WHAT MAKES A GOOD POST? HOW ABOUT A HAPPY POSTER? – Marilyn Armstrong

I break my own rules all the time. So the most important rule — the ring to rule them all, so to speak — is to do your own “thing,” whatever it may be.

I have to put this note in here. Not everyone who likes writing is a good writer. Sad, but true. If you have a gift, you will get better. The more you write, the better you will get — IF you are tough enough as an editor to recognize when your writing isn’t up to par and willing to rewrite what needs rewriting.

I’ve become a much better writer — at least for the purposes of blogging — than I was at the beginning. My writing is more crisp, sharper, leaner. The good news is the better you get, the less editing you need. But if you aren’t talented, you may not be able to get the response you hope for.

Some people are totally into pictures and writing is mainly captioning — a different story. But at some point, if writing is what you want to do, you need to assess if you have “it” or not. Reality counts, your personal wishes notwithstanding.

Our polling area

That caveat dealt with, as far as I can tell, there are a few things that work for me and pretty much always work.  I suspect they will work for most people.

These aren’t rules, merely tips. You are more than welcome to ignore me. I often ignore myself. For me, the point of blogging is getting to do what I enjoy and “views” be damned.

– Keep posts short

–  Make it funny when you can

–  If we can’t make them laugh, make them cry

–  Good (or interesting) pictures get more hits than mediocre writing

–   Post often. Let me clarify: Not everyone reads all your posts. In fact, I’m betting that most people read one or two. Some only come for photography, others for writing. I try to present a variety. Also, some periods are inherently busier than others. There’s more news, more stuff to say.

I do not mean every time you have a thought run through your head, it’s time to write another post. For that, we have Facebook and Twitter.

 –  If someone else has written it better than you, reblog theirs and ALWAYS give credit to the original source and writer. Never ever take credit for someone else’s writing.

One crumpled maple leaf

It’s often said that “Less is more.” In a post, fewer words are good — or more to the point, keep the writing lean — but not fewer ideas. And sometimes, the subject requires you have to write longer. If you need the words, use them.

A pretty picture is always worth a few looks.

Fewer posts are not so good. If you give people more to look at and read, they’ll visit more often. On the other hand, beware of posting so much you become a spammer. I have a “number of fingers on one hand” for the maximum number of posts I’ll put up in a day (sometimes something comes up I didn’t expect, but I don’t want to fill up everyone’s inbox).

There are a couple of other things worth mentioning. Please don’t put a lot of white text on a black background. White on dark is hard to read for everyone but particularly difficult older people.

Dark backgrounds are beautiful for photography, but not for text. Depending on whether you will be mostly photographs or primarily textural, you are better off going with white or nearly white.

Please, nothing vivid. No hot pink or lime green. No orange, turquoise, or royal blue. It’s blinding. People will avoid your blog just because it exceeds their “ugliness” quotient for that day — no matter how well you write. Not to mention how non-neutral color will clash with photographs.

Template Issues

If you are posting mostly photographs, you need a format wide enough to see the pictures. If you need a magnifying glass, rethink your layout. A good photograph needs room to breathe. Moreover, your lovely work won’t look lovely if you cramp in into a tiny space.

Early autumn at Manchaug

Also, know that all WordPress templates will fit in any format: phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.

Font size is an issue. If it’s smaller than 10 points, I can’t read it. If it’s smaller than 8 points no one can read it. Generally, sans-serif typefaces (like Arial or Helvetica) appear bigger than serif types (Times Roman et al). If you don’t know the difference between typefaces, use Google and look them up. This really is important to readers.

Don’t overload your page with gimmicks and gadgets and badges. Two columns are plenty. Three is merely distracting. If it gets busy enough, your traffic will diminish and I will be one of those who will vanish.

White space is very important online. You need spaces between paragraphs, indents on either side. Do not clump everything together. It’s unattractive and sometimes, dizzying. When you are into page design, less IS more. Your page should be no more than 60% text and graphics and the rest should be white space. Again, less is more, so if you don’t understand formatting issues, do some reading.

Presentation matters even more online than in a book.

Do the best you can, but don’t kill yourself. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth the effort. We aren’t making a pile of money doing this, so if you aren’t enjoying the process, figure out a way to make it more fun … or consider other options.

Use photographs. Write stuff to which people can relate. If people identify with you, they become friends and supporters. Be entertaining, even when your material is serious.

You can make a difference sometimes. When it happens, it is deeply satisfying.

It helps to have a bit of luck!


NOTE: These pictures are here because they are pretty. They have nothing to do with the post. They are included to keep your eyes from getting bored with just text. I’m actually phobic about all text all the time.

A COUPLE OF DAYS BREAK – Marilyn Armstrong

Owen will be here with the dogs while the beasties will be doing their usual fine job of protecting the place from any dogs who might show up.

We’ll be down at the Curley’s place for a few days and back home Friday. I worked very hard to schedule posts for the next few days and I will answer comments when I can, but I need a break. When I get back, I’m going to see what I can do to deal with the email deluge on my computer.

I didn’t read almost anyone’s stuff today. I was working so hard at trying to create three days of posts, I’ve had little time for anything else. But, as I keep saying, I really need a break and it has to start sometime. This seems a good time.

I’ll pop in from time to time when I can, but meanwhile, I’ll just bet the world will continue to have one catastrophe after another, even if I’m not online.

PARODY TRA LA, DUM DE DUM DE DUM DUM … – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Parody


What is nearly tragic is even though these were written more than 50 years ago, they are maybe even more relevant now. We don’t learn easily, do we?

And who better than Tom Lehrer?

And finally, there’s Monty Python: “”What have you got to lose, y’know? You come from nothing, you go back to nothing. What’ve you lost? Nothing!”

 

 

TRUE, FALSE, OR NUTS? – Q & A – Marilyn Armstrong

Strange Questions and Weird Answers


Fandango got the questions from Melanie who got them from Rory. I stole them from Fandango. Now, you are welcome to steal them from me.

Rory’s rules were that you’re supposed to answer the true or false questions the wrong way.

“Don’t answer the questions the right way!” his rules state. And the questions are not just true or false questions. They’re true or false and prove it questions.


Well, here are my answers. Are they true or false? These days where truth is in short supply, you might need a special prosecutor to figure it out.

1. Camels store water in their humps? True or False & Prove It
Lawrence of Arabia

It’s not exactly water. It’s kind of watery. But the camels like it.

2. Snakes only close their eyelids when they sleep? True or False & Prove It?

I have not spent sufficient time with lizard-type snakes to know, but human snakes ALWAYS have their eyes open … and on your wallet.

3. The saber-toothed tiger (Smilodon) was exterminated by Neanderthal man? True or False & Prove It?

The Smilodon was not a saber-toothed tiger. He was the original smiley face. Have you ever seen a smiling saber-toothed tiger? Neither have I and I rest my case.

4. Leonardo da Vinci employed hundreds of craftsmen to build his inventions? True or False & Prove It?

He never worked out the airplane, so I’m gonna say, not really. He meant to get it all done, but he was just so overbooked, he didn’t finish it.

5. The carpet python can hunt in complete darkness? True or False & Prove It?

False. My carpet has no python.

6. Big Bertha was the nickname given to German zeppelins? True or False & Prove It?
Not Big Bertha

False. Big Bertha was my great-aunt. I am named after her. My true name is Bertha and I’m pretty sure I can prove it. Pretty sure.

7. In the 17th century, Wall Street was located on the border of a Dutch colony?  True or False & Prove It?
Wall Street

False. Wall Street is the access road to the Chinese “Great Wall.” My GPS told me so and I always believe the GPS.

8. Yeast must be added to the grapes to obtain alcohol?  True or False & Prove It?

False. All you need are the feet of sexy young women. Many television shows depict this, so it must be true. Right?

9. Zeus is the male god behind Creation? True or False & Prove It?
The really big planet named Jupiter

False. It was Jupiter. He also made the planet Jupiter and was the original designer behind the ring of Saturn … and that dinky little car that was wildly overpriced. Jupiter should be ashamed.

10. For a long time, milk was a luxury? True or False & Prove It?

I loathe milk so it couldn’t possibly be a luxury. Yuck.


Melanie asked two additional questions.

A)  On Good Friday in 1930, the BBC reported, “There is no news.” Instead, they played piano music. True or False & Prove It?

True, but really it was an advertisement for the unrealized entertainment potential of radio. They hadn’t yet discovered advertising.

B)  There really was a Captain Morgan. He was a Welsh privateer (a legal pirate) who later became the lieutenant governor of Jamaica. True or False & Prove It?

The Captain never died. He is alive and well if a bit loopy. He has stayed drunk since the mid-1600s which might be a record if anyone is keeping them.


From Fandango:

1) “Truthiness” is the word Donald Trump coined to counter allegations that he’s a pathological liar. True or False & Prove It?

Nope. The only word he created was “covfefe.”

2) “Papa Doc” was the nickname given to Ernest Hemingway when he removed a harpoon from the fin of a great white whale. True or False & Prove It? 

Papa Doc was not a doctor and he definitely wasn’t Ernie. Papa Doc was more of a mass murderer. During his time in “office” (he was the father of “Baby” Doc), the largest export from Haiti were corpses. He liked killing people.

Seriously. Corpses.

Now, about my questions:


1)   What kind of dog do you call this? Please provide paperwork.

2)  Is there any such thing as climate change? Prove it.

You are more than welcome to use these questions and add to them. Just please, remember to not tell the truth. It would only confuse the public.

I NEED A GUIDE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Guide


I do not need a caretaker, though lord knows I would certainly like someone to clean my house and also, please, cook dinner!

I need someone to guide me through what I need to do each day. Remind me what day it is. If I have an appointment. Where the appointment is. Make sure I remember to take the GPS or printed directions — or both. The GPS is a fine idea, but around these exurban spaces, it gets wonky. It sends us on bizarre excursions down woodland trails that haven’t been used since pre-Colonial days. I don’t know where it gets its mapping information.

The iPad mini 4

All the GPS’s seem to be made in Germany, so maybe that’s the problem.

I need someone to remind me whether or not I took my medication today. Or was that yesterday?

I used to have a memory that took care of all this. When that began to get overloaded, I got a PDA — a cell phone without the phone or internet. It was essentially an electronic datebook. I used mine all the time for keeping my schedule and reminding me what else needed doing. When I was working, there were a lot of things on my agenda.

Garry’s standard iPad

One day, my PDA batteries died and the entire memory left with it. Because it was my single source for everything, I developed a certain bitter feeling towards depending entirely on electronic connections.

Still, Garry and I were the first cell phone users I know. Garry was always somewhere in the middle of who-knows-where doing a story about something or other and I worked miles away, often in another state.

Phones

One of my first gifts to him was a giant brick telephone. They must have had one hell of a signal because Garry could call me from anywhere and ALWAYS get me. That battery lasted three or four days before needing to recharge.

It weighed about 5-pounds. When the Blackberry came out, we switched to them. Even Garry loved that Blackberry. It had a little keyboard and he wrote all his email on it. It had a good, clear sound for telephone calls and it worked. It was stable, strong and did exactly what it promised.

Somehow, we got snookered out of the Blackberries. They were going out of business and there wasn’t a choice, but neither of us loved a cell phone after that.

I’m okay when I have to use the Samsung we’ve got, but it’s just an emergency phone. I will never pick it up voluntarily. It has mediocre sound and I make phone calls.

I don’t text. My thumbs are the wrong shape.

I don’t write lists on it, either. We write lists on pieces of paper. With pens. Even in the grocery store where there’s barely a signal, that piece of paper works fantastically well. I should point out that we live in a river valley and our reception is pretty pathetic. Usually, now that the cell connects to WiFi, we can call out, but it’s pretty hard for anyone to call in. Especially other people who also live in a river valley — which is actually almost everyone I know.

On the other hand, if I had a guide, I wouldn’t have any excuse for forgetting everything for an entire week, then having to call everyone whose appointment I missed and remake the appointment.

I often wonder if my forgetting nearly everything isn’t my way of coping with a world that’s spinning out of control. The weather, the climate, the politics. Even this blog is crazy-time.

And then, there’s email. I clear out all the email I haven’t managed to get to on the day it arrives, usually about 250 items (depending on the volume of political and news mailings) and when I get up the next morning, there are another few hundred.

I think I need another me to remind me to be me.

BOOKISH QUESTIONS AND ODDLY BRIEF ANSWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango plucked these from the blog of Melanie at who picked them up from Teresa. Interesting book questions for those of us who read.

The Questions:

1-Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been gifted?
2-Have you ever claimed to have read a book when you haven’t?
3-Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?
4-Have you ever read a series out-of-order?
5-Have I ever spoiled a book for someone?
6-Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?
7-Have you ever bad-mouthed a book you actually liked?

And now, the answers – because I can discuss books and remain sane.

1-Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been gifted?

No. Everyone I know is desperate to get rid of books, not collect them. We are all rather bookish people and books come to you like iron filings to a magnet.

2-Have you ever claimed to have read a book when you haven’t?

No. If I haven’t read it, I will say I haven’t read. Sometimes I’ll even explain why I haven’t read it. Usually, I have a reason.

3-Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

No, but I’ve given away books and hoped I never got them back. Oddly enough, they always come back.

4-Have you ever read a series out-of-order?

Sure. I try to read them in order, but sometimes, you read a book, realize there are other books in the series and you go back and read them.

5-Have I ever spoiled a book for someone?

Not intentionally or that I know about.

6-Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?

I’ve put down books and never picked them up again. If I don’t like it, I won’t bother to finish it. I have read a lot of books and I’ve never been embarrassed about not reading another one.

7-Have you ever bad-mouthed a book you actually liked?

No. But I have complimented books and given moderately good reviews to books I really didn’t like. Authors are sensitive. I hate hurting their feelings and just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean someone else might not love it. Also, believe it or not, authors read reviews. Even mine.

COSTUMES – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – COSTUMES


Photos: Garry Armstrong

I wanted to wear a different pair of earrings today. I’ve had them quite a while, but I’ve never worn them. Not they I don’t love them, because I really do. They are gorgeous. Big, bright, beaded. Which also means they are quite lightweight and comfortable. All good.

Black and silver

But big bead earrings break. They are great for a while, the one day you feel this strange feeling that something is spilling off your head and it’s your gorgeous long bead earring become a million tiny beads. I have a set that I wanted to wear today that are black ravens with turquoise eyes, but one of them has come slightly unraveled and I’m afraid if I wear them, it will come completely apart.

Red and turquoise

So I admire them in the jewelry box and worry about wearing them. Of the most beloved bead earrings, I am wearing the sturdiest pair. These are built on a silver frame with silver beats and tips. I think it’s the silver that protects them because I’ve had versions of these for at least six or seven years. I wear them a lot and none of broken.

I have two pairs of them in black and silver. Identical. I thought I had lost a set, so I bought another — and of course, promptly found the originals. I still periodically misplace jewelry, though less often than I used to. This might be because I travel less, though it turns out most of my misplacement took place at home. I only thought I left them somewhere else.

They always turn up where I’m sure I’ve already looked many times. Have I mentioned “the pixie factor”?

Red and turquoise again

Except for my beautiful green turquoise earrings which seem to have vanished for good and all.

I have bead earring in varying shades of red with silver and dark purple. I have them in red and turquoise. Another pair which looks like red and turquoise, but includes some dark purple beads too. I’m sure the designer and I are the only people who can tell the difference.

I have them in all turquoise, too.

Red earrings – at Manchaug

Every time this designer makes a new pair, I buy them. She only makes one at a time and though the differences are getting subtle, I love them. I’ve now got 6 pairs of them in various color combinations. I wish she’d make a set in a new set of colors. I can but hope.

Costuming for me is dressing “up” which actually means the same clothing I wear, but clean (no dog hair or for that matter, my own hair), solid so the jewelry shows well. Basically, black yoga pants, a black top, and my best Native American jewelry can get me through almost anything except sometimes, a wedding.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Black ones again

No Halloween costume. Sorry!