Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Follow the Bouncing E-mail

My daughters have been complaining about not receiving my e-mail attachments. Now, they tell me they are not even receiving my e-mails. They have a lot of company. My e-mails are bouncing back faster than I can hit “send” — well, my emails to anyone@charter.net, anyway. I had no idea how many people are on Charter. This is not good.

Nothing that involves the Internet is easy. It always has multiple steps, and this is no exception. I start by calling Charter, who tells me, “It’s not our fault. If your e-mail comes from your website, you will have to call your website host.” My website host says they can’t find anything wrong on their end; I should call Charter again. This gives me an instant stomachache.

Being technologically advanced, Charter has a female computer that tries to read my voice by asking me ridiculous questions to which there are no correct answers. Eventually, I give up and say “representative.” Wrong word. How about “operator”? Still wrong. “Agent?” Bingo.

Next step: the endless wait. Despite the fact that my call is important to them, I go into a loop that plays endless commercials for Charter, until a human being finally shows up and asks me for my PIN, which I don’t know. Somehow, he accepts one of the numbers I give him and tries to identify my problem. The agent gives up, says he will connect me with a supervisor, and puts me on perma-hold. The supervisor does not appear. Eventually, I am cut off.

This goes on for a while until I have a tantrum and actually get to speak to a real, live supervisor. I try to explain that all of my e-mails are coming back with an error message that indicates I’m sending SPAM. He suggests I forward the offending message (which one?) to postmaster@charter.net. "How can I do that if I can’t get through to Charter?" I ask. He prevails upon me to try. My e-mail bounces back. He gives me his private e-mail address and finally deduces that Charter doesn’t like my e-mail signature with its little ghost and links to my website, blogs, and twitter.

"Do my daughters really need my signature?" he asks. "Can I write the postmaster@charter.net from another e-mail address?" These suggestions are followed by a serious explanation of SPAM with which I am quite familiar, since a lot of it gets through, although, of course, not my little ghost logo or twitter link.

That whole procedure (four phone calls) takes over an hour, and I still haven’t begun to implement the supervisor’s multiple solutions. At the moment, I am too tired to even try. I only hope no one from Charter is expecting a reply to his or her e-mail message before tomorrow, or, perhaps, ever.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

To Write or Not to Write?

I’m propped up in bed with my computer on my lap. This is my favorite writing spot, even though my office is only about six feet away. I am ready to go, eager to get started on the morning’s project. Unfortunately, my mind is not. It seems to be unwilling to focus. What is the project? it asks, without enthusiasm. No part of me is able to remember what I was going to do. Other essential contributors check out, as well. My eyelids suddenly feel heavy. My back rebels against sagging pillow behind me. I look down and my fingers are on the wrong keys. Apparently, I am in the midst of a mutiny.

OK. I won’t write; I’ll read. I click on Safari to take me The Huffington Post. It refuses. My wireless connection doesn’t like this room and fights with me every time I walk two feet from my office. I could try to check my e-mail, but that feels daunting at the moment. Besides, the wireless probably won’t let me. So, now what?

I’m about to panic. My mental to-do list is as long as my arm, if only I could bring it to the surface. I start to type — anything — just to get started. My hands are in full rebellion now. Every other word is inside out. The last straw is mush brain, more officially known as “fibro fog.” I stare at the computer for a while (I have no idea how long) and face the facts. My systems have shut down. They are on strike.

Should I analyze the possible causes? Fight through this and try to write anyway? (I am trying, and believe, me, this is not going well.) Years ago, I read that the body never lies. I have had ample evidence that this is so. Mine is sure telling me the unvarnished truth. Your circuits are on overload! Cool it.”

“Do you ever have writers block?” my students ask me.

“Sure,” I say. “Everyone hits a wall every once in a while.”

“What do you do?” They want to know.

“I get up and walk away,” I tell them. And that is exactly what I am going to do.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is it Mac, or is it me?

It’s not easy being a Mac person. First of all, despite all protestations to the contrary, it’s pretty hard to communicate with the PC world. And let’s face it, the world is PC. Second, every time something goes wrong, the smug PC person on the other end will automatically blame Mac. After all, what else could it be? But it’s the third reason that is driving me to distraction this morning.

Mac is innovative to the point of overwhelm. Every day there seems to be a new product, a new process, a new way to do something that was introduced only two days before. I never seem to catch up. Despite being a loyal member and regular attendee of One to One, Mac’s individualized training program for Mac users (only $99 a year), most of the time, I’m in a fog. Maybe it would be more accurate to call it a cloud, because that is actually the newest Mac creation.

When I signed up for a program called MobileMe (only $99 a year), my trainer, in a rush of words, informed me of all its wonderful features: another e-mail address; syncing capabilities with my other Mac (which has the old version of MobileMe, called .Mac); the ability to share large files and photos through my public folder; and, best of all, “the cloud.” The cloud is where I would back up all my important files that can then be downloaded to either of my computers. Here’s something no one mentioned: When I change a file on one Mac, it will automatically sync with the other one. That took a near nervous breakdown on my part to figure out.

MobileMe has many wonderful features I haven’t yet discovered. If I had actually followed my Mac trainer’s explanation of how to find all the interesting help topics on the MobileMe website it would have speeded up the learning curve, I’m sure.

“I showed you that,” he said. “You did?” I replied, suspecting early dementia. He was politely adamant; I was embarrassed. I remember him going over something I didn’t quite get, and the MobileMe videos and mini-manuals must have been what it was.

So, here I sit, enmeshed in MobileMe icons, MobileMe videos, and notes from my last MobileMe training session, trying to figure out which icon will take me where I want to go and how to password protect my public folder. If you know, please give me a hint. I would so appreciate it!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mac User from Hell

The mother of all storms blew through St. Louis yesterday. It knocked down power lines, closed highways, left whole blocks dark, and interrupted my Internet access. You would think I would have figured out when my electricity went off that, perhaps, just perhaps, when I rebooted and couldn’t connect to my website, e-mail, or iDisk (my cyber backup system up there in the Apple’s private cloud), that it might have had something do with cable being knocked out by the storm. I believe the appropriate word here is Duh!

But, no; I just went crazy unplugging and replugging little black boxes, running around the Apple/MobileMe website to no avail (you can only get there on Safari, not on Firefox), and calling every Apple tech supportnumber on my list. Thank God, these guys are all hired for their patience because I am the Mac user from hell. Everything that goes wrong pitches me into panic mode. Ohmygod, __________ isn’t working. I think I’ll go ballistic. (Should one confess to such things on her blog? Well, I’m probably not alone in this form of insanity.)

The more little gadgets and capabilities I own, the worse it gets. Once upon a time, I had a little box called a Mac SE, which gave way to ever bigger boxes and then back down in size to just a monitor and then to even smaller MacBooks. The littlest Macs are iPhones and iTouch/iPods, but I haven’t gone there yet. There’s no telling what could go wrong with something I can hold in my hand.

So, after much teeth gnashing and nail biting, my cable is back up, my Internet connections are working, my junk mail box is full again, and my iDisk is back in its cloud. What more could one ask, except maybe for the sun to shine on a weekend, since it is June; and, at this rate, I will never get a tan. But I digress.

Really, at the moment, until the next storm, it’s all good.