CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE: BLACK AND WHITE STUDIES

Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge

yellow summer squash black and white

Vegetables are delectable in color and in monochrome. Different, but mm, good! Summer squash (summer not).

apache junction black and white

Apache Junction is a conveniently located ghost town, not far from Phoenix. It’s actually the first non-city “place” when you are trying to escape the urban sprawl. I was hoping for tumbleweed, but alas, none appeared.

Quality of Light - Black & White

In color, it’s all about the quality of the light. In black and white, the picture is an architectural study.

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Rooftops in downtown Boston, just down the block from symphony hall. Black and white emphasizes the texture of the bricks and roof as well as the lines and angles of the rooftop.

Sharing My World – 2014, Week 33

Share Your World – 2014 Week 33

Do you believe in ghosts? 

I don’t know. Probably not exactly ghosts, but something weird.

Regardless of your physical fitness, coördination or agility:  If you could play any sport professionally what would it be?  Or if you can’t picture yourself playing sports, what is your favorite sport?

I used to ride horses. If my back weren’t so broken, I still would. I always loved horse from when I was very young, so if I were to pursue anything, it would definitely be from the back of a horse.

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Do you prefer long hair or short hair for yourself?

I love the way short hair looks, but I hate the bother of taking care of it. So I wear it long. A pony tail is easy peasy and Garry likes it too. He sees me younger than I am. But that’s okay. It’s mutual.

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If you were on a small island, who would you want to be with? And where is it?  How big is it?

Martha’s Vineyard, thanks. Garry and me, back on the island we love. In that little house we used to rent in Oak Bluffs, overlooking Nantucket Sound. Would be nice if we had a few dollars to spend, too … but just to be there again would be wonderful. We used to be there every summer. Funny how quickly time passes.

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On the stairs between beach and house, Martha’s Vineyard, 1992

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I am grateful for Amazon.com and Audible.com. Since this is a whole other story, I will write it. Soon.

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

Tunnel Vision - You’ve been given the ability to build a magical tunnel that will quickly and secretly connect your home with the location of your choice — anywhere on Earth. Where’s the other end of your tunnel?


Yesterday morning, I might have suggested an exotic destination … Tahiti maybe or even Paris, especially if I could move through time as well as space.

But now? Today is different. We got yet another call from a friend who has discovered metastasized cancer. By accident because he has no symptoms. If this were the first or second such call, maybe it would be different, but it isn’t. Far from it. These days, there is a bell tolling in the background of our lives. It never stops.

It’s a sad bell. Haunting. It counts the living and the dead. Those who have moved away, too far to travel. Those who have mentally moved, now unavailable. Those who died and failed to leave a forwarding address. Others, whose lives are too full of other stuff, too crowded for us.

Our world grows smaller, shrinking by degrees, day by day.

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Like potatoes being slowly grated, life strips away layers to force us to discover the exact minimum necessary to be a life. I am afraid when the phone rings. It makes my stomach knot.

To all of you who are putting off seeing people you care about for months and years because you’re too busy, or it’s too much trouble to rearrange your schedule? Life turns on a dime. Everything changes with head-spinning abruptness. People you intended to make time for — but never got around to it? They can, without prior notice, not be there. Gone forever. Regrets are not good companions.

My tunnel?

I want one that to connect me directly to our people. To friends in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. To the other end of Massachusetts, to Connecticut and Long Island. To Maine, Colorado, Switzerland, and Cornwall. I want to pop through the tunnel and spent a few hours sipping tea, laughing, and talking. Seeing friendly eyes, listening to voices unfiltered by electronics. Not just virtual friends, images flickering on a screen, but warm-blooded friends who I can touch and hug.

That would be my magic tunnel. It would be a tunnel worth having. And keeping.

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John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”

BOUQUET WITH BOKEH

Much to my surprise and delight, Garry brought me flowers yesterday. The previous bouquet of sunflowers needed to move on to wherever dead flowers go. I tend to not bury the dead ones until I can replace them with live ones. For reasons I just can’t explain, I always feel bad about dead flowers.

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Even though I know they would die anyway, even if no one cut them and put them in a vase. Even if they lived their entire lives in the most natural of setting, they would go from bud to dead blossom because, hey, death is just the ass end of life.

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I like photographing the bouquets. I can’t shoot them in the house anymore because the light is blocked by the new air conditioner, so I carried the vase and bouquet to the deck. Perfect weather, perfect light. Bright, but a little hazy. It doesn’t get better than that.

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Just for a change, I used my Olympus portrait lens and was, in viewing the results, reminded of how very much I love this lens. Honestly, I’m not sure you can take a bad picture with it. It has the loveliest bokeh (that fuzzy background) and a wonderfully shallow depth of field. It’s intended for taking portraits of people, but it turns pretty much everything you shoot into art.

TONTO RIDES AGAIN

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom.  No, not live, but I had authentic Lone Ranger wallpaper. Until the wallpaper was installed, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode a lot and covered great distances.” Y’know. Long range.

Other girls had Disney Princesses, flowers, and butterflies. I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play the William Tell Overture, I could hum it well enough. I had many a long chat with Lone, Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

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It was a hard choice between Lone and Tonto. It was even a difficult choice between their horses. Silver was magnificent, but Scout — a stunning paint — was gorgeous too. Really, I would have settled for any horse, any color, any heritage … but if I was going to ride only in my dreams, I got to choose. I was never was able to decide.

I eventually found Jay Silverheels, the man and actor, more interesting than the Lone Ranger. Silverheels was born Harold J. Smith of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, Canada. He was one of 11 children, son of a Canadian Mohawk tribal elder and military officer, Major George Smith.

Silverheels raised, bred and raced Standardbred horses in his spare time. Once, when asked about possibly running Tonto’s famous Paint horse Scout in a race, Jay laughed. “Heck, I can outrun Scout!”

He probably could have outrun Scout. He was a natural athlete and played lacrosse. He wrote poetry, though I haven’t been able to find any of it or I would gladly post an example.

He never escaped his Hollywood stereotyping as a Native American who could only speak broken English. His career faded with the years. He died too young, at age 67 in 1980.

Silverheels spoofed his Tonto character on a number of occasions, most famously in a Stan Freberg Jeno’s Pizza Rolls TV commercial opposite Clayton Moore (TV’s Lone Ranger).

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Jay Silverheels was the person who got me interested in Native American culture, got me reading real history. When anyone makes fun of the Lone Ranger, I always defend the show. Yes, it carried forward a lot of stupid stereotypes, the worse of which is the weird broken English spoken by Tonto in the show … but Tonto and the Lone Ranger were far more equal in their interaction than any other Native American – White Hero combination I saw for many long years. Talking funny wasn’t nearly as important as the mutual respect between the two men. It ultimately changed the way I saw the world and American history. That’s quite a bit of influence for a 1950s TV serial.

Eventually, as I rounded the corner into adolescence, the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian Companion (who had led the fight for law and order in the early west) returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear, whence they had come. They were replaced by plain, off-white paint. I would have preferred Lone and Tonto to live on, but the paper was old and peeling. Nothing and no one lasts forever.

Tonto and the Lone Ranger were the consummate good guys. The always fought the good fight, were always on the side of justice, fairness, and truth. They never asked for anything in return. As role models go … not so bad. Not bad at all.

My Dear Watson – Weekly Writing Challenge

WAYFARING STRANGER, BY JAMES LEE BURKE

James Lee Burke’s sprawling novel connects an encounter with Bonnie and Clyde to the Battle of the Bulge and the oil boom.


Here in the Lone Star State, we have a subgenre of the Great American Novel we like to call the Novel as Big as Texas. A representative N.A.B.A.T. features lots of pages crowded with multiple generations of characters fighting Comanches, driving cattle, bringing in oil wells, eating Mexican food, settling ancestral grudges and brooding about the pitiless immensity of the Land. The category arguably began with Edna Ferber’s “Giant” and has proven elastic enough to encompass not just earnest cycloramic texts like James Michener’s “Texas” but also literary benchmarks as varied as Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove,” Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and Philipp Meyer’s recent epic, “The Son.”

James Lee Burke’s enormous reputation centers mostly on the 20 novels in his Dave Robicheaux mystery series, which is set in Louisiana. But Burke was born in Houston and has long conducted a brisk side business west of the Sabine River with novels that chronicle the lives of the Hollands, an archetypically Texan clan. Son Holland, the patriarch, appeared in “Two for Texas,” which took place during the time of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, and his descendants Hackberry Holland and Hack’s cousin Billy Bob Holland each anchor their own series of mystery novels.

Read the rest of the review at: www.nytimes.com


This is James Lee Burke in top form. If you like his writing, this will be a treat for you. It’s part of the Holland family of mysteries and a very good one.

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

GOING COMPOST

Uncanned Laughter – A misused word, a misremembered song lyric, a cream pie that just happened to be there: tell us about a time you (or someone else) said or did something unintentionally funny.


Once upon a time, my father had a business partner who liked making cabbage soup. Bob (not his real name) and my father would go into the kitchen and produce gallons of soup and laugh a lot. We all had to eat it for weeks until we were sure we were turning into little cabbages.

Bob was an enthusiastic story-teller, mostly about his own misadventures. This was my favorite.

“So I was at the beach, at Coney Island” he says, almost shouting. He always talked very loud and with a slight Russian accent. “Very sunny day. Blue sky. A good day to take my mother to the beach, let her relax in the sun by the water. She is just settling down with her chair. She asks me if I’ll set up the umbrella for her. She didn’t have to ask. I always do it, but she always asks anyway, like if she doesn’t ask I won’t do it. I took her to Coney Island, what did she think, I’m going to leave her to cook in the sun?”

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We all nodded dutifully.

“It’s a big umbrella. With stripes. Red and yellow. I got it myself, on sale. Umbrellas are expensive and this was a good sturdy one and I paid bupkas for it. If you ever need an umbrella …” and he paused to remember what he was going to say. “Anyway, this was one of the good ones, with a heavy pole so it would stay put.

“I opened the umbrella. Had to find the right place to put it because, you know, because if it’s in the wrong place, the shade isn’t going to be where you want it. So I walked around a bit, then took the pole and a jammed it into the sand as hard as I could. Seemed good and solid.

“With everything looking okay and mom settling down with a book, I thought it was a good time to get something to eat. I told her I would go get us some hot dogs and something to drink.

She said “Good, tell them to leave the mustard off.” She’s always reminding me but I know she doesn’t like mustard.

“I walked all the to Nathan’s. Long walk, to the end of the boardwalk. Worth it. They have the best hot dogs.” Definitely worth it. Nathan’s does have the best hot dogs, “And fries. I got five, two for her — no mustard. Three for me. I was hungry,” and he paused to pat his big belly, “I started walking back. I could see where to go ’cause I could see our umbrella.”

Nathans at Coney Island

“The weather began to change. Big clouds coming from the ocean. Getting windy too. Funny how fast weather changes at the beach, you know? I’m almost there when up comes a big gust of wind. The umbrella pulls right out of the sand and flies at me. Whacks me over the head. Boom. I thought my head was gonna come off.

“I dropped the food and fell over. Like a rock. I just lay there. My whole brain was like scrambled eggs. They had to come and take me to the hospital. I was compost for TWO DAYS! Two days! Compost!”

I’ve been laughing ever since, but luckily have never gone compost.

(NOTE: He meant “comatose.”)

WEEK 25 – ODDBALL PHOTOS ARE BACK!

CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTO CHALLENGE WEEK 25

This was a good week for oddball photographs. Lots of pictures that have no reason to exist except I just saw something and tried to capture it.

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Successful pound cake with copper kettle

My pound cakes came out well. Baking them was something of an accomplishment since I can’t remember the last time I made one. But Garry wanted pound cake. He said he would just go buy one. I said if he’d never had homemade pound cake, he’d never had pound cake at all. Now, I think he would agree.

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Collecting ingredients for the pound cakes triggered a trip to the farm around the corner to get fresh eggs. You need nine eggs for this recipe (some call for as many as a dozen) and I thought I’d like to use the best possible ingredients.

Eggs fresh from the hen

Eggs fresh from the hen

And while we were there, I bought some milk. Their milk is nothing like grocery store milk. It’s as thick with cream as half and half and you have to shake it to keep from skimming it.

Cows chatting in the pasture

Cows chatting in the pasture

Maybe it’s so good because these have to be the happiest cows in the world. They ooze contentment.

ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS

As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place.

I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will produce movies I like, though sometimes, much to my delight and surprise, they release something I like a lot (remind me to tell you about “Quartet,” the movie Dustin Hoffman directed last year). I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows.

Some stuff gave me up. Other things I gave up voluntarily, but in the end it comes out the same.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was on religious grounds.

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No one has yet asked me what I mean by that. But just so you, my faithful readers, know the secret …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. Since no one wants to offend me by asking about my religious beliefs, I can make pretty much any conversation go away without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!”

99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

ON MY SHELF – JAMES LEE BURKE

Off the Shelf - Take a look at your bookcase. If you had enough free time, which book would be the first one you’d like to reread? Why?


A few days ago, I finished “Wayfaring Stranger,” the latest, greatest book by James Lee Burke, one of my top five favorite authors. It was a good read. Maybe a great read. It made me hunger for more of that special JLB magic.

books james lee burke

So there I am, looking through my bookshelves and I realize I have every hardcover edition of the past 20 years of James Lee Burke, many of them signed by the hand of the Master.

I’d like to reread at least a few of them, maybe start the Dave Robicheaux series from the beginning. Read them in hardcover and paper and sniff the ink, feel the binding give just  a little. It would be a trip back to when books had heft, a feel, a scent. I sometimes miss that. I love my Kindle and my audiobooks, but sometimes … I miss the smell of printer’s ink.

VISITING THE FARM

Garry wanted pound cake for which I needed eggs. Our half and half was going “off.” With pound cake, we obviously will want coffee, hence we need fresh half and half. I wanted new pictures; Garry needed a photo airing too.

We accomplished it in one fell swoop (click here for a history of fell swoop), merely by driving around the block.

fresh eggs at the farm

It’s a dairy farm. Milk, eggs. Sometimes local honey. Today they had homemade jams and organic lip balm. The eggs come from the chickens wandering around the yards and are often fertilized. The milk is from the happiest bunch of cows I’ve ever seen. They loll around the green pasture which lies along the Blackstone River.

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There are several pastures. The pasture further down the road has a small creek running through it. They take the cows there in very hot weather so they can wade in the cool stream and graze on the wildflowers and weeds along the banks. It’s shady there. The calves have a pasture of their own and graze together along a hillside on the other side of the barn.

The milk isn’t homogenized or pasteurized, which means it’s very close to half and half, but you have to shake it before using because the cream rises to the top.

cows in pasture on the farm

I splurged on a jar of homemade elderberry jam. They had fresh corn, but I don’t need corn today. Maybe I’ll go back Monday, get some corn then. We don’t eat a lot, so I try not to over-buy things that will spoil and end up getting thrown out.

elderberry jamAnd we got pictures. I haven’t downloaded most of them yet. These are the first batch.

Here’s my recipe for pound cake. I’ll be baking as soon as the butter softens.

  • 1 pound (3-1/3 cups) flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 sticks softened sweet butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use the real thing)
  • 9 large eggs, lightly beaten.

It makes two cakes in standard loaf pans. I’ll freeze one. We will happily devour the other. I can feel my hips expanding as I write.

The elderberry jam is delicious. And 2 pound-cakes are baking in the oven. The smell is … wow.

PURPLE PHLOX

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As part of Betty’s Garden, the phlox stands almost a foot taller than any other flower. I’ve always loved phlox. Sturdy perennials, willing to tolerate shade, drought. Insect resistant and colorful.

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They look like wildflowers and come in a whole rainbow of colors. Purple and white are traditional, but I have seen them in shades of red, pink, and blue.

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SILHOUETTES AND BACKLIGHTING

Silhouette

Creating a silhouette is an easy technique to learn and useful in a lot of different situations. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t work well if you are trying to create a portrait … but in nature and architecture, you can create a little bit of magic with very little effort.

Silhouettes may make photographs appear “black and white” even though they are in color. The effect is easily achieved with the light source behind your subject.

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dreamcatcher silhouette

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All you need to do to get a silhouette is take your light reading on the brightest part of the scene or object. The dark part will got even darker and you can slightly increase contrast in post processing if you want to make it a true silhouette with no detail.

Voila! Silhouettes!

GETTING OLD BEATS GETTING DEAD

10,000 Spoons? Excuse me?

Mr. Ben Huberman, what were you thinking when you posted today’s Daily Prompt? Was this a test? To see how many of us knew what you are talking about? Well, guess what? I failed.

I don’t know  Alanis Morissette from a hole in the wall. I don’t know if he is a she, or maybe a they, and what “the classic” refers to — a book, movie, or music?

A thing that happens as we age is we lose contact with, and interest, in pop culture. It starts early, as early as ones 30s when you realize you don’t like the music. By your 40s, you don’t care who knows it and drop any pretense of caring about “the latest thing.” Movies and some television may go the distance … but Alani Morissette didn’t make my cut.

In protest and because I think putting up a prompt of which more than an entire generation may well have no knowledge or interest is rude, I’m just going to link this post, which I think is pretty good, to the Daily Prompt.

If today’s prompt was an attempt to exclude me, get rid of me, it didn’t work. On the other hand, if Mr. Huberman is merely incredibly insensitive and out of touch with the people who follow these prompts, many (most?) of whom are not kids or even young … maybe it’s time to find someone else to do his job.

Because this isn’t merely incompetent. It’s bad manners.


I hear a lot of bitching about aging. While getting old ain’t fun, NOT getting old is worse.

Age brings financial limitations, aches, pains, and indigestion. On the positive side, it brings an end to commuting, doing whatever your boss tells you because you need the paycheck, and never having time for yourself. Regardless, whatever the limitations, being alive offers significant advantages over being dead which, to the best of my knowledge, is the only alternative to growing old.

I think we are most afraid of age when we aren’t old yet, but see it coming. Most of the bewailing and bewhining about getting old comes from people in their forties and fifties who are old enough and would like to just stop this aging nonsense. Can’t things just stay as they are?

Unfortunately, no. Nothing ever stays the same. As soon as you think you’ve got a handle on it, life moves on.

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The good news is the fear of getting old is worse than being old.

When you get to whatever age you have defined as officially “old” (probably when you sign up for Social Security and Medicare), old turns out to be a continuation. It’s not something brand new. There’s no sign saying “Welcome to Old, a really BIG town.”

Many of my friends and family died younger than I am now. A lot younger. There’s damned little point in agonizing about what might happen. Worry doesn’t change anything, but sure does suck the joy out of the here and now. The worst part of all the stressing over possible future disasters is we worry about the wrong stuff. Inevitably, what actually happens isn’t what we worried about. It’s something we never expected, for which we are totally unprepared.

Someone said that in this secular age, worry has taken the place of prayer.  I don’t know whether or not prayer was ever effective at preventing bad stuff from happening, but I’m sure worry  isn’t.

In the long haul — if you’re lucky enough to have a long haul — there will be enough real problems to keep you busy. You don’t need to worry about stuff that may never happen. Figure out what to do about the crisis when and if it happens. Otherwise, enjoy what you can.

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I gave up worrying. Life has been hard and I’m more than a little surprised I’m still here to write this. At some point, I decided I didn’t need an extra layer of stress. Life was already dumping on me.

I recommend living in the moment. It’s better. Try it. You’ll see.

I don’t mind getting old. I resent being sick and hate being poor. On the positive side, I’m alive to complain about it. A lot of folks I used to know cannot say the same. They can’t say anything. That’s the down side of being dead.

Getting old, with all its hazards, will always beat getting dead.

NOT-SO-SECRET ADMIRER

Secret Admirers – You return home to discover a huge flower bouquet waiting for you, no card attached. Who is it from — and why did they send it to you?


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My husband brings me flowers. Not every day, not even every week. But regularly. I have to assume that anytime there is a bouquet awaiting me, it’s from Garry. I have never been wrong.

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Exactly what the bouquet will contain varies from week to week depending on what they happen to have in the floral section of Hannaford and Garry’s mood.

Last week, it was sunflowers. Before that, mixed bouquets, sometimes with particularly interesting color combinations.

The sunflowers have finally faded and we are in that period of no money that lies like a chasm between paying the mortgage and the next social security check. There won’t be any new flowers until next week.

I look forward to them with great anticipation. My husband is a keeper!

STATS AND STATS – 6,001 FOLLOWERS?

Someone just alerted me that the count displayed on my site shows 6,001 followers.

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No matter what it shows, I don’t have anywhere near that many followers, unless you count Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. My Facebook total is especially meaningless in this context. Most of them are people with whom I used to play Metropolis. I don’t play Metropolis anymore, but the connections I made because of the game are still officially Facebook friends. They were never real friends, just folks with whom I played a game.

For reasons unexplained (probably rivalry), Google followers are not counted.

None of the WordPress counts are reliable. Until last year, hits from the Reader were not counted. Then, for a while, WordPress provided a separate tally of Reader hits. After a few weeks, it was discontinued.

Now I have no idea how or if Reader hits count. Who is counted? Many of us use not just WordPress’s Reader, but other readers. Like Bloglovin, to name just one of many.

As far as I know, the only hits that count (for sure) are when a reader clicks on an individual post. If a readers just accesses your site, then scrolls through, reading as he or she goes, it counts as a single hit. On the other hand, if someone is looking at a photo gallery, then clicks on 6 different pictures, you will get 7 hits — 1 for selecting the post and 1 each for every picture.

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It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

You can study the statistics all you want, but all you can extract are general trends. More or less traffic. A little analysis will show you which of your posts get the most traffic, though the count on that is also suspect. It is not unusual for the number of “Likes” on a post to exceed the supposed total number of hits on it or show 17 hits when you’ve got 75 “Likes” and 55 comments. How can that be?

The only followers I count are WordPress followers yet I know I have followers who prefer to not create a WordPress profile and never register. So they aren’t part of the “follower” count. I’m not sure whether or not they count at all.  I only know they exist because they are friends and have told me they read my posts. Since none of them comment or “Like”, are they counted?

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We want to make sense of our numbers, but it isn’t going to happen. It won’t make sense because WordPress won’t tell us how they come up with the numbers. We need a definition of “hit.” I’d like WordPress to tell me if Reader “hits” are included in the count. Until we have a realistic idea of how they come up with the numbers, we will never understand what they mean.

Does anyone besides me wonder why they won’t tell us for what are they using our numbers? How are they mining our data? To whom they are selling our personal information? I don’t worry about hackers nearly as much as I worry about being sold as part of a list.

What I can tell you with certainty, is I do not have more than 6,000 followers. No matter what it says in the little box.

And all of us are getting more hits than the hit count shows.