A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Social Media I: Shortcut to Self Esteem

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way right here at the beginning. I am on Twitter - I check it about twice a week or if something important is going on in the world and I Tweet about once a month. I am on Facebook - I only check it when someone contacts me direct which is rare and I never post anything but the odd birthday greetings.  I spend a great deal of time on Flickr - it is so much more than a place to park your pics! And my latest time-waster is Pinterest.

This post is not intended to be an advertisement for Pinterest, I will just say it is addictive as well as functional. However a recent experience on Pinterest is what brought me here, so I will give a brief idea of how it functions for the uninitiated. One can pull photos from almost anywhere on the web and post them on your own 'bulletin boards' (such as recipes, craft patterns, color schemes, travel ideas). The brilliant part is that when you - or anyone else - click on that photo, it takes you to the original website. In short, it does away with the massive list of 'favorites' that are pretty much wasted by those who surf a great deal.

In addition to finding treasures on the web, there is an enormous amount of pinned material to sift through should you so choose. The challenge is to find people and boards with similar tastes and interests and follow their boards - thus ensuring a steady supply of treasures mined by other like minds. And now to the story...

Last night I was scrolling through Pinterest and found a pin of a work by Beryl Taylor, an extremely talented  mixed media artist I have been tracking for at least five years. As I traced back through the pinnings, I came to the artist herself. She was on Pinterest and it goes without saying that I loved practically all of her pinnings and was pleased to find that she had pinned some of the same things I had. Of course, I opted to follow all of her boards.

The next day, when I glanced through the regular email I receive from Pinterest showing repinnings of your items, I found this sentence..."Beryl Taylor started following all of your pinboards". I was so excited I called my daughter to tell her that THE Beryl Taylor was following ME!

And that is why people have hundreds of Facebook friends that they haven't spoken to in real life for twenty years or more, why Stephen Fry has 3,821,365 Twitter followers, and why there is a Flickr group called 'Dogs on Roofs' that has 1,540 members who have posted a total of 821 pictures of - you guessed it - dogs on roofs.

For every sad, lonely person who has locked themselves away in a room and lurks around the edges of forums and special interest sites, there is someone who is making a connection with someone else that was simply not possible before the internet. I am happy to say, that sometimes that person is me. Last week, someone on Pinterest pinned one of my Flickr photos onto her board for miniatures. Foolish though it may seem, I was thrilled.

I think a case could be made that ebay was the first of the mega-successful social media. I remember when ebay first took off, I shopped early and often. Payments were usually made by check through the mails, which necessitated a personal interaction of sorts and your feedback was an important element. One day, after a hard and personally depressing day at work, I logged onto ebay and read through my feedback.  There I discovered I was "an A++++ buyer", a "valued buyer", I was "friendly and great to deal with". Ha! Take that Michelle! (All these years later, I still remember what a bitch she was - I'm sure Beryl Taylor wouldn't follow her anywhere!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow Day? Not So Much...

I just got an update on the thrill of a Snow Day from my daughter. Turns out that in a great many cases, a Snow Day does not mean you get to stay home and do jigsaw puzzles. It just means you get on your computer, log in, and do the same work at home that you normally do in the office.

It seems that progress almost always comes with an upside...and a downside.

As I write this, I see the snow has started again, and it's coming down pretty hard.  That means I should be able to finish the Windsor Castle jigsaw tomorrow morning and start the North Devon Harbour one.

I can't help myself...Yippee!

Snow Day!

I am living proof that you never outgrow Snow Days. Unemployed/retired for nearly three years and out of school for years beyond counting, Snow Days still never fail to thrill...even though they make no real difference to my daily life whatsoever. Unless I have neglected to stock up on groceries when the TV weathermen start their doom and gloom in advance of what usually turns out to be half a dozen picturesque flakes that fall unerringly during the evening commute, then it makes a difference.

In a effort to remain functional for as long as possible, I try to chip away a little at all my chores, tasks, and projects each day. For the most part, I have been quite successful at it and so my laundry is usually caught up, my sink is empty of dirty dishes, my sewing machine is warm, and postcards continue to be sorted and logged. I may have projects midstream on every table in my condo, but I make a little progress on each one every day. It is not unusual for me to go two days without home -  I keep busy, and therefore, relatively happy.

But as soon as the parking lot turnss white, my mind declares a Snow Day. I have nowhere to go, but I am thrilled to have an excuse for not going there. So I have spent most of the last two days doing jigsaw puzzles. And if the weathermen are right, I will get a couple more done in the next two days. Yippee!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Need some Post-Holiday De-stressing?

I don't know about you, but whenever I can steal some time to just sit and read, it improves my outlook on life. If it's something dark and humorless I feel better about my own life. If it's a bit dry and boring, I am usually being educated along the way. This doesn't count reading in bed, which for one thing, isn't sitting and for another, it just puts me to sleep. But that stolen hour mid-day, ah, that's the luxury. So it comes as no surprise that reasearch shows that reading improves mental wellbeing and reduces stress by 67%.

Acknowledging this fact, the Reading Agency in England has come up with a list of 'mood enhancing' books which will be promoted in libraries all over England in 2012. I assume that anyone with time to check out my blog, also must have time to read – or at the least should be making time – so as a public service here is the list...with my comments in parentheses.

The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond (chick-lit)
Being Human by Neil Astley (poetry)
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (detective humor – one of my very favorite authors, although I prefer his Thursday Next series)
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (part of a relationship series)
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee (memoir)
Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy by Philippa Perry (graphic novel)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (children's)
Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord (novel)
Life According to Lubka by Laurie Graham (humorous fiction)
Life with the Lid Off by Nicola Hodgkinson (memoir)
A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich (children's – but a good place for those of us without degrees in history to start)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (fiction)
Men at Work by Mike Gayle (chick-lit)
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (travel – ANYTHING by this man will make you smile out loud)
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (classic fiction – if you like this, go right straight to Love in a Cold Climate)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (children's)
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (fantasy)
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (humor)
Stop What You're Doing and Read This! By Charlie Oatway (essays)
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (fiction)
That Awkward Age by Roger McGouch (poetry)
To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell (chick-lit)
Trouble on the Heath by Terry Jones (Humor)
Waterlog by Roger Deakin (nature – just went to the top of my must read list)
A Winter Book by Tove Jansson (autobiographical stories)

You will note that this is not just a list of funny books, books that will make you laugh out loud or giggle, but books that will make you feel better about yourself, or the world. It's a wonderful genre-bending list and I particularly appreciate the inclusion of poetry and children's fiction. Some of my favorite books (such as Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series) are considered children's or young adult. I like to think that I am a young adult, it's all a matter of perspective. Somewhere there must be a list of “Children's Books for Adults”, and when I find it, I will pass it on.

I would have added something (anything) by PG Wodehouse to this list. Also, something from Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, or one of the Miss Read books. All of these have been functional de-stressers for me at some point in my life.

I have only read about a quarter of the books on this list, but I can testify that they were all well chosen, so I tend to trust the rest of it. If I ever finish the stack of books beside my bed, and the stack next to my sofa, and the metaphorical stack on my Kindle, and (I must admit it) the stack in my bathroom...I'll know where to go next.