OSCAR ISN’T SACRED BUT WE WATCH ANYHOW

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Daily Prompt: Time After Time

We don’t have a lot of traditions. We have a lot of intentions, but they don’t always pan out. But we have one that’s sacred. Okay, not exactly sacred, but we do it every year.

Garry and I watch the Oscars.

We watch them when they are boring. We watch them when we are tired and would like to go to bed. We watched them one year in the pilot’s lounge at the top of a cruise ship on the biggest screen television I’ve ever seen.

Last year, we watched them in Connecticut with friends. For my money, Seth McFarland was the absolutely funniest-ever host.

Ellen DeGeneres was good this year. Pleasant. A kinder, gentler host. But McFarland made me laugh more and laughter always wins the day with me. Her selfie with the stars crashed Twitter and broke all retweet records with more than 2 million retweets.

Garry and I have been together 25 years — officially. Longer unofficially. Much longer entirely off the books. And we always watch the Oscars.

I suppose I should say something about why. I mean, mostly, the show is pretty dull. Insipid speeches thanking everyone the awardee has ever known since birth or even before birth in a previous life. Ho hum productions of the songs of the year. They used to have really bad dance numbers, but eliminated them this year. Drat. That was always good for a groan.

Ellen at oscars

Lacking the bad production numbers, we could gawk at the hideous examples of “one plastic surgery over the line.” Kim Novak was terrible to see. A lovely woman who fixed what didn’t need fixing. We barely recognized her. Then there were all the rest of them, so full of Botox that their faces were all zombified. Rigid. Men and women alike, terrified to be seen getting old.

Garry and I looked at each other and whatever problems we have, we look a lot better than they do. Without plastic surgery, thank you.

And one more thing. How come, since they have the financial wherewithal to buy whatever they want, are so many of them so badly dressed? Can’t buy good taste, eh?

So that’s why we watch the show. To see the new stars, the old stars, the gorgeous dresses from fabulous designers worn by aging stars who should know better. The awful dresses worn by beautiful young starlets who should look in the mirror rather than take the advice of designers.

Ugly tuxedos, terrible hair, bad makeup and some stomach-wrenching plastic surgery. And at least one or two wins for the actors, directors and others who’ve done an amazing job and deserve a victory lap.

The good, the bad and the ugly — it’s all part of the magic of the Oscar night.

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It gives us a chance to yell “Ew!!” yet we are ever-ready to praise those who come through the Oscar experience nicely dressed, not surgically remodeled, with some grace and dignity remaining.

We can hardly wait until next year.

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999 BEFORE THE CRASH – STATS AND STATS

Stats OverallShortly before our ISP crashed and burned last night, I took a look at my statistics. Just before midnight, I had 999 followers. WordPress followers. Not including comment followers, Tumbler, Twitter, Facebook or anything else. On my most active day in November — a good month statistically and quality-wise — I got 300 hits from 162 people.

Where are the other 838 followers? I know I’m not the only one to ask this question. I have no doubt more than half of them are spammers, hoping to find a way to hook me for some nefarious purpose. Some are impulse follows. They liked a picture or a post and clicked follow, but have no enduring interest and never visit again.

Let’s say that accounts for 75% of what today’s statistics show as 1004 followers.

Despite the rolling peaks and valleys of hit counts, the number of people who visit Serendipity is relatively stable. Typically, it runs between 75 and 150 individuals, averaging around 100 on a “regular” day, almost all of which come in during the late afternoon and evening.

What changes more is how many articles they read, how many pictures they click on. Sometimes, the number of visitors is quite low, but the hit count is very high, meaning that each visitor hit 3 or more posts per visit. I feel very successful when I see that. Raw numbers are one thing, but seeing what people really read gives me an idea what you appreciate. If it’s something I’m especially proud of, I’m doubly pleased.

Who is everyone else? Are you real? Do you look at the email but never come to the site? Are you following through the Reader from which statistics do not count? And why don’t Reader hits count? Does anyone know? I love using the Reader. It’s a great tool that lets me identify stuff I want to spend more time exploring, but also gives me a chance to “say hello” to others bloggers without eating my entire day. But, great tool or not, I’m hesitant to use it — saving it for when I’m most pressed for time — because I know it doesn’t register statistically.

We may deny we track our stats … but we all track our stats, one way or the other. It’s the only way to get a grip on how well we are doing.

Big Stats

No answers. Still, I’d like to know who you are and what you liked that made you follow … and why you don’t participate more actively?  I’ve never been Freshly Pressed either (are you embarrassed to visit an unrecognized site?). I think am close to a world record for non-recognition.

Whatever brought you to me — spammers, you may leave the room — thank you. To all who come and visit, to everyone who reads the emails or checks me out in the reader. Whatever your reason or method, you are welcome and I hope you find what you are looking for.

Spammers, please ignore this message.

Amateurs have all the fun

It has come up a few times lately … how to define a professional. So, are you a professional? I’ve seen questionnaires for writers that apparently feel the sign of a professional is how much you sacrifice for your art. I’m quite sure sacrifice has nothing to do with whether or not you are a professional.

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There is only one question you need to answer. Do you get paid for doing it, whatever ‘it’ is? If you don’t get paid, you are not a professional. If you do get paid, you are. This doesn’t address the issue of whether or not you are talented or especially skilled. You may be a brilliant amateur and someone else may be a lackluster professional, but that’s not the question.

Professional is a job classification and addresses your status with the IRS. When I was working as a writer, it never crossed my mind to wonder if I was a professional. I had a job. Writing. I had deadlines. I got paid. The odds are if you are wondering whether or not you are a professional? You aren’t.

Ghost Photog in the Sky

Professional doesn’t mean talented and amateur is not a comment on quality of your work. I flirted with professional photography, only to discover it wasn’t fun. To make my living as a photographer, I had to do what clients wanted and that was … well … work.

Then, this past May, along came Marissa Mayer from Yahoo to explain why they were eliminating Flickr Pro.
MarissaMayerQuote

Wow. When did access to tools become equivalent to professionalism? Completely ignoring the actual definition of professional, she manages to ignore any other sensible guideline and define professional as “owning the tools.” Using this reasoning, everyone who owns woodworking tools is a professional carpenter. Owning a few rolls of electrical tape and a couple of gauges could make you an electrician. Is a plumber anyone who owns wrenches?

Is everyone who owns a computer and a printer, who has a blog or posts on Facebook a professional writer? If I buy some paints and an easel, I’m a painter, right? Everyone who has a digital camera can also make movies, so are we all professional filmmakers?

If ignorance is bliss, Marissa Mayer is very happy.

The single thing that divides a professional from an amateur — excluding any legal requirements such as training, licensing and so on — is a paycheck. If you get paid to write, you’re a professional writer. If you sell your photographs or services as a photographer, you are a professional photographer. How much of your income needs to come from writing or photography? At least some. None is too little.

If you have never sold anything you’ve written, you are an aspiring writer, an amateur, a hopeful. You don’t get professional status until you get the check. This is true for photographers, painters, and all other artists. It’s true for every profession, artistic or otherwise.

CamerasIf you don’t believe me, look it up. That’s the line in the sand. If you don’t earn money doing it — whatever “it” is — you are not a professional. It isn’t about your talent, enthusiasm or dedication to your art. It is a statement about your status. Maybe you will become a professional in the future. Perhaps you were a professional in the past.

I’m retired. I used to earn my living writing. This makes me a former professional writer. My husband was a reporter. He is now a former reporter. We collect social security and pensions, so we are no longer professionals. I was never a professional photographer even though I sold a few pictures and did a few gigs for which I got paid. I am and was a dedicated, serious amateur photographer. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I think we should stop worrying about it. In most things, amateurs have more fun anyhow.

85,000. What it means. What it doesn’t.

To put this into perspective, my “about” page and five top posts account for around 35,000 hits. “The Me Page” alone has gotten more than 12,000 hits.

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Still, the cumulative effect is that a lot of people have visited this little blog of mine, for whatever reason and it’s a bit humbling to realize that’s the number of people in a pretty big town, more than a packed crowd in Yankee Stadium. I know there are people out there whose statistics put them into the hundreds of thousands. What’s weird is I see if I don’t quit, I’ll get there too. Not tomorrow, unless something I write goes viral (unlikely) … but I’ll get there. Because every day, I get around 200 hits, unless the première show for the 2012-2013 season of Criminal Minds is playing — in which case I get closer to 1000 hits (that’s how I know the show is airing).

I am writing this before I quite hit the 85,000 mark. At this moment in time, I’m at 84,958, so I’ll cross that bridge tomorrow. I don’t have the exact numbers, but it ought to be more than 85,000. I’m probably jinxing myself.

Number of posts? Closer to 1500, but I deleted several hundred and I’ll probably have to do it again to keep the website from collapsing under the weight of too many posts. I’ve been a busy writer. Meanwhile, I’m beginning to rerun posts because — hey — I think they’re pretty good and worth running again.

The ups and down of statistics can produce a lot of anxiety, so … you gotta have faith. I don’t just look at raw numbers because they are only a part of the puzzle. I don’t have more visitors or even as many as I did — the total number of visitors is down considerably from the peak last fall. It was the election and the Internet was a wild and crazy place. Yet the overall hit count has remained reasonably steady because guests spend more time on my site, read more posts, look at more pictures. The average number of posts hit per visit is greater than 2, sometimes a lot more. That tells me I’m doing something right.

It tells me I’m writing more interesting stories, posting better pictures. This matters to me far more than raw numbers. To know you come and stick around, enjoy my work enough to read more than a one post makes me feel pretty good.

The numbers of followers I’ve got has topped 400 from WordPress. I’ve got a bunch more from Twitter and Tumblr, maybe a couple of dozen from Facebook (not quite as many as WordPress counts them). A year ago I couldn’t even imagine so many followers.

Followers get  emails. Many people read posts in email and don’t bother to visit the website. It’s a peril of email notification. If you can read it in email, there’s no incentive to go to the main site since the emails contains 90% (or more) of the post. It’s a trade-off. Followers are good to have, even if they only read the email. Honestly, I don’t care if they read my posts on a telephone pole. Where isn’t important.

Sudden drops in hits are alarming and baffling, especially when numbers pop back up the next day. What was that all about? You will never know. One of the great mysteries of blogging. Numbers by themselves don’t mean everything, but they don’t mean nothing, either. A lot of hits indicates interest at the very least. Hit counts on individual posts tell me a lot too.

There are two kinds of posts in the blogging world. There are posts that are highly topical and burn really hot for a short time. Most of these involve breaking stories, current events, scandals, stuff like that. And there are slow burners. Timeless material, fiction, reviews.

Reviews can have a very long shelf life. People keep coming to read them over and over. Many of these are informational in nature, reviews of technology, books, movies. Oddly, reviews of extremely obscure movies do quite well, maybe because it’s difficult to find reviews of them anywhere. Camera reviews seem to have an eternal life. Book reviews of popular authors continue to be accessed months after original publication.

The posts with a long shelf lives gather a lot of hits over the months. One of my top three posts has more than 5000 hits, but it took more than 9 months. As long as the material remains relevant, people will find it. Good placement on Google helps too, but over all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the longevity of reviews in general, technology in particular.

So for all that WordPress doesn’t think much of my work, a lot of other people apparently feel otherwise and in the end, that matters. It matters a lot. My followers, my readers have become a kind of family. We share each others’ lives, pains, joys. We celebrate and mourn together. We’ve never met, but we aren’t strangers.

I still save every “like” and every notification of a new follower. I would follow all my followers, but I’m out of time. I can’t keep up with that many blogs. I can barely keep up with the books I’m supposed to be reading and reviewing.

I can’t imagine how people do this when they have full-time jobs and young children. I’ve never been more impressed than I am with homemakers and career men and women who manage to handle their family obligations, jobs and blogs. All honor to you. You are the real rock stars.

Improving the Quality of Corruption

DOWN WITH GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION! Defenestrate the politicians!

Right. Sure.

Without meaning to sound as cynical as I really am, please give me an example of a non corrupt government. Anywhere. In the history of government. From the first known government (Egypt? China?) to now. Just one. On any continent. Any form of government, even a tribal council. Because as far as I know, there is no such thing.

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I just finished reading “Imperium,” a fictionalized (not very) biography of Cicero. It gave me a headful of reality check on government corruption and I realized that we Americans don’t have a grip on serious corruption. Now, Rome, those guys understood corruption. They were serious about their corruption. We are just dilettantes compared to them! More on this later.

Boston State House

Never in this world, has there ever been a government free of corruption. It is the nature of government to be subject to … uh … um … what shall I call it? Oh, okay. Got it.

Pressure.

What do you mean by that?

Well, let’s see. Money. That’s a fine traditional form of corruption. Right up there, we have nepotism, a form of corruption whose popularity never wanes. Otherwise known as “my family and friends.” Hey, they just need jobs, you know? It’s not a big deal, is it? Find me a small town where the government — such as it is — isn’t composed of entrenched old families, their friends, friends of family, cousins of the friends of the families, their brothers and sisters in-and-out-of-law.

Okay, how about constituents? You know, like when we tell our pols what we want them to do or else we throw them out on their asses. The stuff you and I want and demand, the stuff we think our government owes us because we are the people who elected them.

Jail 1882

“What?” you say? “Isn’t that what government is all about?”

Right you are! A little question for you.

Does the fact that we want it mean it is inherently moral? Just? Righteous? Even legal? If you believe that, I have a bridge you can buy really cheap.

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We want what we want. We don’t really care whether or not it benefits everyone. We, here, in this town, need new bridges over the river. We need our roads repaired. Sewers installed. A new high school. A bigger library. Screw other towns, the rest of the state and the nation. We want what we want. We want it now. We deserve it. We voted for you and we expect you to make it happen.

Pols who deliver the goods get re-elected. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it has always worked. And always will. If you don’t think the electoral process itself is a form of corruption, you are missing the point.

It doesn’t matter who is applying the pressure — or why. The process of gaining and retaining power unavoidably invites — guarantees — corruption.

I am sure — without knowing the specific nation, people, form of government or period of history — the process and its representatives were corrupt. Politicians did, are doing and will always do whatever they must to continue to be politicians. In some cases, that is the same as continuing to breathe. The stakes get higher in non democracies and/or totalitarian regimes.

Then there’s the urgent desire of everyone in public service who didn’t come to power with a private fortune, to make and keep as much money as they can before they get kicked out of office. Or just plain kicked or put up against a wall and shot, depending. It’s why our Founding Fathers — who were smart, sophisticated, and understood reality — thought it was better to elect wealthy people to office. Because rich people were less subject to bribery. In theory, anyhow. Duh.

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Not everyone lusts for money. Some merely lust for power, lots of it. It’s not less corrupt than taking bribes, just a different twist on the same story. Power is a great leveler because no one — rich or poor — is immune to the siren song of power.

Me? I just want officials to do something good while they hold office. Even though it requires they placate many people however they can without getting caught, killed, impeached, indicted, imprisoned or exposed on Facebook, Twitter or CNN. Cynical? Moi?

I think we should start a movement for better corruption. Require corrupt politicians to use their power — however ill-gained — to pass laws that make the world better in my opinion. And when all is said and done, it’s my opinion that counts, right?

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I want laws that will help the economy, create jobs, lower taxes, improve health care, eliminate racism, bigotry and discrimination. If my representatives line their pockets in the process? Well okay, but deliver the goods. It’s the least they can do.

Yeah, I’m cynical. Totally, absolutely cynical. Accept payoffs and kick-backs. Hire your extended family, their friends and relatives. Please, just do some good while you are at it.

If I have to pay them off, I’d like to get value for my money.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Facebook – An Itchy Elephant

The first time I accessed Facebook was early 2011, a year before the 2012 Presidential election went into a full-tilt boogie. I had never been on a social media site though I’d heard of MySpace. My impression was it was where 12-year-olds went to pretend they were 16. (I was right.)

I was pleasantly surprised with Facebook. It was easy. I could connect with anyone. Everyone. Anywhere on Planet Earth.

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That warm fuzzy feeling evaporated faster than morning mist. Facebook was the angriest place on earth. Everyone had a strong opinion — mostly based on their own or someone else’s opinion. Facts? We don’t need no stinking facts! This is Facebook! MY opinion is as good as anyone else’s (no, it isn’t actually). It seemed as if the whole world was posting angry diatribes. From the left, right, middle and far ends of the universe, everyone had something to shout about. Whoa, I thought to myself. This could get ugly (I was right … it did).

Then I discovered games. I connected with kids (now grandparents) with whom I went to grade school or college. People I wanted to reconnect with. Then, with people I had hoped never to hear anything from again. The good, the bad and the wholly unattractive, all in one basket. Whoopee.

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I began backing away as fast as I could. The games were cool, or some of them anyhow. But the percentage of enraged people, illiterates, the mentally unbalanced, the lunatic fringe — all posting whatever was on their minds (perhaps “minds” is too strong a word, but it’s the only one I’ve got) was too much for me. The temperature was in the red zone.

I continued to play games, which is why 95% of my “friends” (what a misnomer!) on Facebook are those with whom I connected because we were playing the same games. The remaining 5% are family and real live people I know. Some seem, for whatever reason, to prefer communicating via Facebook rather than email, telephone or in person. To each his/her/their own. Who am I to judge? (Okay, I think it’s weird, but I try not to judge.) (I don’t succeed.)

In the beginning, I got upset when Facebook made blatantly exploitive changes to their site. Then I remembered: I don’t have to go there. I don’t have to post. If Facebook vanished tomorrow, my world would not crumble.

By then, I’d found WordPress and begun blogging. The more into blogging I got, the less reason I had to visit Facebook … unless I was in the mood for a game. And of course, there is the convenience of using Facebook to publicize my blog. I may not like it, but lots of others do. I get quite a few click-throughs from Facebook.

WordPress Logo

The thing is, you can’t avoid Facebook. It’s there, the elephant in the room, the itch you can’t quite scratch. Pretend otherwise, but you can smell the peanuts and no matter how much you twist, you never get that itch.

A surprising (to me) number of authors and artists choose Facebook pages in preference to having their own website. Is it because Facebook offers wide open access and effortless connectivity?

It certainly is less demanding to maintain a Facebook page than manage a website. Maybe that’s it.

For me, the open access of Facebook is a negative, a reason to avoid it. I want control over who does what on my site. Obviously others feel differently. Everything has a place and a purpose. Or as Mom used to say: “For everyone, there’s someone.”

Or something. Facebook is the something many choose. Never my choice, but that’s irrelevant. Freedom isn’t just a word. It’s one of my core values. Do your thing. I’m not bound by your choices. You’re not bound by mine.

It’s the American way. And my way.

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.

The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

On NewYorker.com
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I was in the Time magazine archives recently, doing research for my biography of J. D. Salinger, when I pulled open a drawer and found a small box containing a bunch of discarded typewriter heads for the I.B.M. Selectric typewriter—the cutting-edge writing technology of my youth. I had written, or tried to write, my first stories while sitting before this ominously humming machine. At its center was a typeball—like a golf ball with letters—that leapt up to punch each letter onto the page with astonishing violence. Hitting a key was like firing a shot. A sentence was a strafing machine gun.

It seemed, at the time, like a radical innovation, but now I think of it as part of a unified group that includes everything from the quill to the word processor and the early forms of the P.C. All these technologies, however different they made the experience of composition, produced writing that was, at first, for the eyes of the writer alone.

I picked up the box, handled the metal orbs, the many tiny letters. Even in their diminished state, the little alphabet-planets retained some of their punishing, mechanical glamour. I put them back in their box and took a picture, which I then tweeted, along with a hashtag that seemed to speak for the charms of antique technology: #IBM.

Though Twitter is not exactly a new writing technology, it is a technology that is affecting a lot of writers. It used to be a radical cri de coeur to claim, “We live in public.” Like many mantras of the cyber-nineties, this turns out to be mostly true, but misses an even larger truth: more and more, we think in public. For writers, this is an especially strange development.

***

I sometimes wonder how the great writers of the past would handle the Twitter predicament. Would they ignore it or engage and go down the rabbit hole? Who are the really unlikely tweeters from literary history? Would Henry James, whose baroque sentences could never have been slimmed down into a hundred and forty characters, have disdained Twitter?

Most great writers could, if they wanted to, be very good at Twitter, because it is a medium of words and also of form. Its built-in limitation corresponds to the sense of rhythm and proportion that writers apply to each line. But some writers achieve their effect through an accumulation, or make sense via sentences that are, by themselves, on the far edge of making sense. (Robert Musil comes to mind.) Not everyone is primed to be a modern-day Heraclitus, like Alain de Botton, who starts each day, it seems, by cranking up his inner fortune-cookie machine and producing a string of tweets that are, to varying degrees, sour, funny, fatalistic, and bitingly true. It’s a comedian’s form. The primal tweet may be, “Take my wife, please!”

Gertrude Stein, with her gnomish, arty, aphoristic tendencies, would seem to be ideal. “There is no there there” may be one of the great proto-tweets.

- – -

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Really interesting article! If you blog and write, you should read it.

See on www.newyorker.com

A Half Hour Radio Show

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

This site hosts the original broadcasts of the cult radio comedy show “A Half Hour Radio Show,” syndicated around the US in the early 1990’s.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When I was in college, I worked at the radio station. This show was a very big hit at the time. Since then, it has gone through a lot of iterations, refinements, rewriting … and it’s still hilarious. Take a trip in time. Enjoy a type of entertainment that used your imagination instead of special effects. Fall in love with radio!

See on captclerk.podbean.com

Success?

I was doing okay until Garry came back from the pharmacy having paid more than $250 in copays for prescriptions I hadn’t authorized. He assumed I knew those prescriptions were waiting and did what any good husband would do: he paid for them and brought them home. I had no idea they were there at all, so I assumed the pharmacy had taken it upon themselves to renew them without my asking them to do so.

19th century Italian pharmacy

Then I figured the doctors’ offices must have called them in … but three different offices were involved, which was confusing. The pharmacy was sure I’d done  it. I assumed they’d done it because the doctors all said they hadn’t done it. Eventually after a lot of accusations which began to sound a lot like “Yo mama wears combat boots!” it turned out the insurance company did it. They were doing me a favor, bypassing the usual prior authorization process and called the refills into the pharmacy. I wish they’d told me.

“Oh,” I said.

“Oh,” said the pharmacist.

“Oh,” agreed the my doctor’s assistant.

Thing is, I’m sure they thought they were doing me a favor. I only wish someone had told me what was going on because I didn’t actually have $250 for prescriptions and would have picked them up in as money came available rather than emptying out my bank account in one quick move.

Medical Drugs for Pharmacy Health Shop of Medicine

And then the pharmacy said they could give me the drugs I need for $26 as opposed to the $76 copay my insurance company wants and I discovered a friend has a drug company connection that may enable me to get the other really expensive prescription I need at wholesale prices so maybe I won’t die after all.

Sometime during this brouhaha, I realized I’d passed the 40,000 (41,356 but the day isn’t over) hit mark and may hit 42,000 next week. This could probably be considered success, especially since I’ve really only been blogging regularly since last June. I’ve posted 818 times, about 30% of which have been reblogs, so my own posts are probably around 550 or so. I’ve gotten 4,202 comments, but probably half of these are my responses to other peoples’ comments. So let’ call it 2150 give or take a few.

I’ve got 218 followers, 190 on WordPress and the rest on Twitter, an unknown number on Bloggers and Pinterest (WordPress doesn’t collect those statistics). My biggest day was November 9, 2012 when I got 1049 hits and otherwise, I average around 200 hits per day (not counting followers).

WordPress

Am I successful? It’s not the numbers that define success. What makes me feel succesful is that some of my followers are authors who I greatly admire. Getting a thank you from an author whose books I love for a review I’ve written makes me hyperventilate.

Discovering I have a really famous basketball player who follows me, four or five authors whose books I read plus a variety of politicians (which means maybe something I say gets heard by someone who can make things change) … that’s pretty close to my definition of success. I have other photographers following me, as I follow them.

I admire artists, writers, photographers. I admire people who are dedicated to making the world a better place and am flattered that some of these people take the time to read my posts.

I think, in the end, success is when you feel that you are doing your best and people appreciate your work. By my own standards, I’m surprisingly successful. I haven’t made the earth shake, but I’ve made a difference. I haven’t saved the world, but maybe I’ve helped make the world a bit more civilized, more literate. Maybe I’ve told some stories that needed telling, fought a few battles that were worth fighting. Told people about books that deserved some publicity and a wider audience. Maybe I’ve been able to help a few artists find their place in the cyber world.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

I love blogging. I love writing and taking pictures. I absolutely adore knowing I finally have an audience. People actually read my stuff, look at my pictures. That means, I guess, I’m a success … at least to myself and I suspect that I am the only one I really have to please. If I make others happy, that’s wonderful … but if I live up to my own standards, then I am well and truly pleased.

Party!

Party!

I have spent this day multi-tasking in the best way. Listening to the audiobook version of “A MEMORY OF LIGHT” for which it feels as if I have been waiting forever while simultaneously running the pictures from last night’s party through Photoshop. As expected, many pictures were too dark and too fuzzy to be worth rescuing, but there was a good selection of pictures that came out reasonably well.

It was a frustrating photographic venue for me and my Canon Powershot sx260 hs, which is a pretty good little point and shoot, does not have a fast enough lens to handle the low available light … nor does it have a good enough strobe to provide discriminating fill flash. Being short does not help either. Tall photographers can see and sometimes reach over the crowd. Even with arms fully extended, I’m still vertically challenged. And yet … I managed to come up with a fair number of acceptable, even good, pictures.

Sign of the Times

Speaking of celebrities, the place was crawling with them but most of them were people I’ve met at other parties and who were colleagues of my husband so it was amusing to realize that he was actually one of the celebrities … and for some obscure reason, I sort of was too, although I’m not really certain why. Some people turned out to follow my blog. One rarely never knows who is following. Just today, I learned Queen Mab of the Winter Fae is following me on Twitter.

I have little familiarity with court protocol, especially of the Fae, but I would certainly not want to be anything but highly respectful of the ruler of this high court! She has some serious magical powers and could make my life very difficult. And she would have been a fine addition to the party.

Mab, Queen of the Winter Fae

So who did we meet and who are in these pictures? First, The Examiner did a story about the party and you can pop on over and read all about it. Queen Mab was not in attendance though I’m sure she would have livened up the affair.

75-Turk_003

75-Turk_004

Garry and I chatted with — and I took some pictures of — Ray Flynn, Mayor of Boston. He was surely the most fun of any mayor Boston has had since the revered Mayor Curley.

Bob Lobel emceed the event and he and Garry also, having been colleagues, had a few memories to share. Derek “Turk” Sanderson, one of the greatest of the Boston Bruins and a Hall of Famer, in whose honor the event was being held was there and he and Garry remembered each other very well indeed. Edward Burns, actor/producer, director Doug Atchison, producer Shep Harmon. All were there to gather support for a movie about “Turk” and his battle against drugs and booze, a battle that many others at this party have also fought.

Noteworthy was that this was a very sober crowd and they still seemed to be having a good time. I’ve never been a drinker, and my one coke (the drink, not the drug) barely slaked my thirst which is not an allegory. I really was thirsty, but the line at the bars were too long to do twice.

This was an amazing —  huge — change from parties of the past. I’m pretty some of these people who knew each other from “the old days” had never spent any time together when all were sober. Something to ponder.

There comes a point with drugs and booze where you have only two choices: quit or die. Because after a certain point, your body isn’t going to tolerate the abuse.

I was glad to see so many people who made the good choice. They quit. Good for all of you. It is a hard battle to fight, harder to win, hardest of all to hang on to that victory. Since winning the battle over addiction is the theme of the movie, it was appropriate that a large number of the attendees knew the story up close and very personal.

Sisterhood is powerful! Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!

I could not resist the opportunity to join the Sisterhood of World Bloggers. It’s not for the award, though awards are nice. It’s for the pleasure of sisterhood, something in which I believe with my whole heart. Throughout my life, my greatest supports and warmest relationships … and my most long-lasting relationships … have been with women.

Women have supported me, encouraged me, consoled me, and protected me. They have commiserated and rejoiced with me during the best and worst of times. I would be honored to be part of such a group. I am, not surprisingly, hoping to link up through my fine friend Sharla Shults at CatnipOfLife … a woman who deserves all the honors she gets and more.

There are rules for this award which are basically the same as for most any blog award received. The last part, deciding on recipients for this award, is exceptionally difficult. How does one choose from all those who have visited and provided support for catnipoflife? To me, you are all my ‘sisters’ (of course, there are ‘brothers’ too but their honor will need to come in a different form). For a sisterhood, why should some be selected while others are left out? Since there is no other criteria for selection other than choice and even though this is not exactly the intention of the rules, it is the decision of catnipoflife:

All of my ‘Sisters’ are Welcome to the
Sisterhood of the World Bloggers!

Acceptance is contingent upon the following:

  1. Leave a comment that you would like to be a member of the Sisterhood.
  2. Grab the badge for posting to your blog, thank whoever gave you this award and provide a link to her blogsite.
  3. Answer the following 10 questions in your blog posting.
  4. Nominate and provide the links to 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read OR follow the same procedure as Catnip and I have used. [If you choose to bestow the award on special sisters, be sure to kindly let the recipients know they have been invited into the sisterhood.]
  5. Return here as soon as your posting is complete to provide a link to your blogsite. Those links will be added to this posting as comments of completion are received.

Here are the 10 Questions

  1. What is your favorite colour? Red
  2. What is your favorite animal? Dogs but I could as easily say horses, cats, tigers, lions, or ferrets … If it’s furry and four-footed, I love it!
  3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink? Coffee!!
  4. Facebook or Twitter? Neither. Can you email me at fivedawgz@gmail.com?
  5. What is your favorite pattern? Black Watch Tartan
  6. Do you prefer getting or giving presents? Giving unless it’s something really cool :-)
  7. What is your favorite number? 18, which in Hebrew means ” Chai” or life.
  8. What is your favorite day of the week? Wednesday because that’s the day the social security checks come in.
  9. What is your favorite flower? Lilacs
  10. What is your passion? Reading, writing, and photography … and learning. Because learning is living and when you stop learning, you stop really being alive. Thus I have always been.
DoingforOthers1

Ten useful things I’ve learned about blogging

I started this blog in February 2012, but it wasn’t until the end of May that I started to write regularly. Before that, I posted erratically and rarely.

Criminal Minds Season 7 Promo

In September, I tossed off a very short post about Criminal Minds (the TV show, not politicians) that somehow wound up the first result in a Google search. It has stayed in the top 5 search results (out of 4,100,000 possible results) for more than a month. I have no idea how that happened. That single post has gotten more than 3,500 hits and keeps going. It took me 5 minutes to write and was a response to something that bothered me about the show. Who knew that so many people cared about a television series about profilers and serial killers?

The ups and downs of popularity remain a mystery. Immediately after that post, my numbers went way up, then as I expected, began to drop, then level out. Even so, I tripled the hits I get each day. Folks came for that post and stayed for others. I also have an unknown number of  followers on Bloggers, Twitter, ScoopIt, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.

I am, as my blog title suggests, eclectic. By profession, I’m a writer. By inclination an historian. My hobby is photography. I have distinct audiences for writing and photography. I haven’t figured out how much these groups overlap. Even within my writing, subject matter varies quite a lot. Amongst philosophical ramblings, discussions of whatever current events are on my mind, and so on, I write a lot of stuff about movies and TV. There is a specific audience for the media posts.

Posts I labor over may be barely noticed; others that I just drop on the page get lots of hits. I have learned, through trial and error, a few things worth mentioning. I’m sure I’ll learn more. I need and want to learn more. Meanwhile, here are 10 things I’ve learned that seem to be true:

  1. Less really is more. More than 1000 words is too long. 500 words is plenty, especially if you include pictures. Sometimes, just a caption is enough.
  2. Use more pictures, fewer words. Everyone likes pictures especially nature, pretty girls, children, dogs, and for some peculiar reason, Arizona.
  3. Funny gets more hits than depressing. Being serious is appropriate for serious subjects, but you can use a light touch even with heavy material.
  4. Popularity is nice, but it’s your blog. Do your own thing. That’s the point, isn’t it?
  5. Digress but remember to come back. When I tell stories, I ramble. It’s my style. I wander before I get to my destination, but there’s a limit to how far and how often you can roam without losing your reader.
  6. Be economical in how much material you use per day and per post. If you set yourself an unsustainable pace, you’ll burn out.
  7. Have fun. Have a lot of fun. Enjoyment is contagious.
  8.  Do what you love. Blog about the things you find beautiful, important, amusing, or interesting.
  9. If you aren’t having fun, give it up.
  10. On the graphics side, leave white space. At least 50% of the screen should be empty. This percentage includes the space between pictures and text, between paragraphs, margins at the top and both sides, space between columns. Clutter is hard on the eyes and gives your site a “rummage sale” look. Do you really need every widget?