Dear Readers

Posted: 25 May, 2018 in Blogging, Gratitude, Thank You
Tags: , ,

Thank you for making this blog so popular. When I first started it, I had no idea what it would become. I just needed a place where I could rant and rave and generally sort through my thoughts and feelings.

It originally started as a journal to help me with my therapy. When I finally summoned the courage to show it to my therapist, she said that some of my thoughts might be helpful to others, should I decide to share them.

That was in July of 2015. “What a long, strange trip it’s been” (Robert Hunter).

And so this blog was born. I even got my own domain, completely free of advertisements. Even better, I haven’t commercialized it. That means I don’t ask you for money, I don’t sell your email addresses, and I am not beholden to commercial interests. This is meant to be a safe place.

Gay-friendly, certainly. Trans-supportive? Well, DUH! How could it not be, considering that I myself am Trans?

Your responses and comments let me know I must be doing something right, and once again, thank you for the feedback.

Haters and Bigots and Racists, Oh My!

We don’t have any of them here, which is a Good Thing™. Interestingly enough, they just don’t seem to come here. Maybe we’ve just been lucky, or maybe they’re just too afraid to associate with crazies like us.

I can say that, can’t I? “Crazies”? On the one  hand, I can say, “Well, Robyn, it’s YOUR blog! You can say whatever you want. But on the other hand, I don’t want to inadvertently hurt someone. It’s difficult, sometimes, to find the balance. But what’s even weirder is that if anyone is hurt by my comments about haters, bigots, racists, homophobes, transphobes, etc., my attitude is “fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.”

Anyway, that’s not what I came to talk about.” (Arlo Guthrie, in Alice’s Restaurant)

A Brave New Pencil

Yesterday, Stacey and I drove the 15 or so miles to Eastview Mall, where the Apple store is located. We both had old iPads we wanted to turn in. We each got $95 for them, since they were in excellent shape. Stacey’s saving hers until she gets a new iPad Pro, but I used mine to buy an Apple Pencil to go with the new iPad I got last week.

Why the Pencil? Because they were all out of the keyboard & case combo I really wanted.

It’s a fun toy. I can use it to write notes, add drawings and pictures to stories, etc. I’m going to have a lot of fun playing with it exploring what it can do. Maybe it will even help my carpal tunnel issues. Oh, wait—never mind: that’s arthritis.

I’ll probably report back on it in some future post. Until then, thanks again for stopping by!

If you have to ask…

Posted: 25 May, 2018 in Grammar, Language, Medium, tea
Tags: ,

(Originally published on Medium)

It’s 7:30, and the temperature has already begun its climb towards its predicted high of 84. That might not be such a big deal to you folks in the South, but here in Rochester, NY, it’s kind of a big deal — after all, we had snow on the ground less than a month ago.

Both the current temperature — 66 — and the predicted high might make some of you wonder: “Why on earth is she drinking a cup of hot tea?” To which I reply, “If you have to ask, you know nothing about tea, and even less about me.”

To say I’m obsessed with tea would be an exaggeration; on the other hand, we are in a committed relationship.

Many people have specific morning routines, rituals if you will. I’m retired, and so I’m in the perfect place to exercise my own morning ritual: tea and Medium. I stumble downstairs to the kitchen, fill the tea kettle, and put it on to boil. Next comes measuring out the proper amount of leaves. This amount may vary, depending on how sleepy I am.

Finally, the water comes to a full boil, and I pour it over the tea leaves (only rarely do I use bagged tea, and even then it’s a premium brand), set the timer, and sit quietly as the minutes and seconds count down. I remove the leaves from the pot, carry my cup to my easy chair, take the first sip, and open Medium on my iPhone.

As I said, I’m not obsessed with tea, and I don’t follow this ritual religiously. Sometimes I’ll be up for more than an hour before I start jonesing for my fix. And it’s almost always for a cup of strong black Assam tea, grown in the foothills of the Himalayas and then packaged and shipped to my favorite local Indian food store.

In Rochester, we’re blessed with several Indian restaurants and food stores; my favorite is The Spice Bazaar, just a short drive from my house. It’s my source for fine teas, Basmati rice, and Tea Masala spice blend.

I’m on my soapbox now…

…so pay attention, class. There is no such thing as Chai tea! Yes, I know the so-called experts call it that (I’m looking at you, Starbucks), but here’s the secret: Chai is Sanskrit for tea. So when you’re ordering your Chai tea, what you’re really saying is “I’d like a cup of tea tea, please.”

What you really want is a cup of Masala spiced tea, Tea Masala being the particular blend of spices used to make that delicious cup of tea.

Okay, enough pontificating

No more soapbox. I agree: I can be a real jerk sometimes. But I’m a writer, so the nuances of language and grammar mean a lot to me — as they should to you if you’re even on Medium in the first place.

That’s not to say that I think you need to be an expert on writing in English if it’s not your first tongue; it is indeed a difficult language to master. So difficult, in fact, that many who speak or write in it as a second or third language do a far better job than a lot of native speakers. And HEY! everyone I’ve encountered on Medium is far better than I am in, say, Mandarin. So I make allowances.

Disclaimer

You can find my standard disclaimer right here.

Are you writer? Do you spend hours alone in your room, staring at the walls until 3 a.m. when you finally are exhausted enough to sit down and let the words come without you getting in the way? Do you look at what few friends you have and think, “She’d make a great character for my book”?

I'm writing a novel

Is this you?

Becoming a Better Writer

One way to improve your writing is by joining a local writers’ group or workshop. But what if you’re a shut-in, or (like me) don’t have reliable transportation to get you there?

Another way is by reading a lot. At least, that’s what most of the successful big-name authors say—and who am I to argue with them? But getting to the library, for example, can be hampered by the two instances I listed above.

Another drawback to reading a lot can be money, or, more specifically, the lack thereof.

Enter Medium

Medium “is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. It is owned by A Medium Corporation.[3] The platform is an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium, and is regularly regarded as a blog host.” (Wikipedia)

In Plain English, Please

Think of Medium as a Facebook for writers—minus the trolls, divisiveness, and advertisements. But even that doesn’t to begin to cover what makes Medium such a great platform. Remember what I said about joining a local writers’ group? Medium is that very group on steroids: it’s an international writers’ group.

You can connect with other writers by interests, topics, location—either publicly or privately (which I still have to figure out).

For me, Medium is first and foremost a source of different writings (Medium calls them stories). They’re fresh, topical, and can include everything rom the latest abstruse scholarly article to fiction to poetry to you name it. But best of all—at least to me—is that I can post a story and know that people will respond on it politely and with thought.

Plus I get some great fiction, too!

Medium

If you don’t have it and consider yourself a writer, go get it! Right now!!!

You Had Me at Tea…

Posted: 22 May, 2018 in Hope, tea
Tags: ,

“Tea or coffee?” If you’re offering me a choice and the first option is tea rather than coffee, we’re going to get along well.

Between the 18th century and today, we’ve gone from a nation of tea drinkers to one of coffee lovers. Where we once dressed up like Red Indians to protest an increase in the tax on tea, we now proudly part with our cash for an overpriced cup of something so loaded with sugar and flavorings that I don’t even dare call it coffee.

A smart-alec reply has now inflated to “Yeah, that and 7 bucks will get you a cup coffee.”

The irony is that I’m not above drinking coffee when I’m out and about: after all, it’s all but impossible to find a restaurant that knows how to brew a proper cup of tea. Even those places that do still use bagged teas (I’m looking at you, Starbuck$).

I prefer the magic of measuring out the right amount of whole tea leaves, boiling the water, and watching them expand and become a beverage.

My tea of choice remains a nice black Assam from India. I first encountered this magical substance when I bought my first bag of imported Irish Breakfast tea, which used Assam as its base for the blend. And no, drinking imported tea didn’t make me a snob — it was simply cheaper than buying it locally.

Now I live in Rochester, NY. I buy my tea locally now, at my favorite Indian (Indians from India) food store. I have two blends I alternate: straight black Assam, and black Assam lightly spiced with cardamom.

When I really want to get fancy, I’ll brew a cup and add a teaspoon of Masala tea spice. This results in what most people mistakenly call “Chai tea;” mistakenly because chai means tea. When you order chai tea, you’re ordering tea tea.

Then again, you also tune in on your television set in order to watch “The The Angels Angels” (a direct translation “The Los Angeles Angels.)

Bagged teas

I rarely buy tea in bags. That’s mostly because most of them contain “fannings,” which are the bits and pieces that are left after the whole leaves are removed. They’re the tea world’s version of floor sweepings, except they’ve not actually been on the floor.

An exception is PGA Tips. This is a quality tea made from the tips of choice tea leaves, blended and then packaged in unique pyramid-shaped packets. PG Tips is the only bagged tea I ever buy.

For more information about PG Tips and their commitment to sustainable farming, visit their website.

I just realized that this tale is starting to sound like an advert for PG Tips, so I’ll close now and return to enjoying my latest cup of Assam tea, which I always brew strong. How strong? My Nana always said that a proper cup of tea should be so strong “that a wee mousie might trot along the top of it.”

Why did I list “Hope” as one of the categories for this entry? Because as we all know (or should), “Where there’s tea, there’s hope.”

I got the idea for the title of this post from a quote I found about writing:

writer

The craft, art,  science, practice, or whatever else you wish to call it, of photography is all about light. Light’s a form of electromagnetic energy—one our bodies have evolved to sense and interpret.

We’ve also developed ways of recording light. We started with cave paintings, in which we recorded the results of successful hunts. Over time, we evolved our techniques for recording and enhancing images. The Italians discovered perspective in the 1500’s; it was a new technique for more accurately representing the 3-dimensional world on a 2-dimensional surface. Now, it’s something we all take for granted: from our viewpoint 500 years later, we can look back and say, “Well, duh! It’s so obvious! What took them so long?”

But now we’ve evolved our technology to the point where we can use chemicals and plastics to record light. Where once taking a scenic photograph involved carrying bulky and heavy equipment and supplies of chemicals and other materials, we can carry an entire photo lab in our back pockets.

I’m talking, of course, about mobile phones. In most areas of society today, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have one. Governmental agencies have set up programs where even the homeless can get free phones and calling plans. Rarer still is the mobile that isn’t capable of taking photographs. We have become a nation of people obsessed with taking pictures of ourselves—the infamous “selfie.” And I don’t use the word infamous lightly; far too many of us have become so addicted to capturing the moment that we don’t experience it. Our $800 mobile phones have become $19.95 Kodak Instamatics.

Let’s be honest: how many of those thousands of selfies you have will mean anything to you in a year? A decade?

“You hold in your hand a device with more computing power than the computers that got us to thee moon, and all you can do with it is throw birds at pigs and take pictures of cats!” –often misattributed to Neil Armstrong

Stepping Down From my Soapbox

Okay, that’s enough ranting and editorializing. Let’s get back to the topic at hand, shall we?

There are numerous web pages which offer classes designed to teach you how to get rich from your photography. Most of them charge hefty fees, leading me to conclude that the best way to get rich quick from photography is by selling on-line classes that profess to teach other people how to get rich from photography.

Today, for the very first time ever, I am going to share you my own class on how to get rich from photography. And since it’s you, I’m making this one-time, never-to-be-repeated offer for only $99.95 $49.95 $29.95 $19.95 ABSOLUTELY FREE! Sorry, but at this price, I can’t afford to throw in the Amazing Ginsu Knives. But the best part is you already have most of what you need to succeed. Are you ready? Here’s my guaranteed foolproof way to get rich from your photography:1

  • Read everything you can about photography. Pinterest is a good place to start. It covers more photographic topics than I can list here. If you’re looking for a place to start, try right here.
  • RYFM! (pronounced “riffim,” it’s a hold-over from the early days of computer tech support and means read your f***ing manual!”  You need to know the basics of how your camera works.
  • Your mobile usually doesn’t come with a manual, so try here, here, here, and here.
  • Read as much as you can about photography, especially the fields that interest you the most: fashion, portraits, still life, macro, etc.
  • When my first daughter was born, her grandmother gave us a copy of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. On the inside cover she had written, “When in doubt, put down the book and pick up the child. The same holds true with photography: you learn by doing, so log off the computer and go take pictures!
  • Study your results. What went wrong? What went right? Back in the days of film (yes, I really am that old), I always carried a notebook with me in which I recorded the details of every picture: film, camera, location, lighting conditions, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, etc. Today’s DSLR cameras (and most smartphones as well) record all hat information for you, right down to the GPS coordinates of where you were. This information (EXIF, for Exchangeable Image File Format), will help you analyze what you did wrong or right. Learn from it.
  • Above all, take pictures! Photographic skills are like muscles:  they need to be exercised for them to develop.

( 1-There really is no guaranteed, sure-fire way)

minipod