Phone Books are for Tourists

It is a sad thing that we seldom use our phone books any more. At least, not for their intended purpose. With the Internet as a quick source for local information (like business addresses and phone numbers) the phone book has become a large recyclable object. Sometimes an effective doorstop, child booster seat or an especially thick phone book can be added to the wood burning in the fireplace (if you have one).

It’s ironic that once the Internet was booming the phone books started dropping out of the sky. We were getting five different phone books each year at one point. The main one still being from the phone company itself. Then four others from various other sources, all companies who sold their service to local business and then promised great results. Well, who needs that many phone books in one place (one small house in my case). I did recycle all of them – without ever having used them at all.

This brings me to this past week when I was travelling to Sudbury, Ontario with my nephew and his Grandmother (my Mom). We were there for him to tour his university. Zack will be living on site and taking psychology this Fall. Anyway, I’ve been to Sudbury before. There were a couple of places I wanted to see again, like MIC (a Canadian themed restaurant). We stayed three days so I wanted to find more to do and see. Thus the phone book. I looked up all the standard things I look for (secondhand bookstores and coffee shops). Zack looked at the games stores and my Mom looked at garden centres. We each found a few places to explore. So the phone book was put to it’s intended use.

I think it is only in such a case that the phone book is still useful. Yes, we could have found the same information online and we each did have the hardware to do it. I just dislike pulling out the computer when I’m travelling. I like being less digitally inclined and having a small digital sabbatical.

Did you know that businesses can opt out of the Yellow Pages phone directory now? I wonder why they would do that. I can understand not placing a large ad but to at least have the small text ad, to at least be mentioned, still seems like a worthwhile idea. Not everyone is as plugged into the Internet that they rely on it fully and completely. If you have a business which helps people in times of crisis (like a personal trauma or the power going out), you really should have a yellow pages listing.

So goes the legendary phone book. When did you last use it in some way? Whether you found a creative use for it, actually looked up a business or just added it to the recycling – I hope you did not do it without a little thought for the old phone book.

How to Write, Draw, and Create in Peace Without Distractions

People often think art is created in our spare time, something we do as hobby. Writers and artists in books and movies seem to work this way just fine. The facts are different. An artist needs time to work in peace, without distractions. Sometimes the artist has to battle themselves and outside distractions.

Having focus isn’t enough. There are times when you want to work on something creative and everyone and everything seems to keep getting in the way, distracting you. You can ignore some of the distractions, but that’s sometimes not practical or very polite. It’s a better idea to have another way to deal with the distractions and give yourself the time you need to work.

How to Disconnect Yourself

In order to really get out from under the regular distractions you need to disconnect yourself from the world for a short time. Try different ideas and see which works for you. Adapt as necessary.

Turn off the electronics, don’t check email or let the phone ring. If you can’t get away from checking email and surfing online, don’t use the computer. Shut it down and write longhand, draw on paper instead. Just until you get yourself in the habit of starting work when you open the laptop or start up the desktop. Don’t let the Internet distract you.

Put a message on your phone to let people know this is your scheduled time to work and you will phone them back when you are available again. Offer a second contact for any emergencies, make sure you emphasize this is an emergency contact only.

Pull yourself away from it all before you get started. Take a walk outside. Get dressed. Grab a shower. Anything simple which gets your mind off your daily routine so you can sit down with a fresh mind set. You might even write or draw out of doors, weather permitting. Plan a picnic in a park, the backyard, even sitting in your car in a parking lot somewhere.

Alternate between being focused and stepping away from your work. It’s pretty amazing how much more you want to create when you hold yourself back from getting started. Take a ten minute break from it, whether you want to or not. Wait 5 minutes to get back to it. Time it so you don’t just go right back to work.

Exercise your brain’s ability to disconnect. Work in a busy area where there are plenty of distractions, noises, people, lights on and off, etc. Push yourself to find your focus and use your passion for the work to disconnect from everything – push all those outside influences out of your mind and bring yourself and your work into focus.

Dealing with Family and Friends

Instead of fighting and pushing and getting frustrated – talk to family and friends and make sure they know you need time to create. If you set a scheduled time (and stick to it) then they can do the same. It may take time for them to learn your schedule and understand how serious you are about it. But, be patient, don’t get too angry. Get them on your side rather than making it a battle or a tug of war.

Plan to do something with friends and family at a different time – give them a real date and time when you can commit to giving them your full attention.

Of course, not all family are able to give you the time you need. Parents with children will not be able to make themselves completely unavailable. But, you can hire a babysitter and then stay home to work rather than going out anywhere. You can get family to help with the children, trade time with other people who have children and would like to exchange babysitting. Take the children out somewhere they can play with only a little supervision and find yourself a table to work at. (An indoor playground is a good choice).

Battle Disorganization

One big distraction you face when you want to create is yourself and the environment you have created around you. Is your workspace a cluttered mess? Do you have all the tools you need set out so they are easy to find and use? Do you have a plan for what you want to accomplish that day?

Being disorganized is a big set back when it comes to avoiding distractions. If your mind is busy or upset or angry about having too much clutter around you – it will be difficult to set your mind to the work you want to be doing. Even if you think the chaos isn’t bothering you – clean it up and see how much different it is to work in a tidy space instead. For one thing, you will be able to find everything you need and not have to move stuff around in order to get the tools you need where you need them to be.

Having a plan for your day gives you a goal to work towards. Having a goal is a great way to avoid being distracted by smaller stuff.

Look After Yourself

One big distraction you can work on is being too tired. You can’t do much about health beyond getting enough sleep, eating right and exercising. But, you can do those things.

It’s much harder to work when you are tired and barely able to keep your eyes open and your mind on what’s in front of you. If you really need to, take a ten minute nap. Set your alarm to wake yourself up in ten minutes. Sometimes this works really well. But, if you really are exhausted just take the time off from your work and get the sleep you need.


Microsoft Abandons Front End Web Development

Microsoft Abandons Expression Web and Front End Web Development – Design is Philosophy.

I’m not a web developer so I’m a bit behind on Windows software. I changed to Linux and was really happy with it, until I bought a new PC which will only run Windows. So I had to backtrack last year.

I began using my old MS FrontPage software. I know it is years outdated but, I like it. Isn’t Expression the updated/ new FrontPage? If so, I am sorry to see MS give up support to it. I was so proud the day I had enough money scraped together to buy my own copy of FrontPage.

Now, people don’t build sites so much as set up WordPress and use that instead of getting into the guts of HTML and CSS. I only have one site which isn’t run on WP and it’s just a simple few pages.

Anyway, my comments aren’t from someone “in the know” but I was surprised to read your post. I think Microsoft will regret moving away from actual web development and just looking at mobile apps – which is how I understood your post.

I don’t use a cell phone, I just hate answering the phone. So, for me the other side of things is more relevant than all the apps and such which keep popping up at me as options on sites and software.

Maybe at some point I will become a dinosaur for using the web without a mobile phone and etc. But, I find it simpler (and far less expensive).


You can now download Expression Web and Expression Design for free at Microsoft.  I searched for the link so I could get them tonight. I bet it will be a lot changed from FrontPage.

Has the Internet Made us Greedy?

I think the Internet has made people greedier in a way. We used to have more patience and be used to waiting for things. Not just business sort of stuff like phone calls, letters, communication in general. But, even personal things like waiting to read your favourite magazine once a month. Or, the delight of finding a painting, or some other illustration which has everything you love just the right way. It used to be once a decade you would happen to find something like that. Or, that perfect jewellery, furniture, wedding accessory, etc.

Now, with the access to the Internet we find great images and ideas almost every time we look for them. There is so much more and so much more is all so much more easier to find. It’s designed to be easy to find. We are spoiled and kind of greedy. Once something gets easy we just expect more. Almost no one is ever happy with what they have after all. Everyone just wants more.

Have we crossed some kind of line? Are we becoming a selfish and greedy bunch? I wonder what our ancestors would think of our lifestyle. Would they wish they had our indulgences and our easy access to so much – or would they see how much less we really appreciate all that we have.

Writing Should Not be Like Playing Bingo

What does BINGO have to do with writing?  I don’t know. But, I have it in my head today. BINGO!

The funny thing about playing Bingo is how much it’s like turning the handle on a Jack-in-the-Box. Any second, at any time, any moment… Bingo! I don’t like Jack-in-the-Box. I don’t like that kind of surprise. It’s the same reason I gradually built up a dislike for frogs and toads. They jump out at you. This is really too much of a surprise. Have you ever been out in the country, walking through long grass and feeling kind of happy and at peace with the world?


They make me scream every time. It’s embarrassing to be laughed at over a frog in the grass. So I don’t love frogs or toads. I live with them but keep apart – as much as I am able.

What if you had to write around a Bingo game? Or, what if you had to write like a Bingo game. At any moment the floor will fall out from under you. Or, the computer will automatically shut down, without notice. Or, your Mother is going to call and ask you to get something or do something for her and of course, it has to be right now. Drop everything. Bingo!

I don’t like writing and being interrupted, especially by people. I can try to understand house fires and other such things. I just feel annoyed and aggravated when people phone, knock at the door or ask to be driven to the hospital emergency room because the house fire caught them before they managed to get it under control.

Before you begin to write for the day, or the hours you have planned to write, turn off the phone and notify the people who are likely to interrupt you. Pin a notice on the door. If necessary draw threatening things like forest fires, sharks in a feeding frenzy, hurricanes, etc. Not everyone is polite enough to read notes, for them illustrations can be made available.

Thanks for reading today. I’m off to dig a bigger hole in the backyard. Never ask a writer where they bury the bodies… you might get a surprise answer.

Writing Should Not be Like Playing Bingo

What does BINGO have to do with writing?  I don’t know. But, I have it in my head today. BINGO!

Before you begin to write for the day, or the hours you have planned to write, turn off the phone and notify the people who are likely to interrupt you. Pin a notice on the door. If necessary draw threatening things like forest fires, sharks in a feeding frenzy, hurricanes, etc. Not everyone is polite enough to read notes, for them illustrations can be made available.

What It Really Is Like to be a Work-at-Home Writer

I’m kind of frustrated. I had a GREAT idea for a post. It was all floating around in my head, all the bits coming together to create THE IDEA. Then the phone rang – something about a survey about the furnace for the home owner. I was annoyed. I got rid of them.

I got back to my idea, it took a few minutes to get the creative energy back. Just as I typed out my title for the post – the freaking phone rings. I only answer because my brother is supposed to be calling this afternoon. This call is the local library with an automated message about an overdue book. I already know about that!!!

Now, aggravated… I try to recapture the mood and spirit for my post. I almost get there…. when the phone rings. It’s something about winning a free trip. I less than gently mention we are on the flucking DO NOT CALL list and the asswipe hangs up on me. Now I am far from in the right mood to write my post and all I have is the title – How to Love the World Again.

I hope your day is going better.


Are We Becoming Social Hermits?

Our world is shrinking. The Internet was predicted to bring sweeping changes to the way we communicate, to bring the world together, connecting us all as a community over distances.

Maybe the changes aren’t working for everyone. Have you noticed there seem to be more cases of shut ins, people with agoraphobia and other social related issues which cause them to close down or hide themselves away?

The information age is bringing us too much information, too much social connectedness and too much time of being available versus giving ourselves some down time. It’s not just the Internet now. People seem to be attached to their mobile phones like chain smokers. Is it really just a way to communicate without ever being face to face, in the same room with someone?

Far more people claim to be introverts than extroverts. So why are we pushing social interaction so much? Why are we filling every available surface, every form of media with information, far more than any human being could ever absorb? What is the rush to share? What is so important that it needs to be shared, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

No wonder some people want to get away from it all. There is a lot of ‘all’ to get away from. It’s not even easy to remove yourself now. Go to a remote location and you will still find some form of social communication creeping in. There will be advertising, likely a phone, radio, maybe even a television, if not a laptop computer. When do you get away from all the noise? When do you have that down time?

I never get away completely. The best I can do is lock the doors on the house, stop answering the phone and don’t turn on the television or the radio, or the computer. I take a book to bed with me. A real, paper printed book. It’s very quiet and though it does have ads for other books – it saves them for the back of the book which I only see when I have finished reading the book. They don’t pop out at me, they don’t demand my attention in any way.

If you watch an old movie or a movie about people surviving after the end of civilization… doesn’t it seem kind of peaceful and simple? Communication tends to be the spoken word, or a printed page. I watched a movie about people surviving after alien plants took over. Some part of my mind was thinking how nice it would be… locked away in that big old house they found. They made it safe against alien plant invasion and there were so few people left in the world that there was no outside noise left. How cozy to be there, a huge fire for warmth and all that quiet, the information highway, the mobile phones, the television… all of it silenced.

After awhile I’d miss the Internet. Not the phone. I had a mobile phone for a week and returned it to the store. I just don’t want to be available to the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m a social hermit by choice.

See my other posts related to taking or needing a break from it all:

Stop Putting Off the Gathering of an Idea

Write about a topic you have been interested in but keep putting off for one reason or another. You know there’s something… check your notes, think about it for a minute, phone a friend, whatever it takes.

Don’t just write a short article, add links, look for relevant clubs or associations, find a photograph (or take one yourself) to go along with your post. Draw an illustration if you can’t take a photograph to go with the topic. Build the article into a resource for others who are interested or might just wander in and become interested.

The Week Behind

We had no furnace for almost a week. A chilly adventure. It’s fixed now, the house didn’t even take very long to warm up. The men were here most of the work day installing a new furnace and the new hot water tank which was required because the old one wouldn’t work with the new furnace. (I blame it on computer software).

Then, when it all seemed OK and the men had left in their  truck, the thermostat wouldn’t work. The heat started going down again and I could not turn it up. So, some phone calls, then one of the men came back. He looked it over and installed a new simple thermostat which doesn’t have PeakSaver (the fatal flaw which kept it from heating up the house). So a bit of complications, construction and now the house feels like a place fit for human habitation again.

I didn’t feel much like writing when my hands were frozen and the rest of me was cowering under blankets. But, I did sew. There’s some irony in there, somewhere. I’ve set myself to make seven Christmas stockings. I want to get them done in time. I also want them to look nice, maybe even clever.

So that’s how my week has been going.

What would you write about your own week, if you were to write a short note about your week on impulse and without any planning ahead?