November 22 – 50 Years Ago Today

50 years ago today I was in Grade 13, at a desk, in a row of desks, in the gym, writing a Christmas exam. Why we were writing Christmas exams in November, I don’t remember. I do remember coming out of the gym, and seeing a group of guys standing tensely in the hall. One, from my class and my church youth group was saying “Kennedy’s dead!” in a voice I interpreted as an attempt at a joke – in very poor taste in my opinion. Within minutes I’d heard more from others and knew that the American president, John F. Kennedy, had been assasinated. It didn’t seem possible. That happened in strange other places or history books. This was our big neighbour who was so like us. It was beyond shocking; it was stunning!

My best friend’s father taught in our high school, and I ended up with her and another friend sitting in her Dad’s car in the parking lot, listening to the radio. Then I went home. My Mom and I spent almost all the week-end and Monday in our basement rec room, watching the news on tv. I’m not sure, as I’ve seen the clip so many times, but I think we saw Jack Ruby, live, shooting Oswald – another stunning moment. Watching all the clips today, and over the years, has given me a sense of visual echoes, a confusion of memories.

What I remember most clearly is from the funeral, the black horse with no rider, and the knee-high boots sitting backwards in the stirrups – a metaphor for all that had been lost.

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Story Includes Plot

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Mapping the Wilderness



To sample a poem from my recently published collection – available from - listen to me reading -

Approaching Sixty, I See That …  - Hope you find it meaningful, and perhaps buy a copy of my collection.

Courage at eighty is different from at twenty
But both ages carry their future constantly -
A fearsome thrust into an unmapped wilderness.

To carry your future at twenty is to seek
The wilderness because it must be mapped
And shaped. There are roads to clear and homes
To build, and no one has given you a plan
For your wilderness, (just the one they didn’t use in theirs).
So you thrust forward, knowing too little and enough,
Building blindly wherever you find a clearing, lifting
The log of your childhood so it bridges your fears,
Confident that it might not collapse on you.

A fearsome thrust carrying life forward blindly
At eighty requires enough love to endure
Despite loss, and endure because of loss to come,
And endure because of the sweetness still here, if
Courage persists. And, despite (because?) the compass pointing
Through the wilderness to the edge of the map,
Tells a tale seen over and over about endings, despite this,
To work through today knowing
too much, and not enough, about tomorrow.

Courage at eighty is different from at twenty
But both ages carry their future constantly -
A fearsome thrust into an unmapped wilderness.

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SlideShare Fun

Slide Share is easy to use, and fun to browse

Slide Share is easy to use, and fun to browse

So maybe I’m boasting, but, as a product of the mid 20th century North American educational system, my high numbers on SlideShare make me feel good ;->

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Online ID

Online identity is increasingly important, and this slide presentation by Steve Wheeler of Plymouth University lays out a framework fr thinking about it. The video  by Kelly Holborow, a few frames in, is informative and beautiful -

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When Obligations Collide



When obligations collide, my heart unfolds.
I try to read what is written for tomorrow
without my glasses. I must decide.

This slippery road leads me into strange spaces.
The centre collapses unexpectedly, but the periphery
may knit into a new street view. I search.

Steering blindly by what is yet hidden
I try to avoid the road rages of others
and drive cleanly into the mystery. I meditate.

 May 1, 2013 – Joan Vinall-Cox


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Social State – the E-Book

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 2.51.53 PM

I’ve just finished reading a very exciting book about social media. I loved it because it -

  • covered social media from the basics of what it is and how it’s affecting us
  • described the most well-known examples of social media applications
  • gave examples of the power and reach of social media
  • revealed how virality happens
  • warned against the inherent dangers in social media
  • clarified how social media makes money
  • analyzed the impact of customers using social media on brands
  • spelled out the current state of social media marketing and business
  • called for using social media for Social Good, and
  • pointed out where social media is trending in the near (and distant) future.

I also loved it because, as an e-book, it was filled with links that allowed me to literally see (and sometimes hear) what the author, Esteban Contreras, was writing about. It is, I think, an important book, and anyone interested in social media (or connective media, as some academics are calling it) should read it. I’ll go further, anyone in marketing and business, especially in the upper realms, needs to read Social State because it’s a map to where we are and where our culture is going, and social media is inevitably a central part of that.

I have one serious complaint. The text was sloppy; a proof-reader was desperately needed. To see what I found notable, and some examples of the need for proof-reading, you can see my highlights from my Evernote Notebook -

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Language Changes

When I was a kid, I and many of my peers had the difference between “may” and “can” drilled into us.

“Can I have another cookie?” I’d ask.

“Yes you can…” would be the reply,  inspiring my excitement until the questioning note registered, the cue for me to recognize my error and correct it.

“Oh! May I have a cookie?” even with the correction, my chances were fifty/fifty, but I learned the correct English. Even today, carelessly using “can” can elicit a joking response requiring the use of “may” from people I know. I expect even this to die out soon, and the use of “may” to make a polite request will disappear except in very formal, somewhat antiquated language.

Lately I’ve been yelling at newscasters and others (as long as they are on tv and can’t hear me) who should know better when they use the words “less” or “amount” incorrectly, (as I cling to a slightly outdated usage).

“Less” is now often used when “fewer” is the “correct” choice. Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty, explains the difference well. “Less” is used when you have an amount, a chunk that can’t be counted as individual pieces. “Fewer” is what you use when you can count what is being referred to. Fewer people read paper books these day, which means less paper is used for publishing books. You can count the number of people, but paper is not countable (except when it’s in pages or packages, etc.).

The number of bowls and the amount of cereal

The number of bowls and the amount of cereal

The conflation of “number” and “amount” is a related change in language usage. Last night, when the newscaster said “The amount of people” I startled my husband by yelling “Number! You slovenly grammarian!” or something similar but less polite. People are countable, so “number” is the correct word to use. “Amount”, like “less”, is for uncountable stuff. Fewer people are eating less chocolate now that it is so cheap. (I wish.)(Although, one would say, “Fewer people are eating fewer chocolate bars!” because, of course, chocolate bars are countable, though the number of chocolate bars diminishes rapidly in our house!)

Despite my twitches and occasional yells over these grammatical “errors” I acknowledge that no one misunderstands what is meant when “less” is used instead of “fewer” or “amount” instead of “number”.  I know that language is constantly changing; we don’t talk or write the way Shakespeare or Jane Austen did. Language evolves over time. The most important aspect of language use is that the meaning is clear.

Almost always, within their contexts, these changes have no impact on meaning. So fewer people use “fewer” and “number”, and more use “less” and “amount”. Although this change sometimes annoys me, it’s simply grammar snobbery on my part, resisting a change in language that is already widespread. The amount of people using less grammatical rules are still communicating efficiently.

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On Yonge Street

Yonge St. Building

Old in Front of New

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Learning a New OS

My first smart phone was an iPhone and my screen looked like this -

I love my iPhone Apps

I loved it and slowly learned how to use it by watching others use theirs, asking questions of friends who had iPhones, asking questions on Google, and, as a last resort, looking it up in a manual I’d bought. Eventually, I got pretty good – by which I mean I could do what I wanted with my phone, (and impress my friends!) I began to have some frustration with  3 year my provider, so I switched to a new provider and an Android phone, which looked almost the same as my Apple iPhone screen -


I moved smoothly onto my Galaxy S2, finding it very similar  to my iPhone. Meanwhile I kept reading about new operating systems for Android phones. I wanted to upgrade, so I asked and searched, and found myself frustrated. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to upgrade the Android OS, it finally happened -


Almost as soon as the new OS was installed, I changed the background. I’d figured out how to do that with my iPhone and my previous Galaxy2 OS, and I could do it in the Settings in the same way. (I like having a picture I’ve taken as the background) However, much was different as I played with this new OS called Jelly Bean. Slowly I am trying out various things and seeing what happens now. This is how I, and many others, learn in this ever-changing, constantly up-dating environment. Just keep trying and and watching what happens, and trying again. Eventually, you learn what you want or need to do. And/or you learn more about how to learn!

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