REASONS I STOPPED FOLLOWING OR DON’T COMMENT

The Daily Prompt wants a list. I did a version of this a couple of weeks ago, but it has changed. It’s half a rerun, half a rewrite.

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I’ve had to be away from the computer a lot in the past month. My email — the daily deluge of notifications, comments, advertising, and occasionally messages from friends — is overwhelming me. I thought I’d cut back a bit. Write fewer posts. Read a bit less.

It don’t like deleting notifications without reading them, but necessity triumphed. Nonetheless, I decided to try hosting a twice a week prompt. I think maybe I underestimated how much time it would involve. I may have erred on the side of “you’re kidding, right?”

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All of this got me thinking about why I follow and comment some sites, but not others. Following are the top reasons I don’t comment and/or follow your blog:

1) You get dozens of comments. If I have to scroll past two dozen comments before I can comment, you won’t miss me, especially if all I was going to say was “Great post!”

2) You’re a photographer. I’m a photographer. I can love your pictures, but not have anything to say about them.

3) I liked your post, but I’m late to the dance. Everyone has already said everything there is to say. If I have nothing new to add, I’m won’t say anything. If you allow “Likes,” I’ll leave one.

4) I hated your post, but I like you. If I have nothing nice to say, I won’t say anything. I try not to be over-critical. And anyway, I don’t have to agree or like everything you write.

5) If you post one picture per post 12 times a day, consider putting out two posts with six pictures each. I get buried by notifications, and comments. If you post that often, you become spam. Beloved, but spam.

6) If I’ve been following you for months and you never visit my site, I’ll stop following you. It’s insulting. You don’t need to read every word I write, but if you never visit, you will lose me. I have recently unfollowed half a dozen (more?) worthy bloggers who never felt compelled to find out what I’m doing. Respect means showing interest in other people’s work.

7) You write about one topic only. All the time. It is your passion, but there are other things which matter to me. I can’t read on the same subject every day, even if I agree.

8) You’ve got a problem. Your blog is where you let your feelings be known. First, I will be sympathetic. Then I’ll try to help. Eventually, I’ll give up. You are free to complain. I’m free to not listen. At some point, you have to move on. See number 7.

9) You’ve had a “sense-of-humorectomy.” You used to be funny. Now you’re a ranter. I have a limited capacity for rage, even my own. I get mad, but I get over it. After I stop being angry, I find my drama funny. If you can’t get past your rage, I’ll get over you.

10) More than half your posts are re-blogs. I follow you because I like you. We all reblog some stuff but if re-blogs are your primary material, I’ll pass.

11) I don’t have time. Today, I can’t make your party. I apologize. The clock ran out.

12) You write about stuff in which I have no interest. A sport I never follow. Books I’ll never read. Movies I won’t watch. I’ll wait for a while to see if you will move on, but after a while, I’ll give up. Our interests have diverged.

13) Your posts are too long. You love your words and I sympathize. I love mine, too, but I have learned to cut and cut some more. I run out of steam after 1000 words. Sometimes less.

14) You don’t respond to my comments. First, I’ll stop commenting. Then, I’ll stop reading. When I remember, I’ll stop following.

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LET ME LIKE YOU

I love dialogue, but it’s a mistake to demand comments from every visitor. I think we should take our “Likes” and be glad. It means people are visiting. I don’t expect everyone to comment, though I appreciate an occasional word so I know you are there.

That’s it for today. I am going to take some Excedrin and have a second cuppa coffee.

FIVE EXAMPLES OF SENSIBLE VIOLENCE

We’ve all heard of senseless violence. The term is nearly as common as “stay in the car.” Everyone knows no one stays in the car and “senseless violence” implies there’s another kind. The sensible kind.

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Reasonable, well thought-out violence.

1. “He needed killing” (really, I kid you not) is still accepted in some American courtrooms as a defense against a charge of murder. If he needed killing and you kill him, you have committed an act of sensible violence.

2. “No one was supposed to get hurt.” You held up the bank using automatic weapons. You just wanted some money. To improve your life. You had a perfect plan which went unaccountably wrong. “But your Honor, no one was supposed to get hurt!”

3. “I had no choice.” You could have gotten a divorce, but you were put off by all the paperwork, lawyers, and courts. In the spirit of cleanliness and reduction of paperwork, you killed your husband and shoved his body in the washing machine in the basement laundry room. Sensible and tidy.  “Your Honor, he really pissed me off. And it wasn’t easy getting him down the stairs and into the machine.”

4. “Anyone in my position would have done the same thing.” Really, no kidding. Anyone. Because it was the only reasonable response. “Your Honor, she burned the roast. I had to dismember her and hang her body parts on stakes in the yard. Anyone would have done the same thing.” Sensible violence was the only answer.

5. “I lost my temper.” You said I wouldn’t like you when you are angry. You were completely right.

So you see? Not all violence is senseless. If you didn’t mean it, you had no choice, your plan went awry … it’s all good. Absolutely sensible.


 DICK CHENEY’S SEX APPEAL

TEN REASONS I DON’T COMMENT ON YOUR BLOG

Recently, I’ve had to be away from the computer more than usual. Winter is over. Stuff needs doing and frankly, I’ve got a bad case of cabin fever. Thus my email, the daily deluge of notifications, comments, advertising, and occasionally actual messages from friends, doth overflow. To the point of finding it necessary to delete a lot of notifications from fellow bloggers of new posts.

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It was hard for me to do it. I’m compulsive about reading and commenting, or at the least “Liking” the blogs I follow. It went against the grain to delete so many notifications.

I tried to catch up with myself, but kept falling farther behind until I had no choice. Unless I’m going to spend all day everyday in front of the computer, I can’t handle the traffic.

72-Computer-in-use_01It got me thinking about why I comment on some blogs and not others. Following are the top ten reasons I don’t comment on your blog:

1) You get dozens of comments and put the oldest ones on top. If I have to scroll past two dozen comments before I can comment, you don’t need me.

2) You’re a photographer. I’m a photographer. I feel comfortable pointing out I can love your pictures, but not have anything to say about them.

3) I liked your post, but I’m late to the dance. Everyone has already said it. If I have nothing to add, I’m won’t comment. If you allow “Likes,” I’ll leave one.

4) I hated your post, but I like you. If I have nothing nice to say, I won’t say anything. I try not to be over-critical because it is in my nature to be over-critical. I consider it a character flaw.

5) If you post one picture per post 12 times a day, consider two posts with six pictures each. It’s not personal. I get buried by notifications, and comments. I follow as many blogs as I can, but if you post that often, you become spam.

6) If I’ve been following you for months and you never visit my site, I’ll stop following you. Eventually. It’s insulting. I don’t expect you to read every word I write, but if you never visit, you are going to lose me.

7) You write about one topic. Only one. All the time. It is your passion, but there are other things which matter to me. I can’t read on the same subject every day, even if I agree.

8) You’ve got a problem. Your blog is where you let your feelings be known. First, I will be sympathetic. Then I’ll try to help. Eventually, I’ll give up. You are free to complain. I’m free to not listen. At some point, you have to move on. See number 7.

9) You’ve had a “sense-of-humorectomy.” You used to be funny, but now you’re an angry ranter. I have a limited capacity for rage. Even my own. I get mad, but I get over it. After I stop being angry, I find my drama funny. If you can’t get past your rage, I’ll get over you. Sorry.

10) More than half your posts are reblogs. I follow you because I like you. We all reblog some stuff but if that’s your primary material, you won’t hear from me.

I love comments and dialogue, but I think it’s a mistake to demand comments from every visitor. Personally, I think we should take our “Likes” and be grateful. It means people are reading and visiting. I don’t expect everyone to comment on everything, though I appreciate an occasional word so I know someone is there.

Now you know. In case you were wondering.

A SLOWER LANE

I was thinking of taking a blogging vacation … and I may do it yet. But without further ado, I am going to slow down. I need a break. I’m beginning to feel a bit too much as if I’m back at work. I don’t want to feel like that. This is supposed to be fun.

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So, if I don’t post as much, there’s nothing wrong. I want a change of pace. Especially with vacations coming up, I’d like to hang a little looser.

Before we blogged, we wrote letters

Garry was saying he was taping an old movie, “A Letter to Three Wives.” He thought the whole concept of writing letters was kaput. No one writes letters anymore. We may dash off a note on a card, but a whole letter?

“When,” I asked Garry, “Was the last time you wrote a real letter.”

“When I wrote to you, in Israel?”

“Yup,” I said. “And the letters I wrote to you from Israel were the last personal letters I ever wrote.”

“Funny about that,” he said.

“Sure is,” I answered.

That was 1987.

GET IT IN WRITING

When I was young and naïve, still trying to get established in my chosen profession, I happily accepted any job with a connection — no matter how tenuous — to writing. In those pre-Internet days, getting a job was simpler than it is now.

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You called or wrote a letter. Included your résumé or brought it with you. You went for an interview. A day or two later, they called you back. It was either “Yes, you’re hired,” or “No, thank you.”

Every job didn’t require 30 hours of interviewing with everyone from the company president to the IT crew. There was a job to do. You were qualified to do it, or not. Whoever interviewed you had the authority to hire you. That was why he or she was doing the interviewing. Unlike today.

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I don’t remember the details of the particular job, but I remember it was in the city. Manhattan. I wasn’t thrilled about its location. I lived in Hempstead, on Long Island. Getting there and back meant taking the Long Island Railroad which was not comfortable or dependable in the 1960s. I’m told it has improved since I last rode it.

Back then, it was over-crowded. Hot in summer, cold in winter. Expensive, particularly for a kid earning a minimal salary at an entry-level position.

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I took the job because it was with a large corporation. I thought it might lead to something better. I was working, so I quit the job I had — whatever it was — and two weeks later, on the appointed day, I showed up for work.

The guy who had offered me the job was gone. No one had heard of me, or the job. I had nothing in writing. No job. I wasn’t sure I would even be eligible for unemployment. I eventually qualified, but I had learned the most critical life lesson of all.

GET IT IN WRITING.

Whatever it is. If it’s not written, dated, and signed, it’s as good as the paper it isn’t written on. Or less.

QUITTING

Originally written for The Happy Quitter, published March 7, 2015. Today is my 68th birthday and quitting smoking was the best gift I ever gave myself. Time to talk about it. I’m surprised I’ve never written about it before now.


In my long and checkered professional career, I had many bosses. One of them had, in a former life, been addicted to heroin. It wasn’t a secret. We all knew. I had the feeling he was proud of having kicked drugs and was now the owner of a software development company. I asked him how he did it, how he got free of his addiction.

“You know,” he said, “It really wasn’t as hard as you might think. Mostly, I had to get away from the people, from other junkies and the whole world of drugs. After I stopped hanging out with those people, getting off drugs was pretty easy. It’s the culture that pulls you in, not so much the drugs.”

“I wish,” he continued, a touch of wistfulness in his voice, “it was as easy to kick cigarettes. When you hang out with junkies, you know it’s illegal. You sneak around. You are careful. But cigarettes? No problem. They’re legal. Grab a buddy and go for a smoke. It’s a social thing.

“You don’t hear heroin addicts saying to each other ‘Hey, anyone want to go out and shoot up?’ but you can stop by another smoker’s desk and say … ‘Hey, want to go have a butt?’

“I’ve had a much harder time quitting smoking than I had quitting heroin. Much harder,” he said, and reached for the pack of cigarettes in his pocket. I was a smoker myself, then. I had been trying to quit off and on for years. I’d quit, then I’d be somewhere – usually an office – where other smokers worked. I’d get sucked into it. It wasn’t the physical addiction which lured me back to a habit I understood was harmful to my health, disastrous to my budget (and getting more costly each day). And made my clothing and hair stink of stale smoke. It was the social connection that got me. Hanging out with other smokers. The rhythm of smoking. I’d write, then take a break, grab a smoke. It was part of my process.

I was never as heavy a smoker other people I knew. I lit many more cigarettes, than I smoked. But I enjoyed smoking. I liked the smell of fresh tobacco. On some level, I still do. I liked standing outside on a crisp night, watching my smoke curl up and away into the sky. I did a lot of my thinking on cigarette breaks. When I was writing, if I was stuck, I’d have a smoke. By the time I was halfway through it, I’d know what I was going to do and how I would do it.

Smoking-Burning-CigaretteIt took me years of quitting, backsliding, and quitting again before it finally “stuck.” Years before the smell of tobacco brought back memories without triggering an unbearable desire to smoke.

I am sure right now … after seven? eight? years since I quit for good that were I to smoke one cigarette, I’d be a smoker again. Instantly. It’s not because I’m physically addicted. After all these years of not smoking, I’m obviously not addicted to nicotine, if I ever was. Yet on some level, I will always be addicted to the habit of smoking.

It’s not that I don’t want a cigarette. I just don’t smoke.

FLATTENING THE LEARNING CURVE

Daily Prompt: I Have Confidence in Me – Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at?


Funny you should mention this. I was thinking, yesterday evening, that I’ve been writing for so many years … my entire life except for a few years before I knew which end of the pencil made marks … it has become like breathing. I just do it. I don’t plan projects, don’t struggle to say what I mean. Don’t get writer’s block. I can’t remember any time when I couldn’t write, though I have gone through periods when I didn’t want to write.

I blog because I’m going to write regardless and I need something to do with all those words. I love blogging. It’s the only writing I’ve done which isn’t a long-term project.

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“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” is my motto these days. For writing and other stuff. What I don’t write today will wait. Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh slate. I can choose to write what I want. No thousand pages of unfinished manuscript is lurking on my desk while a printing deadline glows menacingly in the background.

Photography is a bit different. Pure pleasure. I’ve been an enthusiastic amateur photographer since I was in my early 20s. Although I earned a few bucks taking pictures here and there over the years, calling myself a professional photographer would be a considerable stretch. I gave it a brief try and hated it. I love taking pictures, but when there was a client in the mix, it stopped being unfettered fun and became work. Which, as we all know, is the original four-letter word. Just ask Maynard G. Krebs.

What else would I like to be good at? I’d like to get better at casting magic spells. I need more and better magic in my life. Otherwise? I’ll do my best to keep my existing skills sharp. Everything else? Nah. I’m retired.

RUINED FOR THE REAL WORLD

I had been looking for a job that would let me flex my hours so Garry and I could spend time together. It was difficult. He worked terribly long hours, gone before the sun came up and not home until it was dark again. Ironic. Most people think reporters work “a few minutes a day” because that’s all they see on the news. Not true.

To get those few minutes of finished news on the air, they drag themselves through every kind of weather — blizzards, hurricanes, bitter cold, unbearable heat — and endless traffic, from one end of the state to another. They are often on the scene of the worst imaginable horrors before the first responders arrive.

And they have to look good while doing it. Without a break for lunch or even a bathroom. Someone once commented it’s like being in the army, just without the uniform.

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His days off were Wednesday and Thursday. That meant we had barely a few minutes after work to meet and greet each other. Everything else waited until vacation. By which time Garry was exhausted and needed two weeks of sleep to recuperate so he could go back to work again.

The good part of his job? He loved it. I think everyone in the news business is an adrenaline junkie. The thrill of getting the scoop, tracking down the story, coming up with a different angle on something every other station is also doing and sometimes, finding new information to crack open a case. Garry loved his work. He didn’t love every single moment of it, but he loved most of it, loved knowing he could make a difference, shine a light into a dark corner and fix something that had been broken.

When I married him, I married his work. No whining about him missing all the family events, never being around to help with the housework or the shopping. I knew from the get-go I’d be keeping his dinner warm for whenever he got home. That was the deal we made.

One day, I got a call. A major corporation was looking for a technical writer to create documents for various computer programs aimed at end-users. Entry-level stuff. For me, this was a piece of cake — with icing.

I went to the interview. Bad part? It was a part-time job, paying a retainer. I would be paid for 20 hours a week at $25 an hour, which was less than my usual rate. But it was a retainer. Freelancers know there’s nothing better than a retainer. I might work all 20 hours, or no hours. I would not be required to go into the office. Ever. I’d work from home or wherever I and my computer might be, including the back porch of the house on the Vineyard.

Although it was half the money I’d been earning, I could take free-lance gigs to make up the gap.

I took the job and never looked back. When I accepted it, I figured I’d be working most of the 20 hours. It turned out there wasn’t any work. Or almost none. Weeks and months went by. I would call to find out if maybe they’d forgotten me. Didn’t they want me to do something? No, everything is fine, they said. No problem. We’ll call you. Once in long while, they did call and for a few days, I worked. It was almost a relief. Even though it was writing I could do in my sleep.

For more than four years, I got a regular paycheck for which I did nothing much. I did other free-lance stuff here and there. I had to bring a laptop with me when I went on vacation, just in case. It was the dream job. I was getting paid and didn’t have to work.

One day, I picked up the Boston Globe and discovered the division for which I worked was being disbanded. Apparently someone noticed that no one in the department actually worked. So I called my boss, Anita.

“Anita,” I said. “I was reading the Globe this morning. Does this mean I have to look for a new job?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “We all do. But you’ve got three or four months, so you should be fine.” I couldn’t believe it. They were taking away the best job in the world. I was going to have to go to work, show up at an office. Stay there all day. What a horrible thought!

I went job hunting and found what would turn out to the best real job I ever had. The best colleagues and the greatest boss. But it was work. I had to think (a lot), learn (like getting a masters in advanced object linking in a couple of weeks), synthesize, design documents, write them. Back to meeting deadlines. Although my extended paid vacation had not lessened my skills. I was as good as ever, but never again would I feel comfortable in a 9 to 5 job.

Merely having to be in one place all those hours made me itchy. I got the job done — and done well — but I was ruined. No regular job felt right. Not until retirement would I find myself as happy as I had been during my retainer years.