OUT-OF-FASHION – Marilyn Armstrong

FUCHSIA – OUT-OF-FASHION?

When I discovered my favorite hanging flowers are officially “out of fashion” — meaning I can’t buy any, at least not in Uxbridge, I got depressed. I never imagined flowers could go out-of-fashion. It’s bad enough that I’m obsolete, but fuchsia? My glorious pink and purple flowers that I love … and which grow perfectly on our rather shady deck?

Isn’t it lovely?

So imagine this morning’s delight when I realized that somehow, without much thought or attention, I’d grown orchids. I’d seen the shoots, but I didn’t see any buds. Watered lightly, left them to the light and sent them my best hope for a rapid blossoming.

One of them is blooming and there are many more buds waiting. I think only one stalk will flower, but I could be wrong.

I’d like to say that while these are some of the most beautiful flowers to look at, they are amazing tricky to photograph. They are so translucent you don’t get the flower colors as much as you get the glow of the sunlight through them. And that is not a sunny window.

I will happily accept all congratulations, even though to be fair, I didn’t do anything except water them when they got really dry. Sometimes, that’s all you really need to do.

I sure hope that these don’t go out of fashion. Between my obsolete self, my crumbling home, and variously disabled body … well — out-of-fashion is possibly the kindest way to put it.

RETROSPECTIVE: AFTERTHOUGHT AND FOND FAREWELL – Marilyn Armstrong

RETROSPECTIVE: afterthought & farewell


Do you remember when we competed to get the “Freshly Pressed” award? When there was a weekly prompt that they actually read and supposedly “judged” for quality and uniqueness?

Remember when one day, it vanished? We didn’t even get a marketing letter about that one. It vanished and never returned and Freshly Pressed went with it.

Can you recall when we got little prizes and bonuses for however many views we got … or the number of “likes” or “follows”? That was when blogging was what the platform was about. Almost every author I followed had an active blog on Word Press.

Gradually, all of that has dribbled away. With dissolving the last of it including the Daily Prompt which has got to be the most effortless prompt in creation (and is probably done by a generating app in someone’s laptop), they’ve taken a platform famed for its connectivity and unique friendliness and dropped to see if they can make two billion next year on top of the billion they got this year.

The Years of Serendipity

I know everyone says that “WordPress is free,” but how many of you do NOT pay a fee to upgrade your site? Most of us pay. It’s not the $49.99 a month they want for their business site, but most of us don’t have that kind of money and what’s more, we aren’t businesses. Authors, artists. Thoughtful people with ideas to share. Painters with art. Musicians.

Religious people and atheists share a platform and manage to communicate with each other in a world where this kind of communication is almost unheard of.

I would like to think that somehow, WordPress will still be the same place it used to be, but I doubt it. In every other blogging site where they have wrenched the soul out of it in the name of somehow making a lot more money, the results have been catastrophic. Most of those sites are gone — entirely. The rest have become something so different no one recognizes them. Remember when Reddit was the “hot spot” to get your work recognized? They changed it and now, it’s no kind of hot spot. No one cares if their material is there. It doesn’t matter.

Now, it’s all about monetizing your site. Monetizing? I am retired. I don’t sell anything. When I was selling things, I had a commercial site on a commercial marketing platform. I paid my way along with all the other business sites. In 2008, when our economy crashed, I ended that business. It was not a good business for those financial times.

I missed the extra money, but I was done with business. Meanwhile, I had been blogging a little here and there. GeoCities (remember when Yahoo did something?) and Storyline (I think that was the name — they sold themselves to Facebook which promptly dissolved them; they are gone). There some others until I hooked onto WordPress and found a home.

The blogging platform that is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

There were good years — 2012 through 2014 — and then they started urging us to make money. They would help us. Which was interesting because before that, it was illegal to try to make money on your site. We were bloggers, not businesses. Our goal was to talk about art and books and ideas. To be thoughtful, intelligent, creative.

Now … what will it be? If we aren’t bloggers – thoughtful and creative – then this is another Ruby Lane where businesses line up on a platform and everyone sells whatever they’ve got. I’m not a business. I’m not going to be a business. If I wrote another book, I could publicize it, but that’s not a “business” and anyway, writers don’t have a lot of spare change.

So this is a retrospective to what this platform was and I wish would remain. It is a sad farewell to something which is about to start its long slide to nothing special.

Should WordPress — against all odds — create a business audience out of 12-million bloggers (something no other organization has yet done), it won’t be “our” WordPress, just be another business platform.

Worse, it’s doomed to failure because this isn’t that audience. I keep saying it. The first and possibly ONLY rule of marketing is “KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.”

WordPress doesn’t get that.

And then, there is WordPress

I am linked to many of you as followers and vice versa. If you get my emails indicating I’ve posted, we will stay in touch. There are a lot of people trying to figure out a more direct way to keep in touch. I’m on top of that.

In the meantime it turns out money is what matters, forever and through all eternity. Ah-men.

BROKEN? ALSO, DISCONNECTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Broken

I got up this morning in a pretty good mood. Bright sun, not humid. Looks like a nice day as spring heads into summer. Put up the coffee, gave the dogs treats. My son came over to install the new router and that’s when things started to go downhill.

The new one is exactly the same but bigger.

I hate new routers. It means everything which connects to WiFi is going to need a new password and a full restart. The phone started ringing … and that was when I realized we still have one, single hard-wired WiFi item in the house — my husband’s caption phone. I couldn’t get it to hook up and it turned out that this was because I had not yet fully installed the router itself.

To make this just a little more difficult, Garry’s phone is at the back of the house in his office. The router is in the middle room which used to be my office. And my computer is in the living room where I mostly live. I needed my computer. I needed information off the bottom of the previous router and I needed the serial number from the new router. It’s easily a dozen numbers long and probably 6-point type. Does anyone try to read those numbers?

I unplugged my computer and kept moving me and it from room to room.

Of course, this is the week that I had to reinstall everything on my computer and that meant I have new passwords and I don’t remember any of them. Although I used to have a NetGear account, I’ve apparently changed email addresses since then, so I had to register as if it were the first time.

I did that. Then I had to reinstall Garry’s caption phone and of course, it had a whole set of new software on it (we don’t reinstall it often, so inevitably when we do this, there’s always new software). Yet, I got all this done and somewhere in here, I vacuumed the floors, too.

I still hadn’t gotten a cup of coffee — was cruel and unusual punishment. I needed coffee!

The doctor’s scheduler called and lucky for me, that was exactly when Garry emerged from the bathroom. I set up his dates for pre-op and the surgery. Plus the first follow-up post surgery — and realized, I also had to arrange for him to get a meningitis shot. Which, it turned out, I have to get at the pharmacy, but not our usual pharmacy because the vaccine for people over 55 is different than the one for everyone else and requires a nurse practitioner. Which means CVS. Which I couldn’t speak to because they only have recorded messages. No humans.

I tried to call the hospital, but kept getting disconnected. By now, I’m breathing slowly and deeply because this is stuff I simply must get done, no matter how aggravating. It’s important. In the case of the vaccine, also expensive!

For reasons best known to our government, vaccinations (except flu) are NOT covered by medical insurance. Don’t ask. I don’t have an answer. A lot of our medical care is senseless and this is one of the more irksome items.

Garry wants a list of grocery to get and I feel brainless. I can’t give him an answer because my head is swimming with vaccinations and appointments and computers and I really, really need coffee.

It’s two in the afternoon. I still haven’t cleaned Bonnie’s eyes and I have no idea where I’m getting $150 for Garry’s vaccination. Some credit card, I assume. Lord knows how I’ll pay for it. I also have to change the post surgical checkup because it’s on the only day Owen can’t drive us there.

If I drink some coffee, I’m sure this will all work out. I’m sure of it. No, really. I’m sure.

It’s all about the coffee.

DREAM AND REAL – Marilyn Armstrong

Juxtapose

In my dreams – now rapidly fading as dreams do when you wake – is that I was so exhausted I could not continue. I didn’t know why I was so exhausted, only that I could barely raise my head from the pillow. I knew I had to quit the job that I had and I wasn’t entirely clear what job I was working

It turned out I was working for the military, searching out information on obscure (unknown?) bases in distant places … and I was not allowed to tell anyone what I was doing because I was supposedly doing something else. I had gotten my old friend Dorothy to join me and she had been working on some other base in some other part of the world, but had finally had enough and quit.

I wanted to quit too, but I felt I had to stay because it was secret and military and somehow, important, though I wasn’t sure why it was important. Or to whom.

Juxtapose reality: Life has been exhausting. I do what I must and then I do what I should and just when I think I’ve done everything I need to do, it’s the next day and I have to do most of it again and I know it will never end.

Moral of the story? I need to cut back on what I think are the requirements of life. But I’m not sure what they are anymore. I’m no longer sure where the necessities are versus the things I really want to do. For whatever reason, they have become so entangled that I just try to do everything. Because I know that no one else will do them.

Having dug my computer out of hacker land, I’m changing the router – which I can ill-afford to do – but I feel pretty exposed and I need to feel more protected in a world gone mad with crazy people who are out to get me.

Why is anyone trying to get me? Or us? We have so little, why us? We know there is no answer to that question, or at least, no answer that will make us understand. The ugliness of the world is the real truth of it.

A group who had little feel they owe nothing to anyone but themselves. They probably laugh at us when they imagine how many poor people have been made even poorer through their efforts.

The right way to sleep

A cold shiver runs down my back when I realize that there are so many evil people in this world and my trusting them has not gained respect but simply made me a target.

If my dreams are telling me anything, it’s that there is too much on my plate. Too much of it feels desperately important and frightening. Oppressive. Somehow, I have to find a way to lower the pressure. I don’t know how.

I wish I had a list of ways to get it done. Something. This is no way for me to be living, not at this time in my life.

I, CLONE – Marilyn Armstrong

Doppelganger

So my clone went to the police station this morning to report being hacked. It wasn’t a crime because I was massively inconvenienced, but nothing was stolen. They tried, they failed.

I spent all day yesterday until the wee hours of the morning trying to reconstruct my computer. It’s now about 75% done. I take long periods off because I really hate this part of computing. It’s just boring and you sit for a long time watching percentages very slowly going up, finding the latest version of whatever software you used to use and you try to install like you did, but for some reason, this time is doesn’t want to install.

Some stuff has disappeared entirely and you realize you really don’t remember most of your passwords. Consider the possibility of getting one of the pieces of software that saves your passwords … but what if something happens and IT goes missing — taking all your passwords with it? Don’t tell me it can’t happen. It definitely can, has, and will again in the future.

I am adding this because it proves that I ALMOST have my photography stuff working. Almost. Not quite.

It turns out, the policeman with whom I was speaking got hacked too and his computer is in the same lock down mine was in. Lucky guy, because I know how to fix it. It is very easy, insanely boring and takes FOREVER. No hard choices to make and no requirements of knowing anything about computers. Mostly what you need is endless patience.

I told him. He was figuring he was going to have to go buy a new computer, so maybe I saved him a thousand dollars or so. It felt good to know something useful to someone else.

There’s a lot of this going around and there will always be more to come. I pointed out that Charter, our Uxbridge cable company (we don’t get a choice, someone made a deal and we live with it) has a firewall which — in theory — should have stopped this. But Adobe was hacked. Experion was hacked. Bank of America was hacked.

Given one thing or another expecting Charter to protect us was stupid, but I wasn’t thinking about getting hacked. Viruses and worms — but HACKING? Seriously? Me?

Just because I could do it!

I was afraid of viruses and worms, but not hacking. Why would anyone bother to hack me? We have no money and we are no one special.

Apparently this is a totally random venture. Because no matter who you are, these rat bastards can try to squeeze a little money out of you.

All my credit cards are fraud-protected. I lost nothing. They were also on the ball. Amazon and Walmart stopped the crooks before I knew they were there, while we were at the hospital. Which was when most of this was going on. I’m not sure if my being home would have made a difference. I wasn’t, so it doesn’t matter.

I promised the people at PayPal that I’d go to the police and report it because, she says, they collect the data and it’s important if we want to ever get rid of these rats.

They really ARE rats.

HACKED – Marilyn Armstrong

Isn’t it fortunate I got a second computer!

It turns out this hacking thing is a big deal and it was all over the TV news tonight. They are hacking routers. Apparently, if you reboot your router (unplug or turn it off — wait 20 seconds — turn it back on or plug it back in) will help, but you need a patch from your manufacturer. Which I can’t get because my aging router, bought in 2015 (!) is no longer supported, though it is still for sale on Amazon. Very popular, too.

So to get my computer back, I burned it down. Fry baby fry.

Deleted everything on both drives, added a new version of Windows 10 and now I’m reconstructing it. I kind of forgot what an empty computer looks like.

No documents. No pictures. No application. Nothing at all.

It’s alarming. It took me two tries to get it to “take,” so I’ve been on the phone or the computer pretty much all day yesterday and today. I haven’t been writing or editing photographs. I’ve been figuring out WHO the hackers are — the same groups in India that are sponsored by the Russians and gave us good old DJT, our worst ever president (though to be fair, there have been other stinkers).

This set of hackers are dark web kiddos. Wow. Amazingly, they got nothing. Not a thing. Not a dime. I have been massively inconvenienced, but it didn’t cost me any money and I am extremely lucky. I had to cancel a credit card, create ALL new passwords for anything that mattered.

My brain is spinning. I restored 70,000 pictures to the hard drive and I have to restore documents, but these are all old documents and can really live in the external drives.

Bonnie guarding my computer

I’m sure everyone who has ever been hacked has asked the big question: Why me? There is no answer. People get their identities stolen every day. Credit cards are frequently hacked. This is not even unusual. I suppose what made it unusual was that I am so careful, I didn’t expect it.

Although I’ve restored pictures to my computer, it’s midnight and I’m tired. It’s going to take me a few days get a grip on things again, so I’m probably going to comment when I can, respond as best I can manage, but this has put a big hole in my life.

You have no idea how glad I am that I had my photographs and documents backed up on external hard drives. If I had been using all “clouds,” I’m not sure I could have restored things they way I have. Mind you, I’m not done. There’s a lot of software I still need to download including OpenOffice.

That’s for tomorrow. I’m glad I have my computer back. I wasn’t sure how this would go. It could have been much worse — and this was bad enough.

Reboot your routers, folks. Actually, it’s probably a good idea to do that every day or so. On principle.

WE ARE ARCHAIC – AND I’VE BEEN HACKED – Marilyn Armstrong

ARCHAIC

We were the hot new writers that got WordPress ‘on the board’ back in their early days, but we are old now and they want something different. More money. A lot more money. Apparently the profits they are making are insufficient to keep them rolling along, so pretty much everything that made them special is being trashed in favor of getting more people to buy expensive — very expensive — business accounts.

Since most of us are NOT businesses, we can’t possibly afford the price and for a writer or photographer, the offering is meaningless. If you aren’t selling a product, you simply don’t need what they are selling. And since they aren’t offering it “piecemeal,” it’s impossible. So at the end of this month, there will be no daily post, no weekly photo challenge, no other challenges. None.

That was the second worst news of yesterday. The top news of the day was I got hacked. Not infected with a virus, but actually hacked, like big companies. Which is pretty weird since this isn’t a company, big or little and we don’t have any money. What we do have and what they are after, are credit cards. I have been very cautious about adding cards to services. That’s the plus. And they didn’t get anything money from me, though they tried. Amazon spotted them and closed me down immediately as did PayPal. Walmart took a lot longer, but ultimately got it done.

The problem was not solved on my computer, so lurking beneath the surface of my computer is a massive porn site in Nigeria and under the pornography is a bunch of hackers from the dark web.

Whoa! The dark web? Seriously? Me? Why me?

I’m sure everyone who has ever been hacked has asked that question while pointing their lonely face at the virtual sky.

The answer is I don’t know. I’m sure that Microsoft knows and so does Dell, because the only way I realized I had been hacked was that they called ME. These guys are on their “hot list” of dangerous hackers, so now I’m listed on the “dangerous hackers” site too.

My accounts are closed and the only serious problem for me is that this includes Kindle books and Audible. I don’t have a password at Amazon and won’t until I call them and tell them it’s safe.

That’s the bad news. The better news is that I back up my stuff. Pictures and documents are all backed up to external hard drives. NOT clouds because if they were clouded, I might not be able to even get to them. The less good news is that my PC is closed down — off — and that’s where all my photography and processing software lives. So making pictures is going to be difficult until I get my other computer back.

The better news is that Garry and his ears are ready to move on to the electric Borg cycle in his hearing epic. We are waiting for the doctor’s scheduler to call. Sometime in July, probably. We’ll know more soon.

Overall, it hasn’t been one of my better weeks. I’m trying to not get too depressed — and not quite succeeding. It has been a week of losses and discovering no matter how careful you are, you are vulnerable. The bad guys are out there and you are the target. It isn’t because of who you are or anything special. They are looking to steal your credit card information and they have some amazing tools with which to do it.

Back up your stuff externally on hard drives you own — and be extremely careful about leaving credit card information in your online accounts.

Then hope for the best.

Just one picture today because it’s the only one I’ve got at the moment. Everything else is on hard drives that don’t interact well with this Mac … or on the other, off-line computer.

Great day in the morning, my friend. GREAT day.