Writing a blog

All over the map

Y from the Yahoo logo

Y from the Yahoo logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I write a weekly blog,” I proclaimed rather boldly while some sport events played on the televisions around us.  “Sunday Night Blog!”
“Really?” my friend questioned.  “What kind of blog?”
“What kind?”
“Yeah, what kind is it?”
I stared back with a rather blank look, I guess.
My friend continued with determination to extract some further information, “What is your theme?”
“Oh!” I said as if I finally understood. “The theme is Twenty ten. It is a typical lay out and you can change the header anytime and add all kinds of cool stuff down the side.”
“No, not the theme. What is your subject? What do you write about? What are your topics?”
The light bulb finally went on, but I did not have a good answer for him. “I write about anything, or everything.  It depends.”
“It depends? What do you me it depends? You have to have a certain type of blog. Do you write about politics? Music? Religion? Sports?” As I did not provide an immediate answer, my friend added, “Something else?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “I write about all those things.”
“WHAT!? You can not do that.”
“Why not?”
“No one will ever read a blog like that. You have to find your niche and write for them.”
“Isn’t that a bit like preaching to the choir?” I asked.
“Exactly,” my friend said without a millisecond of hesitation.
“Well, what is the point of that? The choir probably has heard the sermon already. I want to write about the things that interest me each week.”
“No, no, no,” my friend blurted out, almost shouting so I would be convinced. “You have to have a goal for your blog, a higher purpose!”
“I do have a goal,” I insisted. “I wish to finish each week before Sunday night, hence…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said while cutting me off. “Hence, Sunday Night Blog.”
“That’s it,” I said proudly. “I even finished on time for the two Sundays I was out of the country.”
“That doesn’t count,” he reminded me. “You probably wrote those before you left.”
“True.”
“Look, you want to have readers, don’t you?”
“Of course.”
“Then you must have a permanent category,” he instructed. “How about music?”
“I don’t go to enough concerts and I do not hear enough new music.”
“What do you listen to in your car?”
“I sing along to the oldies,” I replied with a smirk.
“Oh my god,” he declared rather slowly to add emphasis. “Remind me never to ride with you.”
“Why not?” I laughed.
“Moving on,” he stated in a manner indicating his resolve. “What about entertainment in general?”
“No, I don’t get much entertainment, unless you count your facebook status. They really ought to get spellcheck for that.”
My friend either did not get it or pretended not to, so as not to get sidetracked from his mission to find me a purpose. “What about food?”
“Hot dogs?”
“Nevermind. How about the economy?”
“Too depressing,” I replied.
“Politics?”
“No, everyone will be sick of it by election day.”
“Religion?”
“No, the choir has already heard me sing.”
“Sports?”
“No, everyone I know is into fantasy leagues, not real sports. That’s like reality television, only with beer and chicken wings.”
“Well, how about the media?”
“I could review other blogs.”
“Absolutely not,” he shouted, “you will lose the one or two readers you might have now.”
“I must have more than that,” I insisted. “We can look at the dashboard and find out.”
“Don’t do it. You will be too depressed if you do not find any readers.”
“That’s true.”
“You can not go on like this, however. If you want readers you need a regular topic. You must load up you your articles with the right keywords so they will be picked up by the top search engines. You must choose your categories wisely and add lots of tags. Blast out notices on facebook and twitter, maybe Stumble Upon, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest, maybe Google+ and Yahoo.
“They still have Yahoo?” I said innocently.
“You simply can not be all over the map!” He was finally finished with trying to help me be an internet author. Besides, it was time to get another round and more popcorn.
“But I like being all over the map,” I said rather meekly. “It has provided me with the greatest adventures. My best travel companion and I have always started off with a general destination, but no specifics that stop us from going all over the map. We have the best trips ever.  The blog is sort of the same thing, I think”
My friend glanced back at me with a rather incredulous look.
“Honest! I wished I had lost my sense of direction long ago. It really has helped me find my way.”
My friend just shook his head and grabbed another handful of popcorn.

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Who I am and why I’m here

Hi, my name is Rich.  Glad to meet you!  Why am I telling you this when I have been writing a blog here for a while?  Perhaps you don’t know me or what in the heck I am doing here.  First, I write blogs of all types: shorts stories, satires, concert reviews, political commentary, news analysis.  If I could be both educational and entertaining, then I would feel like I achieved my purpose.  Hopefully, a few of you will jump into the comments here or on my social media sites like facebook or Google+.

Certainly I would like to connect with like-minded readers, but I would also like to see some opposing opinions from time to time.  I love the dialogue and the opportunity to see a particular issue from another viewpoint.  I admit that sometime an opposing view means I work harder to research and prove my point, but other times it just illustrates that there are many sides to a topic.  When I got challenged on the origins of Decoration Day (Memorial Day), for example, I learned there were other views and why some people believed these others stories.  Historical facts can sometimes be hidden in the legends and the mythology of a time period.

If the blog is a success this year, it will have captured the imagination of subscribers and occasional visitors alike, and it will please many readers as well as myself.  If the blog is not a success…well, let’s not go down that road.  What is the point of negative thinking?  It will be a success to me if I truly believe I have put forth a good story or essay.  When you are in the act of writing, you are doing it for yourself.  Later, when you are ready to publish, it is for everyone else.  When I complete a piece, it has reached its first level of success if I am will to hit the “Publish” button.  You are the next level of success if you “Like” it.

Recently, I have not only been here on Sundays, but also on SERENDIPITY.  That is the blog by Marilyn Armstrong that publishes daily.  You can catch her writing and excellent photos there every day.  I have been writing short stories there, but have a couple of non fiction items in mind for the coming weeks.

I got here by accident, actually.  I never intended to jump into a blog site.  I had a Windows Live Space.  I think it was Windows trying to be MySpace.  Well the Window Live Spaces are gone and MySpace has morphed into something else.  I liked MySpace, but facebook linked people together more efficiently and MySpace is now mostly a music site.  Windows offered us the opportunity to move any of our blog type entries over here.  I did not have much and mostly a collection of favorite videos.  If you did not move by a certain date, your entries were lost.  So, here I am.  I did nothing for a while.  After the transition, I posted some thoughts however.  My humble beginnings are below:

Hello world!

Yikes!

It looks like there is a lot to learn here. This migration was forced on us actually. It is part of the change happening at Spaces. I guess I can not say that we had many (ANY?) visitors over there. Everyone is on facebook and MySpace. Well, as a matter of fact, I am too. The notices that Windows Live Spaces is going away appeared in my Hotmail inbox. I decided to move my blogs here as a simple click would bring things over. However, the videos did not enjoy a smooth transition and I may have to try to add the videos again. I really am not sure I will do it tho. I am now against just loading content for the fun of it.
The proliferation of social networking means I will have to be more discriminatory in my choices. I simply can not hop on MySpace, facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo and some other sites I can not even recall at the moment. It just eats too much time.
I reluctantly gave up Mobsters on MySpace. It was eating up way too much time. I felt I owed something to my fellow mobbies who sent “energy” every day. I just had to return it or something was wrong with me. I told myself it was my entertainment instead of television. The game was more encompassing tho and I would stay with it for hours at a time. I realize now it was pretty much a waste (after I reached level 500) and I had to get a life. I mean I had real friends and real things to do.
So I don’t know if I will have time for WordPress and the other things that my Windows Live Space will morph into. I will post this one and see what happens. Happy blogging to my fellow Spaces members who will be transferred (or deleted) into some other home in cyberspace.

Enriching your life

Recently I was giving thought to all of the good friends in my life.  Actually, I think about it a lot.  So it seems to me now is a good time to rerun a column I did last summer about family and friends.  The number of people I know in foreign countries has increased since then, which helps to broaden my understanding of life around the world.  I am glad I can add to my list of friends. You can never have too many.

Friends

There is no over estimating the value of friends in your life. While you hope immediate family will always be there for you, in the mobile society in which we live they may not always be nearby. Your personal support network needs to include friends to whom you can turn in times of need. When I was younger and moved from apartment to apartment several years in a row, my friends were there to help me move. They were certainly pleased when I landed at my present location and stayed put. The important thing was their willingness to be there for me. It is a comfort to know that.
Having friends to listen at the right times is also of great importance. You may stubbornly think that you need to bear an emotional or spiritual burden on your own, but it does not need to be that way. Good friends will listen.  They will offer advice when asked. Those not willing to hear you may need to be categorized as acquaintances or casual friends. It is OK to have plenty of them in your social circles. Good friends will populate your close personal circles along with your immediate family. They become your “extended family” which is so important in today’s world
Internet friends can now comprise part of your personal life. It seems an interesting phenomenon to me to have such friends. While a great deal of caution must go into cultivating this sort of friendship, it can have its own rewards. You may meet people with whom you can can correspond on a personal level. They may be able to help at various intellectual levels as well. Right now I believe I have three people on my facebook that I only know through the internet. Two of them I have known for years and perhaps some day we will actually meet. All three live in different countries.
I have met someone I had known for years just through shared internet experiences, all good, and personal correspondence. When we met he came with his roommate to visit. I had told him years earlier not to meet a new person alone, so this was fine by me. It turns out they are great people and now good friends. I consider myself lucky to have met them, although I still feel this sort of thing, meeting internet friends and expanding the friendship, is more the exception and not the rule.
My former place of employment had given me the opportunity to meet students from other countries though their internship program. In addition to attending local sports events with many of them, I have been able to keep in touch with some via facebook. In fact I am currently in France visiting one of my best friends and a former intern following our Olympic tour this past week. Email, Skype and facebook have allowed us to keep in close touch even though we are thousands of miles apart.
“You have more friends than I know people,” my brother told me at our mother’s wake. That’s because the funeral home was filled with an absolute gaggle of our relatives and my friends. My brother had moved away decades earlier so he did not know a lot of these people. I have thought about his comments a number of times since then. I used to tell people, “I have friends from 18 to 80.” This was largely due to our parish, community groups and even the internet. I guess I am lucky in all this to have so many great people as friends. Be open to friendships as they enrich your life.

A castle in Orschwiller, Alsace, France

Internet sharing and other lies

This past week I posted the following status on my personal facebook site: “The amount of people who share misinformation on facebook because they think it is true is absolutely astounding. How about doing a Google search to see if it’s a lie?” This was in response to a posting that is being shared around about the new facebook “graph app,” Graph Search actually. Facebook has posted information on how the graph search works and how to control your privacy settings, but it is too late. The conspiracy theorists are already at work telling a different and somewhat untrue story. This reminded me of a commentary I posted last year at this time:

Interesting, but not true

In an age with mass communication and so many ways of getting the news, I fear we are becoming less informed and in many cases misinformed. “Why is that?” you may ask. Most of us get the news on our home page, whether it is Comcast, MSN, Yahoo or many others you can list. If you are ambitious, you can have your web browser open several news sites at once. Add on CNN, BBC, France 24, Huffington Post for the left and National Journal for the right. Many of the big city newspapers also have web site news. If you do not catch the news on television or your car radio, you can read it on your desktop, laptop, smart phone, iphone, ipad and probably other devices that I can not even imagine. It is almost impossible to escape the news of the day, and yet I find many people so uneducated about politics, I fear many will go to the polls this fall with little information about the candidates, or worse, the wrong information.
How can this be? With so many ways of getting the news, surely we should be more educated, but we are not. The reason for this incredible phenomenon is social media. Everyone now can put up postings for his/her friends to read. It does not have to be true. Your first amendment rights let you say what you want, as long as it is not down right slanderous. Even then you might get away with it because the internet is the wild West and you can not possibly police the whole thing.
This past week I saw a posting on my facebook page showing what was reported to be the words of Abraham Lincoln. These words praised business owners and the rich to such an extent that I became suspicious. It turns out Lincoln never said those things. They were written by a Presbyterian minister decades after Lincoln was dead. The minister was a director of the Citizens’ Industrial Alliance, a pro employer group. Of course, some one thought these phony words attributed to Lincoln would be just the thing to support Romney for President and slam President Obama. My first inclination when I see things that just too neatly fit today’s campaigns is to go to Snopes.com. I immediately found the true story there. By the time I posted the rebuttal, this piece of falsehood had so many “shares” there is no telling how many people have seen it and shared it again. So I guess we are to conclude Lincoln supports Romney for President.
Another interesting tidbit showed cartoon caricatures of Romney and Obama with lists great things done by Romney and bad things by Obama. Since there were no sources or statistics, I posted the comment, “Do you have any examples? No? I didn’t think so.” No one put up a rebuttal to my comments. My You Tube home page suggested a video which was little more than a Romney commercial. It played phrases from Obama’s speeches and used them to show how Obama vilifies business owners and that is not right! The problem is the phrases are so short there is no telling what Obama was actually talking about. Phrases without the sentences or maybe the paragraphs they were in can be spun in just about any direction.
What are we to do about this disturbing trend?  We can all be newscasters and write whatever we feel. Who is to stop us? If someone lies about a candidate, so what? No one is going to sue a little guy for “sharing” a facebook posting or You Tube video. If we can share something around a lot, which is possible, we can get a lot of people to believe the wrong things. If we can get a group of people to spend a day putting up crap on facebook, myspace, Stumble Upon, ChimeIn, Word Press, reddit, Pintrest, tumblr, Twitter and countless others, we can spin politics in every way except the truth. By the way, I do not wish to suggest it is just Romney supporters doing this. It happens on both sides.
Last week I mentioned an article in the National Journal where a columnist had noted that if we have the worst Congress ever then it follows “that we are the worst American electorate–ever.” Perhaps he’s right.

Industrial lies

Quotes attributed to Lincoln, he NEVER said this

What’s next?

The Inevitable Movement Onward

For many the completion of a project follows with the question, “What’s next?”  It may not be an immediate reaction to completion, as one may wish to stop and admire his/her work for a moment.  Eventually the spirit moves you to decide what to do next, unless you are a complete couch potato with zero desire to do anything.  In that case, I suggest therapy.  Zero motivation is not a good thing and will kill you in the end.  It is best to keep moving onward and avoid the entropy that destroys matter, such as yourself.

So it is the case with the Sunday Night Blog.  It started with the personal challenge to write an article a week for a least a year.  We have gone on well past the year and some weeks saw more than one article.  There is a sense of completion at meeting and surpassing the goal.  The past 13+ months have seen as many writing styles and topics as passed through my brain.  From story telling to straight up reporting to photo galleries to poetry to political commentary and beyond, the blog was blasted with whatever came to mind.  Shortly after finishing one topic I would begin to wonder about the next.  Sometimes there would be more than one article ready to go.  This is because one Sunday Night article may have been pushed aside to take on a more topical subject.  Items in the news may have dictated a rearranging of the schedule.  Topical items, usually political in nature, needed to be published while the item was fresh in the minds of readers.  Hence, there could be more than one article in the que, so to speak.

The blog never took off like I hoped it would.  Any week that saw more than a dozen readers was probably due to Serendipity blog by Marilyn Armstrong.  A reblogging of an article there immediately meant a bump in readership, sometimes significant.  I guess that is how Word Press blogs should work.  Supporting each other would bring bloggers to your site and those bloggers become subscribers and maybe even promote your blog on theirs.  In this regard I may have failed as I did not get around to many other blogs myself.  It seems life and especially work got in the way.  Taking a new job last summer that doubled my commuting time certainly did not help any.

On the other hand I did all of the recommended items.  I publicized to facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yahoo and others.  I used the webmaster tools to try to get more visibility on the web.  I started a facebook page to promote the blog along with my personal facebook site.  I turned a couple of blog entries into You Tube videos on my channel.  I added a Brand Yourself Profile to promote my links.  I started a personal website to promote my links or add personal items.  I used Chime.in, Stumble Upon, On Top list, Google+ as well as hitting Twitter with multiple promotions during the week for the same article.  With over 64 million Word Press sites along with all the other blog sites out there, it would take a full-time effort, along with a little luck and a lot of talent, in order to create a truly popular personal blog.  Of course there are some good examples out there, but for each hugely successful site, there are thousands of equally good or better sites that reach virtually no audience.  Oh, I am not claiming to be better than most.  I have not read most of them!  This was more of a personal indulgence anyway.

So what is next?  I can not say for sure, I do have a few videos to edit.  That too is a personal indulgence.  By the time that is complete we should be on the doorsteps of summer and I plan to go and check that out.  Life is full of this same question.  Continually searching for the answer is what makes life a great adventure.  If I should drop in here from time to time like an old uncle who occasionally shows up at family events, you can bet it is strictly because one of my adventures has left me with what I thought was an interesting story to tell.

À bientôt.

All over the map

Y from the Yahoo logo

Y from the Yahoo logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I write a weekly blog,” I proclaimed informatively while some sport events played on the televisions around us.
“Really?” my friend questioned.  “What kind of blog?”
“What kind?”
“Yeah, what kind is it?”
I stared back with a rather blank look, I guess.
My friend continued with determination to extract some further information, “What is your theme?”
“Oh!” I said as if I finally understood. “The theme is Twenty ten. It is a typical lay out and you can change the header anytime and add all kinds of cool stuff down the side.”
“No, not the theme. What is your subject? What do you write about? What are your topics?”
The light bulb finally went on, but I did not have a good answer for him. “I write about anything, or everything.  It depends.”
“It depends? What do you me it depends? You have to have a certain type of blog. Do you write about politics? Music? Religion? Sports?” As I did not provide an immediate answer, my friend added, “Something else?”
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “I write about all those things.”
“WHAT!? You can not do that.”
“Why not?”
“No one will ever read a blog like that. You have to find your niche and write for them.”
“Isn’t that a bit like preaching to the choir?” I asked.
“Exactly,” my friend said without a millisecond of pause.
“Well, what is the point of that? The choir probably has heard the sermon already. I want to write about the things that interest me each week.”
“No, no, no,” my friend blurted out, almost shouting so I would be convinced. “You have to have a goal for your blog, a higher purpose!”
“I do have a goal,” I insisted. “I wish to finish each week before Sunday night, hence…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said while cutting me off. “Hence, Sunday Night Blog.”
“That’s it,” I said proudly. “I even finished on time for the two Sundays I was out of the country.”
“That doesn’t count,” he reminded me. “You wrote those before you left.”
“True.”
“Look, you want to have readers, don’t you?”
“Of course.”
“Then you must have a permanent category,” he instructed. “How about music?”
“I don’t go to enough concerts and I do not hear enough new music.”
“What do you listen to in your car?”
“I sing along to the oldies,” I replied with a smirk.
“Oh my god,” he declared rather slowly to add emphasis. “Remind me never to ride with you.”
“Why not?” I laughed.
“Moving on,” he stated in a manner indicating his resolve. “What about entertainment in general?”
“No, I don’t get much entertainment, unless you count your facebook status. They really ought to get spellcheck for that.”
My friend either did not get it or pretended not to, so as not to get sidetracked from his mission to find me a purpose. “What about food?”
“Hot dogs?”
“Nevermind. How about the economy?”
“Too depressing,” I replied.
“Politics?”
“No, everyone will be sick of it by election day.”
“Religion?”
“No, the choir has already heard me sing.”
“Sports?”
“No, everyone I know is into fantasy leagues, not real sports. That’s like reality television, only with beer and chicken wings.”
“Well, how about the media?”
“I could review other blogs.”
“Absolutely not,” he shouted, “you will lose the one or two readers you might have now.”
“I must have more than that,” I insisted. “We can look at the dashboard and find out.”
“Don’t do it. You will be too depressed if you do not find any readers.”
“That’s true.”
“You can not go on like this, however. If you want readers you need a regular topic. You must load up you your articles with the right keywords so they will be picked up by the top search engines. You must choose your categories wisely and add lots of tags. Blast out notices on facebook and twitter, maybe Stumble Upon, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest, maybe Google+ and Yahoo.
“They still have Yahoo?” I said innocently.
“You simply can not be all over the map!” He was finally finished with trying to help me be an internet author. Besides, it was time to get another round and more popcorn.
“But I like being all over the map,” I said rather meekly. “It has provided me with the greatest adventures. My best travel companion and I have always started off with a general destination, but no specifics that stop us from going all over the map. We have the best trips ever.”
My friend glanced back at me with a rather incredulous look.
“Honest! I wished I had lost my sense of direction long ago. It really has helped me find my way.”
My friend just shook his head and grabbed another handful of popcorn.

Friends

There is no over estimating the value of friends in your life. While you hope immediate family will always be there for you, in the mobile society in which we live they may not always be nearby. Your personal support network needs to include friends to whom you can turn in times of need. When I was younger and moved from apartment to apartment several years in a row, my friends were there to help me move. They were certainly pleased when I landed at my present location and stayed put. The important thing was their willingness to be there for me. It is a comfort to know that.
Having friends to listen at the right times is also of great importance. You may stubbornly think that you need to bear an emotional or spiritual burden on your own, but it does not need to be that way. Good friends will listen They will offer advice when asked. Those not willing to hear you may need to be categorized as acquaintances or casual friends. It is OK to have plenty of them in your social circles. Good friends will populate your close personal circles along with your immediate family. They become your “extended family” which is so important in today’s world
Internet friends can now comprise part of your personal life. It seems an interesting phenomenon to me to have such friends. While a great deal of caution must go into cultivating this sort of friendship, it can have its own rewards. You may meet people with whom can can correspond on a personal level. They may be able to help at various intellectual levels. Right now I believe I have three people on my facebook that I only know through the internet. Two of them I have known for years and perhaps some day we will actually meet. All three live in different countries.
I have met someone I had known for years just through shared internet experiences, all good, and personal correspondence. When we met he came with his roommate to visit. I had told him years earlier not to meet a new person alone, so this was fine by me. It turns out they are great people and now good friends. I consider myself lucky to have met them, although I still feel this sort of thing, meeting internet friends and expanding the friendship, is more the exception and not the rule.
My former place of employment had given me the opportunity to meet students from other countries though their internship program. In addition to attending local sports events with many of them, I have been able to keep in touch with some via facebook. In fact I am currently in France visiting one of my best friends and a former intern following our Olympic tour this past week. Email, Skype and facebook have allowed us to keep in close touch even though we are thousands of miles apart.
“You have more friends than I know people,” my brother told me at our mother’s wake. That’s because the funeral home was filled with an absolute gaggle of our relatives and my friends. My brother had moved away decades earlier so he did not know a lot of these people. I have thought about his comments a number of times since then. I used to tell people, “I have friends from 18 to 80.” This was largely due to our parish, community groups and even the internet. I guess I am lucky in all this to have so many great people as friends. Be open to friendships as they enrich your life.

A castle in Orschwiller, Alsace, France