Wild Writers Festival 2016

It seems like every year around this time* I’ve got a choice to make. I could spend the first Saturday in November writing furiously (but with a touch of grace). Or I could attend the Wild Writers Festival and learn from the pros just how difficult it is to write and (worse) publish. Few of them, I think, will mention the challenging distraction of the best Canadian writers festival within walking distance of one’s house.

It’s not procrastination if you are gaining valuable insights into the art and craft of writing. Right?

This year, The New Quarterly has brought together such luminaries as Michael Crummey, Carrie Snyder, Madeleine Thien, Michael Helm, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Rosemary Sullivan. As per usual, there is a Friday night gala event, a Sunday brunch event, and a Saturday night speakeasy. But for me, the heart of the festival is on Saturday when a raft of small-enrolment workshops are offered (for a small fee) as well as a series of panel discussions (free) on everything from small press publishing to the art of dialogue or writing a thriller. There is something there worthy of distracting almost any writer from a hard-won full day of writing.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

* Well, every year since 2012.

Grand Porch Party 2016

Sunday, 12 June, promises to be a sunny day. Perfect for a stroll around the neighbourhood pausing in front of host houses as a selection of fine musicians perform on porches.

Yes, it’s time for the Grand Porch Party again! Between 2 and 5 pm, the streets in our area will be humming with adults and children catching some free tunes, everything from soulful rhythm and blues to folk and pop and even a hand-clap orchestra for good measure. Rain or shine. But it’s a bit nicer in sunshine.

The Grand Porch Party is always great fun (it’s been running since 2011). However, this year the organisers have shifted the party over a street or two. So I could just sit on my own porch and listen to the music coming from two doors down. But it’s more fun to take a walk and soak in the ambience.

 

NUMUS concerts and fundraising

For a number of years (though not every year in the past 9) my wife and I have had season subscriptions to the NUMUS concerts. NUMUS showcases some of the incredible musical talent, both musicians and composers, found locally as well as from across Canada and beyond. The concerts are diverse, sometimes challenging, thought provoking, and always filled with exceptional musicians. In advance of the 2016-17 season, NUMUS has embarked on a fundraising effort through Indiegogo.

Please consider contributing to NUMUS’ future. Or even better, come out to one or all of the concerts next year. You are sure to find something breathtaking.

 

The Sifnos Chronicles – tales from a greek isle by Sharon Blomfield

Writing is a way of life, they say. I think it is good one. They also say that the life of the writer is lonely. For many writers, I’m sure that’s true. Not so much for me. I’ve been pecking away at the keyboard for some time now. But for the past five years I’ve been sharing a portion of my output on a monthly basis with a group of like-minded poets, novelists, and life writers. We read each other’s work. We offer comment and criticism. And we stoke the fire of enthusiasm.

The Sifnos Chronicles by Sharon BlomfieldThe publication of a work by one of the writers in our group is an occasion of joy. Seeing something that you’ve watched gestate, develop, and mature over the years take wing and start flying on its own—well, it feels good. I imagine the only thing that would top it would be for a book of my own to begin its life on the book store shelves. Maybe some day I’ll find out.

Sharon Blomfield has written a lovely book about her encounters on the Greek island of Sifnos. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to visit immediately and return to as often as possible. Which she has. And each time her relationship with the locals, her knowledge of the island and its history, and her love of the place expands. I’ve been watching this book take shape over the past few years and am absolutely delighted that I’ve been able to purchase it today at my local independent book store, Words Worth Books.

It’s a beautifully produced publication. I’m looking forward to enjoying it all over again.

You can find out more about the book on Sharon’s website, and while there you might also want to visit her blog where her chronicles of life on this beautiful Greek isle continue.

 

Snow Leopard to El Capitan in one easy step

My iMac is getting a bit long in the tooth. I got it in the spring of 2010. It is thus a late 2009 vintage iMac. It came with OS X Snow Leopard. And although it has done some updating of its operating system over the years, as of this morning it was still running Snow Leopard, version 10.6.8.

I’ve never had any problems with this machine.

Wait. This is closing in on six years, so maybe I’d better repeat that.

I’ve never had any problems with this machine.

Nevertheless, Snow Leopard is nearing the end of its natural life. Google Chrome will soon no longer update on it. I’m already a number of versions behind in LibreOffice. And even the program I use most, i.e. Scrivener, has been hinting that I’m well behind the times. So I thought it might be time to make a little change.

Of course OS X El Capitan has lots of cool features. Unfortunately, hardware of this vintage can’t exploit some of those. So my motivation was primarily to gain access to current and ongoing security and stability updates for my operating system. And there was also the nice carrot of potentially being able to download the latest version of LibreOffice as well.
But new(er) operating systems usually come with higher demands than whatever your computer came pre-installed with. It didn’t take much effort to learn that for a machine like mine, I would need to first upgrade my RAM. This is the main culprit in the poor performance many have experienced when they upgraded to Apple’s later OS Xs. The 4 GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 memory I had on board just wasn’t going to cut it in the brave new world I’d be entering. Perhaps for this reason Apple have provided an incredibly straightforward page for people to determine precisely what memory modules their machines can take and simple instructions on how to install them.

I was able to track down a nice 8 GB kit (2 x 4 GB modules) from Crucial. I got it at a good price as well. And it came in the post in only a few days.

Before the new RAM arrived I took the opportunity to audit the software on my machine and see how much of it would be immediately compatible with El Capitan. As noted, Scrivener was the key program and I already knew that it was El Capitan ready. I also use a program called iBank on a regular basis. It too was ready and waiting for the upgrade. So nothing was obviously holding me back.

But what about peripherals? I had come across a case of someone upgrading without adequate preparation only to discover that he could no longer access his printer after the upgrade. Well, there was probably more going on there than I knew, but better safe than sorry. Fortunately I was quickly able to discover that there were El Capitan compatible drivers for my printer. So all that was left was to wait for the postman to arrive.


Finally!

It would be churlish to describe the installation of the new RAM as easy. It was in fact idiotically easy. In less than 10 minutes I was up and running with, now, 12 GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 memory. And with that in place I quickly moved to download El Capitan from Apple’s app store.

It turns out that El Capitan is a 6.8 GB download. So that took some time. But once it was downloaded I clicked one button to initiate the installation. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Installing El Capitan is a good time to read a book, or go grocery shopping. When you get back, you are ready to go.

I logged in to the new system and voilà. I’m good to go.

Of course I took my time going over all my programs to make sure everything actually worked. All of them did. Well, all but one. Apple has discontinued iPhoto. That was a bit of a shock since I do use that for all of our pictures. But Apple has replaced it with Photos, which after a lengthy incorporation of my photo library turns out to be just as good.

I’ve tested the printer. I’ve upgraded to LibreOffice 5.0.4.2 (I’d previously been using 3.0). And here I am writing this blog post using Scrivener. So I guess I’m done.

It was all pretty painless, really. And now I’ll see if I can keep this nearly 6-year-old iMac in shape for another few years.