In these uncertain days of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it was difficult for me to settle on a topic for today’s blog post. If you’re like me, you’re having trouble concentrating on your task at hand.
I’m working on several future blog posts about the craft of writing and a number of fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read this month, and I will save those for the upcoming weeks.
My blog post today (and Parts 2-5 which will follow tomorrow through Friday of this week) will test your ability to trust me. It is a true story. Since the end of January, I’ve mentioned in passing that I have a fractured tibial plateau. It was the result of a freak accident.
Since the end of February, I’ve mentioned a time or two that I also have a pulmonary embolism. A fractured leg and the pulmonary embolism which followed it are not on face value anything to laugh about; however, I choose to look for the humor in everyday situations.
We can all use a chuckle during these difficult times, so please accept my series this week in the spirit in which it is intended.
Setting the stage
My sister, Marie, and I had been out and about on January 27. We were on a tight schedule to eat supper and get to book club.
Why isn’t Janet helping me up?
I’m heating soup on the stove. Marie is taking a dish out of the microwave oven. Her knee buckles. She manages to put the hot dish on the kitchen island before sprawling across the floor. What she didn’t know was that as she sailed across the kitchen she slams into the side of my right knee.
Marie is lying on the floor with her back to me because she has the presence of mind to turn herself in a way that she wouldn’t land on her left knee replacement. She can’t see me, but I’m clinging to the kitchen counter in great pain. I’m saying “Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!” because I realize I cannot put any weight on my right foot. Marie is still on the floor with her back to me thinking I’m saying, “Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no!…” because I’m worried about her. (I was worried about her, but more worried about myself at that moment.) She’s wondering why I’m not helping her up!
Marie rolls over and sees that I’m hurt. I tell her I can’t put any weight on my right leg. I continue to cling to the kitchen counter as Marie struggles to get up. She brings me a chair and we pretty quickly agree that I need to go to the emergency room at the hospital three miles from our home. I try to walk to the door on crutches, but I soon feel faint and more or less collapse into a chair.
We decide we need some professional help, so Marie dials 9-1-1.
To be continued. . .
Until my next blog post
I hope you have escaped and continue to escape being infected with COVID-19. I hope you are physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially secure as we all journey through the most uncertain public health time of most of our lifetimes.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m fortunate to be able to take advantage of some electronic audible books through the public library which closed its doors to the public on March 16 “until further notice.” I’m listening to The Ligitators, by John Grisham and Long Road to Mercy, by David Baldacci — but not at the same time. I just like to have more than one book going all the time.
We’re all learning as we go, and I’m glad I’m retired and not in a major decision-making position. Marie and I make a good team. I’m in the enviable position of living with my sister. She just happens to also be my best friend. She’s taking great care of me. Together, we’ll get through this crisis.
I hope you also have someone to depend on through thick and thin.
If you’re a writer or other artist, I hope you’re able to create during this time. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate most days. If you’re in that same boat, don’t beat yourself up over it. This is not the time to be demanding of yourself or others.
My thanks go out to those in the healthcare profession. Perhaps by the time we come to the end of this pandemic we’ll realize as a society that doctors and nurses are more valuable than – and should be paid more than athletes.
Take care of yourself. Stay safe, and try to stay well. Let the people in your life know how important they are to you. Keep in touch socially via phone, text, Skype, email, and however you safely can to minimize the isolation we all feel during this pandemic.
Tune in tomorrow for #YouCan’tMakeThisStuffUp” Part 2.
And, if you are a fan of humor from everyday life, I recommend the offerings by my fellow-North Carolinian Jeanne Swanner Robertson. Her website is https://jeannerobertson.com/.
Today’s blog post is a little longer than usual. If you have no interest in artificial intelligence, please scroll down to the sub-heading “Since my last blog post” to find out what I’ve been doing and to find several links to websites and video clips you might enjoy.
Social Media and me
If you don’t count blogging as social media, I haven’t blogged about social media since June 9, 2017 (6 Things Learned about Google+) and I must say that I haven’t missed it at all. I just don’t “get” some of it.
I received an email from LinkedIn on Friday. It explained major changes in their newsfeed algorithm. Granted, they lost me at the word “algorithm” because I pretty much glaze over at any reference to math, but I kept reading. It didn’t take me long to learn that if I don’t mix up my posts on LinkedIn with video, images, and text, I’ll just be whistling in the wind. Sounds like I need to just close my account since I don’t do videos.
Even though I’m no authority on the topic of social media, occasionally I try to point you toward people who can help you better understand and utilize it. There is a blog about blogging by Janice Wald that I follow. I read her blog several times every week and have found it to be informative. Always. Her February 25, 2018 blog post, “RankBrain: This is Why You’re Doing SEO Absolutely Wrong” (https://www.mostlyblogging.com/how-does-rankbrain-work/) is a prime example of how helpful Ms. Wald’s blog posts are.
I had never heard of Google’s evolving algorithm called RankBrain. The name reminded me of humorist and inspirational speaker Jeanne Robertson’s nickname for her husband, Jerry. She affectionately calls him “Left Brain” in many of her routines. (More on that later.)
Ms. Wald’s blog post explains Google’s RankBrain as follows:
“It’s an artificial intelligence that tries to understand exactly what the Google user wants to find by analyzing important factors.” – Janice Wald
The changes RankBrain brings include a lessening of the importance of using long-tail keywords. I must admit that my brain glazed over when I read in Ms. Wald’s blog post, “Use only one (medium tail) keyword and then add LSI Keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords),” but I kept reading and so should you if you’re trying to be found on Google.
Since Janice Wald is much more computer savvy than I am, I refer you to her blog post if this is something you want to understand as things constantly change. Of course, now I’m more nervous than ever about choosing titles for my blog posts and making my posts interesting enough that people will not only find them on Google but will also click on them and read them before bouncing around to other search results.
The other side of the Artificial Intelligence coin
I’ve gotten some great tips from Janice Wald’s blog over the years, but the post by guest blogger, Nidhriti Bhowmik, on her August 12, 2017 blog (http://www.mostlyblogging.com/chatbot/) keeps ringing in my ears. Her February 25, 2018 blog referenced above brought guest blogger Nidhriti Bhowmik’s post to mind.
Mr. Bhowmik’s post prompted me to draft a blog post about my reaction last August, but I hesitated to post it because of its negative tone. I reread it a few days ago. Since it still struck a nerve in me, I decided to edit the post I’d drafted and include some it in today’s post.
I don’t doubt that Mr. Bhowmik is gifted when it comes to computers. It goes without saying that he knows much more about computers than I do. I just don’t think what he proposed in his August 12, 2017 blog post is the way I want to communicate with people. Maybe this works in other businesses, but I’m trying to establish myself as a writer.
A can of worms
Using artificial intelligence to discern what search engine users are looking for makes sense to me, but using it to communicate instead of speaking for myself is a whole different can of worms. I suppose it’s similar to the old-fashioned form letter, yet it’s different. A person actually wrote those form letters, but computer-generated tweets and other forms of communication just aren’t my style.
Mr. Bhowmik’s guest blog post was about a new “hack” designed to make my life simpler. As a middle-aged woman just trying to learn the art and craft of writing so I can write a novel, I could use some things that would simplify my life, but I guess I’m too old-fashioned to latch onto the one explained in Mr. Bhowmik’s post.
Mr. Bhowmik’s topic was something called chatbots. He is an “AI Evangelist.” Artificial Intelligence Evangelist.
I’d never heard of chatbots, but that’s not surprising to me or anyone who knows me. I read the post and it just made me sad. In a nutshell, it seems that a blogger can sign up to have a computer generate all their tweets, Instagram whatevers, etc. 24/7.
The clincher for me was the following sentence:
“To put it simply, a chatbot is an amazing piece of computer software designed to simulate conversations with a human user, usually via text.” ~ Nidhriti Bhowmik
Keywords there are “simulate conversations with a human user.”
I’ve already gotten caught in the web of something like that. I tried a free trial of a product I won’t name. Since it was free, I couldn’t seem to get rid of it for months. It sent messages to people who followed me on Twitter to thank them for following me AND encouraged them to sign up for the product I won’t name. I prefer to personally thank the people who follow me on Twitter. Let’s face it, there aren’t that many of them.
And this sentence from Mr. Bhowmik’s blog post:
“They bring everything about you in one place, package our content in an appealing format and interact with the world as you, 24/7 on all channels.” ~ Nidhriti Bhowmik
I don’t want a computer program interacting with the world as me around the clock.
Last, but not least:
“And the best part? Chatbots can start smooth flowing conversations, ask your readers what they are looking for and respond with high-value content relevant to their pain points.” ~ Nidhriti Bhowmik
It is possible that a computer program can generate higher-value content than I, but that’s just not the way I want to communicate. I don’t want you to feel valued because a computer program simulates conversation with you. I want you to feel valued because you are valued. And if you have “pain points,” I’m probably not the person you need to be dealing with anyway.
Have we completely lost our ability to talk to each other?
I enjoyed watching “The Jetsons” on TV when I was a child in the 1960s. The technology they used was science fiction then and it was fun to imagine living in such a universe. But you know what? Even the Jetsons talked to each other.
Since my last blog post
Sonni signed up to receive my sometime-in-the-future newsletters. Sonni has been generous with what she’s learned from experience since my early days as a blogger. Thank you, Sonni, for your continued support of my writing journey. In addition to daily advocating for reforms to the prison system in the USA, Sonni is a gifted writer, pianist, and composer. You can find her blog at http://mynameisjamie.net. Her improvisational music on the piano is amazing to someone (me) who took piano lessons and still can’t play well. You can find Sonni Quick’s music on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv6dycDAXCytFYvf–Njxrw.
I’ve finished reading several novels since last Monday’s blog post. I enjoy reading fiction and seeing how published authors write. When I’m reading, it’s not just for fun. I’m looking at writing style, voice, point-of-view, plot, sub-plots, and always watching for a clever turn of a phrase.
That said, I admit I’ve spent more time reading than writing since my blog post last Monday. I continue to work on my character profiles. With the theme of my historical novel manuscript, The Spanish Coin, established, I’ve changed the first scene in the book. That shifts everything I’d already written in the outline. This is all part of the process, and I love it. I wrote 1,200 words one evening as I brainstormed my new hook. After using the same hook for The Spanish Coin for more years than I want to admit, it’s refreshing to start the story with a different incident.
I hit a milestone last week on my blog. I now have 1,401 followers, which I can’t quite get my mind around.
Until my next blog post
I hope you have a good book to read that wasn’t written by a computer. I’m reading The Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time using your own intelligence instead of the artificial kind.
Please take a minute to fill out the form below if you haven’t already, if you would like to be on my mailing list for my sometime-in-the-future newsletters. By the way, that is completely separate from signing up to follow my blog. Please do both, if you haven’t already. Thank you!
Getting back to Jeanne Robertson, if you don’t know who she is, please scroll up to the second paragraph under the “Googles’s RankBrain” subheading. If you haven’t been exposed to her North Carolina humor, you need to do yourself a favor and watch some of her video clips on YouTube, such as this one, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YFRUSTiFUs. You’re in for a treat!
Thank you for spending a few minutes with me today.