Mar 21

Net Connections

A writer must have a reliable ISP and it helps if it's a fast one. I used speedtest.net to test my upload and download speeds and so should you if you suspect that your speeds are slower than they were.

My HughesNet satellite connection, although reliable, had become so slow I could do calisthenics or watch 5 minutes of TV while connecting, and there was no way it'd let both my computers work at once. This poor performance crept up on me over 3 years of service and I accepted it as the norm, the price one pays for living away from the big city. Then I heard about the Verizon JetPack. It will support up to 10 devices on the Verizon network, one of those being the ISP transmitter which uses their 4G network. They offer a two-week trial. So I got one.

Joy! It was a simple compact thing that plugged in, needed a password and then began instantly to work. Still, though. . . I live in one of Verizon's "extended service" (read "fringe") areas and I could get online within a few seconds but couldn't stream "Gangnam Style" worth a darn. I speed-tested the JetPack. In this fringe area it scored about .8 mbps. The HughesNet actually did equal or better, in its best test scoring 1.35,  but the JetPack gave me that little edge -- seconds instead of minutes to get online, especially after 5 p.m.

Now what? Back to PeoplePC and dialup? (There's no DSL out here.) I called HughesNet to cancel because the JetPack was better at firing up. But they offered me an upgrade for the same price and a 30-day trial. Installers came, and in an hour I had oh-wow downloads between 8 and 10 mbps and now can watch the nightly weather report online and get rid of my TV -- which had just begun charging $8 more a month for fewer channels. I didn't even get CNN anymore! I phoned and said, "I don't get to charge more for reduced service. Why do you?" and they trimmed $6 off my monthly bill because I complained.

Why didn't I look into all this sooner? Your ISP is a crucial tool and should make you proud. If not, you have alternatives. Seek them out; don't waste the time you could be spending on writing, editing, attending webinars, or connecting with your writing community.
Apr 25

A Nation of Artists

I think the creativity I see all around me is getting to critical mass and we are about to become a nation of artists.

The Internet has its users making their own films, posting their own writings and music and art, organizing and collaborating, and sharing ideas, opinions, and new software. But the Internet is only part of the arts revolution. The postal carrier does crafts; the doctor paints; the street kid makes up poems; the stay-at-home mom does Japanese-style gardening; the teenager designs and sews her own clothes; Grandma writes and publishes her own cookbook.

Somewhere I read that "The M.F.A. is the new M.B.A." and I believe it. Employers used to shun "creative types," thinking them too dreamy or weird to become compliant worker bees. Now these companies are clawing the walls to get creativity.

During the T'ang Dynasty, if a man wanted a high-level job he had to go to the regional capital and take exams. One of the tests was whether he could write a good poem.