Posted by: judyweightman | March 7, 2013

Twitter How-To Part VI: One-on-one tweets

Although most tweets are sent out to your entire feed, sometimes you want to respond directly to a particular person. Twitter is set up for that — all you have to do is hit “reply” — but you need to understand how it works. Otherwise, you risk sending tweets to either more or fewer people than you intend.

If you start a tweet with an @username, the tweet doesn’t go to everyone following you, but it will appear in the feed of anyone who follows both you and that person. For instance, this tweetone on oneappeared in the feeds of not only my pal @miscellaneaarts, but our mutual friends @MetaCookbook, @GingyNorth, and @antigenic. It also appears on the list of everything I’ve tweeted. If you want to communicate something that you don’t want publicly visible (like a phone number or an email address, for instance), send a direct message (DM).

The flip side of that is remembering that a tweet that starts with an @username doesn’t go out to everyone following you. If you’re referring to someone by username but the post is more about that person than to that person, put something, anything, before the username. A period is the standard way to do this, since it only uses one of your 140 characters:start with a period

Sometimes you want to write a general tweet, but make sure that one particular person sees it. In that case, being from Philly, I’ll often start with a “yo,” since it’s only three characters.yo

You can also add a “cc: @username” at the end of the tweey. (We’ll talk in a future post about how to make sure that you’re not missing tweets where someone else is mentioning you by username.)

So when is it appropriate to hit “reply” to respond to a tweet? Pretty much any time. You don’t need to know the person you’re responding to; in fact, responding and engaging on Twitter is how you make friends there. So if someone asks a question and you have an answer, go ahead and respond:


And if you think of a witty reply to a tweet — what the heck, hit “reply” and share it. The other person may or may not respond, but it’s no biggie either way. (And I must say, the highlight of my Twitter career so far was when Steve Martin responded appreciatively when I tweeted back a joke at something he wrote.)

You can also tweet directly at a celebrity in hopes that he or she will retweet and you can cash in on all those followers — both Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) and Colin Mochrie (@colinmochrie), to name a couple of Canadians who might well have never been mentioned in the same sentence before, will do so. Try it and see what happens — I have never done it myself, and I tend not to be particularly responsive to people who do it at me (or, more often, at an account I handle for a client), but not everyone reacts to these things the way I do.

Posted by: judyweightman | February 27, 2013

Why I haven’t seen this year’s Oscar-nominated films

I think of myself as a movie buff — as do my friends, who regularly ask what I’ve seen recently and what I thought — but I haven’t seen a single one of this year’s nine Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.


  • Amour: Looks grim. I don’t care for grim.
  • Argo: Jingoistic action film. Oddly enough, I’m not unwilling to see it, but will probably wait for the DVD.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: I’ve heard it’s good, but I’m unintrigued.
  • Django Unchained: I’ve never seen a Tarantino film (man, you think I don’t care for grim, I seriously don’t care for violent), and this wouldn’t be the place to start.
  • Les Miserables: I love musicals. I love virtually all musicals. I love some musicals that the faint of heart consider unwatchable. I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in seeing this — and, frankly, the production number on Oscar night made it clear that I’m not even going to watch it when it comes out on DVD. (I learned my “how bad could it be” lesson with the DVD of Mamma Mia: Never means never.)
  • Life of Pi: Read the book, which I liked. I almost never see the movie when I’ve liked the book, and as much as I love Ang Lee — and I do love Ang Lee — ugh, 3D special effects magic realism, no thanks, I don’t need to make an exception to that policy for him.
  • Lincoln: Steven Spielberg doing earnest history about idealized father figures? Again, no thanks.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: This I do want to see — a quirky rom com set in Philly? oh yeah — but I have been unable to persuade anyone to go with, and haven’t made it a priority to go by myself.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: A film justifying torture in the name of combating terrorism? See above on “grim” and “violent” and multiply by ten.

So that’s why I haven’t seen these movies. Since these also include all five of the films whose directors were nominated — and, once you add in The Master (which I haven’t seen but want to), all but three of the 20 acting nominations — I just haven’t seen the most-praised (at least by the Academy) films of 2012.

Part of the reason is circumstantial: I’m not socializing with avid movie-goers as much as I have at other points in my life. Though I’m perfectly happy to go see a movie by myself, movie-going as a social activity means that I see not only more movies, period, but also more movies that I wouldn’t necessarily see if left to my own devices (because, alas, when you go with a friend it’s not always your turn to pick).

But a much larger part of it is that I’m just not that interested in most of the movies that are coming out these days — both mainstream and indie. Last year I’d seen three of nine Best Picture nominees (The Artist, The Descendants, and Hugo, and I caught Moneyball later on DVD) and the year before that, five of ten (Black Swan, Inception, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, and True Grit, then The Kids Are All Right later on DVD). Add in the movies that get nominations in other categories — acting. directing, documentaries — and usually I’ve seen a fair proportion of the films being considered on Oscar Night. This year — well, I saw Hitchcock, which was nominated for makeup and hair.

Am I getting old and crotchety? I’ll cop to old (sigh), but, as always, we boomers are being pandered to. both at the Ritz, with films like Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet (neither of which I’ve seen) and at the multiplex, where there’s a new subgenre: films featuring superannuated action stars (which you know I haven’t seen).

Or is the Academy just getting more and more out of touch with my cinematic tastes? Given that their membership is also notoriously old and crotchety, that seems relatively unlikely.

I don’t know — but I do know that there’s not much on the horizon that I’m looking forward to this year, either.

Bummer. I like going to the movies.

Posted by: judyweightman | February 7, 2013

Twitter How-To Part V: Retweeting

Luckily, you don’t have to come up with every tweet yourself: Retweeting is an honorable Twitter tradition.

You can retweet anything you think your followers would find of interest — a funny quip, a pithy observation, a useful link, breaking local news — that they may not have seen already. There are two ways to retweet (or RT, as the cool kids would say); each has specific uses.

Let Twitter retweet for you:


Go to the post you want to share, and either click on “expand” or just mouse-over in that area to see your action options, including “retweet”:

step 1

When you click “retweet,” a box will pop up so you can confirm that’s what you want to do:

step 2

Then, after you’ve retweeted, the tweet will appear in your list of tweets. It will have  a green arrow on the upper right-hand corner of the tweet and the mouseover will say “retweeted” in green:

step 3b


This is obviously the easiest way to retweet, and it goes to everyone who is following you on Twitter, except those who are already following the person you RTed. These tweets also don’t go into any feed you’ve got hooked up to Twitter, such as Facebook or your blog. If you want the tweet to be posted in another feed as well, you have to create your own.

Retweet “by hand”:


Click on “retweet” as above, then, instead of confirming the RT, highlight the quote and the tweeter (@whoever), click ctrl-C to copy, then click “cancel”:

step 4

Hit the blue “write” box, and use ctrl-V to drop in what you just copied:

Step 5a

Add a “RT” at the beginning of the post and take out those extra spaces that are making the tweet too long,

step 5

then click “tweet.”


Doing a cut-and-paste retweet will make it your tweet. It will go to everyone who follows you, including those who may have seen the original, and sends it to whatever other feeds you have linked to Twitter.

It also allows you to add a brief comment to the front of the tweet:

step 6

The downside is that the “RT @whoever” you need to add goes to your character count, so it can make the tweet a little too long, especially if you’re adding a comment.

If you need to trim the quote a bit to get under 140 characters, tag the quoted material with an “MT” (modified tweet) rather than a “RT.”

step 7

In this example, the original tweet was about twice as long; I chopped off everything but the part I was responding to, the news that a reviewer I like is leaving the magazine where I read her.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer them. Next up: mentioning another tweeter by username. See you soon!

Posted by: judyweightman | February 2, 2013

Getting ensconced with a sconce

This morning, I referred to myself as being ensconced in my current life situation, and uninterested in looking for a job outside the Philly area. Lovely word, ensconced — it carries a touch of coziness with it.

Since I’m reconsidering the placement of some stuff in my house currently keeping me ensconced — including a sconce —  it suddenly occurred to me, what’s the connection between the words “ensconced” and “sconce”? It seems darned unlikely that the former originally meant “to be like a lighting fixture on a wall,” but was there some earlier meaning from which both words had split off?

No, actually.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “sconce” dates back to the late 14th century (i.e., the 1300s), when it came to be used for a candlestick with a screen. That screened or shaded candlestick came to be attached to the wall about a half century later. The word itself comes from the French esconce (lantern), which comes, ultimately, from the Latin abscondere (to hide). (In modern English, of course, “abscond” means to depart stealthily.)

“Ensconce” is about 200 years younger. It was first used in the 1580s to mean “to cover with a fort,” and probably comes from the Dutch schans (earthwork).

So sconce and abscond are akin, while ensconced is of a completely separate etymological descent.


Posted by: judyweightman | January 23, 2013

Twitter How-To Part IV: Starting to tweet

So you’ve been on Twitter for a while, and you’re ready to start tweeting. Click on the little blue square at the upper right-hand corner of your page, and a box will pop up with a 140-character countdown ready for you to fill.

tweet box

With … what?

There are almost as many different styles of tweeting as there are people using Twitter, so in one sense there’s no “wrong” way to do it — whatever you end up doing will appeal to some people and not others. My best advice is to be yourself: write the kinds of tweets you enjoy reading, and you’ll find yourself in mini-communities of like-minded people.

There are a few general categories of tweets — you’ll be doing several of these as you develop your own distinctive Twitter style.

Self-contained tweets

  • The quintessential self-contained tweet is the quip of a comedian or writer. Not that witty? Don’t worry, most of us aren’t. Think of these as the pleasantries and observations you exchange as you’re making small talk at a party.
  • You’ll see one-liners, funny or otherwise, during events that are being “live-tweeted” as they unfold. If you’re online (or on your phone) while watching a presidential debate, the Oscars, the Super Bowl, or Downton Abbey, you’ll find other people are as well, and tweeting about it in real time. Tweet along with your own commentary, with or without a hashtag. (We’ll talk about them in a future post — for now, just know that it’s a keyword preceded by a #).
  • As Marlene Dietrich said, “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.” If you’ve got something to say but are worried it’s too banal, find a quote that expresses the sentiment. Instead of “Hey! It’s snowing!,” you can tweet “ ‘A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.’ ~Carl Reiner.” I found these two quotes at, which organizes quotations by topic and lets you cut and paste without a bunch of extra coding.
  • If you want to get into the habit of regular tweeting, but are nervous about coming up with something to say, pick a daily theme. For a while I was doing #WOTD (Word of the Day) tweets with fun or unusual etymologies. You can also do “today’s birthday” or “on this day in history” (both listed daily on a link on Wikipedia’s homepage). Make sure you pick something that others will find interesting — your horoscope, for instance, isn’t.

Tweets with links

  • Share fun and interesting articles, blog posts, and websites by providing  links. Each should have an explanation, description, or tease as to what the link goes to. (You wouldn’t go to a link to an unknown destination and risk getting infected with malware, right? Neither would anyone else with any sense.)
    • If you got the link from someone with a Twitter account but create your own tweet about it, it’s considered polite to add “via @soandso” to acknowledge that, if you’ve got room.
    • The link usually goes at the end of your post.
  • Share links to your own work if it’s posted online. No, it’s not bragging or being obnoxious, it’s letting people who have chosen to follow you know what you’re up to.
  • Many websites now offer a “Tweet this!” option at the bottom of their posts and pages. Clicking on one of these buttons will present you with a prewritten tweet with link. You can either use their wording or edit the tweet into your own words before sending.
  • If you’ve got a photo or other jpeg you’d like to share, click on the camera icon at the bottom left of the tweet pop-up, which will take you to the photos on your computer. Find the photo you want and click on it; it will load as a link. You can then add an explanation for the picture.
  • You can also upload photos through, Instagram, and Pinterest.
  • Twitter will automatically shorten your links. If you want (or need) to keep track of how many people click on your links, you can use a link shortener that will monitor how much usage the links get, from where, etc. I use, but there are other services available as well.

That’s enough to get you started — I’ll cover retweets (RTs) and one-on-one tweets in my next post.

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