Technology break

My kids balked at the thought. They were filled with panic….and then questions. How does one go without technology for a whole long weekend? And, why?

I think my kids are like most of their age. Access to computers at home, and in the case of my son, takes one to school. They both have iPhones, sans SIM cards, so basically iPods. But they run IOS version 4, which allows for robust parental controls. Yet, still – they manage to navigate into territory we had not imagined or intended.

But that is not the reason for the ban, I mean break. I have been wanting to do this for a long time. Give it a try before our children became so entrenched that a weekend break would not be possible.

For two and a half weeks in Mexico last year, we had no computers for the kids. The compromise was iPhones. They stared at those little blue screens everywhere but the beach. The devices are like pacifiers. In an effort to well-behaved children, the technology is a big help. But I miss something about spending time together. The interaction is not the same.

For this weekend, I asked the kids to imagine we were living in the 1980’s. The reaction to what life was like then is interesting.

  • They both had visions of Pac Man. Yeah, only if you got on your bike and rode to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters, which your parents likely wouldn’t allow.
  • How do they talk to their friends without texting? The telephone is not how kids communicate these days.
  • I allowed Netflix and movies from iTunes, (we don’t really have regular cable TV and video stores are not available anymore). Last night, we watched “Saving Mr. Banks” and my children are so fixed on knowing what happens next, (immediately), they drown out the onscreen action with – “what happens next?” Effectively, their attention span has dwindled with their increasing need for immediate gratification.
  • My husband loathes board games, but has agreed to play “21”, which is really blackjack, which is really endorsing poker. But, I was raised on this card game, it was a staple in my 1980’s home.
  • Settlers of CatanI agreed to purchase a new board game – Catan. That was the kind of thing that would have captured my imagination as a child, not surprising my Son is very interested. But, not until Saturday. No stores are open in our community on Good Friday!


We’ve got a break in the rain today, sunny skies and an adventure into the world before technology as my children have grown accustomed to.

Slide to off

I learned something important this vacation. How to slide the little button into the off position. Miracle for me. Unfortunately I didn’t think of it until Thursday morning. As I lay awake at 3:50am with my mind racing about the work email I had read and responded to before bed, I thought – there has to be a better way!

One of my problems is the increasing count. That little red circle which shows the number of unread emails. It fills me with a certain level of anxiety to watch the number climb. I take a peek, then open one and then respond to one and then I’m awake in the middle of the night on holidays!

So I slid the “mail” function to off in my settings. The number disappeared along with my curiosity and anxiety. Poof, gone. I’m not even going to slide it back until Monday morning. Aside from Mexico at Christmas when most people were also on holidays, this has been an amazing couple of days. A simple little action which tricks my mind into complete relaxation – brilliant! I only wish to have known about this sooner.



It is the score I always strive for. I see perfection as the same. Riding off in the sunset with Prince Charming.

Yeah, right. I’m also a realist. I like facts, not just ideas. I love statistics.

But when 100% is bestowed on me for some minor accomplishment, I get such a thrill. There is probably a clinical theory for how my ego is taking over my true personality and filling me with an unhealthy dose of bad brain chemicals. Who cares, I like the feeling just the same.

There was a time that I did strive for 100% on exams. Those were the days when schools still gave out those kind of scores in the lower grade levels. Then came the notion of the bell curve. I was shocked to discover that one had to be near perfect to receive 100%. I’m no dummy, who wants to care that much about the biology of a frog, calculate the slope of a curve or know that much about Shakespeare?

It turns out, most workplaces use this bell curve to score their employees. Flashback city. Who knew, the bell curve was something useful to learn because it would continue to haunt me well beyond high school.

Being the literal, fact-based kind of person I am has made it difficult to separate a score on a bell curve which conveys a judgement on performance from my sense of self-worth.

I read a report recently which stated that happy people make more money. We know that money does not make people happy, so how did these people become happy? The are in the same workplaces as the rest of us. The report didn’t yield any facts. So one has to conclude that each person carries with them, a unique ability to score themselves.

Oh, don’t keep reading for a list of secret points to guide you. I’m trying to figure it out for myself. Every post of this blog lists some of the good ideas I come across. That is my way to move through this maze of life, since I am no princess. Therefore no Charming scooped me up.

But I did get a score of 100% last night. It was something I did in my bed. An iPhone app rendered the result. Whatever you are thinking, it was not that.

Sleep cycle – 100%! I won’t deny it. Made me very happy.

Sleep cycle

The Good Life List

This morning my husband and I were discussing my blog. It was a lazy Sunday morning and neither of us had anywhere to go or anything to do. We were snacking on breakfast and sipping coffee. I finally had his undivided attention to ask all the questions I wanted.

But it is not that easy. I can ask all kind of technical questions, but when he gives me the answers, it is like he is speaking a different language. What is the difference between a domain name and a URL? How do I get my own domain name and what should it be? When my husband patiently explains the differences, using my computer and his iPad as the example, my only response is another question. And then he says, “OK so you don’t really understand.”

That was where we started 2 years ago when I started this blog. He promised to help me get it up and running. But when the time came, he claimed to be busy and encouraged me by saying, “you can do it.”

Well, I did figure out most of the basic word press features for myself. My Mom, who operates her own blog, (As I Age) was a better resource. But I am only dipping my toe into the world of word press and what it could do for me. That is a bit of a shame, really.

So today, I jumped into the deep end, (with my husband’s step by step instructions). I got my own domain name and I am running the “pro” version where no advertising should appear. The blog itself has not changed, but I think the line at the top should read

That’s a pretty big deal, because it takes me one step closer to making this blog a reflection of what interests me most. So the timing was perfect. The sun was shinning. The future looks bright.

Look for more tweaks as Spring turns into Summer, and Fall and possibly Winter. It all takes time, of which I am in short supply.


“If music be the food of love, play on.”   ~William Shakespeare

I was searching for an app that would turn my iPad into a clock radio in the morning. If I have to get up at a certain time, the sound has to be better than the blasting alarm that makes my heart skip a beat with it vicious noise.

songza iconI stumbled across “Songza”.

What I discovered is a streaming music app that creates playlists for every mood or situation you can think of. There are other services available, depending on where you live. Being in Canada, it seemed that we were being blocked. I’m not sure how that was being done, but it really made me angry. Every time someone told me how great “Spotify” was, I was newly disappointed.

As I write this, I am listening to a playlist for Sunday afternoon, based on my preferences. In the course of around 100 songs, I am exposed to so many new songs and artists, or oldies that I don’t own and have not heard for a while. Unlike radio, there does not seem to be a formula, where every 5th song is predictably going to be from a “top 40” chart topper.

And of course there is an option to buy anything you hear – brilliant.

It never ceases to amaze me, the power of music. I am more inspired, productive and generally happy with the right playlist going. I don’t have time to be my own personal deejay. Songza does it for me.

en Cinemex La Paz Platino

I never wanted to be one of those people who you hear of, who go to the movies on holidays. It seems like a waste of time. Why would you do something that can be done at home?

That was my more productive, goal oriented and rather uptight self. The person who judges the quality of the activity, not how much it is enjoyed. And who am I to judge, if I never take part?

After 12 days of relaxing in the sun and slowing down to the pace of life in the Baja, my mind has started to relax. There are so many things different here, that even a movie, surely, will be quite different.

To start, paying for movie tickets in Spanish is a walk on the wild side. Particularly when we wanted Platino, (Platinum) service and were not standing at the correct ticket counter. We just about got frustrated enough to walk away at that point. The young woman at the counter did not want to speak into my husband’s iPhone translator. But, she summoned someone else to help, who spoke a fraction more English and practically held our hands, walking us over to the “back” ticket counter.

Tickets paid for and seats selected, we were through the sliding doors to the VIP room. Full bar and menu, where the order is placed and then waiters bring everything to your seats. This took awhile with the iPhone translator. I went with empanadas and cerveza. That is something we could not get at home. (My old self is still lurking there, close to the surface).

Cinemex lounge

Off to the theatre. We were the first to arrive and instead of the room smelling of stale popcorn, it smelt like leather. The seats were plush, with foot rests and reclining backs. A glass table swings in front for eating and holding drinks. There is a call button. When the movie started, I almost felt like I was on an airplane and should be buckling up my seat belt. (If only I flew in those kind of seats!)

Cinemax seats

After the movie, I marvelled at how amazing the experience was. And to think, I was not even sure I wanted to do it in the first place.


It is that time of year. Dig out all your account numbers and passwords. Filter through screen after screen of “redeem” offers. Narrow down a list of what your accumulated miles could buy you. Weigh that against cash value. Then make the selections….and press “enter”.

Of course, I wish it were that easy. Theoretically it is, I know. But, it somehow feels like spending money. Maybe even more than money. I have spent a “time value” of my life for each of those miles. That is serious “sweat equity”. All that time, I won’t get back.

But what is money anyway? Just a measure of the time spent working at a job, an amount of cash paid for that service. That time is spent forever as well. Somehow my work hours are a whole lot more fun than the ones spent on an airplane.

However, work for cash, never feels like a Christmas present, no matter how much you love your job. This year my line-up of mile redemptions feels very Christmasy.

  • First up is 8 – $25 iTunes cards. Easy, no brainer, great gifts to give.
  • Second is 2 rooms at the Westin nearby LAX. That is a convoluted story, where my last air miles redemption resulted in an over night stay on the way home. (They get you coming and going)
  • Then there is a thought to get my husband something he really wants – like a 13″ MacBook Air. I have just enough miles for that, and it should arrive just before we leave on Christmas vacation.

Those 3 will clean out my accounts. Back to square one, but it always feels like found money. And who doesn’t like the feeling of putting on a coat in the fall and discovering some cash in the pocket, leftover from last year?

Love a new solution

I’ve been wandering around for months, since the summer really, trying to understand how I was going to get the RSS feeds I like to read showing up seamlessly between my Mac and my iPad.

During the summer, when I was away at the cabin, I had my personal Mac with me and I easily kept up with all the news that I deem worthy of reading. But when I travel for work, which is a lot, I can’t really be lugging around 2 laptops. (My company prefers all personal software applications not be installed on work issued hardware.)

Enter my personal iPad. It is entertainment at your fingertips. I take it everywhere with me. But, the program I was using to read RSS feeds was not synching at all, (let alone seamlessly as advertised), between my Mac and my iPad. I became so hopelessly behind on my reading, I didn’t dare open up the program for fear that the unread number would be 5 or 6 digits long.

All the while I kept thinking, there has to be a better way. Now I should clarify for all you “google everything” people out there – I know. Meaning I know you guys have the perfect solution already bundled up in your google account. But way back when, I started on yahoo email and I am not going to have another account just to have sync services work properly.

So today, I had the morning to myself and I was determined to conquer this problem. And I did. Welcome to PULP. For $15, ($10 for my Mac and $5 for my iPad) and not even 10 minutes of my time – presto! All my problems are completely solved. And the best part is that I really, really love the look of this program. The way you navigate, particularly on the iPad is amazing, pictures for everything, it is down right sexy. Can you say that about a computer program?

But seriously, it is really the simple things in life that are the best. I had a problem, (albeit took months to find the time and it was nagging at me always), and I solved it without anyone else having to help me. And now I can say that I really do love the solution.

Old friends

It is what I like most about social networking. Finding, (or them finding you), old friends.

It was not that long ago, that the effort required in keeping up a long distance friendship involved quite a bit more effort. For those who are my age, you remember the time it took to painstakingly write the letter, post it and wait for the response.

Now we are keeping up so instantly, that when I get my sister’s emails that summarize a week of her life, it is almost “old news“. Except that she doesn’t social network, so there is no way of knowing what is going on with her unless I get her email updates. Darn, she has me there. She will not join in and play with us, not matter how hard we try. My husband even started a FB page dedicated to the people who wanted her to join. No amount of pressure can make that woman change her mind!

But I digress…

What I like about all the different avenues of interaction over the web, is the opportunity to connect and communicate on so many different levels, at your own discretion. With a few words you can let someone know you are thinking about them. That can really make my day.

So for me, technology has made it far easier to revive and enrich my friendships, and that is some pretty good stuff.

Feel Good Radio

Ever since I decided to create this blog and focus on “the good life”, I am noticing good things everywhere I look. The latest is 97.7 on the FM dial in Calgary. It is called “Up”, (as in turn it up), Calgary’s feel good radio.

On my latest car trip in and out of Calgary, I had 3 hours or about 300km to kill. The really nice thing about the prairies is that the land is so flat that you can get radio signals from very far away. (You thought I was going to say the best thing was that you can see your dog run away for a week!) I lose radio about 3 blocks from my house as I descend the hillside to the beach away from the signals in Vancouver.

This radio station is a pleasant surprise. The song choices are really feel good music, they made me smile. And I did find myself turning it up, so the marketing is more than hype. (That in itself is a treat!) When I leave Calgary, I am going to try to get this on my iPad/iPhone app Tune-in Radio where, through wi-fi, I can get radio signals from around the world.

Life on the light side

That is the light colour case with the little glowing apple missing a small bite.

How did we go from not owning a single device just a mere 20 years ago, to now having:

  • 2 iPhones
  • 2 nanos
  • 1 iTouch
  • 1 iPad
  • 2 MacBook Pros
  • 2 other black cased laptops
  • 1 windows desktop that we call “Blaze”

Only 27% of these devices are not made by Apple, not sure why that happened. Other than to say, we have completely bought into the genius of the Apple marketing machine. And if it is that simple, then I am fine with it. There is not a day goes by when I am using one of my devices and I gladly express how much I like it. It makes my life easier and more fun in so many different ways.

It should be noted that although the list of devices does seem excessive for 4 people, (2 of them children), I can explain. One of the iPhones was provided by my work and they may want it back at some point, but I’ll gladly buy it, (I LOVE it). One of the nanos is AWOL and the other is so hopelessly 1st generation it sits in a drawer. The iTouch is closely guarded by my son as “his” but it did start out as mine. But I didn’t need it once I came into ownership of the iPad, (which I love beyond words to explain fully). Then I needed a “home” computer just for me, so the first MacBook Pro entered our life this Spring, (I am not even counting in this list the MacBook Pro I use for work). MacBook Pro #2 came into our lives on the weekend….it is running the Beta version of OS X Lion and will be for my son’s use this fall to and from school, (Grade 5 – can you believe it?)

I wouldn’t say we are dependent on these things, I remember very clearly what it was like to work without them. But I would never have dreamed of sitting here tonight typing out a post for my own blog using my own portable computer. I used my iPad for recipes/menus tonight while cooking dinner. My phone is on the go from morning to night, (it never rests poor thing).

When you take all these things together, it is pretty good stuff as far as I am concerned.


The only real criticism that I had once heard of an iPhone was the lack of chatting ability like Blackberry Messenger. Valid concern, but not a real one. Enter WhatsApp, a cross-platform application that allows everyone to chat using “a data plan” no matter which smart phone device you are using, brilliant! Whats more is the push technology that allows instant messages, from anywhere in the world.

On a recent trip through Asia, I linked my phone to the free wireless in my hotel and then downloaded videos of my kids getting their MMA belt promotion. Added to the fact that I can be in contact with my husband without paying per text message. (On Canadian plans it can be very spendy.)

To all my family and friends, please get this app for your smart phone so we can start chatting!

Too organized?

The other day I was getting pretty frustrated by having to organize 4 people in my house. Just me, no problem – I can do that with ridiculous jet lag, in a foreign language, pretty much with my eyes closed. When my husband travels, I can manage the kids on top of my schedule with relative ease. But when my husband comes home and decides that my son needs another sport, on top of everything else, I’m tapped out.

So in desperation the other day, I started searching for an app. Someone else must have had this problem before me. Sure enough, there is an app called “cozi” that drives off a website where all your family appointments are kept. Brilliant! You can send emails or texts to remind family members of appointments and even send out a week at a glance. Shopping lists, to do’s and notes to post pictures, as well as a whole website of ideas about organizing a family!

It is the miracle of the internet that I was able to connect with people, (or the fruits of their labour), that are just like me. It is a lonely road being the one running around trying to keep everyone going in the right direction. I feel like a herding dog.

This morning our first grocery list was created. My son opted out of laundry and with iPad in hand he checked off everything and made sure we got all the list items at the store. He thanked me for letting him come grocery shopping. I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but for today it made for a very nice experience.