WALLOWING IN THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

An endless recitation of woes are giving me migraines. It’s not that I lack sympathy. More like I’m emotionally exhausted. So many people are stuck in a pit of youthful misery. Bad childhoods, terrifying ex-marriages or other horrible relationships. Or worse, they want to write. They need to write, but they can’t. The words won’t come.

So don’t write. It’s not as if you are legally obligated to be a writer. If it isn’t working out, give it up. Do something else. Anything else.

Don’t they want to move on?

Apparently not. The quagmire of despair has become a comfortable, homey place. So they set up a desk, computer, and light and there they stay. Some of these bloggers continue exploring the depths of their suffering for hundreds — thousands? — of posts. Many are closing in on Social Security yet are still suffering from childhood trauma. So much for time casting a rosy haze over the past. Even if you haven’t solved your problems, it doesn’t mean you can’t just let them go. There will be new tragedies down the road and plenty more misery to come. I can pretty much guarantee it.

There ought to be an official cutoff date at which point you are required to close the book on whatever dreadful experience life dealt you during your wretched childhood and ghastly former relationships. Or at least after the passage of one full lifetime, you should be required to find some other subject about which to write.

we are not our mistakes

Sometimes I think it’s because they’ve found an audience for their posts about suffering and it’s their fallback position. Can they really be enmeshed in the same memories after thirty or forty years have passed?

I know lots of people who were abused as children. Hell, I wrote a book about it and because of that, I had total strangers telling me their stories. I suppose I deserved it. If you write a book on the subject and people read it, you can’t blame them for thinking you might be interested.

Now, let’s add in all those who had abusive relationships as adults. Isn’t that everyone? Who hasn’t had a terrible relationship or three? I plead guilty on all charges, your honor.

It was my first husband (before you ask, he died) who strongly suggested I might want to move in a different direction.  Of course, this was before my second marriage, the one in which I managed to step in front of the same bullet I’d previously dodged.


NOTE TO SELF: No one is ever too old to behave like a moron.

You have to want to move on.

It takes time and work, but I’m glad I (finally) did it. There have been plenty of new traumas to cope with. I doubt I’d have survived if I hadn’t cleared the decks. I’m overloaded. I cannot read another angst-laden tale of abuse and trauma. I’m know how awful it can be. Been there. I support all efforts to free oneself from the lingering effects of the past — but I’ve got a few problems and plenty of personal angst. If I can, I’d rather make you laugh than cry.

Cardinal, well-fed!

For all of us, it’s time to stop defining ourselves as the worst things that happened to us. We are not what others did to us. We aren’t our mistakes. As much as we have suffered, surely we’ve also found at least a little bit of fun, joy, friends, and love.

Misery is like a piano falling on your head; happiness just creeps up on you. The result? Long after the people who hurt us have disappeared from our lives, they are still beating us up and the only one getting hurt is us.

Got any good jokes?

ONCE UPON A TIME, WE WROTE LETTERS – Marilyn Armstrong

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.

POPULARITY – Marilyn Armstrong

We bloggers are endlessly in search of answers. All kinds of answers. I am, in particular, forever seeking an answer to the ultimate blogger query.

What makes people follow me? Why are some posts popular while others — which I think are better — are not?

I think I’ve got it part of the answer. Not the whole one. There are just some posts that, for reasons I cannot fathom, become wildly popular and I never figure out why.

The more typical answer became obvious while I was reading someone else’s post titled “Excellent Demo.” It was about a software presentation to a prospective client that goes horribly wrong. The WiFi connection doesn’t work. The hot spot tool doesn’t help.

It’s humiliating and the kind of experience we have all had. It’s painfully universal. I can remember at least two horrible professional moments, both involving cameras. After more than 30 years, they remain cringe-worthy and painful to the touch.

His company got the contract anyhow. He wondered why?

I realized the answer was probably simple. Everyone in that room — at some time or another — had a similar experience. That the demo went badly generated a visceral empathy with the audience. The disaster didn’t sell the product, but it didn’t unsell it, either.

Back on Serendipity, I noticed the two posts that did better than usual were both about the kind of stuff that happens to everyone. What was the common thread? I looked at other popular posts.

I looked at the list of my all-time most popular posts. Not including camera, movie, television, and technology reviews which have an evergreen cycle, all Serendipity’s most popular posts have a universal theme, something to which anyone and everyone can relate.

I don’t write this way on purpose. I’m betting most of you don’t design your style. It comes out of you. It is you. I can control my subject matter, but I have little control over my style. When anyone asks about my “process,” I come up blank. What’s a process?

I don’t have a process. I get an idea. I write about it. It may leap out of a conversation with Garry, a comment I make on someone else’s blog, a book I’m reading, a TV show I’ve watched. A dream I had or what the dogs did. Many are anecdotes … things that happened here and elsewhere. Often, the interesting part of the story isn’t the event, but how it affected me or others.

There are blogs that deal with issues. Some special interest web sites which talk about current events, news, politics, religion, archaeology, history, the power structure, education. Some are all about history or literature. Or talk only about movies. They have their audiences, people who are interested in the things these bloggers write about. I and many of you reading this have special interests too, but mostly, we are interested in life.

That’s what we write about it. Sometimes, it’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Nice and tidy. As often as not, it’s a memory, a string of thoughts wrapped around something that happened. A wish, a wisp, a wistful moment. And strangely, other people enjoy reading it.

Go figure, right?

A LONG LIST OF QUESTIONS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME – Marilyn Armstrong

Not sure of where these came from other than Melanie. Does it really matter? So, for Melanie, answers to questions that have to do with someone else’s life, but very little to do with mine.


QUESTIONS:
This is a list of 72 questions. Number 15 was missing, so I renumbered the list.

1. What’s your usual Starbucks order?

Never been to Starbucks, but I don’t like their coffee. It isn’t “dark roasted.” It’s burned.

2. What does your workstation look like? 

What workstation?

3. Favorite food? 

Japanese.

4. Favorite author? 

Too tough to call.

5. What do you think of open relationships? 

Been there. Done that. It has good points and bad ones. This is much too complicated for a simple answer.

6. What is your favorite video game? 

Bridge.

7. Guilty pleasure treat? 

Fresh fruit.

8. Favorite movie? 

The Lion in Winter (the original)

9. Favorite book? 

Too many.

10. Twitter or Instagram? 

Neither.

11. Desktop or laptop? 

Laptop.

12. Best advice you’ve ever received? 

Take care of yourself. If you don’t do it, no one will (Author: My mother)

13. What project are you working on right now? 

I’m not. Unless you count blogging.

14. Favorite color? 

Lapis blue.

15. Dream job?

Did that already. Retired and planning to stay that way.

16. Play any sports?

Not any more.

17. Do you have a degree?

B.A. in something. I used to want to frame it and put it up over the sink so I could look at it while I washed dishes. But I lost it, so now, I can’t even prove I went to college. Not that anyone cares. Even I don’t care.

18. Nationality? 

American.

19. What is your favorite kind of blog post?

Something with an idea in it. Or great pictures. Or makes me laugh. Historical too.

20. What do you like to collect?

Nothing. I’m over-collected.

21. Describe yourself in three words?

Busy yet retired.

22. If you were a rapper what would your stage name be?

I would not be a rapper. By any name.

23. Who was the last person you DMed? 

What’s a DM?

24. What’s on top of your wishlist right now?

Winning a lot of money. I probably should cash in my lottery ticket, but I think I lost it.

25. Sorting house? 

What?

26. How many tattoos do you have? 

One. A big one. On my left calf.

27. What are you most grateful for this year? 

Being here. For another year.

28. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month? 

Owen fixed the hole in the back door.

29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today? 

I remembered to give the dogs their heartworm medicine. Now I have to ORDER medicine.

30. What’s the best thing ever? 

For who? Me? Garry? Dogs? Friends? Seriously EVER?

31. Favorite season?

Fall.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

32. Favorite holiday?

Christmas. I like the music.

33. What fictional character do you relate to most? 

Rachel Morgan.

And in the mid-October, we have autumn on the Canal

34. Do you like surprises?

It depends. What KIND of surprise?

35. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had? 

Garry wanted to get married.

36. Which surprise made you cry? 

If it made me cry, it wasn’t a surprise. It was something else.

37. What’s the best surprise you’ve given somebody else? 

Getting Garry a subscription to the Baseball channel.

38. Do you like muffins? 

Real muffins or the kind they sell at Dunkin Donuts? Because those are cupcakes, not muffins.

39. Do you cook often? 

Every fucking day.

40. What’s your favorite dessert? 

Ice-cream and fresh strawberries.

41. Is there a dessert you don’t like? 

Anything excessively sweet.

42. Cake or pie? 

Pie.

43. What’s your least favorite food? 

Snails.

44. What’s your favorite condiment? 

Za’atar.

45. It’s 4am on a random Saturday. What are you eating? 

I’m not eating. I’m sleeping.

46. If you could teach a college class what would it be called? 

How to survive all the things nobody warns you are going to happen.

47. Best animated film? 

Fantasia 1 and 2.

48. What has a guy done or said to impress you? 

Garry married me. I was impressed.

49. The best thing to do on a first date? 

First date? Do you realize my first day was 56 years ago?

50. The worst thing to do on a first date? 

That was also 56 years ago.

51. What’s the best pick-up line?

I love you. Let’s get married.

52. Best comic book character?

Superman.

53. Name three things which can always be found in your wallet.

Credit cards.

54. Favorite drink? 

Coke or Ginger Ale. It’s a mood thing.

55. If you could play a historical character in a movie who would it be?

Eleanor of Aquitaine.

56. Kittens or puppies?

Neither. I like cats and dogs.

57. Favorite sushi roll?

Wanakura’s special roll. it has EVERYTHING I love on it, from crab to tuna and then it’s cooked like tempura.

58. What lipstick do you use?

I don’t.

59. What foundation do you use?

Skin.

60. Blow-dry or air dry?

Air unless it’s really cold and I’m going out. I don’t want my wet hair to freeze on my head, so then I’ll blow-dry it.

61. Who is your fashion icon?

A fashion what?

62. Favorite Disney Character?

Minny Mouse. She doesn’t get any respect.

63. What are you doing tomorrow?

Nothing.

64. Movie you laughed the hardest through? 

Young Frankenstein.

65. A movie that made you cry?

Something with animals. I cry at all of them.

66. If you could sing a duet with anybody, who would you choose? 

Myself. Alone. In the shower.

67. If your life was a song what would the title be?

We Didn’t Start the Fire

68. What’s your favorite animal?

Horses. Dogs. Cats. Parrots. Ferrets.

69. Favorite illustrator?

John Tenniel

70. The person you’d like to have coffee with?

Anyone I like

71. What country would you like to visit?

England, New Zealand, and Japan

72. Best way to decompress?

Read a book! Or write one.

HACKED AND HATING IT – Marilyn Armstrong

We Did It! — Maybe?        RDP Monday: PRINCE

I’m sorry. Didn’t use the “word of the day” because this needed to go out to everyone I could send it to. No matter how little you pay attention to what’s going on in your technical department, you should read this because it really does matter to you and all of us.


So, for the moment, Tyngpress.com is closed, but despite that everyone says “it was closed down,” they closed THEMSELVES down and were NOT forced to close. I got this note this morning from “Web.Informer.com”:


Hello,
Thanks for your message. Could you please send us a direct link to this info on website.informer.com? We will remove it asap.
Best Regards, 
Website.Informer Project Team

On Fri, 2 Aug at 11:28 PM , MARILYN ARMSTRONG <fivedawgz@gmail.com> wrote:

This is a full spammer website stealing other people’s material without authorization or permission. Does not create any of his/her own material but steals it, largely from WordPress but probably from others, too. Remove him. Dangerous.

79011:414394


 But the message on the actual website (Tygpress.com) was this:


Tygpress.com is temporarily out of service due to technical issues. will be back soon…

Tygpress.com was created with an intention to create a blog search site, but due to some techical issues, full contents of respective sites were being displayed instead of just excerpts as intended. We thank the complainants for bringing this issue to our notice and We are extremely sorry to the content owners.

This is a literal paste-down, so the misspellings are (for once) not mine.

This comment does NOT indicate they were closed down but are obviously getting hit by a lot of complaints. Duh.

And this site is one of the thousands, maybe millions of such sites. They are all over the world. We have no control over them. This particular one actually had a platform on another server, but many of them have their own servers and work for governments who not only do not care about “us,” but are intentionally out to get us.

Be careful what you post, especially if you have any intention of publishing it. Do NOT publish original artwork if it is something you intend to sell or simply is very dear to you.

These pieces of scum are everywhere and they are targeting every single one of us. I’ve been hacked. Fandango has been hacked. I’m sure many more of us have been hacked. Some of us got off lightly, others had to pay for it. I was also locked out of my own computer, but I spent two full days UNlocking.


PLEASE BACK UP YOUR MATERIAL AND DO IT REGULARLY, EVEN THOUGH IT IS BORING.
MORE IS BETTER.


When you clean off your computer, you clean off EVERYTHING THAT WAS ON IT. You are effectively wiping your hard drive which is fine if your material was backed up onto at least TWO SEPARATE EXTERNAL DRIVES and the rest of it lives on external drives belonging to companies like Amazon and Dell and other major cloud providers.

Google is useless. They won’t do anything and we won’t even discuss Facebook.

WordPress is equally useless. You can enter into their “blocked” functions anything you like, but it doesn’t accomplish anything. They have no effective security arrangements.

No matter WHAT they say, they are lying.

They have also made it (by the way), nearly impossible to get material from new folders in graphics (photographs, in essence).

All you get now is a list. You can’t see any of the images in the folder.

For those of us that are serious photographers and artists, that means you have to carefully name each item in every new folder– or any older folder you haven’t yet opened.

This is going to require endless hours of additional work for everyone who uses a lot of graphics content. I haven’t even bothered to complain to them, though I suppose I should. From previous experience, when they’ve decided to do something exceptionally stupid, pointless, and counter-productive, they never go back and make it work the way it used to. But this is worse than usual. This is AWFUL.

I’m getting close to giving up. It’s not that I don’t love you all, but I’m paying for the privilege of being virtually completely hackable. I’m running some of the world’s worst software and being talked down to like an infant by the baby morons running their “technical” division — our glorious “happiness engineers.”

All they want is more money when they can’t even deliver what we are already paying for.


NOTE: Adjacent to the “select” section from which you need to pull up a picture, there’s a small icon (I can’t copy it, my snap-catch function won’t work on that screen), but if you click on it, it offers you some choices about how to see images. Anyone who recently got a Microsoft “upgrade” will probably have this problem. Select one of the images!


 

THE BELLS ARE TROLLING – Marilyn Armstrong

There are subjects I avoid writing about because no matter where I go, there’s a troll lurking and waiting for an opportunity.

Gun control and “right to life,” or more to the point, the right of the unborn as opposed to the rights of the already alive are big troll-gatherers. They have always been two of the hot topics on the Internet and the trolls follow them like moths to flames in the dark of night. At least I have some control over them here on Serendipity. It’s the big advantage of blogging rather than being part of an “open” bulletin board — or heaven forbid Facebook.

How do you know you are being trolled?


I’m usually pretty good at spotting trolls, but sometimes, they creep in. They make a normal comment and as far as you can ascertain, they seem okay. There aren’t many ways to figure out if someone new is a follower or a troll other than whether or not they have a valid blog. But not all followers have a blog. Some people simply enjoy following other people’s writings.

So you have a new follower. They start a conversation, but they never quit. By the time the second day of conversation arrives, they have stood on every side of a “discussion” … and are getting aggressive.

I have been trolled on places like Amazon. You would think a biography about Alexander Hamilton would be essentially troll-free, but you’d be amazed at the damage they can do. I think Amazon has done something to control these jerks, but not enough. If they want reviewers, they will have to end the trolling.

Places like Facebook are obvious trolling sites. If you are fool enough to open yourself to that sort of thing, you will get what you deserve.

This isn’t Facebook, so it’s simple. I’ll put up with a conversation as long as that’s what it is. The minute it starts to edge into trolling, I will end it. One warning from me — and if there is another murmur from the aforementioned troll — he or she is blocked.

I tell them why and they say I’ve misunderstood them. They were merely trying to “liven up” the conversation. There was a time when I actually believed that line. I don’t believe it anymore.

These trolls actually think their viciousness is funny. They think they are being “cute.” Or anyway, that’s what they say. I still don’t believe it. Cute and funny isn’t nasty, angry, and mean. Sometimes, you get an apology. “Oh, I was just trying to make conversation.”

Don’t believe it. Trolls know exactly what they are doing. They do it wherever they go. They aren’t stupid. They think getting you angry and upset is hilarious. For them, anyway.

If it makes you unhappy, they don’t care. They are doing it for their own amusement, not yours. Their idea of livening up the conversation is to get a lot of people upset and if possible, feeling bad about themselves. When you ask them they will say they like “stirring the conversation” by which they mean insulting and harassing people they don’t even know. It’s their version of “getting the conversation moving.”

It’s trolling. If it is making your nervous system jangle, you can bet it’s trolling. Unless it is someone you know who has just gone a little over the edge, it’s trolling. Do not let them turn your site into a battleground. Spam them, block them, get rid of them. They will drive your real readers away and inflict a lot of damage — to you and others. Trolls are ugly people and their idea of humor has nothing to do with how anyone else feels. The more upset they can make you, the more they enjoy it.

I sometimes wait a while to see if the commentary is going that way, but when it’s a “new reader” with a flurry of nasty, sharp things to say? It’s a troll. Bet on it.

There are things we need to say and sometimes they are controversial. People argue, sometimes with considerable fervor, but I think you will know the trolls from regular readers with strong opinions who have maybe gone a little bit overboard. You’ll know the difference.

Shut down the trolls. Don’t let them back on your site, no matter what they tell you. Once a troll, always a troll.

BLOGGING – IT’S A NEW YET SOMEHOW OLD WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

I’M NEW. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

It’s interesting, looking at an earlier post and realizing how many “givens” have changed since you wrote it. It was just a few years ago. But oh my, how times have changed.

Maybe I’m just getting a bit beat up from having hung around the blog world too long … or maybe it’s the endless pressure of political reality that is making me crazy and mentally exhausted. Maybe it’s everything.

I think it’s harder to blog now than it was. We used to be able to have fun –without feeling the responsibilities of the world. Funny, light, and airy have become harder to find. Some elements of humor have gone out the window. It’s not that I wanted them to go away, but it has been hard to let go of the awful developments going on around us.

That being said, I can’t talk about the “issues” all the time. I can’t even think about them all the time. In that direction lies madness.

Everyone knows that there are dangerous developments in the world, but we can’t think about them every minute of every day. The world is undergoing a bad turn. We are atop that evil pile. I often wonder if I’m still living in the same country. Is this America?

And it’s international too. Is this my world or have slipped into a parallel reality?

Nonetheless, the basic rules still apply — with a few caveats. WordPress is no longer providing any kind of support to bloggers. No prompts, no awards, no nothing. They ply you with endless advertisements to join up with their “business plan” even if you don’t have a business. They pay no attention to what we ask for. Instead, they give us what they feel like giving us … IF they feel like giving us anything. And they do not believe in beta testing their software.

Don’t count on WordPress to give you a hand. They won’t. Do count on fellow bloggers to give you a hand because we will if we can.

So:

    • Do what you love. If it’s writing, write. Photography? Take pictures. Excuses are boring. A lot of people spend more time explaining why they can’t write or take a sharp picture than actually writing or focusing the camera.
    • Don’t whine. We all have problems. (Remind me I said this.) If you are going to whine, try to be funny too.
    • We are all entitled to a good online rant. Just not every day.
    • Funny is good.
    • Keep posts short or at least as concise as you can — given the subject. Some things need more words than others, but when you’re running over a thousand words, put the post away and read it again later or better yet, the next day. I bet you’ll find at least 500 (or more )words you can cut.
    • Don’t post blurry, bad pictures. Learn to look at your work and appraise it as if it were someone else’s.
    • Work on improving your craft(s). Write better. Take better pictures.
    • Proofread! If, like me, you’re a terrible proofreader, use whatever free proofing device you can find. I’m using the free version of Grammarly. I hate to admit it, but it has helped.
    • Follow your gut. If your gut isn’t telling you anything, try your brain and imagination. If that’s not working, read a book.
    • STICK WITH IT. You don’t build a following in a week or two.
    • PERSEVERE! You need to post regularly and often. If you don’t post regularly and often, your readers will wander away.
    • Many followers will wander no matter what you do. They have their own lives and their own reasons. It isn’t about you. Every two or three years, with some important exceptions, you’ll find you have a new group of followers.
    • You never know who is reading you. Many folks read, but many fewer comment. Most won’t even drop a “like.” I’ve been shocked at who reads my blog.
    • Don’t let other people’s stats make you envious. If you stick with it, you’ll get there too. 
    • Check your facts if you are writing anything that contains facts. It’s called credibility. You need it no matter what your government is doing.