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Seeking Senior Bloggers

Have you ever said to yourself, “I’d love to be a blogger, if only I knew where to begin? I don’t even know how to use a computer.”

According to The Pew Research Center out of 500 million bloggers, less than 1 percent are age 65 and over. Bloggers in the 21-to-35-year-old demographic group account for over 53 percent of the total blogging population, followed by 19 percent who are 36-to-50-years-old. But enough boring statistics and more about the sparse number of senior bloggers.

I am in the 1 percent. No, not that 1 percent, the “less than” group identified by Pew. Before the door of opportunity opened 12 years ago, I had no plans to include blogger on my resume. Then, one day a friend suggested, “Why not augment your love for writing and create your own blog?” Thus, post-retirement, I birthed my second career and added personal blogger to freelance writer and published author.

In addition to writing a blog, I study them. I’ve found that the gazillion younger than 50-year-old bloggers tend to write about fashion, politics, health & fitness, music & entertainment and technical devices. Although some senior bloggers tackle those same subjects, the majority of posts written by seniors concern elder lifestyles and the challenges of advancing years. Many of their posts have titles about subjects that very young readers would call old people stuff. Healthy Aging (translation:  avoiding the decrepit zone). Fighting Aging (Good luck with knocking that out). Defying the Aging Process (enter Botox and plastic surgery). And the topic that none of us old-schoolers want to discuss, the one that keeps most of us in denial – Funeral Planning (Think Dreamgirls, “And I am telling you, I’m not going.”).

Anyone who retired in let’s say the last 15-20 years who did not learn computer skills while they were in the workforce, I will bet you my best friend’s social security check that some of them are not inclined to do so now. Sadly, I know mature people who not only lack computer skills, but some think that a hard drive is being on the road for two hours or more without making a rest stop.

For seniors who want to learn to compute – it is not too late. There are basic computer classes available everywhere. It seems pointless to ask someone who may not own a computer and lacks computer skills to check on-line for computer classes, although a tablet or smartphone might suffice. But you could ask a computer-savvy friend to help you search online, or inquire about classes at a library near you. Some libraries offer free computer classes that provide hands-on training to adults. AARP offers tech training for people 50 years and older.

Seniors, you need to get that training and start blogging so that we can increase our numbers in the blogosphere. There are plenty of things to blog about:  sports, travel, food, name it and claim it. And of course, there is the personal blog.

I enjoy being a personal blogger. That’s my forte’. However, I offer some words of caution to potential personal bloggers. Share your thoughts at your discretion.

Before jumping in with both feet, think of personal blogging as swimming nude at a public pool. Your posts will be as exposed as a naked swimmer on a diving board. It is one thing to log your personal experiences and private thoughts in a diary, but another to publish something on-line that the whole world can see. Be forewarned. Accept that putting yourself out there, placing your thoughts on display will open you up to criticism and as well as complements. But don’t let the fear of criticism deter you. Life is too short to worry about what others will say about you. Do your thing – with style and humor – and give them something to talk about.

Here are some basic tips on getting started with your blog.

  • Choose a domain name. The domain is the address of your website that people type in the browser’s URL bar to visit your site. Imagine that your website is your home and think of the domain name as your address. I chose Potpourri101 because it suggests a variety or mixture of subjects, not just old folk stuff. In the American university course numbering systems 101 often designates a course for beginners in a particular subject. Thus, potpourri101. (A blog can be set up with or without a unique domain name depending on who is hosting your site.)
  • To make your website accessible to other people on the Internet, you need a “host.” The web host provides the technologies and services required for the webpage to be viewed on the Internet. It will store all of your website files:  code, text, images, video, etc, on servers.
  • Get a blog platform. A blogging platform is a software or service that you use to publish your content. There are many platforms, but I like WordPress because it offers numerous free blog themes. Imagine having an interior designer decorate your home. The theme is the appearance or decoration, so to speak, of your website. You may want to check out Godaddy.com or SiteGround.com as sources that host WordPress sites. A downloadable copy of an excellent book WordPress for Absolute Beginners can be found here.

After you get everything in order, write, write, write on your blog! It will expand your horizons.

In the process of exchanging comments and emails about some of my posts, I’ve made friends with other bloggers as well as readers who are not bloggers. And lest you think that the lot of them are old fogies, they are not. Many of them are as young as you – or as young as you think you are.

I hope this post will encourage other seniors who may have scratched “become a blogger” off of their list. We’re waiting for you to join us. Just do it!

 

 

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Flushing

My iPhone died. The official cause of death was drowning. When I told that to the sales consultant at the mobile phone store he didn’t raise an eyebrow. I guess he had heard the story of the big slash before.

I’ve owned an iPhone for several years. Before I had the smartphone, I had a few dumb ones. Never in the history of my mobile phone life have I dropped a phone. Not the brick size. Not the flip top. I’ve dropped calls but never dropped a phone – until I did. That adds credence to the truth that there is a first time for everything.

It wasn’t so much that I dropped the phone or how I dropped it. It didn’t slip out of my hand, bounce on the table top, and then slide to the floor cracking the screen like an egg on the sidewalk. No, nothing that sanitized. I dropped the phone in the toilet.

Before you gross-out, it wasn’t like what you may be thinking. And technically, I didn’t drop it.

Let me explain.

Whenever I leave home, I rarely carry my cell phone in a purse. I fear that if the purse gets snatched the bad guy will have one of the three most valuable items that I carry. Instead, of putting the phone in my purse, since I almost always wear jeans with deep pockets, my phone is usually tucked in one front pocket, my wallet and keys are in the other. Only when jeans are inappropriate for whatever event I am attending do I carry those three items in a purse.

The one place I never, EVER carry my phone is in my back pocket. I’ve seen other people do it and I always think how easy it would be for a pick-pocket to bump them from behind and take the phone before they realize it’s gone. (To outsmart criminals you must learn to think like one.)

Recently, I purchased a new pair of jeans online. I liked the fit and the color. The only thing I disliked was the short front pockets. The back pockets had plenty of depth. But there was no way I could tuck my phone snuggly into either of the front pockets no matter which way I turned it.

I made a mental note to call the retailer from whom I purchased the trademark jeans or leave a review on the website making it known that the pockets are too short for my liking. I hope that enough complaints from different people about the same issue might prompt a change in the pockets because I like the jeans.

Now you are probably wondering what do jeans have to do with my iPhone so I’ll get to the point.

I was preparing to go out one day and was wearing the new jeans. As I rushed around tidying up the place and trying to make sure that I didn’t forget anything, I temporarily stuck the iPhone in my back pocket knowing that I would remove it and place it in my backpack purse before leaving home. But then I forgot it was there.

Just before heading out the door I tell myself that I’d better answer nature’s call. (I’m sure you readers are ahead of me now and know what happened, but for those who may be a little slow, here’s the deal).

I go into the bathroom, pull down my jeans and as I am preparing to sit on the throne I hear “plop.” I know – before I even turn around to look – that the phone has slipped out of my back pocket and somersaulted into the toilet.

My immediate reaction is to grab the phone from the clear water, wrap it in paper towels and then shake it. Shake. Shake. Shake. Get that water out of there. After several seconds, I unfold the paper towels and look anxiously at the screen. A sigh of relief. It looks fine. All of the colorful icons are there. Yes! I saved it. Or, so I thought – until seconds later, right before my eyes the icons all dissolve. In their place are squiggly horizontal lines on a pale background. After a few seconds, more lines appear, and then poof! the screen turns black. “Nooooooo!” I scream in my head. Watching a phone die can be traumatic.

I snatch more paper towels off the roll and rewrap the phone, shaking it again several times. Before discarding the paper towels, I look at the screen. Nothing but blackness. I slide my finger across the place where the “slide to turn off” message usually appears. Nothing, again. And then suddenly, the flashlight pops on, and I think, “Now, we’re getting somewhere.”

Wrong! Although the light on the back of the phone is glowing brightly, the face of the phone remains dark. I stare at it, wishing that I could rewind the hands of time back about 5 minutes, to seconds before my phone took a dump.

The phone light glows brighter and the brighter the light gets the warmer the phone feels in my hand. Using the little button on the side of the phone I switch it, trying to do a hard shut off. Nothing, again.

I suddenly remember stories I’ve read about exploding phones, and at that moment fear sets in as I think drop the phone and run for cover. I didn’t want to drop the phone and risk setting my place on fire, so I run with the phone to the kitchen. I lay the phone on the counter and from the cabinet, I grab a small ziplock bag and a bag of balsamic rice. (No, I did not take time to look for the cheaper bag of rice because I didn’t know how much time I had before the phone would go kaboom!) I put the still glowing phone into the plastic bag, quickly pour rice over it, place the potential explosive in a small pot, cover the pot with a lid, back away and wait for the explosion that I fear is imminent. I am hoping that the blast will stay contained within the pot.

I have read that if you place a wet cell phone into rice, it will dry it out and save your phone. After a few minutes of nervously waiting, I lean back so the phone will not explode in my face as I extend my arm and slowly lift the lid from the pot. I peek inside. The phone flashlight has dimmed significantly, but it has not gone out. I touch the phone through the bag. It is cooling down. After a few more minutes the light goes out.

I conjure up enough nerve to remove the rice-bagged phone from the pot. Hopeful that I have resuscitated it, I try turning the phone on. No luck. I make a few more attempts before placing the phone back in its plastic bag coffin. Then, I get an old, tiny purse from the closet and place the zip-bagged phone into the purse and the purse inside my backpack. I sling it over my shoulder and head out the door.

Since I was planning to go downtown even before the phone mishap, I decided that while I was down there, I would buy a new phone. It was a several hundred dollar expense that I had not planned for, nor budgeted.

When I walked into the mobile phone store, the clerk greeted me, “How can I help you today?”

“My phone drowned,” I said somberly. I didn’t overshare information with him as I did with you readers, I just told him that I accidentally dropped the phone into water and let him imagine the rest. Then, I pulled the phone out of my backpack to show. “I riced it,” I said. “But I still can’t turn it on.”

“First of all,” he said. “That’s not enough rice. You need to completely cover the phone in rice and let it sit for about 48 hours to thoroughly dry out. There’s still no guarantee that will work. And if you can’t turn it on now, it’s likely short-circuited, i.e., totally dead.” I did not say what I was thinking — smart ass.

I brought a new phone. The only good thing to come out of the debacle is that I was able to retrieve all my phone contacts, photos, etc. because I had saved that info in the iCloud. I only started saving in the cloud about a month ago. That was clearly a predestined move.

According to the Daily Info website “nearly 1 in 10 people have dropped their phones in the toilet.” Let my experience be a warning to you. Avoid carrying your phone anywhere near water. And never, EVER carry your phone in your back pocket.

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Laughing All The Way

Every year while ambitious people are making New Year’s Resolutions I am not. IF I were to make resolutions, one would be to practice having more tolerance for intolerant people. Since I am an admitted procrastinator, maybe I’d resolve to postpone saying or writing things that other people think, but wouldn’t dare say aloud or publish.

Since people sometimes take offense at my attempt at humor, I suppose I could resolve to write strictly serious content without trying to make folks smile or laugh out loud, but that would be like having the Times Square ball get stuck mid-way during its descent on New Year’s Eve. Imagine if that big, glossy ball suddenly stops while lowering on the pole during the countdown to midnight. Would all of the revelers collectively hold their breath and freeze? Heads upturned, mouths gaping, not a single eye blinking, all movement halted mid-motion, the only souls stirring would be city officials scrambling frantically to get the ball moving again? Perish the thought.

Why should I make New Year’s resolutions? If I’m planning to do something, I’ll do it anyway and if I’m not I won’t. Some optimists busy themselves jotting down resolutions days before the New Year; others do it moments after midnight on New Year’s Eve, while I’m usually sipping sparkling cider and reminiscing about bygone years. I know that change is inevitable, but that doesn’t stop me from longing for some days past – let me repeat, some days – and wishing for a return to the way things used to be. If I could turn back the hands of time, I might make resolutions, and these would be my top six priorities:

Number 6.           A return to normalcy. A definition I once read describes normalcy as “being usual, typical, or expected.” If that’s the case, it seems like hardly anything is normal anymore. Normal was unobtrusively replaced over the years by the so-called new norm. The new norm is a no holds barred, say anything, show anything, do anything, be anything, anything goes – insane world. The younger generation won’t get my point because they are used to the insanity. They were born into it and grew up with it. But many people of my generation get it. I’d like to see a return to normalcy as it used to be generally understood by the average intelligent person. I am not a person who follows everyone else over the cliff, meaning I cannot be persuaded to believe what I perceive to be abnormalities. You will never convince me that up is now down, black is white, left is right, and a natural born woman is now a man or vice versa because of a surgical procedure.

Number 5.           Common sense supersedes political correctness.  Granted the principle of political correctness is not entirely bad, but it’s not all good either. PC is intended to put boundaries on offensive speech and behavior, but when imposing one’s personal or a group’s belief on others, there is always the risk that someone’s rights will be infringed upon. One example of this is the use of the n-word. I hate that word and never use it. However, some black hip-hoppers and other black people use it freely, yet they are offended when members of different racial or cultural groups do the same. In a Vox.com article, author, educator, and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates expressed his opinion – contrary to mine — about the use of that word.

Number 4.           Disciplining unruly children. There was a time when parents, teachers, or other well-intentioned adults could discipline their children or someone else’s minors without fear of being arrested. Back in the day, the worse reaction a non-relative adult would get when scolding a child for wrong-doing was for the brat to say, “You ain’t my mama.” or “You’re not the boss of me.” Today it is not unusual for some children to call the cops on their parent if the parent physically punishes them for wrongdoing. Go get my belt. I’m gonna whip your behind. It is not uncommon for a well-meaning school teacher attempting to discipline an unruly student to be attacked by a juvenile and sometimes even that child’s parent will come to the school with a bad attitude and clenched fists (especially when the parent is as immature as the child). Is it any wonder that there are so many rude and disrespectful youths wreaking havoc in the community and running wild through the streets?

Number 3.           Privacy. Ripley’s Believe It or Not stories of strange or unusual facts or occurrences had nothing on today’s world. Before the Internet, Google, people search engines, hackers, and social media one could expect to have some privacy. Anonymity was much easier to achieve a few decades ago; you could hide in plain sight. Not anymore. Today, if you want total anonymity you almost have to commit a deed that will get you placed in the witness protection program – and even then you may be discovered. Just about anyone from Internet snoops and sleuths to busybodies can obtain your social security number, address, phone number, banking info, medical records, police, court and credit records. They can even identify every one of your baby daddy or baby mamas you’ve ever known.

Number 2.           Telephones.  A non-published or unlisted telephone number once freed you from bombardment by unwanted phone calls. Now, telemarketers and robocallers are relentless. I block more calls on my phones than offensive tackle, Trent Williams does on the football field; but they keep calling. And while we’re on the subject of phones, I long for the days of one phone number per home. A good old landline. I could call the home of a relative or friend and if the person I was calling weren’t there someone would usually answer the phone and tell me that. Now, if I phone someone, it’s likely the call goes to a cell phone. If I reach voicemail or get no answer, and urgently need to speak with someone else – anyone else – in the household I have to call a second, third, or sometimes a fourth number before someone answers their phone. That’s because everyone in the household who is out of diapers has a phone and each of them has a different number.

I have no choice but to live with the issues I’ve cited above. But if there is anything that makes me hope that when the New Year rolls in at midnight, I will awaken to discover that like Rip Van Winkle I had been asleep for a long time and it was all nightmares, it is the Number 1 item on my if-I-could-turn-back-the-hands-of-time list.

Number 1.           There was a different outcome to the 2016 presidential election.

Happy New Year!

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The Wait: A Customer Service Hold-Time Horror Story

Customer ServiceThe other day, I called the Social Security office to ask one simple question. When could I expect to receive my 1099 form? After several rings, my call was answered by an interactive voice response system (IVR), commonly referred to by us laypeople as a recorded message. As soon as I heard it, I knew that getting a simple answer to a simple question might take a little time. But I had no idea that I would become a casualty of phone system hell. This is my record of the call.

IVR: Your wait period is approximately 50 minutes.

Me:  FIFTY MINUTES! I shouted in my mind. Are you kidding me? Thinking that perhaps I had misheard – surely the robot said 15 minutes, not 50 – I decided to wait. I looked at the clock. It was 8:55 a.m.

Holding the phone with my left hand, I leaned back in my chair, grabbed the TV remote with the free hand and began channel surfing.

After a few minutes, I started paying closer attention to the messages.

9:09 – IVR:  Thank you for holding. We appreciate your patience. We are assisting other people and will help you as soon as we can.

When my clock displayed 9:10, I put the phone on speaker, set it on my desk, began filing my nails and reminiscing about the days when customer service meant person-to-person, not person-to-machine. Usually, after the second ring, the third at most, a real person would answer the phone, especially in government offices. You remember those days, don’t you?

It’s frustrating enough to be put on hold for an extended period, but when an IVR holds you hostage, you feel helpless. You don’t dare hang up and call back because you will just have to repeat the process.

It used to be that a caller could press zero to bypass the gibberish and be immediately connected to a live person. But businesses got wise to that and eliminated the feature, leaving callers no choice but to hold, and wait, and hold, and wait.

Some companies will place callers in a phone queue, sort of a virtual waiting room, offering them the option of remaining on the phone while they wait for an answer or receiving a callback. The Social Security system did not give me that option. And so I waited.

In the interim, I entertained myself by playing Words with Friends. I checked my Facebook page. I even perused my emails. Finally, I began recording the messages that rotated every 60 seconds.

9:15 – IVR:  Thank you for holding. We appreciate your patience. We are assisting other people and will help you as soon as we possibly can.

ME:  We’ll see. Holding the phone with one hand, I impatiently began tapping my fingers on the desk with the other.

9:16 – IVR:  We apologize for this delay if you are calling for general information. If you are applying for retirement, disability or spousal benefits, you may want to visit us at www.social security.gov.

ME:  Idiots! If you answer the phone, I would tell you that I cannot log on to the www.stupidsite. If I could do you think I’d be wasting my time calling you?

9:17 – IVR:  We regret that you have waited so long.

ME:  The hell you do.

IVR:  We are doing our best to answer your call. Social Security provides benefits to more than 50 million. We are taking calls in the order in which they came.

ME:  You said that already. Uh huh. Sure. I was determined to out-wait them.

9:18 – IVR:  Thank you for holding.

ME:  Oh, good. They’re finally going to answer.

IVR:  We appreciate your patience.

ME:  What!

IVR:  We are assisting other people and will help you as soon as we possibly can.

ME:  You’ve got to be kidding me.

9:19 – IVR:  At the conclusion of your call we would like you to participate in a short survey and tell us about your experience.

ME:  Oh, yes. Don’t I want to do that!

IVR:  If you would like to participate in the survey, please stay on the line after the agent hangs up.

For the first time following the previous messages, I hear four fast beeps. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. That’s different, I think. Surely, a sign that someone is about to answer my call. I wait anxiously while watching the numbers on my digital clock flip over.

9:20 – IVR:  Thank you for waiting. Someone will assist you shortly. Please have handy your Social Security number and any recent mail we have sent you. Having this information will help us to serve you better.

ME:  Here we go. Finally!

9:21 – IVR:  We apologize for this delay if you are calling for general information. If you are applying for retirement, disability or spousal benefits, you may want to visit us at  www.socialsecurity.gov.

ME:  Are you kidding me?

9:22 – IVR:  We regret that you have waited so long. We are doing our best to answer your call. Social Security provides benefits to 50 million. We are taking calls in the order in which they came.

ME:  Sitting in stunned silence and disbelief that I’ve been holding on the line for nearly 30 minutes. A first. And – a last.

9:23 – IVR:  Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. (Then, there is a pause.)

ME:  What’s with the beeps? No message following? I know someone is going to pick-up now.  I’m preparing to stand up and do a happy dance. When I hear…

IVR:  Thank you for holding. We appreciate your patience. We are assisting other people and will help you as soon as we can.

ME:  Wearing a zombie-like expression.

9:24 – IVR:  At the conclusion of your call we would like you to participate in a short survey and tell us about your experience. If you would like to participate in the survey, please stay on the line after the agent hangs up.

ME:  Oooh, Buddy. You DO NOT want me to take the survey. Not now.

9:25 – IVR:  Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Thank you for waiting. Someone will assist you shortly. Please have handy your Social Security number and any recent mail we may have sent you. Having this information will help us to serve you better.

ME:   Now talking to the IVR. How many times are you all going to replay these */%#  messages? As much as I hate on-hold music, I’ll opt for that now.

9:26 – IVR:  Thank you for holding. We appreciate your patience. We are assisting other people and will help you as soon as we can.

 Those same messages recycled repeatedly until at 9:55, just as I was about to hang up, a real live human came on the line.

Human:  May I help you?

Me:    I took a deep breath and did not fly off the handle because I knew he might be expecting that and I didn’t want him to hang up on me. So, I said calmly said through gritted teeth, “I’m calling to inquire about my 1099 form.”

I had barely finished the sentence before Human in a robotic tone said, “The 1099 forms are being mailed from headquarters throughout the month of January. You should receive your 1099 before the end of the month. Is there anything else I can help with?”

Thank you. No. Click!

Had I not recorded the times and IVR messages, I would not have believed that I had held the phone for an hour for a conversation that lasted about 45 seconds. My first and last time doing a phone marathon.

At least the SS IVR does not add insult to the injury of phone hang-over customers by including “Your call is important to us.”

And no, I did not take the survey.

 

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Technophiles Eyeing Google Glass

G GlassThe rush is on. The hotly-anticipated Google Glass goes on sale to the general public today.

Google Glass is a lightweight, wearable computing device with a high resolution display. It takes photos, records videos, shows Google maps, and allows users to send and receive text messages and emails, as well as share information on social networking websites. It is not another hand held device; instead Google Glass delivers all of the aforementioned features and more via a small screen positioned in front of your eye.

For those who can swing the $1500 price tag, Google Glass is one more futuristic gadget for your adult toy chest. The durable headgear, with adjustable nose pads, is designed to fit any face. It can be worn without lenses or can be fit over prescription glasses with multiple colors, frames, and shapes.  In addition to visual images, the device provides audio through a bone conduction transducer. What the heck is a bone conduction transducer? some of you are asking yourself. Unlike bulky headphones that rest on the outer ear or earbuds designed to be inserted into your ear canal, Google Glass renders sound waves through the bones in your head.

The high tech device comes with a charger and has connectivity with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It utilizes Google cloud storage, and for anyone who needs to speak or understand a foreign word or phrase, the device has a language translation feature. ¡Hola!

Google Glass does just about everything except wake you in the morning and prepare your breakfast.

But every upswing has its downside and just as Smartphones, tablets and other trendy tech devices are criminal magnets, Google Glass is no exception. Prior to the device becoming available to the general public today, related crimes preceded the announcement. Last week Kurt Russell, a journalist with Business Insider, had his Google Glass ripped from his face.

Before you consider dropping $1500 on Google Glass, chew on this food for thought, prophesied in the predigital era by Albert Einstein. “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

 

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