Should You Be Allowed to Obscure Your Identity Online?

People do all kinds of different things on the internet and, in some cases, they are also all kinds of different people. Facebook has a strict policy that you must create an account under your real name in order to use the site, while Twitter does not. In general, most websites allow you to enter whatever name you like and people take advantage of that.

For example, they may be participating in a political forum and espousing their liberal views. Using a pseudonym allows that individual to remain protected, theoretically, and that might prevent them from getting in trouble with a conservative boss at work. Or someone who is thinking of coming out, might seek information from an LBGTQ forum where their identity can remain a secret until they decide they are ready to share their sexual orientation with the world.

These examples are fine, though it must be pointed out that many people abuse the privilege of online anonymity. Some do this for malicious purposes, such as trolling or other forms of harassment. Others do it to indulge in illegal activity, such as downloading pirated movies and TV shows, or other more serious criminal pursuits. You don’t have to be tech savvy to disguise yourself online either: video private networks (VPNs) are subscription services that provide users with the option of IP addresses in multiple countries. Want to watch something on the BBC iPlayer, but don’t live in England? Simply click on a UK IP address provided by your VPN and the BBC does not know the difference.

Governments and corporations take a dim view of such activity. Russia and China announced that VPNs will be banned in those countries by the end of the year. This is unfortunate because it will rob citizens of the chance to speak openly and potentially criticize those authoritarian governments. But, of course, that is just the sort of openness they seek to oppress.

How to Plan a Retirement Party

After someone has worked for many years and has decided to call it a day, it is customary for their current co-workers to throw a retirement party. These can be tricky because you want to find the right tone for the get together: you are sad to see them go, but also want to celebrate their accomplishments and their entering into a new phase of life.

Here are some ideas to help you plan a retirement party:


Ask people who have worked with and known the person for years to celebrate their achievements. While you should encourage the speakers to talk about whatever they like, it helps to have a good balance between the comedic and ones that genuinely laud the person’s accomplishments. A little genuine sentimentality can be nice, too.

Party Theme

There is nothing wrong with making reservations in a nice restaurant or booking a hall for the party. However, if you want to try something more ambitious, think of a theme for the party. For example, if the person loves golfing, arrange a day at a local golf course, followed by a meal and drinks in the club’s restaurant. Find out what the person really loves to do and then judge whether it is do-able from a cost and planning standpoint.

Go for a Broad List of Attendees

Don’t just invite people from work. Reach out to the person’s friends and family and encourage some of them to be among the speakers. This way, everyone gets a broad overview of the person’s life and accomplishments, and not just how they performed on the job.

Provide a Way to Stay in Touch

People often lose touch with old work colleagues. Make sure that everyone has the person’s contact info. You can also set up a social media account for them and encourage the attendees to “friend” it.

Boots and Hearts 2017 Coming in August

Held annually in Oro-Medonte, a lovely lakeside area near Barrie, Ontario, Boots and Hearts is a major country and western music festival that attracts many people of all ages to the area each year.

For those not familiar with Boots and Hearts, it’s a three-day festival (running August 10-13 this year) where you can camp out for the duration or come on a daily basis.  You can choose from $100 single-day tickets or $220 VIP passes.

The star-studded line-up always includes a cross-section of Canadian and American talent. Keith Urban is probably the best known of the 2017 headliners, who also include Brantley Gilbert and Luke Bryan. Among the other confirmed acts are Brett Eldredge, the Eli Young Band, Dan + Shay, Frankie Ballard, Chad Brownlee, Jess Moskaluke, and even veteran actor Kiefer Sutherland (see the full line-up here).

Keith Urban is among the headliners at this year’s Boots and Saddles festival in Oro-Medonte, Ontario. By Craig ONeal (Keith Urban World Tour) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
While I’m not a big country and western fan, but Boots and Hearts has a great reputation as a fun place to be and meet new people. Friends who have attended in the past have very positive things to say about the experience. I don’t have tickets yet, but am thinking seriously about it.

If you can’t afford the ticket price, you also have the option of being a volunteer for the three days. You can camp for free on the property as a volunteer, though you do need to bring your own camping equipment. Over the course of the festival, you will need to work a minimum of 18 hours. I’ve volunteered at festivals before and it was a real pleasure, with only a few negative moments caused by rowdy behavior.

For more information, visit the festival’s official website.


How to Plan a Child’s Birthday Party

OK, you have now successfully planned a party for adults, so you have the experience and battle scars to plan your first children’s party. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, though if you have ever participated in kiddie birthday parties before, you know that there is no such thing as rest: you have to be on and alert from the time the first child arrives to the second the last one heads out the door.

OK, let’s get started:

Pick a Theme

You can stage any old birthday party, but having a theme tends to make the kids more engaged. It can be anything under the sun, though you should definitely involve the main child in the decision making process.

How Many Guests?

Logistics are key here: how many adults will there be to supervise? Don’t allow so many children that you can’t adequately keep a handle on things. Have at least one adult for every five children.


If you are doing an activity like bowling or going to a movie, you might want to book some form of entertainment. Decide on what kind as soon as possible and book immediately; that way, if there is a cancellation, you can find someone else.

Plan the Day

It can be tough to have little children following a schedule, but do your best to plan the day so that everything happens in its proper order at an appropriate time. For example, you don’t want to be opening presents right when the clowns arrive.

Make Sure Everything is Ordered

Have you ordered the food? What about the party favors? Napkins, hats, and other things for the table? Don’t forget the cleaning supplies!

Children’s birthday parties can be pretty trying, but they can also be great fun and very memorable moments in the life of your child. If you have everything well planned in advance, chances are it will come off without a hitch.

How to Be a Good Party Host(ess)

Party planning is a major part of the challenge, so the actual party is smooth sailing, right? Well, it can be, if you keep a few things in mind.

Here are some tips that can help ensure that your party is the success you’re hoping for:

  • Keep a level head. It’s impossible to plan for every possibility at a party; let’s face it, spontaneity is fun! Also, if you’re serving alcohol, there is always the possibility that someone might start to enjoy themselves a bit too much. If something like that does happen, keep cool! Don’t get mad. Anger does not help get things back on track.  Also, if you are too anxious, that doesn’t set the right mood either. Try to do something relaxing before everyone arrives and hold on to those vibes for the rest of the evening.
  • Stick to your strengths. Do you have a dish that tends to go over well with people and you are very comfortable making? Choose that over one that you have never tried before. If you want to experiment with your cooking or designing skills, choose a small scale affair first, not the party where you’ve invited your boss and mother-in-law.
  • Choose the right music. You don’t want to bore your guests with Muzak and you don’t want to blow out their ears and their conversations with heavy metal. Try and find music that falls somewhere in the middle ground and reflects the tastes of most of your guests.
  • Mingle! Remember, you are the host(ess): people are here to see you, too! Hanging around in the kitchen or spending a great deal of time with one set of friends comes across as being rude. Get out there, talk, and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
  • Be flexible. It’s great to plan things out, but the timing does not always jibe. Don’t interrupt a rewarding group conversation because it says in your schedule that it’s time for appetizers. Play it by ear and imagine that you are among the guests; when does it seem right to you for the next stage in your evening to occur?

Dealing With the Aftermath of a Party

I recently discussed party planning and how some people find it quite difficult. Well, congrats! I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you have had your first party planning experience and I hope it was terrific.

Another less than great aspect of parties is dealing with the mess afterward. Yes, it’s a necessary evil that no one likes, but we all have to do it, so why not do it the right way? Here are some tips on how cleaning up after your party can be less of a soul-sucking ordeal:

Deal With Those Spills and Stains
Before you do anything else, tackle the various “oopsies” that occurred during the evening. I’m guessing you already attacked the ones you noticed during the event, but there are always ones left over that we don’t see until the morning. The longer these sit, the worse they are to deal with, so get cracking.

Collect the Trash
OK, you can now advance to garbage patrol. Pick up all of the cups, napkins, bottles, food leftovers…everything that is not supposed to be there. Recycle anything you can.

Dishwasher Time!
If you didn’t use paper plates (and good for you if you didn’t), start putting your cups, glasses, and plates in the dishwasher. Depending on how big your party was, this might take several loads.

Dust and Vacuum
Lots of guests means lots of traffic, so dust was no doubt stirred up or tracked in from outside. Dust all of your surfaces and vacuum the rugs. If you had to soak some areas of a rug to remove a stain, hold off on this step until the area has dried sufficiently.

See? It’s actually not all that difficult, especially compared to planning a party. However, it’s always good to have a system as that makes the task more efficient and less time-consuming.

Quotes on Party Planning

How is the party planning coming along? As a follow-up to my last post, here are some fun quotations about parties and party planning that will help to make you smile while making all of those preparations:

“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”
― Ron White

“I’m gonna party, see how intoxicated I can get and how many rules I can flaunt. That’s my motto.”
― H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”
― Criss Jami, Killosophy

“Partying means drinking. It also means playing records by Lou Reed and Chicago, which I thought was a city but is also a band it turns out.”
― Ron Currie Jr., Everything Matters!

“It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

“I always think the opening moments of a party are the hardest, before everyone has had enough to drink.”
― Stephanie Clifford, Everybody Rise

“Nudist Colony Halloween parties are especially scary. They give the word “moon” a new cruel meaning.”
― Ray Palla, H: Infidels of Oil

“The easiest way to be the prettiest girl at a party is to rig the guest list.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

“Friends will always be there for the party. REAL friends will be there after the party…”
― Bray Love

“I can party like a twenty-four-year-old but it takes me almost a week to recover.”
― Amy Poehler

“When you’re the most happening person at the party, it’s time to leave”
― Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

Working & Retiring

While we are living in the 9-to-5 grind of the working world, many of us spend our idle time dreaming of retirement. The ability to sleep whenever we want (and for as long as we want), do things whenever the fancy strikes us, and take our own sweet time to live life is very appealing.

Retirement can be bliss, but those who have been dedicated working people for decades can find it quite jarring at first. Not having a set schedule seems wonderful for a while, but some people soon start to feel unproductive and unhappy.

Here are some activities that will help to make your retirement fulfilling and the gift you dreamed it would be:


“Wait, what? I just left the job and now you want me to go back?” No, not necessarily. However, this is your chance to choose a new direction in life. Was there a vocation that you passed up before for reasons of financial viability or availability? Well, here is your chance to look into it again. Also, you don’t have to do this job full-time. If you only want to work a day or two a week, then look for a position allowing for that kind of flexibility.


This is another way to stay active and contribute. Pick an area that is of importance to you and don’t be afraid to try a few different agencies. Volunteering must also be fulfilling for the volunteer, so don’t be afraid of resigning if that is not the case.


Never had time to pursue that hobby you enjoyed? Here is your chance to take it up in earnest again. You can also try different things and possibly develop an entirely new passion.

Retirement is not the end of life, but the chance for a new beginning. You now have much more free time at your disposal, so make the best use of it to expand your horizons and further develop your interests.