Hope Waits to be Born in Unlikely Places

I especially like the first line of this sentimental poem which came on the backing of a butterfuly lapel pin which I will give to my niece. She will lose it and forget all about it as soon as the butterfly leaves her hand. That is how they seem to be about things. I mainly bought it so I could bring those words home with me. I read them last week but could not remember how it went by the time I got home again. So, this time I have them right from the source.

Butterfly Kiss of Hope

Never give up on hope, for hope waits to be born in unlikely places.
Hope is everywhere, you’ll find it in the flowers, in the air,
It’s delivered to you by butterflies wearing different faces,
When one softly brushes your cheek with a kiss, you’ll know it’s there.

J. Hinkle, Thoughtful Angels… and Friends.

I’ve come to think that hope is one of the most important things. Even more important than love or compassion. Without hope you can’t find anything else that could be good in your life. Once you have love, success, family, friends, etc you don’t need to hope for them.

If you have a favourite quote about hope add it to comments here. I’d like to read more.

Guest Post about Night Photography

Today I am publishing a guest post through My Blog Guest. Thank you to Sam for the photography tips.

Night Photography: A crash course.

We all love a good night photo. A beautiful cityscape, boats on a still harbour with their lights reflecting across the water…  These views themselves are works of art, and a good photo can even add another dimension to them.

But more often than not when it comes time to look through our photos at the end of a trip or night out, the photos tend to be blurry and grainy, if not completely black and unusable.

I remember being in Victoria, Canada, and trying to take a photo of the Royal BC Museum at night. If I knew then what I knew now, I could have ended up with something quite spectacular to show my friends, rather than the abstract mish mash of blurry lights and sense of frustration that I took home with me.

The difficulty with night photography is the lack of available light. A flash can do a great job of illuminating a close space (even if it can be a little harsh and unflattering), but the light drops away sharply at distance and by about 20 feet it is basically not doing anything.  The other big problem with a flash is it can wash out the natural ambient lighting of a scene. All the nice streetlights and sign glows will be replaced by a big dull white flash-light.

Essentially, for anything other than a group of people or a close, isolated subject, the flash needs to go. But then what? Your poor little camera has to try and deal with the low light conditions that the flash was put on the camera to negate in the first place.

There are two ways to naturally get more light into your camera. One is to open up the aperture, which basically increases the flow of light through the lens. The second is to use a longer shutter speed, which allows the film or sensor to be exposed to light for a longer period of time.

There is a third variable which may help you get the exposure you need, and that is ISO or ‘film speed’. Basically this describes how sensitive either the film you are using, or the sensor in your digital camera is, to light. In other words if your ISO is a higher number, then you need less light to get the same exposure.

With that in mind, how do we take nice night photos? Well generally speaking, with a point and shoot style camera, you should have the aperture wide open to allow maximum light to get to your sensor.  The only reason you would ever want to stop your aperture down would be to try and get a longer depth of field, i.e a deeper zone of area in the photo that is in focus, however this only really applies with bigger format cameras such as SLRs, as changes in depth of field are barely a factor in point and shoots.

The next step, and this is crucial, invest in a cheap tripod. Stabilising your camera allows you to use longer shutter speeds without getting the awful blurry mess we have come to expect from flash-less night photos. Shutter speed is really your friend at night. The one thing to keep in mind though is the movement of your subjects. Obviously if they are moving they will end up blurry at longer shutter speeds.

Another small tip that will make a huge difference when using very long shutter speeds, is to use the timer function of your camera. The actual physical process of pushing the shutter release button to take the photo can be enough to cause a blur at long shutter speeds, however if you have at least a 2 second delay the camera will have stabilized again before the exposure starts.

The only remaining variable we have to try and reduce that blur is your ISO, however a higher ISO will mean grainier, lower quality photos.

So to conclude, buy a cheap tripod, crank open that aperture, wind back that long shutter speed, set your camera’s timer and try and keep your iso as low as the situation permits.

Happy shooting!

Sam Matthews
Home Art and Furniture

Writing Anonymously

I tried writing anonymously once upon a time. It didn’t last very long. I’m just not that good at keeping anything a secret. But, it was fun, liberating and let me try some things or say some things I would not have done or said with my name and reputation attached to them. Yet, when it all changed and I became known as the writer there wasn’t anything I really regretted. For me, there is a line I don’t cross whether I am anonymous or not. Ethics, values, standards of some sort are important to me. It’s true I create my own but I stand by them.

Sugar writes an advice column where she (he?) posts anonymously. At one point she writes about being an anonymous writer. It makes an interesting post about something not everyone gets to experience (but should!).

Q:  I’ve been curious: how does it feel different to publish anonymously? Do readers react differently when you’re anonymous?

A: Writing anonymously has been liberating. I write openly and honestly in the work I do under my own name, but there’s something about anonymity that allows me to take it up another notch. Readers respond with incredible openness and love—literally after each column goes live I get messages from people saying “I love you, Sugar.” It’s interesting how the impersonal in this case allows many to feel more personal.

So that’s the positive aspect of being anonymous. The negative aspect is how maddening it is to have a secret identity. I find it especially difficult when friends who don’t know I’m Sugar are Sugar fans or when people write to me saying they’d love to read my other work if they only knew what my name was and I can’t tell them. I sometimes give in and tell, but I’ve become much more careful with my secret over time.

Do you Want to be Famous?

Getting to Know You #1 from We Are Canadian Blog

Would you like to be famous?

Answer from the forum moderator:

I personally would never want to be famous! I am not a “like it in the spotlight” kind of person. I am quite happy to make friends and interact on a one on one basis but all eyes on me is not at all where I feel most comfortable! When I was in high school I hated those presentations teachers love so much! It was torture to stand at the front of the class with a bright red face, watery eyes and shaky voice!

For myself, I would like to be famous but on my own terms. Not everyone famous is an actor or actress with their face all over the media. I’d be famous for something I did, like writing a series of great books. But be reclusive. Give the odd interview when my new book comes out. If you aren’t pushing yourself in the spotlight you won’t get as noticed. Writers can be famous and yet not have photos of their cellulite published in gossip rucking magazines.

How about you? Do you want to be famous? Do you think you could handle full on fame with flash bulbs popping out of the woodwork at you? Or do you see yourself having a quiet sort of fame? Famous and yet modest and quiet in the background.

What About You?

“Adorable, in a wicked, modest way that only the ego-maniacal can pull off”, says Gracie.

Get friends to write some one sentence descriptions of you. See what they can come up with. There are all kinds of places you can use something like this. In personal bio’s on sites that ask you to sign up. In a professional bio (if the quote is not too personal or quirky). Stick it into your email signature to give it a little personality. A good quote can give you a pick-me-up each time you come across it. So spread it around.

The quote above was written by a friend when I worked with her on the Backwash.com site.

Ending Anonymous Comment Spam

At one point, not so long ago, I had comments turned off on this blog. Friends asked me to turn them on. Here we are, a few years later, and I’m thinking to turn them off again. Or, just shut down all the Anonymous comments at least. However, if I take off Anonymous then people who don’t have a blog at Google/ Blogger have to make an account in order to comment with their website being listed with their name. Unless Google/ Blogger has changed that since I last looked.

Anyway, I am tired of the time wasted on moderating comments versus any real people who leave a note. They have bots to spam my comments, I just have myself to moderate all the craptastic mess. So I am going for the middle road and just shutting off the Anonymous comments. If you don’t like it, thank the comment spammers.

Abandoned Gardens

It`s a sad thing to explore an abandoned site and find what is left of a garden. Once planned out, nurtured now vacated and forgotten. Sometimes there isn`t much left to ever know it had been a garden. Only the perennials and a few biennials (which grow from their own seeds) can stand fast against the wild and ready weedsé native plants.

In Spring it is usually the bulbs like daffodils which I see. Now it is the time of the iris and the daylily. I often take a photo of the abandoned garden. I don`t always post them to my Flickr account or the Ontario Rural Ruins group I started for rural exploring. There isn`t all that much to really see. I think, having been there, the photos have more meaning to me than someone who can only see a flower or two and not visualize the abandoned garden the way I saw it at the time.

Write about an abandoned garden. What grows there, what used to grow there and what might the fate of it be?

Flickr: Neglected Friends

Flickr: Abandoned Gardens

Flickr: Weeds in the Pavement

Flickr: Overgrowth

Flickr: Nature Prevails

Flickr: Nature Will Out

Flickr: Nature Laughs Last

Flickr: Reclaimed by Nature

Flickr: Land Reclaimed by Nature

Flickr: Wildness – The Edge of Nature – About living on the edge of nature.

Stop Expecting Family Support

It is my brother’s birthday today. Family have been on my mind lately (even more than usual). I don’t get support for my writing work from family and though I try not to let that bother me it does make things difficult. I’d like to not be so easily interrupted. I’d like to not be told writing is worthless unless it actually makes money every day. Lots of other things and attitude I get from them. My nephew likes to write so he is also heading down this same road and I feel bad for him. I’d like him to have a happier life. Not that I am miserable but, life would be easier if I were taking an easier road.

I read a point in a post by Holly Schindler on Writers Digest (Twitter) today:

5. Not everyone is going to understand why you chose writing. Even some of your best friends are going to look at you like you’ve absolutely lost it once you begin writing and submitting, chasing that often elusive first book deal. As time goes on, that look explodes. While it can be hard to shoulder, just remember that the author of every book in your local library got that look at one time or another, in their own pre-published days.

I think we all have to give up on expecting or hoping for family and friends to be supportive or understanding. They just have to be who they are and do as they think right. Just as we try to keep doing ourselves, even if that means we keep on being silly writers (in their point of view).

May Day Phishing

Kind of appropriate to write about phishing on May 1st, May Day to Pagans and a distress call from aircrafts and ships.

My Mother was tricked into giving her email password out to a phishing scam at Yahoo. They had sent her several emails claiming to be Yahoo. When they sent one which said “final notice” she responded. She gave them her email password as well as her date of birth and other information which Yahoo would never have asked for. Although I had told her not to reply to anything requesting information, she thought it was Yahoo and would do no harm. However, she trusted that the email had actually come from Yahoo, it did not. I think we have sorted out her email account now, changed her password and removed the email from the phishing scammer who had set his email address as a secondary email to her account. I also contacted Yahoo and sent in the information to their phishing list.

What few people write about these phishing scams when they give information about avoiding them is the aftermath. Our phone answering machine was full and unable to accept any more calls when we arrived home yesterday. Many friends, some she has not talked with in a very long time even, had been calling to find out if my Mother was ok. The phishing email sent out from her account had said she was mugged in the UK and needed money to get back home again. Some of my Mother’s friends are elderly people, living on pensions. All of my Mother’s friends were unsettled to quite upset about this. Most suspected or believed the email was not true. But, my Mother is well liked, very friendly and easy going, so everyone wanted to be sure she was ok. We have not heard that anyone actually sent money but several people have offered to do so if she needed the help. To me, this is the saddest part of this whole thing. I feel very badly about the friends, especially the more fragile people in poor health, who have been upset and wondering if my Mother is in dire peril, beat up and away from home, alone.

The other part of this whole thing which we are just beginning to deal with is the fact that this phishing scam also took other information, her birthdate. I know from my time as a department store cashier expected to sell credit cards that all anyone needs to apply for a credit card is a name and a date of birth. So we are now checking into the chance that my Mother is going to have her identity stolen and be signed up for credit cards or other types of fraud. This is the most scary part. I don’t even know what to do beyond calling the RCMP (which my sister did yesterday). My brother is going to talk to her bank and see what they suggest doing. But, I really don’t think she can 100% protect herself in this case. It is just a matter of wait and see what comes along in time.

Anyway, as a last addition to this post I want to include a list of things to watch for should you get an email from someone which claims it is a bank, Yahoo customer service, a lottery corporation, or anything else official sounding.

  1. If the email asks you for your account password it is phishing for your information. Yahoo or any other email service such as Gmail, Hotmail, etc will never need your account password. NEVER. Never, ever, never. No matter what the email says, no matter how professional it looks, even if it uses the graphics from Yahoo, anything asking for your account password is fake. This should be a very big red flag. Do not give out your account password, even if you are sure the email is legitimate. Yahoo, Gmail and the other email providers do not need your password in order to access or verify your account. If you learn nothing else today, let it be that one important fact.
  2. Spelling or grammar mistakes. I know not everyone is an expert speller but if you do notice an error that is a sure sign the email you are reading is not being sent out by any kind of professional or institution or business. They do use spellcheck, the phishers do not.
  3. Check the email address the message was sent from. Do you really think Yahoo needs to use an email address which is not straight forward? Anything like accounts57@yahoo.com is bogus. Also, anything claiming to be from Yahoo and using a Gmail email address is very fake.

If you would like more information and resources Public Safety Canada has a page about phishing with links to resources. Also, the Anti-Phishing Work Group.

Many Acquaintances but Few Friends

A character description reads: “A deep interest in people, with many, many acquaintances but few friends.”

What do you do with this character? How does this character look and how do they change and develop in a story? Round out their personality/ character with more details. Overall, is this person someone who would be friendly, outgoing and could they be a lead character or would they shuffle off into the background, not someone who really steps forward into the limelight?