WE’VE COME A LONG WAY

When you look back at your blog on January 2, 2015, what would you like to see?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us PROGRESS.

I like the way my site is developing. I like the people who visit, the folks  I’m getting to know. I even believe I’m making progress with writing shorter, pithier pieces — with fewer typos — but it wouldn’t be Serendipity without a few mistakes, right?

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A year from now? I hope WordPress has added more formatting options for text, especially the ability to change fonts and font sizes on the fly. Otherwise? I’m a pretty happy camper!

One REALLY big wish: WordPress, are you listening? Please make the reader part of the statistical hit count. It’s a great tool, especially when you follow a lot of blogs and have limited time to visit, but the bloggers you visit via the Reader don’t get the “credit” for your visit … which seems kind of unfair.

Otherwise, I think I’ll just keep on doing what I do and hopefully will still be around to worry about it a year from now. Blog happy, my friends.

TOO MUCH INFORMATION? AN INTERVIEW WITH ME.

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I’m not sure how much more anyone could possibly want to know about me. I suspect this post may wander far into the realm of “too much information.”

However, suzie81′s Blog suggested these questions. They’re interesting and I’ve never answered anything quite like them before. And why not, eh?

Here goes:

1. Why have you chosen your blog name?

I’ve always loved the word “serendipity” and the way it feels between my teeth. It’s a very satisfying word and it’s so me!

2. When you have an hour of free-time, what do you do?

I’m always doing something. Reading for a review, listening — for other reviews. Taking pictures, processing pictures. Writing my blog, reading other blogs. But I’ve always been busy. Idle time is a frame without a picture — my job to fill it up. This is not a complaint. I like the stuff I do. All of it. Except paying the bills.

3. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what would it be?

I want my 66-year old head, but I’d be happy with my 16-year old body. Put them together? What a gal!

4. If you could learn to do something, what would it be?

I’d like to learn to use my Wacom Tablet. It’s the first computer gadget that has defeated me.

5. What would be the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?

I wouldn’t buy anything. I’d pay my bills. I’d do my best to finally, at long last, be entirely debt free. Forever.

6. What is the thing that makes you absolutely unique?

The number of chronic conditions and diseases that coexist in my body simultaneously. I may hold the international record for major surgeries and near-death experiences. Also talking to God — or someone doing a really good impersonation of a deity.

7. What is your favourite blog?

I’m glad you asked! I know this is off the beaten path, but allow me to introduce you to: Tallhwch ~ The pursuit of history using the newest and most creative methods necessary. This is a blog that focuses (mainly) on the British Isles between 500 and 700 AD, “the Arthurian period.” Those were the real dark ages for which little solid archeological evidence exists. Reading his posts is my dessert, my reward. I save them for last and read them until I’ve got each post almost memorized. Better yet? If I ask him to write about a particular subject, he will research and write about it, just for me. Isn’t that fantastic?

I read a lot of blogs. Many of you make me laugh, others make me cry. All of you inspire me, make me think about things I might otherwise never consider. Tallhwch tells me stories of hidden history and magic and mysteries. I love it too much.

That’s it. Seems like either too much or not quite enough. You can judge.

I encourage you to do your own self interview. Check out suzie81′s Blog for yourself. Maybe you’ll find out something about yourself you didn’t know.

NOT FRESHLY PRESSED? HELP IS ON THE WAY!

What is Freshly Pressed? It is the opinion of editors hired by WordPress. It promises that some blogs are better than others, deserve special recognition and indicates that these people know what good is and have assigned themselves the task of giving out this recognition.

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I believe in merit. I also believe in fairness. While some awardees have created funny, creative, original material and have earned recognition, that is far from universally true. Many other recipients are nothing special, writing stuff that has no social value and little relevance. It’s not especially funny or even interesting. But it is whatever pleases WP’s editors — and they answer only to themselves.

Freshly Pressed gets dangled in front of bloggers not only as an award, but as the opportunity to gain a broader readership. They will promote you, put your material where everyone can easily see it. For those of us who have labored long and hard, produced a lot of really good material only to have it ignored, it’s a virtual slap in the face and it hurts.

Why are the same sites recognized over and over again while others, as deserving or more so, are shut out? Some of us apparently can never meet whatever ephemeral standards are being applied. Because the judging standards are never stated, you can never object to the judgment. There are no criteria to be met, just that somebody noticed you and deems you worthy.

This kind of thing makes many people, including me, feel sad. We aren’t just blogs. We aren’t faceless corporations. We are real live people doing something for which we get no reward except the chance to have our words read, our photographs reviewed. Yes, we crave recognition. Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want the validation of being Officially Recognized? Even if it’s by a self-appointed board of recognizers?

I’ve appointed myself an official recognizer. Allow me to present my bona fides.

I spent more than 40 years as a professional writer by which I mean I got paid to write and my work was published by the people who paid me to do it. There is nothing which screams professional more than that. I also wrote and published a book that still, to this day, actually sells a few copies here and there, though it was published originally in 2007. Just last week, Amazon notified me that I have earned $10.24 in royalties this past quarter (be still my heart)!

I am a real editor of real books and a pretty good photographer, if not the most skilled user of Photoshop. However, my skills are improving and towards that end, I have created an award. It’s the “I deserve an award,” award. You don’t have to pass it along to any specific number of people. You don’t have to reveal 12 inner secrets you’ve never revealed before. You can send it to people you think would like to have it and deserve it. Display it on your site and maybe this thing will catch on.

Have fun. Remember, guys and gals: We do not need validation or approval from WordPress. Their opinions as to what constitutes quality are no better than mine or yours. It is merely their opinion. If people like you, read you, visit your site, look at your pictures, comment on how they appreciate what you do? That is validation. That is approval. That means something. Don’t let a lack of “official” recognition sour you. Don’t stop having fun doing what you do!

This badge is 375 pixels square and should fit comfortably into a column or footer. I’ve put one on my front page so you can see if that’s the size you want. If you want a badge in a different (smaller or larger) size, I can fix it for you. Let me know what you want.

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I’m going to pass this to a few of you and leave it to you to pass it to others. Use discrimination and give it to sites that do quality work, help others, rescue dogs, provide important medical information that can be hard to find. Give it to those whose pictures make you say WOW, whose posts make you laugh and cry and think.

I’m picking a few of you to get the ball rolling, but many more of you deserve it. I am just flu-ridden and too tired to pick through the many worthy bloggers I know. I’m not ignoring anyone, honest. I have the kind of chest cold that makes me feel a poke in the eye with a sharp stick might be more fun. You know, wheezing, coughing, can’t breathe, eyes running headache, fever and even more body aches than usual? I’ve gotten this far, but I can’t go another inch. I’m done and used up. Love you all!!

You don’t have to do anything with this if you don’t want to. And anyone reading this is welcome to join in and pass this to others who you believe have been unfairly overlooked. It is entirely up to you.

Let’s encourage each other. Be strong and blog on!

ENCHANTED SEASHELLS: Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife

The Library Lady and Rosie Bear: Humor / Book reviews

4 writers and readers

Catnip of Life

Sunday Night Blog

Sweetwildflower: Recipes, Crafts, Tips, Writing

THE SUNSHINE AWARD POUR MOI … TIMELY INDEED!

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

Thanks  znjavid!

I love that you thought of me for this award. She and I have had fun chatting about her children’s book, my husband’s clothes, and the differences between grocery stores in Dubai and Salt Lake City. Check out her blog at:

A Mom’s Blog http://zainabjavid.wordpress.com/

— And NOW — From me …

October 2013

October 2013

Thank you to The Library Lady and Rosie Bear, a delightful website that you absolutely should go visit. She writes about life with a light touch, about writing, her travels and more … with charm and grace.

I’m pleased and proud to receive this award. I’m not giving it out to a bunch of people because I’ve been slinging awards all over the Internet recently — an embarrassment of riches — and I’ve run out of steam.

I’m absolutely CERTAIN beyond any possible doubt that all of you who follow me, even occasionally, know more than you could possibly want to know about me. Too much information is my middle name.

So thank you. I’m honored and proud and congratulations to all you other winners! It’s a good day to be me … or you!

See on geanieroake.wordpress.com

WHAT’S THE SECRET?

Closing in on 2 years of blogging, with more than 1500 posts and over 100,000 hits … I’ve think I’ve finally figured it out. The secret to getting more readers, more followers, more hits, better stats is that there is no secret.

Just do it.

Post interesting material often. Include graphics. There is a direct correlation between number of hits and number and quality of posts. Although some posts go bigger than others — often not the ones you expect — the difference isn’t huge, more incremental than geometric. Most of my posts get reasonable hits. Some do better, some get ignored (I rerun these, often with much better results second time). A few posts generate big numbers. Every once in a while, something hits a hot button, but typically the number of visitors per day doesn’t change much. What changes is the number of articles each visitor reads when they visit.

Some of my biggest days have been those with low visitor counts, but when each guest accesses 3 or more posts and/or pictures.Visitors average around 100+/- 15 — so between 85 and 115. Hits that come through the Reader or email do not count in the totals so you can reasonably assume you have more people reading you than stats indicate.

If guests hang around and read a lot, open pictures, poke around, you get the bigger hit counts.  I’m betting the same people come almost every day. If they find interesting things to read and view, they hang out. Which is what you want them to do.

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There are slow days of course. Everyone has them. And hyper-active days. We all have them, too. On a very active day, I might get 150 visitors, but that doesn’t mean the hit count will be 50% higher than on a day when I get 75 visitors. On a high visit count day, each visitor may only read (hit) one post while on a different day, each visitor may hit 3 or 4 times.

For example, on a day last winter when a blizzard was on the way, I had more than 250 visitors, but each one only read one post … the one about the coming storm. So it was a good day, but not extraordinary. My highest hit days were specific posts where a lot of people — thousands — came to see a single post. Every other high hit day included a normal number of visitors who spent more time exploring my site. No hocus pocus, no magic recipe.

Putting out the welcome mat.

The design of your website matters. You will absolutely get more people to stay long, read more stories, look at more pictures if you make it pleasant and easy for them. Make it easy to find past posts by subject, date, key word search. The more ways you help your guests find stuff that interests them, the better.

When I am on a website and can’t find a search box, no list of previous posts, no keyword search, I give up and go elsewhere. The web is infinite and gives us uncountable choices. Make your site accessible — transparent — and visitors will stay.

What I’ve figured out.

I know a few things and here they are:

  1. Articles about technology have a long shelf life. Reviews of cameras, computers, telephones and other techie stuff don’t get a lot of hits when they are first published, but continue to get hits for months, sometimes years. As long as the technology is in use, people who are shopping will look for reviews.
  2. Book and movie reviews (unless they are particularly “hot”) don’t usually go big initially, but will continue to get hits forever, as long as the search engine can find them.
  3. News and current events get a lot of hits when first published, but have no long-term interest.

If you are in this for the long haul, the backbone of your blog will be articles of enduring interest. Perhaps not the sexiest stuff you write, but stuff that contains information people need, reviews people look for. Pictures — properly tagged — get hits forever.

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Buried treasure.

If you post a lot, older posts become hard to unearth. Even when you know the name of the post and search for it by its name, items older than 6 months old may not turn up. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about this short of opening a new site.

What I do? I sift through archives, pick out the best pieces. Re-edit and re-publish them. Doing this prevents them from disappearing forever.

How often is often enough?

I’m going against common wisdom. I am sticking my neck out here and saying that a post a week isn’t enough. One single post per week, unless you are brilliant, writing about a subject with a guaranteed audience, are already famous so anything you post will get lots of attention — once a week isn’t enough.

Who makes a success of once-a-week blogs? Historians. Scholars. Well-known authors (though most of them post much more often). Newsletter writers. Everyone else?

You need to make visiting your website worthwhile. That means stuff to read. Entertainment, information. Great pictures. If you really don’t have time to create sufficient material to feed your readers and keep your site humming, maybe consider joining forces with other bloggers and take turns producing content? Without enough content, your site isn’t going to do much.

The formula is simple. Write well. Post often. Include pictures.

And finally: HAVE FUN! If you aren’t enjoying it, making friends, forming relationships, what’s the point? Successful writers and bloggers have verve and enthusiasm. You can’t fake that.

 

A FAMILY OF WORDPRESS AWARD

This award was made by Shaun @ http://prayingforoneday.wordpress.com “I am part of the WordPress Family Award.” I’ve received it from Annmarie at Sweet Wildflower where you always get a hug and something good to eat.

It’s very timely since, having started a second blog at Blogspot, I am pondering the difference between therm and WordPress and finding that though I rack up good numbers there, the whole sense of family is missing. Maybe it’s too soon to expect it, but this still feel like home to me

There can’t be much my followers don’t know about me. Photography, writing, humor, sad. I write and I take pictures. My husband writes (a little, when prodded) and takes pictures so good I’m getting envious (no I’m not … I’m just proud!). I struggle with life, try to remember that what is terrible today may will be a belly laugh tomorrow.

Rules:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.

2. Link back to the person who nominated you.

3. Nominate others you see as having an impact on your WordPress experience and family

4. Let your Family members know you have awarded them

5. That is it. Just please pick people that have taken you as a friend, and spread the love.

The Envelope Please

Now it is time for the thank yous. No one is obliged to do anything with this except know that I appreciate you and consider you friends.

HeadInAVice – Tyson was one of my first cyber friends and he’s still with me. Thank you again.

alienorajt - Alienora who writes like an Angel demon, makes me laugh, cry, think … and makes me feel loved. Hard when you’ve never really met :-) Thank you!

For Rarasaur - Rara is the rarest of the old timey dinosaurs. What a fine friend she has been to me, supportive and kind and cheerful even while her own problems swirl around. This is a mere token, but I’d like you to know I care.

For R. L Culpeper who makes me think and keeps me on my toes :-)

To Awakenings - Sharla, we have traveled a ways together. We struggle, but it’s getting better. Believe it. We’ll go there together.

Eagle-Eyed Editor, you have been there from the start. I owe you. More than one!

Bette Stevens — 4writersandreaders — a gift to all of us, always ready to lend a hand, offer encouragement. Thank you!!

Other friends belong here and I would put you on, but many of you don’t “do” awards. If you ever want one, drop by. I have a dozen or so extras and you can take your pick! I haven’t forgotten anyone. As far as I’m concerned, you ALL deserve this award because you are all my family.

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Beware Exasperated Kidneys: Can You Spell-Check Disaster?

Some years back, there was an incident in the Boston Police Department‘s boot camp. In an attempt to be as tough as any Marine Corps drill instructor, the BPD instructor in charge of recruits forced a group of newbies to stay at hard exercise during one of the hottest days of the summer, without rest, food or water.

One of the recruits died when his kidneys failed. He had an undetected pre-existing condition. Dehydration proved fatal. This was a tragedy and a scandal.

The Boston Herald is one of the city’s two leading papers. The Globe is now owned by the New York Times and wants to be taken seriously. They have excellent writers and often the most thorough and unbiased coverage of important news. The Herald is a tabloid with a really great sports section. Intellectuality be damned, if you follow the teams, you read the Herald. Besides, the Globe is ridiculously expensive on Sundays.

So, back to the story. As it unfolded, the Herald pointed out that the young man who had died was already afflicted with kidney problems which were exasperated by being forced to go without water, food or rest in extremely hot weather.

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I looked up from the paper and said to Garry, “This poor fellow suffered from exasperated kidneys. I can hear them now … (in a kidney voice) ‘That’s IT, I’ve HAD it, I’m OUTTA here …’ “

The dreaded spell-checker had struck again. The word had been exacerbated but the spell-checker didn’t know the word, so … the young man died of exasperated kidneys. What a pity. And so young, too.

There’s a moral to this story and that is (I hope) obvious and relevant to all of us who write or blog. Don’t depend on spell-checkers. They are helpful, but they are not intelligent. They are only nominally better than auto-correct … and we all know about that!

Spell-checkers don’t get context. Or style. You may want to say “my own” rather than simply “my.” The spell-checker will argue the point until you want to put your fist through the screen.

Proofreading is a big problem for all self-published writers, including bloggers. I’m tempted to give up on text and publish only pictures without captions. Even a headline could prove fatal. I am the typo queen. Worse, I hold the cut and paste error championship. When moving text, I can count on leaving something behind or taking something away that ought to have been left behind. It’s frustrating, it’s embarrassing and occasionally  funny … but not in a good way.

If I took everything to heart, I would have long since given up blogging. I do not have someone dedicated to proofreading and/or editing my copy. There are two reasons for this:

  1. No one wants to do it. They have other things to do (What? Something is more important than me? How could that be? Aren’t I the center of the universe?)
  2. No one I know is any better at proofreading than I am. I know this because I self-published a book. It was read and re-read by all my friends and family members and there are dozens of typos remaining.

Authors are generally lousy proofreaders of their own work. Sometimes, we are lousy proofreaders, period. As authors, we see what we meant, not necessarily what’s really on the page. It has nothing to do with sloppiness or not caring. Writing and proofreading are different skill sets. Hemingway didn’t have to do his own proofreading, nor did Thomas Wolfe. If they’d had to proof and edit their own copy without the excellent support of their publisher and Maxwell Perkins, they would never have made it into print. Nor would many of today’s most popular authors like Tom Clancy make it to print. Clancy, by his own admission is a very poor editor and proofreader … and in many people’s opinions, not a great writer, either, but I digress.

In the past few decades, editors and proofreaders have been mostly eliminated as too costly. Authors are expected to present press-ready manuscripts. Unless you are one of a publisher’s big money-making authors, there’s a very high likelihood that no one will read your manuscript before sending it for publication.  The result has been visibly lower quality manuscripts. You see it in printed books and even more on e-books. The official position of publishers is nobody cares. But readers do care.

Who doesn’t care? Publishers don’t care. Readers don’t get a say in the matter. If we want to read, we learn to cope with and compensate for text errors. The absence of proofreaders and editors is part of cross-industry cost-cutting and bottom-lining. The idea is to keep eliminating support services until there are no more services to cut … and then be thunderstruck that your product has suffered.

I spend hours going over my posts and I still miss stuff. It’s infuriating and embarrassing, but no one has time or inclination to read everything I write. It’s my blog and my responsibility. Not everyone has someone to backstop blog posts. My choice has been to write shorter — and fewer — posts. Fewer words, fewer mistakes. As it is, I spend more time proofing than writing. Ten minutes to write the post, 2 hours or more to proofread. There aren’t enough hours in my day.

If this means people won’t read my stuff because I’m a crappy proofreader, then I throw my hands into the air and say fine, whatever. I agree punctuation and spelling count, but so does content. If punctuation and spelling are the only things that count, something is wrong with the reader, not just the writer.

But what about spell-checkers? Surely they will catch the typographical errors!

Yes and no. Remember exasperated kidneys? Spell-checkers will find words that are misspelled and occasionally a few words used incorrectly. Spell-checkers will never find words that are spelled correctly but should not be there (cut and paste errors). They will “decide” what you wrote should be something else — witness exasperated instead of exacerbated — because the word you used isn’t in their database. Spell-checkers only catch misspellings. They won’t catch a missing word, a wrong word, an extra word. If you let them, they will change your text to mean something quite different.

There’s no convenient, simple answer. In the end, we do the best we can with whatever resources are available.  If perfection is going to be a requirement for blogging, most of us would give up. Perfection will never be achieved by anyone. Or at least, not by me.

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Getting hits for being relevant

If you’ve ever worked as a reporter — or any kind of researcher — the instinct to follow a story persists. Sometimes, it pays off. For me, the turning point of this blog was when I got thousands of hits on a reblog about hurricane Sandy in November 2012.

November 2012 was something of a super month for bloggers. Between the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy, activity on the Internet was much greater than usual. Even people who were normally not especially interested were hopping online to follow current stories.

The thing was, the article that started bringing in all those hits was a reblog, or more accurately, a scoop. Anyone could have as easily read the same article on its original site. I was not at the top of a Google search. I tried using the phrase everyone else was using and Serendipity didn’t come up. At all. So people were seeking me out. Rather than reading the original article, they came to my site. Even giving me a point or two for attractive presentation, there were more than enough stories on the same subject all over the Internet. I’m not being modest. I wanted to know: why me?

Coney Island post Hurricane Sandy.

Coney Island post Hurricane Sandy.

I decided to analyze what I did better or differently than others. I looked at the total content for days when my numbers were very high. I realized all involved current events that were unusually high-profile. My best days involved Hurricane Sandy (November 2012), the blizzard Nemo (February 2013) and the days leading up to and immediately following the storms. Also the beginning of the new television season, the Oscars (before, after and during) and (of course) the election. And sadly, the bombing at the Boston Marathon (April 2013). Plus every time they play the première episode of Criminal Minds.

When major events occur, I write about them. Not one story, but a series of posts. I start with an article that covers the main story, then add to it. If the initial story was reblogged — often the case — I add graphics and photographs. I add commentary and analysis. My additions are typically longer and more detailed than the original. I don’t alter the original author’s text and I always give credit, but I build on it.

Nemo blizzard, February 2013

Nemo blizzard, February 2013

In this case, the original post was a reblogged (using ScoopIt) standalone post. Using it as a jumping off point, I followed a trail. I gathered pictures, stories about hurricanes and other storms. I wrote about them from my perspective, if I remembered them. Then, I asked Garry — my personal treasure trove of first-hand experiences — to talk about his experiences during the Blizzard of 1978 and other storms.

New York during the The White Hurricane, The Blizzard of March 11, 1988

New York during the The White Hurricane, The Blizzard of March 11, 1888

I roamed the web to see what was happening in various places being hit by the storm. Although I focused on Sandy and it’s impact on Coney Island, I discovered many other places along the coast which were equally affected. I posted what news I could gather about these areas.

I kept gathering and adding information, especially photographs, historical background and apocryphal stories. I just did what I always do when something interests me. I get into “bloodhound mode” and I followed the scent. The circles kept getting wider and including more locations, more events.

I eventually included stories not directly related to Sandy but which were thematically related. Other monster storms have paralyzed the Atlantic coast, some relatively recently. I love history so it was fun digging up historical information. Research can keep me glued to the computer for very long stretches. It’s how I learn.

I googled “hurricanes past 100 years East Coast” and could have filled an encyclopedia with the results. Research became stories. I hunted down historical photographs. I remembered stories I heard from relatives and friends about storms. My husband covered every storm to hit New England for more than 30 years, so he is a nearly bottomless repository of great first person experience.

Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.

Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.

I ultimately produced a series of stories over almost a week.  News, mood  and background stories, data, photographs. I stitched them together. Each post was separate, but they formed a continuity. One thing led to another. When I thought about this storm, I remembered other storms, wrote about the storm that hit on my birthday in 1888 … and I offered facts, stories, and historical background, sidebars, and photographs.

The combination worked. Folks came to read one story and stayed to read many more. Some of them signed on as followers. It turned out that I didn’t have such a huge volume of visitors, but everyone who did visit stayed and read as many as five or six stories. A lot of hits.

Since then, I have more visitors on a regular basis and most of them read at least two or more stories. It’s not complicated:

  1. Be current. Don’t ignore major events. You don’t even have to write the stories yourself. Which brings me to the next point.
  2. If you don’t like WordPress’s reblog format, try ScoopIt. It seems a waste of time to write an essentially identical story when someone else has already done a great job writing it. Being relevant doesn’t mean you have to write it, but at least include it by reference.
  3. When something signficant or interesting is going on in our world whether it’s a national election, a hurricane, tsunami, the new television season or the upcoming Oscars, pay attention. You don’t have to write about just that subject, but maybe you shouldn’t completely ignore it either.
  4. It’s fine to march to the beat of your own drum, but it’s good to also pay attention to what the rest of the band is playing. If you march alone most of the time, occasionally it’s not a bad idea to join the chorus … or sing counterpoint.
  5. If you can’t be relevant because there are no big stories, be entertaining. Use those lemons to make delicious lemonade.
  6. Include lots of photographs.

Ivory towers can lonely. If you want company, you need to associate with the rest of the world and pay at least some attention to what interests them. If you write entirely for yourself, it’s a diary, not a blog.

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Daily Prompt: Origin Story — Goal Free and Destination Unknown

I started blogging because it was Thursday or Tuesday … or maybe Monday and I didn’t have any reason not to. I didn’t have anything specific in mind and I had no plans. I felt like writing and since I’ve always been a professional writer, I couldn’t see much point in writing if no one what going to read it. I don’t need another by-line. Got plenty of those. A by-line and $7.50 might buy me a cup of coffee if I don’t want one of the really big ones. Or something with foam.

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I’d been following a couple of blogs on WordPress and had signed up so I didn’t have to identify myself each time I wanted to comment. That was in February 2012. I didn’t actually do anything more except name it and write an “About Me” page until June and didn’t get “into it” until September when the election stuff all over the Internet got totally crazy.

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I dislike ignorance. I resent millions of people who think you can get all the facts you need by watching Fox News … or for that matter, by listening to the opinions of those who watch it, then repeating what they heard as if it were facts. It made me crazy too, so I spent a lot of time checking out rumors, “opinions,” so-to-speak facts, then writing my stuff or reblogging commentaries by people who seemed to still have some contact with planet Earth.

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When the election finally ended and we had a nation full of sore losers whining about how they wuz cheated, I wrote about that along the lines of “shut up, take your marbles, go home and wait for the next election.” An opinion I still hold.

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Then I shut up too because sometimes, silence is the best answer you can give.

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After that, I started writing about whatever I felt like writing. I discovered the joy of reviewing books which worked out well since reading has always been my number one form of entertainment. I treated myself to some good camera equipment and upgraded my processing tools … and that’s pretty much where I have stayed.

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My life is a disorderly, sometimes scary, often a painful disaster area. So there’s always something awful going on. And I’m old enough and I’ve been around, so I’ve got a backlog of stories — true stories no less — to tell. When I remember one, I tell it. Preferably with humor because whining is boring. Even I find my whining boring, so I can only imagine how dull you find it.

Sunrise Rockport

I’m opinionated. Ask anyone who knows me. Not only am I opinionated, but I can be on either side of any issue because I’m a Pisces and I agree with everyone, more or less … or at least, I understand their point of view, even if I hold a different one. Everyone owns at least a bit of the truth except some annoying morons that I wouldn’t mind shooting with a big gun to which I am entitled by my second amendment rights (you pointed it out, not me). But guns costs money and I don’t have any, so I guess I’ll have to use words. But a gun, now that would add a bit of spice.

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Has my blog changed? Often. And I’m sure it will keep changing. It isn’t evolution. It’s just me getting bored with doing the same thing all the time.

Old House in Hadley

I find a new template I like and switch to it. An idea scurries across my brain? I write about it. A spider crawls up my leg? I yell ‘EEK’ and that’s a post. I watch a movie and review it. I have a stack of virtual books to read and review that leaves me not a minute to spare. Sometimes I have trouble finding enough hours to sleep.

SwansWatercolor_05 - Marilyn Armstrong

And then there’s my health (ha!) about which the less said, the better. But I’ll still talk about it because life and death have a lot of impact and can’t be ignored. Not completely, anyhow, though Lord knows I wish I could.

Stagecoach in Tombstone

I write what I think will make others laugh or at least smile. Sometimes I write stuff I think may prove useful in solving problems.  I display pictures I enjoyed taking which are pretty or interesting to look at.

Manchaug Dam

I have no goals at all. I have no ambitions. Ambition left home without me about a decade ago, along with my health. I’m not in it for money. I write because I’m a writer and a blog lets me put my writing in front of eyes that may read it. I take pictures because I love to take pictures and displaying them makes me happy.

75-AmericanRoadsNIK-26

Am I supposed to have a lofty objective? Something important I need to achieve? Because I don’t.

TrinityArchitecture

If the lack of ambition means I’m a failure, so be it. I lack objectives. There is no distant destination I feel I need to reach, though there are places I wish I could go …. just because they are beautiful and I’d like to go there.

Christmas and Boston

Christmas and Boston

I wish I were making money at this. I need a mobility scooter. I need a stair lift. I want that cool new camera Panasonic just put out. Lacking capital, I hope my writing keeps getting better and eventually I get rid of typos. Take better pictures.

Old #2 in winter

And hope you’ll enjoy them. If that’s not goal enough … oh well. C’est la vie.

 

Weekly Writing Challenge: Salutations? Who cares?

WordPress

WordPress says:

Where do you stand on the grand salutation question? Do you instinctively write “Dear…” even to your siblings? Do you drop any attempt at deference even when writing to your boss, professor, government representative? Do you mix-and-match depending on your audience’s status, age, or culture? Answer the poll below, and then, in a separate post on your own blog, expand on your thoughts regarding etiquette in the age of email. Stories, anecdotes, poems, opinion pieces, essays short and long — all are welcome contributions. Don’t forget to tag your post with DPchallenge, so that we can all read your take on email (in)formality.

I almost choked with a combination of laughter and astonishment. And I thought Facebook (last week’s challenge) was silly. But this is so much sillier! Wow.

Why does WordPress wants us to address this as if it were a meaningful questions? An issue? “Salutations” on email messages? Someone really cares? Do they – the good people at WordPress — really care? Really and truly? Because if this is the big controversy in their world, they are missing the point. Which point? All the points. Everything that matters and makes a difference.

Serendipity Says

Mom always said: “You ask a silly question, you get a stupid answer.” You might want ponder the inner, deeper layers of meaning of this classic, yet still charming truism. You guys are not joking? Because if you are, that would be fine with me. If you aren’t, and I guess you aren’t, okay, I’ll tell you.

I don’t care.

I never did.

I never will.

If you are talking about formal communication with superiors, teachers, employers and colleagues, there is typically a standard for email messages at school and/or in the workplace. There’s no need to guess. Just follow the rules. I’ve written guides for students and faculty to deal with this issue. Some schools encourage informality as do some workplaces. Learning basic manners is another issue and goes way outside the boundaries of email salutations. In reality, in any kind of structured setting, there are rules and standards. Follow them or pay a penalty.

The question of whether today’s young adults know when to be formal vs. informal, even know the difference or understand how to be civil is a separate — and much larger — area of discussion. It might be an issue worth discussing.

Short of someone spewing obscenities (why am I corresponding with anyone who’d do that?) or outright insulting me (again, why am I corresponding with someone who’d insult me?), what matters is my friend. The message. To that end, I ignore missing punctuation, grammar, typos, missing words … all of it. This isn’t school. My role is not that of a judge or school marm. Spelling and punctuation matter to the extent they clarify the message. Otherwise, all I care about is content. I won’t notice if there is a salutation or not.

To sum it up again: I don’t care. Not one little bit. Not in a minor way. Or a major way. Not in any way.

Who is extremely polite in email? Scammers and spammers. They address you with your full name, as if you were a dignitary. That is one of the markers to warn you it’s fake.

Are we so cocooned in our little corner of the blogosphere that all we care about are silly things? Email salutations? I think we are better than this. Now, if this were meant to be funny … that I could wrap my head around, but as an issue I’m supposed to take seriously? Good Lord, no.

What’s the underlying issue?

I started out thinking this is a non issue. As phrased, it is. But underneath the question, are serious unasked questions about how to strike the appropriate tone and content for various types of electronic communications. Formal versus informal. Social context. Command structure. The nature of internet relationships with people who are not friends or family members. Respecting boundaries, something about which many young people are hazy. If you didn’t learn at home, you will learn quickly out in the big bad world the first time you inadvertently show disrespect to a boss or co-worker. Or, God protect you, a commanding officer.

Early in the cyberworld, before email formats were standardized, there were issues about salutations and signing off to identify sender and recipient. Today, the embedded format of email programs, from gmail to whatever your office or university uses, is set to handle this stuff. Automatically. And getting better all the time.

When you’ve got an electronic header, a salutation for an informal communication is redundant or optional at most. Email isn’t snail mail, just faster. It is a different animal. So many conventions of traditional paper mail are embedded by format in email from CCs and subject lines to headers. Our software takes care of details. We need guidelines for content. It’s not just about grammar and punctuation. It’s the whole cyber-culture where there are no rules and everyone makes it up as they go along. Until suddenly, that’s not good enough.

Other than a ritual adherence to form without substance? What’s the point? Email is what it is. Now, if you’d like to discuss manners in communication, that’s a meaty subject.

Daily Prompt: Great? Greater? Greatest?

Kind of reminds me of the old talkin’ blues — “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like!”

I don’t know — or care — if the blogs I follow are great, greater or greatest. It’s entirely subjective. Great for who? Me? You? Everybody on the world-wide web? I doubt there is any such blog. If there were, we’d never agree on it, so the real question is what do I like and why?

FirePoster11X14-300-72

I like humor. If you make me laugh, you own me. I am perhaps overly invested in word play and wit. I like photography, so if you post astounding pictures–or just pretty ones–I’m in for that too. I appreciate thoughtful posts on subjects ranging from ancient history to the meaning of life. If you combine them all, even better.

I adore authors and try to support them, even if what they write isn’t my favorite stuff. I’m a gadget freak and faithfully follow blogs that delve into hardware and software. I read movie reviews, book reviews, product reviews. I trust my fellow bloggers. From your blogs I’ve discovered books, authors, movies, cameras, lenses, software and accessories. I don’t know where I got information before I found you all!

I follow many blogs for many reasons. All great. Some are written better than others. Some photographers are more skilled than others, but I don’t count typos or ignore less than perfect pictures. Many people lack technical finesse, yet have true vision and thoughts worth hearing. I’m egalitarian by principle and inclination.

I love animals. Dogs, cats, horses, birds and everything else. Wild animals and pets. But not insects. Sorry bugs, I just can’t love you. I’ve tried. Maybe in my next incarnation.

I hate hate and haters. I admire kindness and generosity especially because I’m not as good as I want to be. I don’t think cruelty is funny. Even when deserved, suffering makes me wince, not laugh.

I’m interested in God, religion and faith — but can’t stomach being bullied to believe a particular dogma. One size never fits all, not in philosophy, religion, political system, technology or clothing. I read blogs by ministers and other religious people. I want to know what they think and why, how they made their “leap of faith.” Seeking is good.

Then there’s information, ideas, useful hints, suggestions on how to do things differently. I love learning new stuff. Don’t we all?

I don’t read everyone everyday. Not enough time but I try to peek at everyone, even if I’m a couple of days late getting to it. But in my humble (well, maybe not so humble) opinion? You are all great. We are great. Great because we care about something not ourselves. We share. Whether to change the world or make someone smile, help with a problem, teach something, offer a new way to see the world, we don’t just talk. We do.

Greatness is in the eye of the beholder. I behold you all and thank you. You’re the greatest.

 

A Place of Peace

Despite all the blogs and bloggers who have posted articles on the etiquette of commenting, too many people still don’t get it. Maybe they just don’t want to understand, because it isn’t so complicated.

I got a really nasty note yesterday from an individual who took issue with something I wrote. I think she didn’t even understand how rude she was. Another — even nastier comment — expressed displeasure with my failure to address his comment — 3 months ago. The original comment was insulting (which is why I didn’t respond). Today’s follow-up was much worse.

In both cases, the result was identical. Bye bye. You’re out of here. Don’t come back.

This is not a forum, public or otherwise. This is my personal blog, my website. My little piece of peace in a nutty, wacko cyber world. In this place, we discuss, but we don’t fight. If I don’t like your comment — for whatever reason — I can choose to not publish it, delete it, edit it … or call it spam and make it so you trouble me no more.

It doesn’t mean you aren’t free to disagree. You are welcome to disagree. Politely. Reasonably. Friendly. But if you feel like sniping, insulting me, calling names, think this is an opportunity to show how smart you are at my (or anyone else’s) expense? Bye bye.

If you do not appreciate what I have to say or how I say it, no one is forcing you to read it. You don’t have to look at my pictures, read my opinions, like me or follow me. Cyber space is infinite and you are welcome to be virtually elsewhere.

I do not have to take crap from you. Not here. In the rest of my life, I deal with all the stuff I don’t like. In this place, this tiny corner of the huge universe, I hold fast to an illusion of control. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

In this place, this space, we dwell in peace and harmony, even when we differ.

A Twofer for Moi! Word Press Family Member (In need of washing) Plus The Sunshine Award

A huge thank you goes to Draliman on Life who obviously thinks better of me than I deserve. One award is a big deal, but a twofer … and two I’ve never received before. Thus he honors me while depriving me of bloggers to whom I might pass these awards. I mean, there oughtta be a law, y’know?

I was going to defer doing this until I next come up for air. But I started counting on my fingers (consider it a fleshy abacus with limited functionality, but infinite availability) and realized it might easily be the end of August or even September before I find a space in time. I might as well just do it.

I’ve been broadening my reading, writing, reviewing, picture-taking and enjoying the results immensely, but collapsing under the weight of committment to so many deadlines. They don’t call them deadlines for nuffin’! Yoicks. Why do I do this to me? Truly I am my own worst enemy. I’ve been enthusiastically saying YES my whole life. So you’d think I’d have learned something. Apparently not so much. Old Dogs (or Bitches, in my case) can learn new things, but are not so good at unlearning old bad habits. Woof.

Whining time is officially over.

Sunshine AwardNK-1

On to the accepting portion of the program. The two awards with which I’ve been honored are the Sunshine Award — which I assume has to do with spreading light and joy throughout cyberspace. I’m not sure I’m such a ray of sunshine, but I take pretty pictures and say something fun now and again. Maybe that’s what counts. Note I’ve created a shiny new badge ’cause the old one was getting a bit droopy.

The rules for the Sunshine Award require me to answer a few questions. These are not mind bending quizzie things, so I think I can get through them unscathed. And … I can do it with pictures! Yay! Yah? I’ve taken a few liberties because some of the questions were meaningless to me, so I didn’t include them. You’re welcome to add anything you want, however.

Favourite colour?75-RainbowNK-2

Favourite animal?

Bonnie Resting

Big Guy

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Favourite number?

FortyTwo

Favourite non-alcoholic drink?

Mr. Coffee

My passion?

Our books say a lot about us ... maybe too much.

Cameras

Cameras

Prefer getting or giving presents?

Be sure to close the barn door on your way out
Favourite days of the week?

Mayan calendar
Favourite flower?

summer flowers

The second award is the WordPress Family award. I am definitely a part of this family, but apparently Mom and Dad at WordPress don’t approve of me. I’m the kid (every family has one) about whom they speak in whispers behind closed doors. With 80,000 hits, more than 350 followers plus well over 1000 posts, I have never written or posted a single thing worthy of Freshly Pressed.

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I think I’ll survive the slight though I remain forever un-fresh, un-pressed and unheralded. I embrace my cyber family and joyfully contribute to daily prompts in photography and writing, though I’m stale as old coffee. Ah, but when I think of all my pals on the humongous cyber blogsite in the sky, my virtual sun shines again!

WordPress Family Award

YOU guys, you out there …. you’ve all been so kind and so welcoming. You’ve changed my world in all the good ways worlds want changing. It makes the effort a joy rather than a burden, gives me a focus for my days (and my nights, as often as not).

Here are the rules for the WordPress Family award:

1. Display the award logo on your blog. Done!

2. Link back to the person who nominated you. Done again!

3. I will nominate 10 others who I think deserve notice. That’s 10 combined for both awards, right? Because 20 is over the top. I want to point out if we keep requiring every recipient to pass it on to 10 or more bloggers, every blogger will have received every award many times over. This is effectively a pyramid scheme, a chain letter. It can’t keep expanding forever.

Many of the people to whom I want to give awards have just gotten them, from me or someone else. I have a suspicion they won’t consider another an honor. More a lot of work for which they don’t have time. Maybe it’s time to consider making sensible modifications to these awards. ALL the awards. Before no one wants them.

4. I will advise my 10 awardees of that I have awarded them. But it’s going to take a while.

5. This is it. The big moment. Ten — that’s 10 — friends who blog. I’m spreading love. I got it. A minyan.

All of you, heads up! You, at the computer. Don’t look around, I’m talking to you.

I’m giving you two awards. You may choose to ignore them, acknowledge them or pass them along to whoever you feel would genuinely like to receive them. And deserves them.

To my friends who have gotten every single award I’ve gotten, often at the same time — I’m not going to name you again. I love you as much as ever, but I understand you’ve got lives and obligations. Maybe even a family and a job. If you genuinely want more awards, let me know because I’m not sure how many of you see this as an honor versus how many wish I’d take my awards and disappear. I love you, I really do, but I don’t wish to burden you.

The Bookshelf of Emily

The IPC

Lasers, Monsters, and Barbarians, Oh My!

Films and Things

My Beautiful Things

Fish of Gold

The Queen Creative

Iam Who Iam

Catnip of Life

Sunday Night Blog

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I’ll Have Them Both, Thanks! The WordPress Family Award and the Sunshine Award, WOW a twofer!!

Marilyn Armstrong:

Draliman on Life has kindly shared two wonderful awards with me and although I don’t have the day to put into fulfilling all its contractual terms and sub-clauses, I did not want to let this lovely gesture and honor pass uncommented.

I aways start out with a big WOW, THANK YOU, YOU REALLY LIKE ME, YOU REALLY LIKE ME!

These are beautiful awards and if I do not respond quickly — I probably won’t because I have so many deadlines and commitments over the next weeks — don’t think I have forgotten YOU or the lovely awards. I really need to learn to look at a calendar and recognize the finite number of days per page and know I can’t make a deadline in a day. There’s a process that requires more time than I allow myself — and this crunch is the result.

I’ll expect to be dug out by sometime in August if I don’t make any more promises. Does a vow to not make any more vows really count? You’d think I’d have learned by now, but apparently NOT.Sunshine AwardNK-1

I love blogging, but I need to get organized and more realistic Thank you and thank you again. I like your “U” additions. I’ve always felt that “or” becomes ever so much classier when accompanied by a “oUr”! It’s why Brits always sound so much smarter than Yanks.

I’ve made a fresh image for the sunshine award. It was getting a bit tatty and pixelated from too many clonings, so please come by and grab one :-) It’s a thank you from me, to you … and all Sunshine awardees! If you want a really BIG one, ask and it shall be given!

Originally posted on draliman on life:

A few days ago Khana over at Khana’s web nominated me to receive the WordPress Family award. Then a couple of days later Nanuschka nominated me for both the WordPress Family award and the Sunshine Award!

I’m touched – I feel as if my WordPress buddies are part of my extended family and I’ve wanted this award for ages! I love reading about the experiences and views of people from far-flung places like the USA, South Africa and so on as well as posts from closer to home. I feel like I almost know some of you people.

The Sunshine Award – now, I’m not really a “Sunshine” kind of guy. Maybe my overwhelming pessimism doesn’t come out in my posts? But I’ll accept this one as well – maybe it will inspire me to positivity!

Here come the logos!

WordPress Family Award

Sunshine Award

Here are the rules for the WordPress Family award:

1. Display…

View original 622 more words

It’s YOUR fault!

I’m not sure how this happened. I haven’t found anyone to blame yet, but I’m looking for a scapegoat and would appreciate a volunteer.

When did my blog change from a fun hobby into a do-or-die project? It has been consuming my life. Incrementally, bit by bit, it nibbles at my days, chews up my evenings and gnaws the edges of my nights.

Dutch IrisI have computers everywhere, so I can work from any room. Any place I might relax, a computer lies waiting. The proliferation of computers was a convenience, so I wouldn’t have to haul stuff around. It wasn’t supposed to be a constant reminder of tasks and assignments. I renounced that stuff years ago … or so I thought.

I started reviewing books because I love them. Now, I have more books to read than time — and I’ve got deadlines. Deadlines? Come again? I’m retired, aren’t I?

No time to read other people’s blogs or listen to an audio book just for fun. No time to read anything that isn’t on my “to-read” list. Barely time to answer personal email. Or talk on the phone, shop, cook or do anything except write, edit and read. Sleep? No time for that, either.

We don’t change as much as we think we do. Just when we think we’ve finally gotten that piano out the door, it sneaks back in the window. Old, engrained habits lurk — then when you think you’ve got it beat, pounce. Whack. HEY! Where’d you come from? Saying “yes” until I’m drowning — it’s an old song, oh so familiar. I know the music, lyrics and all 42 verses. Old habits are like old shoes. So comfy. Slide right into those babies.

Riverside gardenWhen I started doing this, I wanted to be busier than I was, but didn’t want to be tied to a schedule. Free, unscheduled time is the singular gift of retirement. We may be short of money but our time belongs to us.

Instead of letting myself enjoy the wealth of time, I’m back on a schedule. I’m not even getting paid!

So I’ve decided it’s not my fault. It’s someone else’s fault. I just need to figure out who. What about you? Has your hobby, your blog, your avocation taken over your life? I’ll bet I’m not the only one who has a problem. Maybe bad habits are contagious and I caught it from you. In which case …

It’s your fault. I can point a finger and be off the hook. No need to ponder my complicity or change my behavior.

This must be why scapegoating is so popular. It has surpassed baseball as our national pastime. If others are to blame, I can be a total screw up. If it’s not my fault, I don’t have to fix it. Cool.

So, is it your fault? You, there, sitting in front of your computer. Yes, I mean you.  Don’t try to weasel out of this. I know guilt when I see it!

Rain Rain Go Away

We were supposed to be in New York for the weekend. Seeing old friends. Doing stuff with the college radio station where Garry and I met. Instead, we got weathered. Tropical storm Andrea, or her remnants, are meandering up the coast dropping tons of rain. We couldn’t face the 500 mile round trip drive in heavy rain.

Saguaro Storm 06

So the day didn’t get off to a very good start. I expected to be on vacation, but find myself at home. It makes me grumpy.

This was not one of my best days. A stupid day. I had a snippy fight with the bagger kid in the grocery store and the dogs did things in the house they should have done outside because they don’t like rain. Through all this, my body kept reminding me that like the dogs, it doesn’t much it like the rain. The argument with the dogs and ongoing disagreements with my body were both pretty much one-sided, but the kid in the supermarket actually mumbled in what I believe was English.

The issue was pizza. I wanted my frozen pizza laid flat, not shoved into the bag sideways so all the toppings fall off. The young bagger was baffled. I suggested — perhaps a bit testily — if he would lay the bag on its side and insert the pizza, voilà, you get a flat pizza. Then I could transport the pizza and it would be ever so much more attractive when it became a future dinner.

He said I didn’t need to give him so much attitude. And me, a white-haired senior citizen.

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I prefer to think the lad was giving me an unintended backhanded compliment. He finally worked out what I mean about putting pizza into the bag, but then he put another 5 pounds of groceries in the bag on top of the pizza, including a half-gallon of milk, totally defeating the entire point. Some days you really can’t win. I shudder to think what that pizza will look like when we want to eat it, but I could not argue any further. My head was beginning to hurt. I wanted to go home and sulk.

Putting the groceries away reminded me how much prices have gone up without an equivalent rise in our so-called income. It is hard to believe how little stuff $100 buys these days.

My current goal is to restore my sense of humor. I think I’m about ready to forgive the bagger and the rain has eased off enough so the dogs are going back outside. It’s going to rain tomorrow and Sunday too, or so the weather gurus are saying. These long drenching rainy periods puts all our systems to the test.

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We don’t get out much any more. So many friends are gone. Many have moved far away and more are planning moves to the left coast or someplace in the southwest. It’s entirely possible I will never see many of them again. If they move to the other coast, there will be no more spontaneous gatherings. Probably ever. It’s tough to deal with. The world is supposedly getting smaller and indeed, our personal world is shrinking, but the distances between people seems to be ever-widening.

I’ll feel better when the sun comes out.