Fun Fact: Life in Stalinist Leningrad

These two marketing blogs must really be getting desperate because they keep linking to my posts. Every time I see a link, I make that post private. I’ve done this with a lot of my posts the past week. Mostly my posts about Mendocino and Philo. These people have NO imagination.

It’s so beautiful to see them today. How are you? When every single one of my posts is private, maybe I can finally concentrate on writing a book.

I haven’t been able to join Bloganuary. Despite all the fanfare, I’ve only received one prompt in my ‘In’ box, and I check every day.

Fun Fact 1 from All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days:

  • Over forty thousand residents of Leningrad are murdered in 1937 — a number that reaches sixty-thousand in 1938. (Because executions are carried out at night and mass graves are hidden, most of the population remains blissfully ignorant of Stalin’s killing spree)

But, sixty-thousand people in the space of a year? Surely those people had family? Friends? Co-workers? Wouldn’t they notice if their family members and/or friends simply vanished? I mean, we’re not talking six or even sixty or even six thousand people. We’re talking sixty-thousand, which is 3/4 the population of self’s city in California.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

My Heart, p. 76

For the second day in a row, no prompt from bloganuary. Where are these prompts going? She’s been checking her spam folder. Nada. When she presses on the bloganuary link, she gets a message: YOU ARE ALREADY A MEMBER OF THIS SITE and nothing else. Does any one else on WordPress have this problem?

Still enjoying My Heart, though it is not a novel. It is more a travel book, or a collection of essays. Who knows, maybe Semezdin Mehmedinovic has nothing in common with the main character: Maybe he never had a heart attack, which prompts such loneliness that he contacts his estranged son. Or maybe he did have a heart attack, but not at 50. Or maybe he did have a heart attack at 50, but doesn’t have an estranged son.

Whatever the reason, the book seems merely an excuse fro Mehmedinovic to let his wonderful, supple mind wander — for example, a few pages ago, there was a meditation on the word macadam, which exists as makadam in Bosnian.

Father and son are on a surreal trip through Arizona. There’s been wonderfully quirky insight on every page.

Without further ado:

  • The front bumper of Harun’s pickup truck is broken, which makes it look mistreated and vengeful. Conscious of its threatening appearance, he abused it today on Artists Drive, a narrow one-way road that winds through the hills in the heart of Death Valley; he drove close behind a white Toyota Prius, which evidently alarmed its driver, who stopped to let it pass. In this country people are wary of trucks.

They are.

Illustration from My Heart, p. 74

#bloganuary Day 2: Write About the Last Time You Left Your Comfort Zone

Ha! Self found where the prompts were going. She has now rescued her #bloganuary (She missed yesterday; wonder where THAT prompt went)

She will henceforth make a sincere attempt to post daily through January.

Self spent Christmas in Mendocino. This is actually not that much of a stretch (though driving around up there, during a storm, is a flat-out EXPERIENCE). She turned down invitations to be with people, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (scared of omicron), then the day after Christmas, drove back to the Bay Area, found a walk-up testing site close to her, and the very next day lined up, in bitter cold, for three hours. Now, THAT WAS A STRETCH. She can’t remember ever lining up for that long a time, in winter cold (not even for TKTS, that year she lived in New York.)

The tests ran out, but not until mid-afternoon. By then, there were only about five people ahead of her in line. Then she had two days of anxiety, waiting for the test results. And they came back NEGATIVE.

Hooray!

So, the storm, the lining up for three hours in the cold for the test, all took her out of her comfort zone. But she was happy with the results.

Intelligence Briefing: “Window”

Such fortuitous timing: It is summer, it is hot, and she can’t work in her yard because at the moment it is filled with piles of gravel (She’s having her driveway re-done). What else can she do but read? And she has excellent reading material in Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg, 1943, by Keith Lowe.

This book. THIS BOOK. Wow. Until this book, she didn’t think it would be possible for her to be so engaged in reading about the destruction of a German city during World War II (Because — depressing, right? Besides, a lot of other things happened during World War II. Such as the death of two uncles, all the way across the world, in the Philippines. And the horrible hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of Manila. Nevertheless)

What Mr. Lowe is really good at is painting a picture, putting the reader in scene. Just look at how he describes the night before the British aerial attack on Hamburg — important because, as the pilots were told, Hamburg was “Germany’s main center of submarine production.” There was distribution of a quantity of “brown paper packages” filled with “silver foil strips” called “Window.” Window was going to give the British aerial supremacy over the Germans. Window was going to win the war!


Intelligence Officer: “You will already have been told how to drop Window. It has been worked out as carefully as possible to give you maximum protection, but there are two points which I want to emphasize strongly. Firstly, the benefit of Window is a communal one: The Window which protects you is not so much that which you drop yourself as that which is already in the air dropped off by an aircraft ahead. To obtain full advantage, it is therefore necessary to fly in a concentrated stream along the ordered route.”

“Secondly, the task of discharging the packets of Window will not be an easy one. You are hampered by your oxygen tube, intercom connections, the darkness, and the general difficulties of physical effort at high altitudes. Despite these hardships, it is essential that the correct quantities of Window are discharged at the correct time intervals.”

The officer “went on to explain that Window was considered so important the Air Ministry was already developing machines to ensure a steady flow from the aircraft. In the meantime, however, it was up to the airmen themselves to maintain a machinelike regularity when dropping the bundles down the flare chute.”


Unfortunately, the dropping of “Window” did not exactly work out as well as visualized! The long strips of foil got tangled, especially at high altitude, and sometimes blew back into the plane, filling the interior with strips of foil that hampered the crew’s visibility . . . oh Lord, this was hilarious!

btw: Is there any system stupider than the new WordPress block system, which won’t let self indicate that the previous paragraphs are a quote. And if you try contacting WordPress customer service, they will tell you to e-mail. She really doesn’t know why they had to change the old system, when no one complained. And they applied the new system without giving anyone a heads-up. Who’s in charge of decision-making over there?

Anyhoo, they are a quote from pp. 74 – 75 of Inferno.

Stay cool, because self isn’t.

It Was Close: Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, 13 January 2021

With rioters ransacking the Capitol, Rep. Jim Himes hunkered in the visitors’ gallery overlooking the House chamber. He watched colleagues below rush to exit the floor, heard the reverberation of a single shot from somewhere close and waited his turn to evacuate.

A trio of Capitol police officers with guns drawn then led Mr. Himes and about two dozen colleagues — the last lawmakers in the chamber — across the long gallery, maneuvering through narrow rows of seats and over brass handrails. The officers were agitated and shouting at one another, he said, because they didn’t know which of the doors leading to the hallway to pick.

“They had no idea which door didn’t have a mob behind it,” he said.

— written by Ted Mann, Dustin Volz, Lindsay Wise and Chad Day, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, 13 January 2021, p. A4

Despite this, 197 GOP House members voted against impeachment. Unbelievable.

So sick of the WordPress Block System, what a huge waste of time, not everyone wants to fiddle with layout, some people just want to type. Self had to write this entire post twice because those damn blocks kept floating to places on her screen where she didn’t want them to be, and dealing with blocks so unstable is worse than — trying to walk on the surface of the moon?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Friday Morning: Reading Luisa A. Igloria’s New Collection

Luisa A. Igloria, dear friend, is this year’s Virginia Poet Laureate. Her newest collection, Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press), is such a beauty.

Excerpt from Moving, Changing, Not Moving


In the brick-lined interior of a coffee shop, a man at the communal table closes his eyes, a pair of earphones plugged into his cell. Fanning themselves, people come in from the street; it’s the hottest summer & everyone wants iced coffees & teas, water & ice; & parents with little children fall in line outside

people come in from the street; it’s the hottest summer& everyone wants iced coffees & teas, water &

btw: Has anyone EVER tried to contact WordPress about their new Block Editors, and has one EVER received a response? This poem format is ALL OFF, and the code editor does not allow self to switch between single space (within a stanza) and double space (between stanzas). Literally, self has been trying to format since 10 a.m., an hour and a half ago. Even their Customer Service doesn’t work. That is all.


Revisiting Self’s Melancholy/ What Is Going On With WordPress?

Three years ago, a short story called “This Is End” appeared in the Cost of Paper, vol. 5

It was science fiction about a character self kept using again and again, in different stories. The MC, Dragon, had a girlfriend, Her, who’d gone missing.

He doesn’t know what happened to Her (There are finite ways to disappear in space) but his favorite theory was that she was still alive, on another ship:

Floating, off to the right: the remains of the former space station, the Kobayashi Maru.

It caught fire. The wreckage drifted, was lost. Then found. Then lost, and found again.

And sometimes, when the ships drift past each other (literally ships that pass in the night HA HA HA), Dragon thinks he sees Her, gesturing to him from a window.


AND NOW FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, WHICH IS A VENT ABOUT THE NEW WORDPRESS SYSTEM OF FORMATTING, WHICH IS CALLED BLOCK EDITING.

Suddenly, without warning, right while she was in the middle of typing this post, each paragraph acquired its own frame. Like it was a picture. Which, self doesn’t have to tell dear blog readers, is ridiculous.

BLOCK EDITING WITH THE NEW WORDPRESS SYSTEM OF FORMATTING IS THE WORST.

The text floats in little bubbles, and appears so unstable. One little press of the key, and the entire block disappears.

Oh no! There it is again, but then it disappears again. Sort of like Dragon’s girlfriend, lol

Why mess with a system that worked fine — at least, it did for self.

Now, instead of editing tools being all to the side, they appear in the text, right on top of these little boxes — confusing as heck! She doesn’t need to see extra little visuals on top of each paragraph, what are they doing there, it’s not as if each paragraph requires its own format.

She starts typing and whole paragraphs bloom THAT SHE DID NOT HERSELF TYPE. Oh it’s auto-fill. WordPress remembered that you typed a sentence like this before, so it makes it easy and just copies what you typed before. WHICH MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE, because where would the fun be in blogging if you just copied from something you’d written before?

With block editing, everything gets so — jiggy. Like the text needs Xanax. The toolboxes and the blocks and the menus keep floating around on the screen, as if the document were suffering from ADD, and self doesn’t know how to get the words to stop moving because they apparently move in response to every slightest twitch of a finger.

And, self discovers to her dismay, she has very twitchy fingers.

FINALLY: This message that suddenly popped up on her Dashboard: START MAKING MONEY FROM YOUR POSTS!

10 (or more) years ago, she asked a friend (who was a marketing whiz, who was being paid big bucks to be said whiz) whether she thought self could release some of her writings as “extras” for people willing to pay a very small amount — say, a dollar. And this marketing whiz (who is still her friend, believe it or not, just not the type of friend she sees a lot, really just someone she encounters occasionally on FB), gaped and said: Why would you charge for something that’s free? I mean, that’s why it’s on the internet, because it’s supposed to be AVAILABLE. You can’t charge for anything on your blog. People would stop reading. And such was self’s faith in her obviously successful friend, she let the matter drop and never explored the idea of making a little money from blogging.

Until today, 12 years later, when she saw this message.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Philip II of Spain, Habsburg

The man after whom self’s native country is named is Philip II.

She’s been writing a story about him for the past couple of years. It begins with a physical description and all of a sudden, self itches to see actual portraits (You’d think she’d have done this first thing, but noooo, self always has to do things the hard way)

So, here he is, dear blog readers: Philip II, King of Spain and Portugal, King of Naples, Ruler of the Spanish Netherlands, and Duke of Milan:

Born in Valladolid, 16 January 1556, died in Madrid on 13 September 1598. He was 71.

Stay tuned.

Twisted: Belmont, CA Farmer’s Market

Bought $11 worth of cherries.

DSCN9988

The Warriors won last night. All’s right in the world.

Stay tuned.

Twisted: A Pink Cat

Detail of a drawing son did when he was maybe five or six.

It’s a big drawing, about three feet by two feet. And almost a third of it is taken up by the cat’s tail:

DSCN9985

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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