The Internet: Connecting to the World from Rural South Dakota

Linda with the unreliable satellite dish 2017--6-4When we moved back to South Dakota years ago, we contacted a satellite dish company in Rapid City called Wirefree USA, now known as Rapid Choice, and entered into a contract to provide satellite access to our house with Wildblue as the internet provider.

With this system we experienced recurring problems with internet connectivity and slow speeds. After a couple of years, we switched to Hughes Net and after experiencing similar problems ultimately ended up with Exede for our internet provider, based each time on the recommendation of Wirefree USA. At first Exede seemed to work fine, but before long we began experiencing problems with over-running our allotted gigabytes of usage. For an additional monthly cost, we upgraded from our 10 gigabyte plan to 15 gigabytes. Again this seemed to address the problem for only a short period of time. We are now on a 25 gigabyte program with a total monthly cost of over $150.

We do not stream movies; we barely even know what NetFlix does. We live more than a mile from the nearest neighbors, so piracy is unlikely. We turn off our internet connections each time we leave our computers. Still, we’re told, the usage keeps going up. As do the costs.

Even at the inflated cost mentioned above, our service is dismal. Several times in the past few years we have been without internet connectivity for up to a week or more. Wirefree USA cannot send out a repair person without receiving a work order from the internet provider. This then requires us to contact the provider and try to work through a fix over the phone. Sometimes this is successful and other times not.

Wirefree USA satellite dish 2017--6-4The last time we contacted Exede with a connectivity issue, we went through the usual routine of unplugging the modem and plugging it back in, as well as rebooting the entire computer system. When these efforts proved unsuccessful, we were told that there was some kind of disturbance in our area and they had people currently working on the problem. We were told to wait a couple of hours and internet service would probably be re-established. We did this and after a couple of hours still had no internet service. We called the provider again and again they had us go through the routine described above. This, of course, was no more successful than before. When I explained that we had been told that our problems were the result of a disturbance in the area, the representative checked and determined that there was no disturbance shown in our area. Clearly this was an effort by the first representative to simply blow off our problem with a false story. The entire effort took most of a working day.

At this point, the Exede representative set up a work order allowing Wirefree USA to send a maintenance person to fix our problem. The next day we contacted Wirefree USA and were told it would take more time to schedule the work order visit. Shortly after this call, we were contacted by Wirefree USA to upgrade to a new, faster system with a two year contract term. Given the poor performance of upgrades from the various iterations in the past, we declined the offer. The next day, a maintenance visit was scheduled for the following Tuesday– more than a week after we lost internet connectivity.

The issue detailed above is just one of many problems we have experienced with our current system and although the problems always get resolved, it requires a great deal of effort on our part and the results are only temporary.

Now that the system is “fixed,” for example, we have lost internet connectivity for periods lasting from a few minutes to several hours. This happens 4 to 8 times each day at unpredictable hours.

The excessive cost and poor performance of our current system, as well as the less than adequate customer service provided by both Wirefree USA and Exede, have resulted in our exploring other options for obtaining internet service.

What can you learn from these experiences? Ask your neighbors and friends who provide their internet service, and explore every option available to you. And good luck.

Linda at her computer desk 2017--6-4

UPDATE: Before I could post this blog our internet service went out again. The local representative said he could come to do a repair in ONLY (!) 4 days.

So we followed our own advice and consulted a few more neighbors and friends. On the recommendation of a friend on a Wyoming ranch, we visited Verizon, our cell phone company, and in 30 minutes left with a Verizon Jet Pack. We turned it on when we got home and immediately got internet access that will cost us considerably less than what we have been paying.

Another advantage is that when we want to travel, we can simply take the Jet Pack along, so we will have internet wherever we go. Down side: we can’t stream movies– but we don’t do that anyway. After 24 hours, we have explored all the things we normally do on the internet and the Verizon system does them perfectly.

Happy, we called Excede and WireFree USA and told them to come get their equipment, and then spent several minutes convincing them that we didn’t need or want their terrible services any more. Well guess what? They trotted right out here to install our service, but they don’t come back to get their equipment. They will send us a box with instructions on what to return and how to return it, and we must do that within a specified length of time– or they will charge us $300.

Just what we might have expected. Someday soon, with great delight, we will package up their equipment and return it to them. And we’ll be smiling– and emailing our friends through Verizon to tell them all about the experience.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House Writing Retreats
Hermosa, South Dakota

© 2017, Linda M. Hasselstrom

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Promoting Your Writing

AlbertChinaSeriesOne of my heroines in the writing business is Susan Wittig Albert, who besides being the author of the popular China Bayles herbal mysteries and founder of Story Circle Network, a nonprofit organization for writing women, has written books for young adults, books for women on life-writing, and all kinds of work-for-hire books when she was learning her craft. Her Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place focuses on how she made the shift from University professor into a new marriage and writing career. Along the way she provides all kinds of writing advice.

“Marketing,” she says, “is a necessary fact of the writing life.” Many of the writers who question me don’t ask about writing details: they want to know how to market. Almost all of them say, as I do, that they understand the difficulties of writing, but they loathe marketing and don’t know how to do it. Susan Albert agrees.

“Jane Austen never went on a book tour, or put together a brochure advertising her work, or handed out bookmarks.” Modern writers must do these things, and because of the Internet, the emphasis on promotion has grown. Writers are encouraged by publishers to set up web sites, blog, and be on Facebook. She adds, “Writers also do bookstore signings, give library talks, go to conferences, and generally make an effort to flaunt themselves, sometimes with the financial backing of their publishing house, usually not.”

“Usually not.” That’s an important omission. Even writers fortunate enough to publish with big companies often get no promotion budget these days; they are expected to do all this time-consuming self-promotion without pay. And all these activities take time away from the writing that got them published in the first place.

SocialMediaLogosI approach self-promotion with the same attitude I have toward drinking alcohol: moderation. Neither drinking nor self-promotion is really necessary to preserve your life and sanity. Both can provide feelings of euphoria. Over-indulgence in either leads to headaches, and makes you wonder just what you said that left you with a feeling of loathing.

My method is to try to make self-promotion enjoyable but I do have a particular advantage. I couldn’t promote as well as I do without the thoughtful help of an assistant who maintains my website, Facebook page and WordPress blog. She also edits my writing, and decides what gets posted where and when. Because she has alerted me to the way these social media work, I sometimes get ideas that help with the promotion, but mostly I am able to do what I believe I do best. I write.

If you are a writer who needs to promote, look for someone to help. This might be a friend, employee or both (if you’re as lucky as I am), whose skills make promotion enjoyable and understandable. Perhaps you can barter with this person: your skills for his or hers. But don’t be chintzy; remember that unless someone is reading what you are writing, you can’t pay for the electricity to run your computer, so be prepared to understand what promotion is worth to you and compensate accordingly.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House Writing Retreats
Hermosa, South Dakota

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For more information:

These two entertaining blogs found at www.whimseydark.com/blog/ address the difference between pushing yourself on readers and pulling them into your writing.  The reader comments below each blog also have some good ideas.
Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion As an Author Doesn’t Work
Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self-Promotion That Actually Works

Website for Susan Wittig Albert:
http://www.susanalbert.com/

Website for Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles mysteries:
http://www.abouthyme.com/
There are many more titles than the 12 shown at the beginning of this blog, and I own every one of them.

Website for Story Circle Network:
http://www.storycircle.org/
I am a member of this organization and am featured in the Professional Directory here:
Story Circle Network Professional Directory

© 2016, Linda M. Hasselstrom

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Clicking “Like”

Sensory Overload

Sensory overload and emotional turmoil on the internet distracts attention from writing and research.

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The abandoned dogs stare out of the screen with huge innocent eyes.

A bald eagle peers down at me from his perch just over my head.

I seem to hear the cries of abused babies echoing in my office until I click on a photograph of a castle on a misty isle.

A politician stands tall as he utters inanities. A group of young men in kilts play drums on stage.

Within ten minutes of beginning to look at Facebook, my head is spinning as my brain switches moods from anger to pain to pleasure to outrage to pleasure and back down the same trail again. I’m exhausted by the emotional turmoil.

Writing requires sustained attention. I believe most worthwhile activities require sustained attention. The whirlpool of emotion offered by Facebook is so distracting that on the days when I’m writing, I have to stay away from the site until evening.

Of course I empathize with the poor dogs and children and all the other ills being perpetrated in the world. I also appreciate the folks who call to my attention cheerful news focused on the world’s joys instead of its sorrows.

But after a few minutes of the muddle I turn away in frustration.

If I see a lost dog as I drive down the street, pick it up and take it to shelter, I’ve helped that dog’s life improve, at least temporarily. If I give money to charity, ditto. When I send a hand-written note to a friend who’s having a tough time, I’m doing a positive good.

???????????????????????????????Clicking “like” doesn’t fix anything.

I find it contradictory to click “like” under a story of a politician speaking proudly of how he’s misrepresented me today. I don’t like what he’s done at all, though I’m glad to know about it.

More importantly, however, a thousand people could click “like” beneath that story and the politician might never know how much we disapprove of his actions. Unless he has a staff member who keeps in touch with social media, collecting the comments folks who agree with one another make under these news stories, the politician will remain clueless.

To express my opinion in a way that counts, I need to write, call, email or fax my message directly to the congress person’s office.

In addition, I have to be wary of posts that appeal too much to my prejudices. I have to ask is this story true? Rather than ignoring my suspicions, I must go to a reliable site and check for its authenticity before I pass it on. Otherwise, I may simply become one more strand in a web of untruth that’s hard to untangle.

Here’s another problem.

retro letter phone

Don’t just “like” some political story– write a letter or make a call.

I remember the activism of the 1960s, when a lot of folks were protesting the expansion of the Vietnam War. Many of these people believed that marching down the street on a sunny day constituted political action. A few got additional exercise by waving flags or extending middle fingers to those who lined the sidewalks. If the thousands of people marched, and the cameras rolled and the news media showed the waving flags and shouting multitudes on TV screens all across the country that night, perhaps the action had an effect on our leaders. But for many protestors, writing to a Congressperson was just too darn much work.

Similarly, I’m afraid that clicking “like” may become a substitute for taking action. After a half hour on Facebook, righteously hitting that “like” button and writing a few comments under news stories, I might feel as if I’ve paid my dues for my citizenship in this country.

Look at what I’ve accomplished already and it’s only ten o’clock in the morning! I’ve let a lot of people know how much I disapprove of the actions of my state’s representative in Congress. I’ve shown that I empathize with abused dogs and those who rescue them. I’ve demonstrated my love of cuddly animals, birds of prey, a few artists, and I’ve approved of some humorous grammar corrections. Whew! What a workout!

But what have I accomplished?

I haven’t compared the statistics on the percentage of people who use social media to those who vote, because I’m afraid the figures would be depressing. It’s a lot easier to click “like” than it is to study all the issues, drive to the polling place, show ID and register your opinion in a lasting way.

I don’t mean to suggest that Facebook and other social media are without value. Each is a tool, and like any tool can be useful– and may be misused. But on days when I’m deep into a writing project, I intend to limit my time with these diversions for my own mental health.

And when I want my legislators to know how I feel about their actions, I’ll write to them, investing my reasoning, my time, and a stamp to be sure they get the message.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House
Hermosa, South Dakota

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For more information:

How to write, call, or email the White House
http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

How to call or email a member of the US Congress (House or Senate)
http://www.usa.gov/Contact/US-Congress.shtml