Random and various

1 – Let’s get the big one over with first: Justin Trudeau. How many of us, excluding Andrew Scheer who claims to have never done anything, did some kind of dumb-ass shit in our twenties? For me, that was the sixties and personal video cameras and social media didn’t exist then, so there’s no proof I was anything other than an angel. (And I’m sticking to that story.)

2 – Sticking with the upcoming Canadian election, I won’t try to influence how you vote – there are plenty of fake news sites already doing that. I’m just going to suggest that rather than just accept a single source for information, check other legitimate sites as well and if it is a third party ad google them to see if they have any obvious bias. You may find that ad you saw that said so-and-so is a complete incompetent idiot is a troll site based in some foreign country. CPAC, the channel that provides coverage from inside the House of Commons, is also offering election coverage and I would think their election reporting would be as even-handed as their Commons coverage. But, where you choose to get your information, and what you choose to believe of that information, is up to you. Question claims, no matter the source and vote according to your conscience, but vote.

3 – I’ve seen some ads on television lately for Quickbooks, an online business accounting system. One of the claims of these ads is that you can get paid quicker. I must take exception to that claim. Yes, you can issue an invoice faster, but you have no control over when it gets paid. Unless the terms of the invoice are “2% 10, net 30 days” I’m not paying it until I have to.

4 – I got an interesting text message last night claiming to be from the Simcoe County District School Board, a legitimate school board in Ontario, telling me my phone number has just won me $3,000,000 US funds. Several things wrong with this. First, Simcoe County is north of Toronto, so why would they choose a telephone number with a Toronto area code as a “winner” in a contest I never entered. Second, this is Ontario and Premier Doug Ford is slashing education budgets on a grand scale, so I highly doubt Simcoe County could afford to give away three million. If they had that kind of money lying around, they’d sink it into the system, not award it to some random stranger. I forwarded the message to the School Board. They thanked me and said they were aware of the scam and are investigating.

Okay, rant finished. Since this is the first day of autumn, treasure the few warm days that remain and enjoy the fall colours. Winter will soon be upon us.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

And who the hell are you??

I rarely check filtered messages on Messenger. Today I did and cleaned up about 18 months worth of attempted contacts. Most I just deleted but this one deserves a reply. I won’t reply to this person directly because I don’t want to encourage him, but I’ll do it here (damn, I should have kept his message so I could send him the link to this – oh well, I can always track him down through Facebook.)

Here’s his message from June 26. Keep in mind I’ve never communicated with this person and he is not anywhere among my friends.

Hi love
In a cold and sometimes cruel world, your sweet love lifts me up and gives me peace and happiness. You are the most precious gift that life gave me and I am so grateful I met you.

Odiugho Adaoro

First off, I don’t permit people I’ve never met to call me “love”. That implies a familiarity we don’t share. So unless you’re my grandmother or my significant other just don’t. As you can see from this, it just riles me.

Odi – you don’t mind if I call you “Odi” do you? – sending a stranger that kind of message is almost guaranteed to elicit a few comments, such as that in the title of this blog. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you saw my profile picture and fell in love. You should have gone beyond the photo. Had I received such a message from someone I care about, I’d love it, but from you, I find it creepy.

From what I could find out from the minimal contact information available through Messenger, I see he studied at some institute in Lagos. The fact he’s from or in Nigeria automatically sends up red flares. I know it’s a generalization, but so many online scams seem to originate in Nigeria (Nigerian prince anyone?) that I view any correspondence from there, unless in response to something I’ve sent, with suspicion.

One more thing Odi, such a message is not the best way to attempt to start an online friendship with someone. My first impression is that you’re infatuated with a photograph and to me it approaches stalking. So, in future, just don’t. This message assumes, falsely I might add, that I find, or will find, you just as fascinating as you apparently find me. No, I’m not flattered. The comment in the message “I am so grateful I met you” is also very off-putting for the only place we’ve met is in your mind.

Oh yes, also as I said above, I already have someone in my life.

Finally, as I said in the title “who the hell are you?”

Cat.

For the writers among us

A few thoughts and observations on that demon that haunts us ink-stained wretches:

“… writers don’t like the actual writing bit.”

“Being literate as a writer is good craft, is knowing your job, is knowing how to use your tools properly and not to damage the tools as you use them.”

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams, (1952 – 2001)

The above three quotes are from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of the five books of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. (I know, but that’s how he described it.) And from personal experience I can say that first quote is spot on. As well, I have written many short stories that prove the third one as well.

As for the second, that would be for the reader to determine. I like to think I write well, and use, but not abuse, the English language properly. One piece of advice I was given is “write the way you speak.” In other words, if you don’t commonly use “ten dollar words” in your daily vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing, even if you can get them half-off. You’ll sound pretentious and will probably use them wrong. My writing always uses the vocabulary and speech patterns I use in everyday communication and people have told me that when they read my stuff, they can hear my voice reading it in their minds. I consider that a compliment. The only time I vary from that is if the character requires it.

There are several other “rules” of writing that make little sense to me at least, such as “write what you know”. That may be fine if you’re writing a technical piece, but doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re writing fiction. When it comes to my fiction, many of the stories start with me asking myself “what if …?” then answering the question. How bleak would the literary world be if authors only wrote what they know? We’d have been deprived of works like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as many books that are now considered classics.

“Write what you know.” I’m a blogger – sporadically recently because there are things going on that interfere with the writing as well as Douglas Adams’s first observation – and my blogs are usually about things or events that either interest me or incense me. And given the newly elected government in Ontario, I think there’s going to be a few things that incense me. In my more honest moments, I frequently describe my blogs as “rants, raves or reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.”

One thing I read somewhere (I think it was a writer I friended on MySpace years ago) was that in order to be a writer, you must write 600 words a day. What that writer didn’t add was that it must be six hundred words you want to keep. I don’t agree with that word count. You can only write so much and if only 10 words will come that are “keepers”, then that’s ten words you don’t have to worry about later.

Many people who don’t write and don’t understand writing will often joke about the process and sometimes point to the hoary opening “It was a dark and stormy night” as an example of writing. Actually, I used that twice in one story just to see if it was possible to use it without seeming trite. Here’s what I came up with:

It was a dark and stormy night – a real nasty one – the kind I’ve come to dread ever since that night. I was sitting quietly, enjoying my beer, when I noticed the guy staring at me. I ignored him as I do anyone who is rude enough to stare. Then I sensed him coming over.

After a bit of small talk, he stopped talking and just looked at me. I looked back. “What, you want to hear about the time traveller?”

“If you wouldn’t mind telling me,” he said, signalling for refills for both of us.

I thanked him, then said, “I don’t mind telling, if you don’t mind listening. All I ask is that you don’t interrupt too much, because I don’t really like talking about it.”

He agreed and, after a sip of the beer, I started.

“It was a dark and stormy night “ I stopped as I saw him glaring at me, then I said “I know, I know – any story that starts that way has to be pure bull, right? Hear me out, then you tell me.

In the introduction to this piece I wrote “I planted my tongue firmly in my cheek and here’s the result”. I know it’s hard to tell from this short intro, but what do you think? Did I pull it off? If you like, I’ll post the entire story later this week.

Okay, let’s try to get serious for a few minutes here. Writing is, by its nature, a solitary pursuit. When you’re working on a piece, be it fiction, a blog, essay or factual, most writers don’t want anyone around to derail their train of thought. I usually have classical music playing quietly while I work. In one short story, I destroyed an entire planet with “Ride of the Valkyries” in the background. Yes, some writers say that so-and-so is their muse, their inspiration, but that doesn’t mean that muse has to be present all the time. I’m fortunate in that respect as I live alone so there are minimal interruptions.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Very true. I can’t count the times I’ve started writing something with a plan in mind only to have the characters dictate what happens through their actions. I usually just leave it since on the occasions I’ve tried to bring the story back to my vision, it didn’t work as well.  And yes, it can happen that something you’ve written will send a story off in a new direction rather than following your roadmap. I think it works this way: You write something and your mind picks up on that and asks “what if I follow that line instead?” That is what I mean by the character dictating the ensuing actions.

It seems that many good writers are also voracious readers. Not to see what the “competition” is doing, but simply for the enjoyment of the written word. No, the excuse that it cuts into writing time won’t work. Without some kind of break or diversion, your mind goes stale and your work will suffer.

And, I think I’ve done it again – started off with one idea in mind, but ended up somewhere else. I could have probably spent much less time writing this if I’d simply said “write about what interests you; write it with passion and in cohesive sentences and the readers will come.” To finish off, a quote from Robert A Heinlein (1907 – 1988), the great science-fiction writer “You must write.”

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

Cat.

A view from without

For the past several months, there have been many postings on social media both for and against the apprentice president. I use Facebook, but I presume the reactions are the same on all social platforms: comments follow such postings – comments that either castigate or support the posted point of view. Some of these comments come from people from other countries and are occasionally met with responses along the lines of “why are you commenting, you’re not even American?”

This is in response to those questioning outside comments. Reasonable people, no matter where they live, are aware that what happens in Washington will, or may, affect them and their countries of residence. Whether something as simple as insulting Kim Jong-un (“little rocket man”) or as divisive as declaring the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the words and tweets of the apprentice have an effect not only in the US, but internationally. Look at the protests and riots in some cases over the Jerusalem announcement. As I write this, there are protests in front of the US embassy in Toronto.

While American influence on a global scale has been somewhat diminished by the actions and comments of the current occupant of the White House, it is still significant in many places. Leaders of countries that are considered allies of America are condemning the Jerusalem decision, claiming that rather than bring stability and peace to the region, it will only inflame passions.

We here in Canada, especially those in the southern part of the country, are inundated with American broadcasting, including news, mainly because we more or less speak the same language. So much so does this occur that many Canadians are more aware of the American political scene than they are of their own. We are also aware that as our closest neighbour, events in the US may affect Canada long before they affect other parts of the world.

To those who question why we comment on postings about the apprentice president, I say this: America does not exist in a bubble – our ass in on the line too.

Cat,

Some random thoughts

Riding the bus today, my mind wandered and touched on various items.

1 – The Region of Durham is doing some serious road work at a major intersection. This of course is causing massive traffic backups and pretty much throws bus schedules out the window. The irony in that is the construction is they are installing “bus only” lanes to speed up public transit.

2 – If you were to ask Canadians the origin of Canadian English, no doubt most, if not all, would say “England”. According to a documentary I watched, they would be indirectly correct. The documentary stated that the major influence on “Canadian English” actually came from the United States, which was settled in large part by the British. Pronunciation, definitions and some nuances are all courtesy of our friends south of the 49th parallel. Spelling is a different matter. In the 1870’s, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time was the head of the government that passed a bill that made the use of “u” in words such as colour the only official spelling. So when I use that spelling for neighbour and honour for example, I’m only following Canadian law.

3 – Watching some programmes on Germany before and during WWII. Am I the only one who sees irony in the fact that the Nazis ideal was a tall, blond, blue-eyed physical specimen while neither Hitler nor his inner circle were anywhere near that ideal?

4- This isn’t exactly a random thought, but was a private Facebook message regarding a string I was involved with, and thought about during my bus ride. I think it bears repeating here:

I am horrified by some of the postings I read from my American friends regarding their troubles with housing, medical care and employment. Granted I lost a job when I came out, but someone through church told me that if I could get my Pickering taxi licence, he’d hire me. I did and he did and I drove for seven years until I was injured. Perhaps it’s the Canadian psyche, but except for the young drunk men on Friday and Saturday nights in the cab, I’ve never had a problem. As an example of what appears to be the general view (and yes I know generalities can turn and bite me in the butt), during the last provincial election campaign, not one candidate; not one reporter from any media, nor any member of the public brought up the fact that Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, is lesbian. Everyone stuck to the issues. I think that had this been an American election campaign, her sexuality would have overshadowed the actual issues. By the way, she won and now heads a majority government. Based on my experiences over the past twenty years, I sometimes think that my brothers and sisters in the United States would consider Canada, specifically Ontario, a trans Utopia.

Not quite, but we’re working on it.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat.

Your beliefs are your business

“and thats a bad thing to educate yourself? Id take education over an imaginary fairy in the clouds that rains out death and vengeance if you dont believe in him.”

I removed the name of the poster to protect their privacy. This was a comment left today on a Facebook posting that contained a photo of a church sign reading something along the lines of “the more we become educated, the further we move from God” which the poster found either funny or profound. Not sure which, for I found it neither as I disagreed with the observation.

Now, I have no objection if the deity you worship is called “God”, “Jehovah” ,“Allah”, “Sam” or whatever or if you profess no religion at all. I do however have objections when you choose to denigrate other people’s faith or religion. Other than your own ego, what gives you the right to cast slurs upon another’s beliefs? What exactly makes you the arbiter of how or what or who someone else should worship?

Let’s take a closer look at that posting from earlier. The person is talking about how they’d take education over “an imaginary fairy in the clouds”. Well, if they want an education, things they should pay attention to include the classes on punctuation and abbreviations. From the tone of the posting it appears obvious the writer is either an agnostic or an atheist. That being the case their comment disproves their observation about the “death and vengeance” bit or how would they be around to put up their post?

And education itself does not necessarily mean pulling away from God. Don’t know what it’s like in the States, but here in Canada, most ministers/pastors/priests seem to have at least a Master’s Degree in Theology. Some even hold doctorates. So how can higher education cause people to move away from religion when the church leaders are themselves highly educated?

As I said in the title – your beliefs are your business. Just as my beliefs are my business. Don’t slag what I believe and I’ll leave your beliefs or non-beliefs alone too,

Cat.

Information – don’t leave home without it

I found the following in my Facebook newsfeed yesterday: Police Called as American Tourist “Shocked” to Discover Canada has its “Own Currency” from a site called “Failmuch.com fmnews”.

According to the article, a tourist from Indiana was in Vancouver and purchased something in a store with US funds and received her change in Canadian money, which is usual. It didn’t state if they gave her exchange. She apparently freaked out at the Canadian money and demanded they give her “real” (US) money and the police had to be called. This article appears to be fake for various reasons.

She is quoted as saying she thought Canada, or at least British Columbia, was just another state, like Washington. Not buying it. Surely she would have realized something was amiss when she had to produce a passport to clear Canada Customs at Vancouver International Airport.

While the story is phony, unfortunately the attitude detailed is not unusual. I am fond of a show called “Border Security” which covers the activities at several British Columbia ports of entry. These ports, especially the land crossing at Douglas Highway, make for some “shake my head” moments because Douglas Highway is the main port for Americans driving to Alaska or Port Roberts Washington. One incident in particular stands out.

A couple from Texas wanted to drive to Alaska. Unfortunately he neglected to check on Canada’s gun laws before he left home. At customs he admitted he was carrying a sidearm. When told he couldn’t bring it into the country, his response was “I thought carry laws applied everywhere.” Dummy, they may apply anywhere in Texas, but you’re now in a foreign country that doesn’t necessarily recognize American, especially American state, law. The weapon was confiscated for later destruction and he was fined. I’m not sure if this incident was the result of ignorance of Canadian law, or simple American arrogance.

All too often on this show, people from California will be stopped and found to be in possession of marijuana, claiming they have a state issued permit to use it. Sorry dude, that piece of paper is worthless in Canada. The usual result of this is arrest for smuggling drugs into Canada.

People, and by people I mean Americans intending to visit to Canada, before you plan your trip, take some time and get some information on Canadian laws. You can’t bring your sidearm into the country. A long gun may be permitted provided you complete the proper paperwork and it isn’t a type banned. In other words, leave the AR 15 at home unless you want it seized. Medical marijuana permits are another thing. They are only valid in the state of issue and mean nothing to Canada Customs. Bringing weed into the country will restrict your site-seeing to the inside of a jail cell.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Neither is the arrogance I see displayed by so many people on “Border Security”, who seem to feel that being American gives them leave to do whatever they want. Doesn’t work that way and that arrogance could land you in the cell next to the drug smuggler.

Learn something about our laws before you come. Oh yes, don’t lie on the entry documents or to the Customs inspector because they could refuse you entry.

Other than that, welcome to Canada and enjoy your stay.

Cat