Cathi’s Comments for December 29, 2011

Welcome to my end of year message, written with a bit of an apology because if you look at my Comments archives, my last one is from this time last year. I did actually work on updating this, alas the page never made it up and…well it’s in an old computer so I won’t bother with digging it up.

This year has slipped past me in a blur of world events and life events, so much so I honestly don’t know where to begin. Do I need to remind anybody about the horrendous earthquake in Japan? The Arab spring that is now into winter? The world economy that is on its last legs and tottering badly?

So let’s jump to my microcosm. I’m still working on getting Off Air in publishable format, and I Ching Jukebox into paperback but both were put aside because I realized if there’s to be any real hope of sales they need to be in ebook format. The formatting was put on hold until I had an ebook reader to be able to verify them on. I am very happy to say that Jim took advantage of an online black Friday sale to get me a Kindle, so armed with that now I’ve been playing with it a bit to see how it works and reading the Lulu ebook creator guide. Checking out the pdf of I Ching I can see that the fonts and images are okay so it shouldn’t be too hard (fingers crossed) to get that one up. I was going to put out Off Air as a 6×9 paperback instead of a hard cover at first, but I’ve changed my mind on that. I’ll do the ebook first, and then the 6×9. I also found one of my very first books that I wrote when I was a teenager; I’m thinking that it would be great to do that one as an ebook as well mainly to see how good it actually was after its many rejections and to do the entire thing from scratch in ebook format. Beyond that, my soul is crying for creativity and I do intend to spend more time writing as my gift haunts me if I ignore it.

The university course I was taking was passed with flying colours. I enrolled in another, Web Programming to refresh my now rusty skills and I did a good start but alas it has now had to be extended due to a very strange summer and fall; I started my TMA 1 (there’s 4) and will hopefully submit it this Christmas holiday; the course itself doesn’t look too hard it’s just the time and motivation that’s bothering me this time. I have to finish it though because really, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford any more courses and I desperately hope I can at least finish this with a computer science certificate if not a degree. We’ll see, I’d still need 3 more courses. The upshot of this course is that it is web design and part of it is to design your own site so I do expect to update my Cathi’s Place site as part of it.

This has been a nasty year for so many people, and we’re no exception. The kids are doing very well in school; son’s big thing this year is music and I’m pleased to see that he is being encouraged in that. Daughter is knee deep in clinicals and is learning that being conscientious is a good thing even if it means losing out on sleep at times. She’ll be a great nurse when it’s all said and done, she just needs to build confidence and experience, which anybody does when starting out in a profession.

My year started strangely with the collapse of a project I was assigned to. We picked up the pieces and are carrying on and it will be done, though in a different form. What I’ve learned from this is that I have to find a job that is at least what my assignment’s pay has been; it’s become a necessity after a comedy of errors which I’m sure I’d be laughing at now if it weren’t for the mess it caused me financially. But what else is new? Sigh. At least I fixed the Jeep, but in doing so I got caught up in a back pay scenario that has devastated my credit unfortunately. I don’t know what to do about that, but things have a way of working themselves out so I am hoping dearly that it will indeed do so this time. Lesson learned here is that I can’t take chances any more.

I applied for two jobs in the maritimes, for a couple of reasons. One is that the children’s father moved on to his mom’s in New Brunswick so it would be closer for son to visit. The other was that it is less expensive to live there and Ontario has gotten way too expensive a place to be. Unfortunately the job I applied to in NB that looked so hopeful was cancelled, and the other in Nova Scotia that I thought I had a decent chance at I didn’t get so I am back to square one. Part of me wishes they’d just give me a really early retirement and I could go on my merry way, pay off the credit stuff and finish my degree. Somehow I doubt that would happen but you never know, they are cutting a lot of jobs where I am now so who knows. What I do know is that this coming year is going to be one of great uncertainty for many, myself included.

Our two companies ground to a standstill, but there is some hope for Talerocker~Dreamcat in the form of Jim’s game being on Hero Engine cloud. He was very fortunate to be offered a chance to build it for free on there following an approval process and he has been working on it; his nephew and I are also working on it and we’ve been learning Maya 3D animation/CGI but the one hitch is that we only have the student versions which means that to go live one of us at least has to have a licensed version to put out the commercial version of the game when it is done – that’s a big concern in that the licence is very expensive. I was thinking we should create our objects in student and then have a 30 day coding spree recreating the objects in the 30 day full trial version, get the game going then buy the license when we have subscriptions. That’s one option. The other is winning the lottery, lol.

Our other company, Indigo Starcrystal is pretty much defunct though we’ve kept the website we were building up for now; after 3 years of paying for web hosting and the domain name when the other 2 partners never paid is kind of pointless I think. I don’t think we will renew it this year. This one went down the tubes after a personality clash that turned friends into…well…not friends. I feel bad about that because looking back I’d rather have kept the friends had I known one partner would have turned into a very angry and demanding person when it came to business. We have since learned that this partner died earlier this year and that knowledge threw us both for a loop. We weren’t told when it happened so I can only assume they didn’t want us to know, which is fine I guess, but we are mourning the loss of a friendship that can never be repaired.

What do I see for the coming year? It isn’t pretty. I honestly don’t know how the damage that has been done to the world’s economy and the famous 99% can be repaired. The Occupy Wall Street protests were a symptom, and while the cities have had their camps shut down in North America for the most part, they may be gone but I don’t think they are out. The message that the corporate greed must stop being fed on the backs of the majority wasn’t really heard and I am sure the voices will get louder the more the banks and credit card companies and utility companies tighten the screws.

Lowering interest rates was a necessary thing, and in mortgages has helped hold off a tide of defaults at least here in Canada, but when this happened they just foisted the interest onto credit cards and got nasty to boot. I’ll give you an example: I have a credit card that goes back to the late-90s when they were offering these big limit, low rate ones. This card saved my life a few times with marriage breakdown and various other life events, and it was at the limit. I was always good about paying on time because it had a great rate (6%) so I could use most of what I paid. So – fast forward ten years and a misunderstanding about money owed to me that went from 10 days to 3 months. I got behind. I got the money, paid the card and learned that it is now 12% and no longer has any credit available. Every time I pay now, the limit goes down. In other words, it’s a loan not a credit card. The others aren’t quite that mean, they just doubled the interest and what was 10% is now 20% and virtually unusable. That is their tricks now, aside from over limit fees, administration fees, etc., that I am sure goes against the criminal code’s maximum 60% interest rates – and the banks have raked in record profit this year. All the while our finance gurus are decrying the horrendous consumer debt. Um, is there anybody out there that sees bilking people out of money with obscene interest rates might be a big part of the reason? There will be record personal bankruptcies in the coming year, I just hope I won’t be one of them.

Now, add criminal interest rates on top of the ridiculous gasoline, natural gas, electricity and water rates people are paying. Ontario Hydro had to pay to get surplus electricity taken off the grid, and we still pay on the $8 billion debt retirement charge that apparently has not only been paid but has had more than a billion over that paid by consumers. Toss in the massive layoffs that are just starting here in cost cutting measures and what do you get? You get the same thing the US, Greece, Italy, England, Portugal, Ireland, etc., are going through. In Canada we’ve been protected I think largely because of our small population, but we are beginning to feel it. We are on the cusp of an economic meltdown that is far beyond our borders but will happen here in much bigger numbers over the coming year. If the powers that be are truly serious at saving us, they need to legislate a maximum credit interest rate of prime plus 8%, and they need to ensure that the rates charged for utilities are not speculative but actually based on cost, not stock market cost but production cost.

Getting back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Canada we should be calling it Occupy Bay Street, but anyway this is important on many accounts. First is that for the first time in decades, masses of people here joined together to protest and stuck with it – the apathy regarding important issues is falling away, and this is something that should be paid attention to. Who are the protestors? So far they’re young, students, unemployed, employed but committed to a cause, older and also committed to a cause. Now, let’s see some more layoffs, people going bankrupt because there is no other option, people too broke to go to university or college, the disenfranchised. Have enough people who have had their lives and dreams destroyed (or at least put on a very long hold) and see how loud the voices get. At a certain point they will be too loud to be ignored. Will that cause a complete restructuring of the financial system world wide (as should be done – no more fiat money and usury) or will it be the tipping point for World War III? I have my suspicions that we’re already in WWIII but that’s another topic. Which of course brings me to war.

The Iraq war is finally over, we’ve pulled out of Afghanistan, Gaddafi is dead as is Osama bin Laden and Kim-Jung-Il. Sounds good, right? Well, not so fast because Iran is sabre rattling, Somalia is a disaster, Pakistan is angry, there’s tension between Iran and Israel, and that’s just the obvious ones. Russia and China are lining up their allegiances, and the Euro zone is in serious turmoil. Find the right butterfly wing that flaps and coalesces all this tension and the results won’t be pretty.

Add to this the natural and unnatural disasters the world has been enjoying the past couple of years and we’ve got a huge mess on our hands that no one government, person or people can solve. We need to look beyond governments, religion, culture, our country to be our saviours, all of these have their failings and we need to accept that. What we need more than anything is to give a damn about people beyond our inner circle, give a damn about what’s happening to us, and show that we care. Loudly. Right now.

What will help is the same song I’ve been singing on these year end posts all along: compassion. Now more than ever, we need to show compassion towards one another and it needs to be reflected in our corporate and government policies. We need to call out those who are destroyers – entities or groups or persons – and not just call out but fix the problem. Over the past several years I’ve helped others – much to my detriment I will admit, though not all I’ve helped are detrimental – and my helping has come back to bite me. Okay. Will I stop? Well, on a personal level I think I have to, the well is dry and those I served lately can’t pay me back, but maybe on a bigger stage I can. I can by writing things like this, by complaining to companies when complaints are warranted, by helping with words where I can.

Things aren’t all bad here though. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have two wonderful children who, in spite of all the nonsense in their lives they are doing remarkably well and are truly nice people. I have Jim, who stands behind me no matter what ridiculous turn my life has taken, no matter how many nights I cry at my follies and get down on myself, no matter how long I take in boarders I probably shouldn’t and help people who need it knowing I’ll never get paid back; who has been a strong and kind step-father even when he gets put down by people who don’t see the many evenings of being a scout leader or the hours in doctors offices listening to specialists and picking up children from school when they are sent home sick, driving son to and from school when he was small (and not being able to get a full time job because of that)…the list goes on. I am blessed to still have a mother by my side and who still listens to my life’s ups and downs and who, at 92 is a huge part of our lives even though we rarely have the time to see her in person.

As you can probably guess if you’ve read this far on, I have been fighting off the depression that is nibbling at my toes. It makes me tired and not quite as able to do everything I want or need to, but rest assured I will ride it out and do as I always do, take the darkness and turn it into something beautiful. Be it a song or a painting or book, this is what I do so stay tuned.

To everyone I wish you a happy and healthy New Year. Dream, and dream big. In times like these this is what we all need.

À la prochaine,

Cathi …..