when you blog, what comes first; the chicken or the egg?

In some respects, blogging transports me back in time.  It takes me back to one of the language classes in school.  The teacher is sitting (or standing) in front of the class, a small smile twitching at the corner of her mouth while we scramble in behind our school desks.

I loved my language classes.  I didn’t always get all the rules and stuff right.  But I loved … well, I loved the reading part of it – the oral classes, not so much.  I just wanted to understand what other people were saying.  I didn’t really see the need to talk to them.

Anyhoo, back to the language teach’s secretive (or was that evil?) smile.  It had to do with something she knew was not a particular favourite assignment for most students. “Today you will write an essay.  You can write about anything you like.  You have to use 350 words – no less, no more.  You have until the end of this class period to finish.”

BLANK.

Oh jeez, what will I write about?! 

BLANK.

Come on, come on.  Think of something!  She said to write about anything.  Think girl, think!!!

BLANK.  

Seriously?!  You only have 35 minutes.  Wait, no – it is now only 30 minutes.  Three hundred words and 30 minutes!  Too bad they got wise and took away line counts.  I could just write one, skip one.  Words, must be lots of words now.  Ugh!  Shouldn’t panic.

BLANK.

Everyone else is writing.  What is everyone else writing about?

 THOUGHT (fades away).  BLANK.  THOUGHT (fades in).

Okay, she wants me to write about anything?  Anything it is then.  She better not deduct points if she doesn’t like my topic!

Sometimes it is easier to write when someone gives you a topic.  I like having the chicken first.  But that only works when you have a clue about anything chicken.  Other times it really is nice to start with the egg.  You can let it grow into the chicken you want.

Yep, sometimes blogging really does transport me back in time.

Uhm… wanna guess how long it took me to write this post?  😀

dream, dream, dreeaaeam

I never really thought about it, but a person actually dreams in more ways than one.

The most familiar form of dreaming is when we are in a state of rest – what the experts call REM sleep.  Think about it.  Where do you go, what do you do, what do you experience when you are in dreamland?  There are so many connotations assigned to the perception of what and why we dream.  We might want to escape into a reality where we made better choices.  Or where our “bad” choices had better outcomes.  While in dream state we might actually be communicating in a higher, freer plain of existence.  Some of us may think of a dream as a message, a forewarning of what is to come.  A prediction of sorts.

The other form of dreaming is born from somewhere else.  The hankering to be more.  To make a difference.  It is the kind of dream I would refer to as a “life-dream”.  But how would one define a “life-dream”?  Or wait, a better question might be:  Should a “life-dream” be limited by a definition?.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”.  It is probably safe to assume that this question falls under the “life-dream” category.  It is also the question most often asked of young minds.  As children we see a hero at least once.  It might be a doctor or a nurse who helped heal a loved one.  It might be a policeman who helped your family out of a jam.  A veterinarian who saved your dear pet.  A fireman who rushed into a burning building to safe a total stranger or someone you know.  A teacher.  The list goes on.

There should be more questions under the “life-dream” category I think.  How often do we think to ask them?  Maybe we don’t ask them because we assume that a young mind is just that – too young to understand the question.  That might well be true. So we focus on the one question that everyone asks and everyone answers.  Isn’t there danger that choices will be ruled by the answer to that lone question?

In my opinion questions train us to search for answers.  Our brains work harder to find solutions, the truth… our truth.  It even helps with emotional growth.

So, what questions would you file under the “life-dream” category?  Here are some I would add.

* Who do you want to be as a person?

* Where would you like to live when you are a grown-up?

* Do you want to focus on only one career?

Who can say when a life-dream will be born?  Or what a person’s life-dream(s) will be?  It is different for everyone.   Some of us dream big, some dream small.  Some think they have no dream at all.  It is all a matter of perception and opinion.

One can never be too young or too old to start dreaming.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lunchtime

One of my “Hilda-moments” – just in time to join in the fun of the latest photo challenge.

We have a TV Soap here in South Africa called “7de Laan” (7th Avenue).  One of the characters is a reed thin lady called Hilda and she works in a Deli.  She loves to try new combinations of things and it doesn’t always come out tasting good or even edible.  I can relate.  I love playing with combinations in the kitchen and rarely use a cookbook.

Last weekend I offered to make a green salad to take to a braai (barbeque) and I went shopping with my taste buds.  Surprisingly enough it worked out pretty well.  It had a nice crisp, sharp and “mellow” taste, which I craved today… so voila!

salad ingredients

most of what goes into the salad

What I love about “green” salads is that you can put anything you like in it.  This time I started my layers with banana at the bottom, add thin slices of onion, mushrooms sprinkled with ground black pepper.  To keep the banana from discoloring I drip over some of the gherkin dill sauce.  Next up are carrot sticks, thin slices of the various peppers and the diced apple.  Follow this with the cocktail tomatoes cut in half.  I usually add a little more black pepper at this stage.  Now add a couple of gherkins, some feta cheese and top off with lettuce.  Of course, to keep everything nice and moist I add some more of the dill sauce.  I don’t really like salad dressing, preferring the natural taste of the goodies.

open pita

filling the pita

While the flavours in the salad blended I browned a small pita bread.  Now I know one is supposed to use these things as a pocket, but I don’t like it.  I always end up with dry bits.  So I slice it open all the way through, spread a thin layer of margarine and a little bit of sweet chilly sauce on it while it is still warm.

salad pita

salad pita

Fill it up with your salad and you’ve got yourself a salad pita for lunch!

how (e)secure are we?

The other day I was chatting with someone who works for (one of) our largest communications network(s) and he said something that made me think.  Are we too trusting of the promised security for our on-line dealings?

Netting

Over the years I’ve crossed paths with people (mostly older generation) who shy away from using the Internet and even computers.  When I asked them “why?” the answer is always the same.  They don’t trust computers.  Okay, I can understand that, if you consider the term “computer” to include the person behind the keyboard.  The thought of having your information on a large network is scary.  Especially if you watch movies like The Net. In that storyline even a woman with really advanced computer skills couldn’t prevent her life from being “erased”. Granted, the main character in the movie was an “easy target” since she practically lived digital and didn’t really interact with anyone face to face.  No-one ever saw her, so no-one could vouch for her and do a visual verification of her identity.  So, she didn’t exist.  Yep, that is a scary thought.

I still remember my apprehension when I first started working on computers.  I didn’t get formal training – I just kinda plunged in.  It was really stressful because I didn’t know what to expect and how to reverse an error.  It wasn’t like a piece of paper that you write on and if you make a mistake, just scrunch it up and throw it in the bin to start over on a clean sheet.  I’ll probably never forget that fear, although I did overcome it and rarely think of it now.

The first time I connected to the Internet.  Wow!  That was pretty incredible, although it also took some getting used to.  Then came business banking where you can connect to the bank’s system and do transaction “live”.  That was serious progress.  It also required some considerations of the risks involved which was limited since one basically did a point-A to point-B phone call.  Alas, that has also evolved to Internet-based systems. Somewhere along the line other businesses also realised the potential of having customers filling out forms and such on-line and emailing it in.  And that’s when your information starts floating around in Cyberspace.

Or is it?  I think there is a misconception that as long as you don’t enter your information electronically you are “safe”.  Very few organisations and businesses don’t use some form of software to keep track of information.  So even if you fill out a printed form, chances are that your information is somewhere in digital form.  Somebody else did that on your behalf.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not trying to scare anyone.  Network administrators do their best to secure the networks we connect to when we do on-line banking or shop on-line.  It’s kinda like securing ones home.  We install security alarms, burglarproof bars (that’s another topic), security lights and much more.  The reality is though that there is always a possibility that someone will get around it.  It is our duty to stay vigilant and be cautious.

My advice to anyone who feels unsure or insecure about using digital convenience is to stay informed, stay cautious, stay vigilant.  I have a few tips that I follow:

1) Whenever you fill out personal information or shop on-line, ensure that you are using a secure site (https://).

2) Register you credit card information in a trusted portal like PayPal.  That way you don’t accidentally provide your credit card info on a non-secure site (http://).  Never supply this information in an email.

3) Use a good Anti-Virus program.

4) Don’t trust any old email that says it is coming from your banking institution requesting some information or that you update your details.  If your bank really does that – change banks! 😀  Before you click on a link in any such email you’ll be able to see where it is pointing to.  It is a good idea to be familiar with the naming convention your bank uses for its links and official site(s).

5) Set your browser to not save cookies.  You can also set it with exceptions for sites that you trust.

6) Set your browser to not allow pop-ups.  I also use a third party program to help with that in case something slips through – which happened quite a few times recently while I was browsing.

What are the main things you do to stay digital safe?

I came across a site called StaySafeOnline.org where they address a lot of security concerns and provide some helpful insight and tips – if you need to find some peace of mind 🙂