Discombobulated, Again

Remember how I forgot to blog a little while ago? Well, I didn’t forget to blog last week—I just got all thrown off a little (okay, a lot) due to an unpleasant and unexpected event.

Last Monday a vicious storm sprung up out of nowhere and pounded the area I live in. At work, we got a little thunder and lightning and not much rain, but at home, there was wind galore. That meant downed trees and power lines, which obviously means no electricity. We’ve had a few power outages this year. The prior two were annoying, but the power came back on within four hours. This latest one was different. It took a good seven hours for it to come back on, so that meant the demise of the delicious homemade soup I’d made the night before (and had only eaten once). Basically, that threw me off all of last week. I don’t think anyone was expecting that.

So, rest assured, I am here and planning to schedule some posts. I don’t want to have yet another week without much blogging! This evening I’ll be working on writing of different kinds, which will include blog posts and fiction writing.

Also of note is the fact that I played my violin today. Hallelujah! I haven’t played in a while and it was good to play again. Unfortunately, my fingers became weak and uncalloused, so right now they’re a bit sensitive. 🎻

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I forgot to blog.

Yes, dear readers, it’s true. For the past nine days, I completely forgot to write blog posts! I’ve been busy with stuff at work and recovering data from a computer hard drive at home. Moral of the story: you can never, ever, ever make too many backups of your data. My theory is this: if it doesn’t exist in at least three places, it doesn’t exist at all. 🙂

This week is going to be busy, too. I have a lot of stuff to do at work and I’ve been working hard on my novel after work. So far I’ve maintained a daily average of over a thousand words, which is the most I’ve ever done! (Except when I did NaNoWriMo, because to win that you have to average 1,667 words per day.) But hopefully I will not forget to blog this week.

Also, can we just ban Mondays? I really think Monday should be an extension of the weekend and we should work four days a week. Who decided to work five days a week anyway?!

Life Without Feedly

I’ve been using the RSS reader Feedly since 2013, when Google unexpectedly and unpleasantly announced that it was shutting down Google Reader forever and ever. Feedly was the closest alternative—design-wise, it somewhat resembled Google Reader but was slightly better. (Design has never been Google’s strong suit, if you ask me…)

Fast forward to 2017. Feedly is quite popular since it gained a lot of users when Google Reader died an early death. Unfortunately, the designers and developers at Feedly have been tinkering with it more and more. They kept changing where the settings were, what everything looked like, and all sorts of things. I got sick of it, so a few weeks ago, I exported my feeds and deleted my account.

I started using the WordPress.com reader and it’s surprisingly decent. I mean, I tried it once before and didn’t like it, so I am pleasantly surprised this time around. Granted, I don’t know how useful this would be to someone who doesn’t blog and/or comment a lot with their WordPress.com account. Yes, you do need an account to use it (but that goes for just about any web-based RSS reader out there). I’m a tiny bit obsessed with WordPress, so it is nice to have all of the sites I follow in the same place as my blogging.

I like how it knows what I’m interested in, LOL. Click to see larger.

If you are looking for a central hub to keep up with your favorite sites, I think this reader is worth a try. And just so you know, WordPress did not pay me to say any of this. Though in advance, I feel compelled to tell any WordPress employees reading this that I am willing to accept payment in the form of free WordPress.com goodies (as in, the various paid upgrades they offer) or cold hard cash wired into a bank account. 😉

A Boring New Theme

You guys, I’m so annoyed. Remember that old theme I had on my blog that I really liked called Libretto? Well, I can’t use it anymore. For some reason, the first several words of every post weren’t displaying. They were in a different, all-caps font and they worked fine until recently. So, no, I didn’t make any typos in my posts (well, I have been known to do that, but in this instance, I didn’t!). It was just that the theme was cutting off these words. I have a feeling it has something to do with web fonts (I am not completely certain what those are but I’ve had trouble with them in the past). Regardless, I have a new theme for this blog right now called Penscratch 2—and I don’t care for it. It’s so characterless compared to Libretto. Seriously, look at this screenshot of what Libretto is supposed to look like and you’ll see what I mean.

In addition to blogging, I’ll be looking for a better theme for this blog in the near future. Any suggestions from the theme library are welcome—as long as they’re free. I’m a bit wary about paying for a theme, since I wonder what’s to stop it from breaking like my good old Libretto did?

Note: The problem described above with the Libretto theme isn’t present in all browsers on all systems, so you may not have noticed it. I’ve noticed it mainly in Safari. However, since I don’t fully understand what’s causing it, I don’t want to use that theme until it’s fixed.

A Blogiversary

I recently renewed my domain name for this site, so that means my blogiversary is coming up. Honestly, I wasn’t sure the blog would make it to this blogiversary. For the past year or so, I’ve increasingly been thinking that I should stop blogging. Not many people read this blog anyway (though the few who do are pretty fabulous) and blogging just isn’t what it used to be.

I also sometimes wish I had chosen a different name for this blog. (Though what else I would have chosen, I don’t know.) Sometimes I feel like the current name doesn’t really describe what it is anymore—or what I want it to be. Yes, I know I could change the name, but that’s a pain. I’d have to come up with a new domain name, put in a redirect for the old domain so I don’t lose all of my traffic (not that there’s that much anyway!) and readers, and who knows what else. So I probably won’t change this blog’s name, but who knows.

Anyway, I think my proper blogiversary is in March (I wrote two posts for a new blog in January 2011 and saved them on this blog, but I didn’t properly start blogging with this domain name until early March 2011). If I do have any blogiversary celebrations, March will be the time. But don’t count on anything, because I’m feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about this.

Wanted: Blog Recommendations

Hear ye, hear ye, dear readers. I have a request for all of you. In short, I need recommendations of good blogs to read. My reading list has been a bit sparse recently. The bloggers I read now don’t blog every day, so there are some days when zero posts show up in my reader.

I used to read a lot more blogs, but slowly I pruned my list. It wasn’t because I had too many on the list; it was because I didn’t enjoy reading those blogs anymore. For example, I stopped reading Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn blog. I like Joanna and I think she’s a nice person. I read her blog for years. In fact, I started reading it when I was in college and only stopped reading it early this year or late last year (I can’t remember which). As I said, I don’t bear any ill will towards her. It’s just that as time went on, it changed from being less of a writing advice and writing craft blog to more of a “Look at me and my BRAND and my publishing and marketing strategies and yes, let’s talk about BRAND again.” Thanks, but no thanks.

Anyway, hers isn’t the only blog I’ve stopped reading. I dumped a lot of people from my reader. Therefore, my list is a bit thin. And that’s where you come in! Please, dear readers, give me some blog recommendations. I only read English and Russian, so I’d appreciate it if you limit it to those two languages. If you’re reading my blog, you probably know what my interests are, but just in case, here’s some things I like, in no particular order. (You don’t have to limit your recommendations to these, of course. It’s just a starting point.)

  • Russian history, language, and literature
  • History in general
  • Classical music, especially anything violin-related
  • Crafts, especially knitting and crocheting
  • Writing fiction
  • Reading books

Yep… that’s basically me in a nutshell. Bring on the recommendations! 🙂

Why I’m Thinking Of Quitting Twitter

Should we just say no?
Should we just say no?

After much thought, some of it prompted by the election, some of it not, I’m contemplating giving up Twitter.

I got Twitter in 2008 and loved it for years. I “met” lots of random awesome people, especially Russian speakers, and enjoyed tweeting in bad Russian and sharing articles related to Russia. Once I even managed to get then-president Dmitry Medvedev’s aide Arkady Dvorkovich to tweet to me, along with hawkish Russian nationalist politician Dmitry Rogozin. Rogozin and I actually had an entire conversation on Twitter and it was awesome.

Then a couple of things happened. Twitter went public, which meant it wasn’t just a cute website with the occasional ad and venture capital funding as a way of earning money. It was now beholden to shareholders, which means there’s an expectation to deliver positive growth quarter after quarter. The company had changed and the site just wasn’t as fun anymore.

Or maybe I changed. I’ve written before about how combative and nasty Russia-watching has become. I didn’t just mean in the blogosphere. A lot of the nastiness I experienced was on Twitter.

Still, I stuck with Twitter. Maybie it was out of misguided loyalty, but a writing group I was a part of congregated on there. I enjoyed interacting with fellow writers and giving (and receiving!) encouragement. Writing is a very solitary process and it’s always nice to connect with like-minded people. Then the election happened and—well, let’s just say a lot of those people weren’t who I thought they were. I’m in touch with some of them still, but over email.

Basically, there’s nothing left for me on Twitter anymore. If I want to meet writers, there are better websites out there, plus I have some Twitter friends who have become email friends. If I want to speak Russian, there’s iTalki. I recently reactivated my account and hope to actually learn how to use it this time around. And if I want to network with other book lovers, Goodreads has always been way better for this than Twitter.

I doubt I’ll delete my Twitter account anytime soon. It can be a great resource for connecting with some indie authors I like. (Though now that I think about it, I have those people’s email addresses too!) I just… don’t really see the point of Twitter anymore. I don’t dislike it strongly like I do Facebook or Snapchat (I have proudly never used the latter); I just feel neutral about Twitter. I don’t genuinely like it the way I do Pinterest.

In general, I do think cutting back—way back—on social media use is a good thing. I saw we bring back blogging. Blogging may have been the “original social media” in that it had comments, which let people interact with each other, but it has largely fallen by the wayside since the advent of social media. That’s too bad because blogging allows for more substantial analysis and discussions than social media does.

What are your thoughts, readers? Have you soured on social media and cut back? Or never used it at all? Let me know in the comments!