Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The book vs the e-reader

I haven't even written a word yet and I can already hear the screams in the distance.  Book!  Book!  Book!  Book!  Book!  Funny thing.  A few years ago, I might have been one of those screams.  Now, in 2018, I have 3 e-readers (Kindle, iPad and Nook) and I have several books that I am reading.  I even purchased several books in 2017.  I've been going back and forth.  I'm an Amazon Prime member and with that I get a free e-book a month.  So, my e-book account is filled; Almost like a book shelf with unread books.

Here's my story.  I used to be a reader through my childhood and even to my late 30s.  Only books then.  I don't remember when e-readers came to be.  Somewhere there I had some significant life changes - a new job, a divorce, a marriage.  Ok fine!  Minor detail!   A couple of years ago, I realized that while my life changed, some of my behaviors did also.  I stopped reading.  I stopped writing.

Well, the writing part is true and not so true.  I did start this blog in 2014, I think.  Wow!  Really?  So long ago.  Back to the story, I haven't worked on my novel and it was a note to self.  I needed to write more.

Second part, I needed to read more.  I had seen/read something on Facebook (the time suck) about how the average person can read 400 books a year, easily.  I think this was a video because the guy in the video did the math.  It was basically about replacing Facebook time with reading time.  I thought about it and decided to give it a try.

Every night, I would do Facebook for an hour or more before going to bed.  I know.  Blue light.  Unhealthy.  That's not the point.  The point is that I replaced my Facebook time for book time.  And soon, I was done with a book.  I think in less than a week.  I was blown.  I couldn't believe it.  How?  I thought to myself that I would love to read my Kindle in bed, because it won't affect my eyes, but my bedroom is not very well lit.  That idea did not work.  At that time, I did not have an iPad.  I considered getting a Kindle White light (with the back light), but I just didn't want another Kindle.  Electronic waste of the old one.  I got an iPad instead.  There goes the eyes argument!  I made a pact to myself that I would read a book a month.  12 books.  I know, for you readers out there, it's little.  Piddly.  For me, going from 0 to 12.  That was something.

2017:  I finished my 12 book reading goal.  This year is 24 book goal (2 books a month).  In this process, I have been switching between iPad and iPhone using the Kindle app.  I have used the Kindle (need sunlight and outdoors for this one) when the weather was better.  The last book I read was long.  About 600 pages.  Palm trees in the Snow.  This was one of my free Prime books.  I guess, I decided to do it because I wanted to get the big ones out of the way.  Well, I read it and read it and read it.  It took me a couple of weeks, but I got it done.  I got my 2 books for January read and I was all good to go.

February books I have picked, I started early.  It's an actual book.  So, now, when I'm reading in bed, I'm constantly adjusting the reading light (that I purchased), but more importantly, as I'm reading, all I can see is the page number.  I can visually see how much more there is.  I guess if I really wanted to calculate, I could pull out a calculator and see what percent of the book is remaining, but I'm fascinated.  In the past, a page number would have been enough.  Now, I wanted to know, the time remaining to finish this chapter.  To finish this book.  And books don't come with that information on the bottom.  And I found myself missing the Kindle.  It would learn my reading speed and tell me how much longer I had.  I could very easily think to myself, "Oh!  15 more minutes to this chapter.  Let's finish now."  I know the argument can be made that you can actually see how many more pages there are to the chapter, but then you are flipping through (that has its advantages) looking for where the next chapter is.  Here, the information is all on the little tab where the page number would be.  One click and I can revert to page number.  Or time left in book.  While I'm reading my book, somehow, I don't have the "there's only so much more time to finish this" thought to propel me.

I do find change funny.  I remember when I first started reading on the e-reader and it had time remaining, but didn't have page numbers.  I had percent left.  That drove me nuts.  I guess the app must have updated to page numbers also, but change can be a glorious thing!

Of course, there is the space issue.  The other day, I tried to carry a book in my purse and that didn't work out so well.  I ended up buying a bigger purse, but if that book was on my e-reader, that would be a no brainer.  I wouldn't need to carry it.  I could just carry my cell or even my other larger readers.

I do think about the time I had the e-reader and I just wanted to flip through the pages and go back to page 1, really quick to verify something and I didn't know how to do that in my e-reader and I thought.  Ahhhh, the fast flipping back and forth of pages.  That does put a book in an advantage, but there are so many other advantages to the e-reader that you have to pick a side.

Also, as I have more books, I realize that I don't have much shelf space left.  I think I'm going to donate some of the books I don't "love" that I've already read.  That may clear space for what I have now.  I have read several books on my e-reader and I do not miss them on my shelves.  I just don't.

Disclosure:  I haven't opened my Nook yet.  But after I'm done with reading real books, holding them and actually turning the page and feeling the paper and all that medieval, classical, nostalgic feelings are done, I'm registering my Nook and buying more books on them.

Change is a process.  I'm getting there.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Syrian refugee Uber driver

His name was Akhram and he was my Uber driver.  I usually try to make conversation with my drivers so I asked him how long he had been in this country.  I don't know what the giveaway was.  It might have been his accent.  He said, "18 months."  I asked him where he was from and he responded, "Syria.  Do you know where that is?"  I said, "yes" trying to process his experience through the fog in my head of travel fatigue and through my continued sickness.  I asked him if he liked America and he talked about getting used to the new language and culture and customs.  No, he did not like it.  He told me that his son would cry everyday for 2 weeks before going to school.  His kids didn't know the language either.  He talked about bringing his 85 year old mother here.  He said that his move here was for his children.
He talked about the jets that flew over everyday, bombing Syria.  He said, "We were just waiting our turn to die.  Which bomb was going to kill us.  Was it the next?"  He talked about faith and how he didn't mind dying and that death was a reality.  He said that his children however did not understand that death was a reality.  They were constantly terrified with all the bombing and he had to get out of there.  The first step of his journey lead him to Jordan for 3 years.  He didn't have a work visa there.  They didn't issue those so his move to America was about survival and working.  He talked about working and making an honest living.  As an upper end electrical engineer/project manager from Syria, at the end of the day, he was just happy to have his family.  He said, "for people, America is cars, money, things.  For me, security.  I have my family and that's all I need"
He talked about how some people in Phoenix didn't know what was going on beyond their little circumference of the city.  He smiled wistfully, then he chuckled and said, "That's good too, you know."  He talked about passengers canceling rides when they see a Muslim name.  He talked about passengers asking him if he were ISIS.  He said he tries his best to educate his riders that ISIS is not Islam.
Part of me wished I would have just recorded the conversation.  Part of me was hoping he would someday make a Moth story.  Why not?
The ride did not take long, but I had to record as much as I could remember.  It might be my health but I was trying to wrap my head around a life of constant bombing and moving to Jordan and then to the US.  He talked about the region in general and how it's a mess because of the dictators.  He said that Assad only wanted power and oil and full control;  in the process only a million people were killed.  Yes, I'm being sarcastic here.
I'm typing this trying to focus despite my coughing and difficulty breathing.  I hope I have managed to capture some of the essence of my conversation with him.  Perhaps, my writing is not as effective, but today, once again, I'm reminded of the International humanitarian crisis that the world faces while we continue in our little cocoons sheltered from it all.
Best to you all,

Invisible, visible, love.

A long time ago, I read something motivational that looked like a short poem.  It was about love.  I can't recall how it went, but it was basically a "at this moment someone is" type of poem.  So, it would go like this:  At this moment someone is thinking about you.  At this moment, someone is praying for you.  At this moment someone wishes they could be you.  At this moment, someone is looking up to you. And so on and so forth.  You get the message.  At this moment, someone loves you.
When I read the poem, I thought, awwww.  And then the reality of my situation hit me.  Is it true?  Seriously?  At "this" moment someone is actually praying for me?  That can't be.  Who would be actually praying for me?  My mom?  Who else?  Ah.  It's just one of those posts.  It's not true, but the concept is really sweet.  That's where I left it, several years ago.  The post did not cross paths with me, like so many other Facebook reposts and memes.  I could see that post from a distance, mock me.  You don't believe me, the post would tell me.  Why should I show up in your life, oh ye of so little faith?  I would reply back to the invisible post, that almost appears like an imaginary person in my mind and say, I love the idea.  It would be awesome if it were true, but I just don't see it.  I only have one person in my life who truly loves me and cares about me and that person is sleeping right now as it's night time, so there you have it.  How can you be true?  The post would smile back and say something.  I can't hear it, but I would drift off to sleep wishing for the poem.
Recently, 3 months ago, a friend of mine that I had met only once in London, lost her mother.  I know about it because she posted it on Facebook.  She used to be avid on Facebook.  She even started a blog and a Facebook blog and that's how I got the idea to take my blog on Facebook.  Well, over night, when her whole life turned upside down, in my corner of the world, I started noticing her absence and starting feeling sad for her grief.  There were no more Facebook posts, and no more blogs.  It all ended over night.  There I was, thinking about her and praying for her.  It was instinct to pray for her and wish her the best.  Did she know it?  No.  Not at that time.  It was later that I messaged her to tell her that I missed her digital presence.  Then I realized the poem; at this moment...
As though that was not enough, I've been fighting a sickness and these past couple of days, I went to Arizona to attend a conference I had signed up to attend a few months prior.  I was getting more sick. In fact, the day before the conference, my husband asked me, "should you be going?"  I said, "I'll be fine."  I don't know what I was thinking.  Deep down, I asked myself the same question.  Should I be going?  Why am I doing this?  How important is this meeting to me?
Long story short, I went.  Yesterday was the first day.  I was not well.  I felt like I was sinking, rapidly.  My energy was down to 5%, if I had it and after fumbling through the information, I returned to my hotel room, early, shaking.  I was secretly chiding myself for my stupidity.  I was feverish and weak and I just wanted to talk to someone.  Usually, I could call my husband and whine about feeling badly and he would tell me to go to bed and he would tell me that he would meet me the next day and I would feel a bit better.  That didn't happen.  I called.  No answer.  I called again.  No answer.  I texted.  No response.  I texted again.  No response and finally after 10 minutes of trying to text him, I get a text back.  He was at The Last Jedi.  Oh well.  I would have to crash without anyone to talk to.  The truth is that I really didn't have the energy to talk.  I just wanted to whine.  I was miserable.  I felt more miserable knowing that the one person who understood my sickness and who loved me enough to put up with me was not available.  I was suddenly feeling like no one cared.  I wasn't about to just randomly call people and whine.  I didn't have a list like that.  The poem, was wrong after all.
And just like that, my phone rings.  It's my cousin.  She wanted to check on me and see how I was doing.  She knew I was sick a couple of days back.
Wow!  She was thinking about me.  That was so sweet.  It's not true that no one cared.  People did care.  I just didn't know about it.  It was then that the poem shows up while I'm trying to huddle under the blankets and she's trying to figure out why I'm so stupid to have gone to this conference.  At this moment...  I would have never guessed that she would have called to check on me, but she did.  I didn't even know that she remembered I was sick.  I figured, she would have just assumed I got better.  The poem smiles at me.  I was right, wasn't I?  Yes, you were, I say, as I slowly try to breath and drift to sleep.
Just because we don't "see" it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  Even invisible love, turns visible.
Oh and about that post saying something to me earlier, that I didn't hear.  Now I know what it was.  All it said was, "just you wait!"  Indeed.
Here's wishing you all lives filled with visible and invisible loves.
Best to you all,

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Pick-pocketing strategy

Hello everyone.  Before you stress out, let me clarify a couple of things.  First off, no, I'm not quitting my day job to be a pick pocket.  Secondly, again no, I was not pick pocketed.  So, where does this post come from?  I was recently in Portugal, and our tour guides kept reminding us that while tourism was increasing, so were pick pockets.  I didn't believe it.  And then I heard a story of a woman having her purse pick pocketed or stolen.  Whatever you want to call it.  I feel badly about it.  She's on vacation and loses her phone/credit card and whatever else was in her purse.  On the boat, I kept hearing that someone got their purse stolen but I didn't know who, until I was standing in line for the bookstore and the mom was the one who was pick pocketed.  So, I got curious and asked HOW?  It just seemed unrealistic.  Most people are quite aware of their surroundings and would know if someone is taking something.  She started her story by telling me that she is a seasoned traveler and that she takes all the usual precautions, but the pick pocketers worked together.  It was a team effort.  3 men working out a plot to distract and take.
Here's how it worked.  First person randomly approaches with a cigarette that looked like a joint and asks for a light.  She turns him down.  While mom starts arguing with someone at her table that it was a joint, another person comes up and asks to borrow one of the chairs at her table (close to her purse).  A few minutes later, person number 3 approaches for a light but it looks more like a joint.  While mom is trying to figure out what is going on, person number 1 (we think) made off with the purse sitting on the floor with no chair blocking access.  And by the time mom figured out that her purse was gone, the pick pockets were long gone.
We were walking through the famed Alfama district in Lisbon, famous for Fado.  Extremely narrow and crooked streets.  It is like a maze and that it historically intentional, but the point of the story is that our tour guide told us to hold on to our purses because this place is known for pick pockets.  Well, as we walked through these narrow streets, we saw 3 women hanging around a small square.  The tour guide said to us almost as a pleasant surprise "Well, hello ladies!" and she continued to tell us "Those ladies are pick pockets!"  She is the tour guide.  I didn't ask how she knew but there were 3 ladies gawking at us.  Perhaps planning their move, but it didn't work on us that day.
How do you tell a pickpocket?  Well, for starters, they are not looking up at the nice building or tiles.  They are looking at the purses of the tourists.  Makes sense?  I could have sworn that on our walk through a famous railway station in Porto, I saw a man stare at our group.  He was by himself but he wasn't really going or coming anywhere.  Didn't seem like it.  His eyes seemed more focussed on our waistlines.  Who knows?  Maybe from now on, everyone is a pick pocket to me.
Last pick pocket story - my parents got pick pocketed in Madrid several years ago.  My dad refused to travel for a few years after that incident.  I guess the pick pocket bumped into them or "accidentally" poured stuff on them and tried to help them clean up and by the time they were done, my dad was out of a wallet.
So, while travels to Europe can seem glamorous, they come with the price tag of stress.  I am constantly dividing my cash - both Euros and Dollars and putting them in different locations.  I travel without a purse.  I put my cash/wallet on the inside pocket of my zipped up weather jacket - an inconvenient location even for me to get to.  If the weather was hotter, I would wear an inside carrying bag, tucked inside my t-shirt.  Worse case scenario, I would tuck it inside my underwear - I know, eww and tmi.  At the end of the day, who knows.  Maybe I've just been lucky all along.  Word to the wise - don't trust a stranger (duh!) and always keep vigilant of individuals or people in small groups of 2 - 4 people.
I'll stop here.  I'm just quite surprised that I'm starting this year off with 2 posts in the same week.  Whoa!  What causes these fingers to type?  Your guess would be as good as mine on that one.

Gotta run, Best to all,

Monday, January 1, 2018

Anti-social non sickness

I've been on a river cruise for the past week.  Let me talk about seating for breakfast/lunch/dinner.  It's not assigned seating and so my husband and I just sit in a corner with a window view.  My husband thinks I'm going to throw up from motion sickness, but I just want the seat with the view.  Interesting enough, in our little corner, we could potentially appear anti-social.  Lot of other couples were sitting with other couples, getting to know each other and we were quite content where we were.  Once in a while, when the dining area gets crowded, a couple will request to join us at our table and we had no issues with that, but for the most part we kept to ourselves and everything was just fine.  Most couples just figured we were anti-social and kept away from us.
On our second to last day, on a tour of Porto city, we waited in line to see the library that was the inspiration for JK Rowling's Harry Potter.  You guys have heard of that book, right?  The line to get tickets was 10 minutes long.  The line to enter (after you have purchased tickets) was about 40 minutes long and we only had 50 minutes to hang out in the city.  Being the Harry Potter fan, I was not leaving without seeing this staircase.  The plan was this.  My husband waited in the main line.  I waited in the ticket line.  So, by the time I got tickets, the main line had moved a bit, maybe.
Well, we were about 20 minutes out into entering this fabulous bookstore when we saw this mother and her daughter.  They were both from our cruise and the little girl was a Harry Potter fan.  Her mom  asked me about the process to get to the store.  I explained.  By now the back of the line was a 50 minute wait.  The mom told her daughter that they couldn't make it.  The poor girl was dejected.  I felt bad.  I couldn't let that happen.  Gosh!  They were all the way in Portugal, at the bookstore that was the inspiration for Hogwarts staircases.  I said to the mom that I would allow her to cut the line and join us.  She let her daughter wait with us and got tickets and well we all got to see the fabulous bookstore.  Yes, that's me standing in front of the staircase.  The bookstore was so amazing.  I can see how she got inspired by it.
Well, the mom was coughing on and off and on our last lunch, she and her daughter joined us.  So much for us being anti-social.  Before we left the cruise, she gave me a hug and told me she had a great time and thanked me again for letting them cut in line and all that good stuff.  I got on the airplane and I knew something was wrong.  I wasn't feeling well.
I don't know if it was the first connection or the second one but I was coughing and almost throwing up while coughing so fiercely.  My husband was worried.  I needed to start my antibiotic immediately but we had a long journey in front of us.  Well, 14 hours later we drove straight to Walgreen and I got my antibiotic.  There's another story in there about always carrying your ID for being a doctor, but I'll spare you.  I came home and wondered.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to be anti-social.  Maybe I should have not been so kind as to let them cut the line.  All that time on the boat, I was fine.  I was perfect.  We sat in our little corner and I was healthy.  Then you get to meet more people and hang out more and come home sick.  More anti-social behavior from me coming right up!

Best wishes to you all.  Happy New Year.