Category Archives: Pet Peeves

Of Cords, Cables, and Adapters

You wake up in the morning, get cleaned up, dressed, and eat breakfast (at least drink coffee) and then you look for your cel phone, laptop, or mp3 player before you head out the door.  You check the usual places and find what you need, only to discover that the power is low!  Now what?  Now you start that far more taxing task of trying to find the charger cord for the device. 

The advent of the rechargeable batteries to operate these devices was great, but brought along with it a myriad of cables, cords, and adapters.  There are very few of these that work with more than one of our devices.  Apple things have a totally different interface than do Black Berries, and different again from e-readers.  Even within one range of device, the Nintendo DS series, the adapters are different depending upon which version of the hand-held game device you happen to have.

So you need the cord with which your Black Berry can charge in the car.  Well, obviously it must be in the car right?  Not necessarily.  You may not have used it there yet, or perhaps you were travelling with a friend and stuck it in a purse or piece of luggage incase you needed it.  Your kids may have borrowed it, or it may be in your spouse’s car.  How about the USB cord for your I-Pod?  I’m sure you put it someplace safe, but where.  It is truly amazing how these little bits of electronic accessories can hide between couch cushions , between bills in the stack, in pockets etc.  They usually turn up shortly after you have given up and paid a princely sum to get new ones.

Just as the improvements of computers did not make our homes and workplaces paperless, our wireless devices do not actually leave us unplugged.  At some point, without the cords, cables, and adapters our devices just become cute paperweights.  We have become even more dependant on electricity than we were fifty years ago.  So, for folks in my area, as you prepare for the oncoming hurricane Irene, don’t forget to get a full charge on all your “wireless” devices.

Yard Sale Mentality: Cheap or Wise?

Have you ever noticed that people who will gladly pay five dollars for a smoothie at MacDonald’s, if transplanted to a yard sale, balk at the idea of paying the same price for a bicycle which needs an inner-tube?  A one-time fast food fruit drink wins over a bike which with only a little investment would give years of exercise and enjoyment.  It is hard to get past the fact that in order to buy an equivalent bike now would cost over one hundred dollars, to even listen to a person dither over spending five.

For the most part, when I find I am no longer using something I have purchased or been given, I don’t even consider a yard sale.  If I don’t know someone who would like the item, to whom I can give it,  I donate the items to Value Village or some other similar agency.  They in turn sell the things for reasonably low prices and give some of the proceeds to charities such as the Diabetes Society.  When my church is holding a yard sale I give any items I can to them and go and help out with sales.

Spread out over tables in the front lawn of the church were hundreds of items which at some point seemed vital to the people who bought them.  The crock pot, the set of dishes, the book on learning Korean, at some point in time all passed the test of worthiness and got us to wedge open our wallets to make the purchase.  Even worse, some of them probably went on credit cards so that years later we may still be paying them off.  At the time we were convinced that those items were going to make our life better, more interesting, or easier.

Stuff…Comedian George Carlin has a famous routine about stuff and its vital role in our feeling of well-being.  You may like to watch this routine/rant at but be aware that there is a little iffy language.  His point, that we are obsessed with our stuff, is a good one.  He calls our houses piles of stuff with a roof on them, and makes reference to storage rentals spaces as a whole industry based on guarding the stuff we no longer have room for in our homes.

What does the Bible have to say about stuff?  We are warned to avoid storing up riches on earth (Matt 6:19), encouraged to sell all we have and give to others (Luke 18:22) (hopefully at prices greater than at yard sales), that we can not take our stuff with us (Psalm 49:16-17).  (maybe that is why we fear death so much)  Jesus tells us that we don’t need to worry about what we will wear or what we will eat because God will provide for us just as he provides for the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air (Luke 12:22-31).  If you don’t believe that you can be happy with almost no stuff at all, watch some video footage of children in a refugee camp or other poor area playing soccer with a bunch of plastic bags tied up to form a ball and see the smiles!

I will not pretend that I am not as adicted to my stuff as the next person.  Not only that, I am constantly tempted by ads, flyers, and catalogues of more cool stuff I could add to the stash!  A new Costco just opened in our area and I was there the first day drooling over the stuff which appealed to me and snickering at some of the stuff for which other people would spend their hard earned or even borrowed money.  It is a struggle with which we all deal to some extent and would take an entire cultural overhaul to reduce, let alone eliminate.

Maybe the people who didn’t want to pay five dollars for the bike are actually on the right track.  Where food is a necessity, though not necessarily from MacDonalds, the bike may actually end up just sitting in their garage as it ended up doing in ours for the last eight years. 

The Down Side of the E-Reader

Hundreds of Books In My Hand

Hundreds of Books In My Hand

I don’t know if I have mentioned my Kobo e-reader in any other posts or not, but it came up today as a topic and, as I’m not swamped with good ideas, I decided to go with it.  I love my Kobo!  When I went away on vacation I had around 130 books with me in my purse, from which to choose reading material for when I was on the plane, in the airport, laying out on a chair on the beach, or getting ready for bed at night.  The last time I took the same trip I just squeaked within the weight limit for checked baggage and most of the weight was from the books I had with me.  This, along with the relatively low-cost of e-books, is the up-side to using an e-reader.

The down side, at least for me, is that when I come across a really classic quote which may spark a blog post I don’t have a good way to mark it for later.  I know that some of the e-readers do have the opportunity to put tabs on various pages, or to highlight important lines of text, but even then you just don’t have the same way of flipping quickly past the pages to find the good bits.  I have on occasion written down the chapter and page number for the quote, but even that can be mucked up if I read it in one font and size and then go back to find it with the font changed.

I’m going to stick with my Kobo despite this snag because it is so easy on my hands to hold it, and so convenient to carry it.  I can also read in bed with my hands tucked under the sheets, only needing to shoot one out at the end of each page to push advance.  Maybe I’ll get a case for it that has a little notepad attached.  Very old school meets new!

Shredding: Modern-Day Church Fire?

This morning I spent some time beside the shredder at our church putting old records and documents through and taking out the little tiny pieces of paper they turned into.  In went bank deposit books from ten years ago, old phone lists, meeting minutes etc. and out came material for the composter out back.

I started this exercise because I noticed the three large paper boxes on a shelf above where we hang our coats with a sign on them, “To Shred.”  They have been there for a little while and I had some time, so I decided to put a dent in pile.  With the amount of paper records put out each year in the church there comes a time when there just isn’t enough storage space to keep it all.  And really, who is ever going to want to find out how much I gave to a fundraising effort ten years ago?  I didn’t look closely at any of the pages other than to read headings or notice the occasional date.

Those documents dated in 1996 got me thinking about what was happening in the lives of both my family and my church.  Early in 1996 my youngest child was born, and it seems like just yesterday.  Of course it was not just yesterday, it was fifteen years ago.  So much has happened in that time.  For instance, our church has had two different ministers in that time, we have a new roof, a new organ, new gas stoves in the kitchen etc.  People have been born, baptised, married, and buried.  Many of the names that flitted past me are those of members who have since died or moved away,  while some are those of the people who are still very active in the leadership of the church today.

I started thinking about stories of people trying to get birth certificates in the “old days,” and having problems because records were lost in church fires.  This seems to have been such a loss, and yet here I was, the modern version of the church fire.  Obviously, I was not shredding baptism or marriage records or anything like that.  These days the church is not responsible for recording births and deaths, that is all handled by the government, but now we shred anything that might have a person’s contact information listed,  and financial documents over five years old.

At the same time as we have unprecedented privacy regulations, we have unprecedented levels of self-disclosure through social media and other programs.  The same teens whose names we are not allowed to print on a list to give to classmates, are telling the world what they are having for breakfast, wearing or doing in a steady stream throughout the day.  If we can’t find some happy medium somehow I think future historians will be at a disadvantage. 

What Ever Happened to Mutts?

Puppy Picture

I went looking for a calendar for 2012 the other day.  I would really like to get a dog calendar this year, but when I look at the dog calendars they all feature twelve pictures of purebred dogs and puppies.  My dog is a mutt!  Where are the calendars with the mutts?  If you look at a cat calendar you will find a few pedigree cats, but mostly the pictures are just regular cats.  Why is this not the case for the dogs?

Coda, pictured above at about five months, was presented for sale as a “designer dog” which is an interesting new term referring to purposefully cross-bred dogs.  You may have heard of the yorkiepoo, the cockapoo, the goldendoodle etc.  The idea of these dogs is to get the best characteristics of both breeds.  Of course, like any other breeding, it actually ends up being a dice roll.  You may indeed get the best of each, but you may just as easily end up with the worst of each.

I was not really looking for any particular type of dog.  My husband set a height limit and I went from there.  A colleague happened to buy a really cute little dog and said he had a brother that looked just like him.  They were, theoretically, shi-tzu/ toy fox terrier crosses.  If you have seen mixed litters of puppies you know that some may look just like the father, some just like the mother, and some an interesting combination.  In this case the breeder has a big old barn with one non-registered shi-tzu male and a bunch of un-registered females of various toy breeds.  When one of the females gives birth the pups are determined to be 1/2 shi-tzu and 1/2 whatever the mother is.  Coda and his brother are not just a cross of those two breeds.  They are mutts.  There are definitely bits of at least one other breed involved in their genetic background!  I don’t mind, because I love the way he looks and his size and wouldn’t want him any other way (maybe quieter…)  The thing is, though, that nobody uses the term mutt anymore.

My sister is looking for a mutt and nobody lists their dogs on Kijiji as mutts, even if they are.  What is wrong with the term mutt?  What is wrong with a mutt?  Are we too sophisticated now to use the term or to have a dog that isn’t purebred?  Has it taken on a pejorative meaning?  People used to call them Heinz 57 dogs, which I don’t imagine the Heinz company appreciated too much.

Selective breeding, which is responsible for the purebred dogs we have today, has its down-sides.  Many purebred dogs are prone to physical problems and or temperament issues which make them difficult to live with.  This is rarely the case with the mutt.  Vets will tell you that if you take a mutt in for their check-up they will refer to them as good hardy dogs.  I am not anti-purebred, though it may sound that way.  My horse was a registered Canadian, I have had a samoyed and pomeranian dog in the past.  But, why do we get dogs in the first place?  Most people get a dog for company, a way to get themselves off the couch and out the door, that sort of thing.  Can not a mutt serve these purposes just as well as any other dog?  If you are into dog showing I would agree that the mutt is not a good choice, but for a family pet I think they are ideal.

So, here is to the lovable mutts of the world.  It is time they had their own calendars and more respect!

Social Media Allows Canadians To Show Patriotism

O Canada
Our home and native land,
true patriot love
in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
the true north strong and free.
From far and wide, O Canada,
we stand on guard for thee!

God keep our land
glorious and free!
O Canada we stand on guard for thee!
O Canada we stand on guard for thee!

Today is Canada Day, our equivalent of the 4th of July.  Growing up I remember going to barbecues and things on the 1st of July and when I was older playing the clarinet or sax in the Canada Day parades in our area.  I also remember, however, crossing the border to play in 4th of July parades and there was a huge difference.  Even when it is not the national holiday celebrating the founding of the country, in the United States the patriotism is almost palatable.  People wear the flag, fly the flag, pledge allegiance to the flag etc. 365 days of the year.  In Canada there has always seemed to be a rather apologetic tone to any display of national pride.

This seems to have changed in the past few years, at least on the social media sites.  Perhaps because we aren’t face to face with people, we seem to be much more comfortable trumpeting our pride.  For July 1st it started around a week ago as one-by-one most of my friends changed their profile pictures to Canadian flag, maple leafs, beavers etc.  This morning we were all cheering for Canada, wishing her a happy birthday etc.  It is really quite beautiful, even if we did need the cover of social media to allow it out!


Ten Ways To Get Rid Of A Volunteer

The following is a primer on the best ways to lose a volunteer.  You need not employ all the methods, many people will quit after only one strategy.  Remember, volunteers are individuals so you may need to experiment before you find an effective method for each one.

  1. Perhaps the best way to lose volunteers is to fail to recognize them.  People do not, as a rule, choose to volunteer to get credit, recognition or attention.  People choose to volunteer for various organizations  because they believe in the cause or the need of the people for whom they are working.  That being said, there is a limit to how long they will continue to be engaged if nobody says thank you at some point.  If you look you can find blog posts, and even books on the topic of how to keep volunteers and the top of the list is usually acknowledgement of their efforts.

  2. You can actually lose volunteers before they even start!  To do this, do not return their phone calls or emails in which they express interest in being of help and or place a lengthy complicated process in place (especially if you call it an application process).

  3. Select one volunteer to do a task that really requires several.

  4. Give several volunteers the task of doing something simple which would be better and more efficiently done by one.

  5. Fail to  listen to their suggestions for improvement.  Treat them as though they have no education, background, or expertise.

  6. Hover over them as though you don’t trust them to be competent.

  7. Get a volunteer started on something and then never check in to see how things are going.

  8. Expect that they will stay forever/ make it a life sentence.

  9. Arrange times to meet with your volunteers and then cancel without notice, “Because something important came up.”

  10. Stop thinking of a volunteer as a person, once they are on board they are just one of the numbers.

Hopefully it is clear to my readers that I do not actually advocate any of the above actions.  Indeed it would make an excellent list of what not to do when you are working with people, either employed or volunteers.

Think, Think, Think: How Pooh And I Clear Writer’s Block

I’m looking across the room at a picture of Winnie the Pooh in his classic thinking pose.  His eyes are scrunched closed, one arm is around his chest and this other hand is up to his temple.  Even looking at the picture I can hear him saying, “Think, think, think.”  Maybe he is trying to think of an answer to a question piglet has asked, or maybe he is working on a hum, but he is thinking hard!

Here at the front of the room the same scenario is playing out.  OK, I’m not physically squinting my eyes or knocking on my temple, but I am mentally trying to squeeze some kind of coherent thought out.  I have an assortment of posts in the works at the moment, but they are stalled at some point or other.  Some are just cool titles at the moment, while others were going along fine until I hit a mental snag on a point of logic or an annoying fact making my conclusion questionable.

There are various ways I get around this.  Today’s choice was to write about the block itself rather than try to dislodge it from my path.  Other options which I often use for blog writing include; saving my work and then choosing tags, previewing the post as it stands, heading off to http://creativecommons.comto find a good image to use, doing a spell check, or fixing the font and paragraph spacing.  If all of these distractions fail to help me reach the dangling strand of my thought, I just stop for a while and do something totally unrelated.


There are times when the strands just won’t be caught and I eventually give up on the post altogether.  Those bits often come back at a later date when they end up fitting like the missing puzzle piece into a completely different topic.  I’m sure you are familiar with the adage, “I think, therefore I am.”  It is the thinking that really matters and a slight change of focus can make all the difference.

Slow Down, I Can’t Keep Up!

This morning at church when the minister was finished with the Trinity Sunday children’s story he said he had one more thing he wanted to share.  He told us that one of our little boys in the congregation had let him know, through his mother I believe, that we say The Lord’s Prayer too fast when we repeat it in worship.  He said he can’t keep up.  As the minister said, “Out of the mouths of babes!”

Not only may we be repeating the Lord’s Prayer too quickly, but I think we try to do most everything too quickly.  Several times lately I’ve been at the microwave at work or a checkout waiting for my card to process a charge and noticed how slowly it seemed to be going.  Two minutes in the microwave seems like such a long time now, and it is even worse if whatever we are heating isn’t done when the two minutes are up and we have to, gasp, put it back in for thirty more seconds.

I was at a meeting the other day as an observer and saw this same sort of scenario.  The goal of the meeting seemed to be to figure out the fastest way of getting the business done.  This led, for the most part, to motions being passed without discussion and the delightful result of being able to finish all the business before lunch by tacking on an extra fifteen minutes to the morning session.  This done everyone went their separate ways rather than gathering for a shared picnic lunch as had been attended.  Everyone seemed so pleased to be finished that the idea of fellowship over a meal was cast aside.

What else are we doing this way?  When we listen to our children do we seem to be in a rush for them to finish so that we can do something more important?  Do we ask people how they are but then walk away so quickly that they don’t even get to answer?  Really, what is the big race for?

The children’s story usually concludes with a prayer with the minister saying short phrases for the children to repeat.  Today, however, he led us in The Lord’s Prayer, which had already been done in its usual spot in the service, at a slower pace.  It was slow enough that there was time to reflect after each phrase on the meaning or ramifications of what we had just said.  What a great message.  Let’s relax    our    speed   this   coming   week   and   reflect   more   on    the   meaning   of   that   which   we   say   and   do.

When The Computer Won’t Let You: Finding Limits in a “Limitless World”


Don’t you hate it when you have something you want to do on the computer, know that it is theoretically within the capability of the computer system, find the correct menu and command, hit the button and get a message like this?


I remember, when computers were becoming more ubiquitous, that everyone talked about a paperless society.  I’m still waiting!  The piles of paper that cross my desk in the form of assignments which need to be marked and forms to fill out is ridiculous given that it could all be done on the computer!  But then I think of all the days recently when we were unable to get on the network at school to get our attendance recorded or access our presentation files.


One example of many from today: I tried to convert a poster designed as a Notebook page into a jpeg image to put into my blog.  I tried about four different ways with no success.  Then I figured if I could cut and paste it into a Word file, I should be able to paste it into my post here.  Nope! 


I get SO frustrated when these things happen.  I wonder if this is a symptom of a greater problem?  Have we come to expect too much from our technology?  When we talk about how small the world has gotten, have we begun to believe that we should be able to magically do whatever we can think of?  Somewhere all the things that we are able to do with a computer have been laboriously conceived, planned and programmed by real people.


Until I learn how to program things myself, which is never happening, I need to be more patient and realize that just because I think of doing something does not mean that someone else has taken time to make it possible.