Sunday at the coffee shop

Some tumblers and reusable cups at a local Starbucks.
The top shelf of my “office”


This afternoon, I had the brilliant idea of attempting to upgrade my account. However, WordPress wouldn’t let me enter my postcode on their PayPal payment page. I switched keyboards twice and used the number pad. They were kind enough to ask why I was cancelling my order.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

Dessert - strawberry mousse in a glass display case
Designer mousse – I ordered extra whipped cream instead

I see what the matter is with the new block editor. It literally depends on the time of day. At 11.00, 13.00 and 16.00, I couldn’t use the backspace key or CTRL + X to delete images or blocks of text. It’s 19.01 or two hours before this post goes live. Now, I can do all of those things. But the earlier function of accessing arrows on the left side of the block to move text around, has gone.

Social distancing notice in a Starbucks coffee shop.
Table top – a fifteen-minute visit turned into a two-hour battle

At first, I thought the editor was not iPhone friendly, but typing on a desktop is equally frustrating. It’s not that the block editor lacks functionality, it is that the removal of user control means that poorly rendered backend code can really ruin your day. I wanted to switch out the following two photos. It was impossible on my phone. When I got home, I found a tutorial online and was able to do that.

Screen capture of the block settings feature for images.
A “killer” app

Again, the block editor is rubbish on my phone. I uploaded medium-sized images but they were huge when I viewed them on my laptop screen. Searching through the side bar and finding the image resize tool was exhausting. I like to edit HTML because if there are any issues, I can always look at the code and fix it there. I’m not being stubborn. Look at this:

Some html code from the new block editor. Screen capture.
Okay …

Pretty straightforward. But the block editor returned an error message when I tweaked the code. I needed to do this to embed images from the Google Photos app. The app doesn’t give me a .jpg link so I used a different app to create an embed string. I could not embed that into this block editor. My workaround was to upload photos into the media library in WordPress. It will get full fast, so this workaround is not sustainable. Not that I could pay for extra space even if I wanted to.

Have a great Sunday.

My amazing promotional campaign idea crashes and burns

… before it’s got off the ground. Anyone have a celebrity friend I can borrow?

Still using the new editor. You need lots of Real Estate in order to create a post. I’m on my phone. And no Siri that’s not a capital R and a capital E.

Today, I had a brilliant idea while I was having lunch. I dropped my food and wrote everything down. Then I joined Fiverr. As I’ve referenced in my previous post, I am miserable because I was trying to get going on Twitter when they imposed a new feature that allows a small group of people to select limited accounts from which to receive tweet replies. This limits who can directly engage with a post. It is another way of creating an elitist clique among already popular feeds. That is not fair.

Going off on a tangent here, let me say that I’m sick and tired of people telling me how amazing social media is for promoting myself. The number of unanswered tweets I have read daily makes me sad. On top of that, Twitter wouldn’t allow me to promote my tweets because my account was too new. I feel that it is impossible to grow through organic engagement. 

facebook application icon
Photo from Pexels

I read that on social media, between 4.7% to 5% engagement is good. And anything above 9% is rare. It is a lot of singing and dancing for paltry rewards. Therefore, I thought it would be efficient to use many existing networks to get my project idea out there. I want to meet and correspond with people who like to read books. I don’t know how many people are reading my chapters on this blog and I don’t want to trash my project because I don’t get a lot of feedback in this forum. The plan was to create redundancies by launching as many campaigns as possible and renew them periodically.

Do I continue writing or do I shred my novel? I think it would be a good idea to encourage people to sign up to read it chapter by chapter in chronological sequence. Based on demand or continued mailing list subscriptions, I can decide what to do next.

My plan so far: Readers who are interested in reading an entire book for free will subscribe to a mailing list and receive a new chapter each week. Subsequently, I will ask readers to share testimonials and links to my blog, or write reviews. I estimate it will take several months to a year.

Fiverr has everything I need for my campaign. All of the individuals I contacted are popular and sought after. They advertise shout outs, interviews and advertisements. I was thrilled. I typed out my stump speech, added some bona fides and messaged every one I could find.

Six hours later, almost everyone responded. I got three positive replies. However, most were not willing to do any promotion for a new author. Others needed to read the whole book first.  

This means I may not get my project promoted as widely as I’d like even though it’s a FREE fiction novel. But isn’t that the point of promoting a product via a total influencer roll out?

I agree that name recognition helps. Chanel, Dior, Estée Lauder, Fancl and Shiseido give away skincare and makeup products all the time. They’re still able to sell full-size products for ridiculous prices. I should know because I’m on all of the above birthday mailing lists, and receive free, limited edition products in the post or over the counter. 

Even so, I felt like a start-up skincare company being told by a beauty vlogger that they won’t even patch test my products because they’ve never heard of my “brand”. I appreciate everyone’s honesty and will now proceed to feel sorry for myself.

 

Other images in this post are free from Unsplash.

Rinse, repeat …

Collage with postage stamps

So far, the new WordPress editor is driving me bonkers and is about to get slapped upside the head with my pimp hand after trying to stitch me up via Siri. 

Warning! Rant …

I spent the last four days trying to delete my Instagram account, which I started four days ago. Before that, I was forced to shred my Twitter posts, all 202 of them and delete my account. Long story short, Twitter is Babylon.

I have sworn that I would never use Facebook products ever. I had to go back on my word because I’m not able to travel overseas this year. 

Instagram’s software decided that my photos were professional-looking. I was prompted to upgrade to a professional account and pay for advertising. They then said that I needed a Facebook page (so they can mine my data and sell me ads). I declined because I wasn’t going to sell my artwork anyway, and their analytics are irrelevant. I was planning to post photos from my archives to establish some credentials. I wanted other artists to pay attention to me when I engaged with them. Instead, from the fourth post in, my photos started vanishing. Soon after, I was not allowed to react to stories, or comment on more than four consecutive posts. So I said, I’m done. Four days later, after several thwarted attempts, I finally did it.

I was miserable the whole time.

You have to understand, I study programming and machine learning so I know how algorithms work. I don’t believe that their algorithms are even-handed. Machine learning code requires human input and all of that “the algorithm changes constantly” nonsense you see in tech magazines, is shorthand for “our programmers are constantly re-drafting the code so that people who are not buying advertisements will feel compelled to do that”.  

I had zero followers and was getting suppressed. It is a clear sign that Facebook exists to sell advertisements. They don’t cater to anyone who refuses to add to their bottom line. I don’t have access to their servers, so there is nothing I can do to change their policy to help myself.

Please do not ask me about all of the accounts I visited in stealth mode. Oh, I spied on everybody: neighbours all the way to my former teachers, classmates, childhood friends, crushes, crushes’ crushes, uni friends, colleagues. People are so nice when they don’t know it’s me commenting.

One of my cousins, who is a fashion designer, sent me a lovely welcome audio message to thank me for joining her army of fans. In real life, her husband banned her from talking to me because I told my cousin she should not allow her husband to name himself CEO of her multinational fashion brand, which she started on her own. He has no business training, mind you. He claims on his social media accounts that he is naturally better at business because he’s a dude and men are traditionally the provider. It’s a very long story – and you can read about it at that link. 

I woke up on Sunday morning to a face full of the power couple in an Instagram live stream. Their marriage is amazing and perfect and stuff so they were cohosting a marriage counselling session with a very good-looking celebrity singer couple. I had to intervene after a guest complained that her man wasn’t ready to have children. She joked that her friend told her to take a sample of his you-know-what while he was sleeping. I quickly jumped in the chat to say that it was assault and battery. (If I had a partner kinda sorta joke that they would impregnate me in my sleep, there’d be no discussion about it: that would be the very end. Don’t say hi to me, get lost forever).

Of course the power couples ignored me. Because, they don’t have any knowledge about fundamental human rights. And why would they? They’re not really helping anyone, they’re building a brand.

 

Tear up that cheque

Rue et Cassidy

Cassidy looked at the cheque. It was written in the amount of ten million euros. The recipient’s name was Asparagus Saints, LLC. She looked at Rue with her mouth open. With a puzzled laugh and flutter of her eyelids, she asked, “Why are you giving this to me?”

“I think you mean to ask why I am not offering it to you through a representative,” said Rue. Her calm voice disguised her irritation. Cassidy’s tone was informal and they were not close friends.

“Well …” Cassidy said, while rolling her eyes.

“Let’s get some things sorted. You could take that cheque to a journalist and repeat everything we spoke about here,” said Rue. “However, as soon as someone rings my attorney for a comment, you will be thrown in jail for extortion, blackmail and money laundering.”

“What?!”

“The person who wrote that cheque runs the Kiev underworld. I asked him for ten million euros, and he gave it to me no questions asked. Do you have any friends like that?” It was a rhetorical question, but the princess waited for a response.

“No, Ma’am,” responded Cassidy, feeling put in her place.

“I also asked him to register that business in your name and open an account for you at a bank in Niue.”

“I didn’t ask for this,” said Cassidy.

“Your endgame was to spend the Count’s money,” responded the princess, referring to her first ex-husband. “House, car, boat, plane, diamonds, clothes, bags, shoes, skin, hair, nails, boob job, lip fillers, vitamin drips. This is more than you would get in a divorce. Doesn’t refusing this cheque make you a liar?”

“No!”

Image by Sebastian Coman via Unsplash

“Really? Do you love him?”

“Yes.”

“Yes? I handed you a cheque for ten million euros, threatened to have you locked up, and there you are, still holding it.”

“I’m trying to understand what this is all about.”

“I believe you’re hesitating because you think you can cash that cheque and keep sleeping with my ex-husband,” said Rue. “You are an entry-level backstabber. If you had any real gold-digging skills, Karl would have married you already.”

“I’m not a gold-digger, or a grifter, if this is what you’re trying to prove,” said the woman.

“Did you earn that money?” Rue looked at the cheque, looked at Cassidy’s face and leaned her head to one side. She felt she was exercising a great deal of self-restraint.

“Of course not,” replied Cassidy.

“You’re holding a piece of paper representing an amount you haven’t earned. If you loved that man, you would have torn it up and stomped out of here.”

Cassidy calmly put the cheque on the table, hooked her arm through the handle of her purse and stood up. With a curtsy, she said, “Your Royal Highness, if I may be excused.” Her voice was trembling.

“You may not,” said the princess, smiling. She leaned back in the sofa and looked up at the Cassidy. “Sit down.”

Cassidy obeyed. Tears were welling up in her eyes. She asked, “What do you want from me?”

Image by Rod Long via Unsplash

“I believe that in spite of your low aspirations, and uncouth behaviour, you think that you’re ambitious. However, you have misunderstood people’s opinions of you. You think they respect you for spending Karl’s money. But they think you are a sex worker. You would know how not to act like one if you had a good mentor.”

“Ma’am? Are you offering to mentor me?”

“That would be inappropriate, not to mention unpleasant, given how thick you are. Put the cheque in your purse. Accept it as a generous payout from a concerned third party. Consider that you would get nothing after the inevitable demise of your opportunistic coupling.” Rue inhaled deeply and glared at Cassidy with a glacial glare. 

Cassidy picked up the cheque and neatly tucked it into her wallet, which she had retrieved from her purse. Rue continued, “Now, I’m going to introduce you to a stylist.” She turned her head towards the doorway behind her and called out. “Harlowe?”

A petite, curvy woman with ankle-length, rose pink dreadlocks entered the living room from an adjoining room. She was wearing a white dress that looked like an apron over a blue silk jumpsuit. There were thong sandals on her feet. The straps were bejewelled.

Picking up a pen and notepad from the table, Rue scribbled something on a page, tore it off, and handed it to Cassidy. “When Miss Harlowe is finished with you, arrive at that address, on that date, at nineteen o’clock, sharp. No plus ones, thank you.”

“Ma’am,” said Cassidy. Now intrigued as well as confused, she curtsied to Rue again and followed Harlowe into the adjoining room. She didn’t hear when the princess exited the suite.

(o^  ^o)

Hello everyone and thank you for reading. This is a rough draft of a scene in my novel, The Quarter Percent. Context is everything, I suppose.

Don’t ever change yourself

I finally did it. I finally gave into my deep-seated aversion to non-specific socialising. Blogging on WordPress, I had something to talk about: A photo, a piece of art, poetry, a short story or a reflection. I feel better relating to people in context and not simply blurting thoughts out into the ether.

an assortment of stationery cans, a few Disney Frozen and Heartful Fairy, colour

I deleted the Twitter app from my phone. That means I can only access my account from my tablet, my laptop, and every single computer at work. (There are about one hundred of them and I have administrator privileges.)

The thing is, and I know what you’re thinking – that one deletion is not a huge deal – but it’s significant.

What put me over the top was looking at a retrospective from a fashion blog sitting above a post about the World Food Program and other United Nations programs. The juxtaposition feels weird because I’m interested in clothes and I also want to help people.

Another issue that bothers me is that many communities are not being helped by these programs. They are facing food shortages; they don’t have access to clean water or soap. And these wonderful organisations are practically unreachable.  

I know this because I spent every day this month so far trying to reach them. An NPO asked me to help them out of a jam so I did the best I could. I composed emails and PSA copy, brainstormed ideas, edited an entire website’s content, looked up contacts, confirmed contacts, sent direct messages, and tweeted at organisations and individuals. 

One organisation made it very clear that they could help in limited ways, so that’s encouraging. Still waiting for a response. 

I read a PR blurb about another organisation sending food aid to a developing country. They assured me that as long as I contacted their office in country they would be fine. So I asked the NPO to do that. I’m hearing that the NPO can’t raise this organisation on the phone, nor receive any response via email or LinkedIn. 

This evening, I saw a PR blurb from the WFP saying they raised $3 billion to alleviate food shortages in the world. They were so concerned about the plight of displaced families. Does this make any sense? I feel like an alien sometimes – I have no idea what’s happening on this planet. Maybe I’m too naive and it’s time I grew up.

I’ll be spending much of Saturday brainstorming with the NPO about how to get a community with homeless children fed. There is food aid available but the official channels seem completely cut off from the communities that need help the most. And yet, they are somehow able to collect data from those same communities in order to raise funds. When I see all of this ‘Let’s help hungry children’ and ‘Donate now’ on their websites, my heart breaks a little.

How did you meet your husband?

Praia and Augustine

“How did you meet your husband, Praia?”

“It is a very long story.”

“Start and keep going until you get to the end. My brain is saturated with work stuff. Cleanse me with your tale of true love.”

“I met him in Bhutan five years ago. I was already in country for three months when we met. I was a field tech volunteer with the Yoon-Kim Foundation. I was involved with Xu Ming, the film director. You might have heard of him?”

“Who hasn’t?”

“He was there to film a documentary about the Yoon-Kim Foundation. My boss asked me to guide him and his crew high up in the mountains. He wanted to capture some nature scenes. It was pure lust. At least, for him.”

“What about you? What was it for you?”

“I thought he was the one. He was humble, thoughtful and attentive. While I was deeply infatuated with Ming, I met my husband. He was taking a year off after finishing an internship. He decided to be a volunteer medic in Bhutan  while looking for fellowships. Everything was platonic. We went on hikes, explored some parks, had picnics, took photos. We didn’t hold hands or kiss or anything. He had a girlfriend back in Canada: a commercial pilot.”

“Hot stuff.”

“I was crushed when I saw her photos. Former Air Force pilot, two engineering degrees, speaks five languages, double D cup, skinny as a toothpick, super long legs, the type of creamy platinum blonde hair you only read about. He won the lottery ten times over, right?”

“Depends on what he wants.” 

“Good point. But I never thought that at the time. Well, one day, while we were waiting for a ride to pick us up from a remote village, he looked into my eyes and said he wanted me to run away with him to America.”

“What?”

“I thought he was joking. So I said what you just said.”

“What did he say?”

“He repeated what he said.”

“What did you do?”

“I asked him about the genius supermodel genius. I didn’t care if he thought I was insecure. She was dynamite.”

“That happened to Ming?”

“A few days after that shocking declaration, Ming called me from Shanghai. Anyway, I told him I loved him and he seemed happy. But a day later, I texted him to ask if he was coming  to Bhutan to see me. He told me he had to  be in Kyrgyzstan for a location shoot for that big budget film.”

“Nothing unusual about that.”

“When I told him I missed him, he laughed out loud and called me a silly girl.”

Ahh …”

“Yes. I don’t remember what I said to him, but I felt stupid, thinking it was serious.”

“Then you ran into your husband’s arms?”

“No. The last thing I needed was a rebound fling from a non-thing. I found the most remote village in Bhutan and hid out there. I don’t think I showered for the first six weeks.”

“Rejection is pain.”

“I was ashamed and angry, and I took it out on myself. I believed that Ming was into me. It makes me cringe even now.”

“And then you ran into your husband’s arms?”

“Not yet. It’s a really long story. While I was outdoors rolling up tents one morning, my tablet lit up. It was Ming. He wanted to video conference but I had no makeup on, my hair was dirty and pinned up, I was in baggy pajamas, three parkas and mucking boots.”

“Sounds like you were having the time of your life out there.”

“Oh, I felt happy and free. Smelly, and … free. I looked at my tablet and for a moment thought about pressing the accept button. Let him see me looking destroyed.”

“How long was that moment?”

“It was long. But I chucked it in my bag and finished up my morning work duties. When I came home for my lunch break, I saw that I had a video message. Ming said he missed me and wanted me to fly to Paris to see him. He had an awards ceremony and wanted to bring me on the red carpet.”

“And?!”

“After what he put me through? He should have sent me an apology. I laughed out loud. I’m sure the entire village heard me.”

“Was it the kind of laugh you hear in movies when the villain realises he trekked across the universe, wiped out dozens of civilisations to retrieve a box, only to open it and realise it was empty the whole time?”

“Exactly. And I was laughing at myself. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He rejected me and there he was, begging me to drop everything and run to him.”

“Right? Was it a rebound summons?”

“Maybe? I didn’t think about that at the time. I remember thinking he was hideous. That’s when I finally took a shower. I had to scrub him off me.”

“Was it like waking up from a trance?”

“Not really. I think I started to feel better after accepting that I was being silly. He was  right about that. Now comes the part you’ve been waiting for.”

“Wait, I need more juice. All right… Go.”

“All right. So I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, after scrubbing a month’s worth of dead skin off my body. My hair is fluffed out and all over the place. I hear a knock on my door. I open it, thinking it’s one of the villagers …”

“Wait … it’s your husband at the door.”

“Yes. Accompanied by … genius supermodel genius.”

“Ugh…”

“She sparkles, by the way. I am sure it was the loads of highlighting primer she had on but let me say, she was the design template for hentai fantasy. She had translucent teeth, skin and hair.”

“Ugh….”

“They got a ride up to the village and wanted to ‘explore the area’.”

“How smug.”

“The way he looked at me though, you’d never believe he’d ever seen a woman before. I felt scared for a minute.”

“And, how did you react to the way he looked at you?”

“I pulled my ‘best bitch’ face and told them to see me at the village tuck shop after my work duties were done. It was only after they walked away that I realised I was wearing a pair of huge, neon yellow room slippers, a bright pink dressing gown, and no bra.”

“Please … stop. You met your supreme love rival, GSG, in a bathrobe?”

“And don’t forget that my nipples were poking through.”

“Crushing.”

“I face-planted on my bed. Anyway, when we all met up later, he was asking me if I was with someone. Like, a love interest. I thought he was looking for some sign that I wanted him, so I took a shot. I said that romance was elusive and that I wanted to run away to America, where I could meet people who understood the words coming out of my mouth.”

“What did GSG say to that?”

“She smiled sweetly, in her computer-generated-waifu way, and squeezed his hand. She was saying something inspiring, because she’s also a guru and totally into keeping it simple with her feather-soft complexion. But I could barely hear it because her engagement ring blinded me. It blinded me because it was that big.”

“Oh, no! Not again … This is not a romantic story, Praia. It’s a suspense horror thriller.”

“Believe me, a week later, I was this close to throwing myself off the side of a hill into a gully, when my phone rang. It was him. He was on his way to see me. I hung up.”

“How on earth did you both get married?! Wait a second. I need blueberry popcorn.”

“I’m getting there. When he shows up, we have a quarrel. The gist of it is that I ask him if he thinks I’d be grateful to let him get on me because he’s engaged to every otaku’s wet dream. I say I’m not interested in running away to America to get dumped. Not that I could even consider moving unless I had a job waiting.”

“Right on, babe.”

“So he pulls out a tablet with an electronic marriage license application. Downloaded it from the Canadian High Commission’s website. And filled in his part of it.”

“Where were you when this was happening?”

“In a staff lounge in the free medical clinic set up by the foundation.”

“So, he was engaged to someone else a week earlier, but he wanted to marry you right then, to prove he was serious about you?”

“It felt weird for sure, but I didn’t ask him about … GSG … because I was insecure and jealous.”

“But you signed the marriage license?”

“Yes. Two days later, the license cleared, we signed some forms and we were married.”

“So in other words, you really liked him?”

“I did.”

“Wait, you didn’t have a bash after you moved here.”

“Nope.”

“You must let me plan your wedding. I’m a disgraced ex-fashionista. I’ve got you covered.”

“All right! Go for it.”

( ◠ ‿ ◠ )

Have you made it to the end of this very long story?  This is a chapter from a work of fiction I’m writing. Reread a few chapters recently and I see there is lots of polishing to be done. Hopefully, time is on my side.

If you’d like to stay in touch with me on Twitter, this  is me: @dotjp_n. Or send me a message on this blog’s contact form. Have a great Tuesday.