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. 😉

My First Business Trip

Okay, the title of this post is a little bit misleading. This wasn’t my first business trip—the trip to New York in 2015 that I forgot to blog about was my first business trip—but this was my first trip with my current company.

The city by night after we arrived

Two of my coworkers and I went to a major city in the southeastern US. We ate some fabulous food, which was great. My prior company had a limit of what you could spend per day on meals. I think it was $25 or $35, which isn’t very much for a major city. My current company doesn’t have that. We are asked to “use judgment” when choosing where to eat, which I interpreted to mean that the five star restaurant I really wanted to go to was off-limits. Within reason, though, we could eat anything we wanted. Swiping the corporate card was very satisfying. 😉

However, the highlight of this trip was the hotel. We stayed in a Four Seasons, which was a first for me. I’ve wanted to stay in one for a while. Allow me to explain.

Several years ago, I started writing a crime thriller. In one of the scenes at the beginning, my intrepid protagonist gets to stay in a Four Seasons with her wealthy cousin (the cousin’s wealth greatly ties into the crime aspect of the book). I stopped working on the book for a while, then came back to it in 2015 and finished it. In preliminary edits, I ended up cutting the Four Seasons scenes—too much backstory—but those scenes still had been fun to write and I harbored a secret desire to stay in a Four Seasons. (Also, that book is one of my favorites that I’ve written so far, so I really need to go back and give it a proper editing and try to sell it to a publisher.)

Anyway, who would have guessed that years later, I would be able to stay in a Four Seasons? It was a very neat experience and I do have photographic evidence to share with you.

Here’s the hotel room: the first photo is at night after we arrived and the second is during the day.

The bathroom was quite luxurious, so I had to photograph that as well.

That’s a five-star toilet right there.

And that, my friends, was my experience at the Four Seasons. I ate the restaurant one morning for breakfast, which was decidedly lackluster, so I went to a local bakery the other mornings. Of course, the whole time I was there working and eating with my coworkers, I kept thinking of the book I wrote and how my trip wasn’t just an ordinary business trip. It doubled as book research, a fact I’m sure all my fellow fiction writers will appreciate.

Happy Easter!

Traditional Russian/Ukrainian dyed eggs called pysanki [писанки]

Happy Easter, dear readers! This year is the last until 2025 that western Easter and Orthodox Easter are on the same day. I hope everyone had a good holiday.

A Message From The Other Side

A strange group of events happened this weekend—obviously it’s a coincidence that I saw a pattern in since the human brain loves to find patterns, even when they don’t exist—but I still wanted to blog about it.

First, I read some history books about the Nazis and was reminded of my friend Tommy because we used to discuss twentieth-century German history together all the time. I dedicated an edition of Wednesday Music to him one October. Basically, he was my best friend ever but then he died, which was devastating. All during this past weekend, I kept being reminded of him. It was all very random stuff: something my phone did, something else I saw online, etc. The culmination was yesterday, Monday, when I was browsing The Passive Voice blog and saw this graphic (found in this post).

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

That was Tommy’s favorite quote. I was shocked to see it pop up on my computer screen as I clicked through to the next page of posts on that blog. And while obviously it’s just a coincidence that I happened to see this quote yesterday, a part of me felt like it was him sending me a message.

Вечная память.

Words Of Wisdom From The Admiral

No Wednesday Music today, dear readers. I couldn’t find/decide on a piece! But I did write a post, so at least that.

Regular readers may know that I’m a huge admirer of Alexander Kolchak, a Russian admiral who served in the Imperial Russian Navy and later became famous as a noted military and political leader for the White Movement during the Russian Civil War. I’ve been fascinated by him since I saw a Russian film called Admiral back in 2008. (Just so you know, the TV series is way better, but unfortunately not available with English subtitles.)

Anyway, about a week ago, I wasn’t having such a great day at work. Everyone kept giving me stuff to do (and of course wanted it done yesterday, i.e. the day before they gave it to me), I was worried about not being able to finish, and it was very frustrating. I opened up Twitter and, lo and behold, what did I see? A quote from Admiral Kolchak! I follow a pro-White Movement Twitter account (actually, I follow several, because that is the depth of my obsession) and someone tweeted this nice photo. It certainly won’t win any awards for graphic design, I’ll give you that, but it really made my day.

Click to see larger
Нет поражений. Есть временные трудности. -А.В. Колчак

In English, the quote is: “There are no defeats—only temporary obstacles.” Or at least that’s how I’ve translated it. There seem to be a surprising amount of shades of meaning of the word поражение [porazhenie].

Now, I realize there’s a certain bit of irony in quoting a man who was betrayed by troops who were supposed to be on his side, which led to him being handed over to his enemies, interrogated/tried by a kangaroo court, and murdered at the conclusion of this “trial.” (Kolchak’s murder took place ninety-seven years ago as of yesterday, February 7. Maybe that’s why I’ve been reflecting on this recently…) I’m not really sure what to call that other than a defeat. But hey, I think it’s an inspiring quote and I’m rather partial to anything Kolchak-related.

A lot of people at work have quotes on little pieces of paper pinned up at their desks. Most people have random inspirational stuff or favorite Bible verses. I may have to put this one up. Now that will garner some inquiries from my team, I’m sure!

P.S. Here’s how the tweet looked when it showed up in my Twitter stream. It made me so happy that I had to take a screenshot.

Yes, my phone is in Russian!
Yes, my phone is in Russian!

P.P.S. I researched this quote and to be honest, it’s quite hard to find a substantiated source for it. In my research, I found this slightly more wordier version: Не может быть поражений — могут быть лишь временные трудности. It pretty much amounts to the same thing in English, though. Despite the unsubstantiation (is that even a word?), I like it and am going to resolutely believe it is true unless I find out otherwise.

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! 🙂

I Passed My Exam!

Dear readers, I am back. I hadn’t intended to take a week off from blogging, but something came up. I registered to take part two (out of three) of a professional certification exam back in August. The registration is valid for six months, during which time you have to schedule and take the exam, or else forfeit the exam fee.

I’d been putting off studying, but at the end of last year, I finally started on it since I realized my registration window was running out. After I started getting most of the questions right, I knew I had to register.

So I logged into the testing system to schedule my time and saw there weren’t many good slots left. There were some very late ones this week and some decent ones in mid-February, but I didn’t want to wait until then. On Wednesday night, I registered for the one remaining Thursday slot. I think that’s the most last-minute planning ever. Since our department at work really wants all of us to get this certification, I was allowed to take a day off to study and take the exam on Thursday. And I passed! Seriously, I was a bit surprised. I had studied, but some of the questions were really hard. There were quite a few that I could narrow the answer choices down to two possible answers, but I wasn’t sure which was correct.

Anyway, I didn’t do much writing (either on this blog or my fiction) last week. I was too busy studying and then feeling relieved that I passed. I spent the weekend reading and watching a movie and crocheting. It was quite nice. Especially since we have unseasonably good weather right now. Unfortunately, it’s back to the usual grind tomorrow. At least I squeezed in some decent writing time today!