Longmire by Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson is an American writer who created the Sheriff Walt Longmire series of novels.

I came across them, by way of the Arts and Entertainment (A&E) TV series, (and later seasons on Netflix).

Longmire, is based on Johnson’s books, with a few minor changes.

Longmire TV Series - Netflix Show - BobBlahBlah.comThe series is built around the character of Walt Longmire, who is the long-standing Sheriff of (fictional) Absaroka County, Wyoming, and his struggle to return to work and normalcy, after the death of his wife.  His daughter, Sheriff’s department staff, best friend Henry Standing Bear and colorful local characters all contribute to richly-drawn episodes, which are interwoven with wonderful and tantalizing backstories.

It struck me that the characters were so well fleshed out, evoking almost a sense of familiarity, but without any of them slipping into cliches… that I thought the books must surely be even better.

On a series of journeys, I visited multiple bookstores in Maple Ridge, Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle… and none had them in stock.  A number of the stores were aware of the series, and couldn’t keep them on the shelves.  The other book-sellers just shrugged.  In all cases, I was left wanting.

So, I went to Amazon, and took a leap of faith.  Not wanting to pay for shipping, I ordered the first four books in the series, and waited anxiously for their arrival.

I was not disappointed.

The first book was devoured in a non-stop reading session that drew me in, and caused me to cast EVERYTHING (including sleep) aside.

As soon as I finished the first book, I ordered the rest of the series… for I knew they would not last long.

Because there are a limited number of books (currently nine) I have given them to myself sparingly, in order to not burn through them as quickly as I might want.

Each of the books build upon the previous ones, some beginning on the day after a previous book ends… so it is important to read them in order, to gain an understanding of the characters’ relationships and motivations.  There is also (in each paperback) a Question and Answer section with Craig Johnson, and a series of discussion topics for book chat groups.

About the time the second set of books arrived, I became aware that Craig Johnson was also active on Social Media, with both Twitter and Facebook accounts.

(His twitter handle @UcrossPop25 comes from the Town he currently lives in… Ucross, Wyoming… which currently has a population of 25 folks).

He sometimes also offers short stories to his readers, in exchange for signing up for the mailing list (although, other than the December 2012 Christmas short story, I have received no email from him… save a “Thank you, you are officially deputized” acknowledgement.)

I am pretty select in my choice of reading, especially with regards to mystery novels, yet I have added him to my list of favorite authors, alongside Robert Parker, Rex Stout, Robert Crais & Michael Connelly.  I’m sure you will, as well !!!

 

 

MyVegas Game on Facebook

Recently, our family took a trip to Las Vegas, to celebrate my nieces 21st Birthday.MyVegas - How to play MyVegas - BobBlahBlah.com

While we were there, I saw a LOT of advertising at MGM Resort properties for a game called MyVegas, which (unlike most Casino games) is played on Facebook.

MyVegas - How to play MyVegas - BobBlahBlah.comThe difference being, that MyVegas is a Facebook game, played to win real-life Las Vegas rewards at MGM Resort properties.

There is no cost to play (other than you have to have a Facebook account) and, although you can BUY chips, so far I’ve played enough to get a couple of free show tickets (a couple of hundred dollar value) without buying anything.

Because it is SUCH a new game (there are new aspects to the promotion that were unveiled less than a week ago) it is constantly changing, which from a marketing geek’s perspective, is quite fun to watch them try to engage and maintain their customer’s interest.

I’ve got a website detailing some of my observations and findings at http://LetTheChipsFall.com

Check it out, if it sounds like something you might be interested in !!!

(Getting stuff for free, is NEVER a bad thing, right ???)

Good luck !!!

 

 

 

Spirit Day

Purple Square - Spirit Day - BobBlahBlah.comToday is Spirit Day…

Recently we all heard about cyber-bullying causing a teen to commit suicide…

And we all rally around the sentiment “It Gets Better”

But does it ?

Tonight, I am watching on twitter, as adults spew venomous vitriol on Whoopi Goldberg, (@WhoopiGoldberg)  for her question to Ann Romney on The View, about the Mormon faith, and asking to clarify whether the faith precluded Mitt Romney or his five sons from military service.

She is being attacked, not with reason or argument, but with the blunt force of hate and vile insults.

I don’t know that we can say “It Gets Better”… I just think the venue changes for the playground bully, who, after graduation, can go online and throw stones from the safety of an anonymous twitter or facebook account.

Cyber-bullying is not something restricted to any particular age, religion or political view… but the rules have to change.

I do not like censorship.

But I dislike HATE SPEAK more.

 

 

Giving Thanks

It being Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, it seemed like an appropriate time to “take stock” and give thanks.*

Thanks to the weatherman, for the sunshine, and for making us believe it is August in October.

Thanks to Mom Nature, for giving me a reason (and the option) of going outside to rake up crunchy leaves and breathe in the fresh, warm air.

Thanks to Lorie’s family for sharing wonderful meals and evenings of fun, warmth and laughter.

Thanks to my family for always being there, even when they’re not right here.

Thanks to friends (both IRL and online) for their friendship, thoughts, debates, discussions and (on this weekend) good wishes.

Thanks to my clients, who took a chance on a one-guy start-up, and trusted both my opinions and my work ethic.

Thanks to my partners, for trusting me with their projects and ideas.

Corona Beer - Giving Thanks - BobBlahBlah.comThanks to the folks at Corona for making “La Cerveza Mas Fina” (…and curse them for it going down so quickly after a hot afternoon, outside)

There are many others, who I thank for the value and richness they bring to my life.

But mostly, I thank my sweetie for being my best friend, and always being able to laugh, even when the wind is blowing a gale.

Hope everyone has a great (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend !!!

* The list isn’t complete, but heavily influenced by the last 24 hours and two beers that went down FAR too quickly. : )

 

 

Rogers Wireless – Good, Bad And Indifferent

Recently, I’ve had a LOT of interactions with the folks at Rogers Wireless.

Rogers Wireless - BobBlahblah.com

 

To say my experiences have been uneven, would be an understatement.

I am a Blackberry guy… One of those die-hards that love our phones, and cling to them with a fear that an Android or I-Phone user will somehow snatch it from us.

I have been trying to hold out for the BB10 OS phones, but they keep getting delayed, and the trackball on my old BB9000 keeps dying.

It locked up a few weeks ago, and literally, as I was on my way out the door to go to the Rogers Store, I got a call from Rogers, asking if I wanted to upgrade my phone.  (Insert Twilight Zone music here)

I said yes, and discussed with the gent on the phone the options I wanted, and he suggested the 9810.  He also suggested tweaking my plan, to better suit my needs.

I then got passed along to a “Order Confirmation Specialist”, who confirmed all the aspects of my order, the changes to my plan, and confirmed my account information.

Two days later, I got my new Blackberry… in White.

(I’m a slob, and cannot wear white shirts, drive a white car, use a white computer or have a white phone.)

I called up Rogers, explained the problem, saying that my assumption was they would send me a black phone, like the last three phones… they said “No problem. Ship it back, and we will let you know when we get it back, and you can go to a store, to pick up the one you want.”

Slight delay, modest frustration (my trackball wasn’t working properly) but I dealt with it.

Call Rogers a week later, and yes, they have received my phone back, and I can go pick up the phone I want at any Rogers store.

I went to three different stores, and none stock the 9810… which made me ask the question: “Why?”

I gathered, without anyone saying it, that it just wasn’t a popular phone, so perhaps I would be happier with the more popular 9900 ?

Yes, I am.

The gent (Ravi Chima) who helped me, at the Coquitlam Centre Rogers Store, was awesome.  Going through the details of the phone, the contract and touching on a few of the features I might not know about.

Then, this morning, I get a call from Rogers, asking me if I would like to review and adjust my plan…

“I just did that a week ago”

This call is not being charged to your cell phone…

“No, it is not… You called me on my home phone.”

* Long pause *

Can I please have some personal information to verify your identification ?

“No.  You called me.  If you don’t know who you are speaking to, where you called them, or whether I have updated my plan recently, I’m not giving you ANY information.”

She thanked me for my time, and gave me a number to call, in case I had any questions.

 

I am ALL FOR good customer service.

But there is a difference between “busy work” and “customer care.”

Busy work, is always moving, always working… but not working SMART.  Not taking into account the customers’ needs, or assessing them as individuals.  It puts ALL customers into one category, and assumes all customers need the same things.

An awful lot of people at Rogers seem to be engaged in busy work.

It takes lots of energy, but is FAR from effective.

I would call them, but the last time I made a comment on their customer service, they robo-called me three times, asking for feedback on my customer service phone experience.

I love energetic and enthusiastic customer service… but there HAS to be a level of autonomy and intelligence applied.

Customer Service Reps shouldn’t be script-reading robots… If THEY are calling me…  they should ask if I like my new phone, if I have any questions or concerns, and then thank me for my business and my time.

Don’t make me second guess my choice, right after I made a purchase.  That is just busy work.

* NOTE: Less than one hour after posting this, I had received the following comment:

Hi Bob,

This is Nicolas from Rogers.

Our apologies for some of the experiences you’ve had. You’re raising some valid points and I shared your blog post with our internal teams.

For future, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via Twitter @RogersHelps or Facebook and we’ll help!

@RogersNicolas

Maybe it is lip service, or maybe something was gained. It will be interesting to see !

 

 

Pride Day

Pride Flag - BobBlahBlah.com

Today is Pride Day in a lot of cities.

I am not a member of the LGBTQ community, but I talk about it a lot, because (in my opinion) the more things are discussed… the more they become accepted and “normal”.

A new, wonderful and inclusive normal.

My parents always taught us to never judge or disparage someone because they were different from us, but to value each person for what they offer.

I’m not going to the Pride Parade, but I have Gay and Lesbian friends who I appreciate and love, and I celebrate the rainbow flag today with them, and share it with you.

Happy Pride Day !!!

 

 

I’ve Got A Nikon Camera

Just acquired a gently used Nikon DSLR camera…  My sweetie wanted some photos taken of our garden…  Sun is shining… Happy serendipity !

hydrangea hydrangea back garden hydrangea
back garden hydrangea metal flower garden sculpture garden sign
faery door / fairy door faery door / fairy door garden doodah / windchime
garden entrance / walkway coffee pot lamp - daytime coffee pot lamp - nightime
hydrangea light fixture / bird bath

Click on any image to open in a pop-up viewer

 

 

 

Canada Day – The Perspective Of A Mountie

I just received this article from a friend, and thought I would share.

In spite of some recent news stories that paint the RCMP in a bad light, the sight of an RCMP Officer in Red Serge is still an inspiring and wonderfully iconic image.

The heritage and honour of the uniform gets put into a historic context, that some recent news stories and internal issues cannot tarnish*.

www.rcmpveteransvancouver.com/canada-day-the-perspective-of-a-mountie/

Andy Martin - Red Serge - RCMP

 * I do not mean to dismiss or diminish the challenges facing the RCMP… but THAT is not what THIS post is about.

Printer Tray Coffee Table

Recently, my wife and I found an old dining room table that was (pun intended) on its last legs.

The beautiful character of the wood and gorgeous patina were two things that drew us to it.

The warps, wanes and antique hardware were some of the challenges.

We cut the legs down, made the sides and drawer front out of the top, and added three typesetting trays for the top.

Then came the fun part, after the work… putting our treasures into the individual slots !!!

Printer Tray Coffee Table - BobBlahBlah.com Printer Tray Coffee Table - BobBlahBlah.com
Printer Tray Coffee Table - BobBlahBlah.com Printer Tray Coffee Table - BobBlahBlah.com
Printer Tray Coffee Table - BobBlahBlah.com Printer Tray Coffee Table - BobBlahBlah.com

 (Click on an image above to get a closer look)

Northern Voice 2012

Northern Voice - The Moose Is Loose - Blogging and Social Media Conference

This past Friday and Saturday, I attended Northern Voice: a Blogging and Social Media Conference in Vancouver.

This year, the organizers moved the venue from UBC to the newly renovated Woodwards Building, now called W2.  Kudos to them for a great change.  The rooms were better suited to the crowd, and the wifi (for a large crowd of highly connected people) seemed to cope nicely.

This year, there were a number of high profile bloggers who were unable to attend: @Miss604, @Hummingbird604, @AprilFilms among them.  But this conference is also about networking, connecting and engaging, and meeting with old friends, as well as those who you know online, but haven’t met IRL (in real life.)  As with any conference of people with similar interests, there was lots of connecting with new tweeps (people from Twitter) as well.  Throughout the conference this was the case, as people look at name tags, trying to match sometimes obscure twitter avi’s to the faces in the crowd.

Friday:

The conference kicked off with a keynote by Open Media, talking about crafting a message via web and Social Media engagement, and leveraging interested parties to act in their own best interests. 

Northern Voice Conference - W2 Atrium with a basketball court in the centre

After a self-imposed technical time out, where I sat in a corner, looking out over the W2 atrium, and watching a guy play basketball, while recharging both my dead blackberry and dead netbook, I joined the “Blogging to Inspire” session, just in time to catch the nugget: “Blogging should never be a ‘chore.’ Pause life and give yourself permission to take the time.

Other than keynote speakers, there were frequently three sessions going on simultaneously, and it was often difficult to choose, but throughout the conference, it was great to be able to “keep an eye” on the other sessions by tracking the #NV12 hashtag on Twitter. (Even as I write this, I can review my timeline and the timeline of other participants by searching that hashtag.)

Northern Voice Conference - Blogging To Inspire panel

Next came lunch, which was (to me) both a mystery and a delight, as the W2 Cafe served meals that were tasty and refined beyond my palate.  There were options: meat, vegetarian and gluten free.  My choice was: “Elk Chili with roasted fennel, parsnip and baby carrots in an aromatic tomato sauce, gluten free. Served with oaten bannock. Dessert was an apple rhubard tart.” Like I said before… I am unable to quantify or identify flavours, but suffice to say, it was yummy.

After lunch, we split up again, and I journeyed back to the BASSment (That is what they officially call the room) for “PhotoCamp“, where John Biehler, Ariane Colenbrander, Morten Rand-Hendricksen and Syx Langemann worked through a variety of aspects of taking pictures… from picture composition,  lenses, brand of Cameras choice, photo syncing software, to the best bag to carry and protect your cameras.

Among the nuggets: “Use a business card/napkin/whatever, and place it in front of your flash, to diffuse the light, whether from a popup flash, or from multiple light sources.” …in  that way: “Light can be delivered as a “hug” illuminating and cradling your subject, rather than a “punch” of light, throwing contrast and shadows where you don’t want them.

Syx was thrown a curve, as his prepared presentation (reportedly) didn’t work, but instead he delighted the crowd, walking us through the set ups and process he had undertaken, to achieve some very striking and genuine photos he had recently taken, with both members of his family that he knew well… and some he had only met that day, and the methods he had used to put the subjects at ease and engage them, in order to capture their essence.  Incredibly informative.  @Fraseropolis suggested adding a link to Syx’s site, and I whole-heartedly agree, so here it is:   SyxLangemannPhotography.com 

John Biehler talked about Light Painting, which is very cool, and I’m not going to try to define it.  But, if you are a camera wonk, you should Google it, and check it out.

My day wrapped up with Kemp Edmonds talking about “Lifelong Learning.”  Nuggets from Kemp include: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is _______” …whatever it is that is holding you back.  and the thought that the most precious gift we can give the youth of tomorrow is the ability to “Find, filter and evaluate online content.”  Many of the speakers had links that they posted, so content could be reviewed after the fact… for instance, Kemp’s talk was posted at:  kempe.me/kempnv12

My end of day twitter comment to a friend was: “Northern Voice is ALWAYS a blast.  You never know where inspiration and learning will come from, but it will always be there.”

Saturday:

The Conference kicked off its second day with Blaine Cook delivering a keynote on “The Wild Future“, which was an existential trip through connectivity, architecture and anarchic networks ?!?  (Note to the Conference Organizers: IF you are going to challenge us like this first thing in the morning… the SFU Theatre needs to be a caffeine friendly zone.)

Doug Blackie then tried to take a light-hearted look “Inside The Blogger’s Brain“, but got his audience defensive when he identified all Bloggers as one of six types:

1) Virgin (Use comic sans a LOT)

2) Expert (highly technical know it all nutjobs)

3) Topic-Matic (ALLL over the subject matter map)

4) Axe Grinder (Blog is their platform/pulpit)

5) Therapists (Love to sell stuff)

6) Sleazeball whore (will blog for tix)

Northern Voice Conference - Inside The Bloggers Brain

Most people who didn’t laugh at the “pigeon-holing” seemed to take exception to description 6.  Personally, I think that the tag ‘Citizen Journalist/Blogger’ has become a license for SOME to believe that they are able to compete with the larger Mainstream Media, but without having to hold themselves to the same critical assessment of being unbiased and balanced.

For example, a Food Blogger who announces his presence to a restaurant, and asks for a meal to be comped, in order to Blog the restaurant is (IMO) unlikely to have a “regular”  experience… But that is another discussion for another day !

He did have some very good points, which seemed to get lost in the “typecasting” hubbub…

Blogger types: Don’t get caught being a cliche or stereotype.

Avoiding the pitfalls in Blogging: Consistency / Accuracy / Brevity / Authenticity

Mike Vardy took us through the next session, talking about “Better Blogging Productivity“, and (for me) the important distinction between ‘distractions’ and ‘disruptions’:  When thinking about sitting down to write a blog, you can close your email, shut down Twitter, close Facebook and turn off the TV.  Those are distractions, and you can control them.  If someone starts a fire, and you have to go douse flames… that is a disruption, and not much you can do about it.  But it is important to set aside a time to write, and to OPTIMIZE that time, by removing distractions.

The other point that caught my attention was how important it is (if you want to grow your audience) to “Build a schedule” to push posts out, and in that way, not ‘abandon’ your readers.

Felice Lam tweeted (from this same talk)

Discipline isn’t enough. You need willpower. We all have the same amount of time. [Have no fear.] @mikevardy #nv12

Lunch followed this, with my selection being Shahi Murgh ?!? (Royal Chicken cooked in yoghurt)  Again, most excellent.

After this, my conference day ended… (I sadly had to leave early for a family event) …with the wacky, zany and always entertaining Shane Birley taking a “Quantum Leap” through his old blog posts, to find “The Evolution Of The Personal Voice”

Shane took us on a trip through time, stopping at various blog posts that served as markers on his Blogging journey:

Self doubt: “Self” I said, “You had better have something useful and good to say.

On being told he was being downsized: “#@%% YOU! I have a blog!

On realizing he had returned to “the present”: “Where… Am……… I ???” @shanebee giving his best James T Kirk impression

Northern Voice Conference - Shane Birley - Making a Quantum Leap

Very funny, and at the same time, reassuring… that all Bloggers have the same doubts, concerns, inner dialogues… but that if we trust our self’ we find that our sense of direction is usually pretty good !!!

The last and final “take away” from the Northern Voice conference is that each of us needs a huge honking projector to project our blogs onto walls, so that the sheer size makes them impressive !!!

The Northern Voice Conference is held annually, and (sometimes) the presentations are caught and links provided after the fact.  The website is http://2012.northernvoice.ca/

If you have an opportunity to attend a future conference, I would highly recommend it.  I’ve been the last three years, and I ALWAYS come away with new information, with batteries on my technology depleted, but my OWN batteries recharged !!!