Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Facebook Shares Are More Than Shares

Recently I had a blog post about the Blizzard of  '77 go viral. As of this moment, the post has been "shared" 5,900 times. That's a lot of snow talk! It could have been the timing, since I posted it during the Blizzard of 2016, which, by the way, was a mere blizzard-ette compared to what we endured in Western New York 39 years ago.

I wanted to know how my post traveled so quickly, and where it was being shared. But Facebook makes it hard, if not impossible, to track down who shared a post when you use the Share feature offsite, like embedded into your webpage. Though I still don't have those answers, I have now discovered that the Share counter is misleading.

Most of us assume that the counter increments each time someone clicks on the Share button. Seems only logical. The truth is, the Share total is equal to the number of times it was Shared plus the number of Likes on those Shares plus the number of Comments on those Shares.

Share Counter = Shares + Likes + Comments

There are a few websites that will break down these totals for you. You just enter the URL of any page with a Share counter and it will reveal the true figures. Try this one. By entering my Blizzard blog post URL, it shows me that the post has currently been Shared 851 times, Liked 3873 times, and commented on 1244 times. Adding those totals comes to 5968.

The thing about Shares and Comments and Likes is that anyone on Facebook can Share and Comment and Like an offsite link without ever even visiting that link. So if you want to track how many people actually called up your webpage in front of their inquisitive eyes, the page counter is still your best bet.

My Blogger dashboard reveals that the Blizzard of '77 post has been viewed 4863 times at this point. Egads! This far exceeds the Bald Eagles controversy post that went viral last year.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Blizzard of 2016 in Pictures

The Blizzard of 2016 from January 22-23 left 30" of snow in Manassas, Virginia, and 40" in nearby areas.  Here are some of the pictures I took during and after the storm:

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Survived the Blizzard of '77

Update: January 28, 2017: Today is the 40th anniversary!

One year and one week from today will be the 40th anniversary of the infamous Blizzard of 1977, which pummeled Western New York and Southern Ontario, Canada, with record-breaking snowfall from January 28 - February 1, 1977. Try 100 inches in some areas with 30 to 40-foot drifts (yes, feet). Gusts of up to 70 mph produced windchills as low as -60 F. It was the blizzard of all blizzards...

And I was there to witness it all.

A photo from the Lockport newspaper. Those people are standing on top of a house.

I was a 13-year-old kid living in this house on West Center Street in Medina, N.Y. It had been four years since my parents divorced, and this was the last place in town my mother took me and my sister. We rented the top floor for something like $200 a month. Below us lived our landlord, Mrs. Smith. She was an elderly lady, perhaps in her mid-70s at the time, and it was my job to keep the narrow pathway out back shoveled in case she needed to get to the hospital.

Well, the winds began to pick up early Friday morning on January 28, and by late afternoon the blizzard was in full swing. My mother worked as a waitress at the Apple Grove Inn restaurant, and I recall her just making it back home before sunset. The restaurant was only a few miles down the road, but it took her at least half an hour. From then on we were all transfixed by the TV and radio reports on the storm. You can listen to some of them along with an excellent slideshow of storm photos in this video.

The TV miniseries Roots was airing its sixth episode on the first day of the storm, and I vividly recall watching that for a bit and returning outside to shovel. Back and forth, back and forth. Once the storm ended a few days later, there was a corridor through the snow from the back door to the garage taller than me.

The entire Western New York area was impassible and all the highways were shut down. Many people were trapped in their cars for days. President Jimmy Carter declared it a disaster area. There were 28 storm-related deaths. Police and rescue teams asked residents who owned snowmobiles to help out since the roads were pretty much non-existent. My father was one of those snowmobilers who offered assistance.

Days out of school? I think it must have been at least two weeks. A wonderful two weeks. My god, there was a lot of snow. A LOT. I remember seeing a photo in the newspaper of three cars pushed on top of each other in a snow bank by one of those large highway plows. It was pretty crazy.

Like most Western New Yorkers and Buffalonians, I am proud to say that I lived through this. We witnessed and survived one of the worst blizzards on record. It wasn't the first, and it certainly wasn't the last, but it will always last in our memories.

Sixteen years later I got trapped outside in the Blizzard of '93 in the same area and almost died. You can read that story, "Adrift," in my book Musings of a Dysfunctional Life.

Post your Blizzard of '77 memory below and share.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Poem: The Comfort of Snow

The Comfort of Snow
By Victor Rook

Fluffy, muffled, white delight
Starts one day and goes all night
It fills my heart right from the start
With the peace it does impart

The air was crisp and cold and gray
Until you came and made your way
Upon the trees and streets and homes
And in the yards on little gnomes

If feels much different from the rain
Which makes us run inside in vain
To hide from wet we seek our cave
Yet when snow comes we feel so brave

To go outside and let it fall
Upon our tongues and over all
Like dancing in a happy powder
Where noises never get much louder

Than the smallest peep from a bird
Seems nothing else is really heard
For every thing goes very still
Sounds are mute within our thrill

The weather man calls it a storm
But I see joy outside the norm
Let if fall and coat the ground
And have us sense it all around

It slows us down as if to pause
Well beyond our day with Claus
It’s much more than a Yuletide favor
To me it is the soul and savior

Of a dreary time from fall to spring
When we never really see a thing
Except darkened skies and barren land
Where days can be so very bland

As sun shines off this snowy white
At times it can be very bright
Perhaps that’s why we feel a glow
The light reflects from down below

So don’t you moan or be uptight
When snow invades and gives you fright
Just seek the warmth inside each night
And everything will be all right

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Last Roll

It's been over 20 years since I took my last photo with a film camera. Once affordable digital cameras came on the market, there was no turning back. I was hooked. But you can imagine my surprise when I discovered my dusty, old Canon T50 in a box with a completed 35 mm roll still inside.

What could be on it?

That was the question I'd been asking myself for the past week. I uncovered the camera while doing a little house cleaning after the New Year. It was resting comfortably in a box half filled with picture frames in a lower kitchen cupboard. I was trying to make room for all the craft materials I'd accumulated while writing the Dollar Store Crafts & Recipes book.

But then I got sidetracked. Why would I shoot an entire roll of film and never have it developed? At first I had to ask myself if it was an unused roll—I had forgotten how to tell—until I remembered that a new roll would have a pull tab to load across. This one had been completely wound inside. Wound...such a funny word when you think about digital cameras. There is no more winding.

The roll also lacked an expiration date, which I thought was odd. But it looked to be in good condition. And for the past twenty years or more, it had remained in complete darkness.

So today I made the calls to find a store that still developed film. I discovered that one of the four Walgreens in the area had a one-hour photo lab inside. All the others would have to send it out. Waiting 7-10 business days longer was out of the question. My curiosity was piqued.

When I arrived, I told the Walgreens attendant my story, and how I could only guess what must be on that roll. He gave me a pickup stub and I spent the following hour perusing the store aisles. Waiting.

Maybe the undeveloped roll contained pictures of my mother. She passed away in 2008, and I only have about a dozen digital photos of her over the past two decades. Or maybe it was shots from the cottage I lived in while I filmed Beyond the Garden Gate. Could they be of a trip I took somewhere? Perhaps candid shots of myself in my thirties. Or friends that are no longer living in the area?

While waiting I discovered, to my great joy, that Walgreens was selling the exact model of humidifier that I had scooped up at a flea market last week. I paid $4; they wanted $39.99. I felt as though I had won the lotto. 

Several aisles were lined with Valentine's Day chocolate boxes and gift sets...a month early. And then there were those neat items—toys and gadgets and such—that fill shelves not devoted to cosmetics, drugs, and skincare lotions. I wrote a piece in Musings of a Dysfunctional Life about my attraction and almost comatose fascination with gadgets sold in pharmacy stores. All those As Seen on TV items and nifty appliances intrigue me. I called the piece "My Swivel Sweeper Moment."

About 45 minutes later I noticed a second co-worker observing a screen of photo thumbnails along with the original clerk. Her brow furrowed. Oh, crap! I thought. I hope I didn't goof around and take nudies back then! Boy, that would certainly be an embarrassment!

But, alas, they weren't pictures of me overexposed. They weren't pictures of much at all.

"Sir, are you Victor?" the woman asked.

"Yes," I eagerly replied.

"I'm sorry, but this roll is empty." She stretched the entire 24-exposure negative above our heads so I could see within the light that all the frames were blank. There would be no charge.

I can only imagine, in my way of thinking, that instead of wasting another dollar on film developing, I spent the last roll just to remove it from the camera. But, apparently, I forgot to eject it. I was digital bound and never looking back.

You can view a few of my many post-film photos in the hardbound book Photopourri, in the nature DVD Calmness of Woods, and in this little winter gallery.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Virginia Book Sampler Hits Stores!

The Winter 2016 issue of Virginia Authors Book Sampler has landed in several area stores. The new quarterly publication features excerpts from books written by Virginia writers. It is also available in print, Kindle, and FREE pdf and flipbook versions at

In this issue you can read excerpts from the following books: Jaded (Kristy F. Gillespie), People Who Need To Die (Victor Rook), Hitler's Time Machine (Robert F. Dorr), Old Roads and New Exits (Tom Basham), Love Like Fall (Antonia Kilday), Junior Inquisitor: Book 1 (Lincoln S. Farish), Memory Lake (Nancy S. Kyme), Blinded by Deception (Maria Yeager), Messages From Nature (Patricia Daly-Lipe), Who Gets to Name Grandma? (Carol Covin), Anabel Unraveled (Amanda R. Lynch), Holiday Connections (Genilee Parente/F. Sharon Swope), Kingsley (Carolyn O'Neal), and The Tower (Herrick Lyons).

If you're in the area, stop by these businesses and grab a copy for $5 to support the authors and stores:

Love, Charley at 9015 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

Old Towne Man Cave at 9070 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

Longevity Wellness Center & Spa at 9366 Main Street in Old Town Manassas

Grounds Central Station at 9360 Main Street in Old Town Manassas 

McKay Used Books at 8345 Sudley Road in Manassas

Manassas Clay at 9122 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

The Things I Love at 9084 Center Street in Old Town Manassas

Feel free to share this post below!

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