I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Some Things Just Drive Me Crazy!

   I'm in that wonderful place called Oh-Crap-I-Have-To-Put-My-Income-Taxes-Together  and I'm going a little crazy. 

For me, despite all my promises- following the visit to the tax prep folks- to be more organized the next year, to diligently keep all the receipts together including medical mileage, and monthly statements from the health insurance people, tax time looks like a big storm blew through my living room and dining room carrying with it forms, receipts, lists of what needs to be recorded on the form sent by the tax prep people, and torn pieces of 5 x 7 index cards with category labels scrawled hastily on them.

The process inevitably involves a call to the bank or the stockbroker for some missing 1099 (which will absolutely show up the day after I get the taxes done.) Today the stockbroker informed me that in order to send me the confidential info via email, they would need to first send me an invite of sorts, to an online site where I must devise a super secret password, then go back, after said password is accepted- just wait- and plug it into the online site that asks for the secret word.

Alrighty then. I found the place for the super secret password construction. I imagined as a 30 year former teacher and a current aspiring writer that I would breeze through that baby, get my info, and move on to the next tax chore, uh section.

There were 8 steps to creating a "successful" password. Most were the usual mandates: 
  • you MUST have at least 8 characters 
  • you MUST have at least one numeral 
  • you MUST have at least one lower case letter and one upper case letter. 
Then I was stumped.
  • You MUST have one non-alphanumeric character.
Okay, what the heck was an alphanumeric character so I could be sure to include a NON one???
The teacher in me said: break the word apart and figure it out...alpha sounds like alphabet so maybe it means letters and numeric refers to numbers. 
So are they telling me I have to include something that isn't a letter or a number? 
What do I have to do, create a cypher  or a new language in order to get my financial statement?????

The only thing left on my keyboard beside the TAB, CAPS LOCK, SHIFT, and ENTER buttons were the asterisk, ampersand, parentheses and the like. It seems to me that we're always being reminded to leave out symbols like dashes, dollar signs, and percent signs. Now someone is refusing to give me access to my own account unless I stick in some kind of squiggle? 
Well, here's what I think about that      ^#&**@# !!!

Of course, it took me 10 minutes of trying a wide variety of passwords until I happened upon the stick-in-a-squiggle idea.  Then it only took three minutes to get the actual info I needed, and that included the printing time. Sheesh! Some things just drive me crazy!

While I'm grumbling over passwords, does it bother anyone else that we need to remember so many different kinds of passwords??

There's the PIN for the ATM, and the phone, if you want to protect information and numbers from prying eyes. Then there's the user-name and password to sign in to some email accounts or web sites. And then just when you think you can remember all those- unless you use the same on for everything with is a very big NO-NO we're told, you are treated to secure emails leading to secure sites that need secure super secret passwords that are multi-syllabic, ancient language-based, having  no sequential numbers or letters in them and need  NON-ALPHANUMERIC CHARACTERS!

I know we're told not to keep a list of said user-names and passwords just in case someone breaks into my house and bypasses all things of value and heads right to the computer and scours the desk for the list of my user-names and passwords in order to possess the key to all my wealth and blog posts. But hey, I'm keepin' one of those lists just in case my brain spazes out and I can't remember which non-alphanumeric squiggle I chose in which password.

So what drives YOU crazy???

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Help-Out-Others campaign

I suppose I could tell these in the title order but I'd much rather get rid of the bad first and move on to all the positive stuff :-)

The Bad.    

I've taken all the lessons to learn how to use my white cane  correctly. I've done the day walks, the night walks, the walk-with-your-eyes-closed walks [only with my trainer, of course] and I've made the necessary changes and improvements. Then last week, I had the 'perfect storm' of conditions, on the sidewalk I had my town fix/replace for me.

I fell.

The cane tip swept over the edge of the cement, the grassy area happened to be lower than the cement area, the tip happened to get caught in the quarter inch opening between cement squares, and the flexible band in the cane meant to give the walker some, well f-l-e-x-i-b-i-l-i-t-y popped that cane right into my ribs, knocked the breath out of me and I came face-to-face with the sidewalk.

Let me say....big time OW-CH!!!

 I thought I'd cracked my wrist, my kneecap, and a few ribs.

Someone was watching over me, though, and sent a guardian angel in the form of the gentleman who does maintenance around our condo complex. He saw me sprawled on the pavement [not a pretty sight], pulled over his truck, helped me up, and drove me home THE BLOCK. Yes, this event took place one block from my home. After a whole morning of taking the bus and train to do errands. Hmm... I seem to remember reading that most accidents take place within a mile of one's house. Who knew that included close encounters of the pavement kind.

The good part of this bad news is the x-rays the next day showed nothing broken. [Yeah let's hear it for having some extra body padding. I bet those knobby-kneed, skinny chicks would have broken their bones!]  
So I'm hobbling around making alot of "ow" and "ooh", sounds and an occasional  curse word. And don't get me started on the joys of underwire bras and bruised ribs! [Oh too much information? Sorry]

The Good.

 I applied to go to the Highlights Foundation Writers' Workshop week at Chautauqua, NY. It costs mucho dinero, but everyone I've spoken to who has been says it's so worth it; mentally, emotionally, maybe even spiritually changing for your writing career. And I was accepted! I was given some scholarship money. [three cheers!]

So the week of July 16-23rd, I will be living, breathing, sleeping writing, surrounded by writers, and a complete enclave of creativity. Oh, and did I mention that in Chautauqua, all summer, there's a festival of music, theater, lectures, and art going on???? 
And of course, writing. 
I thought the national/international SCBWI conference in LA last summer was overwhelming and stimulating and full of creativity. Be still my heart, will I survive this writers heaven in July?

Just a teeny tiny additional point...that's the week of my birthday. Happy Birthday to me, but it's peanut butter for breakfast and lunch until then. :-)

Help-Out-Others campaign

We've all  been shocked, horrified, and saddened by the trauma and tragedy in Japan. When writers in England put together an auction to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross, they were overwhelmed with offers to help.

So some American authors, Greg R. Fishbone among them, picked up the gauntlet and set up a site called Kidlit 4 Japan. Authors and editors have offered signed books or  manuscript or query letter critique for people to bid on. It started this week and will continue for probably the next 2 weeks. There are picture books, middle grade books, YA books, as well as writing craft books and services. If you don't need anything for yourself, consider family members, or others who might appreciate an autographed book. Not to mention, you'll be helping out those who need our help in Japan. I made a bid and will find out tomorrow afternoon if I am the winner.
Here's the link if you're interested:  Kidlit 4 Japan

Here's another opportunity to help out others.

This coming weekend, an organization near and dear to my heart [and eyes] The Foundation Fighting Blindness [FFB], will hold their VisionWalk at Piedmont Park, rain or shine [and right now it looks like it will be rain]. Donations are used to fund research to find treatments and cures for individual losing their sight [like me] to retinal degenerative diseases including Retinitis Pigmentosa, Macular Degeneration, Stargaardts [ juvenile macular degen], and Usher's Syndrome [severe hearing loss coupled with vision loss]. 

I know when I've contributed to other charities, I wonder if my  5, 10, or 20 dollars even make a difference. Let me tell you, they do. Before treatments or drug therapy is approved, there must be human clinical trials. Did you know that each trial can cost millions of dollars? These clinical trials are usually delayed not for lack of participants or lack of treatment plans, but simply because there's not enough money to conduct them. And every week or month or year they're delayed means hundreds of people, including kids, lose more sight. Sometimes all of it. 

So please believe that every dollar, any dollar, is useful and can help out others. Maybe even someone you know [like me] or a family member.

Donations can be sent in through May so don't let the passing of the actual walk worry you. On behalf of the Board of Directors of the local FFB chapter, I thank you, those who have already donated and those who might, for considering this organization. 
Your donation, by the way, is tax-deductible and can be made anonymously if you like. Here's the link:
FFB VisionWalk

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Return From the Great Beyond

       Before you start wondering about the title, let me tell you that I have been without Internet access for 2 weeks.

That's half of a month, or14 days, or 336 hours....well you get the point. It has felt like for-ever. It really does feel like I have  returned from another time and place.

Was this "Sabbatica" planned? Nope. 
Was it intentional? Nope. 
Was it by choice? Nope. 

It was created by my desire to "upgrade" my Internet access. Woopee, it didn't work. At all. 

Not only did the Internet speed not increase, it decreased. Then it stopped completely. 

And the email? Well for a few days I could receive mail but could not send it, then it stopped too.

The reason I was bummed by this has to do with the non-profit organization I volunteer for, The Foundation Fighting Blindness. Our fundraiser walk is the end of March and I was planning to contact more people about a donation. Not without Internet.

    I hear you saying: just call up the provider and get some tech help, right? Yeah, four techs later- and I mean after looooong phone conversations with 2 techs and 2 standing-in-your-house tech visits- I still didn't have connection. 

Oh, and let me tell you about the many, many, many reps I had the privilege to speak with; all of whom asked me if I had called for tech help yet.  
Each one preceded to inform me that the previous rep was incorrect in the information I had been given.
The correct-now incorrect-now-correct-now-incorrect conversations went something like this:

Rep: You need to cancel the  blah-blah service and then we can put in a ticket for the former blah-blah service you had.
You have to wait 48 hrs after canceling one service before putting in the next service.

Rep: You need to put in an order 24 hrs after canceling one service. 
Me: I already did that, 2 days ago. 
Rep: There is no record of canceling the blah-blah service.
So I'll put in an order ticket for the new (old) service. It will begin in 48 hrs.

Me: I was told 2 days ago an order was put in for the blah-blah service and it hasn't started yet. 
Rep: There's no record of requesting to go back to the old service. Obviously the person you talked to didn't follow through. I'll put in the request, it will be 48 hrs before it goes into effect (now 2 days later than originally promised.)

Me: Where is my service?????
Rep: The computer says you never returned the equipment for the blah-blah service and we can't request the new (old) service until you return it.
Me: I sent it UPS 4 days ago and here's the tracking number to prove it. (Rep goes and checks it and comes back to say it had, in fact, arrived but was never recorded)
Me: Now that you've noted the return of the blah-blah equipment, why don't I have Internet yet?

Rep: Oh, we can't switch you back to the old service; it doesn't exist in your area.

Me: How can that be? I'm in a multi-family community and my neighbors have it.

Rep: Well the computer says you can't get it.

After threats to go to the TV consumer advocate fix-it guy and an interlude of canned music, PRESTO! The old service was available in my area and a service ticket was put in to begin...you guessed it, in 48 hrs.

Here's the best part... after each conversation, the rep-knowing that the convo had been recorded on their end- mentioned that their goal was to provide excellent service and if I got an email or phone call asked about that specific rep's service, would I say it was excellent? I told them I hoped it was an email because they'd have to provide my Internet service in order for me to answer!

I went through several more reps and promises of 48 hrs before the Internet arrived at 1:00 PM today.

All I can say is if you're thinking of switching to a certain service provider [ no names but it only has 3 letter and one of them is a repeat] that promises the fastest Internet speed and ease of connection.... RUN as fast as you can the other way!!! Don't be fooled by their slick ads or commercials or promises of reduced rates.

Now I have 2 weeks of blog posts from all my blogger buds to read, and a bazillion tweets and Facebook posts to scan. I'll work on the blogs tonight, but if there's something you want me to know that I might have missed on Twitter or Facebook, you better email me the news.

Oh and by the way, that wonderful service provider changed my email address! It's no longer g_handle@ bellsouth.net, it's now g_handle@ att.net

As far as I'm concerned, contact me at: kidlitgail@gmail.com 
I'm seriously thinking of eliminating my connection to this swell company all together.

Sorry about the rant, but it feels good to get it out on the Internet. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow to find out what else happened in the past 2 weeks.