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Just got out of bed, or: what I learned from #blogtober

This is not the way I want to live.

an ipad with a white screen and black type. We see 2016's yearly calendar displayed on the ipad screen. A keyboard is above the ipad and a pen and blank notebook are off the side of the ipad

Happy Halloween, y’all!. I was almost asleep but I jumped out of bed to get this post in before midnight.

Wow. #Blogtober is over. Thankfully. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I do NOT want to blog here everyday. I’d rather blog occasionally with longer, higher quality posts than daily with shorter and iffy quality stuff.

Pushing boundaries sometimes works. National Novel Writing Month starts Nov. 1, i.e. tomorrow or in a few minutes from now. Forcing 50,000 words out of you in 30 days is a great way to test your creative limits. Will you shut down or will you surprise yourself with the ideas that appear from nowhere? Discovering a half-decent plot development is thrilling when you’re in the thick of forced creation like that. I wouldn’t say #blogtober was thrilling, but I was mildly surprised that I came up with topics that didn’t entirely suck. (Whether or not I did those topics justice is not up to me to decide.)

Inktober shut me down. I didn’t get #inktober done (yet – still planning on finishing it out despite the time limit being reached in a few minutes from now). It pushed me too far. The daily failure of drawing poorly shut my mind down. By Day 23 I was running out of ideas for relating the prompt to my life and depicting that graphically. And I began to dread the drawing itself. That is failing.

Blogging daily wasn’t a failure like that. I could continue, but why pressure myself? What am I gaining from this? In fact, the more I blog, the more I am at risk online. Someone will take offense at something, and I really am not interested in going viral for nefarious reasons. The internet used to be content-based. Remember all the “Content is King” mantra dudes? About 10 years ago, the more you produced online, the better things worked out for you. Now, it feels like the least amount of social sharing of thoughts and values is Queen.

Anyway. I’m tired and I’m rambling. It’s 11:41 pm and I am finished with the #blogtober game. I probably won’t garner much more insight about my participation in it until we are a few weeks out. Maybe then I’ll blog about it then.

Thanks for coming along with me every day in October! Peace.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

How to know if a hobby is going to stick

Look for behaviors that reflect the love of it.

black and white photo of a person on the beach doing a handstand

When our daughter was little she asked to be signed up for the next level of an expensive gymnastics class she’d taken before. We flat out said no.

“Why not?” she asked, disappointed.
“Because,” we answered as kindly as we could, “you’re just not that into gymnastics.”

Despite her ensuing pleas, we stuck to our guns. While we would’ve liked for her to get the physical activity of a gymnastics class, this particular (expensive!) one was not a great idea. In the previous class, her lackadaisical approach to the work was glaringly evident, especially seen against the jumping-bean energy of her classmates.

You may say that it was fear and we should have pushed her through, but it wasn’t her first gymnastics class. Her interest in it never improved. She simply did not have all that much interest in tumbling. She wasn’t practicing on her bed or outside on the soft grass. She wasn’t demonstrating any curiosity about the world gymnastics competitions on TV. The passion for it wasn’t there. We decided to move on to other activities to see what might stick instead of pouring money into something she barely did.

Living in a dense suburb gives you some keen insights into what passion looks like for kids. You can see kids engaged in their favorite activities every day. And I don’t mean on the playing fields. I mean at home. At the beach. On the sidelines. Waiting for the school bus or walking home. Gymnastics lovers are literally tumbling down the street. Soccer players try to wear their shin guards on non-game nights.

When a kid wants to eat and breathe a sport, even a promise of no vegetables ever again won’t make them give it up. It is then safe to go ahead and pay for that expensive club. You’ve found something that sticks.

Similar rules apply to adults. People who have passion for an activity DO THAT ACTIVITY. They do it for the love of it. Yes, while making a living off one’s passion would be ideal, passionate people don’t allow that to stop them from creating, doing, and being in that hobby. Sure, fear and lack of confidence are barriers for some creatives, but the question is – are they still practicing in the dark? Writers block, for example, comes from performance anxiety. Writers write, but when it comes to writing something that is meant to be seen by others, they may freeze from the fear. That doesn’t mean they stop writing. True writers, the ones that would write with their own blood if that is all they had left, still keep writing. They may let the public project languish but they are still pounding away in their journals or pushing out more poetry.

So if you want to know if something is going to stick, watch how that person behaves when they think no-one is watching. Dancers dance. Tumblers tumble. The love of it will leak out.

Image by jregerman from Pixabay

Influencer fraud is a thing

a close-up of an apple keyboard and mouse. The keyboard has a custom key that is red and says "GET ME OUT OF HERE"

Today I retweeted a great rant on fraud in influencer marketing. The thread, tweeted back in August 2019 by social media expert Susie Parker contains awesome railing on the mess that is influencer marketing. (Also, behold Ms. Parker’s savvy use of gifs with each tweet. The gifs compel the reader to keep reading, to “solve” the “problem” of whether or not the words match the action in the video.)

In short, influencer fraud happens when individuals falsely purport they can provide a company access to followers who will interact with their brand. This interaction is measured in terms of clicks and purchases. The company pays the influencer for various advertising services.

The problem, which by some measures adds up to a 1.3$billion loss, is that a large chunk of influencer followers are fake. Dummy accounts bought for a few bucks.

I haven’t once bought followers, but I’ve never sought to be an influencer, either. Boosting numbers by any means necessary is the name of the game if big corporations are ready and willing to throw money at popular Instagrammers. I don’t like to see small business owners be bamboozled by social media mobsters but I cry zero tears over big agencies failing to do their legwork before they lay out cash. Those big agencies cry zero tears, too. They have plenty of cash to lay out, and the people making those decisions just need to show they have an “edgy” and “now” social media campaign out there. Enter fraud.

What I loved about Susie Parker’s rant is this: numbers don’t mean much. Don’t be dazed by the digits. Influence is the ability to affect others’ behaviors. People on Twitter with fewer than 5000 followers often enjoy much more engagement than those who have more than 10K, and the quality of those interactions is amazing. Susie Parker said “influencer marketing is dead,” and I agree. Influence, though, is not.

We’re exhausted by the Millennial and Gen Z Insta influencer influenza. Agencies will still pursue these “influencers” because brands are still sold on their effectiveness, but the creatives that know a little about psychology and how peer behavior works can make some strides in this climate. Quantity ≠ Quality.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Accents gone awry

“What did you just say?”

4 cartoon speech bubbles with question marks in them.

You may assume that living my whole life in Pennsylvania would mean my accent would be, simply, “Pennsylvanian.” Ah how sweet you are, Young Grasshopper.

The regional flavors of vowels and words of Pennsylvania are quite distinct. I’ve lived in three corners of this rectangular state (Not Erie), and my vocabulary and my A and O sounds sometimes reflect this. Usually I adopt the accent of the area in which I live and no-one knows the difference. (I’m pretty good at hiding my mish-mash past, but there are some exceptions. I can’t, and probably won’t ever, naturally pronounce “water” like “wooder” as Philadelphians do. I can turn it on when I’m at the Wawa but my family doesn’t hear me say it at home).

I must be tired, though, because my blending in has been fading out. Twice in the last week 2 friends have noted the odd way I’ve pronounced a word or two. I’ve gone years without slipping!

I don’t know if it was the trip back to Pittsburgh a little bit ago, but my vowel sounds are way off lately. One friend asked if I was from Minnesota and another, knowing I was from the Scranton-ish (Poconos) area, noted the “coal-cracker” accent in my speech. I don’t know what’s happening. But now’s a good time to give you all a rundown on the accents that show up in my speech.

Scranton area/Northeastern PA
Sometimes you can hear the Northeast PA accent in the American version of The Office, but they didn’t capture it that well. The latter half of this old film of “Heynabonics” gets into some of the serious quirkiness of the Scranton accent. (Side note: The Jeet yet, no Jew? is also Pittsburghese but not Philadelphian. The rest of the video is strict Scranton). I definitely got the piss taken out of me when I showed up to the University of Pittsburgh and said something was “Mayan.”

Philadelphia area/Delaware County (suburb of Philly)
The Philadelphia accent is often mocked on Saturday Night Live (as NYC is OBSESSED with Philly). The best and funniest example of this was James McAvoy’s Charmin focus group skit. James McAvoy is BRITISH but his Philly accent is as good as Tina Fey’s, and she grew up about a mile from my house. I don’t know if they said the word “jawn” in that skit, but the CREED movie dropped it and added an explainer!

Pittsburgh area/Western PA
Strange thing – I played the McAvoy skit for my PGH-born-and-bred friends, and they said they heard the “Yinzer” twang. [“Yinz” is the word for the plural “you” in the Pittsburgh area. A “yinzer” is a Pittsburgh area resident with their distinct accent.] Watch this classic video from greganddonny on YouTube for a great example of not only the Yinzer accent but an explainer of one of their own very distinct words.

Anyway. I don’t know what the heck is going on with my accent lately. It’s all over the place. Thankfully it’s bouncing between a mere 3 PA places. Only 3. That’s not bad. Even SLATE noticed that Pennsylvania is awash in a gazillion different accents. I will tell you this, though: Pennsylvanians have sharp-ass ears. One vowel outta place and they are gonna call yas/yous guys/yinz out on it. Pretty crazy, heyna?

Image by Lynn Neo from Pixabay

Environmental Philly

If you’re from the Philadelphia area (or even if you’re not), please read the article in Philly Mag about how a non-coastal city still needs to prepare for the floods.

An image of a passenger jet, top-down view, on a runway. The run way is overtaken by water in rippling waves. It is a photo montage credited to Dan Saelinger, from Philadelphia Magazine

Philadelphia’s possible responses to climate change are outlined in this article by Clair Sasko and David Murrell in Philadelphia Magazine. I had already known that Philly is slated to get hundreds of thousands of climate refugees, from places like Miami and the coasts, but this article reminds me some will come from New Jersey. It’s an obvious idea, of course. The coasts will flood by the end of the century. We here in Philadelphia are so used to going to the New Jersey shores for vacation or to spend our summers that we forget about the people who live there all year round.

My friend in Pittsburgh says that the city has 191 car charging stations. We have less than 150 and we are a much bigger city. The article has a theory as to why that is. 80% of electric and hybrid owners charge at home, but the city stopped residents from putting up stations in front of their own houses, fearing a haves/havesnot divide over private parking spots on city streets. A bit myopic at best.

I don’t post about environmental things often, for two reasons. 1. I’m not living off-grid. I’m still driving a gas fueled car, we have natural gas in our home, and I don’t always know where my garbage goes (like clothing!) 2. I think the focus on the little guy, like me, is misleading. Huge corporations and literal nations are the overwhelming main contributors. We have to regulate them more. They are killing us all. I don’t know what to do about either one of those things. I do my research but I don’t have control over how my recycling gets processed, or how my donated clothes don’t end up being resold but instead put in a landfill. Don’t get me started on electronics. I use my phones, computers and cars until they are literally dead and cannot be revived. Does this give me some moral superiority over those who upgrade yearly? Probably not. That’s the thing, I don’t even know if I’m doing it right. My instincts tell me to use stuff until it can’t be repaired. Perhaps the right thing is to move it on earlier so more life can be squeezed from its parts. I just don’t know.

Hopefully we can get straight answers on all of this soon. Hopefully we’ll all be taking over the streets demanding them and instituting the changes business and governments need to make to save the planet.