Saturday, December 9, 2017

Twitter Says I'm Hateful

For the last four days, I was blocked from Twitter, which is probably a good thing, because I know damn well that I spend waaaay too much time on it. The reason? I violated Twitter's rules against hateful conduct:
"You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease."
It was a reply to a reply in a thread started by super mega author Stephen King (@stephenking) who also happens to be an outspoken liberal with 4.3 million followers. 
Here's the sequence of tweets in context.
"I'm wondering if Alabama voters will elect a man they'd horsewhip, if they caught him messing with their own daughters" @stephenking
"But Roy is anti-abortion." Yes, fetuses have a right to life, so you can rape them once they hit junior high." @HowardA_Esq
And me:
"Their attitude is 'Life is sacred' right up until the baby is born then it's "Don't expect any help from us. You made your bed now lie in it, you lazy slut. We told you this would happen in abstinence education." @Judy5cents 
I have posted this sentiment before on Facebook and Twitter, and I don't see how I'm promoting violence or threatening people. I suppose the "lazy slut" was what did it, but it's not directed at any specific person--it's a hypothetical conversation between a Right to Lifer and the teen aged mother who can't get help to raise the child they said was so precious. 
All I had to do to get back on was to verify my identity, delete the offending tweet and wait out my 12 hour suspension. Pretty much like a middle schooler being forced to say "I'm sorry for what I said" and serve a modest detention. 
I wasn't having any of it. I was mad and hell and I was determined Twitter wasn't going to push me around. I appealed the decision, saying the tweet was meant to be sarcastic, and asking what exactly was it about that tweet that promoted violence or threatened or harassed any person or group. 
This was their answer:
"We’re writing to let you know that your account features will remain locked or limited for the allotted time due to violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically our hateful conduct policy.
We do not allow people to promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.

Please note that continued abusive behavior may lead to the suspension of your account. To avoid having your account suspended, please only post content that abides by the Twitter Rules:

You can learn more about our policy against hateful conduct here:


Basically, it was a form letter. I'm sure they send out this letter to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to Twitter users every day. I was holding out for a real person, who I contacted on my other account and that's just not going to happen.
A Facebook friend of mine referred me to an article on Media Matters about how far right trolls are using this rule to temporarily silence progressives on Twitter. They report tweets out of context (like mine) and get the accounts suspended and boast about it.  "If you're still on Twitter and aren't reporting 20-30 people a day to cause chaos, you're doing it wrong." (Andrew Torba, founder of Gab, a social media platform resembling Twitter which has been dubbed a haven for White Nationalists)
Usually the suspensions last for 12 hours, but because I was so damn stubborn, they had me offline for four days. 
And that is what convinced me to go back on. By refusing to delete that tweet and get back online, I let the trolls win.
I'm still mad as hell at Twitter but I don't see any way that I'm not going to take it any more aside from leaving all together. As I expected, Twitter didn't notice I was gone. I have to admit, its Siren's song has worn thin now that I've been dashed against the rocks. I expect I won't be on Twitter as much now that I've been burned by it. 
Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to  tweet us toward a nuclear war and posts anti-Muslim videos.  But for four days Twitter was safe from the likes of me. 
And I was safe from Twitter.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Declare Victory And Walk Away

Well, it's been a crazy month in the White House. And it was supposed to be a bit of quiet, with the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief on vacation at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey and Congress on break.

You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Donald Trump hates the job he's been trying to do for the last seven months. 

In a recent Politico article, White House officials and informal advisers said that Trump's temper is triggered "if he thinks someone is lying to him, if he's caught by surprise, if someone criticizes him, or if someone stops him from trying to do something or seeks to control him."

And as Late Night host Seth Meyers noted, that is what happens every single day of being president. You're lied to, you're caught by surprise, you're criticized and people try to get you to do things you don't want to do. 

When he took office in January, I thought maybe, for the sake of his own self-interest, he'd stick to the script most of the time--that he'd be smart enough to realize he was out of his depth and he'd let other people take over. Leave everything to Mike Pence and spend his time playing golf, handing out medals and attending Trump 2020 rallies. 

What he wants is impossible. He wants everyone to love him. He wants the press to only say nice things about them. He doesn't want to hear criticism, only praise. He wants to do whatever he wants and not have to answer to anyone. Because he's the boss.

When you're running your family business, you can do that. 

Donald Trump has spent his entire life in a bubble, born into wealth and privilege. His father's money and position were always there for him. To give him his start in the real estate business, to fund his ambitious business ventures and to bail him out when he failed.

When you own the business, you can surround yourself with people who tell you what you want to hear.  For his entire adult life, Trump has been able to fail spectacularly while remaining unscathed.

Bill Curry, a former adviser to President Clinton, and a former Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut, summed up Trump's accomplishments this way in a recent Salon article:

"Trump’s whole life is a fraud that Robert Mueller may soon expose as a criminal enterprise. His business career was a disaster till a book someone else wrote and a TV show someone else produced made him a celebrity. He then fell into the only line of work he ever prospered in: licensing that celebrity. He does it pretty well, but Zsa Zsa Gabor did it first and Kim Kardashian did it better and neither of them should be president."

I really cannot see Trump continuing in the job for the next three years and five months. He may not be a very good businessman (even though he played one on TV) but he does know enough to get out when it all goes to hell.

His style is to walk away and leave other people to clean up the mess, all the while declaring himself a huge success.  

The way things have been going, I wouldn't be surprised to see this tweet from @realdonaldtrump:

"Elitist losers have blocked me at every turn so will leave swamp of DC to in private sector. Done putting up w/ ."

He'll release statements echoing his ousted strategist Steve Bannon, saying he feels he'll be far more effective Making America Great Again outside of the confines of the Washington, DC establishment.

President Mike Pence will thank him for his service. The GOP Congress will sadly bid him farewell, but breathe a collective sigh of relief that the presidency will regain some semblance of normalcy.

And Trump will retire to Trump Tower and send out tweets congratulating himself for leaving the highest position in the land. Because for him, it wasn't good enough.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The First Six Months Are the Hardest?

Well, congratulations all, we made it through six months with Trump in the White House.
And what's happening now is exactly what I expected.
Trump colluding with Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton? We saw it coming. Paul Manafort and Jeff Sessions both had ties to the Russians, and Trump made his admiration for Vladimir Putin very clear. He pretty much said "Hey Vlad, this is Don. I think you're super-duper dreamy. Call me, OK?"
Trump making rude personal comments about Mika Brzezinski'on Twitter? You really thought he'd stop being a misogynistic pig once he took the oath of office?
Trump spending every weekend at one of his signature golf clubs, not to mention promoting them? First, he loves playing golf and he's not going to stop, even though he said he would if he became president. Second, he is and always has been a salesman, albeit a sleazy one. Marketing the brand is what he does.
Filling the cabinet with billionaires when he promised to "drain the swamp" of Wall Street interests? What can he say? He trusts rich people. Because they're rich. Rich = good. Poor = bad.
Trump having the lowest approval ratings of any president in the history of polls? Is anyone surprised that Trump, who had no experience in government and no desire to learn would suck at his job? And that Americans would notice?
Repeal and Replace Obamacare going from a slam-dunk with a GOP controlled House, Senate and White House to a rotting corpse of a bill that isn't going anywhere, but refuses to die? We knew McConnell and company would discover that it's a whole lot easier voicing vehement opposition to ObamaCare than it is to come up with a viable plan that's acceptable to both their constituents and the diametrically opposed factions of the party.
Stephen King once said on Twitter that the GOP has been sowing dragon seeds for decades and are now horrified that they've got a full grown dragon on their hands. They've embraced the Values Voters, who want government literally up in our vaginas, and the Libertarians, who want to drown that same government in the bathtub, to the Tea Party folks, who believe that the only good tax is a repealed tax, all the while trying to placate the traditional Republicans, who wanted less regulation and,stronger economic growth but also understand the need for a safety net.
They have a majority in the Senate and yet they can't come together to pass the one thing they've dreamed of for the past eight years.
I don't know what's going to happen in the next six months, or in the next year. All I can say is I expect more of the same until we hit a breaking point. And what that will be is anyone's guess.

Judy Nichols is an author with a number of mysteries available on Amazon.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Jobs and Character Building

It’s August. Already summer is winding down. The Back-to-School sales are in full force. Pretty soon we’ll be packing up all our daughter’s worldly possessions and taking them and her to UNC Greensboro for her sophomore year of college.

LIke a good many college students, she had a summer job. She worked at a beach resort hotel, cleaning rooms. It was a lot of hard work for not much money, providing the experience that builds character and motivates a lackluster student into hitting the books. Because no one ever wants to do a job like that again. Ever.

I’ve been thinking a lot about summer jobs lately, especially since I’ve just finished Joyland by Stephen King. It’s the story of a young man taking a job at a small amusement park in a beach town in North Carolina. The fun house is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman who was murdered there four years earlier.

“We sell fun,” the proprietor of the Joyland likes to say. 

It reminded me of the job I held for the last few weeks of the season at Kings Island in 1976. It was a bit more upscale than Joyland, with fancy roller coasters, fountains and a replica of the Eiffel Tower one third the size of the one in Paris. And it’s still going strong, though changes have been made.

But it was hard work. I was assigned to “Les Taxis,” a ride in which patrons drove cars with lawn mower motors around a track. If you were as tall as the Yogi Bear sign at the entrance to the ride, you could drive, a cool thing for a ten year old who was itching to get behind the wheel of a real car.

Along with putting people in the cars and hopping on the running board to guide each car to a stop, part of my job was telling kids they weren’t tall enough to drive. We had a piece of red tape on a post to make sure. 

There was a reason for that. Below a certain height it was possible for a kid’s teeth to get knocked out if they were hit from behind.

I remember my uniform was a checked blue dress with a ruffle at the bottom and puffy sleeves. Employees were not allowed to walk down the main drag of the park during their work day. (International Street). Instead we used an “Employees Only” passageway behind the stores on International Street to get to the canteen for our breaks. 

There was a hierarchy among the workers. The Litter Gitters were on the bottom, then food service then the rides workers. And among the rides group, the ones at the top of the heap worked on the roller coaster--at the time it was the Twin Racer. 

Performers in the park's live shows would come to the canteen too, but we did not consider them as true employees. They sat apart from us, wearing their costumes, which were form fitting suits of red, white and blue satin. It was the country’s Bicentennial and the show had a patriotic theme. They were not sun burnt and sweaty like we were. They had a future in show biz, or at least that’s what they thought. We were just trying to make a few bucks before going back to school. Our future had nothing to do with what we were doing at Kings Island.

Reading Joyland brought back memories of that summer. The hard work, the camaraderie among the employees, the annoying patrons. We were supposed to refer to them as guests, but a lot of them I wouldn’t invite into my home. Or park as it were.

Here’s a link showing the retired rides at Kings Island. Sad to say, Les Taxis is one of them. 
Summer jobs like that build character. And I suppose a bit of mine was built that summer.
When I sold fun.

Judy Nichols is the author of several mysteries available on Amazon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

No Computer In The Computer Room

We have a room in our house we call the Computer Room, When we moved into this house 13 years ago, it was the age of stationary personal computers and dial up internet. The family computer had its own room and that’s where everyone went to do their business online and off. 

Lately I’ve been referring to it as the spare room. With laptops we can go anywhere in the house and it seems silly to call it the computer room when there’s no computer in it.

Right now it’s a junk room. It’s a way station for all the stuff that isn’t being used now, but could be useful some day. If not to us, then to the poor and needy.

It’s my intention to turn that room into a proper office, with a desk and a laptop that only lives there. And a printer. And files. And everything neatly put away.

But first I have to wade through all that stuff.

So far I’ve found lots of framed photos, including several I had taken of my daughter when she was three months old. She’s a freshman in college now, and while I like having photos of her around to remind me of when she was little, the one with her toothless little mouth wide open and her eyes closed, wearing the blue dress my Aunt Lorraine got for her when she was born is not something I want to look at every day.

But it’s hard to throw away photos, especially of your own sweet baby.

And then there are the computer disks. Remember those little squares of plastic you put in a slot in the hard drive? There are stacks of them in the spare room. I’m pretty sure the information they contain is not all that important, but on the off chance that there’s vital personal data on there that some identity thief is willing to dig through our trash and run through the old PC he happens to have on hand, we have to come up with some other way to dispose of them.

What a world we live in. The ever changing technological march forward prevents us from reading the things we recorded just five years ago. And we can’t even throw them out. Gotta think of the environment, you know.

Which gives me an immense appreciation of the written word. Also in that room, stashed away on a closet shelf, are 44 years of my journals, going all the way back to 1970. And while the paper may have yellowed and the ink may have faded a bit, I can still read every word. Well most of them--my handwriting was not always legible.

Sometimes I pick one up at random, looking for an entry on or close to the current date to see what I was doing twenty years or so ago.

And I don’t have to dig up a twenty year old electronic device to do it.

Some day soon I hope to have all the junk cleared from that room. But my journals will remain, a method of recordkeeping that will never be obsolete.  

Judy Nichols is the author of several books available on Amazon/

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You Want How Much To Publish My Book???

Got a book on New Age philosophy that you want to publish but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps a metaphysical novel? Or a memoir of a profound spiritual journey?

If so, Turning Stone Press is looking for you.

Here’s their mission statement:

“Specializing in nonfiction and fiction titles with spiritual, metaphysical, or self-help themes, Turning Stone Press curates every book published, carefully selecting only those titles that fit within specific parameters.

“Our objective is to offer an exclusive opportunity for authors within these genres to reach their intended readers by providing them with the tools and support needed to give their work the best possible chance for success.

“If you’re looking for a publisher that thinks outside the traditional publishing box, Turning Stone Press is for you.”
And then you click on the “Download Services” PDF. Once you get to the second page you discover that all that outside the traditional publishing box thinking will cost you a coll $7500.
Somehow, I doubt if Turning Stone Press is all that selective when every author they sign up brings in another $7500 in the coffers.
Technically, publishing your own book is free, but face it, coming up with a cohesive, well written, error free manuscript all on your own is next to impossible. You will make more than a million separate key strokes in the course of writing your book. Even with spell check to alert you of your errors, you will still miss lots and lots of them.
And having written it yourself, you become too close to the story. You don’t notice the holes in the plot or the fact that the character you think is hilarious comes off as a crude stereotype. That’s what editors do. They get rid of the superfluous adverbs, the inconsistencies and eliminate the boring parts that readers tend to skip over.
Unless you happen to be married to one (lucky you), you have to pay them.
But a good editor will not cost you anywhere near $7500.  I did a little checking online. Amazon’s Create Space comprehensive editing package is $470 per 10,000 words, so a 70,000 word novel will cost you $3290. Other editors will charge less, but it’s generally between $1000 to $3000 for a full length novel.
Covers cost money, too. You can get a custom designed cover for around $500 to $800. Or if you want to buy “off the rack,” there are pre-made covers that cost around $20. Fill in the title of your book and your name and you’re done.
Even if you go all out and get the full Create Space package plus a custom designed cover, your total cost would be around $4000, about half the price of publishing with Turning Stone.
So what else do you get? Turning Stone’s website says that marketing help is included. Every author receives a press release, a marketing plan and social media tips.
Those are all things you can do yourself for free. If you google “Write a press release,” hundreds of sites pop up with the titles “How To Write A Press Release.”  Or if you don’t feel like writing it yourself, there’s a site called Send2Press  that will do it for $200.  The Forbes site offers a template for a marketing plan.
And there are no end to tips on how to use social media. Just go to Twitter and use this hashtag (for the uninitiated, a hashtag is a word with the “#” sign in front used to look for a topic other people are tweeting about ) #bookmarketing. You’ll find a host of links to everything you’d ever want to know about book marketing online, and then some.
I’m sure Turning Stone is not the only press offering publishing services for a fee. They may do wonderful work. But before you hand over your life savings to them, you should be aware that the primary source of income for this outfit comes from selling its publishing services, not from book sales.  
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There’s plenty of help on the web.
Here are are a few links:
With a little help, you can do this yourself and keep about five grand in your savings account.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Song For You

"My gift is my song and this one’s for you.”

"Your Song." Elton John sang it, but Bernie Taupin wrote the words. I’ve often wondered who it was for. We’ll never know. Taupin said he wrote it when he was 17 and that it’s not about anyone in particular. I think he’s just being discreet.

Perhaps the ultimate act of love is to write a song for someone, something so heart breakingly beautiful that it makes everyone who hears it cry softly, feeling the song’s emotion to the depths of their souls.

A song like “Fix You.”

Chris Martin wrote it for Gwyneth Paltrow when her father died. It’s a song that captures the feelings of loss and grief and helplessness in the face of death like lightning in a bottle.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home.
And ignite your bones.
And I will try to fix you.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last month, you probably know that Martin and Paltrow have “consciously uncoupled,” or as we in the real world say, have decided to get a divorce.

If my husband had written a song like that for me, I’d stay with him to the end of time and then some. But I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow and my husband is not Chris Martin.

Even though we had the album, I don’t remember hearing it until I saw the 2007 documentary “Young@Heart,” about a choir of senior citizens who sing alternative rock songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones and “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. 

It was supposed to be a duet sung by two of the men, but one of them died before the performance, so the remaining one sang it as a solo, sitting on a chair, with the tubes from his oxygen tank in his nose, with the rest of the choir singing background. I guarantee, you won’t be able to get through it dry eyed.

And there is the beauty of this song. Everyone who hears it makes it their own. When I hear it, I don’t think of Gwyneth Paltrow at all, I think of my mother, who passed away last summer. Coldplay performed the song at the memorial service for Steve Jobs, so I’m sure his family think of him when they hear it.

Obviously, no one knows what happens in a marriage. It is the business of the two people in it and no one else. But in exchange for such a beautiful song, wouldn’t you think twice about leaving?

Here is the song performed by Young@Heart Fred Knittle, who died at the age of 83 in 2009.

Judy Nichols is the author of several books available on Amazon/