What a Difference the Internet Makes

The past week has been the laziest one of this trip. Except for a few excursions — going to a cultural festival, getting my car tuned up, buying a few items at the grocery store, taking a walk or two — I computerhaven’t done anything. There has been almost no new input, and what input there is, such as being in a new place, has been muffled by the frequent rain. If I lived in such a rainy climate, I would probably go about my life as if the skies weren’t weeping on me, but coming from the desert, I am used to spending rainy days inside.

And so, that is what I am doing. Staying inside. Being lazy.

These mostly empty days are giving me an opportunity to process the past three months on the road, but to be honest, I still don’t know what to make of it all. What I had originally planned — spending most nights in a tent and most days hiking — didn’t happen. There were some such days, of course, but weather, spring break (it seemed someone was on spring break from the middle of March to the end of April, so camp grounds were often full before I got there), and going where the wind blew (or do I mean “didn’t blow”?) took me on a different path. Mostly I have been visiting people I know online, sometimes staying with them, sometimes making a stop just for lunch.

The one thought that sticks out in my mind as I try to make sense of it all is how different this trip would have been without the internet. I would have followed my own path, struggling with maps and trying to figure out places I would like to go, but with Google Maps, whenever I couldn’t figure out a fun drive, I set the destination on my phone, and let Google Maps direct my journey. This made the driving much more fun — I could just sit back, hold the car steady, and gaze out the windows at the passing scenery. 9,000 miles is a LOT of scenery!

And I probably wouldn’t have visited many people. Of all the people I have visited, I only knew three people pre-internet days, two of which I reconnected with through the internet or email. (Well, there was that one woman I visited after meeting her at a campground, but I don’t exactly know how to classify that visit.) All the rest are internet connections, and because of them, I have seen extraordinary things, had wonderful conversations, found reasons to visit places I would never have considered.

People often talk about how the internet is destroying communication and relationships, but that is not at all my experience. The internet has allowed me, a rather hermit-y woman, to meet people and make friends that would never have entered my life otherwise. In not a single case was meeting them in person a letdown, but a continuation of the friendship we had established online.

But what does it all mean? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps this trip is exactly what I had in mind, even if the path I took and the logistics of getting to my various destinations did not follow my original vision of the trip — a way to keep me from stagnating.

And I certainly have not been stagnating. Even when seemingly doing nothing — driving for many hours a time or staying put in an empty apartment — the adventure continues.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

 

Making Do in a Throw-Away World

In three days, my car will be 44 years old. It has never had another owner. I have never had another car. Despite people telling me I need to get rid of such an unsafe vehicle and upgrade to a modern car with all sorts of safety features unheard of four decades ago, my VW bug still runs. And with its new engine, it should keep going another 100,000 miles or so. Someday, I am sure, I will have to get a new car, but meantime, the two of us keep chugging along, unsafe or not.

And I never upgraded to DVD or Blue Ray or any of the other modern movie machines. I still have my 20-year-old VCR. Still have a collection of VHS movies I inherited from my deceased life mate/soul deskmate. I see no reason to upgrade because the stories are still the same no matter what machinery is used. Besides, watching those tapes — the tapes we watched together — makes the experience special in a personal way. If ever the tapes are destroyed (and since they are stored in a non-controlled environment, it’s entirely possible), I will get rid of my VCR but will not upgrade to a DVD. (Though come to think of it, I do have DVD player I have never used — it belonged to my parents. But it is packed away, as is my 20-year-old television.)

So, it should come as no surprise if I tell you I have an aged computer, though the idea of an eight-and-a-half-year-old machine being obsolete boggles my mind. The PC is still shiny new. Still works as fast as it ever did. Still does what I ask of it. Still gives me great pleasure just to contemplate its arrival in my life. (It was a gift, unbelievable and unbelievably awesome.)

But now its very life is threatened.

I must be one of the very few who like Vista, the operating system that was new when I got the machine. I loved the ease of operation, the graphics, the feeling of power beneath the hood. (Most of that power lies dormant. It was supposed to be able to tie all sorts of media together, and I only used it as a word and photo processer, a means of browsing the internet, and a portal to my blog.) Microsoft will only support Vista until April of 2017, and already the ramifications of that non-support are showing. Internet Explorer can no longer be updated. The most recent manifestation I have available is IE9, and WordPress as well as a few other treasured sites no longer work with IE9. Most recently, Google has announced that as of April 2016, Chrome will no longer support Vista, which means that Vista machines using Chrome will be exceedingly vulnerable. I can still use Firefox (though I never did see the greatness that others do), but then . . . ?

I suppose then I’ll have to get a new machine, though I really don’t want to. By next year, Windows 10 will itself be aging, so I won’t have the full lifespan of the system. And if by chance Windows 11 is available, well . . . I don’t look forward to using an untried system. Mostly, though, I don’t like being penalized for taking care of my machine. Don’t like that it has arbitrarily become obsolete.

And especially I don’t like feeling that my most cherished values — conserve, use up, make do, leave a light footprint upon the earth — are also obsolete.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Celebrating Eight Years of Blogging!!!

I got a notice from WordPress that this is my blog anniversary. Eight years ago I started Bertram’s Blog. As if that weren’t enough to celebrate, this happens to be my 2015th blog post. (2015 in 2015 — I thought that cute, and worthy of note.)

In the past eight years, I’ve had almost a half million views. 451,250 to be exact. Wow. I had no idea I was so popular. (I had to double check my stats page. It doesn’t seem right, but it is.)

Thank you for being a part of this momentous occasion. Thank you for reading and responding and for the 13,775 comments you have left me. You are very special to me.

wp

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Book Posters

I’m trying to make book posters, sort of like movie posters, but although they look okay here, when I post them elsewhere, they are either smeary, or too much is cut off. Back to the virtual drawing board!

LB poster c

 

More Deaths Than One

 

A Spark of Heavenly Fire

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Cloud

A couple of people I know were talking about the cloud the other day — not clouds in the sky, but “the cloud” as in “cloud storage.” One said that there was only one cloud where everything was stored, and  the other, an engineer, kept insisting the cloud must exist somewhere.

I agreed that it must exist somewhere. Nothing comes from nothing, and nothing goes nowhere, though the impression we are given of the cloud is that perhaps it’s a nebulous cloud of electrons that exists to serve us without taking up space.

A bit of research told the truth.

As romantic as the notion might be, the cloud is not cloud at all. “Cloud” is a metaphor for the internet. Apparently, a diagram of the internet, in all its complexity, resembles a cloud. In truth, the “cloud” is/are huge data power centers, with acres of computers, processors, applications, and computer servers. (Servers are computers that supply data to other computers.) Instead of individuals and companies needing to buy massive machines with enormous processing power, they can harness the power of the machines other people own, and instead of warehousing their accumulated data on their own machines, they can rent space in these virtual storehouses, access them remotely, and get the benefits of the massive power structure.

Email systems (such as gmail) which are internet based are not stored on your computer, but in the euphemistic “cloud.” They are stored in someone else’s physical computer center and can be accessed by any computer. Friends who own the various houses where I have been staying, have kindly offered me the use of their computers. If I took them up on their offers, I could, of course, access my emails, FB, and various other sites just by using my password, but many of my files would be inaccessible because they are stored in my personal computer, not somewhere in the internet.

It’s comforting to think of “the cloud” as being a natural resource like the sky clouds, but when you think of the vast acres of these data centers springing up in physical locations around the world, each one costing hundreds of millions of dollars and generating untold wealth for their owners, the comfort vanishes and all sorts of questions arise. Who actually owns the data stored in the “cloud”? What are the stewards doing with the data entrusted to them? And why the heck do we need all that data? Once upon a time, data existed as words on paper, not ones and zeroes stored in and accessed by infinitely complex and massive computing machines.

Once you know that the cloud is a simple word for describing a system that is anything but simple, it’s easy to understand. Or at least understand the concept. For who among us ever understands this electronic web that binds us all together?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Twitter

Twitter BirdTwitter.com is a microblogging site where you post 140 characters at a time. I’ve written 100-word stories, 100,000-word novels, blog posts of various word counts, but anything that can be said in 140 characters or less almost doesn’t seem to be worth saying, so I’m having a hard time finding a home in the Twitosphere (or do I mean the Twitterverse?). Still, I’ve learned a few things about this twitterish world.

1. Tagging your tweets. You add tags to your tweets by using hash marks. For example, when I tweet this post, if I add #twitter to my tweet, people who are interested in finding out who is tweeting about Twitter can search for #twitter, and discover all recent posts with that hash mark. One of the most popular hashtags for writers is #amwriting.

2. The difference between # and @. # is how you index your posts so other people can find them via the search function. Don’t use the hashtag for your name because no one will be looking for you that way. Use @ with your Twitter user name. (For example, @patbertram.) People can then click on your name and be taken to your profile. If @ is at the beginning of the tweet, then only the person you mentioned will see it, so if I put @patbertram at the beginning of a tweet, no one would see it but me. If you want to just mention the person rather than leaving them a message, put the @ in the middle or at the end of the tweet. That way anyone can see the tweet.

3. Retweeting. If you see something interesting, retweet it. (If you don’t see the double arrows at the bottom of a tweet, hover your cursor over the the tweet and they should appear.) This helps interesting posts get more exposure, and introduces you to a wider audience so that you will eventually get retweets.

4. Respond to people who respond to you. Respond to interesting comments. Twitter is like a crowd of people all talking at once, so there are many different conversations going on at any one time.

5. Favorite-ing. Under each tweet is a star. If you click on the star, you “favorite” it. It’s a way of acknowledging that you read and liked something. It’s also a way of bookmarking items so that you can find them again. (You just go to your profile and click on “favorites.” It should be just off to the right of your profile picture, It’s a lot easier to find a tweet in that list rather than on your Twitter home page.)

6. Trending topics. On the right sidebar of your Twitter home page, there is a list of “trends.” These trends are topics that are currently popular (as in right-this-very-minute popular) and are compiled from the most retweeted tweets. Browse the trends or jump right in and contribute to the cause. It’s a great way of joining the crowd.

7. Lists. You can create lists of people you’d like to keep up with so they don’t get lost in the ever moving Twitter stream. To make a list, click on your photo in the upper right hand corner, click on “lists.” Look to the right hand side of the screen and click on “create a list.” There is also a link to click to learn more about lists.

8. Graphics. A friend who is an expert at online promo suggested that I use photos to illustrate posts on twitter. When I started with Twitter, photos weren’t shown in the feed, but now they are, which makes them very important. She also suggested doing graphics for my books for twitter and FB. A graphic is just a background image with a brief hook and a photo of the book cover, something compelling to catch the eye. Once you have made a couple such graphics, you can use them over and over again, posting them on alternate days, or however you’d like to use them. It’s fun to make the graphics. If you have a photo editing program like photoshop elements, you can make them using that program. Or you can do them online using a site like canva.com. You can find a couple of examples of such posters here: Pat Bertram – Timeline Photos | Facebook. Don’t forget to use # before keywords so others can find your graphic when they look for similar posts.

9. Pin. You can pin your graphics or any tweet to the top of your twitter profile. After you have posted your tweet, look for the three dots at the bottom and click on them, then click on “pin to your profile page.” That way, anyone who goes to your profile page will see it. 

10. Interact with people! If someone responds to your tweet, respond back. If you see something of interest, reply or retweet. Twitter is a like a world-wide cocktail party. Stroll around and listen in.

If you have any other suggestions, feel free to offer them!

Thank you. @patbertram

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Tortoise Sitting

My computer has been in storage the past month. I’d been staying with friends, and I didn’t really have a place to set up my machine. Nor did I have enough quiet and alone time to do all the work I needed to do. So I just went with the flow of my friend’s life. Now I am tortoise sitting for another friend while she’s on vacation. Actually, I am housesitting, and Franklin goes with the house. He doesn’t need much care. I’m tortoisejust supposed to make sure he has plenty of water, kale, petunia petals, and some b-vitamin pellets, which seem to be the extent of his diet. [As an aside, what is a “housesit ting”? MSSpellcheck says housesitting is not a word and wanted me to change it to “housesit ting”. Huh?]

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening on the computer, catching up on some of the emails and housekeeping chores (or rather, computer-keeping chores) that have piled up in my absence, and it felt good. Like coming home. It was amazing how little I did yesterday, but the time flew. When I looked up from my computer, the sun had been long gone, and it was past time to retire for the night.

Other than having a couple of computerized weeks coming up (I am housesitting for one friend this week and then for another friend next week, so I’ll have alone time and a place for my computer) I have no plans. Well, a belly dance performance in December, but that’s a long way off.

I really can’t make plans even if I wanted to — I have no idea when my car will be done, though I have it on good authority they are working on it. The husband of the woman who recommended the body guy went to see what was going on (I think she felt guilty for recommending the fellow), and the husband saw them sanding the car. The body guy apologized to the husband — not to me, to him. Men!!! Still, it’s nice to know that at least a bit more has been done.

Although I didn’t have my computer during the past month, I did have a phone that connected to the internet, so I could continue my research into backpacking, but it’s good to have other things to do online now. The more I read about backpacking long distances, the more it seemed ho-hum. As if everyone in the world were planning some sort of epic walk. I suppose it’s possible they are — I seem to follow trends unwittingly. First writing, now talking about long-distance walking. Just goes to show I’m nowhere near as individual as I think I am. (The truth is, though I don’t like to admit it to myself, I am exceedingly normal, which is how I knew that whatever craziness I felt during my grief process was normal.)

I’m doing well. Despite my precarious-sounding situation, I’m content. Happy even. I hope you are, too.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Magic of Blogging by Email

I’ve been practicing posting by email to make it easier to blog when my only access to the internet will be my phone. It wasn’t as difficult to post by email as I thought it would be.

The first thing I needed to do was to get a special email address. To do this, go to your dashboard and click on “my blogs.” The easiest way to find “my blogs” is to go to your blog, hover your cursor over “my site” on the left navigation strip, then click on “WP Admin.” You should see “My blogs” on the left sidebar close to the top.

Click “enable email” for the blog you wish to post to via email. That will give you a special email address. I input the email address in my phone so I don’t have to ever think about it again, and now it’s ready whenever I need it.

To post by email, go to your email on your phone and open a new message. The recipient, of course, is that secret email address WordPress assigned to you. The subject line is the title of the blog. The body of the email is the blog itself. An attached photo will show up on the bottom of the email. Apparently, as of now, there isn’t a way to align the image via email. If you want to realign it — to add it to the top of the blog or to wrap text around it — you have to edit the post on your computer.

There are some really cool aspects of email blogging, for example, the shortcodes. [category a,b,c] will post categories. The categories must already be ones you use on your blog. The brackets are part of the shortcode, and there can be no space before the word “category” or after the last category you use. (In this case, the letter c.) You don’t even have to use the whole word, just the first few letters, but I haven’t yet tried out that tip.

For tags, use the shortcode [tags a,b,c]. Again, no space before the word “tags” and after the last tag. Be sure to separate tags with commas. New tags will be automatically generated; they don’t already need to be in use on your blog.

If you attach more than one photo, they will show up as a gallery. If you want each one posted individually, use the shortcode [nogallery].

These three shortcodes can be placed anywhere in the email and it won’t affect the text of your post.

Magic!

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Testing 4 5 6

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

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Yesterday I tried out the post by email feature on WordPress but forgot to add tags and categories. so today I need to try to do that too. I’m disappointed that the photos appear at the end of the post rather than at the beginning or in line with text, but I’m pleased that I can post at all. The main problem is that the photo appeared after my signature line, so I’m experimenting with putting the signature line first. If it’s too annoying let me know and in future posts by email I’ll just leave it off or just not worry that the photo is tacked on as an afterthought.

I’m also trying to do this without wifi because obviously if I’m out in the middle of nowhere I’ll be lucky to have a signal of any kind and definitely no wifi.

I took my last walk in the neighborhood today, and then ended out in the desert. I’ll miss that easy access to the wilds, but there will be more wilds in the future. This is an interesting time in my life, that’s for sure.

Testing 1 2 3

I figure since my internet access might be a problem, I should learn how to blog by email. I read the tutorial but there is no way to find out if I learned anything unless I test myself. Okay let’s do it. Abracadabra! Post!

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Posted via phone. Since this smartphone is probably more intelligent than me, blame any mistakes on the phone.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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