Technological Marvel

Like many people, I am conflicted about the ever-growing incursion of the electronic world into our daily lives. It seems that so much of it is about keeping track of us, one way or another.

For example, one feature that not everyone knows about in some modern cars, is the ability for the car manufacturers, insurance companies, and various legal authorities to track drivers’ movements, not just where the drivers go, but how they get there, how fast they go, how they maneuver through traffic, and whether the driver starts smoothly or indulges in jack-rabbit starts.

I don’t know if all cars come equipped with this technology — some people add it intentionally because it lowers their insurance bill. I do know that there is so much technology in cars — way more than I like — that I restored my old pre-tech car so I wouldn’t have to deal with any of it.

If eyes on our personal space inside our vehicles isn’t bad enough, there are cameras everywhere, including far up in space, that can keep track of our every movement.

The same is true with the internet. Although computer software purveyors pretend they aren’t using our data in any way, to a certain extent, they are more in control of our computers than most of us non-technical folk are.

And then there is the whole black web thing, where all sorts of unsavory things go on.

Like most everything I do, my online life is a cotton candy version of what is out there. I stick with this blog, play a game or two, make use of email, do a bit of research and do even less than a bit of shopping. It’s so ho-hum that I doubt anyone is watching me, though I am always cognizant of that possibility so I protect myself as best as I can. Still, even with a certain level of vigilance, and maybe even because of it, I tend to take technology for granted and forget what a marvel it all is.

Today I got a phone call from a local area code. Most people don’t answer unknown calls in their own area code because that recognition factor is how the scammers try to sucker people into answering the phone, but my area code is from a city I’ve never lived. I don’t even know anyone who lives there. So any call from that area code, I immediately block. But the area code from where I live? Those calls tend to answer because every once in a while, I do get local calls from people I know who aren’t in my contact list.

So I answered the phone, and oh! What a surprise. I am watching a house for a couple of friends who are out of the country, and the husband called me today. At first I thought he was back in town because of visa problems, but no, he’s still out of the country. He just wanted to talk, to tell me how they are doing, to let me say hi to her, and to thank me for taking care of their house.

So how did this marvel happen? Skype. I thought to use Skype, both people had to be signed up, but apparently not. He was able to get a Skype number from the closest city, so now he can call all the way from Bangkok, and it shows up (and is billed) as a local number.

Truly a marvel!

Note to local folks: B & L said to tell you hi. She is doing better, though she’s having trouble walking. They thank you for your prayers. And, of course, they miss all of you and hope you are doing well.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

The Hero’s Journey, Daughter Am I, and other Literary Matters

DAIsmallI had a wonderful discussion with a friend today about my books. Actually, there were two discussions with two different friends. One was about the dance studio murder story I’d planned to write using the students from the dance academy as characters, but that is so not a good idea. I don’t want to inadvertently hurt people, and I’ve come to see that what I like about certain people are not things they like about themselves, the interplay I find fascinating might have negative connotations, and the compelling characteristics — characteristics that define the person — are not always admirable. All those are good elements of a story, but in a real-life relationship? Not so good. Still, the idea is percolating somewhere in the back of my head, and maybe someday it will take on such import that I have to write it down to get it completely out of my head.

The other discussion was about books in general. I’ve been staying at this particular friend’s house, and I am still in residence. I will be the guest of honor at her book discussion this Saturday (Daughter Am I is the book being discussed!), and so she’s keeping me captive until the weekend. It’s not a bad idea, keeping me captive, considering my newly gallivanting ways. In fact, I’ve found another housesitting privilege (it is more of a privilege than a job, this staying at other people’s houses) that begins this weekend, so she’s right to remind me of my impending guesthood.

We spent the afternoon discussing books we’ve read and movies we liked, and it made me see the possibilities in writing again. It could be fun to create a world as did Anne McCaffrey. Or maybe it would be fun to jump into a ready-made world, such as regency England with its comedy of manners and rigid rules like Georgette Heyer did. (Maybe creating a character of an old woman because all the usual characters seem impossibly young, even those considered as being on the shelf.). Perhaps it would be fun to write a series, maybe a continuation of my as yet unwritten dance murder book, or a sequel to one of my already written books. (There are all those babies in Light Bringer, after all, and the possibility of more aged gangsters for Daughter Am I.

I don’t have to settle on any one possibility, of course — I could try out all the various ideas to see what sticks, but for now, it’s more important for me to fill my brain pan, stir it all up, then add the heat of imagination and see what (if anything) boils to the surface.

Still, it was nice talking about various literary matters, such as the hero’s journey and how it applies to Star Wars, The Wizard, of Oz, the legend of King Arthur and Daughter Am I. And if that wasn’t joy enough, there still is the bookclub meeting to look forward to.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Living Small

I just realized today that I live small. I leave a small footprint on the earth — driving as little as possible, walking wherever I can; buying little, recycling what I can; getting rid of what possessions I can, scaling back on what I can’t. I am also a small thinker. Though I like to think I think big thoughts, I actually get bogged down in minutiae and overthinking. When I listen to music (which is almost never), I keep the sound turned down. I would like to write expansively, but I write small, dredging each word and each idea out of the depths of my mind. My non-writing creative projects are all small — literally, not metaphorically since I tend toward tiny things such as dollhouse doll’s dolls and miniature plants. (The pot of roses illustrating this article is standing on quarter to give you an idea of how small it is.)

Evehandmade miniature rosesn my everyday life is small. Temporarily, I find myself living alone in what seems to me a mansion, and yet, I live in the same two small rooms I used when I was looking after my father. (To be 100% accurate, as my minutiae-driven mind dictates I must be, only the bedroom is small. The living room of my suite is 16’x18’.)

I’m not one of those people who take a mile when given an inch. In fact, when given an inch, I generally only take a centimeter. (2.54 centimeters per inch according to Google.) In this case, I am aware of my tenuous situation. The house belongs to my father’s estate, not me, so I’ve been hesitant to take advantage of living here, even though according to local law, this is my home. Besides, I am performing valuable services, not just house sitting, but clearing out my father’s things.

Still, I’ve never danced around the house in my underwear like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Never slept in another of the bedrooms or used the main living room except when I had my pre-probate party. Never even used my father’s Jacuzzi. (He never used it either, come to think of it, so I can’t really say it was “his” Jacuzzi.)

This not taking advantage of the situation reminded me of an Emo Philip joke I heard a very long time ago. He talked about taking a girl home from a date, and how she passed out half naked, and so, as he said, “I took advantage of her . . . I called Guam.” I wanted to use the joke in his inimitable way to illustrate this post, and to that end, I’ve spent the past two hours searching online for the exact words. I didn’t find the joke, but I got my example anyway — my spending so much time searching for what was a trivial part of this bloggery illustrated my living small. (But I did come across some of his wonderful one liners that I remember, including this one: Some mornings, it’s just not worth chewing through the leather straps. And two liners like this one: When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.)

My sister-in-law was here this weekend, helping get the house ready for sale, and she asked why I didn’t take the curtain off the glass door separating my rooms from the rest of the house. I explained that everyone else tells me it would scare them to live alone in such a big place, so just in case I’d have such a problem, I’ve kept the curtain. It made the place small and familiar enough that being alone here didn’t bother me. (Loneliness does bother me, but that’s something completely different.) My sister-in-law commented on how full of contradictions I was, talking about living out in the open on some sort of epic adventure, but living behind a curtain here in this house.

She has a point.

So today I took down the curtain. Not exactly living large, but it’s a start.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.