159 Russians

I’ve been invaded. 

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much in the past few months or even in the past year. Excuses: Depression, Black funk (possibly related to our Commander in Cheat). So, I wasn’t paying much attention to what the Russians were doing on my website.

Yes, RUSSIANS!

No joke. 

When I sent my last post out 10 days ago, I used my mail service, MailChimp. I designed my email, and hit the send button. And Voila, you got an email from me. The next day I went back into MailChimp to check on how many people opened the email. 

Be aware…I can see who opens their email. 

Much to my surprise my mailing list had grown from 108 subscribers to 267. The email addresses looked legitimate. Funny thing though, 155 didn’t have normal first or last names.

Oh, hi there, 5cbccba1dea9f  5sbssba1deade. Nice to meet you. Where are you from? How did you come upon my website to sign up?

I’ve learned about REDACTING lately. Email addresses of real people are redacted above.

On MailChimp you can check the profiles of your subscribers. In all these years I’ve never clicked on anyone’s name, because I already knew all my subscribers. But I don’t know who Mr. 5sbssba1deade is. So I clicked. Language: Russian. So I checked more names, all 155 were Russian. Then I clicked on their locations—Austria, Moldova, Netherlands (I didn’t check everyone). Then I started deleting people. 

I was bumping off the Russians! 

I am an Assassinator.

But the Russian Invasion kept me up all that night. Why me? What did they want with my blog?

Theory 1. They’re trying to learn casual English, so that when they invade our social media to try to steal the next election, they’ll sound like us.

Theory 2. They’re simply malicious hackers.

Theory 3. They’re Bots. Robots. One of the Bots included her photo—she’s very scary. I wonder if her image was stolen by the Russians?

After deleting 155 Russians on Easter Sunday, I woke up yesterday and there was a new one. And as of this moment there are four more. 

Yesterday I wanted to contact MailChimp tech support, but since I wasn’t a paid subscriber to the service, I wasn’t allowed. My mailing list is under 500, so I’ve had a free account for the past ten years. 

So I signed up…for $10 a month I can get tech services. After an hour or two yesterday, and a small amount of hair pulling and desk pounding, I figured out how to contact them.

Just this minute, as I’m writing this, I got an email response! 

Chimp says what I have is “Spambots.” I don’t think it’s contagious. Measles are going around because some stupid shits don’t vaccinate their kids.

Solution (but not to the measles problem): Chimp said I did good by deleting the Russians. Now I need to add something to my signup form to block them.

So… to my writing friends, if you have a mail service, check your audience.

And if you find Russians lurking in your space…wipe them out.

Observation

On February 28, I was the guest author at my friend Gale Cunningham’s book club. They’d read my novel, “Intentional” and had smart questions and interesting comments. It was fun. 

Then Gale brought out a little book I’d done years ago with photos from my series of paintings of fabric. It got some “ohhs” and “ahhs” and someone said, “Wow, you can paint and write.”

One of several small books I created on Blurb.
https://www.blurb.com/b/609580-images
One of several small books I created on Blurb.
https://www.blurb.com/b/609580-images

And my response was that I’m really bad at science and math. I could have added foreign languages, sports and a lot of other things that other people are very good at. I know, you shouldn’t have to apologize for being good at a couple things, or rationalize away their value by telling what you’re bad at.

But I did it, and what’s done is done.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the similarities between the two things I am good at…art and writing, and basically I think it comes down to observation.

Photo by Lukasz Lada

Seeing: as an artist you see details, that tiny edge of yellow in the pink sunset, that a particular shadow is made of blue and green and purple and not just variants of black. Details. And then you take those visual details and arrange them into something new and interesting. In writing, particularly in fiction, you’re observing the visuals (that tiny edge of yellow in the pink sunset), but also behavior, and interactions between people; then rehashing, embellishing, reducing, enhancing, and reimagining what you observe into something new.

Is this what makes me sensitive to details in everyday life—that wrinkle in the bedding that I have to straighten? Noticing. All the time noticing. The loose hair on my shoulder? 

Or maybe it’s a bit of obsessive-compulsiveness.

I used to be good at dancing too (I don’t think it has anything to do with anything).

So, tell me, what are your strong suits? Bragging is encouraged here…