Harry had it right.

The English Professor at Large

At this time I am reminded of a story about Harry Truman. He said that when he was making a decision about his life he couldn’t make up his mind between playing piano in a whorehouse or becoming a politician until he realized there was no difference.

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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:


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.


We all know by now that Trump is a malignant narcissist. He’s an anti-masker. He’s anti social-distancing. He downplays the danger and severity of Coronavirus even though he has had it himself. He makes fun of people who are responsible and follow “the guidelines” to protect themselves and others against the virus.

I never thought narcissism could predispose people to be risk death in a pandemic. To become “anti-maskers” and COVID-19 rule breakers too. Several recent studies concluded that narcissistic behavior has likely contributed to noncompliance with public health standards during this pandemic. You can see narcissistic tendencies in people who feel that they are special and believe sensible rules don’t apply to them. Narcissism underlies and heightens their lack of caring about others. These are people who focus on their “rights” or their “inconveniences” rather than recognizing that obeying these rules helps other folks as well as the community as a whole.

According to psychologists, narcissists characteristically lack empathy. They feel grandiose and entitled. They do what they want, so if what they want is contrary to what the rules allow, they ignore the rules. These antisocial traits predispose large swaths of the American citizens to refuse to adhere to safety health measures –like mask-wearing, social-distancing and avoiding large groups. All of which have been put in place to limit the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

Rhetoric from all of the COVID rule-breakers highlight stunning examples of lack of empathy along with feelings of entitlement. Statements like “I don’t have to” and “You have no right to tell me what to do,” even if it’s for the common good, are typical. The rage, oppositionality, and childlike petulance are characteristic of narcissists. Somehow, you’d think actual life-and-death danger might make even narcissists stop and think about the potential effects of their behavior, but apparently not.

The U.S. is known to have higher levels of narcissistic personalities than other western democracies and no one knows why. Maybe it’s the nature of the people who came here from other places? No one is surprised that these personality issues have kept America from effectively minimizing the spread of the Coronavirus. We have actually been among the worst countries in controlling the virus and have among the highest rates of both infections and deaths — and since England is right in there with us, maybe that’s the common factor?

Perhaps the take-away from our dismal handling of this worldwide crisis is if we want to accomplish anything nationally in our future, we need to address the narcissism of a substantial block of our population.

To move forward, we need cooperation from the majority of our citizens, To make meaningful inroads into some of the attitudinal and other social issues we face — such as racism, sexism and homophobia — we’ll never eliminate these problems when more than a third of the country are reluctant to address their prejudices and refuse to be told what to think or do.

Unless most people are willing to accept majority-held values based on science, statistics, research, and facts, we’ll continue to butt our heads against these self-built walls for generations to come. It’s not a pretty picture.


Not by the river or along the road, but in our backyard … 

Most of the places on our property are either still green (the oaks) or bare (the maples) …. but these trees are aspen and I think in transition from green to gone. They are among our last autumn leaves.

Backyard autumn
In the front, still golden


Kinda like a tiny little chipmunk

As I was watching the coffee brew, I watched our “least Chipmunk” skittle up our deck and jump onto the feeder. As her little cheeks got stuffed with seeds, she would run off to feed her babies, wherever they may be. She was back and forth for about and hour and between her travels, I got a few nice — square — pictures.


It wasn’t a bad day. More, it was a day when it’s over, you wonder if you accomplished anything. There were so many stops and starts and lots of phone calls and running up and downstairs … did I do anything? I did take a few pictures but haven’t had time to process them.  The rain is close to ending. It was a good rain. Much better than was promised. I know a lot of people resent a day without the sun, but we’ve had a lot of sun and that is why we need the rain.

Our nor’easters are essentially “local hurricanes.” Storms come in from the ocean and start to spin. They don’t move. So if it’s rain, there’s flooding. In the winter, we’ve gotten as much as three or four feet of snow before it finally breaks up. With the contractor working, there was a strong sense of pressure to get finished before the weather moved in. Then, there were phone calls. I’m checking out other medical insurance. I should have made the calls earlier in the week, but I had to make them today.

Mumford River

Meanwhile, it’s the world series but I think they are going to cancel the American League Pennant because of the weather. A glitch in Garry’s baseball channel went on for hours and entailed a prolonged wait on hold for tech support. To learn, as I suspected, they were having problems. The baseball channel has a lot of problems, but if you want to watch baseball, gotta have it. I needed to fix Garry’s broken email too — which wasn’t difficult but took a long time. Warning! Delete old emails! If you don’t, eventually your email server stops serving and goes on strike.

The contractor did a GREAT job on the house. He’s still here. It is a real improvement. No more rot and no more of that sloppy, moldy old door … and the front door is finally insulated and nicely finished. It needs a new painting, but I think maybe it’s too late.

Tomorrow, we have to take the car in because somehow, one of the two latches that keep the hood in place broke off. No accident or anything. It’s just gone. It’s not a big deal driving a few miles into town, but a longer trip could cause serious damage. Meanwhile, since both Garry and I have doctor appointments next week at UMass, their automated equipment calls every day for each appointment. They are such long calls, too. I feel a powerful need to go edit their electronic phone calls.

None of this sounds like a big deal and it wasn’t a big deal, but It was busy and fragmented. On my agenda for tomorrow was explaining to the doctor that Garry’s has run out of hydrochlorothiazide because The Duke ate the container. Duke doesn’t (fortunately!) eat the pills. Just the plastic container. And any wood he can wrap his jaws around. I have a lot of canine antiqued wood furniture. Duke is not the first wood-chewer in the household. Only the most recent and enthusiastic.

Wood-Eating Duke


This week, Duke rejected a meal — which all the people in the house had happily eaten the previous day — because it had potatoes in it. Duke, who claims he is not a dog, does not like potatoes. Any potatoes. Not even salty, curly, spiced French Fries!  “But,” said my son, “ALL dogs love fries.” Not El Duque. He used to like potatoes, mind you. In fact, he used to beg for them. Now? He puts a fry in his mouth, carries it to a corner where he drops it, then comes back to beg for another. Because the new one might be better than the last.


Having him reject the same chicken stew we all loved was my final straw as a chef.

“It’s dog food for you,” I announced. How spoiled is your dog when he gets picky about human food? I had actually begun to carefully pick out the cooked peppers from food since Duke refuses to eat them. Clearly, a few weeks of dog food should clarify his position in the food chain. For the first time in recent memory, he didn’t get any leftovers last night. There really weren’t any leftovers anyhow, but I usually save my last bite or two for him because he’s a good boy. But good boys do NOT reject my chicken stew (which had actually been a pot-pie, but humans ate the crust).

I couldn’t help myself. I was insulted by my dog. As permanent full-time cook, his rejection of my chicken stew — good chicken stew — was more than I could handle. I am convinced before the week is out, Duke will start to recognize his doghood. He is not a person. He is a dog because he is eating dog food. Which is probably better for him anyway, though frankly, all that chicken with onions and mushrooms and tiny cut-up (by hand!) potatoes looked pretty good to me.



The other day, I was looking at the sales on one of my favorite clothing sites and realized that they now sell masks to go with every outfit you own. At least a dozen colors plus lots of patterns. This COVID experience has been interesting in a lot of ways, but for some reason, I didn’t expect fashion changes. I don’t know why. I suppose, like most people, I thought this would come and go in a couple of weeks or maximum months. Who knew it would become part of our lives for so long? This change in what is a pretty conservative clothing collection seemed so odd to me. It also means that they — clothing manufacturers — think we are going to be wearing masks for a long time to come.

Masked and ruthless!
Wisdom from Bizarro and the giant heads on Easter Island.


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.


Kinda like Birds of Many Feathers

I have to admit, I have taken a lot of pictures of birds. i know this because when i look for pictures — any kind of pictures — the page is dominated by photographs of birds. I hadn’t realized I’d become so obsessive about taking birdy pictures, but the evidence is hard to ignore.

That for the past 7 months we have rarely left this property probably has a lot to do with it. The birds — and associated other small wildlife — are the only interesting things to take pictures of.


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Outside Your Home or View

The autumn leaves are getting pale, though probably down by the river they are still bright. Here, though, they are pale. It’s definitely a result of the prolonged drought. I hope the drought is ending. We got a inch and a half of rain earlier in the week and we are supposed to get more over the weekend. We have a big water deficit to make up: about 9 inches in Boston and about 7 or 8 inches locally. I hope we are (finally) on our way!

These were taken by Garry and me between August and October 2020.

Cee's Black-White


The Brotherhood of Man, Rich Paschall

“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” – as translated from the historic Greek in Mark 3:25

The idea of a house divided against itself has appeared frequently in literature over the centuries. In the Aesop (b. 620 BC) fable “The Four Oxen and the Lion” we learn that the four oxen are only safe against the lion if they stand together. When they argued and separated, of course, they were doomed to be caught by the lion, one at a time. From that point on, this obvious point often arises in stories, mottos, and songs.

In 1970, the British pop group The Brotherhood of Man was the first to release “United We Stand.” The song reached number 13 on the US charts but hung around long enough to be considered number 64 for the year. The message seems more important to us now than it did 50 years ago. For its golden anniversary have another listen, or perhaps you are hearing it for the first time.

And if the world around you falls apart my love
Then I’ll still be here
And if the going gets too hard along the way
Just you call I’ll hear
For united we stand. Divided we fall

“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!”. – John Dickinson, July 7, 1768

See Also: “Golden Oldies, Part One,” My Top Twenty, 1970 Edition, SERENDIPITY, October 6, 2020.
Golden Oldies, Part II,” The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50, 1970, SERENDIPITY, October 4, 2020.
One Hit Wonders, 1970 Edition,” SERENDIPITY, September 13, 2020.