Monday, October 29, 2012

The Princess Margaret Foundation Scam

It’s that time of the year again … the Princess Margaret Foundation is pulling the wool over your eyes.

The usual slogan is “Help Conquer Cancer” and they want you to contribute to their scam by buying a ticket.  To make the deal a little sweeter, they promise a series of prizes.  Million dollar homes, sports cars, vacations, etc.

Of course, the prizes are reserved for the already rich.  Think about it … who can afford to drive a $229,825 Ferrari or a Porsche 911 valued at 130,940?  Do you have any idea of the taxes and insurance on those cars?  

As for the homes, lets see:

A condo valued at $379,000

Oakville home: $4,300,000

Muskoka cottage: $1,200,000

In addition one can win seven vacations, ranging from $2,000  to $7,000

And there are the electronics:

3 – Apple MacBook Air Laptops
Valued at $1,132.09††
10 – Sony Tablets
Valued at $451.99††
95 – Apple TV Devices
Valued at $124.29††
1,500 – Nikon Digital Cameras
Valued at $112.99††
2,920 – Sony Noise-cancelling Headphones
Valued at $90.39††
Above prizes supplied by Henry’s
3 – Samsung 55" LED 3D TVs
Valued at $3,135.74††
25 – LG 32" LCD TVs
Valued at $593.24††
25 – Toshiba 19" LED TVs
Valued at $261.02††
120 – Hamilton Beach Juice Extractors
Valued at $112.99††
699 – Sony iPod Docks
Valued at $103.33††
4,000 – Sony DVD Players
Valued at $80.73††
Above prizes supplied by The Brick
1 – Apple iMac Computer
Valued at $1,368.42††
15 – Apple iPad 3 Devices
Valued at $588.38††
15 – Samsung Galaxy Tablets
Valued at $396.28††
25 – Bose SoundDock Series II Digital Music Systems
Valued at $284.13††
40 – Monster Beats Solo Headphones by Dr. Dre
Valued at $226.10††
25 – Microsoft XBOX 360 Gaming Systems
Valued at $225.99††
25 – Sony eReader
Valued at $169.60††
100 – Apple iPod nanos
Valued at $146.99††
5,200 – Apple iPod shuffles
Valued at $56.60††
Above prizes supplied by Future Shop
1,800 – Cash Prizes of $100 each

With a rough estimate, I get to about $10,000,000.

How exactly does that benefit the cancer patients?  How can the Princess Margaret Foundation afford to throw 10 million dollars out the window?  Just how many tickets do they have to sell to make a profit?

Wouldn’t it be better to invest that 10 million in healthcare?

I personally know a woman who approached the foundation for a headscarf.  Not a fancy wig, just a scarf.  They foundation sent her packing and none to friendly either.

Or is this whole sweepstakes a fraud?  Do people buy tickets without getting anything in return? Is this just another scam?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bowling update

It just occurred to me that I skipped last week’s bowling update.  Not to worry, you didn’t miss much.  We did okay, no highs, no lows, just an ordinary night of league bowling.

Last night on the other hand was a night with a difference.  We played Jessica, Mario and Kevin. 

Jessica is one of the better female bowlers, Mario I don’t really know, but Kevin I know all too well.  The man has bowled more 300 games than I have teeth in my mouth. 

Needless to say, we didn’t stand much of a chance, but I was determined not to make a fool of myself.  I was going to give it my best shot. 

And oh boy did I shoot.  I opened with a crow (that’s four strikes in a row).  This put confidence under my bowling wings and I took flight for the rest of the night.

Just take a look at the scores of The Expendables:

Dieter    : 164 – 174 – 182 – 212 =     Total: 732 – Average: 183

Christine: 159 – 228 – 184 – 234 =     Total: 805 – Average: 201

Conny   : 202 – 179 – 180 - 172 =     Total: 733 – Average: 183

Please note that I beat Dieter by one pin. 

All in all we (The Expendables) took 8,5 out of 16 points.  Not bad, considering I didn’t think we stood much of a chance.

Bowling against bowlers who are better than me is definitely paying off.  When I fear failing, I pay closer attention and stay more focused. 

While I’m all for having fun and horsing around, there are times that one has to concentrate on the game.  It also helps if lady luck along with the bowling gods are smiling down.

Does positive thinking work?

I got an email the other day from a friend who said that I should think positive.  She might not know it, but I’m the wrong person to say that to.

It’s not that I’m a pessimist, on the contrary, I do nothing but positive thinking, but the forces that be have other ideas.

Take work for instance.  There are times that I sent a resume merely hoping for the best, but other times I think “This has to be the one.  This has my name written all over it.”  The majority of those resumes remain unanswered.

Occasionally I get an interview and that’s when it gets tricky.  With some interviews, I just know that it was a waste of time, but every now and then the position I was interviewed for just fitted like a glove.  That’s when I really go off the rails, stating “This is it.  This has got to be it.”  And nothing.

Next up, lottery.  I play twice a week and I always think positive.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t play, right?  Every Friday and every Saturday I get excited, thinking that this is my lucky day.

Every time I dream of a luxury condo, with a Lamborghini in the garage, plenty of jewelry in the safe and pots of money in the bank. 

Not that I would forget my friends, I would share my good fortune.  Unfortunately for them and for me, the jackpot has eluded me.

Finally, bowling.  Whenever I head to the bowling alley, I feel full of beans.  At the start of every game, I fully intend to make a big fat 200.  (All bowlers dream of shooting a 300, but let’s keep it real).  Occasionally I do shoot a 200+, but only very occasionally and my score remains under 220.

So let nobody preach to me about thinking positive.  If my optimism followed me, I would have a well paying job, be able to quit that job because I would win the Lotto jackpot, and then have plenty of time to practice my bowling in pursuit of that elusive 300 game.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Selling books

I noticed a post on Facebook today that stated that for a literary agent to show an interest in a self-published book, the author should be able to present sales figures of around 20,000 copies.

I have news for that literary agent … if I can sell 20,000 copies of my books, I don’t need her services. 

Let’s face it, some books fly off the shelves, because of the name of the author while others gather dust because the author is a nobody.  Does that make the books of the big name authors any better … I doubt it.  I’m sure there are excellent self-published novels, while some stories of name authors never should have been printed.

Take J.K. Rowling latest effort for instance.  To say that it gets mixed reviews is putting it mildly.  Some critics rave about her writing abilities, others are less than enthused.  Fact is, A Casual Vacancy was a best seller before it was even available.  Proof that readers care about a name, not a story.

Personally I don’t put much stock in what critics have to say, I’d like to see for myself. 

On the one hand A Casual Vacancy is brilliantly written.  Rowling paints the picture of a cute little town and strips away all the veneer to show its inhabitants in all their disgusting glory.  The question is … do readers want to be confronted with such reality?

The story holds an “interesting” variety of characters, but there’s nothing likeable about them.  I don’t know about you, but if I don’t like certain characters I don’t care about  them, and if I don’t care about them why would I want to know what happens to them?  Why would I 
care about:

A heroin addict
A teenage town whore
Two perverted boys
A man who is abusive to his wife and children
A wife who is a doormat

In my opinion, if a nobody had written A Casual Vacancy, nobody would have shown any interest.  But because the book is of the hand of the great J.K. Rowling it turns into a bestseller. 

But back to self-published books.  What they mainly lack is good P.R.  If nobody knows about the book, how is it ever going to sell?  Robin mentions a few interesting strategies in her blog post

Meetups, writers’ groups, book clubs, volunteer organizations. All of these are places to meet people, talk to people, and mention your book.

Good advice Robin, but who has that kind of time?  Most people have jobs and when they come home there cooking and cleaning to be done.

Send a review copy to your local stores. If they see it, in their hands, and look at it, they might take a chance on you.

Another good idea, but here’s the thing.  I did that and was greeted with a lot of enthusiasm, until the store owner found out that my book was self-published and suddenly I was cold product.

In suburbs where book stores are privately owned a self-published author might have a chance, but where I live (Toronto) the book industry is monopolized by Chapters Indigo and they won’t touch a self-published author with a ten foot pole.

Organizing book signings is a tricky situation.  Let’s say that an author does manage to get a signing, he needs to invest in a certain quantity of his work.  That requires not only financial resources but a car.  Have you ever tried to lug around + 50 books?  If they sell, great, if not you’re a few hundred dollars out of pocket.

It all comes down to money.  If you have money you can enlist the help of a P.R. firm, you can stock your own books and you can devote all your time to blowing your own horn.  If you don’t have money … well, you’re pretty much on your own.

Still, I’ll take some of your advice and I’ll let you know what happens.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dating sites - do we need them?

I have a friend, let’s call her Ann, who is looking for a man.  Not just any man of course, an individual between the ages of 25 and 35.  Additional requirements are that he should be reasonably good looking, of sound mind and body, have a job, and be good natured.  In other words, a nice guy.

I have another friend, let’s call him John, who is looking for a girl.  Not just any girl of course, a creature between the ages of 25 and 35.  Additional requirements are that she should be reasonably good looking, of sound mind and body, have a job, and be good natured.  In other words, a nice girl.

Their friends told them not to worry, that there’s plenty of fish in the sea, so when Ann and John went fishing, they insured they had good bait.  

They created a profile listing all their qualities and uploaded a flattering picture for good measure.  They tried Lavalife ($18 p/m), then eHarmony ($55 p/m) and eventually Match ($35 p/m).  

Their profiles received hits, but neither Anne nor John were impressed with the “fish” they attracted. 
Some were from men and women living thousands of miles away.  Some from people who didn’t fit the age group.  Some were just not appealing for one reason or another, while some were of candidates in various states of undress.  Where they looking for a date or a client?

Tired of online dating they decided to explore another avenue to love, contacting a dating agency.  After some research they decided upon LifeMates.

An appointment was made and Ann received an invitation to meet with Carla (not here real name), one of the LifeMates representatives.  

After a short interview, Ann was given a questionnaire to create a profile.  The document roughly counted 100 questions, asking anything from Ann’s name and contact details to the size of her underwear and what brand she preferred (Fruit of the Loom or La Perla).

Ann battled through the questions, felt quite exhausted by the time she reached #100, but saw it through because she desperately wanted to meet the man of her dreams.

With the questionnaire completed, she met once again with Carla, who briefly perused the answers to the questions and deemed Ann a suitable addition to the agency.

“How long before I can meet candidates?” Ann asked.

“Just as soon as you hand over your credit card and pay the fee,” Carla replied.

Ann nodded, of course, there would be a fee, nobody works for nothing.

“How much?” she asked.

“Our services our rather pricey?” Carla thinly smiled.

Ann took a deep breath and asked somewhat hesitant, “A few hundred?”

Carla bobbed her head from side to side.  “More like a few thousand.”

A few thousand! Dollars?

The way Carla explained it, the price went up depending on how many candidates Ann wanted to meet.  For $2,000 she would be introduced to two or three candidates.  If she was willing to pay more, she would be presented with additional candidates.

Ann kept her credit card in her purse and walked out.  She was upset to say the least.  Not only was she not prepared to fork over a few thousand dollars to meet a man, she had just wasted the better part of the afternoon.

On her way home, Ann stopped by the drugstore to pick up a new lipstick and while waiting at the till she saw a man (John) browsing through a magazine, pausing at the article “Where to meet women”.

If Ann had been braver she would have tapped John on the shoulder and said “Hello-o, I’m right here”.  If John had turned around he would have falling hook, line and sinker for Ann. 

Instead, John put the magazine down, paid for his shaving gel, left the store and turned right.  Ann paid for her lipstick, left the store and turned left. 

Do singles need dating websites and dating agencies?  Whatever happened to just approaching a man or a woman and starting a conversation?  There is the chance that a woman is not interested, gives a man the brush off and says “No”.  Then again, she might say “Yes”, and all it costs them is a cup of coffee, a glass of juice or a smile and that costs nothing at all.

Whatever happened to, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Let's talk about sex, cybersex

Linda Hurley recently released her book “A Girl’s Guide to Cybersex”.

Initially I wasn’t interested in the subject.  I’m not exactly a fan of chat rooms and sex sites interest me even less.  Still, Linda recently bought my book KittenDiaries and so one good deed deserved another.

After downloading “A Girl’s Guide to Cybersex” it sat on my iPad for a while unread.  I was busy reading “The Real Katy Lavender” from Erica James and so Linda’s story had to wait a bit as I can’t concentrate on two books at ones.

With Erica James’ story finally finished, it was time to delve into the subject of sex, cybersex.

I was pleasantly surprised by Linda’s wit and originality.  After reading “A Girl’s Guide to Cybersex” I’m not likely to go exploring to sex sites, but for those who have plans to venture in those waters, I can highly recommend to read the book first.

When I interviewed Linda about her book, she had the following to say ….

About Linda

·       How would you describe yourself?

In a word - ordinary. Or, at least what passes for ordinary most of the time.
Depending on the context in which we meet you may encounter a conventional business consultant, a freelance journalist, a liberal tattooed partner of a bearded biker, a proud grandmother of three soon to be four, or an aspiring author of fiction. I am also a feminist, a try hard equestrienne and an unapologetic dog lover.

·       Where do you live and what do you like best about your environment?

I live on a property in a small country town in Australia. It’s about 50 kilometres outside Melbourne and has room for my horse and dogs to stretch their legs. I really enjoy the tranquility and down to earth attitudes of our little town but I also love the fast paced intellectual challenge of working with large companies in the city. Living in the country and having a major city less than an hour away really is the best of both worlds.

·       How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember but it was about 15 years ago I completed a Diploma of Journalism and started sharing what I wrote with a public audience. I had a few articles published around that time but it wasn’t until about five years ago that I discovered the world of online journalism and began to write articles regularly.

·       Can you remember the first article/story you wrote?

Not really, there were many years of writing before I reached the point where my work was accepted for publication. I will never forget when I breached that barrier though and still have the yellowing copies of both my first published article and short story. The article was about a talented young horsewoman hoping to make the Olympic team. The short story was a literary fiction piece exploring the concept of living versus existing.

About Cybersex

·       Where did the idea for Girls Guide to Cybersex come from?

I was writing an article on internet dating when I stumbled across a sex site. I had been struggling to find a fresh angle for my article and when I saw this site a thousand questions jumped into my head; the first being what could women possibly get from a sex site? And just like that I had a new angle.
It turned out to be a fascinating experience revealing a side of human nature that we rarely get to see, but there was way too much information for a single article. I didn’t have an appropriate blog platform to produce a series of articles so I decided to write the ebook.
Formatting the book as a Guide came about after a couple of false starts. Third person narrative felt too impersonal and first person narrative too longwinded. Creating a ‘Guide’ allowed me to express my experiences in a humorous way and at the same time address my original question of what do women want from cybersex and does it deliver.

·       How long did it take to research?

I spent about 130 hours over a period of three months talking to people on three sites and another 20 or so hours researching alternatives and the effects of cybersex.

·       Was this evening research or daytime as well?

In order to see whether the experience differed depending on location it was necessary to spend some time on site when it was evening in each of the time zones across Europe, North America and Australasia. I didn’t find any differences significant enough to rate a mention in the book but it did feel quite bizarre to sit down to breakfast and log on to a sex site.

·       How would you describe the research?  Fun, annoying, scary?

At first I was shocked at what I found but that wore off quite quickly. After that it was fun for a time. Imagine if you will almost unlimited attention then add to that the opportunity to play head games with no consequences. It wasn’t long though before that became old too and it was like any other type of research; a lot of hard slog to find the gems that would be interesting to a wider audience.

·       Any memorable moments?

There were many amusing, some sad and one or two creepy moments. I like to think I have an open mind when it comes to accepting others but even so it was at times a crazy journey that challenged my patience and elicited some unexpected emotions.

·       How is cybersex different for men vs. women (if it is)?

I can’t speak for all women but I believe most forms of cybersex, and sex sites in particular, are specifically designed for men and as such will fall short of many women’s expectations. The Guide includes a chapter on available alternatives for women including the growing phenomenon of by women for women services.

·       How would you say cybersex differs from the real thing?

In my view cybersex and real sex are two completely different activities that just happen to have physical gratification in common. I don’t think that cybersex was created to replace real sex any more than men’s magazines or romance novels were before the internet.
Trying to compare a faux version with the genuine article is never easy. For some people cybersex will be an effective means to an end while for others only the real thing will do.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The sticker says it all

Anyone who has a man in their life, whether it be a partner, a father or another male specimen, knows that they are not the easiest creatures to live with.

When they have the sniffles, they want to be pampered like they’re suffering from pneumonia.  When they have the flue, you’d swear they have a life threatening illness, and hold on to your hats ladies should they break a limb, because they turn into complete invalids.

Apart from this, men have a tendency of thinking they know everything better.  Have you ever been present when a man tries to put together furniture or a piece of equipment?  No? Keep it that way, because the moment you offer advice he will turn on you with “If you think you can do better, you do it.”

In other words, according to a man a woman shouldn't stick her nose in a man’s business.

Which brings me to the following …

The big issue in the upcoming presidential elections is abortion.  Both Romney and his side-kick are against abortion and make no secret about it.  Whether the child was conceived by accident or through rape or incest, all life is precious to them.

Pregnancy clearly is a woman’s business, but do men keep their noses out of that … apparently not.  They have now decided to do away with women’s rights. 

Personally I like the slogan the Dutch women came up with some 30 years ago … “Boss in own belly”.  She’s the one who has to carry the child for 9 months, she’s the one who has to give birth to it, and in most cases she’s the one who has to raise the child.  So Romney and cronies … BUD OUT!!!

How different it would be if men could get pregnant, would they feel the same way?  How many children would be born if men and women took giving birth to children in turns?  In other words, a man would give birth to the first child and a woman would produce the second, then a man would be responsible to birth the third one.  How many families would have three children?  My guess is, none.

But let’s see where men stand on other (typical) women’s activities.
Where it comes to cooking, most men limit themselves to the question “What’s for dinner?”  Some men know how to cook, in fact some of the greatest chefs are men, but the majority knows nothing about what goes on in a pot or a pan, or their knowledge is limited to boiling an egg.

As for cleaning, some men help around the house, but they are few.  Most men are nowhere to be found when chores need to be done.  Some don’t even know how to switch on a vacuum cleaner.

As for washing and ironing … let’s face it, leave this task to a man and you risk your delicates to end up in hot water, your woollies shrunken, or your white shirts to come out with a pink hue (thanks to his red T-shirt).  As for ironing … how many men know how to set up an ironing board and the correct heat setting of an iron?  There are those who can be trusted with laundry and ironing, but they belong to a small club.

Looking after the kids is another sore point.  Most men seem to think that making them and providing for them is enough.  Raising them is a woman’s job.  How many times have you heard “Go ask your mother”? 

Where kids are concerned, most men are also hypocrites.  Let a boy have “sticky fingers” and a man will say “Your son was caught shoplifting.”  Let a boy score the first goal in a soccer match and a man will say “My boy won the game.”  The same applies to girls of course.  Let the girl do something wrong and it’s “Your daughter …”, let the girl excel in something and it’s “My daughter …”

Regardless of who wins the presidential election this year, I can only hope that for the next election a woman steps up to the plate.  Then perhaps things will really change for the better for women.  Until then ladies, may the force be with you and think before you vote.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Am I too violent?

There are days that all is right with the world and you feel perfectly happy and content, and then there are days that you could kill someone with your bare hands.  Take a guess what kind of day it is today …

It started last night.  One moment I was sound asleep, with Gabriel next to me and Charlotte by my feet, the next I thought WWIII had started.  A high pitched sound screeched  “PEEP, PEEP, PEEP …. PEEP, PEEP, PEEP …. PEEP, PEEP, PEEP!”  It was the newly installed fire alarm and I hate it with a passion. 

The old fire alarm only sounded in the building’s hallways.  It was loud and sounded like a coffee grinder, but it was bearable.  This new system, that the local fire brigade decided upon is not only MUCH LOUDER but installed in every unit.

Gabriel and Charlotte flew off the bed and went into hiding underneath it, while I tried to drown out the noise by holding a pillow over my head.  The pillow somewhat softened the noise, but it was still too loud to go back to sleep with.

From 3:00 until 3:20 the peeping sound went on, and on, and on.  Finally it stopped and I think everyone in the building let out a collective sigh of relief.

Not for long though, at 3:30 the peeping started again.  If I had had a gun, I would have shot the alarm; if I had a baseball bat, I would have smashed it to pieces; if I had strong muscles I would have ripped the alarm out of the ceiling and thrown it out the window.

Once again I covered my ears, tried to drown out the sound, but it didn’t work.  To distract myself I started counting the series of “PEEP, PEEP, PEEP’s”.  I got to 172.

Finally, the peeping stopped and a voice came over the intercom announcing that the fire alarm was faulty and that the mechanic was on his way. 

If I had my way with the fire brigade whose bright idea this was, and the man who installed this devious device, none of them would be breathing today.

I know, I’m a violent person, but can you blame me?