A NOTE TO WORDPRESS AND THE ANSWER

October 17, 2020

I have more than 11,000 posts and just under a million views. Since you have made working on WordPress increasing unpleasant and difficult, I find it highly likely I will have to end our relationship in February. I would like to get a copy — a READABLE copy — of my posts, if not for the entire 8 years I’ve been blogging, but for at least the past three or four years. Is there any way for me to save my contents in a way that is readable and not a mass of coding, encryption, and pointers?

The answer arrived today:


Gabriel Maldonado (Automattic)

Oct 18, 2020, 10:50 UTC

Hello there!

You can export a copy of your content under Tools > Export . You can see further information about this here: https://wordpress.com/support/export/

This is readable if you open it with a text editor, but will also contains a lot of other stuff like image paths, types of blocks, dates, etc, … as is created in order to import/export content between sites. So the only way to have the content only would be to copy/paste these manually into a different document.

As an alternative, there’s also a number of “blog-to-book” services like FastPencil and BlogBooker, let you import your WordPress blog and turn it into a printed book:

Best,

Gabriel Maldonado
Global Happiness Engineer @ Automattic.com


The export from WordPress is useless, so my next goal is to see if the software works and is affordable! But for any of you think of leaving WordPress but don’t want to leave all your material behind, maybe this is a viable answer. I’ll see what more I can find out. I have 11,000+ blogs. Subtract a couple of thousand that are reblogs or all photographs, let’s say 8,000 and then subtract another couple of thousand that aren’t good enough to bother with … so maybe 5,000 when all is said and done? It’s still a lot of posts.

I suspect BlogBooker is the better tool. They don’t provide a lot of information — like how many pages it will handle, for example. And I can’t figure out if you need MS Word to use it or not. You’ll need to take a look at it yourself. WordPress doesn’t give you a lot of choices about how to download. You can’t select particular years. You can also select smaller amounts (drop-down menu). Mine is too big to do in one gulp.

I would like to have more choices, but that’s not going to happen. Nor am I intending to make this into a book, though I suppose I could do that too. That’s what these software packages are intended to do.

You may want to do some more searching and see if there are other packages that could work for you. Also the title length of the blogs is very long — too long to export from your computer to another, so I have to get back in touch and find out how to shorten those titles and make them exportable so they CAN be imported. Right now, it is beginning to look a lot like copying and pasting a LOT of posts. It’s a huge job. My headaches thinking about it.

BETRAYED AND SEEKING NEW HOME

Like many others, I’ve found the “new” WordPress block editor to be clunky and awkward to use. It doesn’t matter where I use it. It’s equally difficult on my 15.6 inch PC laptop as it is on my 14-inch Mac. I’m not a phone blogger, but that’s because I don’t see well enough to be able to edit on anything that small.

Some people feel their problems are linked to trying to use the block editor on a phone, but the real problem is the poorly thought-out software design. It has made it difficult to work with images and impossible to use when having written text, you now want to add graphics. Why such a massive failure? Because whoever designed the software doesn’t use it and doesn’t understand what writers and photographers need to produce satisfying results. Good software disappears when you use it and you don’t “feel” the software. Using word processing software isn’t supposed to be the issue. Your words and pictures are important. The software is not.

I always hoped WordPress would fix their editor to make it more responsive for writing and editing, to provide us with a better, smoother integration of fonts and images. Instead, they did exactly the opposite. I don’t think I would willingly use this software for anything — not creative or commercial. It is as hard to work with as Framemaker without its power or elegance. Granted Framemaker was not easy to learn, but once you set it up, it stayed set up. And the results you got with it were amazing — and worth the effort. There was almost nothing it couldn’t do. This block editor lacks even the basics which ancient versions of MS Word used 20-years ago. It is NOT worth the effort.

My dislike of it is not that I can’t figure out how it works but why I should bother? It pushes you into working in a very specific way which cuts off creative freedom. What’s more, the elementary school crayon colors are annoying and look terrible with photographs or any art. They don’t add quality. Some of the layout designs for graphics look pretty, but you can only make them work when you are writing a first draft. They are non-editable after insertion. Once you have put them together, you can’t move the pictures around. You have to delete and — if you are still in first draft — redo the gallery. If you have moved along, all you can do is delete it and later, add a picture. One picture. Maybe some people only write a single draft, but that ain’t me. Maybe other people are able to get it all done in one go, but I have never been that person.

A good writing application leaves you alone. If it requires set up, you do that when you get started. After that, you write your story, add pictures where you feel you need or want them. If you’re me, you go back and move everything around, rewrite sections, copy and paste text and graphics often many times. How else can you write and come out with an intelligent, well-written and properly edited post?

Meanwhile, I’ve spent a lot of money over the eight years I’ve work on this blog. I resent having WordPress strip away most of what I paid for. I’m not thrilled with any of the alternatives which are all even more costly though they give you more for your money — at least so far. Do I trust they will continue to do so?

No. I don’t know how many platforms I’ve worked on that either folded up, sold out, or went fully commercial. So to start over from the beginning? Again? I don’t think so. Having spent eight years powering through this blog, I resent being forced to abandon it. For no valid reason. A lot of my life is bound up in Serendipity and I should be supported in continuing to use it. Of course, that is not what is happening.

I will never like the block editor — unless they completely revise it, which they are obviously not intending to do. I could force myself to figure out how to make it more or less work for me — but I don’t want to. This is my hobby, not my job. Like many others, I now find myself pushed into a corner. I can abandon all the work I’ve done and start anew elsewhere, or throw in the towel. Neither option is appealing.

I have to remind myself that nothing lasts forever, especially not blogging platforms. But this is different. In every other case, the whole platform closed, often with little or no notice. This is more like being forced out of your rental apartment because they’ve decided to “go condo” and you are a mere renter. I guess that was what we all were. Mere renters.

ONE MILLION VIEWS

Looking at my stats, I realized before this month is over, I will pass a million views. When I started blogging, I remember discovering I’d made it to a thousand views. I was thrilled. A thousand was a lot! Those were the days when getting two or three views was a big deal. Then, suddenly, I was getting a hundred, two hundred, three hundred a day. It happened fast. I never imagined I would still be blogging eight years later and suddenly, in front of me, was the million marker. I know others who have crossed it and of course, the really big bloggers who are way up there in the multi-millions, but for a regular “I do it for the fun of writing and posting photographs” kind of blogger, a million is a lot of views.

I’m not getting the kind of traffic I used to get. I think the glory days of blogging are drawing to a close. There aren’t enough platforms anymore and they all charge more money than I can reasonably pay. I’m glad, before I fade away, that I’m going to make that mark.

I stopped pushing for bigger numbers a couple of years ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was just that I cared more about the writing and the pictures. The numbers were incidental. I also felt obliged — with all this political madness — to notch my writing frenzy down a few pegs. I began to realize while I love blogging, I also enjoy the rest of life. I started baking again. Bored with the same old food, I figured if I couldn’t stop cooking, I could at least try making more interesting dishes.

I also missed the joy of wrapping myself in a book and letting the real world disappear. And music and the occasional movie. All the hassles with WordPress made blogging so much more like work and so much less fun. I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll do at the end of my fiscal year. What I’m really hoping is that they fix their block editor to make it more “bloggable” and less of an ugly clunker. Make it more friendly for people who just want to enjoy blogging. If I wanted to get really SERIOUS about blogging, there’s always Medium. They want serious writing and if you get popular, they will pay you, too.

I can write seriously. But more often than not, I want to have fun. I want the fun of remembering stuff, telling stories. Showing off a few pictures. Serious is sometimes. The rest of the time, blogging is my idea of fun. Birds, flowers, foliage, and people from olden days when we were young and frolicked more while worrying less.

On a good day, I still enjoy blogging … but I don’t want to give it my all every day. This morning, I looked at Garry and asked him: “What’s going to happen next month? Are we heading for a civil war? When I lived in Israel, we were always expecting a war. War could come from outside. It wasn’t a civil war. This is something entirely different.”

Garry admitted he has no idea what is going to happen because this isn’t like anything he’s lived through before. I’m not sure anyone in our generation or younger who was raised in this country has any idea what might happen. I need to put some time into thinking about what living means to me, to Garry, to all of us. How we are going to find our way from this very dark place to a happier one. A million views is a nice thing but I’m not sure how much it’s going to help us get through whatever is coming next.

EVERYONE IS BLAH

It’s true. I try to be upbeat, but I don’t really think I succeed. I don’t feel well. I don’t know if I’m actually sick since I can’t see my doctor. Unless I’ve got COVID and then, I go to the hospital and I still don’t see my doctor. Or anyone else. I already told Garry and Owen that if I should somehow come down with it, I don’ t want to go to the hospital to die alone. If I’m going to die, I’d rather do it at home.

By the waters of Babylon

Everyone is feeling blah. Some of us feel sick. Others just lacking in energy, even to do things we normally enjoy very much. In this case, it’s taking pictures. It’s actually hard for me to pick up my camera. Or one of my instruments. What do I enjoy most? Talking with Garry and Owen. Corresponding with friends on the internet. The occasional Zoom chat. The Duke. The beautiful leaves. I don’t feel like writing but I do it anyway. I feel rather lost and sad.

The street on which we live
Wall by the waters

How many others feel like this? This kind of emptiness and lack of drive. The feeling of having lost something. Having lost something and not being entirely sure what exactly we have lost, but it was a profound loss nonetheless.

Path followers in early autumn
Horse chestnuts

Because the world is still beautiful and we got almost half an hour of rain this afternoon, I will include pictures. Because however blah we may feel, the world is — for a time — beautiful.

REMEMBER “LOOK ALIKE, FEEL ALIKE”?

“Look alike, feel alike” used to be the motto of the User Interface area of software development. The idea was that as you developed a product, each new version should “feel the same way” as the one that came before it. Doing this made it much easier for users to understand additions and fixes to the software they owned and when properly trained, developers understood how to “tune” the software to make the lives of customers easier and better. That was way back in the days when software engineers and company owners still cared about customers. Making good software was what they wanted to do — not necessarily squeezing the last dime from each and every customer.

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I worked for (mostly) newly-hatched development companies. A lot of them never got their products to market because when the “dot com” bubble burst, they lost their backing. When an economic bubble pops, it’s like dominos going over. Nothing stands alone. The little 10-person company for which I worked is being funded by another, slightly larger company, funded by possibly several somewhat bigger organization. Many of the products we were working on eventually did come to market after going bankrupt, but the same people found new funding after the economy righted itself. Always and forever, our goal was to create software that could be easily understood by the customer, NOT just by the developers.

This is why I did so much testing as part of my job. I had to make sure that whatever the developer was attempting to do actually worked the way he or she said it did. Developers don’t test the way users need products tested. Developers have all kinds of shortcuts so they don’t have to go through every step of the process. Their “quick tests” are fine for them, but users MUST go through every step of the process because they have a job to do and they can’t cut chunks of their work out to get to the end result without doing all the parts in the middle. For example, since I worked most of the time on databases, the end point of the process was that a company would enter its products and all of the pieces that were part of the product into a database. You could call up the product and see all its parts, or you call call up any of its parts and see the larger product. It didn’t matter whether it was a truck or an engine, or a part of an engine or some kind of aviation monitor. In order for the database to do its job, ALL the parts of the product had to be listed in a variety of ways to make it possible for the customer to find the piece — even if it was the nut on a screw — he or she needed to fix something. And this had to work quickly and be extremely accurate. It had to be easy to remove an old part that had been redesigned or eliminated from inventory as it was to enter a new product and all its parts.

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The easier you made the product, the better ratings you got. Most of the little companies I worked with who invented stuff were ultimately bought by larger companies who took new stuff and included with existing technology. That was how business was done.

It wasn’t unusual for these small companies to be funded by larger companies in the first place. It gave the baby company a lot of freedom to invent products that bigger organizations would never have created. But — at no point did anyone produce a new version of an existing product that would require a corporation to retrain an entire organization to use it — which is what WordPress has done. In a real business world scenario, this would probably put them out of business and if the market for blogging weren’t so minimal, I don’t think they’d survive this current scenario.

So for all of us who find ourselves pushed into a corner and having to use the block editor for work that doesn’t need a block editor while discovering a post now takes twice as long to complete as it did before, welcome to what we used to call “badly designed software.”

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I didn’t just write documents. I was part of a team and worked with developers — each of whom had a specific area to develop — to build software which was intuitive (read “easy”) to use and as bug-free as possible. Upgrades always included real improvements to functionality or major fixes to bugs, not just glitzy overlays. It had to integrate with a previous version and add VALUE to the software.

These days, many products are so overlaid with bells and whistles no one wants or needs, the functions of the customers (us) are lost beneath whatever a developer thought was a “really cool idea.”


Thus when you find yourself using the “classic” block in the editor to get an imitation of what you did before and you wonder what the point of all of this confusion was? Money.


In this case, it’s trying to make the editor able to build something that imitates a fancy, commercial magazine site. It has nothing to do with what most of us do. The developers who have been doing the work never asked us what we wanted or needed. They are developers who have never written a post or a photograph.They have no understanding of writers or artists. If you ask them, they also don’t care.

Yes, the “classic” block more or less mimics the older classic editor — leaving one with the sour taste of why they couldn’t leave us that to use if that’s what we wanted. If you buy their higher priced packages you CAN get the classic editor back, by the way. You just have to pay more than twice the price for something you used to get as part of your package. You just have to love price gougers, don’t you?

The “classic block” is not the classic editor. It’s an imitation and they can take it away, just like they took away all the high quality customizations we originally paid for and that’s why I am very loathe to pay them more, even if I had the money. I used to get all this same stuff for the price I’m paying, but they stripped it out and put it in a more expensive package. They did it once and they will do it again. You can’t trust them.

This IS what I did for a living. I didn’t just write manuals. I worked with a team of developers to create software which did what customers needed done.

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The point of setting up this kind of process was to make the software “intuitive.” Things that worked in tandem were grouped together. It should not take more than 10-minutes for a user to grasp how an upgraded editor works. It doesn’t have to be this way. Properly done, new software can and should be easier to use. Also, the result of the effort ought to be a better product or why bother with an update at all? Oh, right. I forgot. Money. I keep forgetting that this isn’t about customers. It’s about money.

Still — why make it harder? Usually, it’s because no one is in charge who understands customers. There is no excuse at this point in the software development cycle for creating a stupid User Interface. It’s not as if we went blindly into the interface biz. What the software does “underneath,” its essential functionality, is one thing. How it’s presented to the user is done by developers who specialize in designing a user interface.

This isn’t 1982 when we’re figuring out how an editor is supposed to work. We’ve been there. Done that. If WordPress listened to their customers, this didn’t need to be such a mess. It didn’t need to have so many pointless complexities. I shouldn’t NEED to go searching for the “sticky” function. It should be grouped with other publishing tools. It’s sloppy work at its best and it will be years before they get it sorted out IF they sort it out. They fix bugs only when they consider them bugs. Just because it’s inconvenient and hard to use, they don’t have to fix it.


It’s not a bug. “It’s a feature.”


Since they often just leave things (no matter how poorly thought out), but keep adding stuff on top of stuff that doesn’t work well, issues lurk. It won’t matter how much money you pay. Badly designed software gets worse over time. It only gets better if and when someone cares enough to make it better.

IF YOU WANT TO KEEP BLOGGING, AFFORDABLE PLATFORMS EXIST

I really don’t want to stop blogging. Even if I have to use a different computer — like the Mac rather than the PC — or get an iPad or something else. I need to write. It’s not merely what I do. It’s what I am. I’m not a novelist. I’m not an author. I write because I need to write. I can’t remember when I didn’t need to write, even when I was a kid using a pencil.

It might not be WordPress. I may have to somehow find a different forum, but there will be something. I can’t believe there’s no platform anywhere I can afford and use. There has GOT to be a way to do this.

Maybe by some bizarre stroke of luck WordPress will let those of us who prefer a simpler style keep doing what we do. If you can get it by paying for it as a “business,” surely they can let those of us who have been paying them for years to access it too. That would, I think, make many people happier and cost WordPress nothing since they already have the extensions available. Did you know that the WordPress Spell Checker we got for free is available only as part of their “business” plan? That’s also true of their original “Text Customize” function that were originally part of my package? All the explanations about how we don’t need them were actually more simply explained by “we don’t feel like letting you have them at the price you are paying, so now you have to pay at least triple the price”.

“Disable Block Editor” and “WordPress Simple Style” are both available — for a pretty hefty fee. We don’t need them (according to WordPress) but if you have the bucks, well, then you might need them after all. Just follow the money.

So I started started hunting around today and I found that although you can get many things for “free,” your options in a free format are quite limited and usually include advertisements. Also, no one accepts downloads from WordPress. To put it more strongly, at this point no one accepts downloads from any other platform. Whatever you have already done on some other product, from WordPress to Facebook, you will not be able to move it to a new platform.

The highest rated blogging tool is WIX. There are many great things about it including super good service and very classy templates — and very easy setup, There are limitations too, including one major one. After you choose your format, you are stuck with it. Text doesn’t necessarily flow from one style to another. Probably you could solve that by writing your posts in Word or Google Doc and inserting it as needed in any format. It’s just an extra step — and more work.

You might want to take a look at WIX. It was the only one that appealed to me. Also, on WIX, you own your content. On other “free sites,” they own your content. I don’t want my content owned by anyone but me. You might want to start by reading this review: Wix.com Review – The Flexible Website Builder. 

And then take a look at Wix itself (WIX.com):

There’s a lot of material to look at and I’m mostly liking what I see. From my point of view, the biggest problems are inability to flow text from one templates to another — and of course not being able to move parts of my WordPress site to a new one platform. I could go through it and copy my best pieces into a document format — which given how big the site is, it would be a lot of work. Easier would be to keep the WordPress site and dip and delve as needed. It would cost me an extra $100/year. but might be worth it.

For all practical purposes, this would be starting from scratch. I wonder if I have the energy to do it again. At least there are choices. They aren’t free even though free options exist, but they also aren’t insanely expensive either. There are, as we say, possibilities. Pity I don’t have something to sell!

FROM THE MORASS, AN INSPIRATION

Blogging Insights 43 # Inspiring Others

My husband feels I inspire people. I do not inspire him because he argues about everything. It’s a husband-wife thing. If someone tells him the exact same thing, he’ll repeat it to me as if I’d never heard it before. He doesn’t listen to me. He say he does listen, but he confuses silence with listening. He is often silent and he is listening. To something on television or reading something online. I call that being ignored. He calls it being attentive.

I have to assume that somewhere in the course of writing 11,000 posts, give or take a thousand or two, I must have inspired someone. I think I inspired a couple of people to invest in a good camera and become better photographers. I have encouraged people which could be a kind of inspiration. I’m not sure about the “inspire” part. I think I am more an encourager than an inspirer.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Built in 1882, a perfect place for inspiration!

There’s a reason for that. I don’t like making suggestions to people who haven’t thought of the idea on their own. I occasionally try to insert an idea by describing something which happened to me and I hope they pick up the concept. To outrightly suggest something that comes entirely from my head and not theirs? A lot of people resent that and probably with good reason. Many of us have been treated with little respect over the years, so we get prickly when we think it’s happening again.

I draw the line at grammar and punctuation. I can live with typos, but incorrectly used words and a failure to make even an attempt at punctuation makes the grammarian in me feisty.

Oddly, I’m pretty good at taking advice, I may want to think about the advice for a while — not necessarily a long while — before I do something about it. But if someone offers an idea that sounds better than whatever I’ve come up with, I’m ready to give it a try. Some of my best life decisions were made because someone suggested something. And the other best decisions were made by completely ignoring everyone’s suggestions and doing it my way. We are imperfect and so are our choices.

Sometimes, suggestions make assumptions about your life — like your available money, location, physical abilities, and so on — that make suggestions impossible, at least for me. It’s not they are out to get me. It’s just they aren’t me and lack all the information.

Inspired. I have nearly a million views on this blog. I’d like to think I’ve inspired someone. I hope so. That’s the reason I do this. I hope somewhere in the morass of words, concepts, and throes of anecdotal material, someone will have a flash. An idea will be born and an actual epiphany will spring forth.

Does changing someone’s mind count as inspiration?

BLOCK EDITOR OR WHAT?

I started blogging on WordPress in 2012 and quickly started to pay to customize my site. I have been paying for almost the entire time I’ve been blogging. Me and my friends have written 11,000 posts over the years and I have no idea how many photographs.

Two of the things I pay for is getting rid of advertisements — and the ability to use a wide variety of templates. At this point, more than half of those templates don’t work. That’s before the block editor is fully in place. No one has bothered to check the templates to see if they work with the already-existing changes to the software. WordPress does not care.

It’s not like I don’t know how block editors work because I’ve worked with Pagemaker, which is the ultimate block software. I didn’t use Pagemaker for personal writing. It was never meant for that. It’s intent was and is to design books, typically non-fiction technical books. Theses. Scientific documents. The block editor is a waste of time and energy for most people who are in it for the fun and not the money. I don’t care whether or not if I have the best-looking blog in town. I don’t think people read your posts because of how classy your site looks.


People read you because they love your writing, photographs, and art. If all you have is a single page of text without so much as a picture, if you write well they will read you. If your pictures are beautiful, they won’t care how fancy your site is. They aren’t looking at your site but at your photographs and your words.


All of the changes WordPress has implemented have nothing to do with helping you produce better work. They long ago deleted all the prompts and challenges intended to inspire writers and artists. It’s entirely about improving how pretty your site will look to potential business owners.

I don’t have a business. I’m retired. I have no intention of starting a business and if I did, i would NEVER work with WordPress. They have treated me — a paying customer — as worthless. They don’t want me. They don’t care about me. And if they keep pushing me, they also won’t have me. Because I have limits and am about to reach them. I will be very sorry to quit, but if they push me any harder, I will have to. I am not going to ever be a business customer. I will never pay them $25/month so I can publish pretty pictures of birds, rivers and write about things that inspire or worry me. Not only do I not have the money, but it isn’t worth it. WordPress is not worth it. 

So I guess if what you want is the best-looking site, go with block, though for a single page post, it’s an awful lot of work for a zero dollar return. Remember: WordPress doesn’t want writers and artists. They want business. Nonetheless, it’s the writers and artists who made WordPress what it is. We powered them to the top.


When we are gone, they will be a giant commercial site.
They should be careful what they ask for because they might get it.


Just before I went to bed last night, I got my notice from WordPress. Since I’m already using the “classic editor” through my dashboard, it isn’t going to make any difference, at least until they decide to make that impossible. Hey, WordPress? Hold off until after the election, okay? At least let us get there using technology with which we are comfortable before you find a way to make us miserable.

Since I only recently found a template I really like which makes it very easy for me to show not only what I am creating, but what I have done in the near and long since past, it now looks like a magazine. This format is antithetical to the block format concept. It gives me a great deal of latitude to shift pieces around and reuse earlier posting and recent posting with a minimum of reworking.

These days, news isn’t ever new. Whatever is happening today happened before and not once. The news doesn’t get old; it merely recycles. All you have to do is change the numbers (location of shooting, how many people killed, name of killer (if known)) … or name the next Black person shot for no reason except being Black in the wrong (maybe his/her own) neighborhood. Or name which creep in the administration is being indicted (name the crime, name the jurisdiction) for something (this morning it’s Steve Bannon — remember him?) so it would be a pity to waste those well-written stories, rants, whines, and research pieces which I put hours of work into producing.

Isn’t it great that we’ve (at least some of us, anyway) have been paying for the privilege of using all the templates we want only to discover that almost none of them will work with the new format? Don’t you think they should have done something about that? With each passing day, the money I pay to them gives me less and less for the price. This particular one is very much like stripping paying customers of the biggest benefit and replacing it with nothing at all. But never you mind. As long as I can ignore their glitzy changes, the happier I’ll be.

YOUR HOBBY VERSUS YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #15: HOBBIES

From Fandango, here’s the question:


Today’s theme is “your hobby or hobbies.” Do you have a hobby? Do you collect things? Do you work on model airplanes? Do you whittle things from wood? Do you paint, take photographs, make pottery, create homemade greeting cards? Are you a Twitter troll?


In theory, the definition of a hobby is pursuit outside one’s regular occupation for relaxation. But the reality isn’t necessarily like that. For many people whose work is done to earn a living, a hobby is more than relaxation. It’s a chance to do something valuable and meaningful when professionally, your work can seem dull and ordinary. Of course, sometimes in the course of my profession (writing), I used my own photographs. Nothing you learn in life is a waste. Somehow, it will find it’s way into the work you do. No learning is a waste.

The Mumford Dam

I’ve been taking pictures “for fun” since I was 22. I know the year because it’s the year my son was born. A friend gave me a camera and the love affair began. Despite often not having the money for obvious necessities, I managed to get some great cameras and amazing lenses. True a lot of them are and were second-hand, but it’s amazing what great deals you can get on the second-hand market. The lens someone got as a gift or bought for himself and then discovered he never used it. It was too heavy, not fast enough … or duplicated other lenses. Cameras too. All my cameras were supposedly second hand, but effectively all of them were pristine and in their original boxes.

I have had other hobbies. I gave them up because they required space. I couldn’t keep all my pottery. Not unless I got a second house in which to house them … and wealthy people often do exactly that. Not being wealthy, I’m happy enough to still have a house to call my own. Garry and I also collected original art until we ran out of walls, shelves, mantels, and cabinets. We even ran out of friends to whom we could give the overload. I opened a business just so I could sell off all the stuff we had. In the end, I basically traded what I had for much nicer stuff … and made some money in the process. But still, these days when anyone is buying me something, I tell them that the are not allowed to get me anything that requires a piece of wall, a place to stand, or a cabinet for containment. In other words, how about a lovely card? Although I admit, that guitar owen got me was something else!

Handsome Blue Jay
Water plants along the river

Hobbies are expensive. Cameras and lenses, even at discount prices, cost money. Art is even more expensive. Antiques can kill you. At one point, I swear i owned a hundred teapots, but to be fair, 99 of them were gifts. I bought one, so everyone leapt on it and figured “She must love teapots! Let’s get her a teapot!” One day, I donated all of them to a shop that sold them to raise money for a children’s hospital.

The well-fed tiny chipmunk

Enjoy the photographs in this post. I just spent this entire day processing them. We are currently overrun with woodpeckers — Downy, Hairy, and Red-Bellied — as well as house sparrows, House Finches, baby squirrels and now, red squirrels. I think the birds and critters are another hobby. It has taken me awhile to acknowledge that it’s not just because I want to save the environment and take pictures. I love the birds and all the creatures. My palms get sweaty when I begin to run out of food. At least the birds and beasts give me a reason to have the cameras and lenses!

I think a hobby is whatever you do that brings you joy. It might actually be the work you do that earns your daily bread and monthly mortgage. Garry always felt privileged to be doing work he loved and there were times when the work I did filled me with joy. I read for relaxation, but I take pictures and write — and sometimes, make music — because I love it.

Fandango’s Dog Days of August

A NEW EDITOR AND A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT US AND OUR TECHNOLOGY

Fandango’s Provocative Question #83: Who’s controlling what?

One of the big issues with WordPress’s decision to create a kind of block format that is very unappealing to most of us who aren’t here to make money but joined to show off our art, write about issues that matter, display pictures … the artists rather than the money-makers. I’m sure that a lot of us would happily at this stage hop to another platform … but what platform? Medium? They don’t sound like like they would welcome my freewheeling style. Blogger? Has anyone ever gotten a dialogue going on Blogger? I couldn’t. Eventually, I simply gave up. So Fandango’s question is simple and basic:

I think the answer is really that technology controls us. I wish it weren’t true. I don’t want it to be true, but it is. Without WiFi, there’s little I can accomplish. My bank is never open. Everything happens electronically by cell phone and computer. We live in a small town where shopping is limited. There is, for example, no camera store. If I need a lens, I have to buy it online. It’s hard to even find a contractor to do work we need to do. There isn’t much work, but we are a little too far from Boston to commute … and who in their right mind would want to commute to Boston?

These days, WiFi is not a luxury. It’s a utility controlled as a monopoly by whatever town you live in. We don’t have any choice but Charter and they can charge whatever they want since they have no competition. And, because we are a low-density population, other companies aren’t exactly fighting each other to come here and open businesses.

What we have is a lot of natural beauty, the winding Blackstone River and its tributaries, a long history dating back to the early 1600s … and WiFi for everything else. So yes, we are controlled by our technology. Sometimes it’s a marvel. Other times, you just need one long downtime of your cable and suddenly, you feel helpless. Your computer breaks and panic ensues. Your cell phone bites the big one and you literally don’t know how you’ll get through another day.

Yes, we are controlled by our technology, especially right now when we are living in a plague-ridden environment.

What can we do to change it? I don’t know. Nothing right now, but maybe in the future we’ll discover other ways of living. I know I didn’t grow up owned by technology, yet over the decades, I’ve rolled right into it. Haven’t we all?

CONCERNING THE INTERCONNECTNESS OF THINGS

The late great Douglas Adams (who shared my birthday, March 11th — I’m sure that means something, but I have no idea what), created a character that I dearly love. Dirk Gently (also known by a number of other names, including Svlad Cjelli), was the owner/operator of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

His basic concept was the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” I believe in Douglas Adams and Dirk Gently. We all operate, knowingly or not, on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. More than half the posts I write — including this — are born while commenting on someone else’s post.

We are intricately and intimately linked. I wonder if we take for granted how bound to others we are in this strange cyber world we have created. I have read and heard much talk about the isolation of each person, alone and lonely with their computer. It has been put out there as a metaphor for the estrangement of people from each other, the symbolic isolation of individuals in the technological world. I don’t think it’s true. If this long period of isolation and quarantine has proved anything, it’s that even if we can’t meet face-to-face, we do really connect electronically. Electronic communications are not incidental to modern life. They are essential. For some of us, they are life and death.

The wires run forever over the desert and into the mountains

For me and for many others, our current isolation would be tragic without the Internet, without computers, without cell phones. For anyone who suffers a chronic illness, for those of us getting on in years who can’t get out because we are afraid of dying of of COVID-19 — and whose friends have died or moved far away — and for young people whose studies, work, force them to work electronically or not at all. If we cannot share a hug, we can share face time. Electronic communications let us share in ways that were science fiction a few years ago.

Without computers, Garry and I would be isolated. Not only does our age and physical issues make getting around difficult, but Coronavirus has made getting out nearly impossible. Without electronic connections, we would be squirrels in a tree without fellow squirrels with whom to hang. This post was originally inspired by Dawn Hoskings on whose post I was commenting when I realized how lucky I am to be living in a world in which we enjoy virtual travel and participate in a larger world. I’m proud to be part of a community of bloggers, a community of friends around the world. And deeply grateful.

I also think that everyone should have wifi and computers just as everyone should have a roof, heat, and a telephone. It isn’t an “extra.” These days, it may be the ONLY way kids can get schooling or their grandparents are able to see anyone at all. No one seems to be fighting for this since Obama left office, but it’s more important than ever.

READ OR WRITE? HOW ABOUT RIGHTING?

I never “decided” to write.

When asked “what are you,” I never say I’m a wife, mother, grandmother — or even a woman. I automatically say “I’m a writer.” Being a writer is embedded in my concept of “self-hood,” if I am not that, then I’m not sure what I am. Writing was my profession, but I was a writer before I earned a salary doing it. I will always be a writer, and it has nothing to do with whether or not I sell my words … or even whether or not anyone else reads them. Whether or not I am still a professional writer is a different question.

Unlike other professions — probably this is true for everyone who makes a living in the creative arts — what you do is so much more than a paycheck. It’s the way you synthesize your experiences. It’s a compound of emotion, intellect, visual and physical stimuli, It is part of you as long as you breathe, long after paychecks stop coming and often, even if the paychecks never arrive in the first place. Writing is so deeply embedded in who I am that I can’t imagine not writing.

If it turns out there is an afterlife, I’m sure I will be writing about it.


A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.


Writing is me. It’s the sport I play, the goal I for which I work. We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. Writing is like breathing. I can strangle on words I’ve failed to use. My friend needs to compete, to be active and she needs to win.

I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how. They want me to tell them how. That they asked the question tells me they are not writers. If you are a writer, you write. You will write and will keep writing because it’s what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.

Reading is fun and I think it’s part of writing. It’s educational, and inspirational. It lets you connect with other people and places who never existed, possibly never could never exist. But that’s what writing is about, isn’t it? I know there are other ways to connect. You can Zoom, Facetime, and Skype. You can connect via email, telephones, even actual written letters though that has become a rarity, even for those of us who otherwise can’t stop writing. As long as there are computers, printers, and books, life goes on.

Writing can’t be replaced. Accept no substitute.