Tag Archives: communications

Communications these days…

The timing of Fandango’s Provocative Question this week:

Do you have a preference with respect to the length of blog posts you read? Does the number of words in a post affect how you read it or even if you will read it? What is your average post length?

…is interesting because I recently decided that I would try to write a longer post on an issue of our times every week, or two…or three.

This is one of them. I answer Fandango’s question, but I also explore some thoughts related to why along the way…because I think they might affect most every communication these days.

Engagement not length

How long a post should be, in my opinion, is as long as is needed to express one’s thought.

If something catches my imagination or gets me thinking It can be pretty long. I don’t like rambling, but some thoughts take more explanation than others. And I never look at or think about word count.

and yet…

Continue reading Communications these days…

Words and more

Sometimes it’s a chat…

A shared laugh….

The universal language of music…

And sometimes something more…

A quick snarl from this lioness sent the cubs obediently off. I wish my kid had been so obedient…

My dog, Ginger (the smaller one, she belonged to my grandma at the time) and my Dad’s dog Sam (now deceased) were really good friends. One visit when Ginger espied Sam she raced off and they looked like they were hugging. I managed to grab a picture of them hugging on our arrival before they ran toward me to say hi to me.

For the Lens Artists’ Challenge: Communication.

Socially awe-kward

Is it just me?

I have always been socially awkward, so it should come as no surprise that the “social”-on-steroids world of the internet is not working well for me. I have been learning about social media of late. It has been inspiring Awe in me, but not in a good way.

My simple view of social media is that it is to connect people, a way to keep in touch or get to know and share with people we don’t get a chance to see very often or who live far away. For the “platforms” doesn’t seem to be the goal anymore. The goal now is to connect an infinite number of advertisers selling crap to the poor souls looking for real people to connect with who are prone to accidentally click, hover or swipe in the wrong place.

As some of you know I started a new blog, Goin’ with Grandma. Since what I wanted to do is try and find other people who travel with elderly relatives to share experiences, lessons learned and tips. I really have no interest in “monetizing” the site, but I am trying to figure out how to find people. So I have connected it to Facebook, Pinterest and my partially finished Linkedin profile. I signed up for “Bloglovin'”, and have been using Yoast SEO.

Getting things set up and linked up has been educational, but not effective as a way to find people in a similar situation. If my goal was to have my inbox filled with even more ads it was effective. Most of the ads are to help me become a social media butterfly (got news for them: I am a worm not a caterpillar).

The SEO thing (that means Search Engine Optimization) goes counter to what I was taught about good writing: to use a variety of words instead of the same phrase repeatedly. Long sentences using a rich and varied vocabulary are to become a thing of the past so that computers can figure out what we are trying to say and send us “traffic”.

I was inspired to write on this topic by a survey sent to me by Bloglovin’. Several of the questions were a little outrageous to me, I am pretty sure based on question wording that they are actually collecting data for Instagram marketers. However, I’d like to share one question with you that made me laugh out loud:

What is your favorite new social trend that gained popularity in 2016?

  • Boomerang
  • Yik Yak
  • Shots
  • Ello
  • Hyper
  • Facebook Live
  • Haven’t heard of any of these/They are not relevant to me

I would have checked the last box. Clearly I am not their target demographic. I guess I will always be the person standing beside the door wondering whether to go in or go home…even sitting in my own living room typing at my own computer.

Have you ever felt that way?


The tyranny of social media

Many of us spend Countless  time these days on social media, absorbing it and creating it. Don’t get me wrong, I like it and use it. But how does one tame the dragon in order to have a little time left to weed the garden, fix a meal, wash dishes…or spend a little time with a physical person now and then (for the sake of argument dogs are people too)?

My son has a degree in marketing. He is teaching now at a kindergarten in China and would like to move to a different field of endeavor. He and I have been talking, when we get a decent connection, about forming a little business that does marketing: branding (he is pretty knowledgeable about this), web site development (my area), and gives a hand with printed and social media (we are both pretty good at layout, and he has language skills that would allow him to assist a Chinese or Japanese company to create well-crafted English language marketing materials). The idea is that it would give him some experience he could use to find a different career and I like playing with web sites, it’s a bit like quilting.

Our aspirations are low. We would be delighted to have two or three clients.

Where is the countless in this? I have been researching about social media. Turns out that the current ideas about marketing using social media mean COUNTLESS posts on countless platforms. There are countless posts about the ideal calendar for making those countless posts and how to create those countless posts with a small amount of content. The current social media marketing theory is old-fashioned nagging: fill inboxes and “news” feeds with you, you, you and more you. All of these posts are programmed with carefully selected words that big data knows are more likely to cause people to “click” (they call this “responding to a call to action”).

I am feeling rebellious right now, and I am not alone, I read recently that people are starting to react negatively to this constant bombardment. One of the ways you can see the rebellion starting to poke out is when the talking heads say “content is king”. What that means is:  folks are becoming better at sifting the wheat from the chaff.

One humorous marketing backfire this week is that an online travel agency, the one that seriously botched up our hotel reservations, showed up in my Facebook “news” feed as a “suggested post” (see my previous post: Was it all a dream?).

I use social media (duh). It is a communication tool, I post where it makes sense based on who I am communicating with. For example this week I have not posted on this blog because I am in Palm Springs California with my grandmother, and we are visiting her friends, they use Facebook so I have made several Facebook posts related to our activities this week. At home I don’t look at Facebook everyday, here I do.

Sometimes the countless connections become a source of busy-ness. Then we have to figure out how to keep the ones  that contribute to our quality of life and get rid of the rest. I think that is where many of us are in the social media rat race.

How do you deal with the countless demands of social media? Is your goal to have countless followers…or to connect with a few people you might otherwise not meet in a meaningful way?


I read blogs. Even when I can’t seem to put my own words and pictures on pa…screen, it is beneficial to read, and nowhere can one see more different styles of writing and photography on a broad variety of topics than in blogs.

This morning I read a blog that was well, even beautifully, done, and deeply disturbing to me: Edge of Humanity Magazine’s Social Documentary Photography – Becoming A Man In Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

It was good journalism, I think, the tone was educational, not judgmental (something I could not have pulled off had I been the author), and the photography was technically good and used well to illustrate the story. What disturbed me, and the reason I bring this up as a response to the prompt Divide, is that I live in a world where that rite is wrong…on many levels…and I do not believe that it is just “my culture” vs “their culture”.

Mostly I take a live-and-let-live approach to cultural differences and choose to keep my mouth shut for things I feel are weird but maybe I don’t get how things are in your world. However…

The idea of becoming a man by whipping women, to the point of severe lifelong scarring, is an anathema to me. As is the idea that these scars are a show of affection and devotion:

Backs of many of these women already have severe welt marks from previous ceremonies in which they had been whipped. Welt marks are considered a sign of love and devotion. The more welt marks a girl has the more it translates into her devotion to her brother and also help in attracting a potential husband.

Where do human rights fit into this picture? Is it okay because that is the “culture” of the people? The women look to no future if they don’t have massive welts…not exactly a true choice. I wonder how many of them die of alcohol poisoning trying to work up the courage to participate…or to try and numb the pain afterward.

Yesterday I read a blog article about PTSD. I can’t imagine that anyone in a place where this is a ritual doesn’t have PTSD. Either you have been injured severely or someone you love has. The need for massive amounts of alcohol to perpetuate the ritual is a major clue to this.

I can, on a cold, analytical level, see where the ritual may be a response to living in a harsh and dangerous world. Making a ritual of the pain is one way to take ownership of it. My world is temperate, soft and loving by contrast so I am shocked by this insight into a very different world. I wonder if I could survive in that world?

To avoid articles like that, which I sometimes do because they disturb me so much, is one way to let the world go along without change.

I found the article well-done, informative, thought provoking, and I think people should read this article as it sheds light on many important issues in our world, but I was really, really torn by hitting a “like” button for it. I wish there was a button for “Well done article on disturbing topic”.

Good advice

A quote from this morning’s newspaper:

Arkansas authorities also issued guidelines that they hoped would prevent the spread of the disease, urging people traveling back to the state from countries with Zika outbreaks to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes for 10 days after their return.

The article is CDC confirms dozen cases of Zika virus in U.S. While the article is serious two things made me chuckle:

  1. “Avoid being bitten by a mosquito for 10 days”, as if people wouldn’t try to avoid being bitten. There is also an implied “After 10 days you can go back to your usual carefree mosquito feeding ways.”
  2. While I understand that they are concerned about disease transmission, the following quote might make one think that the risk was to the mosquitoes: “Mosquitoes here in Arkansas can become infected with the virus if they bite someone who has Zika.”

No doubt the quotes are out of context in the article. A wise Arkansas health official probably gave a well researched speech explaining everything well and a reporter grabbed a few quotes from it to make the article fit neatly around the Macy’s ad.

Why do I think that? Among other things they are at the end of the article. We live in a world where we aren’t expected to read entire articles, and perhaps the editors don’t either.

Or maybe I am a little warped…or desperate to find something at least a little humorous when the front page stories included “Five shot at homeless camp” and “Oregon standoff leader arrested amid fatal gunfire”.

Quote Me

Watch Your Tone!

Chinese is a tonal language…what does that mean?

It means that the tone is part of the word, just like which syllable you accent or how you pronounce read (present tense) versus read (past tense). In Chinese it is more extreme than read vs read; the word “ma” can mean mother, hemp, horse, scold or act as a verbal question mark, depending on tone.

In English we use tone primarily to add an element of attitude or emotion to the meaning of the sentence, for example a rising tone makes the sentence questioning (our question mark indicates that a sentence should be read with a rising tone) or a falling tone can indicate that you really mean it. The tones add the same element of meaning regardless of what the words are.

As a lifelong speaker of English I am finding it challenging to switch the way I use tones.  For example, I really want to ask questions with a rising tone. I tend to say “You speak English hemp” instead of “You speak English?”

Being the wish-washy sort I find the falling tone, which is explained as “how you say ‘no’ when you really mean it” hostile sounding, and it seems strange to use it in phrases that are cordial, like “thank you”. I tend to tone it down, which means I mispronounce “thank you” (even though I really mean it!)

When we say “watch your tone!” in English it is an admonition to pay mind to your attitude, to be respectful. In Chinese it would mean something closer to “be careful and precise to make your meaning clear”.


It is All Chinese to Me

I am not lazy, but I lack aptitude for language learning. Unless I have a goal it is hard to motivate myself to buckle down and really learn a language. Other stuff drifts to a higher priority.

I am trying to learn Chinese, again. This is my third try. Language isn’t my thing, even in my native tongue when I need words they just don’t come. One reason that I rarely post is that it takes me longer than a day to pull together a response.

When I traveled to China before, I have been twice now, it has been with a lot of dependence on other people. I have managed surprisingly well and had some great experiences (see Let’s Go Fly a Kite, A Picture and a Phrasebook Saved the Day, and Happy Mama).  But this time I decided that

  1. I really want to be able to communicate with people on my own.
  2. I want to go to a couple of places that are not on the western tourist track on my own.

I only decided to go about two months before takeoff, a very short time for someone who is all but tone deaf to try and learn a tonal language.

Before my first and second trips I tried using two different book plus CD programs. With the first, I ran through it once then listened to it in the car. After almost a year and a half of doing that, including several trips to and from California where I heard all three CDs twice a day, I made almost no progress. I was unable to recognize the words when someone other than the canned voice spoke them, or come up with them myself in real life situations (Although, I can say nihao and xiexie). But worse than that, I really could not speak the phrases in the phrase book. I couldn’t figure out how to follow and correctly pronounce the pinyin (Chinese phonics system). Nor could I recognize if someone responded with a phrase in the phrase book.

With the second I just couldn’t get into it. I think it was designed more to be used as an aid in a class where the instructor took you through it rather than working on one’s own. I took that one with me to China last time and tried to work on it in the morning then go out and listen for the phrases. I never recognized a thing.

This time, with six weeks to go before take off I started an on-line course (YoyoChinese.com). This seems to be going better.  It helps to be able to see the person forming the words, and they focus on how the tones sound in a variety of real words (saying “ma” five different ways many, many, many times really didn’t help me). It also has a Chinese on the Street segment so you can hear a variety of voices using the material in context. So every morning now I am spending 45 minutes to an hour studying Chinese.

I know that some people have a better ear, are more linguistically oriented,  and are more courageous about trying than I am, but I really think the idea that one can just pick up a language with no effort is blarney.

T – 14 days for my real life test, I’d better get back to work.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lazy Learners.”