Coming up I hope :)

I have requested two interviews.

1. Eviction Lab, want to know what is happening with evictions in the USA. Check this site out it's not pretty but it's important to talk about. So i have emailed and asked them for some insights.

2. I also contacted a site that does specialty tea sets. I hope to have someone from the site based in the UK contact me soon for an inerview.

3. I have also sent a request to two more people one expert on heat waves and a company that provides expert witnesses for trials.

C. T.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Dream And A Space = And A Candid Conversation With Dr. Andrew Nelson

Years ago I watched the Never Ending Story. The premise of the film was about keeping our dreams and stories alive and that without stories and dreams our world would be a not so pretty place. This was back in the 80s jump to today and we have the internet and there are lots of places on the net where people tell stories espouse ideas and showcase achievements. Social networking has and continues to create vast amounts of data and brings out some of the most creative ideas imaginable. One site authored by Dr. Andrew Nelson is being built with the idea to become a focal point for bringing together ideas dreams and stories together and then putting them into action. is set to launch at the end of this month and to talk more about the idea behind the project I contacted it's creator Dr. Andrew Nelson.

Cliff T.: Dr. Nelson thank you for writing back to Candid Conversations. Can you explain what Brainspace is about?

Dr. Nelson: Hi Cliff, thanks for your interest in the project. is essentially aimed at providing a personal space for people to think and create and record their own thoughts, ideas, life stories and dreams. It occurred to us that many of the social networking spaces rely heavily on people interacting with others in short twitter like grabs, rather than providing a space just for yourself to play and think and develop your ideas. As you say, story telling and the ability to share stories is a core part of how we all learn from each other. The site seeks to provide a unique and private place to develop and record your thoughts and then to make some of them available to other members or even the general public. Combined with some really unique tools to help you link and explore your own musings and make connections to other peoples thoughts, it will provide a way to connect with other people based on a thought or idea rather than just an overly used and often abused friends list! has two distinct parts, the Personal Journal space mentioned above and the World Compendia of thoughts, ideas, stories and dreams. The Compendia provides a space to store the best of the information you have developed in the personal space. It is designed to provide a central database where we can record and share our personal stories, ideas and thoughts. A registry if you like, a central place where we can all share the benefits of each others knowledge and ideas. It is not a blog space, or a forum, rather it is a place for people to store their knowledge and ideas for others to explore interactively online or for research or educational or news bodies to have access to information in a database format. Of course we have designed it to strictly protect the privacy of contributors while giving them a place to record date, location and contact details. it’s a free space, but a secure place.

Cliff T.: there are many outlets for people to go to to express ideas dreams and stories, what are you going to do with this portal to get your head above the crowd, so to speak?

Dr. Nelson: Yes, it’s a crowded space already. The major difference with the project is that it is all about you! We provide the space to play and explore your own mind and then to choose what you wish to share with others. We see it as a place where you visit every day, like a diary or personal journal, a place where you can make direct links to all your other web activities. It is designed to act like a hub which provides space to add notes and links to other sites like Facebook, or Twitter or YouTube or your favorite blogs. We provide the tools like an online word processor where you can add pictures or video clips or text.

You can essentially make and post your own web pages with its own URL link if you like and show them off to others using all the rich media available today on the net. We think we have simplified the process of putting information together in a form that uses the best of the web tools.

Apart from the many writing tools on you can also use it to record a series of bookmarks on a topic, make notes on them and store them for later use. You can make links between one thought or idea and another and then explore them interactively, thereby creating over time a personal web of connections that can consist of just text or media and links to other sites or other peoples thoughts. We found that most of the other blog site software and social networking sites make you conform to their way of interacting.

On you are fully in control of the space, of what you record on whatever topic and what you choose to share. You can turn the public view on or off at any time. It is a private personal space just for you, but it is also a powerful public space that allows you to control what you share.

Cliff T.: Do you anticipate or want to find the next Albert Einstein or someone akin to that or is this site designed to bring out the extraordinary in the ordinary?

Dr. Nelson: Well, rather than the next Einstein, I think we hope to find or uncover unique possible solutions to problems or issues that we all face, whether they be social, community, personal, political or technological. To use our catch phrase “We believe, every person has at least one idea, story, wish or dream that could change the world” Too many good ideas or valuable personal stories are lost in the great web void, buried in a blog or forum post never to be seen again and often buried with comment threads that go way off topic. We know we will get a lot of junk, that’s the nature of the web, but we also know that true gems and pearls are waiting to be revealed and shared. That is our mission, that is the core reason for providing this space.

Cliff T.: What kinds of things are you looking for from people or to put it another way what do you expect to find as you compile data in the compendiums on

Dr. Nelson: The personal journal space is private and protected, so what you choose to store there or how you choose to use it is entirely up to the individual. What you choose to share with others is also entirely up to the users. But, using our unique interactive key links you will be able to explore, both your own minds thoughts and others too if they link with you. I expect to see and read and explore some exciting journeys and thought threads that will lead to many ideas I would not normally associate together. If used on mass it has the potential to create a completely new way of searching on the web, a search by connected association, not a replacement to traditional searches but a powerful extra tool that simply does not exist today.

The World Compendia is rather more easy to predict. The 4 databases suggest the type of material we will accept in each category. Thoughts, Ideas, Stories, Dreams. The last one being quite unique, in that it will only accept actual dreams you have had. Why? We found there is no place that forms a human dream record, no place where people can record the content, symbols, date and locations associated with a dream experience. You may think, who cares? But it occurred to us that without such a database, it is impossible to see commonalities or connections or synchronicities between what each person dreams and when. A dream map of the human subconscious if you like. It may hold only limited value to a few dream researchers, but, when you think that every person dreams and that some dreams leave a lasting impact, it seemed obvious to us that this part of the human subconscious and imagination needed a place to be recorded.

In regard to the other areas. Thoughts is a place to express yourself, a place to have your say on almost any topic. Ideas, is a section to place more well thought out concepts, a new plan or method or invention that solves or addresses a problem or issue, a better way of doing something.

Stories, is a place to record your own personal experiences that you think may be of benefit to others. This is my favorite, as I think, in this modern age of controlled and filtered media fed to us in short bites, we too often miss out on hearing so many personal accounts. Sure there are blogs, but many people have just one of two stories to share and making their own blog is too much time and effort. Passing on information in the form of personal experiences or short accounts is fundamental to human society and personal development. Mass media has to some extent robbed us of personal diversity, tending to put everything into its own box.. like the news stations, ‘the good news story for the day’ ‘the sports section’ the ‘local’ or ‘world’ news sections as if that is all there is. Many stories do not fit to mould, or cross several categories and never make it to our eyes. This part of the Compendia will thrive by its diversity. It will provide a place for journalists to seek new stories and for users to read others accounts and post their own. A very powerful space indeed and of great benefit to us all.

Cliff T.: Dr. Nelson some might say you are searching for utopia in a world that is not so utopian, what is your thoughts about that?

Dr. Nelson: Hahaha, yes I’m a utopian to the core! I do not stand back from that label, save with one caveat. The Only ideas that succeed are the ones which have at least one foot planted firmly in common understanding, acceptance and practicality. may seem utopian, but it has a highly practical base. A personal journal is a well and long understood concept, the desire to record and share information is core to our nature, witness all the forums and blogs etc… is about making that process easier, more accessible. Once you see the simplicity and power of having your own space, with virtually no learning curve, a place where within seconds you can start recording or exploring an idea. A place that doesn’t take away from your usual activities, a place that actually adds to and enhances them, then you will see that Utopian ideas can have pragmatic outcomes, they can be a goal with practical results, not just an ultimate illusory destination.

Cliff T.: Overall what kind of reaction have you been getting to the project?

Dr. Nelson: Well, I can’t say we have had anything but good feedback so far. I think some of the positive reasons we have heard about are because it is providing a ‘cloud’ space accessible from any web capable device that is available 24/7 ie that you don’t need to be on your own computer to access all your personal information. Also that it is designed as a personal space first and foremost, and ironically, many people have said they are tired of being thrust into people’s ‘friends lists’, that they would prefer to have a private space where they could interact on their own and not expose themselves to everyone on their friends list but still have the options of sharing parts of their Brainspace with others.

Cliff T.: What prompted you to build the site?

Dr. Nelson: I have worked in the industry since it began way back in the late eighties, I developed 3d media and interactive techniques and when the web came online and was accepted by the public, like many people, my consultancy requests also changed. I spent a lot of my time writing course structures and lecturing at Universities in interactive digital media and effects, through all that time I saw many sites like Live Journal, MySpace and Facebook develop. While interested in the phenomenal growth of these type of social networking sites, I was always left thinking that the friends aspect tended to dominate, rather than the actual content. Of course this can have many positive benefits, but there are many negative ones too, rather than be a personal space, it becomes a very public and exposed space. I wanted to create the reverse, a safe place, where information could be shared or not and a place that didn’t rely on you having hundreds of so called ‘friends’ to make it seem successful or worthy of your time and efforts.

On top of this, being a medical doctor, having also been involved in media and teaching, having made documentaries and been involved with the film and tv business, I saw that so many ideas and stories never see the light of day. I wanted to change that, I wanted to create a way to make the story or idea the core to why people connected or interacted with each other rather than an often superficial ‘friends list’. We thrive by our ideas and thought and stories. I thought it was time to create a more intelligent space for social networking and interaction on the net.

Cliff T.: Besides adding to the data base what other things will users be able to do on

Dr. Nelson: Ah, we have fantastic plans! The new key linking search and explore facility is prime to the tools currently being developed. The beta release is set for the end of this month. We will be allowing users to come in and try out the basic facilities and features and to give us feedback on what they like and what they don’t etc…. These sort of sites are always ‘a work in progress’ . The key linking will allow you to link one aspect or record to another and provide an easy navigation facility to explore those connections, a bit like a browser for your mind! It will also allow you to link to other peoples records(minds), if they chose to make them viewable to members or the public.

Another exciting part of the project is a 3D virtual reality simulator space, that will allow members to log in and get access to their own records in a 3D space, to meet with others there and share their material. I’m hoping this space will provide a 3D world island where the World Compendia could be accessible as if being in a real world library. We have this currently under development and it will only be available to members. This may not appeal to everyone but, it adds a unique aspect and way of people interacting around the world in a common environment. We are hoping this will form the core to the social networking aspects of the project. Rather than meeting friends through text boxes, you will be able to meet up in full 3D with full voice and text chat facilities.

Cliff T.: Dr. Nelson can you give us a bit of a history behind this project?

Dr. Nelson: The project started in 2009. It is privately funded at this stage. I took off time from my lecturing and media consultancy business to devote to getting this project off the ground. We are aiming to keep it free for users if we can and have spent a lot of our time looking for potential funding sources to complete the build and keep it going. This is not at all easy and costs can escalate very quickly when traffic and use gets high. We are at the point now where we need investors, partners and supporters to become involved to allow it to proceed in the way it deserves. The project is designed as a true benefit to the world community and as such it will only succeed if it gains popular support.

My own involvement will continue as long as I can afford to spend the time. The project has actually been in very slow development since I wrote some personal journal software back in the early nineties that uses the key linking system. I designed that package called ‘The Seed’ for my patients to use, as a means of them recording their symptoms, thoughts, feelings and even dreams. The idea being to provide a record that could be shared with the doctor. The rise of the internet kind of superseded the old interactive CD concept and I had long wanted to re invent a new version for the web. Due to other work commitments it was only possible to find the time in the past year.

Cliff T.:I noticed that you also have a book called the Nelson Dream Base, is the project an extension of this work?

Dr. Nelson: Direct links: (if you want to link them to the sites mentioned below)

Facebook app page

Yes, the ebook available on Amazon or through Smashwords has the current compilation of dream words and meanings assembled for use in the online interactive dreamers dictionary on the site. I compiled the dictionary over the last 10 or 15 years and it is updated every so often. It is not designed to tell the direct meaning of people’s dreams, rather it is designed to show common interpretations for certain actions and symbols in dreams. Dream dictionaries have gone out of favor in general psychology but, I felt a need to at least publish some of the commonly used terms and possible associations, its aim is simply to provoke thought in order to help you to find your own meanings rather than to give one distinct meaning. It’s entries are taken from widely diverse views from Jung, Freud, Pagan, etc… We have published it simply to provide some small financial support for the site and its operations.

Cliff T.: Dr. Nelson I appreciate the fact that you took the time to speak with me today. I wish you the best as you continue to build on the project, when do you plan to have the site fully launched?

Dr. Nelson: Thanks for your interest Cliff, we greatly appreciate it. The beta release is due end of October. We will be accepting people to join as members and to start using the facilities while we upgrade the site over the next 6 months. We welcome people to come and get involved and to help us improve it, also to help us get the word out. The net is a very big place these days and it’s hard without massive funding to get a site noticed by the masses. There is a Facebook app and page too, Every bit helps. I hope that your excellent personal interview blog will begin to find many people from worthy of interview too in the future. We all have a story to tell for anyone with ears to listen. The world is not made of leaders and stars, it’s made of all the experiences of people with a story to tell. Let’s share our Brainspace!

Cliff T.: Excellent again best of success to you and the site and again thank you for stopping in to chat on Candid Conversations.

Dr. Andrew Nelson is the creator of a comprehensive data base and free site where people can share stories dreams and ideas. The site will launch at the end of October. Dr. Nelson has also authored the Nelson Dream Base. He wrote to Candid Conversations from somewhere in cyberspace.

C. T.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Serious Candid Conversation With Howard Sapers

For 35 years the Office of the Correctional Investigator Canada has been the voice if you will for those seeking to file complaints within the correctional system in Canada. The voice is of the offender and besides dealing with this the Ombudsman also looks at the processes that Correctional Service Canada uses to handle inmates and makes recommendations on them to improve the service.

In recent times the office has garnered media attention especially in the light of the death of Ashley Smith in 2007. Howard Sapers is the Correctional Investigator for Canada a role that puts him in the middle of what could be considered a tug of war between the inmates and the jailers. Mr Sapers welcome to Candid Conversations.

H Sapers: “Thank you very much for the invitation. It is indeed a pleasure.”

Cliff T.: I characterize what you do as being in the middle of a tug of war between the inmates and the jailers, would that be an accurate lay description?

H Sapers: “My Office is independent of the Correctional Service and my mandate is to conduct investigations into the problems of offenders related to decisions, acts or omissions of the CSC that affect offenders either individually or as a group.

I would not necessarily characterize the relationship between my Office and the Correctional Service of Canada as a ‘tug of war.’ In fact, we both share a common and mutual goal – safe, secure and humane custody of federally sentenced offenders.

We may not always agree on certain points, but ultimately the relationship between an Ombudsman’s office and the agency it oversees must be built on professionalism, integrity and trust. Both organizations have an interest in assisting offenders to lead a responsible and law-abiding life.

Our investigations promote the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders in accordance with the law. As a partner in the criminal justice system we help to ensure the safe and effective reintegration of offenders into the community, contributing to public safety.”

Cliff T.: What is the range of complaints that you receive from inmates?

H Sapers: On an annual basis, my Office receives anywhere between 5,000 and 7,000 offender complaints. In FY 2009-10, the top 10 areas of concern most frequently identified by offenders were:

Health Care 766 14.68%
Cell Effects 397 7.61%
Administrative Segregation 394 7.55%
Transfer 393 7.53%
Staff 379 7.26%
Grievance 244 4.68%
Visits 220 4.22%
Telephone 168 3.22%
Case Preparation 157 3.01%
Information 154 2.95%

Cliff T.: Besides complaints from the inmates, do you ever get any from the families of inmates and or the general public and what about corrections staff can they file a complaint to you?

H Sapers: “Yes, we frequently have family members of offenders contact our Office. Often the nature of a family member contact with my Office is to seek information or clarification about an issue, event or concern affecting their son or daughter or loved one. A family member may ask our Office to intervene on their behalf, but in order to do so we must have the consent of the offender in order to pursue the matter further.

Correctional Service of Canada personnel do not file a complaint with my Office. The CSC and the unions representing its staff deal with employee issues.”

Cliff T.: How are complaints prioritized and do any just get sent back without any investigation at all?

H Sapers: “Our goal is to ensure that all offender complaints are objectively and fairly addressed in a timely manner. Like most Ombudsman, we encourage complainants to resolve their matters informally, at the lowest levels possible. In the case of federal offenders, we encourage them to attempt to resolve their concerns through the inmate complaints and grievance process, although this is not a prerequisite to our initiating an investigation. The vast majority of the concerns raised on complaints by inmates are addressed by this Office at the institutional level through discussion and negotiation.

Offenders can contact my Office by toll-free phone, by letter or by meeting one of my Investigators assigned to federal facilities. Calls of an urgent or emergency nature – e.g. life-threatening situation, involuntary segregation, medical emergency or involuntary transfer – are responded to on a priority basis.

Not all complaints proceed to an investigation. We are not advocates for offenders or the prison system. We investigate from an impartial perspective and, if we decide a complaint has merit, we will support the offender in achieving resolution of the problem. In other words, my Office has full discretion as to whether an investigation will be conducted in relation to any particular complaint or request and how that investigation will be carried out.”

Cliff T.:Mr. Sapers I have to imagine that some prisoners are afraid to speak up for fear of reprisals by staff, how does your team deal with that fear?

H Sapers: “The law is very clear on this point – ‘every offender shall have complete access to the offender grievance procedure without negative consequences.’

In our case, all communications between offenders and my Office is confidential. All correspondence to and from the Office is to be delivered unopened. A person or group cannot be disciplined or punished because they have contacted my Office.”

Cliff T.: It can also be said that staff at an institution or an inmate may not be completely honest about what really happened, are there tools you have to aid you and your team to sort it out and figure out what really went on?

H Sapers: “My team of Investigators has access to all information and documents that are in the possession of the Correctional Service for the purpose of carrying out an investigation. My staff can interview or communicate with any member of the CSC. We have full and unfettered access to CSC facilities. Through corroborating interviews, accessing and reviewing pertinent information, evidence and documentation, we can usually make a determination based on the facts and merits of the case before us.”

Cliff T.: There many in our society who feel and voice the opinion that prisoners don't matter in our society some just want to have Corrections Canada lock the cell door and toss the key away, what is your take on this mentality?

H Sapers: “We have to remember that the vast majority of offenders will eventually be released from prison back to the community. We have a better chance of releasing a responsible and law-abiding person if s/he is treated fairly, with dignity and respect while serving their sentence. Corrections involves balancing the interests and rights of all members of society, including those of offenders.

I happen to believe that how we treat those in prison can tell us a lot about the kind of society we are, or aspire to be. Offenders often come from vulnerable, distressed and disadvantaged elements of our society. Their life histories are not an excuse for their criminality, but they do help us understand why they may end up in prison and how we might positively intervene. As has often been observed, offenders are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment. None of our sanctions for criminal behaviour includes the abandonment of human rights. This is what defines our correctional system and our democracy – or at least it should.

Cliff T.: What got you interested in doing this job?

H Sapers: “In my professional life, I have held various positions in the criminal justice field through employment and community service. Immediately prior to my appointment as Correctional Investigator of Canada in February 2004, I was Vice-Chairperson, National Parole Board of Canada in the Prairie Region. Between 2001-2003, I held the position of Director of the Crime Prevention Investment Fund at the National Crime Prevention Centre, Department of Justice Canada. My post secondary education and training is in Criminology. Overall, I have nearly 30 years of work and volunteer experience in the criminal justice sector.”

Cliff T.: There are a lot of bad things one can say about inmates and the prison system and there are a lot of bad things that happen to inmates in the system. However do you ever have a good day or should I ask what is a good day in your job?

H Sapers: “I have mostly good days in my job. I have a terrific and committed staff. I come to work everyday feeling quite privileged to serve Canadians. It is not a perfect job, but I believe it is an important one. By their nature, prisons can be inhospitable environments, for both prisoners and staff. I am struck by the fact that my Office serves an important and necessary oversight function. To be effective and to maintain public trust and confidence, our criminal justice system must operate within, not outside, the rule of law. I cannot think of a better or more rewarding mandate than that.”

Cliff T.: I noted that on the site that the services you provide have been in place for a short time 35 years. Why was the agency formed or a better question is what caused the need to create The Office of The Correctional Investigator?

H Sapers: “The Office of the Correctional Investigator was created as a direct result of a prison riot at Kingston Penitentiary in 1971. The riot, a response to harsh conditions of confinement and punitive disciplinary sanctions, resulted in five correctional officers being taken hostage and a group of prisoners brutally tortured. Two of the prisoners died, 13 were seriously injured, and part of Kingston Penitentiary was destroyed. In the aftermath of the riot, many of the inmates involved in the disturbance were transferred to nearby Millhaven Institution where they were assaulted by correctional staff at that institution.

The resulting Commission of Inquiry into the Kingston riot and subsequent events recommended the establishment of an external avenue of redress. The Office of the Correctional Investigator was established June 1, 1973. It was not, however, until 1992 that that my Office was formally established in statute with the enactment of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.”

Cliff T.: Well it is obvious that due to events of the past and in recent light of a report on 130 cases of in custody deaths 9 of which had eerie similarities to the death of Ashley Smith in 2007 that there is much to do to change the system and the attitudes about it and towards inmates. Mr Sapers thank you for spending time with me and my readers today it was a pleasure to speak with you via email.

H Sapers: “Thank you again for your interest in my Office.”

Howard Sapers is the Correction Investigator for Canada and works out of the Office of the Correctional Investigator. To learn more about the role of the agency and Mr. Sapers you can visit the website at . Mr. Sapers wrote to us from his office in Ottawa.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vacation Rental---Treehouse In France Let Me Explain

Vacations come in all shapes and sizes. And, so do the places that one can stay in. Everything from a five star hotel room to a bunk in a hostel can be found in most major cities around the world. But, imagine if you can vacationing in France and instead of a hotel you stay in a tree-house. I kid you not a real tree-house that you can rent while vacationing in France.

Jane Sobanski has that tree-house in the South west of France in the village of Marclac. The area is famous for it's link to the Three Musketeers and Armagnac. Curious I decided to contact Ms. Sobanksi to find out more abut the tree-house.

Ms. Sobanski welcome to Candid Constructions.

J. Sobanski: Hello Cliff.

Cliff T.: A tree-house that is novel, what inspired you to build it?

J. Sobanski: First of all I must not take credit where it is not due, and say that the tree-house is all the work of my very marvelous husband Marek. I did paint a wall or two and stuff in a bit of sheep’s wool insulation but the design and building was all his.

When he was a kid he and his brothers built a small tree-house in their garden and ever since then he had dreamed of building a ‘serious’ tree-house. It wasn’t until we moved to France that we had enough trees for him to tackle the project.

Cliff T.: I see that you can have up to six in the tree-house. That must mean this is a very big tree-house, how big are we talking when it comes to the size of it?

J. Sobanski: Yes, it is bigger than people expect. They imagine a shed in a tree, which it definitely is not! In fact, it is the same floor space as our first little 2-up 2-down terraced house in England. There are two bedrooms which sleep four people and a sofa-bed in the living room for another two, along with a kitchen, bathroom and a big terrace outside.

Cliff T.: What did it take to build it and how long did it take to construct the tree-house?

J. Sobanski: It was built over three years, as we periodically ran out of money or enthusiasm. If you put all the time together, it took three guys about seven months. The platform went up in about two weeks and the skeleton of the house in about three weeks, which all seemed wonderfully quick, but then everything else took ages, particularly the finishing. All the walls are double skins of planks, the outside ones stuffed with sheep’s wool for insulation and every angle of every board had to be cut specially - you can imagine how the enthusiasm ran out occasionally. Every surface had to be treated in some way - sanded, painted, varnished, weather-proofed and generally fussed over. That’s where I did my bit!

Cliff T.: What can guests expect to see when they go up into the tree-house?

J. Sobanski: As the tree-house is built on a steep slope, one side of the platform is only about a meter and a half above the ground, but the other side is about five meters up. You cross a bridge onto the platform, where there is a big terrace to sit out on. Once through the front door, apart from the odd tree coming up through the floor, you feel that you’re in a proper house - a kitchen, bathroom and living room downstairs and the two bedrooms upstairs. It is surrounded by oak, sweet chestnut and hornbeam, so you really feel that you are in the trees. There is a wood-burning stove for when it gets chilly, so it’s very cozy.

Cliff T.: Ms. Sobanski, what kinds of reactions do you get when people find out you have a tree-house for rent?

J. Sobanski: Generally people are amazed. I think it brings out the kid in all of us. The compost toilet causes a few raised eyebrows but as it works very well, people like the novelty of it. There are creature comforts too, like hot water and a washing machine, used with washing balls to limit pollution. It is incredibly peaceful and people say they either have the best sleep ever or they have amazing dreams and you can see the stress drop away - probably to do with being surrounded by ‘tree energy’.

Cliff T.: What is the best time of the year to rent the tree-house and how long do guests tend to stay?

J. Sobanski: Summer is obviously the most popular time, but spring and autumn are very beautiful here and we only have a short winter, and there is the stove to keep snug. Christmas in a tree-house is really cool!

Cliff T.:I bet you’re the talk of the town, what do the locals think of having a tree-house that is used like a hotel suite?

J. Sobanski: They love it! As we live in a very small rural community, people are always bringing their friends round to see it - it’s become a bit of an attraction.

Cliff T.: Are you planning on expanding by building more tree-houses?

J. Sobanski: Yes. Marek’s next tree-house will be the other end of the scale - a one-room space all built from recycled and local materials - he will cut his own planks and put a chestnut shingle roof on it. Quite how many more he has planned I’m not sure!

Cliff T.: I also spotted a section on your site talking about building tree-houses, is that something else you do?

J. Sobanski: Yes - this is a new venture.

Cliff T.: Have you built many of them?

J. Sobanski: Not yet!

Cliff T.: If people want to rent the tree-house you have or build one themselves using your services how far in advance of the trip or project should they book?

J. Sobanski: On the rental side, it is good to book as soon as you have definite holiday dates, as we do have to turn people away during the summer (more tree-houses needed!). For a tree-house to be built, the planning stage can take some time, depending on where you are, what restrictions are in force and what you have in mind for your tree-house. So the sooner the better, really.

Cliff T.: Is there anything special a guest needs to know before booking?

J. Sobanski: Not really. The tree-house is child-friendly and so long as you are cool with the compost toilet, there’s nothing scary! You can get a car very near, so no tramping through woods with suitcases. We are very much in the countryside but there are local villages with shops and restaurants so you are not too isolated from civilization.

Cliff T.: Ms Sobanski it's been fantastic speaking with you about the tree-house you have. Thanks for letting Candid Constructions readers know more about it.

J. Sobanski: It’s been a pleasure. If any your readers fancy a visit they will be very welcome.

Jane Sobanski is the owner of a tree-house for rent near Marciac, France which is 130 KM West of Toulouse. For more information or to to book the tree-house visit

Monday, July 26, 2010

Betty In The Sky With Suitcase Full Of Funny Airline Stories

While listening to one of my favorite Pod-casts, The Stuph File Program with Peter Anthony Holder I heard the interview he did with Betty Thesky. Betty is a Flight Attendant on a major airline and has logged thousands of hours and miles in the sky. Beginning in 2005 she began to recount some of the more interesting moments while flying in a Podcast of her own Betty In the Sky with a Suitcase and recently she wrote a book about some of the more funnier moments up at 30,000 FT.

In a world where lately flying seems to have become a pain rather than pleasure with all the rules, not to mention the time you have to spend at the airport before even getting on a plane. I have to say, it is refreshing to find that humor in the air still exists.

Betty thanks for doing a Candid Conversations interview

B. Thesky: I understand that flying has become more of a hassle but the fact still remains that if you stuff 300 people in a metal tube for hours crazy things are bound to happen!

Cliff T.: Lets begin by getting an idea of what your podcast is about exactly what is Betty In the Sky with a Suitcase about?

B. Thesky: When I first started flying I especially enjoyed the funny stories the senior flight attendants and pilots would tell. When the new medium of pod-casting came about I started digitally recording pilots and flight attendants telling outrageous stories. My podcast is similar to an old fashioned radio show, it became so popular that a publisher came to me an suggested turning the best stories into a book. Life can be so surprising, I was not intending to write a book yet all the sudden I’m an author?

Cliff T.: How long is the podcast?

B. Thesky: I do a thirty minute show once a month. At first I was doing a show a week but quickly realized that since I edit and post the show myself I couldn’t couldn’t keep up the pace and fly full time.

Cliff T.: I bet the hardest thing is deciding what to put into the show as I am sure that you get lots of material, just how often do you get updates on the funnier side of flying?

B. Thesky: Lucky for me people the traveling public are always doing zany things.You would think that after 23 years in the air I would have seen and heard everything... But, people still surprise me!

Cliff T.: You also wrote a book with the same title. Betty how did you decide what material would get into the book?

B. Thesky: My co author and publisher did a lot of the editing. We wanted the book to appeal to everyone including kids, so some really funny stories that were too racy or off color didn’t make it into the book. There may be another book in the works to include them.

Cliff T.: Who would you say is funnier the passengers or the crew?

B. Thesky: Oh that is a tough question. Normally I would say the passengers but, did you hear that last week an Air France flight attendant was arrested for stealing from sleeping passengers on flights from Europe to Asia! I bet when she was saying goodbye and THANK YOU at the end of the flight she really meant it?! So I guess crazy is crazy whether it’s the passengers or crew, and I love the crazy people since they make the best stories!

Cliff T.: Wow that is crazy, I will have to sleep with one eye open if I fly trans Atlantic. Now I got to ask Betty, are any of the stories ones that include yourself?

B. Thesky: Of course! I star in many of the stories, I actually love to make fun of myself.

Cliff T.: Can you give us an example or examples of some of the things that you have seen while flying that is in the book?

B. Thesky: A passenger mistakenly flushing her dress down the toilet, a couple attempting to join the mile high club but forgetting to lock the door and landing in a pile in the first class aisle! A flight being delayed due to a ticking...not a bomb but a ...vibrator! Or general high jinks that the public are never privy too like... Once on a long haul flight to Honolulu, I was chatting with the pilots in the cockpit and the jump seater from another airline was talking about a prank he had seen crews do on a ferry flight (a flight with no passengers) involving toilet paper. You tuck the end tail of the toilet paper roll down the lavatory then unwind toilet paper the length of the airplane, then flushing. The powerful suction of the lav would then suck the toilet paper down, like a kid slurping spaghetti. Well, the captain just had to see this in action, even though we had a completely full flight. He told me to get everything in place and then call him when it was ready. I got one fellow flight attendant to guard the door to the lav in the back of the plane while I walked backwards up the aisle, unrolling toilet paper as I went. It must have looked outrageously insane to the passengers but it was, after all, a long flight in the middle of the day to a vacation destination, so I figured everyone would be willing to play along. I just kept telling people ‘it’s an experiment!’ and that piqued their interest. When the toilet paper was laid out the length of the aircraft, I called the captain and, when he stepped out of the cockpit. I gave the thumbs-up signal to my accomplice in the back and, she pushed the flush button. Well, that piece of toilet paper lifted in the air, waved in the air like a noodle, and SWOOSH! went down the lav. The entire plane erupted into applause and cheers and, the captain said it was the neatest trick he had ever seen on a plane!

Cliff T.: Are you planning a second book?

B. Thesky: Yes it’s in the works, I hope to also include some travel stories in the second book. I do a lot of adventure travel and have great stories, like... jumping of a moving train in Morocco and losing our camels in the Sahara Desert! We may call the next book Betty and the Jets!

Cliff T.: What does the airline think of your tales or have the even commented?

B. Thesky: I never say the name of my airline for fear of getting in trouble. I still really like my job and want to keep it. At one point I got an e-mail from the chief pilot and thought...oh no...I’m finally going to get in trouble! But he was e-mailing me to say how much he likes the podcast! Boy was I relieved.

Cliff T.: Have you had the proverbial hey I know you, your that person with the podcast and book reaction?

B. Thesky: I have managed to stay under the radar on the airplane. Except I did a book signing at JFK airport, I had gone though security in my uniform. Went into the bathroom and changed to do the book signing in a vintage stewardess outfit complete with a pill box hat. Would you believe the book store was right next to the gate I was flying out’s such a big airport what is the chance of that? But, I changed back into my real uniform for my flight home. A passenger said “How did the book signing go” since I try to keep the book and podcast apart from my real job I said “I wasn’t doing a book signing” and the guy said “so why is your hair still pointed like a cone head from the pill box hat?” That was too close for comfort!

Cliff T.: Well it sounds like you have a lot of fun on and off the the plane. Thank you very much Betty for sharing your story I think it's great to see that the funny is still alive and well in the air.

Betty Thesky is an airline employee pod-caster and author. Making her one very busy bee. You can find out more re the podcast and the book at her website which is, the link to the pod-casts and her book are on the site. You can also download the podcast in Itunes and the book is sold on

I spoke with Betty who is somewhere in cyberspace, maybe she was on a plane. I don't know. Got an interesting story person you want me to interview or cool gadget that you heard about that you wan the inside track on. Send me an email, the address is Thanks for reading and come back soon.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Step 1 Buy Book Step 2 Read Book Step 3 Make Wedding Proposal

Hard to believe that in a couple of days I will have the pleasure of saying happy anniversary to my wife, 13 years ago June 21 was the day we tied the knot. My proposal was not grand in any way shape or form. You see I had asked my bride Dar to marry me back when I was 17, back then she said no. But, at 33 years of age I caught up with her and told her that I would still marry her at the drop of a hat, that was the proposal. Short and sweet and to the point.

Many guys have a tough time coming up with marriage proposals. Even more want to do something to get the girl but, do not want to look like a fool especially in public. There are many ways to pop the question and just as many people offering tips and tricks on and offline on how to make a proposal that will get the girl and be memorable at the same time.

To that end a couple Carmelo and Andrea Di Salvo have published a book titled Creative Marriage Proposals: How to Pop the Question....with Panache. The book is geared towards men and offers tips on how to make the leap into a marriage proposal that will get attention. Andrea and Carmelo thanks for doing a Candid Conversation, welcome to the blog.

Di Salvo(s): Thanks for inviting us to do this interview, Cliff. We’re excited to cyber-be here.

Cliff T.: some might say there is nothing new under the sun here that this has been done before, yet you decided to jump in and write a book for potential grooms on how to make that jump from wanting to ask to asking that big question. What prompted you to do that?

Andrea Di Salvo: I’ll be honest; in the beginning it was an idea to make money. I’d been to a class with Internet marketer Tom Antion, and he was making money selling e-books about wedding toasts and eulogies, so we wondered how we could do something similar. People don’t spend money on things they don’t need or want, though, so we started looking for an unfilled niche and a way to fill it. The more we worked on it, the more it became about helping the men for whom we were writing rather than ourselves.

Carmelo Di Salvo: I agree. One of the best things you can do is to help others. And when it comes to romance and wedding proposals, guys really need help!

Cliff T.: in the book there are over 100 templates that readers can pick from, how did you choose them?

Andrea Di Salvo: Some were common sense or common practice, like our classic romantic proposal template for a “Nice Restaurant” proposal. We just added concrete steps and advice on how to make them go smoothly. Others were things we’d heard of or seen done. For the rest, we let our imaginations run wild. If we thought of it and thought it could actually be done by most guys, we put it in there.

Carmelo Di Salvo: Not only that, but because couples come from so many backgrounds and varying interests, we tried to cast a wide net of ideas for wedding proposals. If one idea does not appeal to someone, there are several other ideas that will definitely appeal to the guy.

Cliff T.: In your press release you mentioned that Creative Marriage Proposals touches on a variety of ideas and themes including hobby related proposals, I have to ask what kinds of hobbies are included?

Andrea Di Salvo: We tried to cover the gamut of activities women are involved in—because the hobby involved is either the woman’s or shared—so you’ll find topics as diverse as rock climbing and antiquing. There are also proposals for other outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and even some sports like bowling and hockey.

Carmelo Di Salvo: Our approach was to come up with the most creative ideas possible. We did the ‘heavy lifting’ so to speak. All the guy has to do is to pick from the selection of ideas and run with it. We’re confident that ideas and themes we offer will bring the groom-to-be good success.

Cliff T.: It is also noted in the release that you have several degrees and careers between you, did you draw on these to write the book?

Andrea Di Salvo: My degree is in journalism, so I definitely used it at all stages of researching and writing the book. I’ve worked in several marketing positions, among others, so that helped with post-production marketing…like the press release that caught your attention.

Carmelo Di Salvo: My background is in economics, business, and strategic leadership, so if a potential groom is looking for a wide selection of creative proposal ideas at a great price, then yes, it applies. Other than that, if he needs help with his taxes, give him my phone number!

Cliff T.: I have seen some wild proposals myself and often wonder if I had done that how much would I have to pay for it to be done, do you give readers an indication of costs associated with a proposal?

Carmelo Di Salvo: We mention that it is best to contact the necessary people first. For example, if a guy wants to propose at the botanical gardens, he will need to contact them directly to first get permission, and then find out any costs as well. The groom-to-be will need to make some phone calls ahead of time.

Andrea Di Salvo: That’s a great idea but, for the most part, no. Prices vary so much from place to place…even Internet prices depend on where the company is based, so we didn’t want to list prices that may be way off from what guys in other areas would experience. On some of the pricier proposals we mention that there is a cost involved, but an “up to” or “more than” price is usually the best we can do.

Cliff T.: What is the weirdest one you have in the book or shall I say the most whimsical?

Andrea Di Salvo: We prefer “whimsical.” Really, what a person thinks is strange depends on the person. For me, the Knight in Shining Armor proposal is pretty strange…but a friend of ours actually used it! Carmelo?

Carmelo Di Salvo: Actually I thought the Knight in Shining Armor was pretty tame. For me, it’s the one where the guy dresses up like a cowboy in an old John Wayne western…oh wait, that idea is in book two!

Cliff T.: Ok I have to ask this one of Carmelo, is the one you made to Andrea in the book?

Carmelo Di Salvo: The proposal I did for Andrea is actually a combination of the romantic dinner followed by the proposal at the beach. I might add though that the night I proposed was absolutely perfect. The night sky was clear with a full moon over the ocean. So yes, the idea is in the book, but no, I can’t help with the full moon!

Cliff T.: In Creative Marriage Proposals is practicing the proposal encouraged?

Andrea Di Salvo: Preparation of every kind is encouraged! Actually, we would discourage men from going over and over the words they want to say, even though we recommend having some idea of what “speech” they want to use, because a man doesn’t want his proposal to sound canned. Some of the proposals are pretty complicated, though, and we do encourage doing a dry run of whatever scenario is chosen.

Carmelo Di Salvo: Asking your girlfriend for her hand in marriage is a big step. It’s not like going to the store to buy milk and eggs. So it’s important to practice where you feel comfortable, but like Andrea said, it should not sound canned either.

Cliff T.: What about a second marriage, or a retaking of the vows could any of the proposals in the book be used to repop the question?

Andrea Di Salvo: Not specifically. We’ve actually thought about writing a second edition that includes those aspects, or even a whole new book. For now, though, almost all of the proposals in the book could be used in those situations.

Carmelo Di Salvo: I agree. All of the scenarios we stated would be an excellent way to propose the second time around. Just because someone may not be new to the altar does not mean the proposal from the first marriage has to be used. Choosing a new and exciting proposal could pave the way to a successful second marriage.

Cliff T.: Have you heard back from any of the men who have used any of the proposals in the book? And if so what kind of reaction did they get?

Carmelo Di Salvo: The book hasn’t been out very long, so we haven’t received any specific feedback from it.

Andrea Di Salvo: But we’d love to!

Carmelo Di Salvo: Yes, we’d love to. Some of the ideas were used before we put the book together. It’s kind of like a good recipe; you try it out first before you have friends and family over for that special dinner. For example, I suggested to a friend the idea of the Knight in Shining Armor. He went all out and rented a horse and made his armor out of cardboard covered with tin foil. The proposal was caught on videotape and caused excitement in the neighborhood as family and neighbors looked on. Naturally we used this proposal idea in the book because it does work

Cliff T.: This sounds like it was a fun book to do, was it?

Carmelo Di Salvo: I had a great time using my imagination to come up with exciting proposals for guys who need some assistance.

Andrea Di Salvo: It was a blast! We tried to keep the proposals within the realm of the practical, but these are “creative” marriage proposals, so we let our imaginations run a bit. It was a lot of fun thinking of different ways a motivated man could pop the question.

Cliff T.: If anyone wants to get a copy of Creative Marriage Proposals, how can they go about doing that?

Carmelo Di Salvo: It’s available from in paperback, download and ePub formats, for $15.39 and $7.95 respectively. We’re also making it available on’s Kindle; it may even be in the Kindle store by the time this is posted.

Cliff T.: Excellent, I am sure that you will have great success with the book and I want to thank you again for taking the time out to tell Candid Conversations readers about it.

Di Salvo(s): Thank you so much for giving us the chance to share about our book with your readers. We hope some of them have the chance to read it and use it to their success!

Cliff T.: Carmelo and Andrea Di Salvo have three graduate degrees and several careers between them, but agree that their most important life’s work is their two-year-old daughter. Creative Marriage Proposals is available from in download, eBook and traditional paperback formats. The Di Salvos wrote to us from Heppner OR which is about 200 miles East of Portland.

For more information about what the Di Salvos do visit

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Cloud Punching Planes Affect Weather

While doing some searching around for the next posting to Candid Conversations I came across an article on I was quite surprised to learn that certain types of aircraft, in the right conditions have the ability to affect how clouds react creating a change in weather and producing some interesting vistas in the skies above.

I contacted Andrew Heymsfield, the Principle Investigator during a study of this phenomenon and was delighted to get a reply. Andy thanks for being a part of Candid Conditions.

Cliff T.: What exactly do you do at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research and what was the study you were the PI for about?

Andrew Heymsfield: My field of interest is in ice microphysics, including the processes that lead to ice particle nucleation and growth, the effects of ice clouds on the earth's radiation budget, the representation of ice processes in models from weather forecast to climate scales, and the retrieval of ice cloud properties from ground-based and spaceborne remote sensors. I am a senior scientist and have worked at NCAR for 34 years. As for the experiment to study how ice particles initiate in clouds. The subject is difficult because “ice nuclei” are relatively few compared to cloud droplets and their measurement is difficult. Also, there are processes other than “nucleation” that can produce ice in subfreezing clouds. So, our goal was to study how ice was formed.

Cliff T.: Where was the study done?

Andrew Heymsfield: The project was based out of Metro Airport in Broomfield, CO.

Cliff T.: How was this done?

Andrew Heymsfield: We flew a plane through a cloud. On the day of our penetration of precipitation that formed, we flew a C-130 aircraft that produced a hole punch cloud, we took off with the goal of characterizing snow in a cloud layer situated between about 6000 and 12000 feet. We didn’t know it at the time but we flew right through the precipitation that was first detected by radar at about 15000 feet and then eventually grew and descended to the ground where it produced 2” of snow compared to none or a trace in the surrounding area.

Cliff T.: How does such an experiment help average people?

Andrew Heymsfield: By going back to the FAA aircraft tracks, we identified the two turboprop aircraft that produced the precipitation. Our interest, of course, is in explaining how Snow precipitation begins and develops, useful information for improving weather forecast models. After identifying the snow band generated by the aircraft, our goal was to figure out why and the broader implications. Although turboprop aircraft were suspected of producing such features, many of the early reports (1960’s-80’s) of hole punch clouds were from jet aircraft. We made the connection in the paper, explaining the process by which jet aircraft can produce hole punch clouds.

Cliff T.: From the way you describe what you have done Andy it sounds like this was not just work for you but, rather that you had fun doing this styudy. And, also by the fact that you have been doing your work for 34 years it is obvious that you have had a history of interest in weather. Thank you so very much for taking the time to write back and for sharing the story of this interesting study you did.

Andrew Heymsfield is a Senior Scientist with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado. You can get the paper by following this link

NASA Earth Observatory also has information on this topic.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smoker/Non-Smoker Skyscanner Lets You Know Where You Have To Butt Out And Where You Can Light Up

You’re a smoker, you want to travel but, many places are no-go zones for smokers. So what is one to do? Well believe it or not there are many places in the world that still welcome smokers with wide-open arms -in smoky rooms. How do I know this? I found an interesting press release from Skyscanner Ltd., a global flight search company based in Edinburgh Scotland. In addition to providing a website, , where people can find the best deals on flights, they have also found the best and the worst places for those who enjoy a smoke while traveling.

That got my attention, so I contacted Scott Carlson to find out more about this list. Scott thanks for taking time out to chat via e-mail about this unusual list for travelers.

Scott Carlson: Of course, Cliff. Thank you for the interest in our article.

Cliff T.: This is a novel idea, what prompted Skyscanner to develop the list?

Scott Carlson: I think one of our editorial team is a fan of interesting facts, so with “Worldwide, No Tobacco Day” on the 31st of May, we decided to look at which destinations cater to, and hinder smokers and non-smokers alike.

Cliff T.: One would not think that there is a large population of smokers traveling, is that myth or reality?

Scott Carlson: I guess that all depends on the perspective of the person asking the question. It has been my experience that many cultures differ in their reverence for, or aversion to, smoking-in-general. Nonetheless, I cannot say whether or not there is a larger-portion of smokers versus non-smokers traveling these days; it could make for an interesting thesis study though. Perhaps the sales volume(s) of cigarettes in duty-free destinations has something to do with it?

Cliff T.: I noticed that there are nine countries on the list and 5 are not smoker friendly 4, are there any others besides these countries that you found?

Scott Carlson: We could have included more destinations for both smokers and non-smokers alike, but then where do you stop? To be clear: any perceived slant toward, or “preference” for smoking versus non-smoking destinations was neither intentional nor intended on our part.

Cliff T.: Besides marking the annual No Tobacco Day, was there or is there another reason for making the list, like encouraging travel to a smokers and non-smoker’s paradise?

Scott Carlson: Not really, as I mentioned earlier, the criterion was based on the popularity of the destination as a whole, then we chose the most-interesting cities based on their approach to smoking. Working alongside country experts from various countries, I’ve noticed that smoking is seen quite differently from country to country and that made me wonder whether some destinations are seen as more attractive than others depending on their smoking policy.

Cliff T.: I have to ask are there any airlines that still allow passengers to smoke if so which ones?

Scott Carlson: None that I am aware of.

Cliff T.: Have you received any reaction to the list?

Scott Carlson: Yes, there has been a lot of interest from both smokers, and non-smokers alike. Like many things in life, the freedom to smoke, or not be exposed to second-hand smoke, in public venues is a very personal thing and we thought it would be interesting to highlight how different cultures perceive and regulate this freedom to choose.

Cliff T.: Were you surprised to find countries that still had no anti smoking laws?

Scott Carlson: Personally, I was not surprised. Many European cultures, as well as Japanese cultures have a different feeling toward smoking in public than some of their more “smoke-free” cousins. I think it best that, whatever side of the argument you sit on, you try and appreciate and respect the culture you are visiting…even if that means not having a smoke, or sitting next to someone who is smoking.

Cliff T.: If anyone wants to find the list where would they point their browser to?

Scott Carlson: Readers can find the article Here .

Cliff T.: Scott thanks for taking time out in your day to chat about this highly unusual list. It sounds like it was an interesting adventure searching the data.

Scott Carlson: It really was, Cliff. Thank you, again, for your interest. We like to examine the quirky-side of travel; so I hope that you find a few of our other articles interesting as well. I might suggest taking a look at our piece which examines where not to bring your knock-off, luxury items. We found that, in a few countries, you can be arrested simply for carrying a fake luxury bag or watch through customs. You can find it Here .

Cliff T: Scott Carlson is the US and Canadian Country Manager with Skyscanner: A global, Cheap Flight search engine. Skyscanner instantly compares online flight prices for over 670,000 routes on over 600 airlines. And with Skyscanner, users can just browse -without having to enter specific dates or destinations. Speak another language? Skyscanner is also available in 20 different languages: including Spanish, Chinese and French.

They came up with a list of countries that are smoker and non-smoker friendly.



Smoker Friendly


You can visit the site at and for the record I am a non-smoker. Just want to be up front with that bit of information. Anyway, the company is located in Edinburgh where Scott wrote to us from for this edition of Candid Conversations.

If you have a story to tell or know of an interesting person, product or unusual event that our readers would enjoy reading about feel free to let me know at I am always on the lookout for a good story to tell. Thanks again for reading and come back soon.

Cliff T.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tactile Mind Cool Art And Interesting Erotica For The Blind And Vision Impaired.

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. But, what if you can not see the picture? For the blind and low visioned person getting the 1000 words off the picture becomes the challenge. The two most common ways a blind person can get a description. The first is through a third party describing the item or by touching. When it comes to sex the touching part could get a blind man or woman into some trouble. Happily there is a new way for the blind to explore sexuality via the use of tactile touch. I found an interesting article on a book called Tactile Mind, authored by Lisa Murphy. In lay terms the book has raised pictures on the page so that blind and low visioned person can feel the image. This is not pornography by any stretch but, it is adult content none the less. Lisa Murphy's book has gone viral and I am very happy that I was able to get a chance to speak with her via email for Candid Conversations. Ms. Murphy welcome.

Lisa Murphy: Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your blog.

Cliff T.: As I mentioned in the opening paragraph your book has just exploded on to the scene garnering massive attention, did you expect such a huge response?

Lisa Murphy: No, the past few weeks have been a pretty crazy ride. I actually finished the book 2 years ago, it had been living in Rubbermaid containers and I had carried it to art fairs, donated a few to various causes, and had a gallery show with it about a year ago. In the last 2 years, I added a couple more pictures to it, and had upgraded the photographic paper used throughout the book. Sarah Barmak @ the Toronto Star newspaper did an article on it that came out on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, and on Monday - there was chaos - my phone was ringing off the hook with media interviews from across the world, and my in-box was constantly pinging with the arrival of new media requests. I was kind of shocked to say the least.

Cliff T.: What inspired you to create Tactile Mind?

Lisa Murphy: It was the challenge. I had been taking artistic pictures of nudes for years. I had received a certificate in Tactile Graphics from the CNIB, and was volunteering there creating animals for children's educational books. Basically I thought "why not?" So I started researching and pricing machinery and materials, and experimented with a few ways of presenting my work. My friends sighted, blind, and vision impaired all thought it was a great wacky idea, and encouraged me. During the 2 years it took me to make this book. I occasionally would look around on the Internet, and couldn't find anything vaguely similar to what I was doing. But, that wasn't my primary reason for the project; I just wanted to make a cool book of my nude photographs that blind and vision impaired people could read. And, just to clarify, I have not been a volunteer at the CNIB for years now.

Cliff T.: In the creative stages did you seek out blind and vision impaired people to get an idea of what they wanted in such a book?

Lisa Murphy: No, this book was a personal art project. I had (blind) proofreaders that I would give each image to, to make sure there were no errors, and that my photograph was reflected accurately. Each image took me about 50 hours to create from conception, to photograph, to sculpting, to thermoforming, to proofreading... back to sculpting, proofreading etc. Vision impaired and blind people who read Braille and tactile diagrams have very sensitive fingertips. How something looks, and how it translates into touch, can be two totally different things. I just put in a collection of my photographs, and a collection of tactile diagrams depicting my photographs. I tried to give a good variety of everything so both women and men could enjoy this work.

Cliff T.: Can you describe what you mean when you say the book is half art object, half artisanal?

Lisa Murphy: I didn't say that. I don't even know what that means in relation to this work. I think I have been misquoted a couple hundred thousand times - no joke.
tactile mind is a book of nude photographs for the blind and vision impaired. It is a cool book of my photographs for non-sighted readers. It's all handmade, each page is hand pressed and I make them from home. It has been called "erotic", "sensual", "fetish oriented" and "pornographic. People everywhere have an opinion on this work. I think its so great there is international dialogue surrounding it. Very surreal; it brings to light that there is a need for more picture/literature books for the blind/vision impaired.

Cliff T.: Why do you think this is the case that there are only a few books like this around?

Lisa Murphy: There are themoform books around, but throughout the world, (to my knowledge most) institutions that have produced them in the past, have stopped producing them using this method because it is very time-consuming and expensive. It's really too bad because many people (myself included) believe this method provides more detail and information to the blind/vision impaired reader, than the now faster, cheaper, technologically advanced methods for creating materials.

Cliff T.: When people who are not disabled think of those who are they have the impression burned in the mind that people with disabilities do not want or seek out sex, Is Tactile Mind meant to dispel such myths as well as allow blind people to explore their sexuality?

Lisa Murphy: Unfortunately there are generalizations and stereotypes throughout the world that people with any kind of disability are not sexual beings. We are all human. We are all different; different things turn us on, different things turn us off, regardless of our abilities or disabilities.

Cliff T.: Could this book be used as a teaching guide on sex?

Lisa Murphy: People aren't having sex in my book; I don't know if it would be a good educational tool used for that purpose.

Cliff T.: Well from what I can see or read, this book has really grabbed some international attention and has gotten a lot of people talking about the subject of disabilities and sex. I want to thank you again for doing a Candid Conversation. And, I hope your book does well.

Lisa Murphy: Thank you very much for this interview.

Cliff T.: Lisa Murphy is the creator of Tactile Mind a book with raised photographs of nudes for the blind and vision impaired. Ms. Murphy is a photographer with a certificate in Tactile Graphics from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

The Toronto Star
featured Tactile Mind in a recent article. And, Lisa Murphy does have a blog with more on the book. The blog is called Tactile Mind, it's web address is and readers should be aware that the material on the blog is of an adult nature and explores various sexual themes, discretion is advised.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It's All About The Stuph A Candid Conversation With Peter Anthony Holder

He is the Stuph man and he has been the Stuph man for 20+ plus years. Even after his on air gig ended his show and the features that are embedded in it live on via the world of Podcasting. I am speaking about the Stuph File Program and it's host/creator Peter Anthony Holder. Peter has a rare knack for digging up some of the funniest stories and for finding some of the most interesting people to interview on his Podcast. As I mentioned above he has successfully crossed over from the on air studio to the online world and has not only been able to continue telling those odd stories but has been able to bring his regular guests from his former radio show to the online world. I am glad to welcome you Peter to Candid Conversations.

P.A.H: Thanks for having me.

Cliff T.: I think enough has been said about the past re what happened at your former job so I will skip that part. However I do want to know was the decision to bring The Stuph File over to an online form one that took some mulling over or was it an immediate lets go for it decision?

P.A.H: There was no mulling over to be done. I have always had a home studio and always did production from that studio so it was a no-brainer on my part to continue the process. The key was to do something that wasn’t going to be costly, but again, since I had all the equipment there really are no monetary costs, simply time. I have to say that the wonderful world of Skype has been a godsend.

Cliff T.: For the uninitiated can you tell us what is the Stuph File Program is about and who are your regular featured guest on the show?

P.A.H: Well, The Stuph File Program is basically a quirky interview show wrapped up in a collection of odd news or kicker stories. The kind of thing that you don’t normally hear on conventional radio (especially since I’m no longer there!) As for the regular guests, right now there is Steve Walsh, Our Man In The Heart Of America Checking The Pulse Of The Nation who is on the show weekly.

The others, such as Book Banter with Stuart Nulman and items like Andrew Fazekas, “The Night Sky Guy” are less frequent. If the one-hour weekly show becomes more successful and can earn a profit, then I would be interested in doing it more than once a week and if that were possible then I would bring back even more regular features, such as The Gabby Cabby.

Cliff T.: What was your initial reaction to the idea of doing a Podcast and has your view of them changed since you decided to do one?

P.A.H: Well, first of all, although I don’t have any problems with podcasts and the online world, I prefer NOT to refer to the program as a podcast. I did initially because it was only online. But it’s a little more than that now, especially since it is on terrestrial radio in New Zealand and there is the possibility that it could also be on in the UK and other locations as well.

When I first started the show, it was called “The Stuph File Podcast” but now it is merely “The Stuph File Program.” Also, for the most part, podcasts are shorter and don’t necessarily have the radio “bells and whistles” that The Stuph File has. This show is an hour long (actually 56 minutes to allow for commercials) and its production is very similar to what the original radio show was like. And I still work the show on the radio-clock system, so it’s produced very tight in a uniformed time from week to week. Most podcasts don’t have that (one exception is “The Kelly Alexander Show” which I suggest you and your readers check out. Kelly does a fine show and she is also a radio host who dabbles online with an hour-long format).

The show is also heard on and the folks there actually wanted me to do a two hour show. However I balked at that because I believe online the attention spans are shorter and at an hour I’m already pushing the envelope as far as show length is concerned. I’ve told the folks at that if we start to turn a profit with this program, I would prefer to do two one-hour shows than one two-hour show, just to give the online audience a breather.

Cliff T.: Do you find it easier to get interviews for the Podcast or is it similar to what you experienced while working on the air?

P.A.H: There really isn’t any difference. I had built up a reputation with the previous show that carries forward to doing this one. As a result the folks that I have to deal with when booking guests have been most accommodating. Also, as time goes on, it is quite possible that the audience I am building here would be even larger than my old radio audience, even though I was on two powerhouse stations in two very big radio markets in the country. Potential guests and their handlers are aware of the audience reach and the savvy online listeners.

Cliff T.: How many people are downloading The Stuph File Program? Did you think you would get as big a response as you have gotten?

P.A.H: Well, the biggest chunk of listeners comes from With them I have between 50,000-75,000 listeners per week. The direct downloads from my website can add about another couple of thousand and then there’s iTunes (which I don’t have complete figures for) and the folks who listen to it terrestrially in New Zealand. It’s growing steadily.

Cliff T.: How long does it take to put a show together?

P.A.H: The interviews are done first and they take the real time that it takes to put them together, usually about eight to ten minutes. I don’t really count recording them as part of the time it takes to put the show together. When I have the elements ready, it’s then the writing of The Stuph File and the recording of the show. I would say, conservatively speaking, the time to put all that together would be in the neighbourhood of about three hours. It could be more because I like to tinker, audio-wise, it could be less if everything goes smoothly and I’m on a roll.

Cliff T.: Do you try to go for a theme during the show or does that happen as you produce the show?

P.A.H: Rarely do I try to go with a theme. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, I did one show that dealt with soap operas. I just happened to have a major soap star booked and another soap related topic came up so I put them in the same show, but that wasn’t the initial plan. I just try to put together an eclectic kind of show that has a little bit of everything to give it a bit of variety.

Cliff T.:Has any of your recent guests on the show inspired you? Or, to put it in another way who or what helped you decide to move into Podcasting? And has the experience of doing a Podcast changed your view of media? If so how?

P.A.H: Well, Mitch Joel was the first guest we had on The Stuph File Program because he is a major blogger and is really into the podcast world, but beyond that I can’t say anyone else. My view of the media hasn’t changed, because I’ve been aware of the online world and the social media world as it has developed so it’s not like it was a foreign entity to me before I started doing the show online.

Cliff T.: Peter does it feel the same as being on the air if so how? Or, alternately how does it differ from being on the air?

P.A.H: Outside of the fact that I don’t do the show live; there really isn’t any difference in how the show sounds or how it feels. I purposely designed the show that way so it’s just merely a continuation of what I did over the airwaves.

Cliff T.: They say radio is in the blood, are you planning a return to the studio? Or, have you decided to leave radio and pursue other career goals?

P.A.H: Again, I don’t feel that this is any different from radio, so I don’t feel I’ve left it behind. I’m still in a studio. Just one that is at home. (And there was a period of about six weeks after a surgery that I had that I did the radio show from my home studio, so a studio is wherever a mic and a board exists). I’m quite happy doing The Stuph File Program and will continue to do it, regardless of what the future might hold elsewhere.

Cliff T.: Peter I want to thank you gain for taking time out in your busy schedule to speak through e-mail about The Stuph File Program. Your listeners new and old including myself wish all the success to you as you move forward with the show. Thanks for keeping the stuph coming.

P.A.H: Thank you.

Cliff T.:Peter Anthony Holder is the creator and host of the Stuph File Program. The podcast is produced in Montreal Quebec Canada under the production name of Flying Fish Communications. The Stuph File Program website address is You can download the podcast from this site and also via Itunes.

For more information about the show and Peter check out the following links

Peter's Blog Holder's Stuph File is Peter's Twitter address
And for those who fancy the use of Facebook Peter's page

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Debugging IT With Kevin Trottier of Twist Solutions A Candid Conversation

While surfing the net for people to interview on Candid Conversations I come across a lot of press releases. I have bookmarked a couple of press release sites and I will look at them to see if the subject at hand may be of interest to readers on Candid Conversations. One such release caught my eye. The headline read “Is Your IT department necessary?” That is a very good question. So I got in touch with the author Kevin Trottier of Twist Solutions a company that offers, you guessed it, IT solutions. Mr. Trottier thanks for taking the time to chat with me and the readers of Candid Conversations.

Cliff T.: OK let’s start by asking the question does a company need to have an IT department? And or another way of putting this question is what kinds of companies and what size companies need IT departments?

Kevin Trottier: Small and mid-sized organizations lend themselves to having a third party managed service as the price/performance of the services versus an IT department can be very compelling. The IT skill-sets required to create a basic IT department like: help-desk, server administration, monitoring, and planning can be cost prohibitive for small companies. For large scale enterprises it makes sense to have members of their IT department be a part of their internal executive team.

Cliff T.: I tried my hand at IT sales back in 2004 not an easy job. One of the things we were told is that it is essential for companies to look at having an IT department to protect the bottom line, does having an IT department do such a thing for a company? Why or why not?

Kevin Trottier: Having stable and reliable IT systems, created by mature IT processes, is essential in protecting the bottom line. Whether the IT functions are provided from an internal company department or a third party provider - mature IT processes ultimately provide the best protection of the bottom line.

Cliff T.: What should an IT department be doing in the first place?

Kevin Trottier: The IT department in a small to mid-sized business should provide two main functions: 1) from the day-to-day standpoint, it should be providing smooth and effective operations of the technical environment and when there is a problem, to fix it quickly and correctly; 2) from a strategic standpoint, determine and then implement the key technology enablers to help the executives hit their goals.

Cliff T.: People think of the IT department as the plumbing guys for the network in a company. However I am sure that there is more to it than that. What exactly is or makes up an IT department?

Kevin Trottier: An IT department for a small to mid-sized business is typically made up of the following skill sets:

  • Technologists that help the end-users with their day-to-day needs like, “I can’t print or get to the Internet”
  • System administrators that that make sure the back-off systems like, email and data backup are operating and
  • Consulting resources that provide planning based on the business needs and emerging technologies.
Cliff T.: Because in most cases one never really sees the IT team at work there must be misconceptions and disconnect? What is the biggest misconception and what can companies do to overcome disconnects between the users management and IT?

Kevin Trottier: A challenging area is the fine line between where end-user “training” issues end and where “technical” issues begin. A simple way to overcome this challenge is to develop clear criteria that differentiate between “training” related versus “technical” issues. Presenting a trend-line of these types of issues to end-users at an IT feedback session is a great way to overcome any misconceptions. Trying to give feedback to a rushed end-user in real-time you may run the risk of being the condescending IT guy… ouch!

Cliff T.: How long have you been working in IT?

Kevin Trottier: I have been working in the industry for 12 years in a variety of roles from software engineer, product development, and sales and marketing.

Cliff T.: In your line of work I would think that you get some rather interesting requests related to IT, has anything come your way that just was totally out to lunch?

Kevin Trottier: We had a request regarding a Christmas tree that comes to mind which is out of scope for the services we provide J Our service model provides a complete alternative to a traditional IT department so we often field a variety of requests from business clients that are not always related to the services we provide.

Cliff T.: What kinds of IT challenges get you thinking I know there is a way and how do you begin to find the way to overcoming the challenge presented?

Kevin Trottier: I think there is a challenge; really more of an opportunity around business processes within the industries we serve. Executives at small to mid-sized firms are pulled in so many directions from delivering their products or services, managing staff, and financials, etc. that having a good set of internal operating process can be a really “un-locking” move for them. The IT folks are in a unique position to see the entire operation and develop these processes.

Cliff T.: Is IT a personal thing for people like you who work in it? I ask because many in other trades say it gets in the blood would you say that is true about being an IT guy?

Kevin Trottier: We certainly look at passion for technology in new hires. Technical advancements happen so fast in the IT industry that trying to keep up can be quite a burden if you don’t have technology in the blood.

Cliff T.: I noticed the title of the company you work for Twist, interesting name for a firm. Is that the goal here to offer a twist if you will to the world of IT? And if so what is that twist?

Kevin Trottier: We have a unique service delivery model combining a proprietary IT management platform with our technical specialists. This combination creates an alternative to an IT department as a subscription based service.

Cliff T.: Mr. Trottier I want to thank you for letting us peek into your world. IT is an interesting realm with lots of interesting turns and pardon the pun, twists, I wish you and Twist the best of success.

Kevin Trottier: Thank you Cliff!

Cliff T.: Kevin Trottier works for Twist Solutions a Dallas Texas based computer and IT Service Company. Twist helps companies manage many aspects of their IT including installation and service of servers and desktops. He wrote to us from his office in Dallas. To find out more visit the company site at