, which, as I wrote above, seems to deal mainly with hardware issues.

Yesterday I finally remembered to contact Lenovo to ask about a manual on the care and feeding of the machine for things other than hardware problems.  The person I spoke with directed me to a website where I could download a manual.  It turned out to be the one I already have on the hard drive.  Not satisfactory.  Tried Google.  Every single listing was for that same manual.  That isn’t what I need to know, people.  I have a letter to be mailed to Lenovo on Monday morning explaining my predicament and it ends by saying (I’m paraphrasing now) “if such a manual doesn’t exist, can you at least answer these two questions”.  Ah well, this is just the latest installment in my ongoing battle with computers.

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and pertinent information) too.


They’re just pictures

In addition to writing these postings, I am also a photographer.  The image at the top of this page is one of my efforts. I started out as a writer who took pictures as a hobby, and found that people really liked the camera work I did.  But, I genuinely have a difficult time accepting that people love my photographic work and view me as a photographer.

Trying to look at this dispassionately, I feel the roots of this reluctance to accept that I’m as good as people claim can be laid on the shoulders of my now long-departed (and unlamented)  step-father.  This man, who was a sergeant in the army when my Mum met him,  made my life miserable. How miserable?  Well, in my autobiography, a chapter dealing with him and his influence is called “Decade in Hell”, roughly spanning the years  from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II to the assassination of JFK.  This man was physically and mentally abusive – he once hit me with a baseball bat in anger; and nothing I did was ever good enough for him.  I missed quite a bit of sixth grade because on many occasions Mum wouldn’t let me go to school, so bad was the bruising.   He never quite figured out you cannot raise a child the same way you train troops. This occurred fifty years ago and I thought  his influence had been eradicated, mostly with the help of someone I adored at the turn of this century.  But, obviously his influence lives on, at least  based on my feelings regarding the reactions to my images.

I was told daily for ten years that whatever I did was substandard at best. When I was invited to submit some images to a Toronto art gallery a few years ago, and I accepted that invitation, it was a major leap for me.  One thing that helped me decide to do so was that some professional freelance photographers who’d seen a showing of my work at the Pickering Public Library pronounced it “professional quality”, so I had previously had some indication it was good.  But I still wasn’t expecting the response I received.  I’d never before heard my work referred to as “stunning”, especially by another artist.

Yes, of course I think it’s good or I wouldn’t share it with others.  But  all those years ago, had I dared even hint that my work was good, I’d have been slapped around.  So, that explains why I have a problem accepting that others really like what I’m doing. As a result of that s o b from years ago, to me, they’re just pictures.

Enjoy the rest of your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and encouragement) too.


More from the computer wars

Before I start, I notice that recently I’ve had a new reader from New Caledonia.  Welcome.  I hope you enjoy what you’re seeing.

Now, for years dating back to the ‘80s and our first computer, a Commodore 64, I’ve been engaged in a running battle with these infernal devices.  Every now and then, the system will enlist the aid of printers and software in these skirmishes.  Last June my trusty HP 4580 died after about 4 years of service.  As I’m a photographer, I decided to replace it with a new HP Photosmart.  I chose the 5510, figuring that for the $20 difference, I could turn the paper over myself whenever I wanted two-sided printing.  The theory behind the PhotoSmart was good, the practice was not.

Right from the beginning I had problems with the paper feed, the machine frequently feeding two or more sheets at a time.   This would not normally be a problem unless you’re printing a multi-page document.  Although it was a PhotoSmart (it said so right on the label) it wouldn’t print 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 photos straight, no matter what I did or said – and I’ll admit I used some very unladylike language.

After a week of these irritants, I contacted HP, who sent me a replacement.  I was not impressed with this second machine.  I had a week old printer which I had purchased brand new and they sent me a refurbished unit as a replacement.  Not that it mattered much for the replacement was worse than the original.  Where the original would feed two or three sheets at a time, on occasion the replacement would feed as many as eight at a time.  I returned the replacement and decided that, once the ink in the original was used, I’d replace it.  The ink ran out just after Christmas, so this past weekend, I went shopping for a printer.

The replacement is yet another HP, an Officejet 6700 this time.  Yes, it’s more printer than I really need at the moment, but that could change.  This one not only feeds just one sheet of paper at a time, it also prints photos straight.  And, I got it on sale.

Software will occasionally enter the fray as well.  As I wrote in “Editing ain’t easy”, I’m helping a friend edit her manuscript.  She uses MS Word to write, whereas I prefer WordPerfect.  I’ve been using WordPerfect 12, while she has a more current version of Word which WP 12 doesn’t recognize (I get “unknown format” messages if I try to open her documents in WP).  My computer came with something called “MicroSoft Word Starter”, which is a pain in the ass to use.

She usually sends me five chapters at a time.  I’ve been downloading them, then opening them with this MS Starter monstrosity.  From there it’s been a matter of copy and paste into WordPerfect.  Although WP won’t recognize the format when I try directly, I have had no problems with this method.  That is, no problems until today.  Today, I had the five chapters copied, but when I went to paste in WordPerfect, I got a message reading “out of memory”.  Excuse me?  A 93KB document is “out of memory”?  Okay, ran a programme to clear the clipboard and get rid of the junk files that always accumulate.  Just to be sure, I also defragged the drive, then tried again.  Same message.

To see if it was WordPerfect or my system, I decided to try to copy and paste the chapters into Open Office.  Worked just fine.  As I wrote, I’m using WordPerfect 12, which is ancient by software standards and thought that although WP12 had worked well for the first 35 chapters, perhaps it had reached the end of its life.  Went onto the Corel website and downloaded a 30 day trial of the newest version – WordPerfect X6.  Installed it and tried again with the same result.  Obviously I’ll be on the phone with Corel in the morning.  I discovered that while the 93KB total was too much for the available memory, each individual chapter was small enough to transfer.

When my friend sent more chapters later (I should have them done Jan 4 for you) I decided to give WP X6 a try.  Opened the Word files without breaking a sweat (figuratively of course).  Problem solved.  Or rather, that problem solved.  Now I have to rework my budget to find the money Corel wants for the new WordPerfect before the end of the 30 day trial.

I hope 2013 unfolds just the way you’d like it to.  Remember to hug an artist – we need love (and cooperative computers) too.


Don’t think you’re safe

At the request of a friend, I have reprinted this from my original page “Catsworld1” as she feel it bears repeating. I have made a few minor changes from the original to fit the new page.  C.
As my profile shows, I’m transgendered, which for the most part is a non-issue, much like my red hair.  It does however play a role in the piece which follows.  What I didn’t mention, and also has a bearing on this essay, is that I’m in my late ‘60s.

If you have access to Facebook, you can look at my photos and judge my appearance for yourself.  Just  search for “Cat.tee790″  And, if you send me a friend request and mention WordPress, I’ll accept.  Now that I have that out of the way, I’ll continue.

About five years ago I had to deal with a stalker.  Yeah – late sixties, trans, 5 foot 11 and (at the time) about 180 lbs and being stalked by some wacko.  If any of my readers have had the experience of being stalked, you understand the terror at knowing someone out there considers you prey and is actively hunting you.  In my case, this sense of panic was heightened by the fact my stalker was an Emergency Services Supervisor and he would frequently use his supervisor’s vehicle.  As it was painted with the same colour scheme as the local ambulances, every time I saw a vehicle in those colours, I’d look for a place to hide, in case it was him and not an ambulance.  For all those years I was his target, I prayed I wouldn’t need EMS services, knowing he’d probably show up.  Fortunately I’m reasonably healthy for 60 something; not prone to falling down and am careful when crossing streets.

Being trans, when I reported this to the police, they were less than sympathetic; in fact they did nothing.  I suspect part of the reason no action was taken is because they saw the EMS supervisor as being “one of their own” and part was the discrimination I face daily.  My problem was eventually solved by a friend.  She contacted some of her former classmates who ride motorcycles and are considered anti-social by most people and these friends had a “chat” with this stalker.  Interesting thing: these men had seen me about town and told my friend that while they didn’t really understand, they did admire my courage.

So, dear readers, just because you may not be a doppelganger for Angelina Jolie or any other male epitome of female beauty, don’t think it can’t happen to you.  If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.  My advice is simple: If the same person shows up wherever you happen to be twice, it could be coincidence, if they show up three times or more, this person may have targeted you.  Tell someone, preferably someone you trust, as soon as you can.  And always be aware of your surroundings – not just the physical surroundings, but the people as well.  Just an idea, but I got into digital photography after these incidents, so usually have a camera with me now and am always looking around for things to photograph.  If I see someone suspicious, or who just makes me nervous, I take their  photo and record date, time and location.  If they keep appearing, I take more photos, but I’ve found that usually one photo is enough because I make no effort to conceal the fact I am photographing them. You don’t have to be a photographer with a fancy camera since  most cell phones these days have cameras.  Don’t be afraid to use it for things like this.  And if the person persists, go to the police with those photos and, if possible, a written report.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.  And always be aware of what’s happening around you.  It could save you a lot of stress or worse.


One of a kind

“Every single person on this planet is one of a kind, so why would they pretend to be just like everyone else? Makes no sense. You’re an individual, unlike anyone else, so you should celebrate that fact, not hide it.”

This was a comment I made to a friend during a chat on Facebook yesterday. And of course, like most of us who write, once I’d pressed “send”, I started analysing what I’d written.  Obviously, one of the first questions was “well, what about twins?”  Then decided that okay, while they may look identical, you can almost guarantee they won’t have the same personality or likes and dislikes, so yeah, they too are one of a kind.

“You are an individual … celebrate that”.  I realize that peer pressure, or the requirements of the corporate world can on occasion stifle any attempts to proclaim the individuality of the person. I’m not sure which places a greater penalty on non-conformity though – business, or one’s peers  – “what do you mean my corset isn’t suitable for the office?” or “if you want to be part of the incrowd sweetie, you can’t wear that”.

Often you will see young kids emulating the style of their current idol.  While this is often done to stand out from the crowd – adopting a flamboyant style – unfortunately chances are that person won’t be the only one doing it, so they’ve exchanged their own unique style for a chance to be part of the herd.  Great idea, but not original.

Perhaps that I’m 68 years old and have a guaranteed monthly income in the form of a government pension gives me more freedom to celebrate my individuality. Part of that celebration may be not really caring what people think, an attitude honed to a keen edge during my last seven working years.  Yes, of course there are some people whose views do matter to me, but very few. I do celebrate the fact I am one of a kind, both in my dress, my photography (on either side of the camera) as shown here,IMG_3422 01 Oct 16 12 and in my writings.  As I wrote in “I can’t do that”, I won’t be pinned down to any single topic.  Just me being me – I’m interested in anything and everything.

People are individuals, each unique.  They should celebrate that fact rather than try to be just another face in the crowd.

Okay, enough pontificating.  Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we’re all individuals and we need love too.


I can’t do that

One of the main bits of information given to those who would write blogs is “pick a subject and write about that”.  If you choose, say, writing, then write about the various aspects of writing. If you pick photography, then use your site to explore that world.  Travel, food, whatever subject you decide upon should be the focus of most, if not all, your postings.”

Sounds like good, solid advice.  Too bad I don’t follow it.  If you follow or read my postings, you’ve noticed I write about anything and everything that catches my eye.  That is why you’ll find an essay on friends amid postings on scams (“More money I won’t get”) or the latest antics of Toronto’s sometime mayor (“Football first”) or ripping into some of the spam I find (“Look who’s talking”).

Do I have the knowledge and experience to write on a single topic?  Probably. I’ve written before on blogging (“Our words are powerful”) but my mind doesn’t work in a manner that allows me to focus solely on one topic. I’m interested in the world at large and when something in the news provokes a response, I act on it.  Granted there are some subjects that are closer to my heart than others, but I won’t write about them exclusively.

For example, since August, I’ve written a series of posts under the main title “Bring him to justice”.  This series deals with the Toronto Police search for one George Flowers, aka “Mr Flowas”, a wannabe rapper who is wanted for aggravated sexual assault.  This “thing” was diagnosed HIV positive in 1996 but never told any of his partners. I know people who dated him and some have since tested positive, so I have a personal interest in seeing this garbage off the streets.  But that series is as close as I’ve come to a single topic.  And the reason there haven’t been any recent postings under that title is that there is no concrete news to write about and I won’t put up rumours.  As it states in my public profile, I’m transgendered.  There are already enough people out there writing blogs on the LGBT community, so I doubt I could add anything of import.  I have written on those issues, but only from a personal perspective, where something will or does affect me personally.

So, having said all this, I repeat, that is good advice – pick a subject in which you have knowledge and write about it.  But, I can’t do that.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.


Some of this, some of that

1 – Unless you’ve been in another galaxy, you are aware of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in the New Jersey and New York areas earlier this week. We’ve all sat and watched the news reports of flooding and fires, while shaking our heads and saying ‘those poor people’, or words to that effect.  Through WordPress, and later Facebook, I’ve become friends (and yes, I mean “friends”, not “Facebook friends”) with a lady who lives near the Jersey coast.  When you actually know someone who lives in the affected areas, it seems to make it a little more personal – wondering how much damage they suffered, or given the number of people killed, if they’ve survived.  Fortunately my friend was able to send me a short message telling me her house had been flooded and she would fill in the details later.  I’ll admit it was a great relief to receive that short note.  To that friend: Ms M, I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

2 – I’m thinking of creating a macro for this next one since it seems to happen so often.  Once again, Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto left a council meeting to coach a high school football team.  His reasoning this time was “it was a playoff game. If I weren’t there, they wouldn’t play and would have to forfeit the game.”  Robbie, if the city of Toronto is paying you to be the chief magistrate of Toronto, then you should keep your fat ass in council meetings, not run off to do some volunteer work for Don Bosco Catholic High School.  You yourself admitted that if you’d been in an accident, someone else would have covered the coaching duties, so why not apply that same logic to games that occur when you’re occupied at city hall performing the duties for which you were elected and for which you are being paid?

3 – I originally started in photography back in the ‘70s, with a Canon SLR.  When I started in digital photography about 2007, my first camera was a Polaroid PDC 2030 which a neighbour had given me.  I got some good shots with that camera, but it was very basic and I wanted to do more.  I was able to pick up a Canon PowerShot A460 point and shoot  on sale.  Loved that camera and it lasted about a year and a half, until a friend dropped it on a concrete floor. (No she didn’t offer to replace it.)  Such were the features of that A460 that it took two point and shoots (both Canons) to give me the same features and in the meantime I also moved up to a Canon EOS Rebel XT DSLR.  But I kept looking for another A460.  Finally, last week, Henry’s Cameras had not one, but two listed in the “used” section of their website.  I wasted very little time contacting them and arranging to have one of them shipped to my local store (or as a friend calls it “my local camera pusher”).  So, I now have a brand new old friend – a Canon PowerShot A460 point and shoot – to complement my Rebel.

Now, since it’s a sunny day, I’m taking my new/old friend out to take some photos.  Enjoy your week and pray for those affected by Sandy.