Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Back, Live on the Web!

Verizon has finally fixed the problem (fingers crossed!), and my websites are back on the air! Yay!

That's the good news. The bad news is, Google is changing their search algorithms for searches made from smartphones, and web sites that are not optimized for mobile viewing are going to be severely demoted in the search rankings. Mobilegeddon.

Yeah, that would be me. This blog, apparently, is okay. But my author page and my writing course are both in plain html, and I don't know how to optimize them without rebuilding them from the ground up. Yes, I have been meaning for years now to make a transition to Wordpress, because that seems to be the way to go. But who has the time? I have a book to finish! Augh. 

I know this is something I need to do, anyway--probably by hiring someone to do it for me. But when? I just don't know.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Websites Still Down, No thanks to Verizon

Both of my websites have been down since last week, thanks to Verizon botching an upgrade to the connection between them and my hosting service, SFF Net. This affects both my author website at www.starrigger.net and my online writing course at www.writeSF.com. If you click either of those links right now, you'll get nada.

I am just one of a large number of authors affected by this, and other Verizon corporate customers as well. The fact that this has been going on for almost a week now gives you a pretty good indication of how well Verizon takes care of its customers. (But I'm sure our business is important to them!)

This means if you happen to be reading one of my ebooks, and you get to the end, and find a link to see "more ebooks by Jeffrey A. Carver," you can click the link all night, but you won't see bupkis except for error messages.

Repair updates continue to stream at https://twitter.com/sffnet, offering alternately hope and despair. 

Hosting sites like mine is SF Net's business. They must be about ready to fall on their swords. Don't, guys! We'll get through this.

Verizon technical support

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Infinity Link for the Price of a Buck!

It’s been over a month since I’ve had a big book sale, and let me tell you, it shows in the sales numbers. Jeez, people, don’t you ever buy anything that’s not on sale? I don’t mean you people, of course. Of course you’ve been buying my books, and bless you! No, I mean all those other people who have been choosing to spend their money on—I don’t know what, shoes for their kids, or cocaine, or other people’s books. Enough of that, I say.

Starting today, and for a limited time only, you can snag yourself a copy of the first book of mine that really got “serious” attention, and my first monster epic that took years to write. Yes, The Infinity Link. (No, not The Infinite Sea. That’s my other “infinite” book, intended to keep you on your toes.)

Anyway, here’s what it looks like, with a lovely cover by David B. Mattingly. And right below are the places where—for a limited time only!—you can get your ebook for just $.99. As I never tire of telling the world, that’s way less than a cup of coffee, for reading pleasure that will last long after those gritty coffee dregs grow cold. Act now!

(Is this a Bookbub special? Of course it is!)  

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Friday, April 17, 2015

My Five-Minute Essay on Hello Horatio

Hello Horatio is a brand-new website featuring a lot of short essays on this or that, with the common thread being an interest in saying something personal about the deeper meanings of life, and generally sharing our stories. The name Horatio comes from the line in Hamlet: “There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The unstated (at least so far) goal of the site is to encourage open conversations among people of faith, of different faiths, of secular faith, or of no faith at all—in short, to quit worrying about how we label ourselves or each other, and to share what we think about things that matter. I chose to share why I find science fiction to be such an important way of thinking about life and my place in it. It’s called “A Fine View of the Universe,” and here’s how it starts...

“A few years ago, a new remake of an old TV show hit the airwaves and created quite a stir. The show was Battlestar Galactica, and its arrival in the form of a four-hour miniseries signaled a creative breakthrough...” [read more]

I was a little startled to see that my daughter also has a piece just up, called “A Car Accident Rescued Me from My Wrong Life.” It starts...

“I'm so glad I got hit by a car...” [read more]

Surely that should get your attention. Take a look at some of the other essays while you’re there. They're all short, and pretty interesting.

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Websites Down, with a Little Help from Verizon

On the off-chance you've tried to look at either of my websites* in the last day or so, you were no doubt disappointed. They've been down, thanks to something Verizon did somewhere near Dallas, Texas. And they're still down.
 *My author website at starrigger.net, or my free online writing course at writeSF.com.

My websites are hosted by SFF.Net, which for many years has provided reliable email and web-hosting at a reasonable price to a sizable chunk of the SF community. One thing I've always liked about SFF Net is that if you have a question or problem, you can shoot them an email and often have a friendly and helpful reply back within the hour. For many years, they've hosted my writing site for free or for a discounted price, simply because the course (nonprofit) is written primarily for kids, and they like to help kids.

SFF Net in turn is linked to the internet through its connection to Verizon. And when Verizon made some change without warning, all of SFF Net's websites went down, too. Apparently it was a pretty drastic (and destructive) change, because almost two days later, they're still down--while SFF Net waits for Verizon to provide needed technical assistance, allegedly sometime today. (They're keeping us updated via their twitter feed.)

So thanks, Verizon, for being right there to help when you're needed! Uh-huh. But seriously, thanks, SFF Net, for being such a great hosting service. Even when lumbering giants trample over all your good work.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Nomorobo Beats “Rachel at Cardholder Services”

Rachel has such a bright, charming voice, and I’m sure she’s only trying to sell me something good. But I don’t know, because I’ve only ever hung up on her before she could finish her pitch. Like, about a thousand times. You may know her, too. Especially if you have a landline in the U.S.

Do you know about NOMOROBO? If you’re driven crazy by robot spam callers as I once was, go at once to nomorobo.com and sign up for the free call-blocking service. Nomorobo was the winner of a competition sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission to find a way to stop infuriating marketing calls—and it really works! It’s like an anti-virus program for your computer. It screens incoming calls, and if the numbers match profiles of known spammers, it rejects the calls after one ring.

Here’s the only catch: It works only on landlines that use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). But that’s most of the majors. I have Comcast, and I had no idea our phone calls went by VOIP. But they do. The sign-up is not quite as simple as they make it out to be, but neither is it as complicated as their instructions make it seem. It took me fifteen or twenty minutes to work through it. And once you’re registered, that’s it. You’re protected against most nuisance calls.

I had gotten to the point that when our landline rang, I often didn’t even bother to get up to see who it was; I just knew it was probably a spammer. Now, I listen—and if it rings once, then stops, I high-five the air. Because Nomorobo has just kicked a robot call back to the netherhells from whence it came.

Let’s hear it for the invention of the year!

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I’ve Cast Off the Yokes of Sickness and Taxes!

For much of my last week I have been occupied by twin plagues: getting through my first miserable cold of the season (Spring is here!), and finishing my tax returns. On one return, I owe money, and on another I get money back, and so on. Life is good!

Did you know that if you live in Massachusetts, but you get paid to teach at a weekend workshop in Vermont, you wind up having to file a tax return to the Green Mountain State as well as the Bay State? As well as the United States? Probably you didn’t know, and I’m betting you didn’t care. But you do.

But wait. Did you know that if you put solar panels on your roof to generate electricity and help the planet, no one can tell you—not the IRS, not the online tax advisors, not Turbotax—whether the solar energy credits you eventually get from the utilities are taxable income? Or if they are, how you balance them against the money you spent putting up the panels. You’d think the IRS would have a position on the question. But apparently they don’t. You’re on your own with that one, buddy.

Well, who cares now, because it’s all signed and done, and I went out rollerblading to celebrate! And then I came home and made a nice, fresh batch of frozen margaritas!

I do love frozen margaritas.


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter, 2015!

Whether you celebrate the day as a holiday of faith, or a holiday of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, or both—have a beautiful day!

This picture from Muir National Monument seems to fit the occasion.


Saturday, April 04, 2015

Our Sojourn in San Francisco Bay

Well, not in the bay, but in the bay area. We’ve just returned from a trip west, visiting my brother and his wife, who are visiting scholars this year at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. We got to see lovely Palo Alto and Stanford itself, which besides advanced study boasts two fantastic art museums, and the Herbert Hoover Tower, which houses the former president’s library as well as a great observation deck. Here’s a picture from Wikipedia (I forgot to take my own).

I’m not entirely without snapshots, though. One day we drove to and through San Francisco, and over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Muir National Monument, which is an island in the middle of beautiful state parkland, and the home to a gorgeous redwood forest. It took us a while to get there, but the walk through the redwoods was well worth it. So was the view from the low mountain slopes back across San Francisco Bay toward the city. These pix don’t really do them justice.

If you zoom way in, you can see the San Francisco skyline.

Treebeard would approve. Maybe these are the Entwives?

Another day we drove south to see elephant seals lounging on the beach, gathering their strength for a nine-month swim that would take them thousands of miles across the ocean, eating and swimming, until their return for mating season on this beach next year. Did you know elephant seals can dive to 1500 feet and stay down for an hour, while holding their breaths? On the beach, they look like enormous stuffed dog toys, idly flicking sand onto their bodies with their flippers.

On the final day, we visited the Cantor and Anderson art museums. Here's Rodin's "Thinker," one of seven castings made by Rodin.

The driving game of choice in Palo Alto, by the way, is seeing how many Teslas you can spot per trip. It didn’t take long to develop Tesla envy.

It was a short visit, but memorable. Remind me to get an appointment to Stanford the next time I’m on sabbatical!

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