Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Russians are Coming but the Hummingbirds Aren’t


If you blog and look at your stats from time to time you might notice, as I have, that your blog gets some of its audience coming from Russia. For example this morning I checked my stats page and for this month of the ten countries listed 4,555 unique views came from America, 912 from Russia and 556 from Canada. And my all-time view count puts it at 465,330 from America, 26,453 from Canada, 24,674 from Russia and so on down the line of ten countries for a grant total of 618,735 views on the Misadventures of Widowhood blog since I started it in 2012. 

This morning I had an epiphany, or some might say I formed a conspiracy theory about why the Russians are checking out a little widow’s blog like mine. What do you think? Is the KBG---or whatever they call their Central Intelligence Agency these days---looking for insight into the minds of Americans to help them in their efforts to weaponize social media? Or do you think another explanation I found online makes more sense...that some schools in Russia assign students trying to learn English to read American blogs? Ya and Irish fairies will leave us all pots of gold with tomorrow's morning mist.

Being a bored woman with a job list full of things I didn’t want to do I decided to turn the tables and read some blogs written by Russians. I found a list of the supposed ten best blogs from Russia. One was described like this: “The Moscow Diaries is written by the quintessential rootless cosmopolitan, an estranged Jewish-Russian emigre who returned to Moscow as an Americanized journalist to preach the Western gospel to the aborigines. Though sometimes fact-challenged, she writes well and knows how to get published.” Another blog named Poemless was described as “a neo-Stalinist Manta Ray of political analysis, erm, I mean a liberal Chicago intellectual with an entertainingly idiosyncratic take on Russian (and American) politics, culture, literature, feminism, etc. On the downside, the posts are too long and you should be very careful about describing the color of her blog theme (its red).” 

That blog list was old and not all the links work and I was having trouble finding a more current list of popular personal Russian blogs. But after a little digging I discovered why. According to a 2014 Slade article Putin had just made anonymous blogging against the law in Russia. “The law applies to any blog written in Russian for Russians; a post you write from a Brooklyn cafe could face censorship from Moscow. Bloggers will also be held liable for any alleged misinformation they publish, even in comments written by somebody else. And, insult to injury," Slate continued, "bloggers aren’t even allowed to use profanity; a single naughty word would put them in violation of the law. Failure to comply results in a $280 to $1,400 fine as well as a ban on your blog.” Well, damn, hell and the F word! Maybe the Russians are just reading our American personal blogs for the thrill of finding an occasional swear word. 

The best explanation I’ve found for the Russian traffic on our blogs is that it’s coming from spam bots aka content farms that are designed to satisfy certain algorithms to auto post low quality ads/spam and they are landing on personal blogs by mistake. But of course that doesn’t fit with the current conspiracy I’m trying to spin. The only unanswered question in my tin-fold covered head would be, “Are we being watched for nefarious or innocent reasons?” Yes, you guessed it, as a woman who in recent years wrote my own, twenty-five page long spoof obituary where I “confessed” to being a secret operative in the CIA, I’m leaning towards believing my initial conspiracy theory rather than the common sense explanations about the spam bots. Why? Because my imagination and creative juices need exercise and I couldn’t find anything else to write about today. 

On the off chance that some Russian really is sitting around using a Tor router to bypass censorship to find out what an anonymous widow is doing on a rainy morning in America, I hope you don’t die of boredom when you learn that I’ve been using half my allotted writing time to stare out the window at my "container farm” on the deck. It consists of two tomatoes, a mint and a basil plant for me and twelve lettuce plants for the wild rabbits. I have two new hummingbird feeders out there that they will probably ignore like all the others I’ve tried. I can see the tiny birds in the white pine trees twenty feet from my window but I can’t get them to come any closer no matter what plant or feeder I use year after year to lure them in. If you have any tips to solve my problem please share. On the other hand, Google says of the 337 species of hummingbirds world-wide Russia only has one and we have two dozen, so maybe some of my American readers should be giving your guys (and me) the advice. We love our hummingbirds on this side of the iron curtain! ©


Photo above © Lewis Feldkamp. It's of the three inch, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird species like I see in my pine trees. I'm guessing the pine sap is a higher value food to them than what I've been offering. Good theory or am I doing something else wrong?

42 comments:

  1. In my last month I had 11,664 Russia hits and 11,567 from the US, Romania was large for a while.

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    1. With the topics you write about---stroke prevention and other related news---I can image the kind of spam you get. Anytime I mention 'sex' or 'dating' in the title line I get more spam on that post than others. I just checked and I've never had hits from Romania, but the Ukraine shows up from time to time. The countries that always show up in 4th to 10th place are: Australia, New Zeeland, France, The United Kingdom and the Netherlands and I figure most of those are probably real people, not bots, because occasionally I'll they'll comment.

      Good hearing from you again, Dean.

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  2. Last week I moved all our geranium plants onto our deck. They flower all winter on the window sills. One day while I was sitting on the deck and reading, a hummingbird moved from one flower to another. They are back here and every year they frequent the geranium flowers.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I always try keeping geraniums over the winter on my sun porch but have only been successful a few times. This year was one of them but then I put them outside in mid April and our "second" winter got them. Maybe next fall I'll try bringing them in the house. I've got a smaller pot this year so it might work in the house.

      I saw a hummingbird yesterday check out my germanium and the moss roses but it didn't try to feed from either. Both are pink. I'm having wonderful luck with my new blue dish feeder for orioles though. I'm getting not only orioles but also rose-breasted grosbeaks and house finches. They say grape jelly will also attract cardinals and woodpeckers but they are ignoring the jelly and are opting for the woodpecker blend seed block a foot away, although the cardinals struggle to stay on it and look for crumbs underneath.

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  3. I've no visitors from Russia.
    We were concerned that we weren't getting hummingbirds this year. Then this week they finally showed up. One is so teeny tiny, must be a baby because it comes with another bird who is big as far as hummingbird terms. We use hummingbird food we buy at a local store. We have used sugar and water before but we find this red food brings them in far better. We also have this in a red hummingbird feeder. So lots of red. At our lake house there used to be a feed outside the bay window. When we moved in we kept seeing the bird coming to the window and then around a red adirondack chair. So we asked the neighbor who sold us the house and indeed she had a feeder at that window so we had to get another one and they did indeed return every year. It's still early Jean for you up north, they will be there!

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    1. No 'visitors' from Russia? Wow, I need to take lessons from you on how to write title lines and tags that don't attract spam for diet products, web designers and supplements to improve your sex life.

      A baby hummingbird would be so cute! I've read that the hummingbird food with red dye in it isn't good for the birds so I've been using the clear. Amazing how birds come back year after year, isn't it! Love your red Adirondack chair story. My niece gets a ton of hummingbirds at her lake house, too.

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  4. I hadn't expected to see an on-time Wed post, after the upsetting news about Levi's diagnosis - good on you!

    I'm also guessing its algorithms leading to Russian visitors to your site. Their rules for bloggers are draconian.

    I used to have the local magpies come to my back patio when I ate my lunch on the patio, chirping for a feed. I didn't like being occasionally swooped by them, so I stopped. They were also fussy eaters, turning up their beaks at some of my food offerings. ~ Libby

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    1. Libby, I had this one written before I got the news on Levi, but even so there is nothing I can do expect watch him. Today he started the treatment and I canceled a day trip I was supposed to go on so I can be home to make sure he handles the meds okay. He's reacted badly in the past to new meds so I'll be breathing easier once I know he doesn't vomit them back up or pass out! His first one was an hour ago and so far, so good.

      The Russian rules for bloggers kind of surprised me and gave me mixed feelings about them. On one hand, if we didn't allow anonymous bloggers and Facebook posts here we'd have less fake news going viral but on the other hand, our freedom of speech is too damn important to allow government intrusion on who does and doesn't get to blog and about what.

      I looked up Magpies in my book of Michigan birds and we don't have any. Google says your Australian Magpies are as big as our black crows and I sure wouldn't want to have them swooping down by me either. I had a tiny hummingbirds check out my hair once and I didn't even like that.

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    2. Hope Levi's medication works - cross fingers.

      Re anonymous and freedom of speech, agree its a tough one.

      Even with a name, I only really trust an online person if they have a time-history and a consistent 'voice'. Admittedly, a sleeper spy/ies (for want of a better word) could pass as authentic, although one false note, and I begin to back off. ~ Libby

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    3. Keep trusting your instincts online, Libby. I think they're good.

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  5. Groetjes van Lian, a real person/reader from the Netherlands ;-))

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    1. Welcome Groetjes and thank you for the comment!!

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  6. I wouldn't even know if I've had any Russians checking in on my blog. I'm lucky to even have my friends check in on me and with that I'm happy. I sometimes wonder do I have others checking in on Cruisin Paul at all. I've noticed that particular bloggers have people checking in on their blog, some up to 80 people. Mine must be really boring. I thank those who do check in my blog. You noticed Jean, I"m just happy with those who do check in to Cruisin Paul. See ya my friend. By the way, the sun is out and the temperature is in the high 70's.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Paul, you use Bloggers platform so you can find out if you have Russian visitors by going to your dashboard and then in the left hand column, click on 'stats' once there you can click around to various choices, one being 'audience' which will show you a list of countries. In the right hand top of that same page you can refine the time frame. Stats are interesting to poke around in. They can show you the most popular posts you've written. I'm betting the one you wrote about your mother is your top one because it was the most personal one you've written.

      I too, am impressed by the bloggers who get 50 to 80 comments on their posts. I have comment envy. With most, though, it's easy to figure out why. For example, Task At Hand (in my sidebar) writes about topics that have a much broader appeal---history, travel, nature, folklore and photography buffs have found her.

      We have sun today too!

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    2. By the way Jean, how did you make out with the problem dealing with Levi. I've been thinking about your cute dog.

      Cruisin Paul

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    3. The second test they gave him (the quant C6) set him at 154 u/ml and they treat anything over 30 for Lyme Disease. Just got the phone call on the urine test this morning and no damage is showing up so he probably hasn't had Lyme for very long. He'll be taking antibiotics twice a day for a month, then get retested again. Forgot to ask if the little tap dance he does to take pressure off his knee joints will go away over time.

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  7. I have no Russian visitors this month, either. Then again, I only started posting again this past week.... I do make my blog unsearchable, so that probably helps too.

    And I have a hummingbird who has been stalking our patio, but I'm done with hummingbird feeder mess. They have my roses, my hibiscus, my bougainvillea, and that will have to be enough for them. LOL

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    1. Roses would be enough in your case! I see all these great hummingbird videos online and start all over again, wanting a feeder only to be disappointed.

      I don't understand how a person makes their blog unsearchable. Not that I want to but I'd like to know how people do it and why. To me, it's pointless to blog if no one can stumble on it to read. By invitation only blogging would stifle what I write about.

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  8. That is interesting. Normally I am huge in Russia but today, nothing. Instead I have visitors form from Canada, Brazil, and Australia. Welcome all.
    I have few hummers this year so far. I think because I have the big boys hogging the feeders--woodpeckers and orioles.

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    1. I just checked and I don't have any from Russia today either. Maybe their bot broke. LOL Brazil has never, ever shown up. Interesting!

      I joined a group on Facebook for hummingbird lovers---Hummingbird Haven. If you want to get envious over people who know how to attract them, check them out. I read some place that the all hurricanes we had last year has cut the populations down, if true that's a real shame.

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  9. I don't get too jazzed about hummingbirds. I get a lot of them at the feeder at our lakehouse, but none at our primary residence, which is more urban. They *are* very cute.

    As far as the Russian presence, I see spikes from time to time, but I don't take it seriously. There are so many crawlers and bots that I can't tell what's real and what's not.

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    1. I don't take the bots and crawlers seriously either. But I have a friend who quit blogging because she felt like "they" were watching her and it creeped her out. Very hard to to use facts and logic with some people, like that guy who killed some people and said Taylor Swift was stalking him. Like change the challenge on the radio then!

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  10. Replies
    1. Okay, how do you know Russian? And did you just say "Hello old boy?"

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    2. I said "hi friend" .... and I just Googled it! Just wanted to add to the paranoia!!!!!

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    3. You did startle me...so I googled a translator. But my first impulse was to email you and see if your account had been hacked. LOL What fun.

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  11. Well, now I feel slighted!
    :-)

    So far as I know, I've never had a Russian bot visit my blog. What do I need to do to attract one or a thousand? (JUST KIDDING!!!) Is it because I am from Canada, I wonder?

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    1. If I ever figure out the algorithm the content farms are trolling for I'll let you know. I did learn early on not to use the words sex, dating or lonely in the title of blogs or first paragraphs because they always drew in spam for shall we say "men's enhancement products" and stuff to make men find you irresistible. I also get a lot of spam trying to improve my website and I have know idea why. Dieting and fat are two other words I've learned not to use in title lines. I have no idea how the Canadian internet works...if they block certain countries or not. Good question, though.

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  12. I am currently sitting in the airport in Ottawa in Canada so that might come on your count, and then tomorrow morning I am expecting to be landing in London England so you will have a visitor from there next time I comment! I’ll be there for 5 weeks and coincidentally am flying into London just before the Royal Wedding but we will be leaving London Friday!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. So close and not be there for the wedding! Are you leaving London to avoid all the traffic and festivities? I will be watching on TV because it's better than 24/7 politics and Hallmark movies I'd watch otherwise. Be safe on your world travels. I really like Prince Harry and his bride.

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  13. Dear Jean, not sure if anyone or anything from Russia visits my blog. I need to figure out how to check as I'm pretty inept with social media--Facebook, Twitter, and my own blog! As a former CIA member--HA HA--you probably are well trained in investigation. So I look forward to reading more spoofs of this conspiracy! Peace.

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    1. Dee, I gave Cruisin Paul (up above) directions on how to find the stats on blogs posted at Bloggers which yours is, too. If you've never looked at yours, it's quite interesting. I still haven't figured Twitter out and I'm not sure it's worth doing. Plus I can't write in such a short limitation of characters! LOL

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  14. This is a great post Jean, and now I need to take a look at Russia on my stats. I used to have a very faithful Russian reader (and I read hers) and then she stopped. I'm not sure why -- if she was being censored, if there were new controls put on that were never explained. It was interesting to see the things she shared -- it really looked to be a beautiful country in many ways, though I'm sure like ours, it has potholes and problems. I haven't checked stats in a long while, though I do periodically -- maybe it's time!

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    1. I had a pen pal from Brazil for over ten years so I can relate to your Russian blogger friend. We compared notes on so many different things over time and it was interesting. People around the world have more in common than we differ, I think.

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  15. I've never checked to see where visits are coming from, but I'm death on bot followers. At one point, I was getting up to three and four hundred new "followers" a day, and when I went in to see what was up, it was clear that most of them were bots. Handles like 11bitCOINnews and inFonoNewsnets aren't following my blog because they dig poetry or travel writing. They're just tagging along for the faux link.

    It made me so mad, I found out how to remove followers, and that's part of my daily routine, now. I devote five minutes to culling out people who aren't actual readers. I think I've been wrong two or three times, but it's usually easy to tell, because someone who really wants to follow the blog will come back. That's happened perhaps a dozen times in the past year.

    Sometimes, if I'm not sure, I'll check out the new followers blog. It's amazing how much porn and how many sleazy money-making schemes are out there, using names like "SweetDaisyGardener."

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    1. Wow! I will never complain about my small volume of spam again. At least here. I get them on email which really bothers me more because I don't give out my email or post it publicly.

      I'm glad your "bot war" didn't discourage you from blogging.

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  16. Fascinating! I've always wondered why those Russia hits showed up in my stats. And I'm so impressed with the readership you have. I have a pittance. I need someone to help me market my blog....not that it's so interesting...Oh well.

    When we had a dog we had NO birds at our feeders. Just a thought.

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    1. My feeders for my woodpeckers, orioles and hummingbirds do hang on the edge of my dog's pen but they seem to have learned how to avoid one another. At least the woodpeckers and orioles. I still only have two hummings coming.

      I keep telling you you don't blog often enough to get indexed. That's the secret.

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    2. You're right about my sporadic blogging....guess I should step it up. You are so good about that. I still only write when inspired 2-3 times/month! Pros and cons. And really, I'm not exactly gonna get rich and famous regardless. LOL (What does getting indexed mean?)

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    3. Like I told you on another topic you've got that pesky hot husband to get in the way...

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  17. Interesting. I've never paid attention to that. I do see them on my stat counter, of course, but just didn't think about it.
    And look at Awkward Widow up there showing off. :)

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    1. Her Russian really startled me...funny joke, wasn't it.

      I like statistics so I can get a little invested in them from time to time but it's not an every week thing.

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