The Internet Gives and Takes (And Takes)

The internet seems to have always been a give then take and take situation, and this state of affairs continues to do this day. For example, I just got a notice about upgrading my free email account to a paid version for the incredibly low price of $5.00. Free is cheaper, of course, but they have been adding so many more ads to the site that I’m sure people will be willing to pay the money to get rid of the annoyance factor. That email is the one I used to sign up for all my internet sites, and since it’s used primarily to get notifications from those sites, the ads aren’t a problem for me.

The email I use most has no ads — it comes with my website at no extra charge. I also get an email that might be ad-free from my internet provider, though I haven’t used that email yet, so I don’t really know. Previously, I never paid attention to such email services because I was moving around a lot and wasn’t interested in always having to change my address. Now that I’m in my “forever” home — well, not really forever because forever would last eons beyond my death, but you know what I mean — I could use the email since it would be as permanent as my residency in this house.

Still, I’m not sure I trust the company. They used to offer a singe charge for internet services no matter what the bandwidth. It was a variable number, sometime incredibly fast, sometimes incredibly slow, but they recently started offering a more expansive bandwidth service for a rather large increase in price. Which would be fine if they had actually increased the speed, but it looks as if what they did was divide out the variable bandwidth and are making people pay for the faster service. So now my internet is a bit slower, and if I want to get back to where it was, I have to pay more. It’s a good thing there is only me and that I don’t watch movies or listen to music on my computer or phone, so the bandwidth I have is fine for now. Until they decide to offer a midrange speed and slow my computer down again.

But, as I said, this has always been the case with any internet service. When I first signed up with Facebook, everyone who “liked” or “followed” my author page got all of my updates in their feed. Whether those people saw the updates or not was a different matter, but the updates were there. Then FB decided they weren’t making enough money, so they started charging for that service. Now, the only people who get occasional updates are those who regularly interact with the page. The other 1,549 people who follow my page will only see what I post if I pay FB to show my posts to them, and since FB refuses to let me post the link to this blog, I refuse to pay them. Even worse, because FB doesn’t like second hand links (I have to “reblog” my blog to another blog so I can post my blog by proxy) I’ve gone from the original 1000 views on FB to the pre-ban 100 views to the current 10. But the way I see it, anyone who wants to follow my blog can follow it directly. I just post a link on FB for those who asked me to.

WordPress is another of those sites that used to be ad-free for people who signed up, either to post a blog or to read blogs, but gradually the ads encroached there, too. I now pay a yearly fee to offer you an ad-free environment (except for my books, of course), but for that I also get a dedicated domain name. And unlike FB, they don’t charge me to send my blog to my followers.

My author website used to come with a free web builder, but they started charging for that, too. Somehow, because of their retiring my old website, I ended up with a less comprehensive builder at no charge (at least for now.) Come to think of it, with all the shenanigans going on, I better renew my website domain before the price of that goes up and becomes prohibitively expensive.

Despite all this, the internet is still a special place. Where else can I meet and communicate with people all over the world without leaving my chair?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Warm World View

I’ve been feeling good today — lighthearted, actually. Although I often write (or at least infer) that I am happy, I am actually more contented than happy (since to me, being happy connotes a bit of giddiness perhaps). Being lighthearted is something else, though I’m not sure what the difference is except that today I feel . . . lighter . . . than I generally do.

Part of this feeling of lightness has to do with the blue skies and warm sun. Even a chill wind doesn’t offset the pleasure of an otherwise nice day.

Part of the feeling of lightness has to do with being out and about on foot. I’d run (walked, rather) an errand this morning, and I still felt strong, so I headed to the grocery store to pick up a couple of items. I was almost there when I felt a twinge in my right knee. [The right knee started out being my bad knee since I’d damaged it a few years ago doing ballet exercises. Then, after it healed, I woke one morning with the left knee out of kilter. That’s the knee — the bad knee — that caused me so much trouble a year ago. But now, the left knee seems to be doing better, and the right knee seems to be the bad knee. Sheesh.] I wasn’t worried about getting back home. The store is about a half a mile away, and I knew I’d make it back okay if I only picked up the two or three things I needed.

Another part of the feeling of lightness has to do with living in a small town. Because this is such a small town, I always seem to meet someone I know at the store, and today was no different. My friend offered me a ride, and because of my knee (and because my car issues have kept me from being able to do any real grocery shopping), I accepted. We had a lovely time wandering the aisles together (I even found pequin powder, a rare item I thought I’d have to order online), with her filling up one section of the cart, me the other.

When I got home, I still had that same feeling — the lighthearted feeling I mentioned above.

It seems odd to me that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I feel at home here, whether I am out walking, meeting people at the grocery store, or waving back at the folks who wave to me as they pass by in their cars. Sometimes I think I’m living in a fool’s paradise, but I never feel in danger. Nor do I know of a lot of truly bad things that happen here. Oh, there is petty crime, but any violence is with people who know one another, not stranger to stranger. People seem to look out for one another, to be casually friendly without being annoyingly in-your-face.

Mostly, I think, I feel good about this place because I’ve stopped believing in the Mean World.

The idea of Mean World Syndrome has been around since the 1980s and basically postulates that the more one watches television (and, since these are the internet days, the more one pays attention to social networking sites and online news sources) the more one comes to accept that the world is much meaner than it actually is. It’s no surprise that fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, and agree more quickly to hardline safety measures. This sort of programming reinforces people’s worst fears, so they tend to react more quickly and more aggressively to slights. Even worse, people are hard-wired for compassion, and the Mean World Syndrome tends to circumvent that, so we end up with a cynical population rather than a compassionate one.

I think I first noticed this (without knowing the name of the syndrome) back when I was in the hospital after I destroyed my arm. That was one of those times when the whole country was up at arms (literally) about racism and immigration. But there I was, in a hospital, totally dependent upon people of various skin colors and nationalities, and they all seemed to get along, and all treated me well. In fact, the only negative comment came from a white nurse who said to another in my hearing, “Doesn’t she ever exercise?” The other woman said, “Didn’t you know? She fell after a dance performance.”

As you can see, the experience left me feeling almost as confused as my trip through the old south, where racial tensions seemed almost non-existent compared to the hype, and not at all like the aggression I was used to from those living in the gang-ridden area near where I had been staying in California.

I much prefer a Warm World View (nothing to do with global warming, and everything to do with feeling warmly about one’s surroundings and the people that inhabit those environs). I’m not naïve; I do know bad things happen — I have even experienced bad things — but I also know they don’t happen anywhere near as often as we are led to believe. That the bad things are real, doesn’t matter. When I was growing up, the world seemed safer, not because it was (to be honest, it wasn’t — we lived in a fringe neighborhood where our bikes were stolen, property was vandalized, and my brothers were beaten up). The difference was the relative lack, back then, of non-local news (world news was but a small subsection of the news), a relatively small media group, a relatively short period dedicated to the news. Now that the news media is huge and constant, so is the need for product. So something bad happening halfway across the country — or the world — is broadcast as if it is an immediate danger to us all and so creates fear in everyone.

I don’t watch the news — won’t watch the news even if I have an opportunity — for this very reason. I don’t follow news sources online, don’t participate in social sites except to post a link to this blog (in the case of Facebook, I post a link to a post that links to this blog, since I’m still considered persona non grata), and I shy away from any discussions of today’s issues. Those issues aren’t my issues. My issues are local. My issues contribute to a Warm World View, to compassion and calmness.

And yes, to the lightheartedness I feel today.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Rebooting Ourselves

I had a bit of a problem yesterday with one of the programs on my computer, so before I got worked up about it, I restarted the computer. And as I hoped, the problem was resolved.

Which got me to thinking — what would it be life if we could reboot ourselves when things go wrong? Not to do a factory reset — I mean, I for one, wouldn’t want to have to start my life over as a baby. It’s taken me decades to get to the point where I am now. A full factory reset would force me to live all those years over again, and the very idea seems unutterably horrific. But to be able to reset what isn’t working right while keeping memories and experience intact? To get back to where we older folk can walk effortlessly without having to place each foot solidly on the ground before moving forward? To get our cells back to replicating exactly without all the little “mistakes” that add up to aging?

And then think about the other “programs” we could use, such as virus protection and virus removal. Add to that any supplemental “hardware” such as more memory.

The idea is staggering.

Alas, although our bodies seem to work like computers at times, we don’t have the capability they have for self-repair. (Though for the most part, our immune systems do a good job, at least until they are overwhelmed by age or other detrimental factors.)

On the other hand, computers don’t have the capacity for enjoyment and beauty and feelings that we have. At least not yet.

I might not be able to reboot myself (except in the winter when I have to reboot myself to go back outside to finish shoveling snow or something like that), but there are offsetting factors like . . . well, like tulips!

Although winter temperatures returned, with lows in the twenties (Fahrenheit), a few tulips managed to bloom anyway, bringing a dollop of color to an otherwise murky morning.

That for sure is worth something.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Shedding Light on the Dim World of Grief

I happened upon an internet discussion yesterday where people were commenting about those who post bereavement, death, and grief comments on the various social sites. As you can imagine, this got my ire up.

It seems that it’s okay to rant about politics, gossip about celebrities, talk about diet, brag about one’s feeble accomplishments, restyle one’s life so that it seems admirable and exciting rather than as mediocre as everyone else’s, and of course, post copious photos of pets as well as posts about the illnesses and deaths of those animals. But apparently, it’s not okay to mention something as important as grief for a fellow human being.

I realize people would just as soon forget that their lives have an expiration date, would just as soon forget that a person cannot be happy all the time, would just as soon forget that bad things happen to everyone at one time or another, but still, the major problem with grief is that so few people want to even acknowledge that death and grief and ongoing feelings of loss do exist.

If you’re one of those, then if someone posts about death or grief, scroll on by. You’re not obligated to acknowledge someone else’s pain, though perhaps it would be the kind thing to do.

Some people in the discussion thought that those who posted updates about grief were simply looking for sympathy. I suppose it’s possible some grievers do so, but no one of my acquaintance has ever mentioned their grief in a bid for pity. If we are looking for anything, we’re looking for validation of our feelings, looking for an acknowledgment that life after the death of a loved one does not and cannot continue as before, looking for someone to stop and pay attention.

Some people, perhaps, are looking for a sign from their deceased loved one, which, if there is life after death, would be feasible since we, like computers, are an electronic medium.

Mostly, though, if the social sites are about laying out our lives for others to see, then to refrain from mentioning death or grief would be a disservice not just to ourselves and our deceased loved ones, but to the world at large.

The truth is, you cannot pretend such things do not exist, at least not forever. One way or another, you will confront death, if not a loved one’s, then your own. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that after you were gone, people would still remember you with an occasional post online? Or would you expect people to wipe you out of their lives and thoughts?

I’ve come to realize that some people have little sympathy for those who acknowledge their losses because they think when someone dies, that person is not just erased from this world, but is erased retroactively, so that the deceased never existed, never left behind a hole in the fabric of life on Earth. Because of this retroactive erasure, those unsympathetic people tend to think that anyone who still misses their loved one years later is buying into a victim mentality, perhaps is even addicted to grief.

Whenever I think I’ve said all there is to say about grief, I discover a new black hole of ignorance and insensitivity, so apparently, my mission of shedding light on the dim world of grief, is far from over.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Truth or Taint

After all these years of living in an e-world, I’m still not comfortable with the penchant for rating everything. Ratings do help, at times, to give me an overview of a product or service, but for the most part, the ratings don’t help me at all. I certainly have no interest in being rated myself, which is why I’ve left the ratings widget off this blog. I figure if people like what I say, they will read. If they don’t, they won’t. I learn more from comments than I would from a rating, though to me, the comments are more about a discussion than whether or not someone likes me or my blog.

Leaving off the widget doesn’t always help, since Facebook has banned my blog from their site, either because of complaints about abuse or because they have deemed it spam — I’m still not clear on what their rational was. Either way, it’s made my life a bit more difficult (though at the same time, it gives me a good excuse to remove myself from that environment).

I do like when people leave book reviews for my books since those are one of the few promotional opportunities most of us writers are given. I even occasionally read reviews, especially if I’m not sure I’d like a book and want to see what it’s about. (In that case I read the bad reviews to see what people hated about the book.)

But generally speaking, I don’t like this ratings world, and I don’t participate. Unfortunately, I recently made a mistake and when a company I had purchased a product from a year ago asked me for my opinion of the product, I sent them a quick comment. But that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted ratings. The ratings weren’t about how satisfied I was with the product, but rather if the product helped with back pain and if it improved my posture. Since I didn’t buy the product for either of those non-existent issues — I bought it for convenience since it was a side-loading pack rather than a backpack — I couldn’t give them the ratings they wanted. So now, I keep getting emails telling me I didn’t finish my review, and would I please finish it. And oh, by the way, would I also please leave a review online so their customers could see it.

I finally had enough and trashed the emails.

So, no more ratings!

All this emphasis on ratings makes me wonder if people reading the ratings are astute enough to know when a rating is legitimate rather than a paid review, and realistic enough to know that sometimes people give low ratings for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the actual product or service. Not to keep harping on the FB thing, but those who got me banned had no real basis for their displeasure since this blog is neither abuse nor spam.

It used to be that people would get mad, say their piece, and the words would dissipate into the atmosphere. Not anymore. Now those words hang around forever, tainting people and products, though admittedly sometimes it’s not a taint but the truth.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

A Better Mood

I was very discouraged yesterday, not just because of the fiasco on facebook (not a typo, it doesn’t deserve the respect of being capitalized) and being banned for unfairly and untruthfully being labeled abusive, but because of several other issues too, the main one being my car.

I had a tune-up toward the end of last year, including replacing the spark plugs, and the venerable 49-year-old VW bug sailed along as if it were a youngster again. Within a month or two, I started having problems with the car bucking. At first I thought perhaps the choke wasn’t working due to the frigid winter weather, because everything seemed to work better once I’d been driving a few miles, but when the weather cleared, the bucking got worse the more I drove.

So I took it back to the mechanic, and he discovered that those new spark plugs had already burned out. At the same time, he found that a part in the carburetor wasn’t working properly, and it was letting too much air into the engine. I’m going to have him replace the carburetor, but those spark plugs burning out so fast sure worried me! After a bit of checking on the internet, I discovered it was due to the engine running hot, which was due to a lean fuel mixture (too much air in the fuel), which was due to the carburetor not working right. Who knew? Well, any mechanic or mechanically inclined person would know, just not me. Now that I know that the spark plugs won’t always be burning out every month or so and that the car can be fixed, it makes me feel a lot better.

At least about that.

I still feel discomfited about the whole FB thing: that people would on purpose sabotage me and that there is no recourse, but I’m gradually finding my way back to a better mood, especially since there’s nothing I can do about the ban. In the long run, I suppose, it doesn’t really matter. With as much as FB is changing, and with as many “friends” who are voluntarily leaving, I have a hunch the site wouldn’t do book sales much good anyway. (I tell myself that because if I really thought it was hurting me as an author, I’d be furious, and I don’t want to be angry.)

I’d considered signing up for Instagram now that I have a phone that is powerful enough and big enough to edit photos and to handle the site, but Instagram is owned by FB, and I don’t see any point in rewarding anyone who treats me badly.

The one good thing that happened yesterday, besides finding out that my car can be fixed, is that while I was outside town test driving my car after I picked it up last evening, I was able to see the sun setting and also the moon rising. By the time I could stop to take a photo, though, the moon had shrunk somewhat. Still beautiful, though!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Abusive?

When Facebook first banned this blog from their site, the reason given was that this blog is spam. Yesterday when I tried sharing the post from the FB share button (which is now removed) at the bottom of the post I’d just written, I got a different explanation. They said: Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.

Abusive? Me? Really? I have posted a handful articles (out of a total of 2,997) that might be considered controversial, though I do try to steer a middle ground. Even so, those articles were in no way abusive, weren’t even very controversial since I wasn’t taking a stand so much as trying to sort out what I felt about the political turmoil. Sometimes when I think I’m being the most helpful or logical or innocuous or agreeable, it surprises me that not everyone agrees with what I say. To be honest, I don’t always agree with what I say. As with those few controversial posts, so often by writing for this blog, I am trying to work through a problem, an idea, a spot of confusion, and sometimes, after I’ve posted the article, I realize that because of the writing, I came to a different conclusion.

But abusive? I cannot think of a single time I said anything that anyone could say was abusive. I always try to be nice, even when people aren’t nice to me. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

Although I did not appreciate this blog being blocked because of spam, I thought maybe their bots had picked up on the repetitious bio at the end of the article, or perhaps all the links I used in the bio. Even though it did no good, I removed the links and am alternating bios to make sure other sites don’t have the same issue, but as it turns out, that wasn’t the case at all.

Abusive?

That upsets me because it is so unjust and pejorative. What’s even worse is the current system, where anyone can say anything about any person for any reason, and no matter what harm is done, there is no recourse, at least not with Facebook. I have messaged them via FB. I have emailed them. I have sent letters to their headquarters. But apparently a few grouches (that’s the only thing I can think of — that people were grouchy and ticked off that somehow a post of mine got added to their feed) can determine someone’s fate.

FB was my primary means of promotion. I spent a lot of money with them over the years. It’s probably people who saw those posts who labeled them abusive, rather than any of my FB “friends,” but that’s not my fault. I’m not the one that posted the links on those feeds; FB did.

Ironically — and cruelly — whenever I do happen to stop by FB to see if someone left a comment on my page (which I will be doing less in the future, so if you want me to see a comment, please comment here on the blog rather than on FB), I find copious messages from FB telling me I’m not posting enough and I find even more messages telling me how important it is for me to pay them to promote my posts.

If it was me personally they had a problem with, I could simply set up a new account like so many others have had to do, but they have no problem with me personally. Just my oh, so non-abusive and very personal blog.

I have found a way around their ban for now — I reblog my posts to another blog, and then post the link to the second blog on FB. I wouldn’t even be doing that much, but several people said they missed too many of my posts. They could, of course, just sign up for my blog, but these are people who spend time on FB, and so that’s where they like getting their notifications.

I know FB is a huge site, but Google is even bigger, and when I had a problem with Google for banning my blog, they responded to my query, and WordPress helped me fix it. (It was a bit of stray code — innocuous code — that somehow got attached to one photo in one post.) But FB? Nope. Once you’ve been branded as abusive, that’s it for you . . . forever.

No one has to prove their accusation. No one checks the truth of it. To me, acting on unfounded allegations is abusive. My posts are not. If you disagree and can point out any abuse, please let me know so I can change it. Just be gentle. My feelings are hurt enough right now.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Doing the To-Dos

It’s amazing how light one feels when everything is wiped off the to-do list, at least temporarily. Yesterday I finally published my new website with no problems — yeah! (You can check it out here: https://patbertram.com) I decided to stick with my current car insurance because of lower deductibles and accident forgiveness, so I paid that bill as well as several others. I cleaned out the file of old bills. I’m sure there were several other small chores done, too. What a great feeling!

I carried that feeling over into this day until I was scared half out of my mind by a loud screeching noise. It turns out my phone was screaming at me about a dangerous dust storm in the area. As if I didn’t know. All I had to do was look out the window. Or, if I didn’t look out the window, all I had to do was open the door, see all the blowing dust, and quickly shut the door on the outside world.

I hadn’t been able to locate the permissions for that alert app so I could turn off the notifications. If an alert goes off in the night, it would probably scare me into a heart attack. Luckily, I finally managed to turn off all notifications. If I ever feel the need, I can always turn them on again, but for now, it’s more of an annoyance than a lifesaver. When I go out, I check the weather anyway, otherwise, it doesn’t matter. Besides, I can’t do anything about the weather, war, riots, whatever, so it’s better if I slept through it.

Because of my finally finding that permission setting, I hunted once more for the photo editor permissions. I have no idea why the default setting was “no permissions” because with no permissions, the app wouldn’t work. I’d never been able to find the permissions before, and even though I didn’t find them today, I did something in the search for that setting that turned on the photo editor.

Now I just have to figure out how to turn off the “Find my phone” app. It keeps telling me . . . something. Maybe that I need to sign up for it. Apparently, I can’t turn off the notifications they keep sending me to sign up for the app unless I sign up for app, which makes no sense to me, but that’s a conundrum for a different day. (And I wondered why I was so hesitant to fiddle with my website!)

Speaking of conundrums: for some reason, WordPress held the comments of some long-time commenters for moderation. If this happened to you, or happens sometime in the future, please do not take it personally. It’s merely a blip in the program. I would never require moderation for those of you who come here frequently.

So, that’s my day. How is yours?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

New Website!

I’ve been hesitating about publishing my new website. Yesterday I said I didn’t know why, but I do — it’s that so often things go wrong and I simply did not feel up to dealing with any crisis. For example, books that I get from other sources than Barnes and Noble will sometimes show up on my nook and sometimes not. So frustrating!

But putting off the inevitable doesn’t guarantee that the frustration level of publishing a new website will be any less than if I did it immediately, so today, I pushed the button.

Nothing happened. The computer didn’t blow up. The sun kept shining. The wind kept blowing. And the old website remained.

Luckily, all it took was time. Eventually, the new website showed up. It seems okay to me, though the real thing looks a lot different from the preview. The difference comes mostly in the size of the font and the photos, though there isn’t anything I can do about that — the template comes pre-sized.

Still, I am pleased, with both the way the site and that it is finished.

The best thing about the site is that it is now secured. My old site, since was an http address rather than an https address, came with a google warning that it was unsecured. It’s also mobile ready so that it fits well in a cell phone’s screen.

If you care to take a look, you can find the site at Home (patbertram.com). Feel free to let me know if you see any typos or anything that doesn’t look quite right.

***

“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God