Rip Van Winkle Wakes Up

It was widely reported the other day that when Facebook went down for a time, some of the web site’s users actually dialed 911. The L.A. Times noted:

Officials at one Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department station were not happy after getting calls from residents because Facebook went down Friday morning.

“#Facebook is not a Law Enforcement issue, please don’t call us about it being down, we don’t know when FB will be back up!” Sheriff’s Sgt. Burton Brink of the Crescenta Valley station wrote on Twitter. In a later tweet, he said an unknown number of people called 911 about the outage….

Notice how the Sheriff dealt with it? He went on Twitter. But if this from Media Bistro is accurate, that would not have helped:

The Smartest People Prefer Twitter To LinkedIn And Facebook, Research Shows [STUDY]

Meaning the Sheriff would have been addressing the wrong audience in terms of, err, brainpower. ;-)

I love Twitter…. although I’m not a genius. And I do also use Facebook – but primarily as a keep in touch with family and friends sort of thing; and I’m not on it much. (I’m not on LinkedIn at all.)

Which led me to thinking about where we are here: WordPress. When I first used it for another blog about 10 years ago, I had found it refreshingly straightforward.

However, when I returned to it last autumn to start this blog after several years’ break, I felt far more out of it than if in my absence someone had merely moved the furniture around. It seemed more like I had been dropped into another technological era. To borrow from Catskills literature, it felt rather Rip Van Winkle-ish.

Free Stock Photo: This early 1980\'s model of a portable computer was the Global Health Odyssey\'s Historical Object of the Month for August, 2004.

Free Stock Photo: This early 1980\’s model of a portable computer was the Global Health Odyssey\’s Historical Object of the Month for August, 2004.

On the Dashboard, very little was where I remembered it. There were vast changes throughout the site. Trying to navigate, I sat there utterly lost at first.

“What is that blue screen for? How do I get back to the Dash? I clicked on that, and it’s leading me here? And what the heck does THAT symbol mean?” (Uh, I didn’t always say “heck.”)

What happened to my Atari 800?

That was then. I now have matters under control. Well, mostly anyway. :-)

Have a good [grumble, grumble] Monday….

We All Love Free Stuff

Sandra Wheeler, whom I’ve mentioned several times recently, has been blogging her erotic novel, Falling In Cascades, for free. In a post yesterday, she tackles this question:

Why on earth are you blogging your novel?

Her answer’s worth a read. She addresses the issues anyone who writes finds familiar. “Confidence” is perhaps the biggest one: I don’t feel what I write is good enough to ask for money for it.

I dropped in my 2 cents (no pun intended) over at Sandra’s blog. You may click here to read it in full at her site. (Note: if this is your first visit to my blog, “my uncle” is a HarperCollins-published novelist.) I’ve reprinted my main points below:

….I had this same debate with my wife over a year ago. I had thought I would simply toss my “Passports” on the net. However, she – businesswoman she is – was adamant it warranted something back for all the effort I’d put into crafting it. “Don’t you dare give it away,” she assailed me. “There’s tons of junk out there that sells loads. Yours is much better. And it’s not just me saying that.”

The others who were saying that were its proofreaders – people we knew read it, and also passed it to several trusted friends or other family (who didn’t know me) who also read it. The gist of my wife’s argument was one I agreed with, but I needed her to reinforce it for me: if you work hard, you deserve to get paid for what you produce.

Giving away a novel for free is entirely a personal decision. Myself, I’ve sold more than I have expected so far. When I check and notice sales, it always spurs me forward as I work on the sequel. I am pleased I self-published. I control it all. Every word of it is mine and mine alone: I am intensely proud of it. No one tells me what should be in it, or what should be left out, or when there should be sex. (Would a painter have an editor?: “Oh, there needs to be a house in there, top right, among the trees.”) It won’t be “stolen.” Above all, who knows, at some point I might sell lots?

Just because your writing is imperfect does not mean it is not publishable. No one’s writing is perfect. Repeat: no ones. My uncle can’t spell. He’d be doomed without an editor. I’ve also read numerous books that had “professional editing” jobs, and which also still had obvious typos.

I took the view pre-publication (and which I maintain as my basic position) that I know I have not written “War and Peace,” but, by the same token, it’s more than a decent read. Several proofreaders absolutely loved it. So while my book(s) may not change the world, I believe they are worth something.

Writing is no different than being a plumber or a lawyer. You have a skill in storytelling and entertainment. It is like being “self-employed.” You really deserve to set yourself up so as to eventually perhaps see some (even just a tiny) return for your creative struggles.

Be confident about what you do! It is uniquely you! No one else writes exactly what you do!….

I believe that’s all pretty rational and reasonable. Come on….

Deer at the door. [Photo by me, 2010.]

Deer at the door. [Photo by me, 2010.]

….don’t look so surprised!

All kidding aside, I took that photograph of a deer looking in through our Catskills lounge sliding door a few years back. I’m not planning on ever publishing a book of cute, spontaneously taken, upstate New York wildlife photos. If I were, though, I probably wouldn’t have blogged that on here for free. ;-)

Have a good Saturday!

Messing Around

Happy Saturday! If you’ve dropped by here via the web in the last couple of days (and not the WordPress reader), you may have noticed the templates keep changing. I’ve been fiddling with them. Although I may never quite nail it, I’m trying to hit (what I consider to be) a better “tone” for the site.

I like stability and try to avoid altering the page too much. I’m sure some of you find constant messing around off-putting. Then again, I know some people love change.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an internet web browser link.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of an internet web browser link.

So I ask your indulgence. I will settle on something soon. I’ve not suddenly gone off my internet rocker. :-)

“You fascist!”

….No, no, no, the post title doesn’t mean I’m calling *you* (friendly reader/ visitor) a “fascist.” Please don’t misunderstand. I used it because that (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) accusation is hurled in Passports during a morning, uh, “friendly exchange of views,” between Isabelle and Uncle Bill at Bill’s Rhode Island coastal cottage:

Next Bill called to the dining room. “Isabelle, toast and eggs?” Unexpectedly, he expanded the menu choices. “Want anything else? If you were being polite last night, don’t be. This is a continental house. Feel free to smoke.”

Despite being unsure if she had again misunderstood Bill’s English, Isabelle nonetheless dived in.

“White coffee and toast please, Uncle Bill. That will be lovely. Thank you.” Both feet on the floor now, she crossed her legs and pushed aside hairs hanging down on her forehead. “And so you know,” she added, “I don’t smoke. You think all the French are the same? We all smoke?”

“Well, all the French I know seem to smoke like chimneys,” Bill maintained as he advanced to the table and chose the seat across from her. Next he changed conversational topic mid-paragraph as he often did. “So what about that Mitterrand? He’s done over there soon, isn’t he? Who’ll be the next president?”

James sat on a longer side of the slightly rectangular table, between them, as if positioned inadvertently to referee. Taking some toast, he joked, “Uncle, you been watching the news on public television again?”

Isabelle responded from across the table without hesitation, “Balladur or Chirac, of course.”

Pouring orange juice, Bill questioned, “Who?” He moved the toast plate closer to Isabelle. “Please, have some more. You know, I sensed it last night. You’re a Gaullist. You fascist! Gaullists hate Americans!”

“No, they don’t,” she answered softly. “They love France. It is the Socialists who hate Americans. Mitterrand has been a disaster for France.”

Bill smiled broadly and looked over at James sitting to the side. “Nephew, you sure can pick ’em.”

“Okay,” Isabelle began to question Bill mockingly, and a bit flirtatiously, “who should be President of France, as you sit here, great American writer, judging the world from, ooh, what little state is this again? Uh, Delaware? I forget.”

Bill lobbed a calculated grenade at Isabelle. “Whoever the Socialist is. We need socialism in the U.S.”

“Bah!” she dismissed that out of hand. “You have not lived under socialists. I know communists, yes, but I do not want them to rule France. You have been with Spanish writers and Cubans. They do hate America. I bet they are communists. We thanked God that Mitterrand had to spend so many years sharing power with Chirac.”

Ignoring her charges, Bill went another route. “God? I thought young Europeans today were a lot smarter than our Bible-thumping Americans?”

Isabelle was at a loss. “Aren’t you Catholic like James and your family?”

Taking a breath, he explained, “Right. You know, Isabelle, I think of myself as a Unitarian.” Seeing her appear to go blank at the word, Bill appended, “We believe in sort of everything.”

Isabelle was underwhelmed. She knew what a Unitarian was. “But do not Unitarians believe in God?” she grilled him pointedly while grasping her coffee mug. “And to say one believes in everything is to hold nothing sacred.”

Bill pronounced, “Nephew, she is definitely French!”

James complained, “Uncle, I didn’t think I was in this breakfast debate?”

Had enough? As James has? What? You mean that back and forth didn’t cause you as a conservative to turn socialist, or vice-versa?

I follow many of you who are also authors – or musicians, or actors, or you travel blog, or you’re interested in cultural issues, or you’re just sharing thoughts with us. It should go without saying I’m flattered if you follow me. In organizing my followings here deliberately along mostly “apolitical” lines, WordPress has become for me a welcome island of friendliness, learning and calm compared to much else out there in major media.

As we know, nothing exists in isolation. In recent days I’ve been surprised by several generally “non-political follows” who’ve suddenly taken to mounting Everest-height soapboxes. They’ve filled posts with barrages of heavy-handed political invective. (That’s being “charitable” in describing the content. I could use stronger language.)

If you wish to read diatribes from those who support your “worldview” (whatever it is), it is usually easy enough to find out there. Follow a few of the crazies on Twitter. Or just click over to commenter cesspools that are found on sites like CNN’s.

In a friendly Twitter exchange I had had with a CNN.com producer about so many of the incredibly nasty online comments, he noted that he simply tells op-ed contributors not to read the comments below their pieces. Can you imagine? Yet it’s easy to understand why: the bigotry and viciousness some spew via keyboard is appalling – and, one has to believe, mostly also from those who would likely never be so rude to someone’s face.

Free Stock Photo: The White House in Washington, DC.

Free Stock Photo: The White House in Washington, DC.

I know I have on occasion blogged here on somewhat contentious issues. Amanda Knox, Devyani Khobragade, and immigration, immediately come to mind. But when I do, I try to do so with moderation, within the framework of my own knowledge and experience, and while remembering my self-imposed guidelines for this blog. (See the top banner.)

Civility and respect: where have you gone? If you want to scribble vitriol online, of course you are free to do so; but I did not follow YOU to read that. I firmly believe that chest-thumping, name-calling, and jumping up and down usually wins no friends who don’t already agree with you, and rarely changes minds.

Let’s Smile

I created this site slightly more than six months ago. I’ve noticed I’ve just passed 150 posts. I’ve also just realized some of them recently have been disproportionately heavy reading.

That was never my intention. Above the banner photo I declare that things aren’t always serious here. (By the way, where was that picture taken? I snapped that in Pléneuf-Val-André, Brittany, France, a couple of summers ago.)

You may have also noticed I have tags for “humor” and “humour.” (The latter is a concession to those who – and you know who you are – assert there is no such thing as “American-English” because there is only one way to speak English and every other way is just, uh, wrong. ;-) ) So if you are “new” here, and have seen perhaps too much that is too “serious,” let me rebalance things a bit. Here are a few links to posts you may not have seen which fall decidedly under the heading of, shall we say, the “not so seriously”:

Or is it, uh…. because maybe you’ve developed, urr, an “online crush”?

In case you somehow haven’t noticed, I’m a massive Mad Men fan. :-)

Our pal’s biggest “doggie quirk,” however, is for some reason he does not like “high visibility” jackets.

Smitten by her? Well, what a surprise? As she introduced us at a party, I sensed immediately he also wasn’t exactly thrilled she knew me.

It’s nice you’ve gotten to know each other, uh, so much better at 39,000 ft. International relations and all that….

Lunch, Malahide.

Very interesting. By far, my most “visited” post is, uh, on the Fifty Shades Of Grey film.

Have you seen Groundhog Day?

Who’s needs water? Wifi is far more important!

I was also one of those guys who at the time could never figure out how “Ross” could possibly have chosen “Rachel” over “Emily.”

Obviously, the most accurate statement is “Juliette Binoche is…”

Suppose you are “with someone who truly turns you on”…. and the choice is either Paris or Rome…. or Cleveland?

I had not created any of my characters with specific actors in mind… not even, urr, Tom Cruise. ;-)

Yes, yes, there is s-e-x in the novel!

We can’t always take everything soooooo seriously. The best thing to do – especially after some less than encouraging news – is to count our blessings, remember to try to be optimistic about life, and not to forget to smile:

Illustration+of+a+yellow+smiley+face

Hope you are having a good Wednesday….

Do You Fancy Them Maybe A Little Bit?

Twitter wants to know why do you follow those you follow?:

Twitter knows whom you follow. But Twitter does not know why you follow them. So the company [is] doing something fairly straightforward—and, for a tech company with reams of data bout its users, unlikely: It’s asking. Politely.

The same question could be explored here on WordPress. So let’s.

For starters, I’d like to follow more than I do. But I don’t follow for following sake; I like to read what writers/bloggers actually write. So I have to control myself in following or I’d find myself overwhelmed with reading.

Generally, I follow those who strike me as interesting and honest and real. I usually read lots of a blog – including the “About Me” – before following. (Do you do the same?) There’s so much junk and spam out there, some judiciousness is required.

Overall, do you follow in hopes those you follow will follow you back? Or is it because you really like what he/she blogs and don’t care about a follow back? Or is it, uh…. because maybe you’ve developed, urr, an “online crush”?

image

On that last one there, behave yourselves. No passing notes under the desks. Yeh, you know who you are. They’ll be detention… ;-)

Hope you’re having a good weekend. :-)

The War On Spam

Usually spam is pretty obvious. But there are those times it is somewhat less so. Likely spammers are also getting better at it in trying to trick us.

I note that because I had a comment this morning on my earlier post that looks like it came from a legitimate WordPress.com blogger. However, it was relegated automatically by WordPress to the spam folder. In the end, I decided not to approve it.

image

Why didn’t I? Yes, the comment was arguably passable, but, if from a real blogger, it was clearly merely just attention-seeking from that blogger. It asked directly for a follow, and did not really address the post.

I checked out that blogger’s site. Yes, it’s new, and a bit rough, but it seems a real site. Or, then again, maybe it isn’t?

Views vs Likes

I’ve recently stumbled on advice from a blogging “guru” who asserts bloggers are best served by placing their sidebar to the left side. I think his sidebar also says he’s 20 years old. So clearly he must know what he’s talking about!

Fine. I’ve now moved mine from the right side to left. Okay, impress me. ;-)

image

While making that shift, I had a fiddle with the “Top Posts and Pages” listing. Doing so, I noticed that in altering it from “page views” to “likes,” only a couple of posts manage to make both groupings.

Very interesting. By far, my most “visited” post is, uh, on the Fifty Shades Of Grey film. However, it was also not “liked” nearly enough to make it to the top list based on “likes.”

That’s it: Get the rope. ;-) Many of you clearly do “read” stuff, but you also don’t always “like” it. Then again, of course I know you aren’t always going to “like” everything you “read.” :-)

Time Zones

The world is more than ever a 24 hour place. Yet it is not entirely so 24 hour that you too may not have noticed a similar phenomenon. My Twitter goes relatively quiet during the U.S. overnight; but around 9am ET, as the country starts to get to work, my timeline becomes far busier.

Not that you are ever tweeting from work, of course! ;-) As an aside, if you use Twitter and you’d like to, follow me, and I’ll follow you back. (I happened to joke yesterday on Cas Blomberg‘s blog about how I view Twitter.)

To our WordPress. I know many of you receive an email when a post appears here (thank you!), and, if you want to, you return and read that post when it’s most convenient based on where you are time-wise in your day. But I know lots of people use the WordPress reader. (Thank you again!) As with Twitter, that so many do causes me to wonder when are the better times to post on here?

I’ve seen more American and Canadian visitors turn up if I post around 9am ET – which is 2pm in London and 3pm CET. But if I do that, I get fewer European visitors. However, the reverse also seems the case: if I post 9am UK time, which is 4am ET US (1am in California), I get fewer North American visitors.

I have simultaneously also spotted some of you popping in from to the east of Europe – in southwest Asia, India, Singapore and Australia, etc. Naturally, a 9am ET US/ 2pm UK posting time means if you are in Asia and Australia, you see a post even later – the farther to the east, the later it is in your day….

….Or it can also be extremely early the following day! Sometimes, I wonder if some people ever sleep!? I always find it hilarious on here, or on Twitter, when I notice friends posting at about 3am where they are!

Let’s have some fun. On our “big blue marble,” where are you geographically? If you’d like to, let me (and the rest of us) know in a comment. I’ll start: currently I’m in Enfield, London, United Kingdom….

image

….Oh, geez, did I just write “big blue marble?” I’ve just dated myself…. again! ;-)

Happy Thursday! Or Friday…. depending on your location!

Manuscript “Sneak Peeks”

As you see on the top line of the blog (above the title and the header photo), I’ve added a “sneak peeks” page. On it – hardly surprisingly, I’m sure – I’ll place all “sneak peeks” into the sequel. It makes sense that they all be in one place.

image

For starters, I’ve put up the two posted previously. I’ve also added a brand new one: in the sequel, we will meet a certain Lisa.

More will follow from time to time. Enjoy! And happy Wednesday! :-)