Wurk….

These last three weeks have been incredibly busy. First, the first batch of Elfin Diaries arrived from the printer at least three weeks earlier than I’d expected, while I was still trying to unravel the structural mess that is the Astrological Association website and before I’d got the Elfin Diaries site sorted with new e-commerce software and a new design.
Then, I went down with a tooth abscess. The previous bouts of tooth pain I’d had before mild compared to this time. After a weekend of increasing pain I was was in a bad way by Monday, desperate enough to see a dentist. Came home with painkillers, antibiotics and instructions to return next month for extractions, fillings and drillings. Oh well. Was ill for a couple more days, occupying the sofa for much of the time. But now fully recovered.
Anyway, managed to get the diaries website up and running in record time, sent out hundreds of newsletters and am now busy dealing with orders. And still trying to sort out the AA site…
Sigh. So I’d best get on with it.

Clouds and Other Beasties…

Clouds over Yorkshire

Clouds over Yorkshire

So we went to a weekend camp in Yorkshire. Not the usual Oakleaf one, a smaller invitation-only camp. I had a better time than I thought I would. The weather was better than it might have been, only a few heavy showers for a day and half, quite a lot of sunshine the rest of the time. And I got to see some old faces and have a natter or three.
On the Sunday, we took an impromptu trip to Thirsk – we’d originally gone to Bedale to treat ourselves to a Chinese takeaway, found the place wouldn’t be open for another half-hour and said “OK, how are we going to pass the time?” And I decided I’d like to see the town where I’d lived for four years back in the late 70s/early 80s (and where we’d met…)
So off we went. And when we got there, I actually couldn’t recognise the place; the town centre seemed so much bigger – surely the street hadn’t been anything like that wide? And the layout was totally unfamiliar. There were a few buildings that I remembered – the library seemed to have been turned into a dance studio, the old Ritz cinema was tattier but still a cinema, the vet’s surgery (where my daughter had once taken a poorly hamster) was now the James Herriott Visitor Attraction, the laundrette where I’d taken my washing every Sunday morning was now a clothes shop…
We decided to go and look at the house where I had lived, on a council estate that had been on the edge of the town. Once I’d spotted the vets surgery- oops, the Visitor Attraction, I knew where I was; the road leading to the council estate was first left at the top of the street. Except that when we got to the top of the street, what had been a big open green space with the council estate tucked behind it, simply wasn’t there any more. Instead, there was just houses – lots of them. We drove hopefully down a side-road and got lost in the maze of little streets and cul-de-sacs. There was no sign of the older houses that I remembered. We were hungry; once we got back onto the main road, we decided to give up the search and go find a Chinese (we found the the Hung Moey in the Market Place; it has a decent vegetarian menu and serves enormous portions).
Well, they say you can’t ever go back. They may be right.
This morning I fired up Google Earth, found my old house and was able to take a good look at it on Street View. The little front garden is now concreted over – goodbye to the buddleia that I’d planted by the door – and the council has finally got around to properly fencing in the back garden so that local kids can no longer take a shortcut across what had once been my veg patch. But otherwise it looked pretty much the same on the outside; though no doubt the purple hallway and rainbow-coloured bedrooms have been redecorated with inoffensive flowered wallpaper…

Managed to get the 2013 Elfin Diary finished at last and zipped off to the printers. I feel quite proud of myself for having done nearly all nearly all of it myself; only the Chinese astrology article was by somebody else. Now I have to get on with the Astrological Association site; after that, the new design for the Elfin Diaries site, then marketing and selling the 2013 Diary; inbetween all that updating the badly neglected Oakleaf Circle site…
So I’m going to be very busy. Just as I’ve developed terrible toothache….

Back again…..

This site’s been offline for at least a week – down to some sort of weird DNS failure. So not only were peeps getting an error page when they tried to view this site, but no email was getting to me from my domain email address.
As you can see, it’s now fixed – thanks to my hosting company 34sp.com for their as-always-amazing tech support. I’m happy to give them a free ad – it took only two and a half hours from my first frantic email to getting my site back online, on a Friday night when I’m sure that they’d rather be out enjoying themselves.

Anyway, if you did try to email me last week and didn’t get a reply, I wasn’t ignoring you!

So Sweet…

So this morning, I got out of bed feeling like c**p – headachy, sinuses stuffed up, tired and aching. I’m waiting for an appointment to see an ENT specialist about my chronic sinusitis, but that will take weeks.
So I needed some cheering up. And I think I’ve managed it. Going through my emails, I found a Twitter notification that I was now being followed by somebody who described herself as a “Crystal Skull Explorer” (her capitalisation). Looking at her Twitter account, it was clear that she wasn’t exploring in the scientific sense.
I have no idea why such a person would decide to follow me. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the subject on Twitter; and in fact, I haven’t used Twitter for months (like Facebook, it was taking up far too much of my time). Wondering what to do about this follower, it struck me that I could put my Twitter account to some good use. It took me only a matter of minutes to find this article and tweet it, with an ambiguous description so that she would at least click on the link and read some of it..
That felt quite satisfying. Then I turned to my blog feed and immediately found a link to this wonderful comic strip. It incorporates everything I feel about science and the world of learning. So I tweeted that as well.
The Crystal Skull Explorer probably won’t read it, but you never know. But now I feel cheered up – I’ve done my good deed for the day.

So Last Night…..

….having another bout of insommnia, I stayed up. With nothing much on the TV, I resorted to my usual nighttime amusement of watching CNN with the sound turned off, trying to guess what they’re talking about purely from what’s on the screen. The culture divide and the insular nature of US news can make it an entertaining little game.
This time, I landed in the middle of an interview. The interviewer (I think he was the interviewer, he seemed to be doing most of the talking) was a fat middleaged bloke wearing a crazed-looking piece of shagpile carpeting on his head. The interviewee looked pretty normal; he was balding and his remaining hair had taken the sensible precaution of hiding at the back of his head, out of sight of the shagpile menacing from the opposite side of the desk. Underneath the shot of these two was a banner giving highly condensed tidbits of what the interviewee was saying. Some of these were so bizarre-seeming that I started writing them down:
LAUER TALKS “TODAY” (Oh good – not “YESTERDAY” or “A WEEK NEXT TUESDAY” then);
LAUER: IPHONE IS MY ALARM (Don’t they have alarm clocks in America?);
LAUER: DAY STARTS QUICKLY (In your part of the world maybe…);
LAUER: “YOU HAVE TO SHOW YOU CARE” (About what? Why should I???? And don’t you tell me what to do!!!);
LAUER: “CURIC HAS 1,000 IDEAS” (does this CURIC person/thing collect ideas? If so, why? Where does he/she/it keep them all? Are any of them any good?);
LAUER: MEREDITH “MOST REAL PERSON” (How was this decided – by scientific analysis or by consensus? Or did Meredith win an actual “reality” show where people voted on how closely the contestants resembled real human beings? If so, what happened to the losers, those unfortunates who were judged to be less-real persons? But what makes one person more or less real than any other person anyway? Especially on TV?)

…And at that point I decided all these existential questions were getting far too much for my poor little brain and I’d better get some sleep.

(Comment spam blitzed in the precious 24 hours: 33 34)

Just Had A Bit of Fun…

….with a spammer. Got this one this morning (URL munged so they don’t get any google goodness):

Hi,

I’ll take this opportunity to introduce myself, my name is Eddie Brown,
very nice to meet you. I’m SEO expert working at iSEO Traffic.

I came across diary.astrologicalassociation.com while making a research for one of
my partners and I have few interesting suggestions for you
like increasing your traffic & improving your rankings.
I would love to tell you more about my ideas.

If you are interested I will be happy to send the additional information
and all the details needed to make it happen.

Thanks a bunch,

Eddie Brown
somespammyspammer.com

So, I wrote back:

Dear Eddie,

Thank you for taking such an interest in my site diary.astrologicalassociation.com. It is heartening to see that people across the world are taking an interest in British astrology meetings. Regretfully though, I doubt that I need your SEO expertise, as I am quite happy with the page hits we are already getting (especially from people such as yourself!)

But, on going to your site somespammyspammer.com, I noticed that the copy is badly written and has a number of glaring grammatical faults. As you must surely know, bad writing and poor use of English are amongst the features that drive potential customers away from a site. It looks unprofessional and gives a poor impression of your company’s competence. So I am taking this opportunity to offer you my copy-editing and copy-writing services. I can work in both UK and US English and my rates are reasonable. Please do not hesitate to contact me for details.

Yours,

Val Dobson

:D

Well, at least that’s cheered me up.

ETA: Got a reply back a few hours later:

Hi
thanks for responding

What I am actually speaking about is making an article exchange between us, I’ll send you my article that will be about ~300-~400 words for you to place as a fresh page in your site.
In return, you’ll send me your article (at any length that you’d like) and I’ll publish your article in the site I’ve promise you on. Inside my article I’d like to have 3 links and of course that I’ll return the same to you.

I think this will be excellent diversity links for both our websites and I’m really looking forward making this exchange with you.

We are offering our services for FREE!
Waiting for your reply
Eddie

Sigh. In his first email, he’d included a link to his LinkedIn profile; according to that he’s American, living in Boston (and with a High School and college education which clearly failed him in the area of English).
It appears to be true that some Americans simply don’t get British humour. Play the game, dammit!

Another Exciting Post…

Dealt with another 20-odd sp*m comments this morning. What’s so attractive about my little blog? It never used to be this bad. Just to be safe, I’ve tightened up my site security, changing the password and username. Luckily, my hosting company is very good with server security and in the six or seven years I’ve been with them, I’ve never had any worries there. The one time a site of mine got hacked, it was due to me unknowingly uploading some virus code on a WordPress template page; I got on to tech support about it and they immediately – and I’m talking about within two hours of contacting them – checked the whole site for me.

Not been on Facebook – I’ve decided to give that a rest for now. My perennial communication problem seem to be getting worse nowadays; either I misunderstand/don’t understand, or I get misunderstood myself. So I speak even less to people now, it’s easier. It’sOK if I have time to think and analyse; but I often didn’t stop to do that when responding to FB posts. So writing blog posts like this is better for me. I know its part of having Asperger’s, but it didn’t used to be this bad.
Oh well, something to be dealt with…. And at least I’ve more time to work on the Diary now that I’m not frittering away the day with Facebook.

Yes! Another new post…!

Well, I don’t know why, but yesterday’s post seem to have attracted unwelcome attention. The blog collected about five sp*m comments in the three months since my last post, but this morning I’ve had to blitz about 20 new bits of sp*m.
Anyway, it’s encouraged me to post again; well, that and the fact that I just had another reason to use Facebook less. S, one of my ‘friends’ (i.e. a FB ‘friend’, nobody I know in real life, just the friend of a friend of a friend….) posted a pic of a rusting bike grown into a tree, along with some glurgy tripe about how a boy had chained the bike to the tree in 1914, gone off to war and never came back to unchain, so we should remember those who never returned… glurgeglurgeglurge. If the story was true that boy must have had a time machine, since it was clearly a 1980s BMX bike. So I posted that the story was a fake. S angrily replied that I was a nitpicker and that the message was the important thing. I refrained from reminding him what would happen if the world’s nitpickers stopped checking every detail (nitpickers of the world unite!), just posted back that if the message held any truth, it could stand on its own without any sugary story-telling.
Anyway, it got me annoyed enough to get off Facebook and start a bit of work on the Diary. See you later, peeps.

ETA: Just about a minute after I published this post, it attracted a sp*m comment. Sigh.

Still Here….

It’s been three months since I last posted here, and even that was a bit of an effort. Well, I’ll try to post more often.
I’m still busy; not only trying to get the 2013 Elfin Diary finished in time but also struggling to tidy up the Astrological Association website – I’ve been appointed the webmaster. And not succeeding too well at either task….

I’ve had eyesight problems, a side-effect of of a new anti-inflammatory painkiller I started in February. It worked marvellously and I felt healthier and more energetic than I’d done in years; but after the first month my eyes started blurring and drying up, to the point eventually where I couldn’t look at a computor screen, or read, or even watch TV for long. So the painkillers had to go and I’m back with my aches and pains and stiffness and tiredness and permanent general urghness.

I’ve been posting quite a lot on Facebook*; being able to post interesting links and short snippets seems to suit me better than writing lengthy blog posts these days. Also, it’s good for keeping up with family and (real) friends. But every now and then, I chafe at the length restrictions of FB posts and think that I should maybe use my blog instead. Something else that makes me feel I should post less on FB is that there are a small but annoying number of people on my friends list who post either endless pictures of unicorns and fairies and glurgy sayings (I’m sick of being told I need to dance in the bloody rain!) or lunatic US political rants, or inane witterings about their cute pet dogs. A good interesting discussion is much more to my liking.

*I don’t use my real name on FB, so if you want to friend me there, email me; however, if I don’t know you in real life, I probably won’t accept your friend request. Especially if I think you’re the type who likes to post endless unicorn pics and glurgy sayings, lunatic rants, or inane witterings about your cuddly pets. If you think you’re not that type, then give it a go!