Monday, May 21, 2012


My wife and blogger extraordinaire has issued a lovely photograph-challenge to her fellow bloggers, as per this challenge from Hostel Bookers 7 Super Shots. I love a challenge, so I accepted this one without a foggy clue what I was going to do. So the challenge is this:

1. Choose 7 of your own photos, one for each of the following categories:
    A photo that…takes my breath away
    A photo that…makes me laugh or smile
    A photo that…makes me dream
    A photo that…makes me think
    A photo that…makes my mouth water
    A photo that…tells a story
    A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)
2. Write a short description for each image.
3. Write somewhere in your blog post: ‘I am taking part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots‘.
4. Tell us you have participated and tweet the hashtag #7SuperShots
5. Nominate 5 other bloggers by including a link to their blog in your post.

We will be retweeting and sharing the best posts from participating bloggers.

A photo that takes my breath away:

I love this shot, out on the bay of Quinte in January. Gorgeous. Water and air and sunlight.

A photo that makes me smile or laugh (or two photos):

Ah, Daisy. She makes me smile, and laugh. She's such a clown. Or, as it were, a pelican. Chacun son gout.

A photo that makes me dream:

I have dreams about operating cranes all the time. I miss it. There's a kind of motive poetry to getting it right, as if the universe falls into place, and things make sense. Lord knows I'm missing that lately too.

A photo that makes me think:

Where are we going with all this noise and confusion and building and driving?

A photo that makes my mouth water:

Mmmm ... steak...

A photo that tells a story:

In all the journeys we've been on together, I never thought Owen would be so active and happy. That, in itself, is a story of success.

A photo that I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot):

I am also cheating on this nomination, as my wife did, as I don't know many bloggers well enough to pull them into a tangled web of photos and lost time at the computer, but I will say I have known Schmutzie a very long time, and would love to see her entries!

 My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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Kindle US
Kindle UK
Kindle Germany

For those reading Seven Gates

I just realized that instead of sending these maps to everyone who's reading the novel, and then re-sending if they get lost or whatever, that posting them on my blog would probably be the best way to make them accessible for anyone to look up at will. So, here they are.

This is the 'Fertile Crescent, aka modern Iraq, Syria, and the Levant, with Iran at right., Saudi Arabia at bottom.

This is the close up shown in the box above.

My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

You can fool all of the bugs some of the time...

So here's the Canadian dilemma. You want to go camping in your regular old van, or you want to go to the drive-in theatre, and you have a choice. You leave the windows closed on those hot, muggy nights, and you boil, or you open them and all the bugs come in to eat you alive. We used to bring mosquito netting, to try to drape, or we'd all hide in the trailer, crammed in while the van was useless, or at the drive-in, we'd put up with cracked windows, and the inevitable critters that found their way in.

Not any more. Here is how you bug-proof a van, or at least how we did it chez Sprung this year for our trip to the Mustang Drive-in of Prince Edward County fame.

First, I scrounged around, and found an old play tent that the kids trashed last year, and for which there were no poles. I took two relatively hole-free sections of the netting part of the tent, and cut them to fit both the back cargo door, and the front passenger side. What we're aiming for here is a flow-through. You don't have to do every window, or even opposing windows, just the ones that let you catch a breeze on opposite ends of the van.

Next, a Canadian must-have .... duct tape. This is the only tape that will stick well to those inside portions of the van without leaving residue, and also will not let go part way through the movie.

For the front passenger door, we use the duct-tape to tack the netting in place. For the upper and side 'door portions' of the net, as we close the door, the door seals those portions.

For the bottom and side, once it's tacked, we use packing tape to seal the whole edge. The packing tape is only there to sit against the upholstery. Why? Well, using duct tape all across makes it impossible to re-use on the next outing, and if any bugs do get through on the inside and bottom portions of the window, it's such a tight fit that they will stick to the packing tape before squeezing their way through.

Then we close the door, and, voila, the front door is done.

Next I cut the zipper portion of the tent, and fitted it to the cargo door of the van. (That way, if there's an emergency washroom exit required, we can still use the zipper to get in and out.)

The rear section is not sealed the whole way around, but folded around the entry, and tacked with duct tape. With this, we want to use tension to keep the netting folded over the edges of the opening. That's why it's important to make it somewhat tight through those sections.  Keep in mind it's not a perfect seal, so it won't work if kids are bumping against it, or if a very strong breeze blows up. With limited duct-tape, I didn't seal the whole thing, but under good conditions that's not necessary anyway.

Voila. Sealed front and rear entry, and done in a way that you don't have to fiddle with it. You close it up, drive where you're going, pop the door, open the window, and you're ready to eat popcorn and enjoy the show, or the snooze, whichever it may be.

The website for the Mustang is here.

May 24, 2012

As an addendum, I thought you would all like to know how well it went. In a word: Awesome! It's too bad we only stayed for the kid's feature, as that took them too late into the night, but perhaps Jenn and I will get a babysitter sometime soon and do the all-nighter!

As it was, we were cool, comfortable, and not 'bugged' at all. Many strangers came by to tell us what a great idea it was, and there were even a few who said we should patent the idea! (Sorry, it's been done, there is a company that will custom-fit to your vehicle....)

My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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Kindle US
Kindle UK
Kindle Germany

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Whether or not we participate in the online world, social media is in the process of revolutionizing the way we communicate. People now can follow up-to-the-second tweets of the debates in Queens Park or the
House of Commons, from their Unions, from companies, and marketing campaigns or can input their ideas about marketing or history to those most interested to read them. We now get news before the news agencies, and media before it is released.

One of the successes of the online world is that it is easy to participate in forums. Barriers everywhere are being broken down. This gives us all have a great responsibility as moderators of these forums. The task can sometimes seem gargantuan for institutions just bringing themselves online, just as it is difficult for individuals taking their first steps on the Internet. Where once government, policing, and medicine seemed removed, and people's voices small, now we are being invited to input our experiences, ideas, and beliefs.

Just by creating a forum in which we have so many opinions and ideas being expressed, we are inviting conflict. I think one of the great successes of the Internet, which could very well end up being its great failing, is the way in which we deal with the conflict we inevitably run into. 'Trolling' is as important online as bullying is in our schools, and sometimes the two are intertwined.

How do we, as a society, ensure that the lessons we learn from conflict lead to success? As I learned in customer service many years ago, behind every yelling customer is an opportunity to improve. I learned to be willing to listen to difficult people, and that attitude has served me ever since. If, in any industry, we are to open communication with the public who use our services, then we must understand that the information we glean is worthless unless we can change the way we think about our systems. If it means listening to, or reading a rant about why we have failed someone, then we should do so with an eye for their motivation. If we can muse about the reasons that suggestions and comments are made, we all benefit, while fostering an entire culture of fanatical self-improvement, no matter how trollish it may be voiced.

It goes both ways. As users of the system, any system whether it be Government, Union, or corporate, we have to know that institutions cannot embrace every change. It's not about pointing out fault, but about finding better ways to do what is right. We have to be understanding of the challenges of those who receive our input.

In soliciting from the public, whether we work in a hospital, in  government, for a Union, or in a business, we all have to be willing to accept that social media may, and well should, change our system in ways that we do not anticipate. We are not relinquishing control, but instead empowering a type of 'cloud thinking', in which, instead of waiting for that big break idea that solves every problem in one fell swoop, we rely on the accumulated brain power of many minds and many different sets of eyes approaching any problem as a whole, each one doing as much as they can so we can all benefit.

For this to work, as end users we have to know that our ideas may not be implemented for any number of logistical reasons. That rejection, should it happen, cannot be the root of hard feelings, which I believe are the roots of trolling. The communication model should instead be a stepping stone to a better understanding of the challenges that Governments, Institutions, and Professionals face every day, so that we can be more involved with giving them a helping hand, or mind, in very difficult situations.

My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
eBook, pdf, mobi, epub, rtf, lrf, palm, txt
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Kindle Germany