Are you sure?

Caught an item on the late CTV news tonight that what is described as “quite a few” Americans are considering moving to Canada since Obama won the election.

You may think that’s a great idea – after all we’re just like you except we talk funny eh.  Well, yes and no.  Because Canada is inundated with American entertainment, you’re not going to miss your favourite television shows – we’ll have them somewhere on the dial.  And you can be reasonably assured of better weather on Thanksgiving since ours is in early October, not late November. And there’s still football on Thanksgiving, although it may be the Canadian Football League (which supporters claim is superior to the American game – at least the field is larger). Those are a couple of the good things.

But, are you aware Canada has had socialized medicare since sometime in the last century?  And did you know that same-sex marriage has been legal federally for at least the past five years?  Oh yes, and gay rights are enshrined in our Bill of Rights.  I understand Republicans have been opposed to these, so before you move here, you’d have to consider whether those could be deal-breakers or not.  You’d also have to learn to put the “u” in words like neighbour and colour – that’s the law.  No, seriously. Our first Prime Minister, Sir John A Macdonald, managed to get an act through Parliament that made the inclusion of the “u” the only legal spelling.  One final thing – you’d have to leave your guns south of the border. Not allowed in Canada.   And, if you’re from Washington or Colorado, sorry, but weed is not legal in Canada either.

We won’t get into the economics of your move to Canada other than to say you will pay more for the identical products.

So, given all this, are you sure you want to move to Canada?

Think about it and if you decide you can live with these differences, welcome eh.

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

Cat.

The world in 500 words

A reader made comment that most of my postings are relatively short.  I wasn’t sure I agreed with that, so took a look at some of them and yes, they were right,  most of them are less than 500 words, in fact many are 300 words or less.  “Honestly, I don’t care” of October 5 is one of my longer efforts at 906 words. Then again, that one was admittedly written with much more passion than are most.  Read it and you’ll understand. Yesterday’s “‘He’s an innocent kid’” was also written with a fair bit of passion and it is only 291 words.

The reader didn’t say I’d left anything out, or failed to explain  my assertions, just that I didn’t really get overly wordy either.  Thinking about this, I think I understand why many of my pieces are short – complete, but short.  I worked in offices for years, where I frequently had to write letters to Canada Customs (or whatever they call it now) or insurance companies, among others.  Business letters, by their very nature, are short and sweet – just “hi – here’s my comments – ‘bye”. No excess verbiage, no fancy frills, something Joe Friday would like – just the facts. Part of my job involved damage inspections and filing reports with insurers and carriers.  Again, something that places a premium on brevity and clarity.  (Just an aside here. One thing I had to do an inspection on  was a 12″ round steel bar that had been somehow bent in transit.  Twelve inches thick, ten feet long and weighed something like 20,000 pounds.  I saw the damage, but given the size of the bar, I really, really wanted to see what had bent it.)

So, I would suspect that all those years of business letters and insurance reports have forever doomed me to “just the facts ma’am.”  Which may be fine for these posts – I can still try to present a balanced picture, or as balanced as an opinion piece can be – but it really plays havoc with my fiction writing.  More description would be allowable in writing fiction, yet whenever I try, I feel guilty – as if I’m trying to pad my word count.

Oh well, I’ll do what I can and if there are any questions, the readers can always ask.

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

Cat

Random thoughts from the weekend

Thanksgiving weekend is almost over.  Unfortunately the turkey will continue.

1 – Two for one.  In Toronto, and probably other jurisdictions as well, over the past year there has been an outcry by cycling groups for trucks to have some form of anti-underride bars on the trailers.  This really became an issue  when a young pregnant lady was hit and killed by a truck – I don’t recall if it was a tractor-trailer or not – making a right turn, when she somehow came in contact with the truck and fell under the rear wheels.  Perhaps you’ve noticed, while on the highway or perhaps just watching traffic flow by, that many tractor-trailers now have what appear to be sails hanging from the bottom of the trailer.  These are slightly curved at the front, fitting under the trailer, and then extend, even with the side of the trailer, to the rear wheels.  The main purpose is to reduce the amount of air that gets under the trailer.  Air under the trailer at highway speeds significantly increases drag, which increases fuel consumption.  These “sails” are a way to combat that added air resistance.

There is this hue and cry for some form of protection for cyclists to be mounted on trucks,  but governments are reluctant to legislate such protection. My thought on this is that since many companies are now using these wind reduction panels anyway, why not just make them mandatory? That way, the transport companies get the reduced fuel consumption they want and the cyclists get the anti-underride protection they want.  Makes sense to me.

2 – It’s supposed to be used.  There was an item in one of the Saturday papers, which of course I didn’t bookmark, about some Honda models that have rolled away, even after the driver has turned the engine off and removed the key.  Apparently the problem is that something in the ignition switch breaks or wears with use that will allow the key to be removed without the transmission being placed in “Park”. And, since the key could be removed, the drivers never checked to make sure the transmission was indeed in “Park”. As I said, I didn’t bookmark the item, so have to rely on my memory, but one man broke his leg when his vehicle ran over him.  He tried to chase it and the open door knocked him down.  There is a lever between the seats, or a small pedal at the left side of the driver’s footwell.  That controls what is variously called an emergency brake; parking brake, or in the case of the lever, a hand brake.  Note that second name – “parking brake”.  Activating this feature, either by pulling the lever, or stepping on the pedal, causes a cable to apply the rear brakes.

One benefit I can think of off-hand is that if you’re parked on an incline,  using this takes a lot of stress off the pawls in the “Park” position of the transmission. No more fighting to get the transmission into gear when you want to leave wherever you’ve been.  I usually drove vehicles with manual transmissions, so to me use of the “parking brake” became second nature.  Even when I drove taxi (all automatic transmissions) I’d use that brake whenever I parked the cab at the end of my shift. In the US the feds are looking at issuing a recall for these particular vehicles, but a bit of common sense and making use of the equipment in cars as standard equipment would prevent this happening.  That brake isn’t for decoration – it’s meant to be used.

3 – That isn’t correct.  I freely admit I’m something of a fanatic when it comes to grammar, composition and spelling.  I’ll also admit that there may be times when I don’t get it right either – I’m only human and prone to error.  One place I do expect to see proper usage though is in advertising or other signage in stores.  I’ve previously ranted about the sign in a coffee shop in a mall that asks patrons not to remove trays from the premise, so I’ll just leave that one alone.

I spent yesterday in Toronto with friends and came home today on the commuter train.  These trains have some advertising – where isn’t there advertising today? – and just before I left the train, I noticed an advertising placard.  I couldn’t see who the company was, but they need to have a talk with their ad agency.  The largest lettering on this placard was the following: Be your boss’ boss.

Notice anything wrong with that statement?  What about that incorrect possessive – “boss’”?  It should have read “boss’s”.  People just don’t seem to understand how to use possessives any longer.  Much like algebra, that seems to be one of the first things forgotten once they leave school  But then again, people seem to have forgotten the proper use of an apostrophe in general. They seem to have forgotten, or never learned, that it is used for contractions and to indicate possession.  Instead they sprinkle it everywhere and yes, on occasion they do get it right.  But the handwritten sign on a door admonishing people to “mind you’re step” certainly isn’t one of those occasions.

Ah well.  I’ve resigned myself to the idea that when it comes to proper English usage, as my tagline reads, I’m a lone voice calling in the wilderness.  Still, it would be nice if one person listened.

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

Cat.

It isn’t romance

I recently posted an interview with author Rusty Blackwood.  A few days ago, Rusty posted the following, which I found interesting, on her website, and she has graciously allowed me to copy it here:

PEOPLE — ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!
Posted on September 28, 2012 by Rusty Blackwood

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2012/03/12/fifty-shades-of-grey-a-winning-romance-novel-goes-from-fan-fiction-to-viral-hit/#disqus_thread

What does it take for human beings ( in this case the reading public) to  possess even the slightest possibility of a brain cell in the area of reading genres to FINALLY realize, let alone understand that erotica is NOT romance? What is the matter with everyone? Are you just one of the millions of mindless brain-washed zombies who have just got to have the latest hype in words regardless of what that might be, or how utterly mistaken the branding is? Honestly!

As a writer of romance I, and countless other writers – hard working writers who actually strive for something worth putting our name on; something to be proud of, something which carries our emotions, hard work and sweat in order to obtain a well crafted piece – only to find this continued outrageous nonsense surrounding this ‘erotic story’ – yes, that’s all it is – erotica – NOT romance – far from it – the two are in no-way connected nor are they the same. For crying out loud people if you can’t get it straight then at least get a clue!

Everyone is entitled to their opinion – just as I am – but as the title of this post says:  PEOPLE — ENOUGH ALREADY!!!! When it comes to actual romance, erotica, and the writing of such is 50 Shades AWAY!

As always, support your local authors ( regardless of genre) as well as all local talent in the Arts.

Rusty.

Unfortunately for writers such as Rusty and I, many people don’t want to read something that will require them to use their brain, they’d rather have things spelled out for them. The quality of the writing does not enter into the decision of what to buy and read. That decision is mostly influenced by word of mouth – what everyone’s talking about. All they want is titillation, and 50 Shades apparently provides that in spades, although from reviews I’ve read, the quality of the writing itself isn’t that good. The popularity of this series seems to be based more on the effectiveness of the hype and the rumoured kinkiness in it than any literary qualities.

Thinking again about what Rusty wrote yes, romance novels may contain elements of erotica but only if it comes as a natural progression of the romance. On the other hand, books that have the main characters simply jumping from bed to bed, possibly stopping along the way for some , umm … “interesting” diversions contain no elements of romance and very little in the way of plot development.  They are “erotica”, in other words what some would call “soft porn” or “smut”.  But one thing they are not are romance novels.

There are many examples of romance novels and romance writers, Rusty among them, who do not see the need to resort to “erotica” to make their novels more acceptable.  Their writing holds the readers interest and, unlike books like “50 Shades”, they require the reader to use their imaginations.  Writing in a fashion that leaves things unsaid, left to the readers’ imaginations, isn’t as easy as it sounds.  It is actually easier to describe events and locations in detail than it is to just hint at what’s happening.  That ability to entice readers with subtle clues as to what is going on and make it sound believable is the mark of a good writer.  Anyone can describe in detail, but that isn’t writing, that’s just reporting.

As a writer, I credit my readers with intelligence – after all, they are reading my writings – and therefore feel they are capable of using their minds and imaginations.  Here is a description from a piece I’m still writing:  The city was one of those anonymous places that comprise what politicians and pollsters commonly refer to as “the industrial base.”  The signs at the city limits proudly proclaimed population figures from the last census, but several minor recessions and a major depression had taken their toll and the signs were wildly optimistic.  I could have gone into much greater description, for this was based on an actual place, but by leaving it as I did, I’m encouraging the reader to “fill in the blanks” with scenes from their own lives.  And that is also the main difference between romance and erotica.  In erotica, there are no blanks to fill in.

As Rusty wrote above “People – enough already”.  Learn to tell the difference.

Cat.

Just ban the whole thing

This morning I was speaking with the lady who runs a local shop.  The topic was the revisions to “A Visit from St Nicholas” – see my posting “May as well use loose leaf textbooks in school” for my views on this.

We got a bit silly with this, mentioning various other sections someone, somewhere would find objectionable or politically incorrect.   With tongue planted firmly in cheek, let’s take a look this poem to see what might cause reactions.

Line 6 – “visions of sugar plums” nope, can’t have that.  Too much sugar isn’t good for kids.  Have to change that.  Maybe leave out “sugar”.  Fruit is good so “plums” can stay.

Line 13 – “The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow”.  Sexist – that will have to go as well.

Line 16 – “eight tiny reindeer”.  You’re travelling to various countries with this livestock.  Have they had all the necessary shots?  Do you have the paperwork proving this?  And are they being given a break after so many hours in the air, much like airline pilots?  And, why are you using “tiny reindeer”?  Are they capable of doing the job or are you overworking them?  Has the SPCA investigated this?

Line 27 – “up to the housetop...”  Is that a safe environment for reindeer?  Again, perhaps the animal welfare people, or PETA, should get involved here.

Line 32 – “Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.”  Don’t the authorities consider things like this breaking and entering?  Are we encouraging children to engage in criminal activity with this line?  Better get rid of it too.

Lines 41 and 42 I’ve already covered in the posting named above, so won’t go into them again.

Line 54 – “and away they all flew”.  Has St Nick filed proper flight plans for all this aerial travel?  If not he could find himself being forced down by Air Force jets.   Considering these are international flights, he could find himself in a lot of trouble.  Or, if his paperwork is in order, he wouldn’t have room for any toys.

Considering the possible problem areas I found in a quick scan of “A Visit from St Nicholas”  perhaps we’d be better just banning the whole thing.  That would solve a lot of problems.

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

And no, I’m not serious about this.  Have a good laugh.

Cat.

May as well use loose leaf textbooks in school

I caught an item on the early news just now and I’m ashamed to say this was a Canadian idea.

We’ve all heard of the poem “A Visit from St Nicholas” by Clement Moore, or maybe you know it better by its first line “Twas the night before Christmas”.  Some publisher in Vancouver thinks it needs to be updated for the twenty-first century.  Her new version omits the following two lines found in the original:  The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;  I would imagine illustrations will also reflect this change.

This poem has been around about 180 years, so why does it need “updating” now?  Is this political correctness run amok, or something else?  Yes, I know smoking is no longer as socially acceptable as it once was, but is that any reason to revise a poem that has reached icon status?  If so, how long will it be before any reference to tobacco is removed from history texts, despite the fact it played such a huge role in the settlement of North America?

If history as we know it is subject to revision at the whim of the god called political correctness, history texts may as well be published in loose leaf binder format because any page could be changed at any time.  All it would take would be one person objecting to the way something is portrayed!  And as we are aware, all it takes is one person to point out something they personally find politically incorrect and they will have no problem getting supporters for having that banned.

If you’re of a certain age, you may have studied Shakespeare in high school.  One of the plays I studied was “Merchant of Venice”.  It’s been fifty-odd years and I can still remember parts of Portia’s courtroom speech.  To my mind, that speech is still one of the better monologues in all of Shakespeare: “the quality of mercy is not strained …”  Today’s students can’t study that.  It isn’t politically correct and has been removed from classrooms as being anti-semitic.  Shakespeare was only reflecting the general view of Jews that existed at the time he wrote that play, yet because it doesn’t fit today’s modern view, students are being deprived the opportunity to study it.  History is the same.  Things happened, be they good or bad.  We can’t change them.  Even if we revise history, we still cannot change the past no matter how hard the political correctness police may want to.

Sorry, got carried away there.  As I was saying, changing “A Visit from St Nicholas” is just as bad, just as serious, as attempting to change history because you don’t like how something turned out.  Leave it alone.   I don’t know of any kids who, upon hearing those two lines, decided to go out and try smoking a pipe because Santa smoked one.  Most people don’t even remember those two lines are there.

That lady’s gonna get a lump of politically incorrect coal in her stocking this Christmas.

Cat.

The illiterates are winning

I’m sorry to say I’m no longer surprised by some of the language used on signs in or on business establishments.  This morning I visited the Pickering Town Centre (I needed coffee filters – the world isn’t safe until I’ve had two cups of coffee in the morning) and, since I had time before my bus arrived, I went to Tim Hortons.  If you’re not reading this in Canada, you may not be familiar with “Timmy’s”, so I’ll explain.  Tim Hortons (they dropped the apostrophe years ago – yet another example of the title of this piece) is a Canadian chain of donut shops.  The name comes from the founder, a former hockey player first for the Toronto Maple Leafs and then the Buffalo Sabers, Tim Horton.  While waiting to place my order, I noticed a sign above a stack of plastic trays.  The sign read “These trays are the property of Tim Hortons and are not to be removed from the premise.  Thank-you.”  Umm, did anyone consider consulting a dictionary before having this sign made?

The Oxford University Press dictionary, part of my WordPerfect programme, has the following entry for “premise”  premise >noun (Brit. also premiss)  1 Logic a previous statement from which another is inferred.  2 an underlying assumption. >verb (premise on/upon) base (an argument, theory, etc.) on.  The word whoever was responsible for the sign really wanted was “premises”, which the same dictionary defines as: premises >plural noun a house or building, together with its land and outbuildings, occupied by a business or considered in an official context.  I can only presume the person writing the sign was not aware of the existence of such animals as plural nouns.  Since this Timmy’s is just a single location within an indoor mall they assumed that as a single location, it must be a premise.  Sorry, but that premise was wrong.

Can anyone tell me when “thank you” became a hyphenated word?  I mean, I went to school around the middle of the last century and back then I’d have lost marks had I dared  hyphenate “thank you”. Has grammar changed or degenerated that much? Or is this an example of someone attempting to demonstrate they know how to use punctuation?

I haven’t been to Oshawa in a while, but there is, or was, a sign outside a restaurant on the main street.  I don’t think I’d want to eat there though.  The sign listed their offerings – everything from “salards” to “deserts”.  Hmm, one sounds terribly fatty and the other sounds as if it might be too dry to be enjoyable. I think I’d rather go to Timmy’s.

To business owners I say, please keep in mind that signs in and on your business may be the thing that creates people’s first impression.  I’m certain I’m not the only person left in the world who cares about proper spelling and grammar.  And a sign with mis-spelled words or incorrect words may be enough to convince me to spend my money elsewhere.  The same thing applies to websites.  A site filled with spelling and punctuation errors and, once again, mis-used words is less likely to induce me to visit and buy from that site or store.    If you run a business it is in your best interests to make certain any signage is correct.  It can go a long way to making your business a success.

To my readers, enjoy the rest of your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

I can spell, I just can’t type

Grammar and composition always came easily to me throughout my school years.  I just had one of those minds that revelled in the well-crafted sentence and the perfectly chosen word. Now, many years after my formal education ended,  I still prefer to write in longhand – you do remember cursive script, don’t you? – and then transcribe onto the computer.

Until recently, once I had finished editing,  this would have been a simple matter of transcribing my scrawl onto the screen in the Arial I prefer to use.  That all changed about three months ago.  That was when I was given a newer keyboard, which is more compact than my previous IBM keyboard.  After years of using the IBM, my fingers were accustomed to the locations of the keys and automatically flew to the next letter in the word I was typing.  But with this newer, more compact keyboard, I find I’m having difficulty in retraining my fingers to move the shorter distance from the home row.  Compounding my problem is that at the moment I have long nails which occasionally catch the key above or beside the one I want.  I can hear you saying “well then, shorten the nails – that’ll solve part of the problem.”  Nice thought but at the moment, it isn’t possible.  In addition to the writing/blogging, I’m a photographer and also do a bit of modelling and have a shoot coming up within the week for which I need the long nails.  The avatar photo of the rose stuck in the top of my boot came from one of those photo sessions.

I know that eventually I will succeed in retraining my fingers, but until I do I ask my readers to keep in mind that if you find any errors it’s just as I said in the title “I can spell, I just can’t type.”

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

Cat.