BLOGGERS AT PLAY

Garry and Marilyn finally — after three or four reschedulings — finally made it to Connecticut to visit Tom and Ellin Curley. Yes, these are real live friends who we have known a very long time. So long that Tom can remember the first house I lived in when Owen was still a rug-rat.

Tom has all his hair. In our world, that’s noteworthy!

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Tom and Ellin live in a lovely home in the woods with a stream in the back yard. And a boat called Serenity docked on the Housatonic River in Stratford, Connecticut. Pretty nice boat. Pretty big river. The boat’s transmission is currently MIA, having blown itself up some time back — not while we were aboard,  but it’s a great story, in case Tom (hint, hint) feels like writing about it.

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We spent last Thursday hanging out on the boat. It turns out, boats are a great place to hang out, even when they are tied up at the dock. Since Tom has a dinghy with an outboard in good working order, we could still motor up the river, even if the bigger boat is not currently able to do more than float.

Tom took me on a ride, while Garry and Ellin chose to hang with Serenity.

The Serenity is named (by Tom) after the brilliant Joss Whedon sci fi/western series “Firefly” that ran on Fox. “Firefly” lives on Netflix. There’s also a movie, aptly titled “Serenity.” Ellen liked the concept of Serenity which seemed (still seems) a perfect name for a boat. If you can’t find serenity on a boat, you’re hopeless. Many years ago, I had a (very small) sailboat and enjoyed some of my  most serene afternoons sailing her in the salt marshes off the coast of Long Island. But I digress.

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I had brought with me the newest in Serendipity swag-wear — the latest version of our tee-shirt. It’s hard to find gifts for people who don’t need anything. Garry and I don’t need anything either, at least not anything anyone can afford to get for us … so after I designed the tee-shirt, it occurred to me I actually could give them each a tee-shirt since both of them blog.

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Tom and Ellin were exceeding gracious by dressing in matching tee-shirts, something Tom had sworn he would never do — not ever under any circumstances because (in his opinion) it’s the final sign of senility. But I said I wanted pictures. I had a camera and a photo-hungry blog.

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It was a great little mini vacation. Thank you, friends, again for a really love time. And the weather was perfect too. Not too hot, not too cool. Absolutely perfect.

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Garry and I together shot more than 300 pictures, so you’ll see more pictures as I come up with excuses to post them. In the photo galleries, the first set are mine, the second are Garry’s. There are many more! Some days are just incredibly photogenic.

FOR NEW BLOGGERS

Somewhere along the way during the past four years, I’ve gained a slew of new followers. Many of them fall into a group I call “baby bloggers.” Not only are they new to blogging, but they are new to life. They are children. Teenagers as young as 12 or 13 years old for some obscure reason actually follow me. Some are girls and boys who want to be writers or photographers– which makes a certain amount of sense. Others aren’t sure what they want, but have discovered blogging and follow me, hoping I’ll follow them back.

If blogging had existed when I was a teen, I’d have been doing it. For a creative kid, blogging is a godsend. So much better than keeping a diary which you have to hide under your mattress so your mom won’t read it, but she always finds it and reads it anyway. Or just writing stuff no one ever reads. When you blog, even if you don’t have followers, you can be pretty sure someone will read your stuff. Eventually.

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It’s hard to get a blog off the ground. There are weeks, months — even years — before it begins to come together. So when these kids ask me if I’ll follow them, I try to at least give them a read, a “like,” a comment, and some encouragement. I’m already following more blogs than I have time to read, so something has to really grab me to make me sign on.

Some of these baby bloggers are surprisingly good. Others — not so much. Some young photographers need to learn the rudiments of composition and stuff like focusing the camera.

In the writing department, many youngsters need to understand there’s a difference between writing and texting. For the wannabe writers, I’d like to offer some unsolicited advice:

  • Use real words, not internet abbreviations
  • Check your spelling. Spell checkers are one of the premium inventions of the past century
  • Write in sentences and paragraphs. You can break the rules, but first understand them
  • Leave white space on your pages. Too much text and graphics looks cluttered and is difficult to read
  • Punctuation is not optional. Discover how exciting commas and periods can be
  • Do not end every sentence with one or more exclamation points!!! Really, just don’t!!! If you do that all the time, it makes you sound hysterical!!!
  • Use emoticons sparingly🙂😦😀
  • Contractions require apostrophes. In other words — don’t, not dont, can’t, not cant
  • Use black text on a white background (not vice-versa) if you expect anyone over 40 to read you.

If you want grownups to read your posts — by which I mean people other than your texting pals — you will have to write in a way we old people can understand. It’s not just the words you use. It’s also subject matter. I’m mildly interested in what’s going on with your generation,  but I’m way past makeup and gossip. If you are going to write about things that only interest your high school friends, your only followers will be your high school friends. Fine if that’s what you want … but … if you want a broader audience, you’ll have to find other topics.

Most importantly, make sure that you write in a real language, not text-speak. Texting abbreviations are not English. They are something, but I’m not sure what.

CYBER IS FOREVER

A PIECE OF ADVICE | THE WORD PRESS DISCOVER CHALLENGE


For quite a few years, it’s been au courant among America’s youth — and sometimes, not so youth — to spill ones guts on the internet. I share my life, but I’m careful what I say and how I say it. I pick and choose my words and I only publish it if I don’t care who sees it. Hey, I’m retired. I’ll never go job hunting again, apply to a college, or need a government security clearance. I have the only husband I’ll ever need or want.

But you? You’ve got a life to live. Worlds to conquer. The drama you publish on the internet today can — with the click of a mouse — bite you on the ass tomorrow.

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Nothing vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything you write, every comment you make is going to show up on someone’s Google search. In its most harmless form, this stuff gives your friends something to laugh about. No big deal, right? The problem is that this same material is also stuff those who don’t like you can use against you. Easy ways for people to hurt you.

If you are past the age where you give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about you, behave accordingly. But.

If you are still in the job market, pursuing a career or building a business. If you are a teacher or other public servant. Doctor or nurse. Firefighter or cop. If you are looking for work in financial services or require a security clearance. If you are trying to get into graduate school, are in the middle of a divorce (or think you might be in the future). If anyone out there hates you for any reason, think carefully before you vent your feelings online.

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Nothing you put on the internet is private, no matter what anyone tells you. I can find posts I wrote twenty years ago which were supposedly private. Newspaper articles in which I am mentioned that were published in The Jerusalem Post more than 30 years ago.

I don’t care because I don’t have to care. But maybe you do.

Here are some of the people who might be Googling you:

  • College admissions officers
  • The police
  • This or some other government
  • The military
  • Potential employers and employees
  • Your former wife or husband … and his or her lawyers
  • Your boss and your boss’s boss
  • Your parole officer
  • Your vindictive neighbor
  • Your meddling in-laws
  • Your children and their teachers
  • Your grandmother
  • Your daughter’s boyfriend
  • Your son’s fiancé
  • Anyone with an ax to grind
  • The manager of the bank from which you are trying to get a mortgage or other financing
  • Your customers
  • A stalker.

If your stuff ever appeared on any social media outlet? It’s only a matter of time before someone who is looking will find it.

So. Be crazy. Be free. Be true to yourself. Rage at the dying of the light. Just don’t publish it.

Unpublished, it’s just a rumor.

Published? You’re busted.

NOTES FROM THE HOLODECK

For a long time, I followed writing prompts. I liked the challenge of finding something to say about a random topic. And I was interested to see the commonalities and differences between my thoughts and everyone else’s.

REUTERS/Noah Berger

REUTERS/Noah Berger

Lately, though, I want to write about other stuff. The crazy political stuff. The insanity of our failure to make any changes to our gun laws. The wild weather.

Talk about crazy. Insect plagues (not just here … all over the country) … and temperatures so high they turn forests to tinder. Flooding down the middle. Drought out west. Tornadoes threatening Chicago. Chicago? Mother Nature, like Howard Beale in “Network” screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

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Network is a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky. Directed by Sidney Lumet, it’s the story of a fictional television network willing to do anything and everything — including assassinating one of its own anchors on live television — to get better ratings. When the movie came out, it was almost science fiction. Now, except for not yet assassinating a reporter or anchor live during prime time, the rest seems tame compared to what’s truly going on.

Sometimes, I wonder if maybe Donald Trump was invented by TV network executives to get higher ratings for the news. It worked around this house. We hadn’t watched news on television — except for sports and weather — since Garry stopped being part of it.

Now, we watch the news every day just to see what new madness is in progress. “The Daily Show” seems more attuned to the surreal nature of current events than any of the standard stations.

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Not all that long ago, I had no trouble figuring out what was real and what was not. Now? There’s such a massive crossover between reality and “art,” I feel as if I’m living in the holodeck. In case you don’t remember (or never knew), the holodeck was a virtual reality facility on the Enterprise (especially on “Next Generation”). It was used to recreate environments — real and fictional — via “hard light” (solid and touchable) holograms.

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In our world, no such technology exists. Yet. So they tell us. Except that I’m beginning to wonder. Maybe this entire year is a creative exercise by some mad computer genius designing a world that could never be. Except … it does. Exist. And we are all living in it.

Or … maybe … we’ve slipped into an alternate dimension. Because this world cannot be real.

AND SO, THE BIG NUMBER DRIFTED PAST …

I wrote about almost hitting 400,000 on the 9th of June, 11 days ago. Endurance, I called it. Still blogging after all these years. Yesterday, the number was 400,792, but it has changed  hand and I don’t know what it is now. It’s a moving target.

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I had an unstable professional life. I worked almost exclusively for startup companies. Venture capital funded and typically, very small operations doing leading edge work. I fit into that kind of place and the people who worked there. It should there be no surprise that bankruptcy was often the final chapter of my jobs. In any case, single product companies don’t keep a technical writer on staff forever. No matter how much the job is supposed to be “permanent,” after the documentation is complete … it’s time to move on.

Blogging has been great for me, the best gig ever. It has outlasted all but one of my jobs and has been more fun (and more satisfying) than any of them. It has given me new friends, made me a better writer and photographer … and given me epic amounts of pure satisfaction.

Nothing lasts forever, but I’m giving it my best shot.

WHY I WRITE WHILE YOU PLAY GOLF

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

We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. For me, writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I strangle on words never used. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.

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 makes me reasonably sure they aren’t writers.

If you are a writer, you write. You will write and will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.

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I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a reading primer. It was as if a switch had been thrown in my brain. Words felt like home.

Writing was (is) exactly the same as speaking, but takes longer. I have never minded spending the extra time. I love crafting sentences until they are just right. I love that I can go back and fix written words, that unlike words you say, you can take them back.

Raison d’être? I write because I’m a writer. Writing is how I express myself, how I interact with the world. It’s my window, my doorway, my handshake, my dreams.

If you are going to be a writer, you probably already know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand the techniques you need to build a plot and create books that publishers will buy — but writing itself is a gift. If you have it, you know it — and most of us know it pretty young.

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Writers have words. They collect in your mind, waiting to be written. We have heads full of words, sentences, pronouns, adjectives, and dependent clauses.

My advice to everyone who aspires to be a writer is to write. Don’t talk about it. Do it. Whatever medium works for you. Blogging, novels, short stories, poetry. Whatever. I’d also advise you to not talk about your work until you’ve done a significant amount of writing. I can’t count the number of great ideas left on barroom floors, talked away until there was nothing left but a vague memory and a lot of empty wine glasses. Save your words to a better purpose.

Write a lot even if it’s mostly not very good. Sooner or later, you’ll find your thing. If you don’t write, it is your personal loss, but maybe it’s the world’s loss, too.

You will never know how good you can be if you don’t try.

PROCASTINATION – IT’S EARLIER WHEN YOU THINK

Procrastination? It’s not procrastination. Uh uh. It’s enjoying the freedom of unharnessed time. For long time-faceyears, I too was scheduled. Always short of time, but never late. Never missed a deadline. Always left the house early in case I encountered traffic. I used up my time making sure to have enough time.

But time is all in our heads. There’s always time and there’s always no time at all. I put off what isn’t critical, do what must be done now, and the rest? I’ll have another cup of coffee and a Danish, please.

I call and change appointments when I don’t feel like going. If traffic piles up? I’m late. I say “Oops, sorry. Hit some traffic.” The world keeps spinning. No one takes out a pistol and shoots me. Yet.

In the immortal words of Robert Heinlein’s Time Travel Corps from All You Zombies —

Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow

If At Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion

A Paradox May be Paradoctored

It is Earlier When You Think

Ancestors Are Just People

Even Jove Nods.

Priorities are important. I’ll get my leaky valve fixed. In time. I’ll get that book review written. Tomorrow. I’ll process some more of the pictures we took yesterday … later. After coffee. After I read, write and think a while.

There will be time. For the important stuff. Maybe there won’t be time for other things and, well … they just won’t get done. Because my hurrying days are done.