AN AWFUL TERRIBLE HORRIBLE DAY AT WORDPRESS – Marilyn Armstrong

I went to take a look at the brand spanking new format for WordPress.


WARNING: If you do that, you will NOT be able to go back to your old format. I think what they have done is eliminate all the old versions of the editor we used, so you can use the new one, or hope they don’t delete the old ones entirely and leave you with this mess.

Which is what I think is really going to happen. 


Now, there are things about the “new new new new editor” that may — eventually, when they get the bugs fixed — be useful. But right now? You can’t even get a set of standard editing functions across the top of your page. 

They also (apparently, unless it’s a bug) have a limited number of categories — AND they no longer offer you the option of picking up an old post so you can rewrite it.

I’ve got nearly 8,000 posts, so yes, I go back and rewrite material. After you’ve been doing this for a long time, why not?

In this new format, I opened categories and it dies after the letter “C.” What happened to “D” through “Z”? You can’t even find the missing pieces by typing the category name in the search list. Nothing comes up. This will effectively lose thousands of posts and pictures.

I went through and deleted all the one I used very rarely. That got me all the way to “D.” When I eventually found my way back to the “classic editor,” all the deletes were not made.


NOTHING IN THAT SOFTWARE IS WORKING. NO ONE BETA TESTED IT. NO ONE.


I don’t object to change. I object to untested changes and buggy software. I pay to use WordPress.  I object to being forced to do stuff the way they decree. If this is such a great interface (it might be POTENTIALLY, but it definitely isn’t there yet), then people will use it. You don’t have to club us over the head.

Also, they are no longer offering help to anyone but business users … so they’ve forced me to use this very buggy interface and there’s no one to talk to. Maybe this will finally push me over the edge.

You know that whole thing about this being a free country? Well … this kind reminds me that anyone who doesn’t follow orders is not free. What is wrong with having more than one interface? How does it hurt anyone?


A thing that happens as we age is we lose contact with pop culture. We retire. We don’t feel impelled to learn to do it differently unless there’s a really good reason to do it. Unless you’re paying me to do it your way, try not to get too bent out of shape if I prefer to do it my way. It may be different, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

We are happy with the way we do things. They are comfortable and trust me, retirement and comfortable go together like guitar and bass. It starts early, as early as ones 30s when you realize you don’t like the music. By your 40s, you don’t care who knows it and by fifty, you drop any pretense of caring any of “the latest things.”

It doesn’t mean that nothing new makes the cut, but I’ve been a writer my whole life and any product that requires me to access multiple pages to accomplish the same task that previously could be done on a single page is NOT an improvement. This is poorly designed software.

That’s right: it’s BAD SOFTWARE. 
That’s not how the pros do it, kids. 
was one of them.


I’ve been reading about this upcoming new interface for a while. I really had my fingers crossed that just this once, WordPress would have the grace to fully test it and make sure it worked. It is not an UPGRADE if it’s harder to use than the old one — especially if the task is identical.

Drop down lists for everything? Dumping most of my categories? Completely changing how media is handled without so much as an introduction? Discovering that we no longer have access to help?


So, they did it again, but this is the worst yet. I’m wondering if it’s worth it. WordPress doesn’t want writers and photographers. They want business accounts.

I’m not a business. I am not selling anything. I’m trying to just enjoy life. 

This isn’t going to be fun. It’s going to be a major league headache. They’ve been cutting down on what they offer “premium” users for years and at this point, nothing seems to be what they are offering. Platform, templates, and good luck. What they are clearly saying is simple.


WORDPRESS DOES NOT CARE ABOUT USERS. 


You know how Sears is going out of business? Well … guess what? I’m pretty sure driving away all the people who do creative stuff which brings in new people is not going to help WordPress get richer (they are already making plenty of money) than they already are. But not to worry.

There’s always bankruptcy. 

NON-FICTION: IT’S NOT ALWAYS A STORY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I was taught how to write at an early age. In grammar school, I was very anxious and would get paralyzed when I had to write anything. My mom sat me down and showed me how to structure any piece of writing. The classic, “Say what you’re going to say, say it and then say what you said.” In other words, introduction, development, and conclusion.

Mom started me out by helping me write outlines for my writing. Once I had the basic ideas organized, I could expand on them on my own, with less anxiety. Mom would then edit my writing with me. That’s how I learned about style and sentence structure. Writing began to come easily to me.

By the time I was fifteen, I was helping Mom edit articles and books that my father, Abram Kardiner, was writing for psychiatric and anthropological publications. My dad was never a clear and concise writer. At this point, he was in his mid-seventies and was even less focused and coherent than before.

Me at about 16

Dad tended to write in a confusing stream of consciousness. Ideas just tumbled out in random order. He often buried the lead sentences explaining his premise, deep in the fourth or fifth paragraphs. He often went off on tangents for pages and pages, losing the thread of his thesis along the way. He had brilliant and innovative ideas. But you had to hunt for them and they weren’t always presented in the best way.

Mom and I would take his material and break it down into a detailed and sequential outline for him. Dad resisted us at every turn. He somehow felt that we were trying to get him to ‘write down’ to a more mass audience when he was aiming his writing at high-level academics in his fields. We argued that all writing has to be comprehensible, regardless of the audience. He would grudgingly go along with us.

Mom and Dad during Dad’s prime writing years

We would go over the outline with him meticulously. He would take it and go off to do a rewrite. He would stick to the outline for a few paragraphs if we were lucky. But then he would end up off on another rambling polemic. We never succeeded in improving his writing and he didn’t publish much after this point.

Many years later, I had another opportunity to help someone hone their writing skills. This time with better results. My first husband, Larry, was a brilliant litigation attorney. Part of his job was producing coherent and above all else, persuasive written arguments on behalf of his clients.

Larry had the same problems organizing his thoughts as my dad had. His arguments meandered, got muddled and lost emphasis and clarity. He was all over the place. This became a serious issue at work. It took him forever to get his writing done and he was never satisfied with the end product.

Larry as a young associate at a NY law firm

One day I was home sick from my own legal job. Larry was struggling with a pro bono criminal brief and was frustrated. I told him to leave his draft with me for the day so I could work on it. This was before computers. I spent the day literally cutting and pasting his brief into a whole new document. I added a few connective sentences here and there, but all the necessary material was already there.

Larry was very impressed with the document that I came up with for him. He was surprised to see how I had created a totally different result simply by rearranging and consolidating his material. A light bulb went off in his head. Unlike my father, he ‘got it’.

Larry and me in his early years practicing law

His writing improved. He was also smart enough to study the writing of two very good legal writers in his law firm. One of them had been a speechwriter for Bobby Kennedy in the 1960’s. The two men had very different styles and Larry forged his own style by adapting what he liked from both men.

Adam Walinsky – former RFK speechwriter and partner at Larry’s law firm

Larry became an excellent writer. One of the best in his law firm. In one major brief he wrote, he started each section with a relevant quote from Shakespeare. Brilliant! The judge in the case, who was a Harvard Law School graduate, was so blown away, he wrote Larry a letter. He told Larry his brief was the best the judge had ever read!

Quite a compliment for Larry, and obliquely for me as his original writing tutor.

So I succeeded in teaching one person how to be a good writer. Or I at least set him on the path to becoming one. I was very proud of Larry and of my accomplishment. It meant a lot to me because of my struggles with my dad’s writing. I guess one out of two isn’t a bad record.

THE VERBING OF NOUNS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Prioritize


Once upon a time in a land far, far away, you got your priorities in order. You set priorities. You decided what was your top priority, then you could change your mind forever but at least you knew there had been a priority.

You did not prioritize because the word “priority” was a noun. A noun was a thing. An item. A name. An object.

Marilyn as writer

One day, back in the 1970s or thereabouts, we ran out of grammar and punctuation. No one taught grammar in American schools. They hadn’t taught it is so many years that I had only learned grammar as an afterthought.

So it continued until we had the National Whatever-They-Were-Called-Back-Then exams that were supposed to determine what we did and did not know. I got amazingly good grades on everything, probably proving that all the teachers who called me an under-achiever were right on target.

I was much more interested in painting in the art room and reading books than doing “workbook” assignments. I, in fact, did not do workbooks. Once I discovered you could “fail workbook” for not coloring in the attached pictures, I thought “This is really STUPID” and flatly refused to do it. Rather than battle me to the death, they sent me to the art room which got me out of the way. No one was actually worried about whether I was getting educated. I apparently was educated enough to think the curriculum was stupid.

Remember this one?

I also refused to bother with the official school “readers.” I had already read them. In the second grade, I’d locked myself in the wardrobe closet (it was the size of a small bedroom and had lights) and read all the readers up through sixth grade.

Mrs. O’Rourke was furious and called my parents. My mother felt if I had read all the schools readers in less than two hours — in the closet in second grade — that they weren’t giving me an adequate education. For all practical purposes, they didn’t have a clue what an adequate education might be. I spent a lot of time in the art room.

All of this was fine until the high school sophomore year standardized tests when it was discovered no one in the super high IQ group, in which I was reluctantly included (high IQ, low grades), got better than a 60% score on grammar. Not a single one of us.

Louis B. Schuker, our principal called an assembly of The Smart Kids Expected To Go To College. He said we had all gotten grades of 98% or higher on every test they threw at us — except grammar. So the following year would be devoted to grammar. For all of us, even if we were planning on nuclear physics in our near future.

Jamaica High School

Thus during my junior and senior years of high school, I learned grammar — possibly as part of the last New York public school students to formally learn it. One of the things I learned is that you can’t just turn a noun into something else because you are too lazy to use the word properly.

It was hopeless. I might have gotten two years of parsing sentences, but the rest of the world didn’t parse.

The result is that today, we communicate with little tiny pictures known as “Emojis” and think “prioritize” is a real word. I guess it is a real word now. Everything is a real word, including Emoji.

Our language has no class. That’s why kids don’t talk to each other. They don’t know how.

HATE, ANGER AND SOCIAL MEDIA

A Firestorm of Misinformation, Rich Paschall

There are always items in the news that bring out the social media commentators. There’s the economy, some collusion, and Supreme Court appointments. There are Trade tariffs and Trade Agreements. There is religious freedom and freedom of speech. It is that Freedom of Speech thing that lets the haters and misinformed run rampant on the internet.

© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.
© 2007 Nuno Pinheiro & David Vignoni & David Miller & Johann Ollivier Lapeyre & Kenneth Wimer & Riccardo Iaconelli / KDE / LGPL 3 with permission.

In the social media world, it looks like a lot of people have time to create graphics with so-called information and historical quotes (internet memes). Some are very artistically created with nice pictures of a president or other important historical person in the background. If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter enough, you may think some of these historical figures are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. One of my favorite internet memes states “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true. – Abraham Lincoln.”

Many of the quotes are easily disputed. I like to type the first phrase of an internet quote or meme into Google search to see what I get. Sometimes I immediately get proof the quote is false. Sometimes I find the quote is true, but it was said by someone else. It seems popular to attribute interesting political and social quotes to George Carlin, even if someone else said it. Do we think a quote is more believable if a more famous person said it? The George Carlin website actually has a section devoted to “Bogus Carlin Quotes.

I have often seen a quote attributed to former President Jimmy Carter. It says “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.” While it seems like something Carter may have said post-presidency, he did not say it. Yet, it is frequently re-quoted all across the internet. Many sites will use it to drive home their point by indicating what this thoughtful and highly regarded human being has to say.

It was actually said by comedian John Fugelsang (Snopes.com here).  I guess if the quote comes from a comedian rather than a former president, it is harder to beat people over the head with it.

In addition to a simple Google search for the quote or alleged fact, you can go to websites dedicated to debunking internet stories.

The most popular is Snopes.com. It calls itself “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” It has to work extra hard to keep up with the mountains of internet crap published daily. Still, I usually find out whether some really convenient quote to prove a point is actually true or false. Usually they are false.

AARP.org has published a helpful list to identify fake news. Seniors are often the victims of internet scams. Just about everyone can use the links they provide to verify whether a story is true or not.

Fake news?

Despite easy access to the truth, haters choose to believe whatever is posted on the internet if it can be twisted to support their position. Then they can take the misinformation and share it with their friends, who in turn do the same. I like to post an article or link into a comment under these false memes, but it does not seem to matter. Comments continue to be made after mine in support of the lie, as if posting the true story meant nothing. It is infuriating, to say the least. Wanting to believe the lie seems to be a sign of the times

The anger and hate behind the false stories and memes was out in full force recently due to some “hot button” topics in the news. The Kavanaugh hearings brought us bad conduct by the nominee and various senators, which in turn brought out bad memes and fake stories about people on all sides. Dr. Ford was brave enough to step forward despite the media mayhem, but got hammered in the never important social media realm. The occupant of the White House helped the lies along with some outrageous lies of his own.

The tit for tat trade war with China involving tariffs by 45 has been hard on business. As a result corporations, China, the White House and even farmers are being blasted by one concern or another. International business is complicated and can not be clarified by some internet meme or someone’s right or left-wing blog post.

Vice President Pence brought out haters on both sides of the aisle when he chose to speak to an anti-LGBT group recently. His boss spoke there the previous year.

Any criticism of 45 or his minions will likely earn you a response concerning President Obama, the Clintons, illegal aliens or “the gays.” It does not seem to matter if the hateful response has anything to do with the original comment. We considered this “what about Obama?” type response recently in “Extra topical.”

Connected to social media

The bad part of social media is the ease in which hate, anger and lies are spread. Impressionable people can find support for their misguided thoughts, and feel they have backing for whatever hate or heinous acts they perpetrate. While we all support the idea of Freedom of Speech, it is safe to say our founding fathers had no idea how quickly lies could become accepted as truth, especially lies by the President of the United States.

And all of this happens in an era where the truth is so easy to find. If you are interested in truth.

See also: “George Didn’t Say That!” GeorgeCarlin.net/bogus.html
“Pence is first VP to speak at anti-gay group’s Values Voter Summit,” nbcnews.com
“Fake News Alert,” aarp.org
“Trump’s lying, mocking, despicable verbal mugging of Christine Blasey Ford,” E. J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post, October 3, 2018
“Extra Topical,” “What About Obama? Huh?” SERENDIPITY, July 15, 2018

SERENDIPITY IN MATURITY – WHAT’S NEXT? – Marilyn Armstrong

WHAT’S NEXT?


I had been having the same depressing dream for a while. I’d wake up, fall back to sleep and there that stupid dream was. Again. When I opened my eyes, finally realizing I wasn’t going to close them again, I thought: “Forget about fixing the universe. I should just fix me.”

I have really loved this blog. I’ve loved being able to write whatever I want without a boss looking over my shoulder. Now, I’m wondering why I feel like I’ve blocked myself off into a corner, why nothing feels quite “right.”

It used to be if you wrote a good piece, people read it. Now, I’ve got lots of people stopping by and “liking” stuff, but I have a distinct impression folks don’t really read anything.

Meanwhile, I have a huge base of “followers” — and I never hear from 99% of them. Who ARE those people? They can’t all be Russian hackers, can they?

I don’t want to get rid of Serendipity. I’ve put years of effort into it and it matters. To me, anyway. I realize it’s no big deal in the great scheme of things, but it’s meant a lot to me. I want it to go on, but I don’t want it to rule my life.

Where is that middle ground we are always talking about?

I enjoy writing. I like communicating. These days, I’m not sure I’m doing either. Is anyone hearing anyone anymore?

How do you feel? Do you feel your better pieces get attention or does it seem that posts fly by and no one hears you?

I’D RATHER BE A JUDGE THAN A MINER: BEYOND THE FRINGE – Marilyn Armstrong

We now, after almost 350 years of nationhood, have a president who thinks mining — coal mining — is a good idea and a fine way to make a living. Oddly enough, someone else had this idea years ago.

It was hilarious — and stupid — then. It is no less stupid and hilarious now.

BEYOND THE FRINGE – Peter Cook
Why I’d Rather Be A Judge Than A Miner


I think it might really be funnier now than it was in 1964.

3.2.1 ME CHALLENGE: INSPIRATION, WITH HELP ALONG THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

INSPIRATION” VIA SUE VINCENT AT DAILY ECHO


I was invited to take part in the 3.2.1 Me Challenge the other day by Sue Vincent at the Daily Echo. The rules, she said, were simple:

1 – Thank the person who nominated you.

Thank you Sue, not only for the invitation, but also for always writing unique and beautiful posts that make me think and remind me of all the things I usually forget.

2 – Provide two three (but you can use two — I just found three I liked) quotes on the subject you are set by that person.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. –Plato

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. –John Lennon

3 – Invite three other bloggers to take part (if they so wish) in the challenge.
The subject Sue gave me was ‘inspiration’ and I really need to thank her for making me take the time to think about it. Because oddly enough, I had been thinking about it anyway, so this was remarkably timely.

I always have trouble with this part of any challenge. I don’t like to ask because they may feel obliged to say yes, even if they don’t really want to. So please, if this sounds interesting to you, I offer you the subject:


TRUTH

Given the way life has changed, how do you feel about it? What’s your version of it? How important is it?


Inspiration: On your own but not alone

We all start college — or at least most of us do — pretty young. In our teens, generally. Some of us start even sooner. I was just barely 16, but I thought I was terribly sophisticated and mature.

I was sophisticated and mature for someone my age. Which was 16. I had zero vision of what I would be on this earth. I was socially inexperienced and emotionally volatile. My knowledge went exactly as far as the books I read.

Working in California from Boston – Dawn of a new age in telecommuting

I had read a lot of books (for my age). I had also not read a lot more books. It isn’t, as my father said, what you don’t know that gets you. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.

I knew a lot of wrong things. They weren’t wrong because I thought them wrongly, but because much of what I read was inaccurate, closer to guesses and opinions than facts. Possibly much of what I know now is still wrong, but I think most historians and scientists are working more closely with original sources today. That may be one of the best things to come from the Internet and sharing of information across the world, that you don’t necessarily have to travel the world to find original sources (though it certainly doesn’t hurt, either).

I had only the fuzziest idea what I was going to do with myself. After I gave up my dreams of playing the grand piano with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, then deleted my “great American author” fantasy where I lived on a cliff in Maine overlooking the ocean while writing unforgettable novels,  I had no idea what I would do.

It turned out I was not a novelist. I had great ideas, but no ability to turn them into books. I could write dialogue easily and still do, but I had no talent for “action.” Even the most chatty novel requires that characters sometimes get off the sofa and do something. Anything. My characters never did anything — except talk and think.

Not unlike me, come to think of it.

I needed help along the way and I got it.

Dr. Herb Deutsch needed to point out while I loved music, I was not sufficiently involved with it to make it my life’s work.

Mr. Wekerle (pronounced Weh-ker-lee with the emphasis on the first syllable) was the head of the Philosophy Department at Hofstra University. I adored him. Not because he was “hot,” but because he was so incredibly smart. He was the only professor could always tell when I was bullshitting and hadn’t really read the books. He was also the only teacher to give me D-/A+ as a grade for a 50-page paper.

The A+ was for style, the D- for content. I treasured the A+ because somehow, I was sure that style was going to be more “me” than content. I was wrong. It was both.

He taught me that even if you know it, you can’t assume your audience does. You have to write it all out, Alpha to Zed. I had an editor in Israel who reinforced this by making me rewrite all the sections of a book I was working on — the parts I didn’t want to write.

Garry was deeply influential too at a time when he was figuring out where he stood in terms of work and his future. He came to realize that for a variety of reasons, he had gone as far as he was going to go. He didn’t want to move to a different city and that alone was some degree of a “game ender.” He knew he didn’t want to move into management and he didn’t want to be an assignment editor, producer, or director. He liked what he was doing. He liked doing it in Boston. He had found his place — and his walls.

I was finding my walls, too.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for management. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, but I hated it. I didn’t want to edit other people’s work. I wanted to write it. I was not sufficiently ambitious to “go corporate” and try to head a department. I knew my personal life had always been more important to me than my professional life. I knew this was unlikely to change. Effectively, I had reached my limits.

As Garry talked about how he felt about his own work and I talked about mine, we both recognized because you’ve gone as far as you are going to go professionally, you are not facing defeat.

Success does not mean you need to reach the top, the pinnacle, the ultimate level of success for your field. Not everyone needs or wants to climb to the top. We don’t all want to be the most ambitious to be exceptional at what we do.

It was a realistic assessment of what we were able and willing to do. I could have fought my way into corporate life and probably made more money. So could Garry. We didn’t want to.

I think my point is a twofer.

On one level, we make it on our own, but we don’t make it alone. We get all kinds of help along the way, often from unexpected people in unusual places. The help might be a simple question, or a mentorship. Or, maybe someone who knows you and recognizes when you need the right words to work through whatever is going on.

Inspiration usually comes with help. A little help can go a long way.