Over a Million Emails (but who’s counting?)

photo 2Warning: This blog is a rant.

A few weeks ago I got a new computer. A laptop. A mac. Retina display. Enough storage so I could keep my photos on it without an external hard drive. Super fast. Super exciting. I love(d) it.

My old computer (also a laptop) was six years old. It’s a hand-me-down from my daughter. It had become so slow and ponderous that it took five minutes to download twenty photos—on my new computer that takes less than a few seconds. Did I mention it’s fast?

But there are glitches. It has trouble finding the Internet sometimes. I figure the Internet is invisible—right?—and we all have trouble finding it sometimes. So maybe I’ll make allowances. I’m clearly kidding. Not being able to find the Internet is an issue. But it’s something I can live with as an intermittent problem. Not like the mail thing.

Here are my issues with Macmail.

1. I can’t tell if my mail replies have been sent or not. In Macmail it says yes. But if I go to gmail (which I have redirected to Macmail), it says my replies are still there as drafts. Many of these emails are business or writing related—what am I going to do, write to an agent or a magazine editor and ask if they got my email reply? Hardly. Which means I now need to reply by going to gmail.

2. I can’t open my email messages. That is, when I double click on them (in Macmail), nothing happens. I can’t see any content. I only know that I have a message from, say (like this morning), Writer Unboxed. This is problematic because I’m a regular contributor to Writer Unboxed and I also coordinate guest posts…and now I need to go to gmail to read and reply to those messages, too. Or I need to bother guest contributors, asking them if they’ve received my “thank you for sending in your post” replies. Once again I need to go to gmail to perform a task I should be able to do on my brand new fantastic macbook (did I mention it cost a lot of money?).

3. This one is perhaps the most perplexing and troubling. This morning I noticed (after opening Macmail) that there was a message in the lower left corner of the viewing window; it said MAIL ACTIVITY, followed by: Incoming Messages…135712 of 135712, but it didn’t stay at that number long. As I watched, the number kept growing until it was over 2,000,000. MEH (My Engineer Husband) laughed when I said: “I need to write a blog,” as I dashed out of the room to get my iPhone so I could take a photo. Luckily the computer is so fast it processed those over-2 million messages in a matter of minutes. So fast I didn’t have time to take a photo of the over 2 million, only of the over 1 million message.

Here’s the question. Where did those messages go? (I can’t find them.) I assume they are old, archived messages because they don’t show up anywhere in MacMail, and I boggle at the thought of receiving more than, say, one million messages on Sunday morning…

But here’s the thing. If they are all new messages, and you are one of my over-2-million emailers today, I may not be answering your email anytime soon. For one thing I can’t find it. But more importantly, I’m kinda busy…

P.S. In all seriousness, if anyone from Apple is reading this blog? Please fix Macmail. There are several KNOWN BUGS (from what I’ve read online), and I really feel pretty duped that no one told me I would have problems like these and wouldn’t be able to dependably use email like I always have. I no longer can funnel all my email accounts into Macmail (as I’ve always done in the past). Instead I need to go to each of my three different gmail accounts (toggling back and forth) and to one other email account online at Roadrunner. Not convenient and not cool. That’s all.

Cheers,
Julia

My Shrinking World

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The photo that started me thinking

In my last post I wrote about how addicted much I love Instagram. If anything—since I wrote that post I’ve become even more of a fan. But that’s not what this post is about.

The other day (for the first time ever) I met an Instagrammer in person (@montaukpete)—someone I’d never met before nor do I “know” on Instagram. A guy was getting ready to kayak on the river I pass each morning on my walk. I asked him if I could take a photo of him for Instagram and that’s when he told me he was on Instagram too!

That’s not what this post is about either—not exactly.

I’m also on Facebook where I’m “friends” not just with people who are friends in real life but also (probably like a lot of you reading this blog) lots of other writers and readers, too, most of whom I’ve never met in real life. The other day I posted one of my photos on FB instead of on Instagram (the accounts are not linked and I plan to keep it that way)—

That’s when it happened—and what this post is about. My worlds collided.

First things first: right before I posted the photo, I became friends on FB with two Instagram friends. It was wonderful. One in Montana and one in Norway. The kind of connections we all hope to make in social networking. Friends without boundaries. One of those Instagram friends “liked” that FB photo. But so did my daughter, my cousin, and my son’s girlfriend. A neighbor. The mother of one of my daughter’s friends who has become a close friend. And another two close IRL friends. Then several bloggers who are now also FB friends. Next a couple of friends I’ve also only met on Facebook. A few of these Internet friends I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to on Google Chat, too—and they’ve become IRL friends.

Back to the photo. It was also liked by my hairdresser and a former co-worker who has become a good friend, and a friend I’ve known since high school. That photo brought into sharp focus that I have several different worlds, Instagram being my latest. I also have my world of Mom and family. My world of Facebook and author friends. My world of Writer Unboxed (where I’m a contributor and also an admin assistant). My world of Twitter and blogging that I’ve been part of for over three years. My real world of neighbors and town as a Maine citizen. And the world of my childhood.

But with that one photograph, I also realized that all my worlds are closing in fast to create one small world. Kind of like a reverse big bang. And I have to say, I’m a fan. Now there’s something I like even more than Instagram—because the way I see it, no matter how I find friends (or they find me) I can never have enough of them.

Which leaves me with just this: thank you for being a part of my world, my friend.

How has your world changed with social networking? Have you made friends with people online who have become IRL friends? Do you like your life blended or do you prefer to keep it compartmentalized?

Cheers,

Julia

This post is for the birds

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This post really has nothing to do with birds, except the photo that shows the sweet little sparrows that were perched on one of our skylights this morning, capturing moths and other bugs stuck to the screen in their valiant attempt to make it into our house.  MEH’s comment: “I’m glad someone’s cleaning the screens.”

No, this post really has to do with technical difficulties…again…because this month seems to be going that way. Some have been out of my control (like in my last post) but some, like today’s, self-inflicted. To wit: did you use Google reader to subscribe to and read blogs…like I did? Well, right before I went on my road trip out west, I was reminded (again) by Google that their reader was going away. Imminently. Permanently. Shortly after I returned from my trip.

Like so many things on my list, I “forgot” to do anything. I’m using quotation marks because I willfully allowed myself to forget. Sure, I checked out other readers, but I couldn’t find anything free that I was satisfied with. Sure enough, on the promised date, the reader was no longer available. And I’d done nothing. Which means that every single blog I was subscribed to—every single blog—was lost to me.

Sure, there are some blogs I remember, those that I used to visit every time there was a new post: my regular readers, my blogging friends. But I counted on my reminders. When a new blog came out, I’d see it on Google reader. That’s not the worst of it. The worst is that there were many blogs (about 50) that I’d visit sporadically. I have no idea what these were.

Am I complaining? Yes. I’m even saying I’m mad. At myself. At Google. I’m not happy that there are blogs and blogs out there I must refind and then find a way to keep track of. Or that I will never get my list back.

And I’m also apologizing. I’m sorry I haven’t visited your blogs. Or that I haven’t faithfully read them. I’ve missed you, and I’ll be back soon. But not consistently until I find a new reader that I like…that’s free…that’s easy to use.

So in addition to this post being a gripe, an explanation, and an apology, it’s also a request. If you have had a good experience with the reader you use, please let me know in the comments. I will definitely check it out. And if I’ve ever left a comment on your blog (or even if I haven’t) please leave a comment so I can find your blog again! I can’t wait.

Thank you (and cheers),

Julia

p.s. Meanwhile, it’s summer and lest you think I’m so consumed with these technical difficulties that I’m not enjoying it, I promise you I am. The bird watching alone has been spectacular (the sparrows but also eagles, great blue herons, osprey, mockingbirds, bobolinks among others), and I’m also enjoying the interesting weather that Maine has been having this summer: first we had the terrible Northeast heat wave. Then we had rain and cold. Then humidity and heat. Now cool and damp. The late planted garden is doing very well, and by very well, I mean to say that by December we should have tomatoes… or snow!

 

The Case of the Disappearing Notes

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MEH and I worked computer-to-computer to fix the problem.

It started innocently enough. A friend alerted me that my emails were appearing in her inbox “as spam.” Not good, especially not good because I was beginning to query agents. That’s all I need—to have my queries shuffled off to spam mailboxes and never know what happened to them!

That was the first problem. Then my gmail (that I have forwarded to my mac mail and iPhone mail) started disappearing. Messages would be delivered to one device but not the other. Then my other (Roadrunner email) started acting up—I couldn’t send an email from my iPhone if I was within a certain radius of my laptop (I never figured out how far away I had to be, though). Confused a little? I was confused a lot.

One day everything was working perfectly, the next day nothing worked at all. I followed directions online, deleted all my mail accounts on both my mac and my iPhone and reinstalled them. Things were even worse. I stopped getting any email—at all.

Next I did something no one ever really wants to do. I made an appointment with the Apple store for “genius help.” Unfortunately the guy at the Apple store knew less than I did. He was generally rude and unhelpful…and did I mention apathetic? Turns out, he wasn’t even a genius. I found out when he said: “I could go ask one of the geniuses.” Me: “I thought I made an appointment with a genius.” Him: “They aren’t here all the time.” Me: “When should I come back?” Him: “You can never be sure…”

Did I mention customer unfriendly?

I called Apple. I know what you’re thinking. Now I’ll get somewhere. Yes, this is when I found out that my phone’s serial number was not correct and apparently (unbeknownst to me) the phone I got from the Apple store two years ago was an imposter (code word for they thought I stole the phone). Eventually I was transferred to Nicole, a “Senior Advisor” at Apple. Surely she would know the answer. Nicole: “When did you first notice your serial number was incorrect?” Me: “That’s not why I’m calling.” Nicole: “We can’t help you unless we figure this out. Where did you get this phone?” About forty-five minutes later, I hung up so I could wait for the email Nicole would send me about how to fix my gmail interaction with my iPhone. At least I had successfully convinced Nicole that I hadn’t in fact stolen my phone. But my email still wasn’t working.

Another hour later, after completing all the steps on the instructions Nicole sent, I still was having the same problems with my gmail. I gave up and moved onto the Roadrunner email problems. I did something even scarier than going to the Apple store. I called our internet provider (the one who administers that email account: Time Warner). TWO HOURS and FIVE REINSTALLATIONS OF MY EMAIL ACCOUNT later, I hung up with an increase of TEN DOLLARS a month in my cable bill (because the guy said my email problems were due to too slow an internet connection). This however did not fix my email problem.

That’s when I called in the big guns, did something I’d wanted to do from the beginning but had held off on doing because he’s been on a stressful, deadline-driven project: I called MEH (My Engineer Husband). That night MEH and I sat down, computer to computer, and two hours later my email was working again. All of it.

Now, to be honest, it doesn’t work exactly the way I want it to. If I’m to understand the (approximately) seventy pages of online group notes (read that gripes) and Apple support information, “improvements” in operating systems has caused my email to work differently than it used to. This would’ve been a valuable thing for Apple, gmail, or Time Warner to let me know right up front (they didn’t).

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This is the kind of irreplaceable note I lost.

Oh, and the title of this post—the case of the disappearing notes? Well, sometime in the midst of all this uninstalling, reinstalling, moving, deleting, changing, talking, griping, and general teeth gnashing? I lost every single Note I’d taken on my iPhone. We’re talking observations, character notes, cross-country trip notes, songs I want to buy notes, funny story notes, things I need to do notes. Yes, everything. GONE.

Turns out one other thing no one told me was this: somehow Notes and gmail are integrally tied together—I still don’t know how. Even though I’d never asked for this “feature,” all notes were deleted from my phone the second I deleted the gmail account. So let me be the one to warn you. If you take notes on your phone (like I do) make sure you back them up separately and frequently (via sync-notes in iTunes—I think). Otherwise, you too could end up with…

The case of the disappearing notes. And let me tell you, no writer wants that.

Have you ever had a technology nightmare? I’d love to hear. You know what they say: misery loves company. And if you save notes to iTunes (or otherwise), I’d love to hear how you do that!

Cheers,

Julia

 

 

 

"Dear Betsy, Your thoughtfulness meant so much…"


“Does anyone write hand-written notes anymore?”

This was the lament I heard from a friend over lunch the other day. She is almost a generation older than I am, and we had been talking about blogging and tweeting and email and such. We agreed that things have really changed—certainly in her lifetime and even in mine.

Before my mother died prematurely almost-fifteen years ago, she had just gotten her first laptop, at the advent of email. Before her illness, she was an outgoing college professor and research social scientist, virtually bedridden by emphysema for her last year of life, cut off from many of her colleagues and students. I can’t help but wonder how the last year of her life might have been different if she had been connected via social networking.

In those days, lo those only-fifteen-years-ago, snail mail letters were still king. And my mother could really write a letter—with the cleanest, crispest handwriting you would ever want to see—that could bring you to tears, out of fear or laughter. And although these days I think she would be a blogger, I have no doubt she would also miss the feel of a pen and crisp linen paper in her hands and the finality of licking and sealing an envelope and dropping it in the box.

The fact is that some schools don’t even teach cursive handwriting anymore; one in Colorado now has a Cursive Writing Club assumedly to keep up a dying art. The US Postal Service is in debt to the tune of $12 billion, and it’s shutting down 2000 branches. The way we communicate is definitely changing.

For Christmas, one of my best friends, sent me some cute ornaments for my tree. Tucked into her handwritten card was a photo of her kids, and I kept putting off emailing her, knowing that she would prefer a handwritten note of thanks. Her card and photo sat on my desk for almost six weeks, until finally I logged onto Hallmark.com, found a cute electronic thank you card, and I sent it to her. Then I sent her an email apologizing for the electronic card.

I wasn’t about to do the same thing with Betsy’s. So, this morning, I rifled through my envelope and card drawer for something to use; I found a thank you card and way-too-large envelope (I couldn’t even find a match!). I picked up a pen and started to write: “Dear Betsy, Your thoughtfulness meant so much…” I know Betsy will be happy to get the card, but I was doing it as much for myself. Suddenly all the old familiar feelings of brain connecting with pen connecting with paper reminded me of why I miss the old ways a whole lot more than I realized.

I remembered the journals of my teenage and college years when the feel of a fountain pen on the paper was almost as important as the words I wrote. I thought about all the handwritten love letters my husband and I have exchanged over the years—that my children may send instead through email, SMS, or Facebook. And I thought about the handwritten letters I got from my mother when I was in college, letters that my children may only get from me in a care package of cookies.

I thought about everything I do online: check accounts and pay bills, keep up on the news and weather, look for employment, find information about…everything, keep up with old and make new friends, write, and now blog. And while it’s true that my note to Betsy probably won’t be the last snail mail letter I ever write, the way we communicate is definitely changing.

What do you think? Have you changed the way you communicate or write? Do you miss writing with pen and paper or welcome the electronics way?

Interesting postscript….while researching this blog, I searched on google for “is mail dying” and the entire first page of results were hits about email dying! Anyone ready to take the challenge to write a book on SMS (already a growing phenomenon in Japan) or Twitter (it’s been done)? Get ready for more changes ahead!

Solitude

It’s quiet this week, too quiet.

Yesterday, after 95 days of unemployment, My Engineer Husband (MEH) started a new job. No question, a writer’s life can be pretty solitary, and I miss the companionship and conversation. As I sit and write, an empty chair by my side, my only distraction is the new hangman game on fReado.

It might sound strange, but one of the things I miss most about having MEH around is his animated enthusiasm for new technology and the random science facts he reads about on the Internet….things like:

  • His obsession with gmail and google calendar and apparently all things google—how you can “slice and dice” items in your inbox, the danger yet advantage of cloud storage, and how cool it would be to write an app for google.
  • The funny story about the tree octopus. A literacy researcher at the University of Connecticut conducted an experiment to see if students would believe in the tree octopus, created for a hoax science website, just because it was on the Internet. Apparently they did, leading to the conclusion that students doing research on the Internet have difficulty discerning fact from fiction.
  • The “Mastering Workflow|Processing & Organizing Flowchart” from the David Allen Company, that we now have framed and sitting on the desk. This diagram, using software symbols, is the path to help you get things done or at least slice and dice your way through your gmail inbox.
  • A Madagascar spider—“caught on film, how cool is that???!!”—that lives in abandoned snail shells suspended from bushes. I refused to watch the movie because, even though I started out as a zoology major before switching to journalism, spiders scare me.

All this to say that writing ideas and inspiration come from places you might least expect, like engineering flowcharts and spiders hanging from bushes in shells—and even from the solitude that is the most basic fact of life we writers face.

Postscript: I don’t want to leave this day’s blog without adding that (probably needless to say) we met the end of unemployment with great joy and relief. As with many other individuals and families who are still dealing with unemployment, we faced serious, potentially devastating consequences when we lost MEH’s salary. My heart and thoughts go out to all of you who are coping as we are with this overwhelming, life-changing struggle.