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?


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.

Is There Life Without the Internet?

I spent most of yesterday updating my virus protection software. For some reason known only to the computer gods and gurus, simple tasks that should be done in a matter of minutes take hours upon hours. I ended up downloading the program and removing it twice, talking to several different billing and tech people (and some I’m not even sure work for the company — if you google “Trend Micro contact”, you get all sorts of phone numbers, only some of which go the to actual company.) And because they couldn’t simply credit my account with a refund and use that money for the second download I had to pay twice (though they did promise a refund for one of the downloads. Wink. Wink.).

Although I could write a whole post (perhaps even an amusing one) about my experiences with the update, mentioning it is by way of a prologue. I’ve used Trend Micro from the beginning, and it’s been good protection, so I’ve been sticking with them, but yesterday, halfway through the process, I told them I was so unhappy with their service, I was ready to throw away my computer. For just a second, I meant it, and I felt free. And then the truth hit me.

untiledMy life is almost all online. Sure, I could take walks, but who would I tell about my insights? I could write my thoughts, but who would read them? Who would talk to me about Is Introspection Possible? and What Is Luck?, my Soul’s Journey and Living Light and Free? This blog has seen me through some terrible times in my life, and some good ones. It was here that I first announced I’d found a publisher, first promoted my books, first talked about the agony of my grief, had my first inklings that there might someday be happiness for me again. I cannot imagine my life without it. But this is not the only thing I’d have forego.

Without the internet, I’d have no life as an author. I could still write books, but who would talk to me about them? I could perhaps still check with bookstore owners and see if I can do book signings, but what if I wanted to publish another book? Book files are all digital now. How would I get the manuscript digitalized so I could send to my publisher?

There is too much of my life I’d have to do without. I have friends in the real world, which is nice, but I also have friends in the cyber world — people from all around the world — that I’d never get to talk to or email again. I’d never get to check in Facebook again. Well, maybe that wouldn’t be such a loss, but still, it is a part of the online experience, and I’d miss all the people I’ve friended and those I haven’t yet met.

And Rubicon Ranch — the collaboration/serialization I’m writing with other Second Wind authors — I’d have to give up on that, too, just when all the authors are learning to have fun with it and run with it.

Every day online offers the possibility of something wonderful happening. So, after my whole online life flashed before my eyes along with the vision of what my life would be like without the internet, I girded my loins, gritted my teeth, stepped once more into the fray, (feel free to add whatever other clichés you wish), and finally got the job done. Now I just have to wait to see if they follow through on their side with the refund.

Either way, I’ll still be here.


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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

Being Real Online: The Truth of Me

shadowIn a recent blog interview, someone asked me what I would do differently if I were invisible for a day, and I responded that for all practical purposes I am invisible. “Practical purposes” meaning “offline.” Some people responded that I was very visible, and they are right. I am visible online, but they (and you) don’t know if I’m visible offline, so basically, nothing would change if I were. I’d still be the same person — whoever that is.

I started out online with a certain persona — not fake exactly, but not entirely me. More of a slightly idealized version of me. The odd thing is that over the years, I have grown into that persona, so I don’t know which is the real me any more, but I think the fake one is the real one.

There’s been a lot of talk online lately about the truth of what we hear and see on the Internet, mostly because of Manti Te’o’s story. To be honest, I haven’t a clue he is or what is story is, but it did make me wonder if the people I meet are real.

I tend to take people at face value online, even though I suspect some of them are not who they say they are. For example, there are a few authors portraying themselves as hulking men with biceps and tattoos that I suspect are really women who are using not only pseudonymous names but also pseudonymous personas, but it doesn’t matter as long as they add a bit of color to otherwise staid discussions. And if they really are those men, that doesn’t that matter, either.

If the people who comment frequently on this blog — the ones I have come to think of as online friends — turn out to be not who they say they are, it wouldn’t change anything. Their insights add depth to the conversation and make me think. That is real even if they are not. But I would be willing to bet they are exactly as they seem.

I have met several people offline that I first became friends with online, and they were who and what I expected. In most cases, there wasn’t even a moment of uncomfortableness — we just continued our online relationship offline.

Of course, online we talked about books and writing, ideas and dreams, and that is hard to fake. I mean, if you don’t have ideas it’s hard to pretend that you do, or if you haven’t read books, it’s hard to make an intelligent remark about literary matters.

Maybe the point is that online we are who we say we are. Offline, we get so used to being what we’re not so that we don’t get in fights or so people don’t get angry with us or to get our way or so we can get a promotion or for any number of reasons, but online, what we are really doing is stream-of-consciousness writing, and that taps into the inner us.

If we are creatures made of stardust and electrons, if all our thoughts are particle waves or energy or whatever, maybe it’s easier to plug in to the essential spirit of people online since the Internet is an electronic medium. Online, you get a feel for people, for who they really are, not how they look or what they do for a living. Online, you’re not obese or crippled or ugly. Online, you don’t repel people with your awful smell or your terrible disease. Online, you’re just you.

Sometimes people take the freedom of the internet too far and, hiding behind fake personas, spew invective at the world. But that is true, too. It’s who they are. It’s the real people who are bogus, pretending to be affable when in fact, they are filled with anger and hate.

Are you wondering if I am real? You already know the answer. Whether I’m visible or invisible, fake or real, it’s my words that matter. My words tell you the truth of me.


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.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+

Where Is Everyone?

It seems odd that a community of mega millions can suddenly go quiet, but today the internet world seems deserted. There were few comments on blogs I, little going on at Facebook, even less going on at my live chat on Gather. (If you feel up to it,  stop by to visit. We can use the company! We meet every Thursday night at 9:00 pm ET at the featured article at my discussion group: No Whine, Just Champagne. Tonight is our 84th discussion, and though we usually talk about a specific topic, lately we’ve just been gossiping about writing.  Tonight we will be meeting here: No Whine, Just Champagne Discussion #84.)

Where do people go on the first day of the month that is more enticing than the internet? I know there are windstorms across the USA that might preclude the use of computers, but still, out of a community of millions, there should be something going on! Or perhaps the party moved, and I missed it. So, where is everyone?

add to : Add to Blinkslist : add to furl : Digg it : Stumble It! : add to simpy : seed the vine : : : TailRank : post to facebook

Pat Bertram Is Two Years Old Today!


On May 17, 2007, I — or rather, Pat Bertram — signed gift4up for the Internet, and it was love at first byte. The entire world opened up to me, and I was reborn. I’d already written four books, but until I went online, I hadn’t started creating the author of those books. Who should I be? What name should I use? I considered using a male pseudonym, Cole Black, perhaps, since men with hard C’s and K’s do well in the public arena. Anyone heard of Steven King? Dean Koontz? Tom Clancy? Kevin Costner? Clint Eastwood?

In the end I decided to stick with a version of my own name, one that I didn’t use in my offline life. It’s a good name for an author with enough hard consonants to sound authoritative. And it has the whole androgynous “It’s Pat” thing going for it; I can be whoever I want. Besides, p’s and b’s and t’s and r’s didn’t hurt Brad Pitt any.

I signed up for my domain, set up a website at, then fished around for another way to create myself, and discovered blogging. I didn’t even know what a blog was, didn’t think it was something I would ever be able to do (my diaries as a kidgift3 never lasted more than a day or two), but I’d discovered that an author needed a blog. Since I was intent on creating myself as an author, I signed up for WordPress, and oh! What a joy! I could write whatever I wanted, say what I wanted, be what I wanted, and people would read what I wrote. Okay, only a couple of people read Bertram’s Blog at the beginning, but I am still friends with one of them. How cool is that? I’m too embarrassed to admit how many blogs I now have — some of which I keep up with on a regular basis, soballoons1me I don’t — but blogging remains one of my favorite online activities.

From blogging, I went to to enter a crime writing contest, and through a series of incredibly serendipitous encounters, I found a publisher. And more friends. After that, of course, I had to start promoting, so I started social networking. I’d heard from so many authors how much they hated promoting, but me? I think it’s great fun. It’s all about making friends, and what’s more fun than that?

So, friends, please join me in celebrating this very special birthday. You don’t even have to bring me a present. I have presents for you! Click on either package to open.  I hope you have fun.

I know I will.