Saturday 31 January 2009

news vs. editorials

It never ceases to amaze me. What are they teaching in journalism school?

In an already horrific news item, graphically gruesome in its sparse details, it seems that journalists want to appear as writers. I began reading a news item, looking for facts. Instead, what I find is a creative rendition of what the journalist imagines happened when a mother murders her daughter. The statement of facts, which used to be what news articles were all about, were posted on another web page.

Whatever happened to the newspaper article guidelines of the past? You used to be able to read much of the item, salient details, in the first paragraph. It if was a more complicated story, more information was left to the next paragraph. Eventually, the writer left more of the less important detail, quotes from observers or victims.

I know, when I taught writing in elementary and middle school, that we guided students to include the formula: the who, what, when, where and why first. Most editors seem to need to include a hook or a pun in the title to grab the reader. Rather an insult to the reader, as if news isn't enough reason to read. That is why I pick up a paper or surf on-line papers.

Perhaps, in an attempt to 'jump the shark' in the print media, newspapers are attempting to grab readers. Magazine readership is down, you can order cheap magazines as they attempt to keep up subscribers lists and, therefore, advertising dollars. The industry is certainly facing many issues with readership in decline over the Internet. With an aging population with grace and dignity, perhaps it is time to determine target audiences and aim for real news and facts not fiction.

It is appalling the tabloid-type stories featured on the front page of the newspaper. What are they thinking? With the opening paragraph giving invented salacious prose, that leave out details. The reporter even speaks of the perpetrator speaking to an 'undercover agent' out in the field. If they are undercover, isn't that entrapment? I am so fed up with such headliner news. Give me facts and detail and information on a story, not something better suited to short story writers. These journalists have to get their mandate straight, editors have to get back on board. We cannot reduce the newspaper to junk copy.

Blogging Tips &

Who knew, when I started searching that there was much written about the etiquette of blogging? Now is blogging the same as news reporting?

In there are 10 tips for blogging. Of course, this is aimed at those who have something to market, or those who simply want to be popular. Blogs seem to be divided up into profit and not-for-profit sites. There are:
  • those with a product to sell: artists, artisans, entrepreneurs
  • some who are paid to blog their opinions,
  • others who want to network,
  • thinkers who like discourse,
  • pundits and or lobbyists,
  • family members who keep in touch,
  • writers honing their craft.
Unfortunately, many of the nonprofit sites are coloured by those ubiquitous Google ads that clutter, distract from the issues, increase load times and generally piss me off! Some ads are just offensive.

You must clearly establish your purpose for writing. Personally, I like to examine various viewpoints, and provide an analysis of facts which lead to personal opinions. So often the TV media features 'man-in-the-street' interviews*, which really bore me, since I am not sure their expertise on the matter; their bias, their socioeconomic background, political views that lead them to catch 15 seconds of fame.

The hugely popular Comments sections on e-news sites, which appear to have replaced the edited and culled letter-to-the-editor, feature bizarre rants, racist, sexist and otherwise socially inappropriate comments. I have simply stopped reading them. It is hard enough, apparently, for journalists to get things right. Why do they bother giving publicity to uninformed and biased users who provide little credible information?

I have been giving advice to some bloggers, as they repost entire news articles on their sites, totally violating copyright laws. This blog post gives the writer some guidelines. Both images, and text are copywritten. What amuses me is that often the worst offenders are writers whose own works are copywritten. For the most part, to review a book, and post an image of the cover page, seems a fair ad for a book, but be aware of copyright laws. They are there to protect all of us.

Click on the icon to read about other points of view.

*For example, during a airline transportation crisis, a 3-day power outage, with travellers who were totally stuck in an airport. The media trolled the lines and aisles looking for someone they could feature who was angry and upset. A cry from one TV journalist rang out, "There's someone over there who's crying. Let's go!" Off that was the person they featured on the news.

Friday 30 January 2009

spam or not spam

Imagine my surprise when I went to my Sympatico mail server directly, rather than using my normal mail reader )Mail, for a Mac, others use different PC browsers, i.e., Mozilla) and found 3 or 4 message Sympatico considered 'junk mail', that would have been deleted in 10 days.

From time to time, not often, I expect a piece of mail but Sympatico's mail filters will cull out mail they think spam at the expense of mail I anticipate! I never thought until today, as I missed an e-mail I had expected that I was being overprotected. It is in your best interests to check your mail every 10 days, or so.

Sympatico's web site says,
"Messages more than 10 days old will be automatically deleted from the Junk E-Mail folder. Review the messages in this folder from time to time to ensure that it includes only mail you don't want in your Inbox. Tell the Junk E-Mail Filter which messages you'd prefer to have delivered to your Inbox by using the checkboxes and then clicking the 'Not Junk' button."

You have to be careful. The beauty of big, more sophisticated systems, like Sympatico, Rogers, etc., mean that you are protected from much of the spam and the viruses and mail hoaxes that proliferate our web. That said, anything similar, with wording that mimics typical spam, p3n1s enlargement offers, or v1agra offers, are usually caught. When I used a smaller satellite company I was inundated with such mail. My gmail account is much more sophisticated than it used to be. The mail they perceive as spam, with all of these familiar words, as well as potential viruses, wit in a spam account and are deleted as a matter of course.

Most servers allow you to set filters and control the mail you receive. For example, I have my browser set to filter anything that does not use my full last name. Also, anything that is sent to me by someone or something NOT in my address book, it goes right to the junk mail filter where I can choose to dump it before reading it, or cull it if it is a new contact. Often, when you sign on with a new company or a listserv they remind you to add them to your mailbox to prevent such issues.

Protect yourself by using filters, whether you use a mail browser or not, but also check your spam files periodically. It might protect you!

Wednesday 28 January 2009

tree huggers

my tree huggerHere is my tree hugger, part-way up the tree.
It seems that it is the opposite here in our township. A lobby group has gotten together to protest.

We need tree huggers. They help us question our practices. Those who own property want the right to cut as many trees as they want. But we owe the land a policy of good stewardship. We know that those who own land have shown that they feel the power to exploit it anyway they want.

It occurs to me that we must think about that wonderful thought: we only borrow the land from our children. I have seen little evidence of residents who seem to take their responsibility seriously - the one that respects nature, the land, the trees and the creatures who share our ecosystem. In 1979, James Lovelock proposed the Gaia Hypothesis : life on Earth is really one organism.

A Bracebridge Examiner letter, by Scott Young, Councillor, says, "...Muskoka’s current bylaw is flimsy and unenforceable. More than half the landowners are absent. The lack of regulation and oversight on Muskoka’s private land makes an easy target."
This proposed by-law applies to land over ten acres. You can access it at the Township site. For a brief overview of the proposed by-law and a list of exemptions click here.

What is rather amusing is that landowners are threatening to close their snowmobiles trails in protest to this propsal. I am not sure how that helps? It will penalize thos who depend upon the tourists for their dollars.

It will, perhaps, give us some peace and quiet. Although, despite a marine law forbidding PWC and boats to speed too quickly near shore, I wonder why we don't give the same guidelines to these massive, noisy machines that drivers take anywhere they please. A neighbouring teen crashed across our property and smashed flat a beautiful bush with berries.


pine boughs stand
heavily burdened with snow
the green and white a gorgeous painting
fir boughs collect the flakes
leaning towards the ground in protest
one by one the snowflakes gathered this day
shaking the trees, I walk past in awe

the sounds of winter caresses my ears
chirping of chickadees
raucous cries of jumpy jays
exploding across the lake- a machine screams by
birds flee
cat stands in fear

Federal Budget - 2009

I cannot believe what I read. It was with great delight that I anticipated the measures our government was going to take to ensure that Canadians who might need help will be protected in the current economic crisis. This is the same effect as the 2% GST cut - a few more bucks in my pocket, no lasting economic effect, and no impact on those who seek jobs and require retraining.

For family incomes of under $40,000 they will have an increased base tax exemption ($317). CBC said this is 50% of the population. Good plan. However, why should those who make between $40,000 and 80,000 get an estimated $2 billion in tax breaks? Just like stock holders, who demand dividends in this crisis, this is the group who needs to keep putting money back in. The more people we can help, the less debt we will face later, and the lower our borrowing costs. I really resent leaving an $85 billion debt to my granddaughter.

Much to my dismay, I realized that this budget will only benefit those who have money, and who can save on taxes. Those who can afford to spend $10,000 on renos, for example. Why do they need a tax break? Even if you can find a contractor, the good ones are booked months in advance. The bad ones are bad-mouthed on Holmes on Homes! They are a-plenty.

Seniors, who can get a $150 tax credit - for what purpose? What will that buy? They are trying to please everybody, while helping few. Dr. Cooper calls this 'triage'. I call it shameful.

Those who least need a tax break, whose tax dollars should go to helping those who might avail themselves of hard-won unemployment insurance dollars (I cannot call it Employment Insurance -EI!), will still be suffering. With a two-week delay in payments many will suffer as they qualify for their (now) 50 weeks of EI. What are they thinking? Re-election? Those whose incomes fall below the poverty level, who are trying to find work and move out of that horrible category of 'working poor' will still face their grief. Of course, those who least qualify, with inadequate working hours: women, part-time workers, are the first who are let go in this economic crisis. We need to find work for those who need to be retrained.

I am not an economist, but how will cutting taxes create jobs? Hubby's ideas was infrastructure: build a fast rail line between Toronto & Montreal. THIS will create jobs. It will speed the rate of travel, call up industries (steel - for example) that will require workers. The lovely notion of giving money to municipalities, who will fight over precious funds, will not result in an equitable and necessary division of dollars. Not only that, but it is the cities, with low tax bases, many workers and the poor (who do not pay taxes), who have crumbling water mains and need redevelopment.

This money is dependent upon municipalities and provinces matching the funds for these 'shovel ready' projects. How can they do this? Many of the projects that need to be completed will have to be applied for, may have already been started, may not qualify for funds, and will have to face a long drawn out RFP process.

Dr. Sherry Cooper, Chief Economist for BMO, complains in her article, The Advil Budget: Ottawa's New Fiscal Reality: Crimson & Clover, Over and Over, complains that the budget is "chock-full of government spending and rather light on the side of tax cuts". The root cause, she blames the US below prime issue, but I think the high gas prices, and panicky, greedy stock holders caused this pain.

We need to figure out a new economy.
What do people need? -employment, health care, shelter, food, dependable utility services, affordable Rx, an education that prepares them for work, day care, reliable transportation, a help up when they need it.

What do people want? -tax breaks, jobs that pay unfair salaries,cheap goods and labour, the American Dream: way too many 'things' that clutter a life, high dividend returns, maxed out credit cards, free University education for jobs that do not require them, SUVs, handouts.

We can't have both ends of this spectrum
We need our government to help those prepared to create employment do so. We need to determine our priorities. Do we want outsourcing and cheap goods and services? Or do we want to pay fair market value for goods and services to ensure that the poor do not get poorer and that those who work hard, and are able to earn a living, can get the health care they need, the leisure time they want and to find meaningful work.

Dr. Cooper says this will do 3 things:
  1. cushion the economic crisis
  2. mollify the opposition
  3. presents moderate responses to try and balance the chaos
This budget will not do much for anyone.

Sunday 25 January 2009

wild turkeys in Muskoka

It is a tough time of year for wildlife. I feel badly for the creatures of the forest. A deer was illegally shot last week. The hunter was charged.

But it is survival of the fittest. Our birds are busy. The cracked corn keeps them happy. In the summer I spotted the turkeys on our neighbour's driveway. (see the YouTube video below!) What a hoot.

A recent local paper covered this issue. Apparently, they were reintroduced to Ontario. A 'hearty bird', but one that needs to dig down, or reach up for food.

I was fervently hoping and praying to get a photo of a wild turkey. They appear by the side of the road but our peninsula does not usually receive that kind of visitor. Lo and behold, my prayers were answered. I went out one morning, the sun had just come out between snow showers, to fill up the bird feeders- no coat, no mitts as I knew I’d be quick. I spied a movement down by the barn. Sure enough: one large turkey, as high as my thigh. I ran in, grabbed by coat, mitts, extra shirt and camera and took off out the back door. I stalked the creature the back way, thinking it would have gone north northwest. I moved as quietly as possible, as close to the barn and spotted its tracks. I found that it had headed north. Following the tracks (ignorant white woman!) I ended up tracking it up the neighbour’s road. The tracks went around the barn, back north behind the house and across my driveway, at the back of the house.

Did I feel foolish! I tracked it across the other neighbours driveway, into the bush, down by the water. By now the snow showers began in earnest. I kept following the track, hoping I was going in the right direction. I followed it around a bay, up to another neighbour’s home. It seemed to check out her bird feeder for food. By this time the snow had turned to ice pellets, I came across our neighbour shovelling her front deck and I gave up. We chatted, the sun disappeared, the snow began driving horizontally and I thought to check out the front yard. Sure enough, the critters had crossed rough around our peninsula and had made it to the point. After trudging through half frozen swamp, I went home. One for the turkey, I lost. No photos!

I spotted turkey vultures waiting to play ball last April. What immense creatures. They are sort of creepy, yet fascinating.

Saturday 24 January 2009

MTM - feed the birds

show them you care! ♫♪♪♫

I have been spending big bucks on bird seed, squirrel food, and woodpecker feeder food in Muskoka. I love feeding them, and photographing them to capture their beautiful colours and images. We have to feed the squirrels to keep them off the bird feeder. They get their food in a bucket. (Of course they share it with the chickadeees!)

This is a similar principle, in that in fall, when you plant bulbs, you should plant double in order for the squirrels to get their feed and end up with a reasonable number of flowers in the spring.

Living in the land of white, this daily show brightens my day.

I buy black sunflower seed, cracked corn, peanuts and fill our feeders. The critters rotate around our feeders, and we love to watch their antics. I like feeding them and keeping them off of the tree trunks as they bash their brains out putting holes in.

I bought one package that came with a kit: a wire frame, with an insert of formed seed. The woodpeckers can hang onto the wire cage and eat away at the seed. It saves me the grief of our trees, with lovely lined up holes.

The new feeder I bought, for the woodpeckers, is a wire frame, with an insert. They run about $9 per refill package.

I examined the refill packages list of contents and found that it was formed with gelatin. I knew I had some jello around, cranberry flavour, why not? My first attempt was interesting, since the birds do not eat the hulls, I thought it would be OK. It was a lovely cranberry colours, with the hulls decorating the deck.

I put in a handful of seeds, with a package of jello, reducing the water content by 1/3. That worked, except that I used drinking glasses and it didn't solidify enough. It crumbled. Too much water, too much seed, not enough gelatin!

I sent hubby to the store for plain gelatin. This time is used an empty milk carton. This was great. I inserted a stick, with a piece of rawhide attached. This helped to remove the seed from the box.

Two cups of seed. Two packages of gelatin, and half the water it calls for. The birds like it.

It was a successful endeavour, saves me some money, and keeps me out of trouble!

winter weather continues

Rain, snow, sleet & hail - all on one day...

Tuesday 20 January 2009

sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

In Muskoka they are debating the issue of signage along the highways. There is some debate at the municipal level on the unsightly billboards that dot the highway. Does no one remember the old song?

♪♫ Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...♪♫ I created a YouTube video showing the signs I found in the area. (See it here, or check it out below!)

I find that there is far more than is necessary and destroys the scenic views. Some are necessary, some are temporary, some warn of danger, some help with havigation, some help with safety, but others are just irritating. I'm not sure I'd use a plumber (at $65/hour) whose billboard dotted the highway!

I saw a blog the other day talking about google ads on their blog, Between Friends. I find that these ads are the same as the billboards. Are they necessary? I think some are and some are not. If you are blogging to make money, then that diminishes the importance of this site in my estimation.
Everyone want to make a buck.

With these ads you only make money if someone clicks on said ad. And you need some bizarre number of clicks before you make a dime. Some absolutely refuse to use them, while others seem to make money.

Actually, I made 8 cents when I posted and accepted ads during one month.
When I saw a google ad for '100s of Asian Women' on someone else's blog, I dumped it! It looked cheap and detracted from the site! In my opinion, it demeans a site. I loathe visiting major companies, especially media outlets like CBC or Oprah, for example, and having to send my way through ads. You can see that despite many comments, and 1700 profile views, unless people click on the ads you do not make money.

The worst ads are the ones that take forever to load dynamic content, and slow your page. The google ads, at least, are small and succinct.

The ones on my ontarioseniors.blogspot were quite rational, the ones I noticed, but since you need a million 'clicks' to make a few cents off of it, I decided I'd delete it! The purpose of my site is to educate my readers, not make them buy something they might not need, or send them to an American website with content that is inappropriate for them.

It didn't necessarily lead people to acceptable sites, nor did they lead to reputable or local businesses. They use your blog content to attach appropriate and relevant ad content, but you just never know what they will post. Others have found that the ads don't match well and don't bring in much income. Some have gotten nothing but grief for 'spamming' the ads. Google has particular rules.

I have dumped them. It leaves more space for my own photos and sidebars.

Monday 19 January 2009

Cornwall drug busts & signs on lawns

There has been much controversy regarding this issue. The Standard-Freeholder article shows a photo, which I will not reproduce as that violates copyright laws. I know that my adult children live on a street with a house that was formerly a Grow Op. If Realtors must disclose, wouldn't it make sense that neighbours would want to know, too?

I think I would like to know if drugs were potentially being dealt on my street. What with Neighbourhood Watch groups, we have to be vigilant. The police cannot be there all the time. These issues affect a neighbourhood, our right to safety and protection. While the potential criminals are not convicted, the fact that there was enough information to warrant a warrant, indicated that people must be vigilant. There is a difference between vigilantism or vengeance and preparation and prevention.

Grow Ops are illegal, and whether you agree or disagree with the marijuana laws, criminals shoot each other and take down innocent bystanders while they fight over drugs and territory.

"The fact that prohibition was or may have been wrong didn't make Al Capone a misunderstood businessman on the wrong side of the tracks.", said a friend of mine.

I heard Wei Chen, on CBC, interview the Police Service Chief. She was quite rude, demanding to know if they were planning to inform citizens about other arrests, or convictions including pedophiles, and then asked if he was planning on putting a scarlet letter on homes. What a shameful, disrespectful question. Her hidden agenda, not so hidden, is an increasingly left wing, highly biased journalism style on the part of CBC. I, for one, wants to know about such issues. It is a threat to my safety and security and supercedes freedom of information and privacy laws (FIPPA), since this is a risk to my health, which falls under the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

Drugs, the abuse of drugs, addictive behaviours wreak such havoc on society, families, and individuals, that we must have all of the information that we can. Drug busts are a common problem. A Google search of drug busts in Canada brought 40,000 hits. Busts occur in homes, schools, parking lots, and at the border, and involve children and people we know. At the bottom of this article, Accidental Find Leads Cops to One of the Biggest Drug Busts in Toronto History, are signs of an Ecstasy lab in a home. Kids are at risk, as are the adults who must protect all of us.

Be vigilant.

Sunday 18 January 2009

photostory Friday

I found a terrific group who publish Photostory Fridays. Being a linguistic as well as digital fanatic, it is the perfect opportunity to play.

It has warmed up some, but we anticipate -27 C. temperatures tonight. I was happy to stroll outdoors the other day. Here are my photos.

I love the trend towards planting ornamental grasses. They look so beautiful in all seasons. I did have to prop some of them up, but they are a poignant reminder of summertime.

This little chickadee appreciates my black sunflower seeds on a cloudy, damp day. Oliver, my black cat, and I went for a walk and he showed me where he likes to sit - directly under the bird feeder.

My 'Hand of God' has a cushion of snow.

The bulrushes look beautiful with a touch of snow as a hat.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Friday 16 January 2009

falling thermometer

Red sky at night; sailor's delight
Red sky in the morning: sailor's warning.

This above was taken on January 4th, 2009.

Then, Jan. 13, after a few beautiful days of watching folks snowmobiling, it warmed up.

I couldn't believe the cold front that came in!
At 1:00 in the afternoon it was zero degrees.

An hour later(2 p.m.) it was -5 C.

The temperature just kept dropping. By 3 p.m.

Then by 4 p.m.

Approaching dusk and dinnertime, 5 p.m. the cats refused to go out!

Dinnertime and it was frigid.

PhotoStory Friday

Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek