Declaring Email Bankruptcy!

On Dec. 31, I had 46,315 unread emails in my inbox. On my first day back to work in the new year, I had zero.

No, I didn’t spend two weeks replying to all those messages. I deleted them — without reading a single one — and declared what is known as email bankruptcy.

Am I a bad guy for ignoring those emails? Or are the senders somehow at fault? Probably a bit of both.

via Disruptions: Looking for Relief From a Flood of Email – NYTimes.com.

I didn’t delete every email in my inbox but I have stopped reading email each day. It is overwhelming in volume and uselessness. The few email from family and friends are drowned out in an ocean of newsletters, sales pitches and so on. Even the newsletters are thin disguises for sales pitches, marketing schemes. None of it is worth my time. It just frustrates me.

I have my phone number on the Do Not Call List. That cut down on the phone calls I get for services I never asked for or about. But, I still get the odd call, roughly three a week. There is no system in place, no Do Not Email List, for email.

Declaring email bankruptcy sounds like a good idea to me. But, I’d take it farther and delete the whole account, or at least empty all the past, present and begin to bounce all the future email sent to that account. If you set up filters on your email account which allowed only email from specific email addresses – how much quieter would your email be and how much time would you save in wading through junk mail?

The main reason I don’t want to delete my account is the address I have with Gmail. I don’t want to lose that. So, I can either set up filters to delete all email (but for family and friends) or begin using a different email account (a new address) which I only give to family and friends, the people I do want to hear from. Some people may set up a third account for business-only email. However, I have an ongoing case study with an email address I abandoned at Yahoo web mail over ten years ago. That account is still flooded with spam and junk email though I have not used it (other than logging into Yahoo services) for over ten years. So, an abandoned email account will remain toxic for a long time after you stop using it. Likely, the junk email will still be filling that account as long as there is still Internet access.

How do you handle junk email? Have you committed email bankruptcy once, or several times? Feels kind of good to dump it all, doesn’t it?

Modern Chain Mail

modern chain mail

Do you remember old fashioned chain mail, the promises of fame fortune and death threats to you and your family (loved ones)?

Modern chain mail has taken a new twist. Now we have to reply, friend and follow people in order to save the world or at least save the life of someone deathly ill or suicidal.

At least these are easier to ignore. It was kind of spooky not sending on those old, retro chain letters. I always did feel creepy about throwing them out… just in case something did happen.  These modern chain letters all sound just too phoney to me. How can I possibly save this boy from committing suicide just by passing this along to strangers, from strangers. So I don’t feel even a twinge of creepiness.

But… could you use a modern chain letter and come up with a really creepy story, something unique?

The Adventures of the Wilderness Family

This is the family adventure movie I remember – even more than 30 years after watching it with my Dad, brother and sisters in the movie theatre. The scenes I remember most involve a grizzly bear attacking the cabin, orca whales bobbing their heads up while the family float on a flat shelf of ice and struggling to build something to shelter themselves once they land, alone in the wilderness.

There are three movies in the series. I don’t know if I ever did catch the third in the series but I well remember the first two. I have watched them again, on TV, but seldom manage to be in the right place and time to catch them. I would enjoy seeing all three and showing them for my nephew and nieces who are now the ages we (my own brother and sisters and myself) were when we first watched the adventure.

I have to admit I have a huge interest in survival type of stories, including end of the world scenarios and crash landing type things like the Swiss Family Robinson. But, there are not a lot of great survival stories for the whole family to watch which are also not taken down into the genre of silly/ stupid comedy. The comedy really spoils it for me. I’d rather have the suspense and the science behind the survival of the family.

If you have seen a great family adventure survival type of movie write about it in the comments below. There must be other great family movies out there, without the over done humour.

How would you write about a family who get caught out in the wilderness? How would the whole thing start, just another camping trip gone wrong, or something more dramatic and unique?

Create a Compelling Title for a Christmas Story

The contest deadline is today (as I’m writing this) so by the time I post it the deadline will be past. Still, good to try coming up with a great title. Exercise your writing brain.

To win any of the great prizes, simply review the Christmas story summary below and then create a compelling title that would make any potential reader sit up and take notice.

Linzie is 13 years old and lost her parents in a car accident  a few months previously. She was taken in by family members- the estranged sister of her mother but life feels empty. As Christmas approaches, it takes a very special event to make Linzie appreciate that Christmas can still be a very special time of year.

via Create a Compelling Title – The Writer.

Write your own Christmas Newsletter

ascii art angelI admit I don’t write and send a Christmas newsletter every year. Often I have it started, get it written, find the art to put inside and then I don’t get it mailed in time. Or, I get stalled out somewhere along the way. So, the best I do is send Christmas cards and try not to feel bad about not getting the newsletter finished and mailed out in time. But, the years I did work everything out and send the Christmas newsletter (inside the standard, yet cheerful, Christmas cards) were good years and I had the feeling of a job well done and having done a good deed.

Who to Send the Newsletter To

The first people I send a newsletter to are those who are a bit isolated among family and friends. Elderly and singles can feel disconnected from friends and family at this time of year. I think it’s important to make them feel included. If you want them to come for Christmas dinner or meet for coffee over the holidays, add a personal invitation to the newsletter.

If you want a newsletter for people who don’t really have a personal connection to you (like business connections or people you know online) send an edited down version, with less personal information about you and your comings and goings.

Consider the people you are sending the newsletter to and decide how much you really want them to know. Why not boast a bit if things are going well? If you don’t go too far, stick to the facts, the people who know you should feel happy for you. Encourage people to write back about their own great moments and events so you can add them to the newsletter for next year.

Never write a pity letter. The holiday season is about good cheer. Find yours before you start to write. The only people you might want to send a whiny letter to are your parents, maybe.

How to Create the Newsletter

Creating a holiday newsletter is fun. It’s a chance to find my Christmas spirit early. I look for holiday images and think up something to write about whatever we are doing for the holidays. Sometimes I find great seasonal quotes too.

In a non-digital way, I like to make the newsletter in the retro zine publishing way: glue, clippings from magazines and I hand write at least some part of them. It’s too much to write them all by hand, but you can stash in a few sentences or at least hand write the salutations for each one.

Add a recent photo of yourself and family. Take a photo in the middle of summer with everyone wearing antlers if you plan ahead that far. Pick something you do, like a sport or a hobby and make that the focus of the photo. There’s no reason the photo(s) need to be seasonal or holiday photos. Make a cake and decorate it for Christmas, get everyone’s face around the cake and use that as a holiday photo. Take pictures of your family (or yourself) making paper snowflakes, snow angels outside or pulling the Christmas decorations out of storage. You don’t need “deer in the headlights” posed photos.

How to Write the Newsletter

If you tend to babble once you put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) read it over the next day, or the next week. Decide if you really want to tell EVERYONE that much about yourself, your plans and what you’ve been doing. Consider the person you least wnat to communicate with… do you really want them to have all that information?

If you can’t think of anything to say, recruit help. As your direct family (husband, kids, parents, siblings) what they have planned for Christmas and include that. Or, interview yourself. Write out a set of impersonal sort of questions and then answer them. Or, include more photos and less text, if you really can’t write about yourself. Add captions or some explanation to go with the photos. Let people know what they are seeing.

Three paragraphs of text should be plenty. Stick to one side of a full sheet of paper, add images and illustrations. If you have kids they can decorate the back of the newsletter with their own drawings. But a newsletter doesn’t need to be continued on the next page, one page with about 200 words is just fine. You may add personal notes to individuals if you have the time and interest. Just make sure you get those sent in the right envelopes.

How to Mail the Newsletter

Sending the newsletter via email is the fact that it’s impersonal and defeats the purpose of connecting with people and making them feel valued and important. There is a very different feeling to having a real newsletter made with pictures glued to it, hand written (versus typed) and opening an email file to see what someone made with their computer. It lacks the personal touch. Email never has been great when it comes to sharing emotion, feeling and atmosphere.

Weight and packaging. If you plan to mail it out you can’t create a newsletter which won’t easily slip into the envelope or cost too much to mail out. Think light if you want to add extras. Also, don’t add anything which could poke a hole through the envelope. Light and flat.

How Did the Human Race Appear?

A little girl asked her mother, “How did the human race appear?”

The mother answered, “God made Adam and Eve and they had children, and so was all mankind made..”

Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered, “Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved.”

The confused girl returned to her mother and said, “Mom, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?”

The mother answered, “Well, dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his.”

Found on Facebook: The Husband Chronicles.

Digital Camera: Zoom, Focus, Pixels and Batteries

Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ3I take photos of buildings, abandoned sites and the odd wild flowers in the landscape. Sometimes I get talked into family photos too. I don’t mind family photos but they always require more uploading via email, Facebook and other places so family can share them. It’s odd how the personal stuff takes up more time than the photos I really love to take.

One thing you should do right away is get a decent camera bag. Take the time to find one which has a hard outer shell so your camera bag can take some abuse without harming the camera inside of it.

Zoom and Focus for Macro and Long Distance Photographs

One thing I look for in a camera is a lot of optical zoom. Most people don’t need a lot of zoom. Step closer rather than zoom in. However, I photograph abandoned places – often on the other side of a barrier, like a ‘No Trespassing” sign. So, I don’t have the option of getting closer myself. Instead I use the zoom to bring the picture to me. I love zoom!

Someone else might want a camera with a faster speed, for action photography. In my case, things are pretty much staying right where they are.

Other photos I like to take are called macro. This means I get as close up as I can and fill my viewable screen with the entire image I am looking at. Macro photography gives you a new look at very small things. I use it for taking photos of wild flowers and insects usually. I push the camera lens as close to the subject as I can. I have to be careful not to get so close I touch it with the camera.

The camera I have right now isn’t the best one for giving a sharp focus when I use the full 10X optical zoom. I’ve also noticed it loses focus, or is hard to focus, when I am up close for macro photos. In the case of taking a macro photo I need to pull back in order to get a sharp, clear focus. When using the zoom I’ve learned to pull back then too in order not to lose the sharpness which I need to bring all the finer details into the long range photograph.

I have learned that the focus range needs to start with a small number, the smaller the better, in order for the camera to be able to get a clear focus when the subject is near your camera. I also know that the only zoom that keeps a sharp focus is the optical zoom. If you break into the range of digital zoom you lose your sharp focus and the photo framing can get out of whack too.

So camera focus depends on a few extra things but the focus range is an important feature to watch for when you look at getting a new camera.

FujiFilm FinePix SL300

Resolution: It’s in the Pixels

The resolution is the amount, or density, of pixels in the image. Pixels are tiny dots of colour which build up the photo as a whole. A high amount of megapixels lets you use the photos you take for larger sizes in processed images. But, for most people 3 MP (MegaPixels) will be all you need.

Images which are used online, for websites require less pixels than an image which you want to print as a photograph. Keep that in mind when looking for a new camera. Unless you are selling your photos professionally or printing them up for poster sized images, you don’t need high resolution images.

Battery Life for your Digital Camera

Digital camera batteries are either lithium or AA batteries. Use rechargeable batteries to save money and having more stuff to throw away. Lithium batteries last longer and are lighter but, they are hard to replace once they finally stop working. I’ve had a camera more than 3 years and have not needed to replace the lithium battery it came with. So replacing the battery is not something to worry about very much. Just take care of whatever batteries you use.

Things that ask more from your battery:

  • LCD screen
  • flash
  • zoom

Tips for saving and conserving battery power.

  • Don’t leave your camera on when you aren’t using it. Why rely on power saving when you could just turn it off.
  • Don’t leave your camera on long after your photos are uploaded. When it’s done, it’s done.
  • Don’t leave your camera battery out in sunlight. It likes cool, dark places.
  • Don’t use the flash when you can do without it. Low light can be good for photos.
  • Don’t use the zoom when you can move your camera (or yourself) closer instead.
  • Don’t spend time viewing the photos you have already taken. Upload them and then take your time reviewing them.

Wrist Straps and Camera Bags

A camera may come with a strap and a camera bag. The best thing about the camera bag that comes with your camera is that it fits your camera size. It may not be the best choice for keeping and carrying around your camera. Also, I very much prefer using a wrist strap versus a longer strap that goes over your shoulders (around your neck). A long strap leaves your camera dangling in front of you.

I like the wrist strap so I can keep the camera in my hand while knowing I have the strap around my wrist so I can’t drop the camera on the ground. My wrist strap has saved my camera from dropping twice so far. I’m careful but I still tend to be walking over uneven ground, watching for animals flying above me and hiding below my feet. I’ve had something startle me or I’ve just plain lost my footing and stumbled, countless times. I’m glad my camera strap was looped over my wrist then and not banging into my chest.

In the case of the camera bag, I took time to find one which was firm on the outside. I knew my camera was going to be bumped around in my backpack, my purse and so on. So a firm case was essential to protect it. I didn’t keep the case the camera came with for very long. It was soft and easily squished.

What to do With Your Old Cookbooks

blowtorchI like cookbooks but in the digital age they seem to be taking up space and not really being used any longer. Most of the time, when I think of something I want to make I find a recipe online. It’s fast. It may not be the best way to get a really good, reliable recipe, but they usually work out.

Anyway, I’m not a rule abiding, strict recipe follower. I tend to add and subtract to my own tastes and depending on what I have available. This is another reason I like finding recipes online, I can look through a lot of similar recipes and find one which works for the ingredients I have on hand and my food style (I really don’t like mushrooms and onions make me sick).

A cookbook can’t compete against finding a recipe online in that way. But, I still have several cookbooks around. Some are vintage and I can’t quite part with Aunt Emma’s Ukranian cookbook, which includes her personal notes. I’ve also got the old cookbook which may have been my Great-Grandmother’s. All the family cookbooks come with notes from past women (and the odd man too) in our family.

Still, I have a dozen or so cookbooks which I bought many years ago and have not looked at in several years now. I don’t have a really good reason to keep them.

Why Keep or Collect a Vintage Cookbook?

As I mentioned, family history, is a big reason for keeping an old cookbook.

An old cookbook also gives us a taste (literally, if you follow the recipe) of what people made and what they ate in another time. As long as you can understand the language and measurements, anyone can get the old ingredients and try making a dish from hundreds of years ago. By cooking an old recipe you can have a real taste of history. (Or as near as we can get to it with modern ingredients which are chemically infiltrated/ enhanced).

People may collect cookbooks in a specific genre as well. If you grew up in an area or knew your family originally came from another country you would be curious to know what they ate and how they ate it. Cookbook collectors keep books with cooking from regional and ethnic time periods. Or, you may have heard about southern deep fried cooking for years and never tried anything, except in a restaurant. An old cookbook lets you do-it-yourself.

Collecting Old Cookbooks

Could you eat Like Your Ancestors?