March Is Coming

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Quote for the Week

The droll Ogden Nash wrote: "Indoors or out, no one relaxes in March, that month of wind and taxes, the wind will presently disappear, the taxes last us all the year."

Oh, Mr. Nash! You hit the nail on the head. March will be windy, whether it comes in like a lion rather than a lamb, or reverses the situation. And taxes? Allow me to groan silently.

By the end of the month, if I don't get a move on, I'll be groaning aloud. I'm determined to reverse the trend of the previous years and get my return completed and mailed before April 14.

If you're a writer or self-employed in any capacity, visit the IRS and see what's changed since last year. Print your forms and get to work.

Takeaway Truth

Taxpayers, start your engines.

Dedication Desired

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Do you need dedicated web hosting? Admittedly, this probably isn't something most people think about until they begin having problems with security or response time. The right time to research this issue though is before problems crop up.

If you're in business, and there are a lot of us with a toe dipping into the Internet business world now, you may want the extra security offered by dedicated servers. Sure, it costs a bit more, and it's a bit more complicated, but don't let that stop you from protecting your websites whether they're devoted to eCommerce or some web project into which you've put a lot of energy and time.

Litmus Test

Thanks to the guys and gals at WebHostingGeeks, it's easy to check and see if you might need a dedicated server. Just read their introduction to the subject and answer for yourself whether your web business has grown so much that sharing server time and resources results in performance issues for your customers. If you're getting complaints about how slow your website is, that's a good indication that you've got some problems, whether it's disk space, bandwidth, or something else that results from shared server resources.

Which One

It's also easy to select dedicated hosting, aka dedicated server, by checking the stats on the WHG site. They list the Top 10 Best Dedicated Servers, and this isn't just some arbitrary list or a list comprised from advertisers who support the site. The list is from ratings by webmasters all over the world. You can get information on cost, performance, and other issues, and it's all offered to you for free.

Takeaway Truth

Free and accurate information? Now that's my idea of a good website.

Everyone Needs A Password Record

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I've written before about the value of having a record of your passwords. This is an organizational tool that saves time and lots of frustration. By recording your passwords, it also enables you to set more complex, hopefully more hacker-proof, passwords.

I use an address book because it's alphabetized and easily portable. When traveling, I can toss it in my briefcase or laptop case.

The name of the website or entity being password-protected goes in the proper alphabetical ranking followed by the complete URL. I then list the email with which I registered and the Login name I used if it's different from the email. Next, I record the password and any security questions with the answers that may have been used. I take care to write the security question and answer exactly as I recorded it with the proper upper and lower case distinctions.

This is something that's easy to do, and it's not difficult to make this habit. I've even got my husband to do this. Formerly, he just wrote something down on a piece of note paper which joined the other detritus on his desk. All those slips of paper became as invisible as a purloined letter.

Compelling Reason

A compelling reason, beyond time and frustration saving, to adopt this organizational tool is that it helps the person who must take care of a loved one's estate. When you have to deal with the heartbreak of losing someone, it's just too much to have to deal with a computer that you can't use to notify your loved one's email contacts and to close internet accounts.

Many people have their computers password-protected so that you can't access it at all. There are companies springing up to deal with these problems, but it's pricey to pay someone to hack a deceased's computer.

Takeaway Truth

Keep a registry of your passwords, and tell the trusted people in your life where they can find that record.

Screenplay Contest

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I started not to mention this writing contest because of the hefty entry fees, but I thought I'd let you decide whether you wanted to pursue it or not. It's the 2010 Page International Screenwriting Awards.

Cruise their website so you'll know what you're getting into, but they're legit and offer some rich rewards to those who place and win.

As they say on their webpage: "This year we will be presenting a total of $50,000 in Cash and Prizes – including our huge $25,000 Grand Prize – as well as Gold, Silver and Bronze Prizes in ten different genre categories.

Most importantly, each year dozens of top producers, agents, and development execs ask to read our winning screenplays. As a result, many of our past winners have landed writing assignments, secured representation, and signed option agreements on their work, and several now have movies in various stages of production and release.

Takeaway Truth

The bad news? Let the "buyer" beware. The good news? Someone has to win. Maybe it will be you.

Wisdom from Walter Mosley

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Walter Mosley, creator of the crime fiction series featuring Easy Rawlins, is one of my favorite authors. In March, Known To Evil, his second book with his new character Leonid McGill, will be published.

In the Authors Guild Winter 2010 Bulletin, I was reading something Mr. Mosley said, and I'd like to share it with you.

He was discussing the trend of combining video and electronic text to be read and viewed online or on an iPhone or similar device. He said he'd never allow videos to substitute for prose and went on to say: "Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which our cognitive abilities grow. And our cognitive abilities actually go backwards when we're watching television or doing stuff on computers."

I've read studies that held the same conclusion. You probably have too. I suspect the reason our cognitive abilities suffer when we are given images to go along with the text is that our imaginations are not engaged. When reading, our brains go to work to supply the images created by the author's carefully chosen words.

When an "entertainment package," once called a book, now, with video added, called a vook, is given to you, with no cognitive effort required on your part, what's left for your brain to do?

Takeaway Truth

A muscle atrophies if not used. Isn't that what happens to our brain if cognitive abilities regress?

Acceptance

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Quote for the Week

Eleanor Roosevelt said: "You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give."

Slowly, my family is coming to terms with the loss of our mother. Life goes on, and that means that each day comes and goes whether you're ready for it or not.

I've spent the past week cleaning out my mother's house. This is just phase one, judging by the accumulation of her lifetime. Doing all this, I've mentally written blog posts concerning what people should do to prepare for the inevitable, which death is. Too often, the families left to sort through a loved one's possessions are ill equipped to deal with much of what they find.

I'd have posted about this as I was dealing with it, but my mom lived in the country and didn't have high speed internet service. Dial up was such a joke that she canceled it this past year. At first, I felt antsy without being able to get email and surf the web. After a week, I found I didn't miss it much. That surprised me.

You can look forward to some posts about, let's call it, pre-death preparations. I'm certainly learning a lot. I'm at the keyboard for the first time in weeks. I'll be traveling to and from my mom's house on the family farm until the task is completed. I'm fortunate in that my older brother and my sister-in-law live on the farm and are there to help. We sort and laugh together and sometimes cry. We'll all get through this eventually.

Takeaway Truth

It's good to be home.

My Mother Lives In My Heart

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Lucille Dickinson Ainsworth

My mother passed away January 29, 2010. Since she hated to tell her age, I won't tell it either. Let's just say that she lived longer than the average person, but not as long as her father who made it to 100.

Born during the Roaring Twenties, Momma was a child of the Great Depression and a young woman during World War II. She, like so many other women of that era, went to war by working in factories and doing jobs that, previously, only men did. She helped assemble tank cannon shells at a munitions plant and later learned to be a telephone operator, a job which she loved.

When she and my father, a D-Day veteran, married, she assumed the role of wife and mother and somehow survived the misadventures of her 3 rambunctious kids. My older brother and I alone were probably responsible for every gray hair in her head. She excelled in what were then called the domestic arts. Her cooking could rival any chef, and her quilting, crocheting, and needlepoint were fine enough to be sold in stores.

Country, gospel, and early rock and roll music by Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, created the musical background of her life. From her childhood of singing blended harmony gospel music on the porch after dinner each evening to the foot-tapping, earthy music of Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr., and Toby Keith, she loved it all. Along with music, she adored railroads and trains because her father had been a career railroad man. She never passed up a chance to ride on a train.

After my brothers and I married and left home, she grew interested in family history and genealogy. Over the next two decades, she published The Ainsworth Trading Post, a genealogy newsletter, and she compiled massive volumes of genealogy on her Ainsworth, Eubanks, and Shows family lines and authored Cemeteries of Franklin Parish: Private, Public, and Abandoned. All her books are in genealogy collections across the country including the Mormon Library in Salt Lake City and the New York City Public Library.

When my father passed away, I gave my mother a computer and Internet access. Eagerly, she embraced this new way of communication and research. She was never afraid to try something new and loved everything about this new electronic age.

My mother believed strongly in never telling her age and in never appearing in public without her hair fixed and her lipstick on. We all used to laugh about her vanity, and she'd laugh too. She was a hoot in so many ways, and we have so many funny stories the family can share when we're together.

She was loved by not just her children but by all my cousins and their children too. She was the favorite aunt. And she loved all of us too. Her last words for each and every one of us were of that love.

With so many things to interest her, she never tired of life. In 2008, with my help, she completed her latest book Memory Lane: My Sentimental Journey. She was so proud of that book. She told what it was like to have very little in material possessions, but everything in love and family. One might think her childhood during the Great Depression was marked by deprivation, but it wasn't. It was the happiest time of her life.

She had a strong will to live and keep learning and experiencing new things. If only that had been possible. There's a huge hole in my life right now. She and I used to talk four or more times each day. I just can't believe that I'll never hear her voice again.

Takeaway Truth

Parkinson's Disease is a scourge on humanity, and it's an agonizing way to die. If you have money to donate, please consider a donation for Parkinson's research.