Maybe We Had Weather

Sunday, the snow started and was predicted to turn to ice later in the day. That’s not a forecast we want to hear in these parts because the power can go out at the mere mention of that three-letter word. So just in case I can’t complete and upload the post I was writing on Sunday, I’ve preloaded this additional tidbit from Death Out of Time.

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A Fun Holiday And PerNoReMo Tidbit

Since moving to Maryland in 2005, my husband and I haven’t made trips back to the Midwest for Thanksgiving. The first few years, we still made a traditional meal as we had done for years when we hosted the family get-togethers. And we had way too many leftovers for way too long.

In 2009, we finally asked ourselves why we kept spending half the day in the kitchen for a meal that lasted less than an hour. That was the first year of our new tradition—heading down the road (er, Metro tracks) to Washington, DC, and spending the day at some of the museums, followed by a stress-free, relaxing dinner at a great restaurant. No long day of cooking and no dishes to clean! This year, we also took in the opening day of the “Seasons Greetings” display at the US Botanic Garden Conservatory.

So why not kick off December with some colorful, seasonal photos? And we’ll wrap up with a tidbit from this month’s work on Death Out of Time. Continue reading

Doing The Story Justice — Redux

My PerNoReMo moves forward, despite some major self-doubts earlier this month. To help me through the mire, I read some of my earlier posts, looking for inspiration. And one that I originally posted on 2 June 2012 reminded me why I’m rebuilding Death Out of Time and not sticking with my original version. I thought it was worth sharing again with readers. Rather than force you to make extra clicks, here are the highlights from that post. Continue reading

A PerNoWriMo Update and Tidbit

I’m still meeting my goals on my rebuild of Death Out of Time. And the revised story line is coming together, especially with the help and insights of two of my earlier readers. So today’s post is a snippet of what I’ve written recently. Will this clip make the final story? Probably. Will the wording or details change? Absolutely. But this is a chance for you to see my “work in progress” in its initial stages. Continue reading

If No One Sees My Blog Theme, Does It Still Exist?

WordPress gives its bloggers a wide variety of themes to choose from, one of the many features that led me to blog here. There’s a great range of free themes, and we have some options for personalizing them. If we’re willing to shell out some money, we can purchase premium themes with more options to make our blogs “stand out from the crowd” and be “more exclusive.” We can spend more money and further customize our themes with CSS.

Themes are a great way for us to express our individuality and personality in a visual manner. But there’s a change in the air. Continue reading

Who The Heck Is . . .


I believe in “better safe than sorry.” So I did not allow a comment on this post today. Why? Because the email address for the sender was at “gmai” [dot] com and not the correct “gmail” [dot] com format. I wasn’t going to take any chances with a spammer or phisher getting through. So if you don’t see a comment of yours coming through after moderation, and you’re a legitimate blogger or person, you might want to consider how your on-line persona looks to your potential audience. I’m not the only blogger who nixes sketchy comments or contact info.


Good news for WordPress bloggers. We now have a “Spam?” reporting option in our “Referrer” box. If WordPress thinks a referrer might be spam, a link will appear that we can use to report it. You can find more information here:

I have such an option for you-know-who today, and I’m marking it as spam.


A comment appeared in my moderation queue this morning from *Sem.* I won’t put it on this post because I don’t want an active link to the company on the blog and I don’t like what the company’s doing to my blog’s statistics. (And I’ll be going through the comments to edit any active links there.)  Basically, though, the company has established a blog, which is supposed to be an introduction to its services. I suspect if you now google the terms *blog* and *the company name,* you can find the link if you’re so inclined. I am not, so I won’t. But I find censorship distasteful so I’m acknowledging the company’s visit to this post and the gist of its comment.

Also, “Consider The Sauce” received a reply from WordPress about his concerns with *Sem.* They indicated they are working on a way to let bloggers hide these visits. I’m not a techie, so even if they explained the process to me, I probably couldn’t understand it. Perhaps other hosts are doing the same. I still think it’s worth letting your host know how you feel about “Sem.* As the old expression goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”


By now, anyone who looks at their blog host’s stats has probably seen referrers from a company called “S-E*M)A!L-T+”. Basically, the company is doing what the tech-savvy call “referrer spam” with the intent that you visit its website and sign up for its SEO services. The effect on your blog or website? Your stats are now meaningless. Many of the views you receive are not from real readers in the real world. I’m not sure there’s anything we can do to stop it. But at the very least, I’ve reached the point where I’d like everyone to contact his/her blog/website host and ask them to block this company’s spamming. Why? Because any stats your provider gives you are now totally and completely worthless.

Even if this company is legitimate and above-board, it is compromising our ability to determine the effectiveness of our posts, links, and tags in reaching our intended audiences. What really catches the eyes of our readers? False “views” like this make it difficult or impossible to know. If you agree, try contacting your host and letting them know you want real statistics. Maybe then the hosts will make it a priority to block such spam and provide us with truly significant “statistics.”


After a drop-off in views of this post, I’m seeing an increase again these last two days. And most of the views appear to be from readers in the United Kingdom looking for information about you-know-who. I wonder if the company might be focusing on that part of the world right now. Still no reports of malicious actions, but if you want to be safe, it’s probably best not to click on the links or sign up.

1/1/2014 UPDATE

Yesterday, I contacted WordPress support regarding semalt to ask if they had any information on the company. Following is the reply I received from staff member rootjosh:

It is hard to say.

If I were being suspicious, I would say that the company is crawling sites as a form of advertising to get people to do exactly what you are doing (noticing and being curious) in hopes that they would then sign up for its services. If I were being REALLY suspicious, I might think it was just a scam to get you to give out your email or FB info.

Or perhaps they are running some sort of legit spider crawl. Overall though, I don’t have a lot of faith in anyone who is advertising “search ranking” type services.

WordPress, at least, has not discovered anything malicious in regards to semalt. My instincts are to remain suspicious of such sites. As some commenters below have mentioned, semalt may be about data mining, spamming, or other activity that isn’t in our best interests. But for now, at least, the company doesn’t seem to be a true security threat.

That being said, it might be worth contacting your blog/website host to let them know how many of these “hits” you have received. This could be the beginning of a major phishing scam or a backdoor attempt to hack into the hosts.

I have to wonder about the company’s skills at Search Engine Optimization, though, when my simple blog post begins appearing at the top of search results for “semalt!”

I will keep semalt on my radar, and if I learn anything more, I’ll continue to update this post. Thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences, and please feel free to continue sharing them in the comments as well as any new information you might find.


. . . using semalt (dot) com on my domain ( jmmcdowell [dot] com) today? And why? Thirty-one hits on my home page have come from this in the last hour.

I looked up semalt and it’s a way to check your google rankings. But who would be looking at my blog?

Any ideas out there?

UPDATE 12/31/2013 — I’ve contacted WordPress Support to see if they have any information about Semalt. If I hear back from them, I will post the reply.

My 2013 PerNoReMo In A Blaze Of Autumn

My what you ask?

PerNoReMo is my 2013 version of NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month. PerNoReMo is my Personal Novel Rebuilding Month. I’ve set some modest goals for the rebuild of my sci-fi WIP, Death Out of Time.

From November 1st through the 4th, I’ve repurposed and added a combination of 5,023 words, well over my daily targets. And that feels good. But it also means I won’t spend too much time on blog posts. So today, I thought I’d share a few more autumn photos from last week. Colors were really beginning to peak. The season didn’t start out too well for color, but things have really picked up over the last week. So, without further ado, here are a few shots from my neighborhood walks. Continue reading