Jeffrey’s Jammin Birthday Bash

Join me to find out how I like my new job, the exciting plans I have for the upcoming year, and so I can give a personal thanks for your personal friendship!

Please note, the official start time is 20:00 because I want to make sure not to start it before I finish my first full day of work at the new job. If I finish sooner, I will open the room earlier. This is, after all, an exciting time for me. My first new job in 18 years, and the first of four steps on the route to make me a better man, and much, much happier!

This event is opened to everyone who claims to know me! All of my software colleagues, all of my fellow authors, fellow science readers, fellow Doctor Who fans, fellow cosplayers, fellow Electric Car drivers and enthusiasts, all of my Equal Rights Amendment sisters and brothers in arms, all of my National Popular Vote Interstate Compact supporters, all of my avid gaming friends, all of my friends abroad except those in Europe—have your kip, mates—all of my fellow Toastmasters, all of my fellow aviators, all of my fellow musicians, tous mes amis qui parle français oder Deutsch или по-русский o italiano, my acting friends and my friends who eschew meat!

The only thing I ask is you be respectful, kind, and know that I hope you all consider any friend of mine a potential friend of yours!

There is a password to this event. It’s not hard to guess if you know me but if you want to know, and you are reading this on from Twitter, message me, on Tumblr, message me, on LinkedIn, again, message me, or join me via the Facebook event. Or, just comment on this blog, with your email address, and I will mail it to you.

See you all next Wednesday!

Meeting does not exist: 83969414860.

Tesla OS 2020.16.2.1

Finally!

TeslaFi had been spamming me with news about TeslaOS 2020.16 for a while and I’ve been itching to see what, after giving us the amazing stop at a stop sign in the last minor update.

Turns out, not much. I am mostly unimpressed by Tesla with this update, though nonetheless very appreciative. Autoformatting a DashCam drive—I wonder if it supports 2TB yet—and a better layout for Easter Eggs are, after all, improvements, even if the Easter Eggs aren’t really hidden gems anymore.

The coolest new feature, though, is the new SuperCharger filter, allowing the driver to only see Version 3 stations and filter out all the slower ones. I love the fact that I have free, lifetime SuperCharging, and one of these days, I’m gonna cross the continents with that perk.

Overall, I’m not disappointed despite being underwhelmed. And one rumor is that this, or a soon to be released version will add V2G to the Tesla. I can’t wait until that rolls out as the Tesla Battery Pack may make for a new, mobile Powerwall. Mind you, even if #CO2Fre could do V2G, my house isn’t equipped for it anyway. So, even if it doesn’t have V2G, it’s still a cool update!

Tesla OS 2020.16.2.1
Tesla OS 2020.16.2.1 adds a new toy box interface, a SuperCharger filter, and auto-formatting of DashCam media. © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Gentle reader, if you have been keeping up with me since 11 February of this year, you know that I have been posting once a day since then. As such, today marks a hundred days of a hundred daily posting. Through that, I’ve shared with you exciting electric car news, updated to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, my struggles to get the Equal Rights Amendment to be our Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, written about my many works of fiction, and the many books of nonfiction I voraciously read to be a better scientist. I’ve shared with you my cosplay adventures, and my love of Doctor Who, my love of games, and a bit of my speaking in tongues as well as delivering speeches and singing to my heart’s content. I’ve talked about international travel and how I love to fly there in my own plane, discussed my acting and my dietary needs. And most of all I’ve told you I’m an excellent coder who is always keen for new work. Thanks for riding with me as we cruise upon the cloud to another one hundred posts!

When Zoom Fails, Google Meet to the rescue

This morning, I had set up The Hourlings on Zoom early, before I went to bed, hoping, if I ran late, the meetup would already be set up, Marty would be early, and I could make him co-host in case I still needed time to read before we began at 10:00.

Instead, to my delight, my friend Cynthia was the first to log in around 09:30 and we had a few minutes to chat about life and her adorable Clove. I really admire Cynthia, or Max as she’s sometimes called. She writes some great LGBTQ literature and is a great guide of conscious for me. She’s also an ex-Marine. Sempre Fi, my friend!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get her video working, so, thinking that it would be as simple as restarting the meeting, I did just that. She promptly requested to rejoin and I accepted, looking forward to continuing our conversation.

It failed.

We tried again. No dice. I created a new Zoom event. That didn’t work. I asked the account owner to try. Still no success. It was already 10:00 and almost everyone was waiting to get in. I accepted them all, but none of them could connect.

Finally, our unofficial moderator, Evan Friedman brought up an instance of Microsoft Teams. He, Marty, and I verified its feasibility a while ago, so I knew it could work and joined the Teams meeting. The nice thing is now Teams allows virtual backgrounds, which was cool. But, unfortunately, Teams was as wickedly hard to invite people into as before.

Meanwhile, Marty set up a Google Meet account. Back when we tried Google Meet before when I created a Google Apps account. Back then, you had to pay for a Google Meet account by having a Google Apps account, and the Google Meet didn’t have a grid view, however, it already accommodated a lot of people.

In the end, we went with Google Meet and decided to make that Meet event out official backup for whenever Zoom misbehaves again, though we shall still default to Zoom. Unfortunately, my nightmare hair isn’t hidden by Google Meet’s cameras like it is in Zoom, so I must have looked atrocious today. I wish the Hypochondriac would let me use my hair trimmer.

Google Meet
Google Meet

We found out during the meeting that we weren’t the only ones straining for Zoom capacity. Fortunately, there is a Zoom Status we can check the next time this happens, so we’re not left trying so hard to beat a dead TimeHorse. And the Zoom system was back up, just in time for us to finish our meeting.

Unfortunately, because of all the kerfuffle and notifications, I missed a 13:30 Zoom I was planning to attend. But at least I got to hang out with my fellow writers. Thank you for reading, and I should now get back to writing.

Writers’ Happy Hour

Today we had our second Writers’ Happy Hour and we had even more folks than last time, if you can believe it. Unfortunately, I had to miss most of it because of my Job Search. Fortunately, my good friend and most excellent author Martin Wilsey stepped up to do introductions and get the conversational ball rolling.

Of course, there wasn’t time for me to get comfortable when the business call was over, as then someone wanted me to get Hulu working on her iPad. It wasn’t until 20:45 that I was finally able to dedicate some time to our exciting and free-form happy hour discussion, missing the first one hundred and five minutes. But for the bits I did attend, I had a lot of fun, and I think everyone else did too.

A couple things though did come up when Marty and I considered the post-mortem discussion. For our second Writers’ Happy Hour we had a few people dominate the conversation while others may have felt left out and thus exited early. Marty and I are thinking of ways to engage the shier folks to get them to feel more comfortable participating in the discussion.

Marty also informed me of the devolution of conversation into technical jargon of a non-writing nature. I missed it but agree that we need to steer conversations clear of such non sequiturs. We welcome all topics of discussion, but we must try to avoid fixating on a topic only a handful of participants understand.

Finally, there is the third rail of politics. Marty and I may be of different political bents but we first and foremost respect each other. Not all writers are progressive or conservative and we need to realize that and not demonize folks of a political leaning different from our own. As someone who writes extensively about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and the Equal Rights Amendment, I know first-hand how important it is to be non-partisan and respect differing political leanings while sticking to the facts. In future, Marty and I will be mindful of that too.

Overall, though, a great Writers’ Happy Hour with great conversations and delicious beverages. Of course, my beverage of choice is always Hydrogen Hydroxide, and I enjoyed every sip. Thank you for reading, and now back to writing.

Bessie with #CO2Fre

Twice the Electric Car Fun

Today, I attended two, virtual Electric Car events. First, my friend Mark Czajka hosted the first MDVolt virtual meetup. We met Tom Moloughney from InsideEVs. Unfortunately, I was multitasking though this meeting as I also host the Loudoun County Writers Group (LCWG) on Saturday mornings. Normally, I would skip my writing group on Saturdays for one of Mark’s MDVolt events, but this time, I could cheat and attend both, because they were both virtual.

I haven’t spoken much about the Mini-E — so far only in my EVSE installation post — but this car has been on my mind a long, long time.  When the leases were announced for 2009, I jumped on the chance to get one of the 500 East Coast orders.  But alas, my region wasn’t one of the privileged ones, so there was no Mini-E for me.  On the bright side, at least I saved over $800 per month for the last 2 years!

Two Years and 119 Cars! (Today)

I’m so jealous Tom got one of those Mini-Es. I was very desperate to get one back in 2011, when I wrote about it on the Affordable Electric Car Now site, as you can see from the quote above. Tom and I have both been writing about electric cars since 2009 so it’s nice to hear from a kindred spirit. One of these days, I hope he invites me to one of his barbeques.

It was also wonderful seeing my friend dear friend Vanessa Thomas at Mark’s event. She was nice enough to come to my virtual demonstration of #CO2Fre and it was wonderful seeing her here, even if it was hard to see anyone on my tiny phone—LCWG got the computer. Fortunately, Mark uploaded to YouTube, so I could finally the event and focus fully on the content. Check me out in the Pinball video.

Pity I couldn’t show off Bessie with #CO2Fre.

Bessie with #CO2Fre
Picture is #CO2Fre with the Doctor’s car, Bessie © 2020, Jeffrey C. Jacobs

Mark and I agreed we’d not embed the video here, but if you’d like to watch it, you can find it here.

Electric Car Event Number 2

Then, in the afternoon, my friend Charles Gerena from Drive Electric RVA hosted an event with Phil Englander at Hart Nissan in Mechanicsville. Phil gave a great walk-through of the latest Nissan LEAF. Great presentation, Phil and great seeing you again Vanessa. She and I were the only people to join both events!

Phil Englander at Hart Nissan in Mechanicsville walks us through the newest iteration of the Nissan LEAF, which has been sold globally since 2010.

Posted by Drive Electric RVA on Saturday, May 2, 2020

So nice to talk about electric cars since it’s been far too long for me since I was able to cruise on the cloud.

When Zoom Online fails, phone it in

Today, at Reston Writers Review, we had a major Zoom snafu. One of our writers was having a dickens of a time trying to communicate through the Zoom interface when we were reviewing her piece. We had a similar problem on Sunday with The Hourlings but were able to solve that with the person being reviewed just shutting off her video and only using the microphone.

Today, even that didn’t work. One member had to leave the meeting, the connection was so bad and even when the woman being reviewed turned off her video, her voice was still astoundingly choppy.

The only thing for it was to use the backdoor option provided by Zoom: the telephone interface. I hastily logged into the Zoom account provided to me, copied the full meeting info from the Zoom side—including the dial in numbers for connecting to Zoom on the telephone—and, finally, our author was back in the meeting.

Overall, it took about 10 minutes for us to fix all the difficulties listed above, but fortunately we only had five more folks who wanted to give their review, and we were still done by 21:00, our normal meeting end time.

All in all, it was a great and successful meeting despite the glitch. It’s more than likely Internet bandwidth is getting frayed due to an upswing in online meeting. But we adopted and adapted, and improved, just like the motto of the round table suggests.

Thank you for reading!

Meetup Online: It’s Okay to Zoom

As an Internet Security professional, I have heard some folks expressing dismay over various security issues in the Zoom video conferencing package and the MatterMost chat services. I may do a piece on MatterMost at a later date, but for now I want to focus on Zoom because Zoom is what Meetup is suggesting as one of their preferred video conferencing platforms. (The other, Google Hangouts, is limited to ten people and thus isn’t practical for a number of the meetups I run.)

The thing is, many of the earlier security issues which plagued Zoom at the beginning of the recent surge in online meetings have been solved. Tom’s Hardware wrote a very insightful analysis of these issues in a recent article by Paul Wagenseil, Zoom privacy and security issues: Here’s everything that’s wrong (so far).

Most of the issues covered have already been patched, such as UNC password theft under Microsoft Windows. This was a rather insidious security flaw but fortunately the folks at Zoom stepped up to the plate and patched.

iOS profiling also seems to be fixed. Since I do a lot of my Zoom conferencing, with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact grassroots coalition, on the iPhone, this has been a great relief. Now, though, I do most of my meetup Zoom conferences on my laptop.

The decrypting of streams at the Zoom servers and re-encrypting them as they go out to the far-end client is at first blush worrisome, but that in part is necessary for folks recording their zoom sessions and though it puts a vulnerability at the level of Zoom staff, one hopes Zoom is careful with whom it employs. But it must be said, nothing I do on Zoom is something I would be embarrassed about were it to leak. I nonetheless want to do everything in my power to make sure it stays secure and I’m happy to hear Zoom is looking into closing this security flaw.

The auto-download for Macintosh is worrisome but again I am happy to say this practice is also ending as it is a backdoor that Zoom can use to allow third party software onto ones Mac. Zoom also has ceased allowing team profiles to share email addresses, though this is not a feature I’m using for any of my Zoom conferences.

As for recording leaking onto the Internet or folks joining your conference uninvited (Zoom Bombing) or war drive scanning Zoom to find your conference, all of these can be solved by user diligence. It’s important to be mindful of who you let into a conference, and don’t let just anyone have access to your recordings. For my Writing Groups, only myself, the account owner, and the persons being reviewed will ever have access to the recordings, and if the reviewed doesn’t need the recordings, we will delete them.

Also, as of this morning, 5 April 2020, at 0:00 UTC, Zoom now requires passwords on all new Zoom events. Thus, even with a Zoom ID scan, you won’t be able to get into the meeting without the password and although the URL can encode the password in an obfuscated way, simply scanning Zoom IDs will not get you into the conferences. And even if you did, I’d still have to approve you. I won’t.

Zoom
The Zoom Logo

Overall, I’m quite happy with Zoom and hope to use it all through Covidapolis. Overall, I give it this Security Engineers line of approval. And please note, I am available for hire if you like what you see!

Relax—you actually don’t need to sanitize your food

On Sunday, I posted an article about sanitizing your food after you return from grocery shopping. The thing is, the medical professional who posted the original clip went a bit overboard in terms of how sanitary he felt he needed to keep his food once retrieved from the grocery store. The truth is, not everything the doctor says in his video is strictly correct and he is no food safety expert, as has been pointed out to me. However, for the most part my textual commentary doesn’t contradict what I’m about to share and I am happy to give Dr. Don Schaffner his due:

Buckle up, readers, as it’s about to get serious! Thirty-two more tweets, seriously!

Unfortunately, the link above to my original article with take you to that video but if you haven’t hit play on the video, and just read my commentary, you should be fine. Please, trust Dr. Don!

Sometimes I roll my eyes at my fellow writers when they they try to come up with Science Fiction ideas, since I did study undergrad Physics and read a lot of science books. I feel you Dr. Don!

Here here! I already outlined most of what was right in the video in my original post. I think I may have misspoken on how to wash produce but I’ll save that commentary for later.

There’s a bit of nuance to this, but what the good Dr. Don is saying is there is a difference between a random but not yet denatured strand of viral RNA, which in itself isn’t particularly harmful—at least, not infectious—where as a live virus was not observed. As in, the crown-like outer shell of SARS-CoV-2, a.k.a. the Coronavirus, the “Crown Virus”. Without the outer shell and crown-like protrusions, the virus has no way of penetrating cells, be they eukarya, bacteria, or archaea. Note, this pathogen only infects eukaryotes, though most viruses are harmless, only infecting bacteria.

More fundamentally, though, Dr. Dan points out that the CDC Study that came up with the 17-day number for RNA was never published in a peer-review paper where the methodology and techniques used could be scrutinized and dissected. Without the process of peer review, the observation is as good as anecdotal.

This was one of my biggest beefs with the video too. I mean, it’s one thing in the winter in Lansing, MI, where the outside might already be the temperature of your freezer. But that won’t work in Florida, not by a long shot. So unless you’re gonna be like Thomas Jefferson and truck in ice from Canada to keep your food from spoiling, don’t leave your perishable food in the garage!

Exactly!

This is a very good point. One of the ways the SARS-CoV-2 deactivates is through desiccation. If the virus is in a medium that allows it to dry out, it will no longer be effective. This is why spittle from sneezing is the most dangerous.

The virus is highly communicable, to be sure, but its transmission with respect to someone with the virus touching an item on the shelf, putting it back, and then having you grab it is exceedingly unlikely. And by the time you get to it, it’s quite likely SARS-CoV-2 has already dried out and perished.

I have to agree, as different packaging materials will allow the virus to remain active long than others, and again, as state above, it’s unlikely by the time you pluck the item from the shelf that it would still have any active virus on it even if it had once.

Washing your hands before eating should be second nature anyway. As Dr, Don says, you can remove the item from the packaging, put it on a clean plate, and then wash your hands before eating and any contamination on the packaging will have been removed from the equation.

Wørd!

There are good reasons not to use soap to wash your produce and I will admit I got that wrong before. Soap dissolves cell membranes and while most produce is covered by dead epithelial cells—like those on the outer layers of your skin—and thus won’t likely cause cellular damage to your food, but if you slice the food it could spoil its flavor and if you fail to wash it all off and it gets in the nooks and crannies of your consumables, Dr. Don is right, you’re itching for a tummy ache. The oily residue soap normally removes isn’t a big issue on produce and thus a simple water bath should be sufficient for cleaning your produce.

Precisely!

Even the prescient Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis knew that hand washing wasn’t a panascia. It reduces the change of killing a mother giving birth, but even if done right, it isn’t perfect. Soap and water are great for removing both hydrophobic and hydrophilic substances from your person, but not every pathogen is removed by such reactions. SARS-CoV-2 is damaged because of its hydrophobic coating, but the same isn’t true for all toxic substances.

Indeed, human skin has many friendly microbes that help keep the skin clean and fresh. You wouldn’t want to boil those off anyway, even if you could. Love your friendly microbes. Just use soap and water to kill SARS-CoV-2. That M*th*r F*ck*r must die!

This is another good point. Not all handwashes are equal. I try to do a rather complex technique when washing my hands which I may document another day, but the long and short of it is, just rubbing your hands together isn’t enough, and even my technique isn’t one hundred percent effective.

Great point! Early food preservation in wine bottles with their tartaric acid may have worked for Napoleon’s army, but when we started using steel and aluminium cans, or even glass, we had to be very very sure everything was sterile. Watch any number of episodes from Comment C’est Fait (How It’s Made chez É-U.) to see how this is done.

Remember the words of François-Marie Arouet, a.k.a. Voltaire, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” (Perfection is the enemy of good.)

This is one point I did make in my original article. Glad to see my point is backed up by Dr. Don.

This one is simply a caveat emptor. Don’t assume a product can kill viruses. Indeed, there are many ways product makers can use language that makes it seem like it’s effective against pathogens, but unless there is peer reviewed literature to back it up, sorry, it’s not magic. It won’t protect you against SARS-CoV-2 any better than simply washing your hands.

There is something to be said for the security blanket of feeling better. But, yes, they won’t help and are no better than a simple cold-water bath.

Or for treating the fabric of your home made N95 mask.

I like using reusable bags and agree washing them like any fabric is a wise idea. If you must use disposable bags, please use ones that are recyclable or compostable.

In other words, keep your bags close but be more mindful of social distancing and that the bagger uses proper sanitary techniques. But again, the likelihood that someone with the virus has used that same checkout stand recent-enough for the virus to still be active is very likely, and most grocery stores, like Wegman’s will do their best to sanitize the checkout counter between each customer during Covidapolis.

Keeping them in your car is a good idea. I always keep my MOM’s Organic Market bag in my car so it’s ready whenever I go there.

Wash your hands!

I have indeed noticed Wegman’s doing just that. They are, IMHO, doing a great job!

Know what you want, like Low Acid Orange Juice, and head straight over. Keep those two meter buffers to keep safe!

If you can get hand sanitizer, then it’s great when there isn’t soap and water available. But when you have soap and water, always prefer that.

Done in the most complete way possible Dr. Don!

Shelter in place, y’all, and use Zoom to see a friendly face!

Much obliged Dr. Don! Happy to help promote good science, sound food handling, and how to weave a great yarn, and sew a great mask!

Bon appetit, mes amis!

I Am Irate

Google ate me email

From about 2020-03-23T14:30:00Z (10:30 am, Monday) to about 2020-03-23T23:30:00Z (7:30 pm, Monday), Google was redirecting all my email and either bouncing it or deleting it.

I Am Irate
Too angry for words!

Let me repeat, google deleted or bounced my email for Nine Hours, as a part of the setup of my setup for a paid Google Apps account. The setup for these accounts are a bit weird. They require you to create a new google entity with your own company URL. Fortunately, I have multiple domains I own and maintain, including this one, TimeHorse.com.

I probably should have used my writing group domain, RestonWriters.org. After all, the whole reason I wanted to get a paid Google account is because Meetup was moving to Online-Only meetings, following the outbreak of SARS-COV-2, and I needed a tool that allowed for video conferencing.

Skype was a non-starter. For one thing, it’s great for person-to-person communications, but for group chats, it has this annoying habit of muting everyone except the current speaker and you have to wait until that speaker stops to get a word in edgewise. My understanding is WhatsApp has the same problem.

Meetup actually suggested using Google Hangouts or Zoom. I happen to like Zoom. I use it for my regular NPVIC Grassroots strategy meetings and for Toastmasters and it’s always worked great. Zoom does support up to a hundred participants, both free and Pro. The only problem is, each of those Zoom sessions are either limited to the free forty-minute block or are using an up-to-24-hour Zoom Pro Account. Since most of my Meetups are at least an hour, breaking meeting up into forty-minute chunks would be tedious. And, at $14.99 a month, the professional account is well out of my price range.

Just before the first week of Virtual meetings began, my writing colleagues and I, including Elizabeth Hayes, who runs The Hourlings, tested both free Zoom and Google Hangout. Despite being limited to ten people, we decided on Google Hangout and I mapped it to our official Virtual Meeting URL.

Ten people worked fine for Reston Writers and for the Saturday Morning Review. The Saturday Morning Review actually worked out quite well because Meetup, despite suggesting we move to a virtual platform, still won’t let you delete the venue from your event and mark it as virtual, which, when editing events can cause some confusion. But when the Library cancelled all our events, I just deleted them all from the Meetup Calendar, and recreated them with no Venue and just announced them as occurring in Cyberspace.

Stay with me folks, I’m getting to the email…

As Sunday approached, I new ten participants wouldn’t be enough. Google Hangout would be fine for Bewie Bevy of Brainy Books and Saturday Morning Review, and likely The Science Book Club, as they all usually have fewer than ten participants for each meeting. The Hourlings, on the other hand, often had twelve, and sometimes as many as sixteen!

I new Zoom was $14.99 a month, but I read that Google App accounts could up the number of participants to twenty-five. Unfortunately my 2TB Google Drive account didn’t qualify. I had to get a Google Apps account.

And that’s where my troubles began.

At first, I could only sign up for the $12 per month account, even though I’d read it could be had for $6. Since the setup has a fortnight trial period, I didn’t worry about the financial discrepancy. I set up the account with my business email address for TimeHorse, LLC. I associated it with with that email, it connected to my Gandi Registrar, and my account was ready to go. I created a Google Hangout and assigned it to the Virtual Meeting URL, hoping it would allow twenty-five. The plan was to use it with the Hourlings to verify that fact.

It failed! We still could only get ten people into the meetup despite it being a paid account.

Unfortunately, since Monday I’ve been on Weather and Safety Leave from work because my Telework agreement was revoked, but that’s a story for another day as this post is long as it is! However, it did allow me to speak to Google and they suggested I try Google Meet. Meet was included with all Google App paid accounts, and it would allow for up to a hundred people and could be as long as I needed. Also, I could downgrade to the $6 per month account and I would still be able to use it. I thus downgraded.

We tried it with Reston Writers Review and it worked wonderfully. We had up to twelve connections simultaneously! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At around 10:30 am, that Monday, after chatting with Google, I was examining my Google Apps account more closely. It was telling me I had one last step I needed to complete: integrate me email with Gmail.

Stop
Stop, do not pass Go. You’re done!

That’s when my troubles began. You see, what this innocuous, turn-key step says it does is it says it sets up GMail for your company. What it actually does is obliterate all the MX Records (email routing information) of your DNS (Internet routing information) Zone File (routing configuration file) on Gandi and replace it with MX Records that point to Google. The setup wizard doesn’t actually tell you this and I’m totally oblivious.

At current writing, I have 188 forwarded email addresses set up on Gandi with their MX Servers. One of those is my business email, the one Google took over and is my Google Apps login. That’s the email google set up as the official email address used in GMail. Once the GMail setup goes through and I send an email from the GMail interface to my personal email address on the timehorse.com domain.

It never arrives. All day long, I watch my email and, strangely, nothing arrives after 10:30 in the morning. I refresh and refresh, and it’s still nothing. Where have all my emails gone?

It’s not until I’m setting up for Reston Writers that I decide to contact Google about this. I’m crazy-busy setting up the Google Meet, opening up the pieces we’d be reviewing on my computer, and, simultaneously, chatting with Google, trying to figure out why I’m not receiving any email.

Eventually, Google Tech Support starts talking about MX Records and a chill runs down my spine. As you probably gathered by now, I am well versed in DNS records and Zone File manipulation. I even have a Python script which updates my DNS A Record when the IP Address for this server changes.

With trepidation, I logged into my Gandi account and saw the damage. Google had modified my Zone file and added a bunch of strange new MX Records pointing to Google. They had nuked all my Gandi Email forward since they’d redirected all email traffic to google. As google only had one account registered on the domain, timehorse.com, namely my business email address, every other email address I possessed was either being deleted or bounced by google!

Fortunately, Gandi’s Email Forwarding page provides a warning when the Zone file doesn’t point to their email server, listing the correct MX Record settings to use Gandi as the mail hosting server. I quickly commented out the Google MX Records and pasted in the Gandi MX Records around 7:30 pm, in the middle of my Reston Writers meeting.

Needless to say, I was miffed that I could not give my full attention to my writers during our weekly writing gettogether. But it’s good I finally did figure out the disastrous actions committed by Google after only nine hours, and not a day or more.

I may never know what was contained in those nine hours of lost emails. I suppose there is one blessing, though. I get too much email already and still have dozens of unread messages I’m desperately trying to catch up on. One Covidapolis, novel-length email after another from every business under the sun. STFU companies, you’re all doing the same thing and I don’t like reading the same message again, and again, and again! You have a plan, that’s all I need to know!

Maybe Google was doing me a favor?

In the end, I was able to solve the problem because I got skills and I’m available for hire!

Learning about Public Relations

Today in my friend C.J.’s Author Meetup, the wonderful PR person, Ami Neiberger-Miller came and spoke about what goes in to promote your brand. As usual, C.J. held a wonderful event and I was able to get some great advice on how to increase my public presence to help sell my books, my speaking engagement, screenplays, acting performances, and my many advocacy issues.

The first question you must ask yourself: What are your personal goals? Who are you writing for? Personally, I am not sure. I think I write for folks who want to escape reality, who want to get away from their dreary lives and see what could be. Who want to see what science teaches us and what the future will bring. Who like fast cars and fuel efficient cars and cars based on domestic energy that drive themselves and help protect the Environment. Some have said no woman would ever willingly read my material. I would be sad if that were true and I don’t believe it to be so. I love it when women, men, young, old, African, Indian, Chinese, and European all love my work. But I know I need to focus.

Once you’ve decided your audience, it’s time to set goals. You need benchmarks to see where you stand and see where you need to improve. You should make sure you’re not overextending yourself either. Take some time to think about what you think is feasible and work towards that. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Once you have your goals, make a plan. What do you plan to post, tweet, share, or whatnot on which days. Make a schedule. Perhaps Mondays are Lasagna days, Wednesdays are Beach days, and Saturdays are days for green plants. Check off your progress as the month progresses. C.J. has some great books, in fact, to help you keep yourself on schedule.

At the end of the month, track your progress. Use things like Facebook and Twitter Insights. What worked for you? What was a total failure. Who are your fans? Which posts/tweets got the most likes? Where is there room to improve? Where should you cut your losses? All these questions will help you plan the next month and where to focus.

And then you repeat.

All in all, a great event. Thank you C.J. and can’t wait to see what you have planned for our next event.