Getting Freshly Pressed: Riding the Crest of the Wave

I decided to write this post as a ‘thank you’ to the editor who liked my post well enough to Freshly Press it. I am so grateful and amazed at the same time. I’ve never kidded myself that I’m the new Hemingway or the next Stevie King. I just like to write. A lot.

I love the Blogging community. Except for one ‘troll-like’ creature that followed over from Tumblr, I’ve not had many folks be mean or rude. So I feel like WordPress is full of grown up type folks who, if they not just nice, at least have manners.

So thank you Cheri Lucas for picking my little post. It’s been one helluva ride and I’ve really enjoyed it.

I am a relative newcomer to the world of WordPress. I had blogged on Blogger.com for about a year and a half without setting the world on fire. If I got 30 views a day  I got excited. I finally got a grand total of 7 followers on Blogger and I kind of felt like I was spinning my verbal wheels.

I then started a blog on Tumblr called (are you ready for this?) Random Thoughts for a Random World. Same as the title of my other blog. The only thing I didn’t like about Tumblr was the inability to see how many folks stopped by for a ‘gander.’ But I did like their choices of themes for the site.

I found WordPress quite by accident. I liked the look of it so much that I decided to start yet another blog. This time I decided to change the name of the site to say a bit more about me. I am a dedicated film nut. My whole family is. I honestly think that we’re the only people in the world who precede almost any conversation with the phrase, “Oh! Did you see…” Oh I’m sure that there might be more folks out there who are more dedicated film buffs than us, but I’ll bet that we talk about films more than just about anyone.

I noticed the Freshly Pressed section on WordPress and I was intrigued. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘do you have to do to get Freshly Pressed?’ Luckily for me and all the other bloggers in WordPress land, there were (and still are) posts that give all kinds of great advice on how to get “FP’d” and what it would do for your blog.

I am by nature a very cynical person. I am not, though, a pessimist that would make me completely unbearable. *Don’t listen to my daughter, she’s most definitely prejudicial on the subject of my personality.* So I was not overly concerned about getting FP’d and I couldn’t really imagine it making a difference.

Wrong.

I had given up ‘hoping’ to get on the exclusive list of Freshly Pressed Bloggers whose blog posts were included on this wall. I started reading the ‘How to get your blog post on Freshly Pressed’ and tried a few of the tricks and still nothing. I couldn’t even get my comments put up. *That turned out to be a spam issue about email addresses.*

I finally wrote a pithy and (let’s face it, whiny) post about not getting FP’d. Of course Karma has a wicked sense of humour and I got my previous post FP’d. Who’d a thunk?

So I’d like to tell you, the advice is sound. Do keep doing what they recommend, even if you have to accidentally hit all the nails on the head like I did. If you haven’t read their helpful hints, check em out. So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed and What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able? The Frailest Thing are just two of the helpful posts on how to get Freshly Pressed.

In a nutshell, the rules are quite simple.

1. Have an eye catching title, also known as a hook. That has always brought up horrible visions for me, you know, hooks and eye catching.

2. Make your subject different, not different as trying to find something no one has ever written about, but writing about something, differently. See the difference?

3. Use pictures. Big ones and something appropriate for the subject. I think that personal pictures probably count more.

4. Make it personal. If you can use your voice or experience to round the post out all the better.

5. Write a pithy post about not getting your comments through the spam filter on the Posts who have been Freshly Pressed. *Just kidding, I did that and luckily the editors didn’t hold it against me.”

I think I’ve mentioned everything in a nice nutshell manner, but, really you’d be better off to check out the support posts. They do have good information and they not afraid to share it.

In the mean time, keep doing what you love doing, writing. I’ll be seeing you on the Freshly Pressed page soon. I’ll warn you, your views, hits or whatever you want to call em are going to go through the roof. Plus you’ll get loads more followers. It’s pretty exciting, and not a little daunting. So until then…

Peace out!

Michael Smith 27/08/2012

WordPress
WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Urban Exploration: The Abandoned Hotel – Just A Coffee Break Away

The back of the reception desk and bar.

*DO TO THE FACT THAT THIS HOTEL VISIT WAS NOT OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED, I HAVE NOT GIVEN THE NAME OR THE LOCATION. BUT, FOR THE CURIOUS, IT IS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.*

**This has been posted because of the interest generated by my other post about Urban Exploration. Time will tell if this is a popular enough feature to make it a regular thing.**

1. The building and it’s abbreviated history. 

The hotel first opened in the late 1500’s. It has been known by two names, one was when it first opened. In more modern times it was known by another. Writers, painters, politicians and celebrities have stayed in the hotel over the years. Infuriatingly I can’t find a specific date for when the hotel closed down. There are plenty of references to the fact that this historic place now houses a world famous coffee house and a hiking gear retailer, but, no date anywhere about when it closed its doors for the last time.

It had to be open as late as 2003 because I remember going there for a work’s party. It was old and had the look of a shabby but stately lady who’d seen better days. The carpet was plush, if a bit faded and the walls and ceilings were stained almost dark brown from cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke that had been exhaled over the years.

My daughter worked at the newly fitted coffee house and it became a regular talking point amongst the employees as to what sort of condition the place was still in, whether squatters were living there and if it were haunted. One of the coffee house managers told them that he had keys to the hotel and if they wanted to have a look to let him know and he’d give them the keys.

2. Entering the Dragon.

My daughter and a colleague decided to take him up on the offer and one day after their shift had finished they did indeed ask for the keys. Armed with the keys and nothing else but a growing sense of excitement they unlocked the door and went in.

Last orders, please. The Bar area of the hotel.

Despite the fact that the hotel had only been closed for a few years everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. This was probably due to the advanced age of the building itself, it was built in the late 1500’s and old places tend to manufacture dust, and it’s location in the town center.

The electricity was off and the whole downstairs area was dark, dank, and eerie. It was also deathly quiet. The entire hotel, in fact, felt as if it had been wrapped in an insulating layer of cotton wool that refused to allow the noise of the busy town to invade its dead halls.

The two coffee shop explorers wandered over to the reception desk and found most of the room keys were still mounted on the board behind the desk. Telephones and stationary still adorned the counter top. Letter boxes still awaited post for guests who were never going to stay there again.

My daughter’s exploration mate found where the mains electric box was and he turned on the electricity. The entire hotel hummed visibly as the electrics geared up and started running up and down its three floors. They both went to the lift (elevator) and went up to the first floor (second floor in the US).

They headed down the hallway and looked in rooms with open doors. Some of the rooms were in complete disarray, while a few others still had beds with linen on. They looked like a guest had just awakened and thrown the covers back to get out of the dusty bed.

In one room, they found holiday snaps (pictures) that a guest had left behind. Pictures of a better time, perhaps, but in the haste of leaving and heading to their next destination had been left behind. No one it seems from the hotel staff had bothered to collect the pictures and see that they were sent to the missing owner.

Still very clean, considering. You could spend the night here.

Besides an air of sadness the hotel felt as though it were still inhabited by some sort of ghostly guests. “The rooms,” my daughter said, “felt as though the floors, ceilings and walls were full of memories just waiting to come out and be noticed.” Not too surprisingly they both began to get a bit spooked by the place.

Especially after they’d found the ‘bird room.’

One of the hotel’s guest rooms had a broken window and birds from around the town had obviously set the room up as a giant nest haven and nursery for their young offspring. Nests littered the walls and floor. Broken eggshells and loose feathers were scattered everywhere. The only thing missing were the birds.

As they rode the lift down to the ground floor and turned the electricity off, they heard noise coming from the vacant floors where they’d just been moments before. This added to the already spooky feeling that they both felt growing in them. The beat a hasty retreat to the hotel’s connecting door to the coffee shop and it wouldn’t open.

Fighting back a rise of panic they began to bang on the heavy oak door to get someone’s attention. Finally after what seemed an age the manager opened the door. With raised eyebrows he asked them why they hadn’t just opened the door themselves as it was unlocked.

The creepy and slightly gross ‘bird room.’

They explained that it must have been locked or stuck. The manager shook his head. “No to both of those ideas,” he said, “It wasn’t locked and I opened it with one finger on this side.” My daughter and her colleague looked at each other and said, “Oh.”

3. The big finish.

The first floor hallway.

Neither one of them ever went back to tour the old place again. Like Shirley Jackson‘s The Haunting of Hill House, whatever walks the halls of that hotel, walks alone.

Waiting for Freshly Pressed: A Timeline

Sat, 25 August 2012 1554 – I  post a pithy post (say that fast three times, I dare you) on Freshly Pressed and have a moan about my comments not showing up in the Freshly Pressed comment section.

Sat, 25 Aug 2012 15:59:40 –  Get an email from Cheri Lucas telling me that my urban exploration post had been picked for Freshly Pressed.

Huh?

Sat, 25 August 2012 1600 I try to tell my daughter that I’m going to be Freshly Pressed. She is playing a game on her vita and has her earplugs in. I decide not to wait for her to get to a save point and start playing MOW3 to keep me occupied.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1700 I try re-reading the email and inadvertently delete it. In a state of panic I almost hurt myself trying to retrieve it and re-save it.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1730 Back to MOW3 and reading the odd blog on WordPress. I make a few comments and read a suggestion from Andy about changing my email address as it might solve my spam problem.

Sat, 25 August 2012 1800 My daughter and I make tea (that’s dinner if you live in the US) and decide to watch old episodes of Spaced with the brilliant Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and co.

Sat, 25 August 2012 2359 I decide to go to bed and stop checking the Freshly Pressed page every two minutes. Despite my excitement and paranoia about my post not going up yet, I drop right off to sleep.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 0630 I wake up early because the temperature has dropped and I am freezing to death. I go downstairs for a drink and a quick look at my laptop. My post isn’t up yet, as I am half asleep, I don’t spend too long on the site. I opt to go back to sleep.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1030 I wake up for the second time of the morning. Warmer and better rested I go downstairs to see if I’ve been posted yet. Checking the page and no, not yet.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1100 I decide to check the Freshly Pressed page again and see that a new post has been added, but, it’s not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1130 I start hyperventilating slightly as I look for the fourth time at the Freshly Pressed page. I decide that it was a mistake or a practical joke (who says I’m paranoid, who?) which I decide would serve me right after my ‘snarky’ post about not being Freshly Pressed.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1200 I make the decision to not check the FP page every half hour. I decide that I’ll just relax and not get so impatient, a trait that after 53 years of living I still cannot rid myself of.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1230 I totally disregard my earlier decision to not check the FP page half hourly and check again. I go upstairs and talk to my daughter for a half hour in an attempt to keep my mind off of the fact that another post has been put on the wall and again, it’s not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1300 I now decide that I probably should have replied to Cheri’s email. I set down and because of my increasing paranoia that this is some kind of horrible karma or bad joke it takes me 14 minutes to write a simple email.

Sun, 26 August 2012 – 1330 I go outside and sit with my daughter in the lovely sunshine. My contribution to the conversation is minimal. Why? Because I’ve seen another post on the wall that is, again, not mine.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1400 I finally decide that this whole thing is a wicked joke, serendipity, or just ironic. I finally decide that it must be the real deal. Hyperventilating slightly, I check to make sure that I sent an email to Cheri thanking her and expressing my excitement.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1430 I make a snack and while I am eating it, I compulsively keep checking the Freshly Pressed wall for my post. I discover that I’ve given up the ‘not checking every half hour’ and I am now checking it every few minutes.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1500 I finally decide that I am a truly sad individual to keep checking the bloody page. It will get posted when it gets posted, so stop checking dammit.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1515 I decide to do this timeline and about halfway through I mistakenly hit the wrong key and lose half of the timeline. cursing wildly I try to find an earlier draft. There isn’t one so I have to re-write half the post over.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1557 Pausing for a moment to give my poor fingers a break, I notice I’ve gotten another email notification. I check it and it’s from Cheri. She tells me it will be late this evening or early tomorrow when my post will be added to the wall. I relax, a bit, and send a hasty email back thanking her.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1600 I am now more relaxed and a bit calmer. The excitement is still making me a bit giddy (giddy?? Did I just say that a 53 year old man was giddy?? I must be if I’m describing myself that way) but now that I’ve had a ‘confirmation’ email from Cheri, I’m hoping that my pithy whiny post has been forgiven.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1700 Get another email from Cheri, so now I’m definitely feeling like this is going to happen. I still cannot stop looking at the FP page and then refreshing it to see if my post is up yet.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1800 Finally decide to make tea or at least to think about making tea. As we are both peckish it seems like a good idea. I check the wall yet again.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1830 We put Dario Argento‘s Suspiria in the player and watch while we eat our meal. My laptop is closed for the first time today.

Sun, 26 August 2012 1900 –2230 Put the dinner dishes in the kitchen, watched the rest of the film and talked about it for a long while after eating. We then load up Netflix and then Lovefilm and start watching Crazy Eights, a low budget horror film.

Sun, 26 August 2245 – 2330 I put the dishes in the sink and start washing up, still haven’t looked at the FP page. I am very proud of myself.

Sun, 26 August 2359 – 0100 I fall asleep in my chair after doing the dishes and ‘old man’ thing that drives me to distraction. I check the page again and find that four more posts have gone up. Again none of them mine. Decide to go to sleep and not look at the FP page till later this morning. I feel like a kid at Christmas waiting to open up my presents, excited and just as impatient.

Mon, 27 August 0930 – Get up and stumble down stairs half asleep and thirsty. Turn on the laptop and gulp down some squash. I come in and click on my WordPress link. My post has exploded! It’s finally happened, it is up!! Now I am too excited to do anything else but keep checking the view counts and follower counts (which I need to keep track of so I can follow back) and ‘likes’ and comments.

Thanks Cheri Lucas and Word Press! You’ve made my day! 😀

Balloons and confetti By tamara.craiu courtesy of FLICKr

Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) Gone But Never Forgotten

I was sad to hear that Neil Armstrong died yesterday. He was a true American hero and pioneer. He will be missed but he will live on in the history books of the world as the man who walked on the moon and said those iconic words as he planted the American flag on the moon’s surface.

I say that he was a hero. Of course he was. My somewhat limited definition of a hero is pretty straightforward. A hero is an individual who generations of schoolchildren and other more adult people look up to. They are touched by their achievements and strive to live their lives as the hero in question does.

I also say that he was a pioneer. My definition of a pioneer is also quite straightforward. As a child raised on stories of the settlers in the early years of America making their way across a country so vast to find places that no man had seen before, Armstrong fall in that category easily. He was making his way across space.

All the astronauts were heroes and pioneers, and they still are. Like the Star Trek narration states at the beginning of every episode, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I was ten, almost eleven, years old when the moon landing was televised worldwide. I can remember sitting with my parents in front of the television and watching the ‘scratchy’ and noise filled images that came from space of these brave men and their first steps on the moon.

All of us in the room that day were excited and fearful. No one knew what this might mean to the world. We had not only broken our earthly boundary but we’d landed on another ‘planet.’ We were all very proud to be Americans that day. The first country in the world to put a real man on the moon to interact the the existing ‘man’ on the moon.

I do remember, much to my embarrassment, that just after Neil Armstrong had utter those words destined to go into the history books, I turned to my parents and said, “How come we can land on the moon, but we can’t get a decent picture of it? Why is it so fuzzy?” If I remember correctly I think both my parents laughed and then told me to ‘Quieten down’ until the broadcast was finished.

You can read books that were written about that time that have nothing to do with space and a lot of them will have made a reference to that event. The date 20 July 1969 is an important date for all of mankind not just for America. I remember reading a book by John Ketwig called …and a hard rain fell: A GI‘s True Story of the War in Vietnam. In it he tells of walking around the countryside in Thailand and telling, and showing with the aid of matches and a rubber band,  local villagers about the moon landing.

Neil Armstrong hero, pioneer, father, brother, man. Like Icarus, he flew and challenged the Gods. His words, “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Will be his legacy for generations to come.  Neil has made his last journey, one that has taken him higher than the moon.

Neil Armstrong gone, but never forgotten. RIP great man, we’ll remember you as long as we breathe. I know for certain that I will.

Freshly Pressed, Hold the Wrinkles

Do you want a crease in that?

I will come right out and say it, “I love the Freshly Pressed section on WordPress.” But as much as I love their ‘picks’ of the day and the introduction to new or not so new bloggers, it also frustrates me just a little.

Some of the blogs picked are erudite, clever, and so perfectly put together it makes me shed a tear of envy. Others make me wonder whose biorhythms are shot when making that particular choice.

Seriously though I can usually see why they choose the ones they do. If not for content alone, the subject matter seems to be a major driver. Pictures also are a factor, although not a necessity, and if said pictures are taken by the owner of the post it’s even better.

I can well imagine that most, if not all, of the folks who contribute to the WordPress blogging community dream of getting their blog post exhibited on this prestigious wall.

I know I do.

It’s a bit of a silly thing to wish for. I only say that because I do not blog for praise or recognition or recompense (well, not yet anyway). I do love the immediacy of blogging. If someone ‘likes’ my post and hits the corresponding button I am happy. I have said this before in other blogs.

If I have more than ten people read a blog post (that is assuming that a ‘hit’ equates to a ‘read’) I am also very pleased. I have a very low expectation threshold.

I do, however, get annoyed when I try to leave a comment on a WordPress post that is ‘helping’ the community to adhere to certain practises or formats to help them to get Freshly Pressed and said comment never appears. These articles are very helpful actually. I had never put pictures in my earlier blogs on another site.

I can only think that my remarks, comments, or pithy observations are getting relegated to the spam bin. I’ve had problems with this before. One of my friends on another blog site, Tyson Carter from Head In A Vice told me that for some reason my remarks were getting posted to his spam folder. A problem I’ve encountered with other WP sites leaving comments on my channel.

So I must admit to a little frustration at the current situation. Not only am I waiting, not so patiently, for inclusion to this illustrious page, my comments aren’t even showing up. Comments, I might add, that are always congratulatory in nature.

So I will end this little diatribe with a thought that I wrote on the comment section of a WordPress post not too long ago.

Guys, I love your Freshly Pressed feature. I am however beginning to think that the only way I’m going to get one of my posts freshly pressed, is to take a steam iron to my laptop.

I think there might be a wrinkle here…