ADVICE FOR BABY BLOGGERS

I’ve gained a slew of new followers recently. If I can, I check out all the my followers. I go look at their websites, if there is one … or even a profile. It’s because I’m trying to get a handle on who’s who, figure out what made them click the “Follow” button.

Sometimes it’s easy. It’s a fellow photographer or writer. Maybe we’ve had a passing encounter via his or her website. Or they have an interest in what I write about, are my generation, love the same movies or share a passion for history. Or the same taste in books.

Quite a few are probably spammers hoping to gain entry to my site. I can block them from commenting, but I can’t block them from following. Anyone can follow whoever they want. I wish it were otherwise.

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A bunch of them are from countries whose language I don’t speak, often whose alphabet I can’t read. I think some of them are photographers and come for the pictures, but I can’t always tell for sure.

And then there are the baby bloggers. Not merely new to blogging, but … well … children. Teenagers as young as 12 or 13 years old. Girls who aspire to a career in fashion (why in the world do they follow me? I’m the most unfashionable person I know!) and some who want to be writers or photographers. Many who aren’t sure what they want, but have discovered blogging. They follow me, hoping I’ll follow in return and help them build a following of their own. I get that.

If blogging had been an option when I was that age, I’d have been doing it. For a creative kid, blogging is a godsend. So much better than a diary, which was my best option.

It’s hard to get a blog off the ground. There are weeks, months — even years — before it begins to come together. So when these kids ask me if I’ll follow them or imply as much, I’ll at least give their site a read, a “like,” a comment and maybe some encouragement. I’m already following more blogs than I have time to read. I’m loathe to add more, though now and then I do add one anyway.

Some of these baby bloggers are surprisingly good. Their observations are astute and sensitive, their photographs show a fine eye for composition. Others — not so much. Some need to learn the rudiments of composition and basics like focusing, cropping. Many more need to learn the difference between writing and texting.

young shooter

For all you youngsters who want to be writers, I would like to offer you some unsolicited advice:

  • Use real words, not internet abbreviations or hacker slang
  • Check your spelling
  • Write sentences and paragraphs
  • Leave some white space on the page. All text and graphics makes me claustrophobic
  • Punctuation is not optional. Discover how exciting commas and periods can be
  • Do not end every sentence with one or more exclamation points!!! Really, just don’t!!! If you do that all the time, it makes you sound hysterical!!!
  • Use emoticons sparingly :-)
  • Contractions require apostrophes. It’s don’t, not dont, can’t, not cant.

If you want adults to read your posts — anyone older than your texting pals — you will have to write in a way older folks can understand. It’s not just the words you use.

It’s also subject matter. I’m mildly interested in what’s going on with your generation,  but makeup and gossip don’t hold much appeal for me. If you are going to write about things that only interest your high school friends, your only followers will be the kids who attend your school. Maybe that’s enough for you. But if you want a wider audience, find topics that interest a broader audience.

Most importantly, make sure that you write in a real language, not text-speak. Please.

Status

STATS AND STATS

Good intentions

I meant to write a little something on stats when my followers passed the 2000 mark and certainly when the number of posts exceeded 2000. I meant to, but I forgot. There’s been a lot of stuff going on lately. So much so that by Tuesday of this week, I thought it was Friday. Busy, busy, busy. 72-stats-stats My best month ever was November 2012 with a total of 12,067 views. Between hurricane Sandy and the presidential election, the Internet was a very exciting place. The most hits I’ve ever gotten on a single post was The FBI can’t do a simple Google search? on which I got 10,143 hits. I wrote it during the commercial break.

The posts in second through fifth place in my best-ever list are an old Internet joke and three re-blogs.

I have personally answered nearly all 20,000+ comments. If I didn’t answer yours, it was because I missed it (it happens occasionally) or I ran out of levels to continue the conversation. I am a compulsive comment answerer.

What’s the Secret?

After a lot of careful consideration, the secret to success — such as it is — is to write a lot of stuff people want to read. And publish good photographs. With a few notable exceptions, hits on my pictures exceed hits on my writing.

Size matters. No matter what anyone says, if you post more good stuff, whether you write it yourself, reblog it, have guest bloggers or share the spotlight other writers and/or artists, publishing more gets more hits. There’s a direct correlation between the number of posts and bigger hit counts.

What does it all mean?

I don’t know. I stopped obsessing over statistics. These days, I take a look when I think of it. I like to see how my best work does in “the ratings.” Sometimes stuff I like best does well and I’m pleased.

If a good post (in my opinion) gets overlooked, I scheduled it to for republication. I re-post photos, rework writing. I rerun favorite posts, but I will republish anything. I don’t reblog because I don’t like the way it looks and most people don’t like having to jump link to read the rest of the story.

None of us needs to apologize or explain why we republish our own work. If NBC can do it, so can Serendipity. And so can you.

With more than 2000 published posts, it’s too much material to not reuse at least some of it. There are, of course, posts I’d just as soon forget I ever wrote in the first place — a subject for another day.

Often, an under-appreciated post finds its audience the second or third time around. If you’re prolific, you can be sure not all your readers read every post the first time it was published. And if they did? Well I watch reruns of NCIS often enough to do dialogue with them. Reruns make the world go round.

The most important thing to come out of my blogging experience?

Friends. So many of you have become my friends. You are loyal, caring and I love you. You have been kind, supportive, encouraging … all the things that friends are supposed to be. I cannot begin to thank you. So … thank you. All of you. You make my world a better place every single day.

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I AM A PEBBLE, LIFE IS A RIPPLE

I am a pebble. Drop me in the water and ripples spread along the surface, marking where my pebble began its descent. Then the water closes. The ripples vanish, leaving nothing to show where the pebble sank.

Unlike the pebble, I plan to resurface. I’m just not sure when, exactly.

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We all sign up for stuff with full intentions of fulfilling our obligations. But sometimes — often — life gets in the way of art. Shit happens. We have to adjust. Commitments and projects are set aside for later or for others to do. A lot of stuff I planned will have to go on without me for a while.

I like to think you will miss me, but I know the Internet is rich with bloggers, websites and news. It moves on. I’m just a pebble on that huge beach strewn with millions of rocks.

I follow a lot of you. I don’t always comment, but when you allow it, I leave a “like” as a calling card. Those of you who don’t accept “likes” do yourselves a disservice. Many folks — including me — don’t always have something to say. It doesn’t mean we didn’t like your post. Sometimes I just don’t have anything valuable to contribute. Other times, there are hundreds of comments in place which have covered the bases. I’m not going to add anything to the dialogue. If you let me click “like,” you will know I was there. If you don’t … well … your loss.

Now, about my site. Exactly how I’m going to keep it going while I’m recuperating, I don’t quite know. I know part of it. Garry will write more, Rich will pitch in more too. I’ll try to create some posts to go up when I’m not up to doing new material. I hope you won’t stop coming by. Rich and Garry are great writers and deserve your support, especially since they are supporting me on top of their other obligations.

For the blogs I follow,  everyone will be set to “no mail” until I’m well enough to deal with it. I’m afraid my inbox will explode otherwise. It will be bad enough with only bills and junk mail. When I think about how much could pile up in weeks and months … well, formidable doesn’t cover it. I will also set my scheduled posts to “no comment. “

You will still be able to leave a “Like” because I love knowing you visited. All of this is intended to keep my email from overwhelming Garry, who is going to have a lot on his plate. When I get back on the computer, I don’t want to be faced with thousands of notifications. I’ll just delete them en masse anyway. That’s what happens when I get back from vacations, too, and I always lose stuff I would I wanted. Don’t take it personally. It has everything to do with me and nothing to do with anyone else.

I have turned off a lot of stuff already and I don’t have time to do much visiting. I’m sorry about that. It’s become so much a part of my routine to go and see what all of you are doing … but there’s no more time.

I’ll turn off the rest shortly. I need to use what time I have to get things in order. There’s lots still to do. The time has come to get my house in order, literally and figuratively.

If this is leaving you puzzled because you missed part one of my ongoing medical drama, you can click the link and read THE HEART SURGERY UPDATE

WHAT’S WITH 1337?

What’s with the 1337 thing? WordPress uses it for a lot of things, for the top number in posts, in follows. I figured it must have some kind of historic significance to them, like the amount of money they had when they started the company, or maybe a time or maybe map coördinates.

Nope.

I looked it up. Whatever did we do before we had Google? Of course, before the internet, we would not be looking it up because this is the straight stuff: pure internet/gamer/hacker gibberish — er, slang. A bizarre distortion of language and a techno-geek in-joke.

72-1337-A

1337 means LEET,  a twisted version of the word “élite.” Which, over the years, has become internet slang for superior. Here’s the math: 1337 (1 – L, 3 – E, 7 – T) = LEET = ELITE.

This is supposed to be tres cool. Do you think it’s cool? I’m curious to hear what you think. I think it’s lame and annoying, but hey, I’m old. Definitely not one of the cool kids.

In fact, I’m not a kid at all.

GRANDMA’S BEST ADVICE

The other day, I had one of the increasingly rare moments alone with my granddaughter. She has been going through a prolonged siege of the teenage girl crazies, a ghastly combination of hormones, boys, high school and high drama.

Clearly, she was in need of the best advice I had to offer, so I gave it to her.

“If you are going to be crazy, be crazy,” I said. “I was a basket case at your age too. Many of us were. It’s a girl thing. But trust me. You really can trust me on this. Everything gets better. Not very long from now, you’ll look back on this time and be embarrassed by some of the stuff you are doing.”

High tension wire, golden maple leaves framed by an azure sky.

And then I gave her the best advice I had: “Be crazy if you must. Just — for God’s sake, don’t put it online. Your great-grandchildren will be finding your Facebook posts and laughing their asses off. Worse, your future possible employers will be finding them too, not to mention your potential life-partners, business associates, friends and co-workers. Be nuts if you must, but shut up about it. Don’t publish it.”

I know it’s the current thing to spill ones guts on the internet. I share too, but only if I can make it reasonably elegant and I don’t mind who knows. Moreover, I’m retired. I will never again have to hunt for a job. I have the only husband I will ever need or want. My friends already know I’m a whack job and they love me anyhow.

But my granddaughter is 17. She’s got a whole life to live, worlds to conquer and all that drama published on the internet can turn into the stuff of nightmares.

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Nothing ever vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything you ever wrote, ever commented is going to show up on someone’s Google search. It gives friends something to laugh about and you something to blush over … but it’s also something for those who don’t like you to use against you. It provides easy ways for people to hurt you. If you are, as I am, past the age where you give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks or says about you, behave accordingly.

However, if you are still in the job market, still hoping for a career, especially if you are a teacher or any kind of public servant. Or looking for work in finance or something which requires a security clearance … Think carefully before you publish.

Nothing you put on the internet is private, no matter what anyone tells you. I can find posts I wrote that were supposedly private twenty years ago and newspaper articles in which I am mentioned that were published in The Jerusalem Post 30 years ago.

If it goes up on any form of social media or blog? It’s a land mine on which you will eventually step.

So be crazy. Be as crazy as you want. Just don’t publish it. If it’s unpublished, it’s a rumor. Plausible deniability applies. But if it’s published? You’re busted.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU, LA, LA, LA

Cee’s Photography

Share Your World – 2014 Week 7

What is your favorite couch potato activity: readings, watching movies, watching sports, napping, anything on TV, computer games, play cards, or other?

I watch television while using the laptop. I often write when what’s on TV isn’t especially enticing, always with a lot of canine company.

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What is your favorite toppings on pizza?

Pepperoni or just a lot of cheese.

What is your favorite genre of movie or book?

Books? Fantasy. Unreality works for me as long as it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Movies? Comedy and thrillers that … you guessed it … don’t take themselves too seriously. I’ll watch or read anything that has a good story, sharp script and wit. I value cleverness.

Do you prefer eating the frosting or the cake first?

I scrape off the frosting and eat the cake plain. Sorry. Don’t like frosting.

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AWARD, AWARD, AWARD!

Marilyn Armstrong:

I wanted to write all about these awards and of course, the one that was given to me — The Imagine Award. Which I love because if there’s one quality I value in myself and others it’s imagination. But time is short for me right now and I thought perhaps a simple reblog and a HUGE thank you might suffice. Love you Sharla! You’ve been a true and faithful friend and a wonderful supporter.

Originally posted on catnipoflife:

My, my, my! Three awards! Thank you, Raani , Ute , and Texas !

friends-followers-awardThe Friends and Followers Award comes by way of Raani York. Raani writes a very unique blog, which you must visit in order to truly appreciate.  While she writes in many categories, my favorite is her letters to celebrities. What a hoot! She carries them for one wild ride! Then, of course, there are Jake’s antics and viewpoints recorded as the Diary of a Cat Prince :-)

According to Raani, this is a relatively new award. It was created by Nerissa at Nerissa’s Life. The Friends and Followers Award was created to celebrate the 75,000th hit at Nerissa’s blog. Congrats, Nerissa!

Here are the rules:

  1. Post the award on your blog. 
  2. Thank the blogger who gave you the award and follow them (by any means necessary ). 
  3. Pass along the award to a few friends…

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A MEGA THANK YOU TO MY GOOD FRIENDS

field-of-flowers-award2

FIELD OF FLOWERS AWARD

The creative and marvelous Cee Neuner has graced me with not one, but three awards, none of which I’ve gotten before.

First, I want to thank Cee at Cee’s Photography She is not only a wonderfully creative photographer, she’s a truly supportive friend. She puts a lot of effort into supporting the work of others. Always willing to share the credit and help us find our own fans and followers. She creates prompts that are fun, low stress and aim at getting lots of people involved. It’s been a real joy getting to know her.

I’ve been trying to avoid awards. I have so many. It seems there must be other people who need attention and the “lift” an award brings … but saying no makes me feel like an ingrate so I’m doing this … a mega thank you, long overdue.

But after this, no more, okay? It’s an embarrassment of riches and there are so many young, relatively new blogs out there where some attention and an award would make them feel that they are finally appreciated and noticed!

inner peace award

INNER PEACE AWARD

The three awards from Cee are THE FIELD OF FLOWERS AWARD, THE INNER PEACE AWARD, and THE LIGHTHOUSE AWARD. Each suggests I name a bunch of other blogs to honor, but everyone I connect with is full up with awards. So you are welcome to choose to come and accept an award, responding on whatever level makes you feel comfortable.

I more than understand if you just don’t want to deal with it. Our lives do get busy and full. It can seem less of an award and more an exercise in playing creative “tag you’re it”! Let’s not make it stressful!

About Me, First Go Round

LIGHTHOUSE AWARD

LIGHTHOUSE AWARD

I’m a writer, first and foremost since it was my profession for my entire working life, now my joyous avocation too

A photographer second– but not far behind. I’ve been a serious amateur photographer since I got my first camera the year I turned 22. I think I’m finally getting good enough to feel I’ve made progress

I have a ton of medical problems. I am going in for some big deal heart surgery at the beginning of March. I will be in hospital for about a week and get (oh joy) to spend my birthday (again, third time) in hospital — but hopefully, not the ICU. I don’t think I’m going to die. I do firmly believe I’m going to really hate this — but who likes major surgery, right?

With a teensy bit of luck, will be back annoying everyone in short order.

I started blogging for no particular reason but, to paraphrase something everyone says, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I’m conscientiously unstructured, unfocused and free-wheeling.

I never want blogging to feel like work. I want to be able to surprise myself and everyone else with variety, wild mood swings, and abrupt changes of subject.  I’m happy that my two co writers – Rich Paschall of Sunday Night Blog and my kick-ass husband, Garry Armstrong — are as free-wheeling as am I. They will be carrying on here to the best of their ability while I’m down for the count.

Regardless — if you want predictability, to know what’s coming? There are lots of blogs that fill specific niches. This is not one of them.

More Honors (I am truly humbled!)

DRAGON LOYALTY AWARD

DRAGON LOYALTY AWARD

From the fabulous Alienorajt, I am honored with the Dragon Loyalty Award. I think I may have really earned this one. I am nothing if not faithful to other bloggers whose sites I admire and who I feel spread “The Good Stuff” around.

There are so many nasty, miserable sods out there … then … there’s Alienora! Thank you my good friend!

Alienora is a writer. She writes bawdy, honest posts. Sometimes fiction, often funny, almost always deeply touching. A woman of integrity, with great heart, please visit her.

Stuff About Me – You really want MORE?

I’m supposed to come up with 7 more things. Okay, if you insist:

  1. Born and raised in New York city.
  2. Married first time at 18. Bore my son at 22.
  3. My grandchild was born in 1996 and when she isn’t making trouble, she’s the light of my life. Okay, even when she is making trouble.
  4. Writer since forever.
  5. Photographer since a few years shy of forever.
  6. Collect old hard plastic and antique dolls as well as ancient Chinese pottery.
  7. I’m a hard-core reader. Take away everything else, but leave my books. And a few tunes.

Four More? Yes, more!

FOUR AWARDS!

FOUR AWARDS!

From my good and loyal friend, Sharla Shults at The Catnip of Life and Awakenings, comes this collection of awards. Like me, Sharla accepts and offers, but doesn’t feel obliged to make anyone do a lot of work. Getting an award is supposed to be fun! From Sharla, it always is!

Sharla writes about life, love, this country and those we honor. She writes poetry, short fiction, and just …. rather like me … about stuff she find interesting and fun. Music, holidays and the great people who are part of our history.

Visit her. She’ll charm and delight you :-)

Versatile Blogger that’s me!

versatileblogger11Almost forgot and I do apologize. I’ve been collecting all these awards in a file, always planning to do something about them and never quite getting around to it. But here’s the final award — one I’ve gotten previously a couple of times but which seems more appropriate than most.

This award comes from Great Blue Herons, a beautiful photo blog with pictures that make me drool and wonder how come I never get the wild things to stay put and pose for me! You will not, I promise, regret visiting her sight. It’s an inspiration!

I’m (Sort of) (In A Way) Passing Out Batons!

YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO A DAMN THING. i JUST LOVE YOUR BLOG!

YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO A DAMN THING. I LOVE YOUR BLOG!

Everyone to whom I would give awards has already given me awards and mostly, I’ve returned the favor. It has begun to feel a lot like a chain letter. So many of you have honored me, it’s truly humbling. I give to all of you a most heartfelt thank you. ALL of you, the people I follow, those about whom I comment … I hear your voices loud and clear. You have supported me, been there for me for two years and you know who you are.

This is my gift to you, originally from Sharla. It’s the award that says it all, the one you can proudly display without worrying about paying anything forward or back. Come and get it! If you are reading this, you’ve earned it!!

Come take an award. Pick one you don’t have. Take them all :-)

YOU ALL DESERVE THE HONOR and I’m proud to know you!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SERENDIPITY – 2 YEARS OF BLOGGING

Two years of blogging: February 4, 2014

So I was sitting here, watching one of the last Jay Leno Tonight Shows and suddenly it came to me. I thought “I must be approaching my blogging anniversary.” So I went to look it up, which turned to be more difficult than I expected.

Finally, I went to the trophy thingie on WordPress and saw that I had an anniversary icon … dated today.

It’s exactly the same as my one year icon. Identical. Be that as it may … it’s been a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad couple of years:

  • 126,000 hits
  • 18,560 comments
  • 1,927 posts
  • 1,677 blog followers — not including followers via Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, Google and comments.

My top post in terms of hits is still that odd post about the TV show, Criminal Minds. It scored a whopping 10,135 hits, something I don’t think I’ll match. It was a fluke that Google put me on the top of their search engine for that show. You can read it and wonder — along with me — why in the world it was so popular: The FBI can’t do a simple Google search?

I finally got Freshly Pressed. It was a lovely surprise, especially since I didn’t expect it. After all that blogging without having gotten the nod, I didn’t think it would ever happen. Never say never. You can read about it in HOLY EXPLETIVE! I AM FRESHLY PRESSED! and WRITING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. The post that did it was most uncharacteristic of my usual stuff — by far the creepiest thing I ever wrote: GONZO GEORDIE HAD AN AX.

I posted at least once per day for all of last year, not counting that unfortunate week on Cape Cod when I had no WiFi.

Thanks to all of you who’ve been my faithful friends and to all my new friends. I hope we can all celebrate when the next anniversary rolls around!

TROLLS ON THE INTERNET

We blog for a variety of personal reasons. Some of us want freedom — to express our art and opinions. Most of us want a connection to the larger world, to join our voices with others in support or opposition to ideas and events. For me, the primary reason I wanted a site was to own a piece of cyber turf where I felt safe to be myself.

I had been moderately active on social media for a while before I began blogging. I had Flickr and Facebook accounts and a second Facebook page dedicated to antique dolls. I was active on a number of photography forums. I wrote reviews on Amazon.

From these places, I was driven out by trolls. On one photography forum, I was hounded until I resigned … and then (the same?) trolls found me on Amazon.

TROLLS - John_Bauer_1915

There’s nothing exceptional about my experiences because I don’t know anyone who has been active on public forums who has not been attacked.

The trolls are usually anonymous, but always vicious. They use fake names. Why do they pick on some people and not others? Who knows. You’d have to get into their heads to figure it out. It has happened to so many people, from well-known authors to folks like me — perhaps the attacks are random. Are these the schoolyard bullies of our childhood, using computers instead of fists?

The trolls are forever searching for new victims, seeking vulnerable people to hurt.

About a year ago, I reviewed a book on Amazon. I thought it was racist and said so. I got so slammed by trolls who clearly hadn’t even read the book, whose only goal was to “get me,” I gave up. I took the review down. I know defeat when I see it staring me in the face.

The trolls were banned eventually (I was not their only victim), but Amazon (and other sites) are often slow to deal with cyber bullies and trolls. I suspect (but can’t prove) they don’t necessarily mind a little ugliness, if it keeps people interested, reading reviews, commenting. Buying stuff.

I needed a safe place where I could play by my rules, have a civil environment where we treat each other with a modicum of respect. Without name-calling. I was tired of being bullied, picked on or taunted.

Authors are frequent targets of cyber attacks. Writers are sensitive. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been doing it. Every piece we publish is our baby and that makes us ideal targets for cyber bullies. We put ourselves out there with a target painted on our foreheads. It makes trolls very happy. If we didn’t exist, they would have to invent us.

Trolls love causing pain. The more misery they cause, the happier they are. There’s no effective way to fight them. After all, we live in a “free” society where everyone is supposedly “entitled” to an opinion. To the best of my understanding, no one is “entitled” to an opinion. Our laws say we can’t stop you speaking your mind — no matter how baseless, ignorant, cruel or illiterate. But protection under law isn’t an entitlement, nor does any opinion automatically have value.

Most trolling comments aren’t opinions. Just meanness. They don’t represent a position, nor are they part of a disagreement between opposing viewpoints. Their intent is to spread ill-will and hurt people. Nothing more.

In this place, my space — I’m the Queen. I make the rules and enforce them. I try to be fair, but in the end, I decide what’s fair. This is not a public forum. Want a free-for-all, maybe provoke a fight? Go join the mobs on Facebook. In this place, I will protect any guest who comments and I will protect myself. Because finally, I can!

Serendipity is a troll-free zone.

EVEN WEIRDER INTERNET SEARCHES

Not every day yields a bonanza of weirdness. but there has been a small epidemic recently. Today we have two winners!

gonzo xxx water sake

sake2me-all-four-products-black-bg-MASTER-TNI wrote a post with the word GONZO in the title … as did anyone else who responded to that writing challenge … so why did this one come to me in particular? And what might an XXX WATER SAKE be? It’s the XXX that has me most concerned. Clearly this water sake is one bad sake. Not “for heaven’s sake,” surely. And not the sake you drink with sushi at a Japanese restaurant because that sake is yummy in the tummy.

This is a lurid and evil sake, perhaps a spirit sake, dangerous to ones soul. I can but speculate on the nature of XXX water sakes and what they have to do with me. It’s not right, them creeping up on me this way.

And then there is … (trumpets, short drumroll) …

doleful porn tube

I am willing to take suggestions. I’m clueless. Three little words, connected only in the bizarre mind of some Internet searcher. Porn? Maybe, though I don’t think this site even rates a PG, much less as “porn” of any kind — though if you put it together with the XXX water sake, you might have something going there …

Tube? Porn tube? An x-rated tube? Like … inner tube? Highly inner tubish?

inner tube

Stay tuned for more. Peculiar things lurk in cyber-space and they converge at Serendipity — the website where you can be as strange as you want because nothing surprises me. Maybe I shouldn’t say that.

TOP 3 SEARCHES ON MY SITE LAST WEEK

Seriously — who are these people and how did those searches land them on my site?

it_sick_computer

pic of sick face

What does this mean? Picture of a sick face? What do you mean by sick? And why did it end up here, on Serendipity? Who are you calling sick?

googleexcerpts from unxead pool

All I can say is huh? What? No idea what this means. Oh, wait. I bet it’s The Undead Pool, the new book by Kim Harrison coming out next month. I’m looking forward to it … but surely this search should have taken them to Kim Harrison’s blog or Amazon? Why me?

Doesn’t the inability to spell the title disqualify the search?

wyatt earp clothing

I swear I have never written anything about Wyatt Earp’s clothing. I mentioned his gun I think. A long time ago. In context of a review of Tombstone. But I never said a word about his pants. Or any other article of clothing.

So was it the gun you think?

GIVE YOUR BLOG SITE A PAINLESS FACELIFT

Usually when I switch templates I do it because I’m in the mood for change. This time, I had to change after my site went all wonky. The main text font turned pale — nearly invisible — silver and I couldn’t get it back to black. When I realized I couldn’t fix it, I migrated into SUITS. It is similar enough to ZOREN so migration was simple and quick.

Suits

SUITS solved my immediate problem. My text was black again and it looked pretty good. No need for major surgery. But the main column is narrow compared to ZOREN — not photo-friendly — and I decided I didn’t like the way the header image displayed. I returned to ABLE, a theme I used for months before ZOREN.

If you go back to a theme you’ve previously used, it usually remembers your settings and header images. ABLE remembered me, so it was painless. One click and it was a done deal. It picked up all my recent changes too. Like coming home.

A lot of folks go into a tailspin when they decide to change templates. Yet it’s easy. If you understand what elements you use, what elements you need, all you have to do is pick a template that has those same elements, preferably arranged in a similar way.

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For example ZOREN is very much like ABLE. It lets you use a full size image in the header and it’s a wide format. It includes a bunch of different post formats and is widget-ready. Flexible and good for photographs, but also attractive for text — until it went bonkers yesterday. I’d have stayed with it otherwise.

ABLE has  the same basic design. I put the sidebar on the left since ABLE lets you put the sidebar left or right. ZOREN, SUITS and ABLE all use the same layout. Only decorative elements and proportions are different.  As soon as a new theme is active, I can customize it: change the header, modify colors and fonts because I have the customization package. But even if you don’t, you can make small adjustments to make it uniquely yours.

I made the initial switch from ZOREN to SUITS in about 2 minutes using a slightly broken laptop while I was in bed. Really. In bed. In my jammies. And I still had time to read before lights out. I switched to ABLE today and it took me literally a single click.

ZorenChanging templates doesn’t need to be scary. Pay attention to what elements comprise your site. Decide what’s important to you and what’s not. Pick a template that has the features you want. Use the preview to see how it will look. Too narrow? Don’t like the way your photos display? Too wide? Don’t like the way text looks?

Preview a different theme. I’ve sometimes tried a dozen or more before I find one I really like. I wasn’t particularly picky last night because I needed an instant fix. Fortunately, SUITS worked.

What elements are important to me?

  1. It must be wide enough to display photographs well. Pictures are important.
  2. The fonts have to be easily readable, with good spaces. Never white or light on black — too hard on the eyes. I’m too old to squint.
  3. The page must show at least 50% white space. White space includes empty margins, line spacing, column spacing, empty areas around the header and pictures. Any space that does not contain graphics or text is white space, no matter what color it is. Without adequate white space, your site will be cluttered, hard to read and many people will find it annoying — but may not know why.
  4. I prefer a header which lets me use a picture, but I’m flexible about that.
  5. I prefer a left-hand sidebar, but can live with one on the right if the main column is wide enough. We read left to right, so I like to have my important stuff on the right side of the page. Note: Right hand pages cost more when you are buying print advertising for this reason.
  6. I want my widgets in a sidebar. Therefore, I can’t use any of the single-column templates, some of which are otherwise very attractive. I also won’t use any of the magazine-style multi-column templates. They are too busy. Clean and easy on the eyes are my goals. Also, multi-column themes don’t display photographs the way I like.
  7. I want a low maintenance format. Intense graphical formats require a lot of tweaking and tuning. They are prone to inexplicable glitches. I don’t have time to diddle with formatting nor do have I enough interest in the technical aspects of blogging to devote myself to the care and maintenance of a fussy design.

You need to know yourself. What you like, what you want, what you need. Keep an image in your mind of how you want your blog to look. Don’t get distracted by every pretty face you see. I’ve found the more complicated the template, the more problems it develops. There are more than enough glitches without adding more.

Following are some of the other templates I’ve used successfully. The differences are fewer than their similarities. Look past colors and decorations to the structure. If you’re tired of your template, not really thrilled with the way your site looks and you’d like a facelift, consider a new template. It needn’t be a difficult process of rebuilding. Pick one that has the same shape and elements you already use — and want to keep. Then do a some previewing and see if you like it. Next? Just do it.

Voila. A whole new look!

Yoko

Twenty Eleven

SnapIt-191

Adelle

crafty

splendio

WRITING FOR THE RIGHT REASONS

I wrote a lot of posts before getting Freshly Pressed.

In the beginning, I didn’t think about it because I didn’t know about it. After I became aware that such a thing existed, I figured I’d get noticed eventually. My turn would come. I’m insecure about a lot of things, but not about writing, probably the result of doing it every day for 50 years. Eventually you become comfortable and know you’re really a writer. You have proved it to everyone, even yourself.

freshly-pressed-circle3x3So I waited for that email to come. As almost everyone I knew seemed to be getting awarded — except me — I started to get worried. Then hurt. And I started to brood on injustice which is always a bad sign for me … a very bad sign.

Finally, after airing my grievance — mostly in comments on other peoples blogs about how bad they felt about being overlooked … I took a deep breath and realized I was being stupid and self-destructive. I was letting this thing get to me. It was sucking the fun out of blogging. I’d become focused on winning a prize rather than enjoying writing.

I don’t even remember when I knew I was I writer. It wasn’t something I decided. Writing was part of me as long as I can remember. It has been my therapy. Catharsis. My hobby, my profession, my dreams. The best part of me has always come through when I write. I was letting this thing … this award I didn’t get … take that away from me.

I went cold turkey on expecting recognition. I didn’t stop wanting it. I can’t help wanting recognition. It’s part of that type A personality thing, the competitive piece of me. And I’m sure a little teensy part of my brain nurtured an itsy bitsy hope it might yet happen, but to the degree I could control my feelings, I quit thinking about it, hoping for it, expecting it.

Most important, I gave up being angry. Because holding on to anger is bad for me. It messes with my head while leaving the object of my anger unscathed. It’s one of the few life lessons I’ve learned and accepted. I can’t go there.

I’m glad I kept writing. Most of all, I’m glad I didn’t keep writing only to win a prize, but because I love to write.

A thousand or so posts later, I got the letter.

There is a moral to my tale. Do what you love. Maybe the rest will follow. Maybe not. But when you’re doing what you love, you are a winner.

And the post that finally did it is: GONZO GEORDI HAD AN AX

HOLY EXPLETIVE! I AM FRESHLY PRESSED!

Congrats, you’ve been Freshly Pressed!

That was the subject of the email and it was addressed to me. I was stunned into speechlessness and that doesn’t happen very often. What can I say except “WOW.”

I’ve written 1850 posts, gotten 120,200 hits. I have 1350 WordPress followers. But never Freshly Pressed. I figured I had pissed off the editors. I’m good at pissing people off. I do it all the time with followers, friends, family and total strangers. Why not the editors of WordPress? After a while, I gave up hoping it would happen. I stopped waiting, figured okay, it’s not so important. If there’s one thing I know, absolutely 100% I can do, it’s write. I have a body of work and a résumé. I don’t need external validation.

Mass Broadcasters 12Except, it wasn’t true. I may not need it, but … okay, I’m human. I crave recognition. Writers — all artists, really — want recognition, whether or not we are ready to admit it. Apparently the trick was to stop brooding about how come it never happened and just … write.

The piece which got the nod is GONZO GEORDI HAD AN AX, a piece of writing so different from my usual style I’m not sure how I feel about it. I know I wrote it … but it was like someone else wrote it too and I was a conduit. I hope I’m not channeling serial killers. I know I’m odd, but that’s more odd than I want to be.

Garry was disappointed when I explained Freshly Pressed doesn’t come with a statuette or even a plaque. He wanted to know if I can create one. I can try. There’s no end to what you can do with Photoshop.

Garry has awards all over the house. Plaques and statuettes abound to such a degree that the last two — from the Massachusetts’ Broadcasting Hall of Fame and Hofstra University’s radio station WRHU Broadcasting Hall of Fame — are on the fireplace mantel. There’s no room on the walls. Let me say up front that Garry deserved every one of those awards, but he feels I should have awards of my own. I didn’t work in an industry that gives awards. If you got a regular paycheck, that was the award …. these days, even more so. I’ll think about it. Anything to make my guy happy and I suppose I wouldn’t mind either.

For my friends who are unFreshly dePressed and yearning for recognition, all I can say is — sometimes, after you stop expecting it, the thing you want happens.

Thanks everyone for sticking with me. You are the best!

Hot Rod Cowgirl Nominated For The 2013 Blog Of The Year Award!

Marilyn Armstrong:

Another star for me … and a well-earned sixth star for Hotrod Cowgirl, one of the first blogs I ever followed and still one of my favorites. It’s beautiful and poetic. It speaks of life and the land we love and if you have not yet visited, please do!

Originally posted on Hot Rod Cowgirl:

Hot Rod Cowgirl Nominated For The 2013 Blog of the Year Award!

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Yip-Yip-Yee-Haw!

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Blog Of The Year 2013…Wowzers! Minnie Mouse Of The House says Meowzers!

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Ellie says Bowzers! Look at her jump for joy!

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Melody, Buck, Annie, Pat, Tucker and Dasher are excited as they have enjoyed entertaining you and keeping me busy blogging:)

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It seems only a few days ago that I accepted this awesome nomination the end of 2012…and where did the last year go?

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And Wowowow! I’m excited to receive a nomination for the 2013 Blog of the Year Award from Sharla at http://catnipoflife.wordpress.com/

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Sharla opensCatnipoflife with a line of wisdom that is so very true!

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“Observe life at its best, listen to life’s songs, embrace life’s bounties, breathe the breath of life and savor life to its fullest.”

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Catnipoflife is about the school of life…the life we live and the lives lived around us…times…

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