Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mail Oddities

No, it doesn't say male oddities. That's another subject and I have only limited experience with certain kinds of male oddities. Never you mind.

So, about mail, real mail that is. The kind that comes in an envelope and is delivered by a mail carrier. I have received a weird selection of things over the last few days.

First, I got a letter from one of the banks about a RIF cheque that had been issued to my friend, The Bear, in 2000 and never cashed. I found a lot of uncashed cheques in The Bear's apartment when I took over his affairs, but I didn't find that one. I am amazed that the bank has offered to reissue it. However, I filled in the required paperwork and sent it in. If I receive a replacement cheque, I'll be re-amazed.

Then, I found one of my self-addressed stamped envelopes returned by certain Canadian literary journal. I knew right away it contained a rejection because I could see the tiny little slip of paper inside. So, I have another "no" slip to add to my growing pile but the thing is, I can't discover what I sent to them. Normally I write down my submissions in three places, sigh. I know I'll figure it out, it's probably a late, late, late, reply, but I can't figure out why that little envelope took over two weeks to arrive according to the post mark. Maybe it came by lame pony express, or maybe the mail sorters (out of luck writers?) knew what was in it and decided to delay the bad news.

I never expect mail to be swift but once in a great while, I'm surprised. I was surprised today, because I ordered four books from Chapters/Indigo on Monday - ship by regular mail - and they were outside my apartment door today (Thursday). The books wouldn't fit in my mailbox and I wasn't home, so the mail carrier, who is male, brought them upstairs. I don't know if it's legal to do that but he did. Now I have four Christmas presents on hand, but they're not for the males in my life.

Also, today I also received another book in the mail from a friend. "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" is a wonderful title and I'm looking forward to reading the book.

The last item in the mail was a cheque for a little bit of technical writing I completed last week. Things go in streaks, so probably next week there will be nothing in my mail box except bills.

Have you received any good or weird mail?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A BILLION Hungry People - No Media Frenzy

In this morning's newspaper, the UN food agency reports that the number of hungry people has increased to 1.2 BILLION and will continue to rise if the right kind of help is not given. The short article about this appears on the World News page (page 7) rather than on the front page where I think it belongs. There is no editorial addressing this either. The paper does have a local focus, but this issue is so huge, and growing, that I think it should have had a lot more attention.

Has hunger in other parts of the world become just a background noise that we can ignore? After all we have heard the refrain so often. "People are starving in ________.
" Well," some folk say, "we send food, and then more food. and things never improve , why don't they help themselves?" I understand why they say that but, that response ignores a lot of factors like wars, displacement, prolonged drought and the fact that agricultural aid to increase food production has dropped.

When I donate money towards world hunger, as I did today, after reading the newest numbers, I choose agencies that work toward long term results, like The Mennonite Central Committee's Food for All program. My point is a lot more people might do that if they knew the benefits.

Shouldn't we take care of our own first? That's something I've heard people say too. So, what about local hunger? Food banks in our area report that demand has increased because of higher unemployment and other factors. The Thanksgiving food drive hasn't reached it's goal yet. My daughter and son-in-law's business participated this year, as they did last year. The amount of food they collected from their customers was slightly lower this year (847 pounds), but since they have fewer customers due to the economic downturn, I'd say they had a good result, although they had hoped for more donations. A local church offered a free Thanksgiving meal and had record numbers of diners. I am not surprised, since people on assistance (government income support programs like workfare and ODSP) often have a very hard time paying for both rent and food. These are the very same people that are accused of spending all their money on drink and cigs. I can tell you from experience - most recipients of government assistance don't do that. Yet, the myth endures.

Meanwhile, the media give us more and more infotainment (sorry, I hate the word, but that's what they call it) and less and less hard news.

Maybe it's our fault. We don't want to hear about it and it doesn't sell papers, or make people click on Internet ads. Are the people that run the publishing conglomerates right and what we want is more fake news - the latest about the celebrities of the moment? Or, could the real news actually sell?

Friday, October 09, 2009


I don't own more than an average amount of technology and some of what I have is obsolete. My stereo receiver and turntable were purchased in about 1986. They still work, but I can't tune in CBC Radio One on the FM band, though CBC Radio Two reception is fine. When my AM-FM clock radio stopped working, I found a new one at crappy Tire. The price? A whopping $9.00, tax included. The radio is in the bedroom, close to the window and it picks up the CBC Radio One signal clearly. The radio was made in China, as was my previous one which was only two years old when it died. It's impossible to buy small electronic items that are made in Canada. Everything is made off-continent. I wonder how long my new radio will last, and I wonder about a couple of other things, too.

If e-books are the way of the future, and many people believe they are, then how often would one have to buy a new device to read the books, and if the device dies, don't the stored books die with it?

I don't want to read a book using an electronic device - give me the real book My favourite way to read the printed word is on paper. In fact, I just subscribed to the local newspaper because I don't want to read it online. Also, if the local television station folds and it might as cable wars continue. I want a reasonably current source of local information.

How much am I contributing to environmental degradation? Paper can be recycled. Little is said about the cost of disposing of dead electronic stuff. Then there's the Internet - you seldom see much info about the enormous amounts of energy that are required to run it and other electronic devices - Crackberries and the like.

I'm glad I have access to the Internet, however, if I had to, I could live without it. But I absolutely must have my books.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Profit and Cheeeezies

My daughter and I had a chat a couple of days ago and one of the things she said made me think about how I interact with money. She said left-wing people ( she knows I lean to the left) often see 'profit' as a bad thing. I can't speak for others on the left, but I know businesses need to make money and since my daughter and her husband run a business, I certainly hope that it will be successful enough to make a profit.

But ......

I think small businesses, such as the one my son-in-law and daughter run are often far more ethical then public corporations. First of all, treating your employees well by paying a reasonable wage and offering what benefits you can afford is the right thing to do. It also makes good business sense to participate in your community and be a good business citizen. "Doing it right' will not necessarily generate a quick profit, or any profit at all, in the beginning - aye, there's the rub. But, I believe that over the long haul a good business reputation is worth a lot.

"Soulless corporations" used to be a left-wing expression. I haven't heard it much lately though it still has value. Why? A publicly owned corporation has only one purpose and that is to make money for its shareholders. People who own shares had grown accustomed to getting larger and larger dividends, no matter what, so solid long-term investments that would provide a lower rate-of-return were scorned. Big fish swallowed little fish and were in turn swallowed by even bigger (and sometimes mythical ) fish, On and on it went, Then the market crashed and there was a lot of talk about regulations, but little if anything has been done to change things.

Greed, not profit, is the dirty word here.

How does all this apply to writing?Well, think of a best selling writer whose book is like a bag of Cheezies. You pay more for it than it's worth, perhaps because so many others are reading it and you want to be au courant. After you finish it, you're left with orange fingers, and maybe a stomach ache, but little or no substance. Then, the writer produces another Cheezie, because, after all, the first one did so well, he has already has the template and why not take the easy way out and reuse it. The product reaches the shelves quickly but maybe a third one doesn't sell as well as the first two.

However; there are the authors who write books that stay in your mind for years. Often, they don't sell that many books, but their readers are not disappointed, they are sustained, maybe even changed by what they have read.

I'd rather write something lasting than write a Cheezie and if my work should happen to make a profit, I'll happily accept my share.