Do You Have To Let it Linger?

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Word Sprints for Writer’s Block, With Apologies to the Cranberries

My word of the day is linger. This word was given to me by the good folks at RandomWordGenerator.com, a place I visit when I need to do a word-based workout.

Like running sprints or doing calisthenics, allowing the fates to give me a word then writing something around the 750-word mark is how I keep the literary muscles supple and smooth. (This as my post-holiday actual muscles are quite lumpy and stiff)

Today I was in the bath, where I do all my best thinking, and realized that I hadn’t written anything in days. And days. It’s fine, I have plenty of good reasons for this, but wanting to get back in the saddle and bereft of any really good ideas, I got out, dried off, and hit the random word site.


Screenshot from RandomWordGenerator.com

The rules of my game are: I have to take the word given to me, or in the parlance of golf (a game I know nothing about) I have to play it as it lays. No repeatedly hitting the “Generate Random Words” button to find a word I like. Nope. Get the word and get to work.

So linger it is. As in…don’t linger, get to writing. Boom, done.

Well not really.

The first thing I do is Google the word to see what’s what. Read a definition, see where the word shows up, find some sort of context or concepts around the word that provide a creative spark.

Of course, one of the top hits for linger was that angsty song from the Cranberries that was everywhere and all the time in 1993. A song I once liked but was ruined for me by a coworker who told me the story of her boyfriend standing outside the bathroom singing it loudly while she was doing a number two.

Do you have to let it linger? Well, when it comes to a poo, sorry, it can’t be helped. I can light a match?

Now I can’t think of that song without that memory. So let’s not linger on that to write about, eh?

Next I navigated my way over to Unsplash to see what they had to offer under the heading of linger. The pickings were, surprisingly, slim. Same with Pexels.

Pixabay didn’t have much that I thought fit my own interpretation of linger, but did offer up this very cool photo:


From Pixabay, and the license states no attribution required

I have no idea what’s going on there, but I have never seen a Zen stack made with ice, so there’s something new I learned as I lingered over the Pixabay site (a stretch there, stay with me).

Though as I look at the photo, I wonder why the photographer didn’t get behind the ice to try to get the low golden sun lighting up the slices. It’s a beautiful photo but I feel a missed opportunity.

Unsplash did offer up this one under the tag linger, which, uh…that’s not lingering. That’s walking very fast.


Photo by Chiến Phạm on Unsplash

Lovely photo, nice composition, just not my idea of a good ol’ fashioned linger. So that’s irksome.

Back to the Google, this time I navigate to Wikipedia and try my luck. It’s there I learned that there is a city in Luxembourg named Linger. The population of 577 means the Wiki entry is quite brief, in fact just a stub. So I had to linger over this idea for a moment.

I’ve always really loved towns with weird names like Hell, Michigan or Sandwich, Massachusetts. I mean, I could write a whole story on the weird town names in New Mexico, where I grew up. Actually, that’s not a bad idea, I think I will tuck that story idea away.

See, lingering over Linger, Luxembourg got the ol’ juices flowing.

This random word thing is an almost no-fail writing exercise for me. There are plenty of things that the word linger can introduce into the post-bath, post-holiday brain.

Granted, linger is a pretty good word, lots of ways to go with that. I do occasionally get words that are clunkers and try to make the best of them.

Well, if you have made it this far, I thank you for reading through my writing exercise to ease my writer’s block. Maybe this is helpful in some way? Perhaps if you also have writer’s block, you will stumble across this lingering little story and linger over your own ideas, hit the random word generator and then linger over some fresh, piping hot ideas of your own.

I’ll have you know that the word “own” was word 758.

See? Knocking out 750 words is just as easy, or rather just as difficult, as that.

The One Thing

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Last month I found myself in Chicago attending a writer’s conference. The event was sponsored by a large publishing house and I went to learn more about the publishing industry. Boy did I.

Part of the weekend also had us working on some writing exercises. We were given a topic and told to write about it for ten minutes.

I’m pretty good at these off the cuff wind sprints, so I was sailing along nicely creating the words and feeling all of those blocks melt away.

That was until we got to the prompt: “What’s the one thing you won’t write about?”

Ugh. Well. The snarky voice in my head kicked in, saying things like “well if it’s something I won’t write about, why would I write about it here? In this uncomfortable chair. With 500 of my closest friends in attendance?”

Bah.

Then I started thinking, what really IS the one thing I won’t write about?

I know what it is, but I’m still not ready to write about it.

It’s grief. My overwhelming grief is the one thing I just can’t write about. Not yet.

Both December and January ushered in tremendous losses for me, one after the other, and though I’m told I have to “just grieve” and “get it out” and “go through the stages” I find myself a bit at sea. There are times it shows up inappropriately and I cry so hard I wonder how I will ever stop crying.

When I do finally stop, I become near catatonic for the rest of the day.

There are times I know it’s sneaking up on me and instead of trying to head it off, I am able to find a way to hide in the bathroom or outside or in my car and let it happen. A little.

And sometimes I simply have to tell the freight train that no, it doesn’t get to run me over today. When I head it off, push it down, it only means the grief builds up a bigger head of steam for the next time.

It is a demon and I am wrestling with it. And no, I’m not ready to write about the details. It’s too tender, too fresh, too painful.

One might argue that since writing is my thing, I should be writing about it. I should be writing it all out furiously and fast and working through all of those darn steps, up and down the ladder until I’m free.

As if one can ever really be free of grief. Actually, that’s part of the problem. This fresh and overpowering grief has ripped the lids off of the many other losses I have experienced so I get to go through all of that again. As if it’s new and present and today.

So yeah, letting it all out, that’s probably what I should be doing.

But I can’t. Not yet.

And it remains the one thing I won’t write about.

But I will write about it. Someday.

Maybe this post is just one small step in the right direction.









Image found here.




Hazard! Caution! Warning! Actung! Attenzione!

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So there I was a week ago on Tuesday, sitting at my desk and having one of the worst days at work in recent memory. There were all kinds of bonfires burning brightly on my desk. Still are.

So much so that in a recent hot project review with my manager and all of my peers, the Boss Lady remarked “wow, you have all of the really awful problems, don’t you?”

She is fairly unflappable and not easily worried by the bonfires that my job brings, so her concern means I am seriously up to my eyeballs in alligators.

As the day progressed like a hammer to the head of a nail, I decided to sit back for a few minutes and look at some personal email by way of distraction.

That is when I found an email from someone I don’t know, a Good Samaritan if you will, letting me know that my sweet Oh Fair New Mexico site had been hacked.

Oh joy. Just exactly what I needed.

This was, in my opinion, a particularly insidious hack. It was done so cleanly that I never even knew it had been hacked. Google “WordPress Pharma Hack” and read the pages and pages devoted to this really clever little invisible hack.

Instead of fiddling with my content or the front page of my blog, the intruder created something on the order of hundreds of offshoot pages from this blog. Those pages purported to sell all variety of fun pharmaceutical products, stove tops, waxing kits and more.

I suppose I should have guessed I was hacked when my website began to slow to a crawl. Then recently I noticed I couldn’t reach my website from my home network. A ticket raised at my hosting provider said “No, your blog is up and running.”

Turns out my ISP had blocked my infected web page. My blog continued to slow down even more. It began taking several long seconds to load.

I feel sort of sheepish that I didn’t figure this out for myself. The signs were there. I make a living in the tech industry, but when it came to my own blog I was a silly little twit.

So after receiving the bad news I:

1) freaked out, then

2) contacted my hosting provider who had done me the service of setting up my blog originally

Within about twenty minutes they had replied to my ticket and did their part to clean out all of the offending sites. I checked several of them to be sure they were shut off. A bit of Googling around showed me that I had been hacked going back into last year. Hoo boy.

Then I had to raise another ticket because I noticed that my usual log in page redirected me to a page that looked exactly like my log in page but had a different URL. Thankfully I did notice that in the URL line on my browser.

My hosting provider responded by giving me another way into my blog. Once in, I realized that my hacker friends had set up no less than five admin accounts on my blog and one more that was invisible. I could only tell that by seeing that I had one (1) line item for users but the count in the header of the page said I had two (2) admin accounts.

Hell, I never check my admin page, but I should have.

So I did a lot of research and I learned about PHPMyAdmin and I got new keys from WordPress to make sure if the hackers were still logged in it would crunch their cookies and I changed passwords.

And I freaked out a little more.

Then I went to Google and signed up for their webtools (as suggested) and ran through the process so I could get the “this site may be hacked” message to not show up in search results for my little blog. That seemed to work fairly quickly.

And then I freaked out less but still felt anxious. And I kept working on cleaning up the mess that was left behind.

It all feels so…dirty. I mean, I don’t get a ton of traffic to my little blog but it’s my tiny corner of the internet and this week I celebrated my seventh year of blogging. Over half a million words.

A lot of fun has been had. By me at least.

From all of this, I have learned that WordPress blogs are particularly hackable. I have also learned that some hosting providers are also particularly hackable.

I have some other things I want to do to better secure my blog, but I certainly can’t promise I won’t get hacked again.

In fact, based on my research, I probably will get hacked again pretty soon until I get better security on my pages.

I may have to just shut down the blog entirely, but for now, I’m back up. It seems to be running a little quicker. I do regular backups on the blog but I did another just to be cautious.

So there you go. For today I’m back to blogging and not selling.

I like it here. Oh Fair New Mexico makes me happy, and for the few but loyal readers I have, I hope it makes you happy too.

Meanwhile if you came here because you want to buy some good drugs off the blog, the bad guys are no longer in business at this location. For now, anyway.

__________


*Special thanks to the kind reader who tipped me off about the hack. I am quite grateful to you.

**Humorous side note: When I told The Good Man that I had been hacked he went to look at the blog. He thought my kooky post about big cats liking Calvin Klein Obsession cologne was the work of the hackers.

Lol! I had a hell of a time convincing him that I wrote it. *grin* They can’t all be winners.









Image found here.




Amirite? Of Course I Am

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Ah the onset of Autumn as these last wispy dog days of summer float by. These very warm September days don’t even feel like summer is ending, rather it feels like we are smack dab in the middle as the high temperatures are still pretty gosh durn high.

But alas, October is right around the corner. And by god, the advertisers of the world won’t let me forget it for a moment.





I’m not ready for it, but Autumn is being crammed into my face. My nose is smushed hard in it while I hear “Who’s been a bad customer? Who’s been ordering non-flavored beverages and food? Who’s going to pay out big money for pumpkin flavored everything? You are, that’s who!”

Just as Christmas shows up in October, pumpkin everything shows up in late August.

And it ain’t right.

Along those same lines, here’s a handy link:

The 12 Most Unnecessary Pumpkin-Flavored Products

That’s ok, I’ll suffer the slings and arrows of fake pumpkin flavor until about November 1 when it will all switch to peppermint all the things.

Then Cadbury Easter eggs will arrive in January.

*sigh*




What Hell Has Been Wrought On This World?

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Dear Robert Gaskins,

It took only one short Google search to learn that you are credited as being the inventor of a little software program known as PowerPoint.

I’m sure you are a very nice man, Mr. Gaskins, and your idea and invention started out as something good. Positive. Meaningful.

From what I’ve read you sought to make the business presentation easier and more professional. No more copying slides and text onto clear plastic film and showing it on an overhead projector.

Your idea was so good that you got venture capital from Apple and ultimately the product was acquired by Microsoft. Your little dream is now loaded, by most estimates, on over a billion machines.

This software program was a big step up in terms of sales presentations and other business presentations. It brought a layer of graphic design and professionalism to the talking points of any business meeting.

However, today, on this eve of Christmas in the year two thousand and twelve, I am no fan of yours, Mr. Gaskins.

To be fair, it’s not your fault that the business world has taken something you created for good and bastardized it, but as with eliminating pesky vampires means you have to make sure you get that one lead guy, you are just going to have be the focus of my ire.

As I sit here working in my mostly empty office building, the one thing I have to accomplish this week is a PowerPoint deck.

Let’s stop here and discuss all the names for what to call a PowerPoint presentation. Apparently we’re all too cool to call it a PowerPoint presentation, it’s a deck. A preso. Slides. Slideshow.

Whatever. It’s evil. It’s probably evil mostly because we in the business world are all too uncreative to really use the software as it is meant to be used, as a tool to emphasize talking points when giving a presentation.

But it’s not that anymore. Oh no. It’s the whole presentation.

Last week I had a meeting with the boss to talk him through my rationale for why I need three additional headcount on my team. He nodded, gave me feedback and generally agreed.

Then he said, “Put that all into a deck so I can send it to Big Boss. No more than three slides.”

One hour of persuasive conversation needs to be put on three slides with no more than six words per bullet and six bullets per slide. Then these three slides are to be emailed to another person and I don’t get to explain any of my rationale. No, the Big Boss is just supposed to try and figure out all the crannies and crevices and nuances of my business case from just eighteen bullets (six bullets per slide, only three slides).

No one can be expected to make heads or tails of an eighteen bullet point slide deck without someone to walk through it. But decisions will be made based on those eighteen bullets. If I craft them correctly, I get much needed help for an overwrought and overworked organization.

Get those eighteen bullets wrong and we get another year of exhaustion and not enough hands to do all the work.

What was always intended to be an aide to the conversation has now become the conversation.

And that’s just crap.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, Mr. Gaskins. Because of your little invention, on this Christmas Eve I am cranky as hell and worried about the fate of my team for the next year.

I feel the weight of eighteen incomplete sentences with cool transitions and maybe even a fun graphic weighing heavily on my mind.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t offer you any egg nog.

Besos,

Karen








Image from Call Me Cassandra.