Category Archives: internet

Risks in DNA Searches

DNA testing can be used in many fields including archeology, paternity, medical history, law enforcement forensics, and even extraterrestrial and pet breed testing. But today I’m talking about the ever popular kits advertised on TV these days. DNA testing is a wonderful tool for ancestry searching, but it can have some unexpected negatives if people aren’t careful.

Many of my readers already know that I was orphaned at a very young age, sent into the foster care system and later adopted. I secretly searched for my birth family during my growing-up years, but continued my search in earnest after my adopted parents passed away. Knowing they were unable to have children of their own, I hadn’t wanted them to know I was searching for fear it would hurt them. We were/are real people with real emotions.

I’m afraid too many people take the DNA test and wait for the results informing them they are a certain percentage this nationality and a different percentage of another and treat it as a game. The connection is so far away, it’s just exciting and fun to know where in the world one started. That’s all well and good, but sometimes people forget these ancestors were real people, with feelings and stories, tragic and wonderful.

Some people may still be alive, and although they may have joined one of the search organizations, that doesn’t mean another member should inquire information from this person without trying to be thoughtful, considerate and/or diplomatic in their query. The ancestry sites try very hard to protect people’s privacy, especially those still living, but some members don’t realize they themselves need to be aware of protecting someone’s privacy, too.

For example, a relative of mine through marriage found some personal information about someone closely related and, without thinking it through, proceeded to copy that information and email it to both another relative and to me, thus violating the person’s privacy who was the subject of the information. As a result, feelings were hurt and this inconsiderate relative is no longer spoken to by several family members. The information was none of that relative’s business and should not have been forwarded so blatantly, however innocent the intentions.

Another case comes to mind, even more serious. I have a friend whose husband wanted to get his DNA done and sent in his sample. My friend had escaped an abusive relationship years before, but at that time this abusive person told her if he ever found out where she was, he’d kill her. I was concerned that her abusive ex, might use an ancestry search company to find her. He had already tried other methods, she told me. There are scammers everywhere. There is always a possibility they could lurk within an innocent source. So, I’m real careful on any site that is open to the public.

With all that said, I’m now 76 years old now and joyfully still finding family members; two other sisters, whom I plan to meet soon, and, sadly, I learned of the death of my brother and mother. Needless to say, it’s an emotional time for me right now, but I’m grateful to know.

Ten years ago I wrote in a short story that, “I pray I live long enough to be reunited with the rest of my family. Even if success proves elusive, I’ll continue to search. I’ll continue to dream.” I believe that finally my dream is coming to fruition. Thanks to God, and to DNA testing!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Size Matters – to Me

As a reader, I have a general book length that I prefer reading. As a writer, I found I did, too. When I wrote my first book, it just naturally came out to about 75,000 words which equals roughly between 250 and 310 pages of either a Mass Market Paperback or the larger Trade Paperback, and can vary even more with e-books.

I guess most of the books I read are classified as traditional mysteries, historical mysteries and cozies with an occasional fantasy or adventure thrown in, and these books are all in that general word length mentioned above.  I almost always read every day for at least an hour, sometimes more, so one could say I read a lot of books.

Keeping the price of reading under control is a challenge because I really enjoy keeping up with my favorite authors who have to be prolific in order to keep their publishers. And publishers seem to understand this, so they have encouraged authors, especially best-selling ones, to recommend their favorite books to the public through companies who promote current books (as if authors didn’t have enough to do in marketing their own books). Note: I seriously find it hard to believe that some of the authors listed as recommending some books actually have read them, much less have the time to recommend them. Okay, call me cynical. But, I don’t want to miss out if so-and-so says it’s really great… What to do? Opps, I got a little off track.

Lately more and more opportunities have become available for books to be offered at a discount, both in print and in e-book form and not all the books are current. Some are classics or books that were popular years ago, went out of print and have just become available again (largely due to Print-on-Demand).  Sometimes the books are free or $.99, or $1.99, sometimes more. These books help my budget, provide good PR for the authors and keep their name “out there.”

Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention, but recently I noticed a trend where a favorite author has a new book out and in my rush to get it, I didn’t check the word-count or length of the file or page count, and after I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle, I find out the book is only 55 pages long. True, I may have only paid $.99, but I feel cheated when the book was not advertised as a novella. It’s easy to check when purchasing, but I’ve been excited and in a hurry and downloaded before checking a few times now. That won’t happen again!

When I read a book, it takes time for me to discern the plot of the book and get the characters straight and usually by 55 pages, I’m really getting interested, not ready to close the cover. Here I’ve invested my money, time and effort and (granted) senior memory in this book and it’s already over. That makes me very unhappy. Has anyone else noticed this trend, or is it just me? Makes me want to mumble, “Grrrrrrr!!!”

With some really favorite authors I’ll wait impatiently however long it takes for the next book in their series to come out and I’ll pay the full price at release date (or pre-order price), but I can’t afford to do that with all my reading material, so from now on, I’ll watch carefully to see how long the book is before I order, because I want to be a happy reader.

How about you?  Have you noticed this size thing? Does it matter to you?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Thinking in Pictures, by Sheila Deeth

I joined Pinterest. H-E-L-P. I have a page at https://www.pinterest.com/sheiladeeth/ and I’m “pinning” pictures to it. Sometimes I “repin” and wonder what it means. Then I join groups and find their folders added to my page, which is a good thing, right? I think… Maybe…

To be honest, Pinterest really shouldn’t scare me so much. I’ve always loved drawing. I might even be the last person around who can claim to love Microsoft Draw. But words are my first love, and how will posting pictures get people to read them?

I joined Google+ where I have another e-page at https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SheilaDeeth/posts. That link is filled with glorious images too. Then I joined a picture group and played with… words. So what do you think?

I tried so hard, but the text still disappear into petals and leaves. The background’s too full of things to see, I guess. But what about this? (And yeah, I really do like coffee!)

I took this photo with empty space left for words, so perhaps I’ve got it sussed. And in fiction, maybe the trick’s to make sure I don’t let the background get cluttered. I’ll try to take my own advice as I work on Subtraction today, but here’s the beginning of Part 2, where I introduce Andrew’s childhood friendship with Evie. I hope it might whet your appetite, and I hope it doesn’t clutter up the tale of his future too much.

Ten-year-old Evelyn, neat, tiny, and wreathed in long dark curls, was playing with eleven-year-old Andrew on the ground behind their houses. A neighbor’s cat had climbed the old oak tree that rose from summer’s unwatered dust and debris. Evie pranced among twisted roots as if the ground burned her feet. “You’ll have to rescue it, Andrew!” Hands flew to her hips while her skirt swung wide. Meanwhile Andrew thought of an unrescued red rubber ball lost somewhere in undergrowth. Finding that would be much more interesting. But Evelyn shouted again. “Andrew, you’ll have to climb up there and carry it down.”

Scents of green dripped around him with drifting leaves. Scents of brown kicked up from the dry earth around Evie’s feet. And emerald eyes stared out among the shadows of a black cat’s fur.

Ever-practical, Andrew measured the lack of earth-bound branches and the width of the old oak’s trunk. He angled his fingers out from his thumb, stared past them, then answered solemnly, “No way.”

“But you’ll have to, Andrew!” Evelyn’s stamping feet threw puffs of dirt around her legs.

So Andrew asked, “How?”

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, published by Second Wind Publishing. Her second novel, Infinite Sum, will be released soon, and Subtraction is the third novel in the series.

 

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For Whom the Bell Tolls—But Who the #%&@! is Calling? by Norm Brown

I know a lot of people nowadays are using only their cell phone instead of a dedicated phone line at their home. Mostly due to the fact that I have an older ADT alarm system connected to my landline, I still have both. Like everyone, I carry my cell phone with me wherever I go, but very few people, mostly family, get that number. Also, call me out-of-date, but I really don’t like a ringer or buzzer going off in my pocket all the time. It reminds me too much of when I used to be “on call” during off business hours for Dell IT. I still flinch when my cell phone rings, though now it doesn’t always mean trouble.

For many years my current setup worked fine, but I think anyone with a home phone will agree that during the last couple of years the robo calls, political calls, sales calls, and outright scams have become a real nuisance, if not a threat to your security. I’ve had Caller-ID since it first became available. (Remember when you had to have a separate little display device attached to the line?) Now, more than ever before, I rudely screen my incoming calls. If the phone number is blocked, I simply do not answer–ever.  If it’s important the caller can leave a message to identify himself and provide a number. If the number is an 8xx type or some area code I do not recognize with no caller name or a suspicious looking name, I do the same. Apparently you can put anything you want for a Caller-ID name. Occasionally I do have to apologize when some business or person I know starts to leave a message. That is very infrequent.

Even so, it is still an annoyance to have to go over to the phone, look at the Caller-ID, wait and wonder. I have, however, found a few tricks to at least in some cases reassure myself that I did the right thing by not answering. Some charities call so often without displaying a Caller-ID name that I immediately recognize the number and just go back to what I was doing. Also, I have discovered that there is information available on the internet about some of the other unfamiliar numbers. After ignoring one of these calls, I type the number in the form nnn-nnn-nnnn into Google search. It will always list a bunch of websites offering to provide information. If it is a legitimate business, you may get their actual website name. This is fairly rare in my case. Many of the other listed hits from the search are from websites that charge a fee to get a name or address for the caller. I don’t use those. A useful site that pops up pretty often is “800notes.com”. This is a popular website that you can search for a specific phone number. It lists any complaints/comments users have reported to them. I don’t know what else they offer, but this has been really useful for me and it’s free. To see an example, search the site for “307-243-5143.” This is a number used to call me by one of those foreign scammers claiming to be a Microsoft technician calling to get access to your PC and solve some made up problem. By the way, Microsoft does not monitor your computer system for problems or cold call customers. As you can tell from the complaints, this is a dangerous scam. If allowed access, they put a virus on your PC and then charge to remove it. The number is fake (Wyoming) and is not the only one they use. To research a caller that did not provide a name but is local or from a legitimate looking area code, there are a number of websites that provide a free reverse look up on a phone number. I’ve used “Whitepages.com” and “anywho.com/whitepages”. These work only for numbers listed in White Pages or Yellow Pages across the country. If the call is unlisted or from a cellphone, you’re out of luck, as far as I can tell.

I’m no expert on this subject, but maybe this information might be useful to someone. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a way to block or reduce the frequency of these calls. You should register your phone numbers on the Do Not Call list (donotcall.gov), though I’m not sure how effective it has been overall. I’ve seen a lot of debate about that and it doesn’t include charities or political calls anyway.

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.

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Happy Christmas to All

Xmas card

You heard Paul exclaim on his blog post that night
Merry Christmas to all and a year of Happy delight!

 Mele Kalikimaka
Merry Christmas

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou
Happy New Year

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Before The Internet and Cell Phones

Many of you may not remember the time before The Internet and cell phones were a regular part of our lives, but I do. Because of these wonderful inventions, life seems to have sped up and allowed us to accomplish more than we used to. That’s a good thing, right? I’m not so sure.

This holiday season, I found myself so swamped with things I needed and wanted to do, there wasn’t time to fit them all in, and since I‘m between writing projects and a retired person, I decided to go off-line for a number of days and actually enjoy the activities associated with Christmas and preparing for the new year. Friends and I exchanged cookies, I took more time writing my Christmas cards, I spent extra effort decorating and making flower arrangements and playing cherished Christmas music. I phoned some friends I hadn’t corresponded with for a while, to catch up with the happenings in their lives. A friend and I went out to lunch and to an art museum, another friend and I walked the neighborhood admiring the colorful lights. I even watched some sentimental Hallmark movies. These are things I used to do years ago when life traveled at a slower pace, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it all. I had more of the spirit of the season this year than in previous ones when I was mostly out of breath.

Several times, while waiting at the doctor’s office, I actually had conversations with fellow patients about the weather up north and how families were doing and where we were from, instead of sitting there surrounded by silent souls who were glued to their cell phone screens. I discovered I was more relaxed, more peaceful. I had kindness and love in my heart.

I found in some people, frazzled nerves, grumpy attitudes and downright nastiness, and I had the notion they were usually normal and nice, but during his time, just rushed and stressed. Why? They were trying to cram too much into too little time, were not successful and therefore miserable themselves and they unintentionally spread that attitude to others.

That revelation made me happy I had chosen to slow down this year and savor the season. While this approach isn’t necessarily possible for everyone, I encourage us all to remember life is fleeting. It’s over too soon and the quality of it is more important than the quantity if you aren’t happy and fulfilled.

So, my new year’s resolution this 2014 is to create more days like my holiday days by better prioritizing and remembering the things that are truly important. We’ve all heard the cliché “slow down and smell the roses.” How many of us have actually taken it to heart? This year, I have. Will you?

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Seeing Tsars – Catherine’s Palace, Russia

St. Petersburg is unlike any other city I’ve ever seen. The only commonality to some other beautiful and historic cities is that one could take a lifetime to discover and absorb it all. I had only four days, just enough to wish I could go back again and again.

Today, I’m concentrating on Catherine’s Palace, located 15 miles from St. Petersburg in the palace complex called Tsarskoe Selo, which means “Tsars Village” in Russian. The village consists of Catherine Palace and Park and Alexander Palace and Park. Catherine Palace was built in the early eighteenth century and was the summer residence of Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine (I) and was subsequently expanded and redecorated by their daughter Elizabeth and, later, Catherine the Great (II). Alexander Palace and Park were built later by Catherine II and were most famously used by the last Tsar, Nicholas II and his family, who were imprisoned there and later sent to Siberia and executed in 1918. World War II destroyed much of the palace complex, but, thankfully, it has been completely restored to its former magnificence.

(Note: Click on photos to enlarge)

Main Architects Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli and Charles Cameron exceeded their genius by using an abundance of Baroque gilded carvings, multi-wood parquetry and mirrors below spectacular ceiling murals by such artists as Antonio Peresinotti, Pietro and Francesco Gradizzi and Ivan Belsky, to create such masterpieces as the world has never known. Each room was more amazing than the last.

Within the shells of the rooms were gilded furnishings, statuary, paintings, hand painted silk wall coverings, priceless carpets, ivory chess sets, porcelain table decorations, etc. Even the stoves to heat the rooms in the frigid Russian winters were works of art with hand painted tiles composing the surface. Whole rooms had themes devoted to semi-precious stones like malichite, agate and rare marble.

One room in particular, famous the world over, is the Amber Room, dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” As a tourist, I was not allowed to take photos in this room, but it’s worth checking out the Internet sites’ accounts of the Amber Room with its fifty-five square meters and six tons of amber. Imagine an enormous wall of pieces of amber put together like a jigsaw puzzle and on top of that, wainscoting and mirror frames and cartouches, all composed of layers of Baltic Sea amber with carvings in different hues of amber embellishment. Mix this with gilded wood carvings and more carved and gilded mirrors and I’m certain you would say this room was absolutely breathtaking! If you are interested in seeing a video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_YTD7N8LS0

Catherine Palace was the summer palace as stated at the beginning of this post. There was also a Winter Palace, the Yusupov Palace, once owned by one of the wealthiest families in Russia and where Rasputin was murdered, both located in St. Petersburg. Additionally, all four tour days were filled with museums, art galleries, gardens and churches within the city called the Venice of the North.

During this trip, I often found my mouth pretty-much stuck in the O position and my neck suffering from whiplash while I tried to take it all in; floors, ceilings, walls, even views through windows to parks, fountains and gardens beyond. To be able to witness this opulence and artistry was truly an experience of a lifetime.

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Interview with Celeste Paulette Boudreau, Character From “Rubicon Ranch: Secrets”

RRBookThreemidsizeRubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime serialization set in the fictional desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by authors of Second Wind Publishing. Celeste Boudreau is the creation of Dellani Oakes.

Who are you?

Celeste Paulette Boudreau, though I wasn’t born with that name.

Where do you live?

I just moved to Rubicon Ranch.

What is your problem in the story?

I’ve got a secret I’m desperately trying to hide.

What is your secret?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore, would it?

What do you think of yourself?

I’m more dangerous than I seem. People see the outrageous wigs and the colorful skirts and don’t see past them to who I really am. Deep down, I’m not the colorful, flighty psychic. I’m much more than that.

What are your achievements?

I’m a psychic – a real one. Not one of these smoke and mirrors types. I see things in dreams, I know things about people that they would rather I not know. I have secrets of my own that would put theirs to shame. These imitation soothsayers make me sick. They wander around pretending to have spirit guides and hear the secrets of the universe. If they spent an hour in my mind, they’d see what real spirit guides are like. You think they’re warm and fuzzy? They aren’t. They don’t care if they jerk me out of whatever I’m doing to tell me something they think I should know. I’ve nearly been in three car accidents because of them.

What I wouldn’t give to be normal, just for one day. There are people who call this thing I do a gift. It’s not a gift, it’s a damn curse. And try to make money at it! People think you’re crazy or a fake and they won’t listen, no matter what you say. Idiots.

Do you talk about your achievements or do you keep them to yourself?

My achievements make people laugh. They don’t believe them. When I say that I’ve been instrumental in solving three homicides, they ask why I didn’t help on the ones in Rubicon Ranch. Well, cause no one asked me. I’ve gone to that idiot of a sheriff more than once with my visions. He threatened to have me arrested for contaminating a crime scene and obstructing justice. Is it my fault that the ghost of the dead woman possessed me and made me walk around like a lunatic while she spouted some nonsense about who killed her? She didn’t even see the man! That case is still unsolved – but that’s not my fault. I tried to help and they won’t believe me that it was her scumbag neighbor. Pervert, that’s what he is. One day, he’ll get killed and just see if I’ll help out on that one.

Do you have any special strengths?

Yes, I’m a psychic. I’m a damn good one too. And no, I can’t tell you the winning lotto numbers or how your mother likes the afterlife. It doesn’t work like that. I can’t just summon it for answers. If people tell you they can, they’re lying. This is unpredictable as the weather.

I’m also a damn good liar.

Do you have any skills?

You mean besides divining the future and being ignored? Yeah, I’m really good at telling stupid people what they want to hear. I’ve been a psychic advisor on TV and radio. I even was on the Psychic Phone Network when I first got my powers. I thought I could really help people, but you know what? Those morons don’t want the truth. They want platitudes. When you tell them the truth, then you get sued.

What makes you happy?

The bottom of a gin bottle after I’ve drunk my way to the bottom.

What are you afraid of?

You want a list? So many things, I can’t possibly tell you all of them. Let’s start with that creepy “guide” who showed up when I was talking to Ward Preminger and won’t go away. I think I’m being haunted by the ghost of Morris Sinclair. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What makes you sad?

I don’t have time to be sad. Being sad doesn’t get you anywhere. It doesn’t matter what you do, where you go or who you say you are, you can’t escape some things. Sadness doesn’t help with that.

What was your childhood like?

I was born with the ability to see things about people. I could sense auras before I knew what they were. I could get an accurate read on a person just by touching them. No one in my family understood. They thought I was crazy, some called me a witch. We moved a lot because after awhile, someone would find out about me. Someone tried to abduct me once because of my powers. Because I could sense that, I got away before they could catch me. My life got even more interesting when my other abilities surfaced at fourteen.

What is your favorite music?

I love Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Pink Floyd.. Don’t give me any of that wonky, new age crap. I only listen to that when there are clients around. Classic rock all the way.

What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?

I love my wigs. They express who I am trying to be.

If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

I’d like to be by myself. Maybe then I’d get a little peace.

How do you envision your future?

Pick one – I can envision yours, mine, the dog next door…..

***

Click here to read: Rubicon Ranch: Secrets ~ Chapter 4: Celeste Boudreau — by Dellani Oakes

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Dona Nobis Pacem

Thousands of bloggers from all over the globe are Blogging for Peace today.

One subject. One voice. One day.

If words are powerful, then this matters.

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Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces


I’m writing in the second installment of Rubicon Ranch, an online collaboration with other Second Wind Authors. One of my new characters is the brother of Mary “Moody” Sinclair, which some of you will remember from Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story.

Jackson “Jake” Morton has been running from his father’s legacy for the past few decades. As the son of famous horror author Morris Sinclair, Jake did everything possible (including dropping his famous last name) to distance himself from the Sinclair clan.

Now, at the worst possible time, he’s put himself back into the game with his family. His father goes missing about the same time Jake shows up in town. His sister Moody can’t be trusted – after all, during their tumultuous childhood Moody tried to kill him and Jake didn’t feel much in their relationship had changed.

But, Jake was at a point in his life that he needed the redemption he could only find by confronting his past. His mentor and employer had told him purging was good for one’s soul. What Jake’s fellow zealots didn’t know was how far Jake would need to go to cleanse his family’s malevolent stain.

So, I’m having fun writing two character for this installment. A brother and sister at each other’s throats. Add to that, the misplacement of dear old Dad and the entire area barely recovered from the death of a child, and we are all having a great time.

The best part of writing a collaboration with other authors is the weight of the entire story is not on my shoulders. I’m responsible for a portion of the tale and, since I excel at writing short stories, this is right up my alley.

Come see us at Rubicon Ranch!

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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