Tag Archives: social networking

Small fish / Big pond (or Flounder in the Shark Tank)…


There’s a certain feeling I get sometimes, one that is difficult to define but no less real for all that.

The sort of feeling I get when I find myself in an environment that I am as yet unfamiliar with, but have nonetheless been invited into by those to whom it is second nature.

It’s a sensation similar to one I’ve experienced when, having been roped into some committee, council, or focus group at work, I suddenly realise that most, if not all of the others present, have the relevant information, skills or training at their disposal and that I’m going to have to blag it somewhat, at least until I know what’s going on.

The earliest example I can recall of this feeling, that I may have accidentally become an imposter, simply by having turned up when invited, was way back in 1980, when I was an innocent young schoolboy in Sussex.

I used to play trumpet in the local Boy Scout marching band and my music teacher suggested I turn up for the weekly band practice at school.
Now, I wasn’t bad at playing the trumpet, (although my long-suffering parents may have disagreed) in fact I had graduated from blowing a basic bugle to playing an actual valve trumpet, learning various rousing marching tunes by ear, with the aid of our slightly eccentric band master in the Scouts.

The key phrase in that sentence is “by ear”, as I realised just too late when I proudly sat down with my instrument case at band practice the following week, took out my trumpet and heard the music teacher say;

“Right, if you’d all open your music score to page three…”


“Um, I’m sorry sir, I can’t read music.”

Yes, there was sniggering.

Yes, there was a certain air of communal smugness amongst the rest of the assembled musicians.

And yes, I scuttled from the room, mumbling excuses and vowing never to put myself in such a mortifying situation ever again.

Which, obviously, I still did, we all do, it’s part of life.
Part of the rich and varied learning curve we all have to climb, in order make our way in an increasingly complex world, one where social interaction has given way to social networking and having “friends” no longer means the same thing as it did when we (meaning anyone aged thirty and over) were kids.

But I’ve done pretty well to catch up, I think.
I quickly got the hang of social media.
Well, Facebook anyway.
I’ve got a YouTube account, and Twitter, and tumblr.
I even have my own blog for goodness sake.

So how much different could other social media sites be?

LinkedIn is the social network for the business world and therefore the only experience I’ve had with it so far is when I use it to share blog posts, from which I have previously gained very little traffic.

Then, when I was doing some general maintenance on the blog last week, including adding a LinkedIn share button to the bottom of posts, it occurred to me that it might be worth tidying up my neglected LinkedIn account profile.
Which was when it occurred to me that there are all sorts of professional bloggers, writers, publishers, authors and editors out there, many of whom must use the site to promote themselves, (I know, I know, I told you I was still learning) so I set about finding as many people in those fields as I could and sent them all invites, followed by a polite introductory message, just to see what would happen.

The other thing that I realised was that my profile claimed that I was called “Dale Cooper”, (my initial attempt at persuading the system to accept dalecooper57 as my name having fallen at the first electronic fence) an entirely fictional identity that only exists in two places; my head and the blogosphere.
So before sending out my opening salvo of invites, I took the completely non-executive decision to change the account to my real name, (I’m pretty sure there isn’t anybody who still thinks I’m called Dale Cooper, right?) which is at least a fairly uncommon one, added the details of my day job and updated my profile to make it clear that I was interested in connecting with people in the writing business.

Then I sat back and waited.

Just looking at the LinkedIn newsfeed made me feel out of my depth, scrolling through posts about content management, marketing, copywriting, content development and target demographic optimisation strategies, (ok, I made that last one up) all of which may as well have been in Swahili for all the sense it makes to me.

All of which makes it rather problematic when trying to engage a potentially useful new contact in a conversation that I can steer around to how I might go about getting myself in on the ground floor (or at least into the basement) of the rarified and ephemeral world of published writers.

It turns out I needn’t have worried, all the writers and publishers I have contacted have been sympathetic, helpful and glad to give advice.
Not only that, but I have now built up a network of over eighty LinkedIn users, some of whom actually sent me invites and several of them have already provided me with invaluable hints and tips on creative writing.

But it gets better.

Today I saw a post from one of my new connections, requesting that writers submit short stories to her, for inclusion in a book.

An actual, real, printed book!

So I did, obviously.
I submitted two of the stories that I wrote for my contribution to the Stream of Consciousness Saturday posts and now all I have to do is wait to hear whether they meet all the criteria for inclusion.

In the book.
I did mention there was a book, right?

I’m more excited than a schoolboy who has just realised he can read music.

Watch this space.

{Original Help Desk cartoon by Ho}


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The Path less travelled…

So, I’ve just joined this Path thingy, anybody care to join me, I’m led to believe it’s the Next Big Thing?

If you are frustrated with Facebook, think Twitter’s for twits and haven’t tumbled for tumblr, why not try this new social networking site.
No spam, no ads (allegedly), multiple platform sharing options and the ability to restrict your interaction with only those you choose to communicate with, it seems a bit too good to be true but also appears to do exactly what it says on the box.

So if you fancy being able to communicate directly and discreetly with yours truly and not get absorbed by the huge amorphous giant that is social media, come for a stroll.
Some of you may even have had invites from me already.

Fire Path, walk with me.

View on Path

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Posted by on July 29, 2015 in Blogging, social networking


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What goes around, comes around…

It’s great to be excited about blogging again and, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from the increased frequency and variety of recent posts, I’m getting drawn into more and more new activities all the time.

My sudden conversion to writing fiction has really inspired me to finish Deus Ex Machina, the sci-fi story that had been patiently hanging around in my head, waiting for me to continue Kreel’s mysterious adventure, Linda G Hill has provided much additional inspiration with her One Liner Wednesday and Stream of Consciousness Saturday slots, both of which I’m now totally hooked on, the new photography blog, Photo Sans Frontiers is up and running (along with its companion Facebook page) and now I find myself with the hugely enjoyable prospect of another, future collaborative project.
And it’s all due to a spot of synchronicity worthy of the Tenuous Lynx his/her/itself.

Back in 2011, as a forty-something internet novice, (as opposed to a nearly-fifty Internet Nobody) I was just beginning to get to grips with something that everyone else seemed to have had a head start on, namely Facebook, and the idea that I could have my own little corner of the Great Big Double-u Double-u Double-u, to do with as I wanted, whether other people wanted me to or not.
I was also drawn to the idea that anyone could create a space that had a definite image of its own, some sort of identifying feel to it that made it stand out from the information overload of the internet.

Which, I quickly began to realise, was what blogs were for.

As I initially searched my newsfeed for any interesting and original content, hidden amongst the pictures of cats, recycled memes, “inspirational” quotes, pictures of cats, game requests, charity fads and more pictures of fucking cats, one of the more promising pages was called simply, Todd and Dustin’s Blog and it contained the slightly superior, sometimes snarky ramblings of a couple of likeable Americans called, rather unimaginatively I thought, Todd and Dustin.
It featured comical, sometimes nonsensical posts, occasional nihilistic ranting, creative writing competitions, video blogs and a satirical edge that I liked right away.

Todd and Dustin – More fun than they look, honest.

The page is currently dormant and nothing new has appeared since January 2013, when the final message to their Facebook fans was as follows:



So, not happy then.
And that was the last I heard of them, which was a shame because they were probably one of the sparks that lit my blogging fuse, so to speak.

If you are on Facebook, you can view their page HERE, but for those of you who haven’t been swallowed by the internet’s answer to crack cocaine, here’s their page’s utterly brilliant author blurb:

“Todd Michaels began his writing career in 1849 under the tutelage of a German Sheppard named Bradley. Since then, he has been producing work with such a non-stop fervor that dead people rot and living people die, merely at the mention of his name. Winner of several non-existent awards, Todd prides himself on his ability to make readers itch in places that they don’t even have while screaming out words that only pets can understand.

Dustin Tyler came out of the womb with a pen in one hand and a completely written short-story in the other. The story was said to be the most “important” item produced by mankind since Eve took a bite out of that giant round red item decades earlier. Unfortunately the story came in contact with what Dustin would later describe as “filthy” hands and had to be destroyed. Since then, Dustin has continued popping out of wombs with complete stories, though none are known to be as good as the original.”

Fast forward to last week and I get a Facebook friend request from some American bloke I’ve never heard of, whose name is a really obvious anagram of a film star I really don’t like, so I messaged him and asked why he chose to solicit my friendship.

As you do.

He told me he had been searching for like-minded people to invite to his page.

This may not seem noteworthy, except for the fact that, in the timezone lag between messages, I’d checked his “About” page.

As you do.

Under “Other names/nicknames” it said Todd and Dustin.

I mean, that can’t…
Bloody hell, that’s a coincidence…


Needless to say, I was delighted to finally make the acquaintance of someone who played one small part in my decision to take up blogging and, once he’d told me that he and Todd (he’s the Dustin half of the partnership) were on the verge of rebooting their own blog, it didn’t take me very long to suggest working on something together in the not too distant future.

As for what else he and Todd are up to, I was told only that they spend a lot of time playing video games, one of them is married to the other one’s sister, they are in the habit of starting projects that they like to leave half-finished and that; “If you’ve ever gotten a magazine in the mail with descriptions of tacky jewelry you best believe that we wrote it!”

By the way, it seemed important to him that you know this;
He only managed to deliver his friend request to me after escaping the clutches of 300 heavily armed men, using just his movie star good looks, a twizzler he happened to have on his person and a very small amount of violence, mainly involving forcible insertion of spiky and exotic vegetables, a gallon of LSD-infused vanilla custard and, purely as a last resort, a rocket launcher.

All of which goes to show, if you stay on the internet long enough, it will eventually take you to where you want to go, even if you didn’t know you wanted to go there in the first place.


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Doing the write thing…


It’s all very nice, curating a page of other people’s photos, pinging off the odd pithy one liner to a midweek guest post on another blogger’s site, mucking about with editing software to create animations, photo collages and imaginary buildings, but it doesn’t really count as writing does it?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, sticking multiple fingers in as many pies as possible is all very satisfying, but the whole reason I started this blog was to explore the possibilities inherent in the written word, not as an experiment in how thinly I could spread myself across the internet.

Not so long ago, barely a day would go by without me having to scribble down an idea for a post while I was at work, almost unable to wait for the time I went home, inexorably drawn to the keyboard of my trusty smartphone, hardly looking up from the little glowing screen until the maelstrom of thoughts in my head had been haphazardly regurgitated and hammered into some sort of order.
Then the unalloyed delight of publishing an article, firing it off into the ether, hoping that it would connect with someone, anyone, enough that they would like it, leave a comment, or (the ultimate compliment) actually follow Diary of an Internet Nobody.

But despite all of those incentives, I seem to have reached some sort of impasse, not so much writer’s block as blogger’s holiday or scribbler’s sabatical. I have still been active on social media, still been sifting through the hundreds of e-mails I get every week from all the various blogs that I follow, reading and commenting on as many of them as I can (albeit using my usual rolling rota method, having followed far too many for me to actually read on a permanent, regular or daily basis)

Whether this is due to recent changes in my lifestyle, (getting married, moving house twice in six months, starting another new job, working an awkward split shift pattern, etc) or just simply because the urge to write had temporarily deserted me, I really couldn’t say, all I do know is that the blogging muse has once again descended upon me and I have decided that the only way to make sure I don’t lose this new surge of enthusiasm is to publicly declare my intent to return to the literary fray.

Because, let’s face it, it’s not like I’ve been starved of suitable material to write about: In the last couple of months alone there have been news stories on the obnoxious behaviour of denim-clad, walking mid-life crisis Jeremy Clarkson who ended up being sent to bed with no dinner (and no job); the barely-believable insistence by Californian lawyer, Matt McLaughlin that, in order to protect society from evil gay people, he must Immediately introduce the “sodomite suppression act” to prevent the sunny west coast suffering the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah (including plans to despatch all gays “with a bullet to the head”); the odious Nigel Farage claiming his plan to save the NHS would be undermined by all those sneaky foreign AIDS sufferers, coming over here to maliciously recieve life-saving treatment; not to mention the entire rhetoric-filled media circus that was the most ludicrously overwrought (and yet depressingly predictable) general election for decades and, just this week, reports that in North Korea, unhinged, doll-haired despot, Kim Jong Un has executed one of his top generals for treasonously falling asleep in a meeting,…by anti-aircraft gun!

All of which would ordinarily have made eminently acceptable blogging material, but which somehow failed to kick-start my writing muscles for whatever reason. But that’s all in the past, because I am now officially giving notice that, starting right now, I will attempt to post something (by which I mean that I’ll actually write something) at least once a week, in addition to any photography, guest spots or smartass one liners I may come up with in the meantime. I cannot as yet predict what form this new output will take, although I’m sure it will still feature old strands like my Picture this… photography posts (as opposed to the curated output from Photo Sans Frontiers) and maybe even another few selections from the Melodic Randomiser, as I have yet to complete my sequential journey through my entire CD collection.

However, I can say for certain that I shall be giving myself yet more incentive to put fingers to keyboard in the very near future, in the very next post in fact. You see, I’ve had something in reserve for a while now and I think it’s time it saw the light of day.

Those of you who have hung in there, against the possibility that I might eventuallly write something worth reading again one day, if you were paying attention, or just have an especially good memory, you may recall that, back at the start of 2014 I said that I was working on a fiction project. Some of you got a preview of my first attempt at creating a story from my imagination and I was delighted to find that several of you even gave it rather favourable reviews. Not only that, but one of you actually enquired as to the progress of the story since then (hello Bonnie) so I thought it only fair that I try to complete (or at the very least, continue) the tale, to see where it leads me. Obviously, given that I haven’t managed to add anything to the plot in the interim, I need some sort of nudge to restart the creative process. The simplest way to achieve this would seem to be for me to publish what I’ve alraedy written (in episodic form – clearly there’s no point putting all my fictional eggs in one basket) and hope that the reaction to it is such that I shall have to finish it to meet public demand. Now I am aware that this presumes a certain amount of enthusiam on your part, but even if I just end up writing the remainder of the story for its one existing fan, that will be an accomplishment in itself. 

So, the very next thing you’ll see on the blog will be chapter one of my first ever foray into the world of fiction. After that, well, thats anyone’s guess, but I think I’m going to be a lot more productive in weeks to come. Maybe it’s the season, the creative sap rising with the spring weather, perhaps it’s my newly energised domestic situation, or it could just be that I needed a rest, enabling me to come back refreshed and invigorated from the blogging wilderness, but whatever it is, I’m raring to go and all I need now is inspiration.

Stay tuned, I’ll be back before you know it…



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Rights, wrongs, guns, God and the wisdom of Lisa…

It doesn’t take a lot to distract me from a train of thought, (as anyone who has ever read this blog will be painfully aware) so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to you that, since I first hit upon a topic for this weekend’s post, my magpie mind has been turned this way and that by the innumerable bright, shiny things that we all have access to via the wonder (curse?) of mass-media and the Weird Wide Web.

The problem with the internet in general, and social media in particular, is that it has become more and more a tool that people use to influence opinion, rather than just air their views, on anything from tinfoil-helmeted conspiracy theories and medical quackery, right up to human rights, lawmaking and constitutional reform.

And all the fucking cats, obviously.

Which may explain the increase in posts by many of my American friends on Facebook recently, concerning two obviously hot topics that seem to prompt equally emotional responses from both the pro- and anti- side of the equation.

Now I can’t vouch for the whole of the UK, but I think that over here, very broadly speaking, Barack Obama is seen as a fairly decent, sincere and rational man whose presidency is largely a force for good. (Before I incite a barrage of political invective from across the Atlantic, I will happily admit that my grasp of the larger American political system is that of an interested but slightly bewildered observer and I claim no deep insight into the socio-political workings of the Land of Opportunity)
But to read some of the things that otherwise seemingly reasonable folks say about him on the internet, you’d think he was Satan himself, come to take away your freedoms and eat one or two of your children if he thought he could get away with it.

Quite a lot of people seem currently fixated on the idea that he’s on a crusade to remove their inalienable, God-given, constitutional right to go around tooled-up to the eyeballs with whatever hand held artillery they can carry, even when doing something as mundane as going to the grocery store or visiting the local burger joint.

In Texas especially, feelings were running high when the ironically named Target group announced it would allow advocates of the Open Carry laws to bring pretty much whatever weapon they liked with them to do the weekly shop.


Target – “Well, some of those TV dinners can get downright ornery.”

However, in a gratifying case of bowing to public pressure, including that applied via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Target have done a U-turn on that decision, leading to a raft of protests by open carry enthusiasts who can’t bring themselves to walk down the mean aisles of the mall without their trusty assault rifle to protect them from……..well, the hordes of heavily armed shoppers presumably.

Again, I’m not claiming to speak for the majority of my nation when I say this, but if I walked into Tesco and there were people walking around with hunting rifles slung over their shoulders, I’d quietly turn round, go home and lock the doors, close the curtains and try not to make too much noise gibbering to myself.

I know from many a heated discussion I’ve had with American friends that they just don’t get it when I say that we don’t have guns over here, not in the insane way they do in the States, and I find the idea of everyone being armed to the teeth a terrifying thought.
They always sound puzzled and say things like “But the criminals still have guns, right?” as if that explained everything.

I’m not saying that all armed citizens are crazy gun nuts, far from it, but you only need one or two examples that are particularly Twitter-worthy to piss on the collective gunpowder, so to speak.
My own personal favourite nomination for inclusion into Adam Pain’s forthcoming Golden Face Palms would have to be the decidedly white Open Carry Texas group from Huston.
To “educate people of their rights”, they planned an openly armed march through a black neighborhood. Not only that, but with added sensitivity and tact, they scheduled the march for June 19th, the day given over to celebrate the abolition of slavery.
That specific rally did not go ahead as planned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody doesn’t push their luck a little too far in trying to fully exercise their rights in the not too distant future.

Another hard-to-believe story that’s making the Fb newsfeed buzz this week is the one about the Christians, the craft shop and the government legislation.
No, it’s not the feed line to a joke, it’s the news that arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby have more or less unilaterally decided to flout the rules of the ObamaCare bill, by refusing to provide health insurance to female employees that covers IUDs or “morning after” contraceptive pills on the grounds that it contravenes their religious beliefs, despite the fact that an element of the insurance is paid for by the employees themselves.
This not only interferes with the woman’s right to choose, it also disqualifies a lot of women who need the same medication for non-contraceptive medical uses, and it isn’t cheap to buy privately either.

Strangely, they do provide men cover that allows for both a vasectomy operation and a Viagra prescription.

This may seem like a minor, under-the-fold news story, but the ramifications could be far reaching.
What if a Muslim employer insisted that all his staff had to wear a full-face veil?
Or that his employees all had to pray to Mecca five times a day?
How popular would that be in middle America I wonder?
And the case is already having an impact, with other companies questioning their responsibility to provide cover that may go against any deeply held beliefs they suddenly find they have they may hold.

It just seems weird to me that a shop that started off selling picture frames and modeling kits can now influence government policy.
It’s like the Women’s Institute lobbying the British government to ban fertility treatment, it just doesn’t seem right somehow.

But it was Independence Day this week, so I have tried my best not to start too many arguments with our trans-Atlantic cousins, even getting a few amused comments when I reposted this slightly cheeky old favourite that I made a few years ago to do my bit for The Special Relationship.


And just so it doesn’t give the impression that all I see coming from America is frightening, or insane, or both, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine from over in the U.S. who I have been trying to convince to start blogging.
Her name is Lisa and she regularly posts these beautiful, emotive and reflective pieces on her Facebook feed and they invariably receive many compliments on how well she writes and that she should speak to a wider audience.

My favourites are the poetic, narrative pieces that detail the simple pleasures of observing nature, or just sitting on the porch listening to the night, but I was also enormously touched by the post she wrote the other day about how grateful she was that her husband, Joe was well again:

“My mind makes music of the dehumidifier’s white noise; one time it was strings, but lively, jaunty ones. When Joe was at Cornerstone, the air rushing through the tubes connected to his trach played long, slow cello notes. They never stopped. It was the saddest music I’d ever heard.

I could also hear the bangs booms pops of the fireworks that Fourth of July as I stood by the head of his bed and talked to him. I hoped he couldn’t hear them–Joe had always loved fireworks, loved setting them off, he could build a better display on his own than we ever saw at Island Park what with their tiny budget. Stuck in the hospital bed, he couldn’t even raise himself to look out the window, even if there were any rockets to be seen.

They let me stay in the room, sleeping in a recliner, eating the trays he couldn’t. The food was surprisingly good. In return, I helped the nurses bathe him, clean him, turn him every two hours, change the sheets. I didn’t know it then, but I was learning skills for when the insurance cut off and they sent him home.

I hear the creak as he turns over in bed. It’s better music than the dehumidifier.”

Lisa on man’s inhumanity to man.

“If you’ve read true crime, you’ve probably run across the statement that the killer “had to dehumanize” his victim, that some serial killers view their prey as little more than dolls to be acted upon, and this is always written in tones dripping with horror, that this is such a rare aberration. Some strange mental component that “decent” people like you and I (thankfully!) don’t have.

But we do.

Any time we indulge in racism, sexism, classism, religionism–any of the “isms”, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Any time we make another person “other”, not “one of us” that’s what we’re doing, and it enables us to wreak any violence we please upon them, whether it’s simply slander, or actual physical violence and death–we’re doing exactly what the criminals do.”

on the cynicism of Christmas.

“The surly, churlish “It’s ‘Merry CHRISTmas’, god-dammit!” fad is sheer hilarity on several levels. First being that Jesus, Himself a devout Jew, would have celebrated Hanukkah–one of those holidays in “Happy Holidays” that certain of His followers find so objectionable.

It’s doubtful Jesus would have approved of Christmas, it being a wholly manufactured holiday the later Church used to make Christianity more palatable to its colonized peoples. Pagans had their well-loved “rebirth of the sun” festivals at the Solstice and would have been highly (perhaps violently) resentful and resistant if the Church had forbid them. So, the Church decided that rebirth of the sun could be compatible with the birth of The Son, and permitted the traditional merrymaking under that guise.

If certain of His followers read the New Testament, they’d discover that Jesus viewed non-Jews with marked distaste, habitually making disparaging remarks about Gentiles. Jesus had to be at least tangentially familiar with Roman pagan celebrations during the Solstice. There’s little reason to suppose He’d regard Christmas’s purporting to be a “godly” holiday with anything less than disgust.

Last but not least, the Seventh Commandment prohibits taking the Lord’s name in vain. There isn’t much that exemplifies that better than slapping your lord’s name and endorsement onto a heathen celebration.”

Lisa on the moon.

“And of course I had to go look at the moon.

I missed her full; our sky was solid impenetrable cloud, but tonight they’re breaking up. They march Eastward across her face. She has a little sliver sheared off, looking like she’s peeking at me from under something, or perhaps only her hair falling across her face a little, if her hair was deep blue as the lapis lazuli beads you chose.

And she shines on the snow in the yard, and it does its trick with the Disneyland sparkles to show you that it’s magical, if you didn’t already know. And she shines on the icicles over the door, making them gleam a blue as cold as LED light, but somehow living while LED can’t.

I turn off the kitchen light so I can look out again and she’s printed light on the floor in the pattern of the French door’s frames. The clouds have moved on and she’s bright, it’s bright outside, it might as well be a parking lot, so lit up with the moonlight reflecting from the snow, and from the starlight and the neighbors’ yard lights. It’s cold, it’s a quiet night, but it’s lit up and waiting.”

…and on wacky wildlife.

“Okay, this must be Wacky Wildlife Day.

I look out and see the raccoon waddling up the walk toward the cat food. This doesn’t please me.

I buy cat food for the cats. The bag has a picture of a cat on it; not a raccoon, not the neighbor’s dog, it’s for the cats. Still, as far as raccoons and the mayhem they can commit goes, this is a pretty well-behaved raccoon. If it shows up after hours and finishes off what the cats didn’t eat, that’s more-or-less okay with me. I’m not going to stand sentinel all night to make sure it can’t scrounge the leftovers.

But daylight? Come on.
I open the door and it bounds off, but then stands up in the middle of the yard, looking at me. We stand there for awhile. I don’t have anything handy to chuck at it, so finally I extend my arm and point at it. A lot of animals who have had a rifle pointed at them don’t like that–they’ll run.

I point at the raccoon and it slowly turns and looks behind it, then turns back, like “Who, me?” So I laugh and give up and go back in the house.

Well played, raccoon. Well played.”


[If you, like me, would like to see Lisa spread her wings and start a blog of her own so that more people can experience her wonderful writing, please leave a comment and I will gladly pass them on when I next prod her into doing just that.]

And that’s about it.
Just time to fit in my pick for sunset picture of the week.


Until next time…


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Eating our words…

It hasn’t escaped my attention that a large portion of my blog traffic comes from America, so I hesitate (ever so briefly) to do anything to alienate my transatlantic readers, but what with so much internet content generated in the U.S. and the fact that I have a lot of  Facebook friends over there, I am constantly reminded that we are indeed, as George Bernard Shaw said, “…two countries separated by a common language”

Noah Webster published his A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in America in 1806, and anyone with even a minimal grasp of the definition of the word “dictionary” will tell you that it refers to a list of new and pre-existing words, together with their meanings.

However, what Noah proposed to do was to list and re-spell any words he didn’t like the look of, purely on the strength of aesthetics;

Find that “re” at the end of centre a bit difficult to remember?
No worries, let’s make it “er” and say no more about it.

Have trouble with that pesky “ough” sound in plough, it’s hard to get your head round isn’t it?
Hey presto! Plow.

As for all those ridiculous “..nce” words like licence.
Pah! Henceforth let them end in “se” and have done with it.

Worst of all, who could forget the trauma caused by all the unlicenced, sorry, unlicensed “U”-shaped interlopers in good ol’ American words like color and humor?
Begone foul vowel!

And the national antipathy towards poor maligned vowels didn’t end there. Even official names of natural elements weren’t safe.
Not content with removing extraneous silent letters from words, the language police denuded aluminium of its penultimate “i”, changing the pronunciation forever to aluminum, like something out of a bad fifties sci-fi movie.

Fortunately sanity prevailed when Webster proposed changing the traditional spelling of women, to the more literally-minded and aesthetically pleasing wimmen. This was one semantic step too far and was vetoed.

But words themselves are not the only English hand-me-downs that get the stateside language makeover, plenty of their definitions go through the linguistic blender too.

Let’s start with the traditional English biscuit.
All biscuits in America are cookies apparently, not just the ones made of cookie dough (or possibly Doh!) that we call cookies, but all biscuits.
Except crackers.
And biscuits.
Because they’re scones.

Yes, in the States what we would call a scone is called a biscuit and is eaten with gravy.
And don’t go imagining a cream tea with Bisto over it either, that’s not what they mean by gravy.
No, “gravy” is a thick white sauce, often with sausage meat in it, poured over scones biscuits and eaten for breakfast.

What’s wrong with bacon, egg and fried bread?
Well, it turns out that what’s wrong with that is, the fried bread.
From what I hear, raw dough is fried, presumably resulting in a sort of bread dumpling, but a decent fried slice is harder to come by.
Unless you want Toad in the Hole, that is.

Excuse me, what?

Ok this gets a little complicated, so listen up.
Over there, Toad in the Hole is basically a cheesy fried slice with an egg in the middle.
Explaining that it should be made with Yorkshire pudding won’t help you either, you’ll just get blank looks unless you have the extraordinary luck to guess the word Popover.
That’s right, Popover is what they call the same batter mix (with added butter) that we put sausages in and call Toad in the Hole.

– You want vegetables with that?
– Thanks, how about some nice mashed swede?
– No, sorry. How about some rutabaga instead?
– Ok, I’ll try anything once…..Hang on this is swede..

Of course being so enormous, America can be excused for playing fast and loose with its own version of English. I mean, if you’re going to make up words anyway, why insist on them meaning the same thing everywhere.
Ok, there’ll be minor differences in pronunciation and usage.
In one state for instance, the generic term for carbonated soft drinks might be soda, in another it could be pop.
But some places take this grammatical laziness to a new level.

I’m reliably informed that in some southern states, even ordering a Coke is not as simple as it sounds.
Because everything is Coke.
If you want Coke, order Coke.
If you want Fanta, order Coke.
If you want Dr Pepper, (what’s the worst that could happen?) order Coke. (you could get Coke, that’s what)
If you want… well, you get the idea.

Must make vending machines very confusing;
– Hey! That goddamn machine just gave me a Coke!
– I’m sorry sir, what did you order?
– A Coke.
– Ah…


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Every Pickture sells a story…

We live in an aspirational society, there’s no doubt about that.
Whether it’s listening to architect-luvvie Kevin McCloud wax ever so lyrical about a millionaire’s high-tech modernist mansion we’ll never own, watching the TV chef-du-jour cooking food for dinner parties none of us will ever throw, or vicariously enjoying the exotic, sun-drenched holidays of whichever faded celebrity is currently rebooting their career as a travel show host, we all fantasize about being able to afford high-status objects of desire.

This constant craving for beautiful things, the wish to experience far-flung cultures and the apparent need to document every detail of our lives in the virtual world of the internet, possibly accounts for the success of social networking sites like Pinterest and, to a lesser extent, tumblr and StumbleUpon, all of which are crammed to the brim with sapphire-blue oceans lapping on golden sands, impossibly beautiful jungle waterfalls and more sunsets, forest glades and reflecting lakes than you can shake even a very big stick at.
The trouble is, although there’s plenty of nice stuff to look at, (and you might even come across Diary of an Internet Nobody on one or all of them too) all you can do is look.
What’s really needed is a site where you can look at all this cool stuff, share ideas and suggestions with other users, and then buy the cool stuff.

Well it just so happens I’ve found just that very site, or rather it found me. is a social networking/shopping platform that allows users to “follow” a huge range of brands and products, and also to interact with others on the network, making connections with friends from other platforms like Facebook and Twitter, to exchange recommendations of everything from LG to Lego, Blackberry to Burberry and Ferrari to Fred Perry.


Once you’ve built up a profile of your product likes, or “picks”, you can assemble wish lists of items which other users can browse, leaving comments or making suggestions.
The beauty of the site is that, not only can you find the gadget of your dreams, or the pair of shoes you must have right now, you can purchase them direct from the retailers, there and then.
As you build up a network of fellow aspirational bargain hunters, you’ll discover more stuff you can’t live without, despite the fact you never knew any of it existed yesterday.
Because that’s the other thing Pickture aims to do; predict new trends, let us know what we should all be buying before every Tom, Dick and Harry jumps on the bandwagon, keeping us-in-the-know well ahead of the fashion curve.

A nice man from “Team Pickture” contacted me through the Diary of an Internet Nobody Facebook page and invited me to join the site. He was extremely helpful and understanding in the face of my usual technical ignorance and made setting up my profile page a doddle, answering all my dumb questions via Fb messenger.
I now have a whole page of marvellous things I won’t be able to afford until a rich relative dies, but there is a Batman logo bookcase I’ve got my eye on…

What I get out of this (quid pro quo and all that) is that every time someone browses one of my “picked” items they get directed to my page, where there is a link to the blog, hopefully increasing traffic and gaining me new readers.
I’d recommend it to other bloggers who want to attract more followers, if only because you can always do a bit of shopping while you’re waiting for them to turn up.


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Putting their necks on the line…

Now I know I told you a story about a day of alcoholic excess recently, but at least it took place over a period of several hours and I was decent enough to be ashamed of myself the next day (well, feeling sorry for myself anyway) but some people take things just that little bit too far.

Back when we lived in Sussex, a bloke died after drinking a whole bottle of Jack Daniels at a party, apparently your body just shuts down when that much alcohol is dumped into your bloodstream and you simply stop being alive due to overloaded and anesthetized internal organs.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I was at school there was a craze for a card game called Top Trumps, in which you had to read out statistics based on the prowess of the sports car/warplane/athlete/racehorse etc in your hand, hoping to outdo your opponent so you could take his card.

There was a craze for those plastic things (what the Hell were they called?) with a spring underneath and a sucker cup which, when pushed down onto the base would, after an unspecified number of agonising seconds, spring up into the air as the suction let go.

There was yet another craze that involved smacking a wildly oscillating, lethally inaccurate tennis ball tethered to a madly swaying pole (which was simultaneously gouging a huge hole in your parent’s lawn) back and forth until the flimsy plastic thing on the top broke and snapped off to show somebody had “won”, or one of the players was given a black eye/bloody nose/concussion by a surprise backhand from one of the unreasonably solid bats.

There were spacehoppers, skateboards, skipping ropes, Cabbage Patch dolls, Rubik’s cubes and Slinkys. All crazes which, at one time or another, were the thing everyone was doing, the thing everyone was talking about.

I’m not expecting this to be news to any of you, but I thought I’d remind you of some of the innocent pleasures we kept ourselves entertained with, back in the days before this huge, life-eating monster called The Internet arrived and swallowed a generation’s youth, only to spit them out, pasty-faced and squinting, into a reality fast becoming an imitation of the games they’ve been living in for years.

Because some crazes that have appeared amongst (and I’m perfectly aware of sounding like my dad here) “the youth of today” are nothing short of jaw-dropping in their crass disregard for basic human decency.

When I first heard about Bumfights, it seemed like we’d reached the very bottom of the barrel in human-on-human exploitation for entertainment.
Then I heard about Happy Slapping and realised that we can always find a way to plumb further depths of despicable behaviour.
That particular craze seems to still be with us, albeit in a new, more hardcore form, The Knockout Game.

All of which are internet “games” based on videos of abuse against innocent victims, generally filmed by the perpetrators or those responsible for inciting violence between others.
But today I have been hearing about a craze that appears to require idiotic amounts of abuse to be inflicted upon the perpetrator instead, and self-inflicted at that.


NeckNominate is the latest internet fad to hit social networking sites like Facebook, one which has the potential for tragic or even fatal consequences if it continues to spread.
I shan’t promote it any more than I have to, but the point of the exercise seems to be to rapidly consume (or “neck”) any type of alcoholic drink in an outrageous or “amusing” way, the more extreme in volume and mixture the better, then post video of yourself doing so on your chosen social network.
You should then nominate someone else with pronounced antipathy toward healthy liver function to engage in the next in a chain of booze-themed Jackass sketches, thereby perpetuating the whole horrendous process
(I’ve since heard of at least one serious injury, the result of a participant falling backwards down a flight of stairs after “necking” a bottle of spirits)

Yesterday I unwittingly watched a 4 minute video on Facebook that was tagged with a friend’s name, not knowing that this was a NeckNominate challenge.
Expecting any second that there would be a twist or trick at the end of the short clip, what I actually watched was a man in his kitchen, in his underpants, drinking in rapid succession; a pint of lager, a pint of bright red, berry-flavoured cider and a pint of Smirnoff Ice.
And that was it.
Strange. But there’s lots of strange stuff on the internet so I thought no more about it.

Today I got to work to hear a young lad in his early twenties telling anyone who would listen about his hilarious high-jinx the night before.
I paraphrase his description;
You should see the state of my kitchen, we were doing neck nominate last night and my mate was sick. He was drinking a bottle of scotch while I was throwing eggs at him. One of them smacked him right on the side of the head and he puked all over the place.
Then he chucked eggs at me while I drank half a bottle of scotch and half a bottle of wine, it was brilliant.

All this was delivered in the proud tones of one who has done something that should be applauded, so was somewhat crestfallen when he was met with responses that were variations on a theme of “You’re a fucking idiot, you could kill yourself doing that”

He really seemed to be hurt that we didn’t share his pride at his achievement but I’m sure there will be someone out there who will see his video and think; “That looks like fun. Spending a whole night’s money in five minutes, then puking all over yourself and trashing your kitchen. Wicked!”

Really, can we get much lower in our endless hunger for new ways to demean ourselves in the name of entertainment?

And I thought ITV was bad…


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One man’s commenter is another man’s troll…

All it takes is a news report on the death of a statesman, rock legend or movie star to bring the usually silent contributors to internet discussions scuttling out of their holes, pouncing on the slightest opportunity to cast their pearls of vindictive wisdom before the common swine of social media.

Such was the case this week with the deaths of both Hollywood star Paul Walker and elder statesman, Nobel Peace Prize winner and all-round international man of the people, Nelson Mandela.


From the first post on my Facebook newsfeed the morning of Walker’s tragic accident, messages of sympathy and condolence appeared every few minutes, (at which point I have to admit I Googled his name, not being a fan of the Fast and Furious movie franchise that made him famous) and it soon became obvious that he had been a much loved and respected figure in an industry so often populated by superficial and cynical egomaniacs.

In an age when celebrities tend to see a chance to do good deeds as more of an opportunity to get good publicity, it was good to discover – albeit in tragic circumstances – that here was a man who really did “do a lot of work for charity, but I don’t like to talk about it”, not only setting up a disaster relief charity in the wake of a tornado which hit Alabama, but also personally funding and helping distribute aid in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
All without the slightest hint of a photo-op or magazine exclusive.

And yet not 24 hours after this online outpouring of seemingly genuine grief and compassion, the mean spirited, troll-like inhabitants of the Weird Wide Web hunched over their permanently sticky keyboards to start producing rants and memes that would render any subsequent display of public emotion trivial and confrontational.


First we had a wave of rants berating users of social networking sites like Facebook for posting memorials to Walker which failed to also commiserate with the families of Roger Rodas, the driver of the car in which they both died.
As if they themselves had been busy posting tributes to Rodas the whole time, champions of the common man that they are.

But that was nothing to the pseudo-indignation that was unleashed when, a week later, Mandela died and the whole world mourned a man who many considered the father of modern South African society, a man who was the face and voice of oppressed black South Africans even during 27 years of imprisonment.

It was then that the Trolls went into creative mode, knocking together a particularly fine example of their art.
This one featured pictures of both Walker and Mandela, but instead of showing respect to two good men it chose to once again castigate those unfeeling enough to have paid tribute to a mere film actor when there was a real-life, bona-fide saintly hero to be eulogising.
The text went along the lines of;
“If you’ve spent a week grieving over a dumb movie star and don’t know who this man (Mandela) is, then YOU are what is wrong with the world”

Now, this automatically assumes that anyone with the compassion to mourn for a charismatic and generous entertainer is unable to feel similar emotions toward a Nobel winning politician.
But worse than this is the fact that people are then encouraged to engage with these agent provocateurs, giving them the satisfaction of responding with the skewed logic of trolls everywhere.

For despite having started off their diatribe seemingly in support of the ANC leader, when someone in the comments posts an objection that they should be free to show equal respect for both men, they somehow reverse their position and resort to the fatuous “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” argument, belittling Mandela’s contribution and instigating a less than dignified slanging match between other commenters on the thread, before slinking off to their hole unnoticed.

What none of these anonymous cyber-trolls seem to understand (or more likely choose to ignore) is that some young people who grew up with certain celebrities in their lives really do feel a bond with them and are genuinely devastated when they pass away.
It is almost certainly a more profound and sincere loss than that felt by the politicians and pundits who cry crocodile tears for the cameras at the thought of a week of retrospective news specials and biographical documentaries when a head of state dies.
And I’d like to think that they also don’t give enough credit to those same young people, most of whom are perfectly well aware of what a great man Nelson was and what he contributed to the world.

So don’t give them the satisfaction.

Because unless they read every obituary, in every paper in the world, every day of the year and then mourn the loss of every life lost that day, they are just like the rest of us.
Each of us touched by the lives of others in different ways, not always knowing the way in which our lives are affected by those we don’t get a chance to meet but still open to being part of their legacy.

(Much respect and gratitude to Ho for his fabulous “Cyber-troll” cartoon, done at very short notice this afternoon)


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The anti-social network…

When was the last time you were offended or upset by something that a stranger did in public?

Is there a benchmark for inappropriate public behaviour that most people can agree on?

For instance, if a topless woman got on the bus you were travelling on, would you expect anyone to be offended?


Ok gentlemen, bad example.

How about breast feeding?
Perfectly natural. Nothing unacceptable about that.
At least you wouldn’t have thought so.

Once you get online however, all the usual rules and logic seem to go out the window.

Hypocrisy appears to be the order of the day when it comes to the policies of Facebook in particular.
Only this week the social networking platform flip-flopped their ruling on gratuitously violent content, when they first defended the already once-reversed decision to allow the posting of an incredibly graphic video featuring the beheading of a woman by a Mexican drug gang, then re-reversed the ruling when there was a public backlash that such extreme violence could be so easily accessible by anyone with a Facebook account.


Yet posting a photo of a woman breast feeding is expressly (no pun intended) forbidden by their nudity policy. In fact the policy, which specifically bans the depiction of a “fully exposed breast”, was rather confusingly cited as the reason for giving me a 24 hour ban from the site after posting the picture below, under the heading “Does anyone think this is an appropriate pose for a family photo?”


See any breasts?
Ok, it’s wrong on many levels, but it does not contravene the boob law as I understand it.

Even more bizarrely, I received a stern warning from the Fb taste police after posting a photo of a topless woman which most definitely does not contain breasts.
Posted in relation to a story on breast cancer awareness, the following photo shows the beautifully tattooed chest of a woman who has had a double mastectomy.


See any breasts?

The rules governing what is and what is not acceptable are so arbitrary they seem to have been pulled out of a hat at random and selectively applied to equally random content, without any rhyme or reason whatsoever.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this peculiar interpretation of their own policies it is still entirely possible to view other, similarly gruesome decapitation videos on Facebook without any special access being required.
Not only that, there are pages dedicated to everything from making tasteless jokes about babies dying of cancer to those that promote dog fighting and graphic cruelty to animals. Blatantly racist and misogynistic content seems to sail invisibly past whatever passes for the Fb decency filters, which only ever seem to be activated by mild sexual titillation and the hopefully obvious category of threatening other users with rape or personal violence.

Other platforms are often guilty of comparable lapses of common sense in applying their own rules,  most recently illustrated by Twitter‘s lamentably slow response to the raft of rape and death threats suffered by women such as the history teacher I would have loved to have had at school, Mary Beard, over something as ridiculous as whether or not we had a man or a woman on a bank note.

Really? Bomb threats over something like that?
You wouldn’t have thought the sort of moron who makes anonymous threats on Twitter would have that passionate an aesthetic appreciation of the engraver’s art would you?

And don’t get me started on the self-harm and bulimia glorification showcase that occupies an alarmingly growing percentage of tumblr content.

It’s true that we should have the freedom to watch, read and listen to whatever we want, without the censors second-guessing our moral standards for us. But the fact remains that anybody, including children and anyone else who can access a computer, laptop or smartphone, can join one or more of these ostensibly inoffensive social networks and within minutes be exposed to the type of graphic images once vilified as Snuff Movies.

I don’t claim to have any answers to the dilemma of how to regulate what makes something too offensive to publish, nor do I expect the situation to get anything but more complex as the sprawling embrace of the World Wide Web encompasses more of our daily lives.

But I do have a tenuous link to finish on, with two excellent videos for your entertainment.

The first is most certainly “all done in the best possible taste” showcasing as it does the comedic talents of one of Britain’s best loved and sadly missed performers, Kenny Everett
(Ron from Vent, this is for you)

… and the second most certainly isn’t, because right here you can watch the full length movie of Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson‘s outrageous debut feature length alien/zombie comic horror masterpiece from 1987, Bad Taste.
(Hilarious, but not for those of a delicate disposition or those easily offended, blah, blah, etc, etc..)

And let’s be careful out there…


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