Sunday, April 23, 2017

REVIEWS




Too bad about hacking and scams but for many reasons computers and the internet are a wonderful invention.   There's the ability to get great deals from people who have something to sell/get rid of that you need.   Others are able to set up a small business and have a world-wide audience for their products.

One thing I particularly value is product reviews.   I hardly buy anything or vacation anywhere without checking out various sources for opinions.   Because I value reviews I make a point to do my part as fairly and objectively as possible.   This is what makes the system work.  

I think it's important to review anonymously.   The review service, for example, TripAdvisor, will know who you are but don't make the mistake of identifying yourself publicly.   How ever well-meaning and honest you are, if you criticize someone's product/accommodation they may seek revenge through on-line trolling and harassment.   I remember reading once that colonies of habitu├ęs on GoodReads would delight in panning the books  online of a particular author who somehow offended them.   People perusing for books on Amazon would see a slew of one star reviews and back away.

I've never liked the fact that third party sellers of products purchased through Amazon can contact me and ask for a review although I don't believe they have my e-mail address but rather go through their seller link on Amazon.   I was once contacted three times over a six week period by the seller of a ten dollar item, entreating me to leave a positive review since they were a small family owned business who depended on reviews to sell their product.    On Ebay I have seen requests to the effect that you should  contact them prior to leaving a negative review with the promise that they will make things right.



   


Some sites like Fiverr allow an author, YouTuber or product producer to buy reviews.  This defeats the purpose.    I've also heard of writing clubs with the practise of inundating a member's newly released book with a deluge of five star reviews on the first day it is available.

Sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon allow viewers to see how long the person has been reviewing and to read their previous reviews.   Personally, I suspect one review posters, especially when they are over the top glowing and vague.   A decent history of thoughtful reviews, both negative and positive, comes across as more reliable.

It has been my experience that the overall comments, especially repeated themes, in reviews of resorts, hotels, books, restaurants and products can be relied upon bearing in mind that people who are unhappy are more likely to complain than those who are satisfied with the service will praise it.

What do you think of reviews?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

One Word Says a Lot



  1.   



    There are some foreign words that have come into use in the English language.   Usually, it is because saying the same thing in English would involve using many words and even then it wouldn't be exact. Hygge is a Danish word that came into regular use in recent months. The word has appeared on the front pages of home magazines and in journal articles.   It has become a way of life to strive for or at least decorate for.

    Since I am in the position of having been long acquainted with that word from speaking the language that it comes from it has been interesting for me to notice the misinterpretations.   In my experience the word hygge is a verb and used in the form of  getting together with a small number of close friends and/or relatives and Let's hygge ourselves.    Kind of sounds like let's hug ourselves. In a way that is the meaning -- a group hug.   Spending time with congenial people and usually enjoying a cup of coffee and cake or a small snack.   You don't hygge around a large smorgasbord table.   Here's some more hygge if you want to know how to do it the British way.


    Schadenfreude.  That's a word you don't read or hear too often.   It means deriving pleasure from someone else's misfortune.     Sure sounds like a miserable sort of thing to do but I  suspect we all have a little of it in us.  Not that we want anyone to suffer but we've all had sufficient bad luck or unpleasant experiences to feel that the misery should be spread around a little.   Something to do with karma, I suspect.

    In some situations we feel quiet satisfaction when obnoxious people, self-absorbed celebrities or the snobbish neighbour down the street receives their just desserts.  As long as it's nothing too serious.   We're really nice people, you know.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Where We End Up

     


It was commented more than once that many known people died in 2016.   Every week brought news of the death of another well known celebrity.    I could name the ones I recall but you likely know most of them and then some.   Some had lived a very long life, some merely a good long life and others seemed to have gone too soon.   Perhaps we consider the average lifespan in North America and use that as a watershed.    Exact numbers vary but seem to be between 82 and 86, and have steadily increased over the years.   Check some statistics here.

     When relating some family health history to a physician including a paternal grandmother who died of a stroke at age 87 the comment was made that you have to die of something once you get to that age.  Or words to that effect.  Death and dying are difficult topics.

     I feel very sad when young children die.   They never had a chance to live their lives.   After I feel sad, I inevitably feel mad.   Could this have been prevented?    It certainly should have been.  Childhood cancer is an especially terrible disease.   My daughter's friend recently lost a seven year old nephew to cancer.   How can that happen?    What could that child possibly have done, in  health and lifestyle to bring on that fate?

     My post-secondary education has not been in the sciences or healthcare so I have a layperson's knowledge in these areas.    I have read that cancer is a complicated disease, that it is not just one disease, that we all have the potential for it in our bodies . . .    Some people are living longer, being cured we're told.   That doesn't help the ones left behind to feel better.

    I know oceans of money have been poured into research.   If money was the cure it should have happened by now.    My instinct would be to look for a cause.   Are there places in the world where no one gets cancer?   Were there times in history when the disease was unknown?    Do tribes in the Amazon without human contact and no use of modern inventions or products spare themselves this illness?   

     There is a lot of false information and rumours about various treatments and cures.   It's an industry and a lot of money is being made providing false hope.     Rich or poor, we all feel helpless in the face of illness and disease and the inevitability of death.   

Sunday, April 2, 2017

PREPPING FOR SOMEONE ELSE


             



You've heard of Preppers, right?   People who spend a lot of time (and money) getting ready for TEOTWAWKI, otherwise known as The end of the world as we know it or at least a natural disaster of great scope and scale.   Think of an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse), (here's an article to scare you), a meteor striking the earth or at least a hurricane or tornado.   Books have been written on the topic, for example,  One Second After, Death of Grass or Lucifer's Hammer.   I watched a show on Netflix about a family that gone to extreme lengths to be self-sufficient with back up systems for off the grid living.   The husband, an engineer, knew what he was talking about and revelled in describing what they had been able to do.  They raised cattle, had their own water and energy systems, complete with generators, tractors and solar panels.  The wife focussed on the domestic end with a large storage space and  professional grade canner enabling her to put up 15 years worth of food.

The fellow was proud of his accomplishments and had bragged to his neighbours and friends at the local pub.   They in turn had let him know that they would be looking to him should a world disaster strike.   He had no qualms in telling them to basically forget it;  he was not going to take food out of his child's mouth to give to them.   I guess they didn't buy him a beer.

Maybe it was because I have read the books listed above but I immediately thought,  "Foolish man, you're the first place people  who haven't prepped will go to take from you what they haven't done themselves."   Sure, he had a gun collection and would be able to take care of the first few of the hundreds of the desperate starving masses but he wouldn't be able to hold them off for long.   Actually, he'd be better off to invite his neighbours and friends to join him and create some safety in numbers.  He seemed to have enough to share.

Another likely scenario would be government confiscation of his carefully accumulated security.   In World War II they dealt with what was labelled hoarders who were widely castigated for not sharing.






Author Sarah Sundin has written a blog post here about required reporting and rationing of sugar in World War II.

I wonder if the prepper's knowledge and skill amply demonstrated in the setting up of his homestead is really his family's most valuable asset.   Most people wouldn't know where to start.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Repeating Patterns

I've noticed a trend in tourist destinations that makes me think of university lectures on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.   Everything starts out so promisingly:   A beautiful natural setting, perhaps a historic focal point.   Ideal or at least reasonable weather and costs that are much cheaper than back home.   The locals are natural and go about their daily lives, friendly but not obsequious to visitors.    In this situation early adopters benefit from unspoiled charm  but face some challenges in language and culture.  


   

1940's: The Isla Mujeres Runway

(by Cancun)



 This is the stage at which the reputation starts to arise.   Slowly at first, by word of mouth and then in a few travel blogs.   A few entrepreneurial types, seeing the possibilities,  provide some development to make access easier.  A road is paved, a bus route is changed, some English signs are put up.   This might be the best time to visit.   International developers haven't arrived; everything is still authentic.  There is likely the start of some price differentiation as locals become cognizant of the potential money arriving and start to differentiate pricing but there are no overwhelming changes.

Now, everything accelerates.   Sometimes a mention in a major travel magazine or television program starts the cascade.  A large scale developer (or two) comes to survey the location and  realizes the potential.   Local and regional governments are persuaded to provide infrastructure in exchange for future tax revenues.    Retail businesses selling jewellery and various high end products set up shop.   A cruise port, first with small tenders providing passage to the shore but plans for a terminal are initiated.   Condo developers buy up the shoreline.   Locals are at first worried and then dismayed. Inevitably, they move away as their own costs increase or become involved in servicing the visitors.   For some visitors this is the most pleasant time as the quiet village or town becomes more like home, but warmer and with tropical vegetation.   A Starbucks every few blocks, clean streets and English speaking shopkeepers.   New businesses price their goods and services perhaps ten  or twenty percent less than developed world prices so tourists feel their are still getting a 'good deal'.  Some serious travellers start to stay away;  too touristy.

Unfortunately, decline seems inevitable.   Traffic, pollution and congestion increases.   Too many packaged holidays are arriving.   Some of he country's citizens gravitate to the area where money can potentially be more easily earned than toiling in the fields or their local small businesses.  The tipping economy is well established and some visitors will pay you to open the door for them.   Too many shops and restaurants lead to frustration for the owners who by now are paying high rents.   Visitors are harangued and harassed as they walk through a shopping district.  Goods are overpriced and imported from an even cheaper country en masse.   Some clerks take advantage of tourists' unfamiliarity with the local currency and provide incorrect change from a purchase, always less, never more.   Pick pockets may arrive and local lowly paid police may find giving out traffic tickets and collecting bribes to rip them up from tourists who certainly can't stay for a court date a few months out, is a lucrative sideline.

The decline seems inevitable.  In the same way a reputation is built, it dissipates. Prior to the internet, it took take years before travel guides start to recommend avoiding the area.   People say that now about Acapulco -- full of drugs and crime.   It used to be the playground of celebrities.   You can probably name other destinations.   Maybe you visited somewhere in your youth but when you go back twenty years later, it has changed.   A victim of it's own success we say.   


Spring Break in Cancun 2014


Sunday, March 19, 2017

BEES S.O.S.






Bees still need our attention.   As this article states, they are vital to our food security.   Don't feel helpless, instead take action in one of the ways suggested.  The above idea using marbles might be interesting enough to spur you into action.


Bumblebees

Friday, March 10, 2017

Giver or Taker?

(I'm posting a couple of days earlier than usual due to Spring Break vacation)




Give and Take by Adam Grant dispels the myth that only tough and aggressive people get ahead.   Passion, hard work and talent are not enough it seems.   To achieve the most success in life you need to live life as a giver,  someone always willing to share and care.

Givers on sports teams can be undervalued since they don't hog the spotlight or use the flashiest of moves.  Basketball coach Stu Inman found that there is a connection between grit and giving in sports.   Givers were willing to work harder and longer than Takers out of a sense of responsibility to their team.  In the long run, they are more valuable to the team.

Takers can be so self-focussed that they will take what they can and move on. They view it as necessary to getting ahead.  Identifying a Taker can be difficult because they can come across as highly agreeable, enthusiastic and friendly.

Givers need to be careful they don't cross the line and become doormats because they feel the other person's need and want to help.  That way lies burnout.   Especially when dealing with a hardcore  Taker,  boundaries need to be established. Once Givers learn to spot these people as Takers they can adapt their role from Giver to Matcher.   They are still Givers but they expect accountability and quid pro quo.   In other words, I'll do something for you but you must do something for me, also.  If they choose to remain as Givers, they do so with awareness and caution.

Grant analyzes his subject thoroughly and conveys his firm belief that the most successful people in many aspects of life are Givers.  When he began to teach at Wharton School of Business, his students were unanimous in their opinion that Givers end up at the bottom of the success ladder.   The top people were either Takers  or  Matchers.    His book was a result of his determination to prove those students wrong.

Following through with his belief in the value of giving, Grant offers free on-line tools for individuals to test their Giver Quotient.

You could also consider subscribing to the Random Acts of Kindness philosophy.