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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Maybe I Need ‘Blogging For Dummies’…

If you only read one blog this year… dude, frickin’ read faster!

Hello, boys and girls. This time, I thought I’d offer you a peek into the world of blogging. Many of you are not bloggers, and have therefore until now been shut out of the experience. My goal is to break down that ‘fourth wall’ today, and to give you a glimpse of the trials and tribulations of being an avid blogger. (Not to mention a raving lunatic; it’s pretty much a matched set, I’m afraid.) And for the rest of you who have blogs of your own, well, I’m going to assume that you have at least half a brain, which is about three-quarters of a half more than I have. So you may get some kicks in reading about a blogger who’s also a horrendous fool. Unlike you. Of course, if you’re a blogger and a horrendous fool, then you should read this, too. You know, just so you know you’re not alone. Sad, maybe, and pitiable, but certainly not alone.

(Now if this was the SAT, I’d ask you how much of a brain I have, given the fraction word problem above. But it’s not, so I won’t. And no, ya brown-nosin’ types, you don’t get extra blog credit for doing it on your own time. And no, it’s not because I don’t know the answer myself. Not just because of that, anyway. I just don’t like to encourage your particular type of asininery. Oh, and if you reread the brain thing now, and can’t help but figure it out in your head, then you truly are a dork. I should know. I just did it myself. I have one-eighth of a brain, and apparently no friggin’ life. *sigh*)

Okay, so here we go. I decided not to talk about the things which take up about ninety percent of (my) blogging time, which are:

  • trying to think of something to write about
  • trying to make said thing entertaining, even in the slightest
  • looking up words I can’t spell on dictionary.com, so I don’t look like an ass
  • looking up more words on thesaurus.com, so I look like I have a vocabulary
  • proofreading what I’ve read and fixing it a dozen times, because I:
    A) still can’t get things right the first time, even with cool reference sites

    2) am an obsessive / compulsive little monkey

    iii) usually have nothing better to do

So, even though those activities take up most of my blogging time, there’s really nothing in there that’s of any interest to the outside observer. All of those things are dreadfully boring. They’re like watching paint grow, or grass dry. Or watching that hair growing out of grandma’s mole get bigger.

(Yeah, you know the one. It’s like a bad car wreck, and you can’t take your eyes off of it. Every grandma’s got one. I think it’s some biological thing — a sympathetic response to their child having a baby of their own. Just as their first grandchild is snipped away and wiped off, the mole stubble starts sprouting, and it just gets queasier and queasier after that. My grandma’s got one the size of a number two pencil. Well, lengthwise, anyway; it’s only about half that thick. I don’t want to exaggerate, of course. It just sits there on her neck, grossing me out and wiggling in the breeze. I sometimes want to walk over and get a good grip with both hands and yank! the thing out of there, to help us both out.

(Not to mention anyone else who has to look at the thing.)

But I’m honestly not sure that it wouldn’t pull her arm out of joint, or shift her whole face in that direction. Something that big has to be anchored pretty damned well to something, and I don’t want to risk pulling grammy’s spine out of whack by jerkin’ on the thing. And so, as many families do, we’ve learned to live with our new, um, visitor. We just try not to touch it, or even look directly at it. It might be contagious, and nobody wants to develop their own hairy mole until it’s time.)

Okay, where was I? Ah, the magic of blogging. Moving right along, then…

So, most of blogging would be pretty dull to describe. I thought that I’d instead tell you about a few specific things — good and bad — that I’ve encountered in my travels, and you can play along and pretend it’s interesting. Cool? Cool. Okay, here we go:

Am I Hot, or Not, or What?: Many of you are probably familiar with the premiere voyeuristic scope-out spot on the ‘net, ‘HOT or NOT?‘. For those of you who aren’t, it’s a moderately entertaining way to waste a few minutes every now and then, by checking out submitted pictures and rating folks on their looks, or hot-ness, or shag-ability. You get the idea. For some folks, it’s also a horrendously embarrassing, nightmarish way to discover that some ex-lover has posted an old photo of them in their ‘fat pants’ and a sweatshirt, eating / wearing an ice cream sundae. Actually, I have to believe that most of the photos on the site get posted more or less in that way. Most people — myself firmly included — are probably content going through life judging themselves a nice 7, or maybe 7.5, and really don’t want to find out how horribly wrong they are. I’m guessing that only the most self-centered, or insecure, or ‘hunk-alicious’ (that’s ‘babe-adelic’, for you ladies out there) among us actually post their own pictures to see what the world really thinks of their mug. The rest are just pranks, or ‘payback’s a bitch’ posts, as far as I can tell.

But — as is my wont — I digress. The point is not that I posted a glamour shot of myself in a leopard-print G-string to ‘HOT or NOT?’. (I mean, sure, I did, but apparently I’m a 2, so I certainly don’t want to make that ‘the point’. And I’m rounding up, by the way. By like, four.) No, the point is that now the genii who brought us the original ‘HOT or NOT?’ have returned, with a vengeance, a vision, and a whole new venture. And so now we have ‘Blog HOT or NOT?‘ It works in much the same fashion — babbling, ignorant strangers from all over the world can now rate you by your rambling diatribes, rather than your outward appearance. It’s a little like judging a book by its footnotes, rather than its cover. It’s beautiful.

So, while I’m not a vain person, or one so unsure of myself as to need nearly constant encouragement… well, my blog entries are. They’re high-maintenance, feet-stamping, impatient, cocky little bitches, and they want to world to applaud them as the perfect ’10’s they make themselves out to be. I resisted at first — you never want to feed a blog’s ego, let me tell you — but in the end they overwhelmed me.

(They threatened to superimpose the leopard-skin picture with similar shots they found online of Pauly Shore. And while I don’t mind debasing myself in that way, I couldn’t stomach the implied association. Even I have limits.)

So, anyway, I signed my belligerent blog up for ‘Blog HOT or NOT’. Or so I thought.

See, it seems that when you sign up to add your own blog, the site sends you an email to confirm that you are who you say. You click on the link in the email to confirm your registration, and then you can get down to the business of making an ass of yourself by publicizing your rantings to the world. What could be better? Only, in my case, it didn’t work that way. I got the email, clicked on the link, and was taken to the Blog HOT or NOT site and told that my sign-up was complete. Faboo! But wait. Not faboo; not faboo at all, my friends. No, for you see, when I tried to log in at the site later on, I got a message that my registration was not complete, and that I should click on the link in the email that was sent. Well, I’d deleted the email, of course. I’m not one of those weird, creepy sorts of people who actually save emails and information that might be important until I’m sure it’s not needed any more. What kind of pervert does that?

Still, things looked salvagable. Right on the same login page, there was a link to have the email sent again. O frabjous day! So I clicked it, reasoning that my memory of successfully registering must be another of my many hallucinations, and I sat by my emailbox to wait. And wait, and wait, and wait some more. Oh, I got mail — mortgage refinancing come-ons, porn ads, penis enlargement raves, even offers to download spam blockers. But nothing from ‘HOT or NOT’.

(And by the way, while I can see the delicious irony in sending spam about a product that purports to block spam — ‘Hey, if you already had our product, you wouldn’t be reading about it right now!’ — I still want to find the people who send that crap, pull their underwear up over their faces, and give ’em all a big blindfolded swirly, just like the rest of the spam sleaze-bos. The ‘spam blocker’ bitches are no better than the rest of those assholes, just because what they spam about is likely to decrease the competition for eyeballs by reducing spam volume. It’s like buying up all the raincoats in town, so you can be the only flasher in the park at night. Just because it’s marginally clever doesn’t mean you’re not a sicko, too.)

So, anyway, the email never came. I’ve clicked on that damned link on the registration page a dozen times or more, but still, I got nothing. And so my poor blog will never know whether it’s HOT, or NOT. Or, quite conceivably, ROT. It’s possible that there’s some sort of backlog, and my mailbox will soon overflow with a glut of responses sent all at once. More likely, though, it’s just not to be. I figure that I either did something stupid when signing up (not that it’s ever happened to me before… course not), or I’ve been blackballed for that G-string pic of mine. I knew I should’ve posted the one of me in the tiger-striped teddy instead…

Where in the World Is ‘Where the Hell Was I?’?: My next adventure went a little more smoothly. I decided to sign up with GeoUrl to provide geographic information for my site. You know, so bloggers and others who live close by would be able to physically come by my house and beat my ass in person.

(I’m nothing if not considerate of my audience. You people don’t know how lucky you are.)

So, anyway, to sign up, I actually had to find my own coordinates. Luckily, the fine folks at GeoUrl have a resources page, listing sites that help you do just that. I chose the AcmeMapper, because when faced with multiple choices in life, I always stop and ask myself, ‘What would Wile E. Coyote pick?’

So, in short, this AcmeMapper is amazing. It’s got a whole boatload of satellite pictures, all at different resolutions and gridded together, so you can scroll back and forth across the country, zoom in, whatever you like. So I played with it for about an hour (the Mapper, dude, the Mapper. I played with the Mapper. Fo. Cus.), and I finally found my house (which is where this blog is written, at least until my padded room at the clinic is ready). So I zoomed way in on it, and got as close as I could, and pulled out the coordinates from the map, and stuck ’em into the blog. No problem. And now, I have this handy-dandy ‘GeoUrl’ biutton on the sidebar that will tell me — and you! Try it out! — what blogs are physically close to me. You know, in case I need to go kick somebody’s ass for not reading my site. That sort of thing.

So, actually, I suppose getting the coordinates onto my site really wasn’t all that traumatic. The only really disturbing thing about it all was the resolution that’s available to any Jane or Joe off the street who wants to cruise around looking at satellite pics. The level of detail is remarkable. Which, to be honest, leads to the other disturbing thing I found — apparently, the close-up satellite image of my house was taken a couple of weekends ago, when the weather around here was unbearably hot. So, of course, in the picture I used, you can see me, sitting in a rubber ducky wading pool in the back yard, wearing my Speedos and sipping spiked lemonade through a bendy straw. Very embarrassing. My wife says that she can even make out bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pool, between my legs. But I’m fighting that one, dammit. This is my house, and I say emphatically that I did not pootie in the pool, satellite surveillance be damned! I mean, who’s she gonna believe? Her own husband, or a trillion dollars of precision electronic gadgetry, floating up there in the ether? Oh. Yeah, it doesn’t sound so good when I put it that way, huh?

BlogShare, and BlogShare Alike: Finally — not because there isn’t a veritable plethora of other blog-related bonehead moves I could tell you about, but because I can see that you won’t be able to stand much more of this — that brings me to the BlogShares experience. This is definitely a case where I’ve gotten ahead of myself without reading the manual or asking for any help, and just charged in willy-nilly and gotten all confused and disappointed.

(Much like sex the first couple of times I tried it. But eventually, I learned what all the steps were, and how to do them in the right order, and everything’s been fine since then. The hardest part was figuring out that ‘fall asleep’ always comes last. Believe me, that’s not one that you want to get wrong, folks. Not only does it rather annoy your partner, but it can double or triple the clean-up time afterward.)

All right, where the hell was I? Oh, BlogShares. ‘k.

So, without knowing what on Earth I was doing, I signed up for an account. That got me some free play money, but again — back to the blog ego trip thing — what I really wanted to do was add my blog to the queue, so it would leave me the hell alone for a while. So after some futzing and putzing around, I finally managed to notify BlogShares that yes, there was a new blog out there, and no, nobody gives a damn about it yet, but maybe this is a step in the right direction. So that went fine, and then I think I had to go through another step to link my account to the blog that I’d entered, to show that I actually owned it. The whole damned procedure started feeling like a mortgage application after a while. But in the end, I went through all the steps (I think), and now have a nice little status page that has my account, and my blog, and everything’s just peachy. Except for this line, under ‘Status’:

Just Added. Not yet indexed. Not available to trade. Claimed by owner.

Now, I don’t know what the hell kind of indexing that BlogShares does — I didn’t read the help, remember? — and I don’t know how often it’s supposed to happen, or what voodoo incantation that I’m supposed to do to make it index my site, but that message has been there for about two weeks now, and I’m starting to suspect that I’ve done something wrong. So now I can’t use my fake money to buy shared in my own blog, and no one else can invest in my insanity, either. And I can’t figure out why. I’ve read enough of the registration docs to decide that I’ve done pretty much all I can, but I gather that I really should have been indexed my now, so I don’t know what’s gone awry. My best guess is that the BlogShares folks also saw my picture on ‘HOT or NOT’, and they’ve blacklisted me as well. I suppose it serves me right for not shaving my back for that photo shoot. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

So, there you have it, folks. Just a taste of what it’s like to be a professional blogger. Well, okay, fine — technically, I don’t get paid to do this, so I’m not a professional, per se. But as of Monday, I’m not getting paid to do anything else, so I might as well call this my vocation, at least for the moment. If any of you out there need a good solid writer for a column, perhaps, or a travel guide, or maybe to type up menus, give me a call. I’m not proud; I’ll write whatever you want. And it might even make a bit of sense, too, if I can keep access to my online wordsmithing tools. (And if you can keep me on schedule for my meds.) Hey, if the money’s right, I’ll even wear my leopard-skin G-string for you in the office. That’s a plus, right? And if you’ll give me healthcare insurance, too, I might even shave my back this time! How can you lose?

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