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Sunday, July 23, 2006

More on Joan, DVR, misc

So Ron, one of our WHOA volunteers let me know that Joan went to the emergency room last Saturday for back pain. She was treated and released and later had a heart attack and died at home. Someone emailed me that back pain is a heart attack sign that the hospital should have done something about. Too late now, unfortunately.

As I mentioned before, anyone who called Joan's home either didn't get an answer, or her senile mother hung up on them. Ron got me the name, address and info for the church where the funeral service would be held and I had flowers sent and only hope they got there in time. The service was yesterday morning at 9 am. Joan had been cremated right away. I got no response from the church.

I'm beginning to think everyone in Valley Stream, NY (where Joan lived) is a little odd.

I said a little prayer yesterday morning at 9 am, lit a candle and some incense. Chris left me alone.

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Sears came and fixed the dryer from hell. If we did not have the extended warranty, it would have cost us almost $800 to fix it. No kidding. Chris says as soon as the extended warranty is done in 2010 (and if the dryer is still alive), we're getting rid of it and getting one without the fancy digital display.

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I needed to get out of the house yesterday afternoon, even though it was pouring buckets of rain outside. We'd upgraded to Time Warner's All-In-One (digital phone, cable and Internet) and the installer turned on the phone service for us on Friday afternoon, which took forever. Our house is over 60 years old, so some of the wiring is still really old. When I called customer service yesterday to ask them to turn on the "On Demand" feature, the woman mentioned DVR - Digital Video Recording for only $6.95 more a month. Since we're already saving over $40/month by switching from Verizon to TW digital phone, we decided to go for it.

I took the dogs for the ride and it took almost an hour to go 10 miles. It turns out all the summer tourists were going batty and were on the road. Blech. Got to Time Warner, swapped the old cable box for the new DVR one and a new remoted and headed home.

I took a nap while Chris played with his new toy.

When I got up, he made dinner, went to bed early and I decided to try out the On Demand by watching the last Deadwood, which I'd missed. On Demand is so darned cool. You can play, pause, rewind, fast forward. I am in heaven!

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I'm hoping to get news on some projects I'm working on related to my book and writing. Cross your fingers for me.

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Check out the photos link to the right of the blog. I added new photos to it.

Enjoy!!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

TechNet Mid America Conference

I got this gig from doing the DoD (Department of Defense) Cyber Crime Conference this past January. Jay Walker and Sharla Warren, of Technology Forums, are big fans of mine! So they booked me for the TechNet Mid-America 2006 Conference, held in Collinsville, Illinois July 17-19, 2006. Why Collinsville? I asked the same question. Most of the attendees were coming from Scott Air Force Base, located nearby.

Sooooo, the night before I left, Sunday, July 16th, I planned on getting to bed early, as I had to leave the morning at 8 am for the airport. But no. I was letting Guin out and when she went down the stairs, she missed one and tumbled to the bottom, whining. She has this problem where her left back kneecap sometimes pops out and all I do is gently rub it until it pops back in. That's what I thought it was until I started rubbing her leg and saw blood.

I yelled for Chris, ran back upstairs to change from my jammies into regular clothes and we bundled Guin in the car and drove to Portsmouth to the emergency vet hospital (it's the closest at about 15 minutes away). One of her claws was bent at an odd angle, but she was really good in the car.

When we got there, only three other people were in the waiting room. One couple was waiting to pay for their pug, which they'd given an antihistamine to. The pug got a little wiggy and wouldn't stay still so they brought it in to get a calm-down shot. A woman had a cat in a basket on her lap - the cat had been hit by a car the day or so before and wasn't peeing, so she was worried and had brought him back. The last was the owner of two dogs who had encountered a porcupine. Ouch. They all made Guin's claw look like nothing.

So we settled in the waiting room, but were put into an exam room fairly quickly. The vet was very nice, pulled the bent claw (which turned out to be broken, not pulled all the way out). Guin yelped, then calmed down as the vet wrapped her foot in a pink bandage. I put Guin on the floor and she promptly began hopping around. Put her in the car with Chris, then it took for-ever to pay and get some pain meds for Guin. Finally got home about 11:30 pm. Slept badly because I was worried about Guin, but she crashed on the bed and slept like a baby.

Monday, July 17th, flew out of Manchester, NH airport on Continental (good airline!). Connected in Cleveland (oh so exciting). My ticket showed the connecting flight was at a different gate, so I called my mom and began walking. I was going by some monitors and decided to doublecheck the gate. Good thing I did! It turned out I was on the same darned plane I'd just gotten off of.

On the plane, this guy sits next to me. Not bad-looking. We talked for a short time, then I popped my iPod headphones in my ears to listen to a book and ate my sandwich. When we were landing in St. Louis, we chatted some more. Talk about eerie coincidences - turns out he was not only going to Collinsville, he was staying at the same hotel as me (although he was there for a different conference). We cracked up and he flirted with me. I made a point of mentioning Chris several times. But it was nice to have the attention. Made me feel purty.

It was hotter than hell. Got my bags, then had to wait for the Avis bus to take me to my rental car. Their computers were down, so instead of going directly to the rental, I had to go into the office at the lot to wait for my car info. I ended up getting a white minivan (it was the least expensive, only $169 for four days), hopped in, cranked up the A/C and headed to the hotel.

It was a quick and easy drive and guess who I pull up in back of? The guy I sat next to on the plane. He and his coworkers had rented a SUV. His name is Nick, BTW. We walked into the hotel together, checked in, then said our goodbyes.

I quickly unpacked, went to the convention center next door to check in at the conference and say hi to Jay, then went back to my room. The wireless Internet wasn't working, so I called downstairs and two guys came up to help figure out what was wrong. The heat was affecting the wireless, so one of them had to hard boot the base and I was up and running. They almost had to move me to another room, but thank goodness they didn't. They gave me a couple of free drink coupons for the trouble.

I went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for dinner (lamb chops and asparagus w/hollandaise sauce) and a scotch w/water. I ended up not using the other coupon. I was too tired. I did stop by the bar when I saw Nick and his coworkers in there. They looked at me like I had three heads as Nick and I laughed and chatted. I said good night and went to my room to crash.

The next morning I caught up on email, then headed over to the conference for the lunch keynote, Lt. Gen Charles Croom, Jr. He was energetic, but honestly, it was all military talk, so it was kinda boring. Lunch was good though. I was told a lot of people had signed up for the first half of my talk (it was split between two days) and the room was half full when I started. Some people sneaked in during it and I got good feedback and sold a few books.

I met up with Jay, his wife Dawn (a dead ringer for Jennifer Garner), Sharla and others from Technology Forums for dinner at Lottawatta Creek. Good restaurant, great waiter, my dinner was excellent, but the others weren't too happy with theirs. To be honest, their meals didn't look too good.

Wednesday morning my room was packed - more people showed up than were expected. I was told word had gotten around that I was a good speaker. Why thank you! I personally think that when military/law enforcement see my name in the schedule and read that I'm a woman and a civilian that I must not know what I'm talking about. Then word goes around and they flock to my talk. Go figure.

I sold the rest of my books, got great questions and was pleased with myself.

I got a lovely wood box with the conference logo laser etched on the cover and a wood pen/pencil set inside. Very nice!

I drove through White Castle for lunch (I'm just not thrilled with their burgers. Too many onions for me), then took a long ride around the area. Lots of cornfields. Lots and lots. Hit the Hallmark store to buy some things, the grocery store to get juice, water and some snacks, then went back to my room to crash for a quick nap.

Got up and the wireless was out again. Picked up the hotel room phone to call downstairs, but it wasn't working. Checked the plugs, etc, no go. So went down to the front desk to tell them about the phone and the wireless being out again. They sent a guy up with a new phone, which worked fine. But the wireless was down due to the heat again, so I headed down to the lobby to get the wireless access there and answer emails.

Nick called and left a message on my voicemail. When I called him back, he said he wanted to get together. I reminded him I was married. He said he knew and just wanted to hang out or maybe we could go swimming in the pool. Huh? I told him to have fun with his friends and not to rush. If he got back early, I'd meet him in the bar for one drink. He agreed.

I did takeout from Ruby Tuesdays (buffalo chicken tenders w/salad) and settled in to watch Shrek 2 for the millionth time. All of a sudden a thunderstorm hit, the cable went out in the room and I called Chris to have him tape Deadwood for me (I'd missed the previous episode). I took some photos of the lightning, which I'll post on my photos link later.

Nick didn't call (I was kind of glad). Got up the next morning and checked email. I got one from one of my WHOA volunteers, Ron. He let me know that our WHOA-KTD Vice President, Joan Welch had died. I was in shock. I've known Joan for 10 years. She was with Cyberangels at the time, at the height of my cyberstalking case. She then went to Safetyed.org, then came to WHOA just over a year ago to help me launch the Kids/Teen Division. She was always so enthusiastic and had some wonderful ideas to promote the KTD.

I called Ron and he only knew she'd been in the hospital the previous Saturday and died that night. She was only 63. Her mother, who is in her 90s (and not a nice lady, from what Joan told all of us), either wouldn't answer the phone or hung up on anyone who called to ask what happened to Joan. I cried on the phone. Poor Ron. I then got a message from a Deputy who was another friend of Joan's. I called him and he said he was trying to get more info on Joan. At the end of my conversation with him, I burst into tears again. My flights home were going to be hell.

I packed, crying, called Chris, cried some more. I couldn't eat breakfast. Drove to the airport and couldn't figure out why the gas station had a waiting line. It turned out the thunderstorm had knocked out power for over 500,000 residents and many of the gas stations were closed.

Got to the airport, checked in my bags and bought some souvenirs for my niece and nephew. Nick called again to tell me to gas up the rental. I told him I was way ahead of him and was already in the airport. Turns out he was on the same flight to Cleveland I was! So he'd see me at the gate.

Got a sandwich from Starbucks, but no coffee - the water was contaminated from the storm. Yikes!

Nick came by soon after and we talked while we waited for the flight to board. He's a funny guy, kinda stocky, but cute and blue blue eyes. No, I'm not going to cheat on Chris. I never could. Chris is my rock. But Nick made me feel good about myself. I know I'm overweight, but I've been exercising, eating right and slowly losing the weight. His attention made me feel great!

Got on the plane, got to Cleveland and had to run to my connecting flight. Said a quick good-bye to Nick and ran.

Got home at about 6:30 pm. Chris had made filet mignon for dinner. Delish! I went to bed and crashed. Now to find out what happened to Joan.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Upsurf.net Book Signing

Tuesday, July 11th I was scheduled to do a book signing at Upsurf.net Internet Cafe in York, Maine. Bob Rogers, one of the owners thought it would be a good fit with his business and I told him I'd bring SPAM (in a can). The morning of, I decided to whip up a couple of SPAM dishes instead of just feeding people SPAM out of the can.

So I went to the Hormel web site to find a couple of recipes. I decided on SPAM dip and SPAM Casserole (minus the peas).

I then packed everything up, with cheese and crackers, plates, utensils and napkins, and oh yes, my books. It was pouring rain when I got to Upsurf.net, but Bob and I unloaded my car and I set up a table with the dishes.



There were already a couple of people there and I corralled them into trying the dishes, which Bob and I had already tasted. So far, the dip was the best, but the casserole wasn't too bad. We started an informal survey to see who like which dish best. The following is me and Bob.



People started to trickle in and out throughout the afternoon. At one point, my chiropractor, Nancy, showed up and loved the dip:



Everyone who came in said that the SPAM dishes were a terrific idea and they had a ball with it. I got a lot of great feedback on my book as well.

I was signing books like crazy:







As the afternoon came to a close, we found that 80% of those who came liked the dip better, 18% liked the casserole and 2% liked both and couldn't make up their minds. There wasn't much left of my SPAM dishes, that's for sure!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Letter from Clive Cussler about my book

Yes, I do know Clive. He is a good friend. No, I will not give you his address or phone number or send anything to him, so please don't ask.

I sent him a copy of my latest book, the 2nd edition of Net Crimes & Misdemeanors because he graciously gave me a quote for the cover of the book. He sent me the following lovely letter. I didn't post it earlier because I've been busy getting ready for my next trip (I leave Monday).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sears HE4 Dryer warning

DO NOT BUY ONE OF THESE DRYERS.

We bought one and the HE3 washer last December and had nothing but problems with the washer.

We ended up getting a different washer, which we're very happy with.

Then the HE4 dryer quit on us and I went through hell to get the repair guy here. He showed up today and it turns out the HE4 dryer is a problem. They've been getting loads of service calls for the same problem - the front display panel quits working. This is where all the buttons are to run the dryer.

He emergency ordered the part, which should come tomorrow or Friday, but he doesn't know if they'll have him come right away to install it. He scheduled to do it next Friday. Yes, a week from this Friday. That's over a MONTH without a very expensive dryer that we purchased from Sears.

I am really upset about this whole thing. Sears usually sells good appliances and stands by them, but this washer/dryer debacle has soured me on Sears for good. I am just glad we paid the extra for the extended warranty, which is good through 2010. That means every time this damned dryer goes wonkers on us, it will be fixed for free.

In the meantime, I have to drag my washed clothes to the laundromat to fight with the tourists visiting our fair town for a dryer. I plan on calling Sears to see if I can get my $1.50 per dryer load refunded to me. Whatcha wanna bet they say no?

So, folks, if you want to buy appliances, DON'T BUY THEM FROM SEARS.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Now it's dryer hell, spam on podcast, more

Sigh. Back in December I posted about our Washer/Dryer Hell experience with Sears. We eventually got that straightened out.

Almost two weeks ago, the brand new, six month old dryer stopped working. It wasn't the circuit breaker - the light still worked when the door was opened. It just plain stopped. Kaput.

I called service and they said the earliest anyone could come was this morning between 8-12 noon. Okay, I'd plan my day around that. So last night, Sears very kindly left a voicemail message reminding us of the time to be at home, between 8-12 noon and to make sure someone was here. Fine and dandy. I was sick of dealing with tourists at the laundromat around the corner.

So this morning I get up, have my coffee, and at about 8:30 go outside to do some yard work. I figured I'd be productive while waiting. I had the garage door wide open for the Sears service guy to see.

At about 10 am, I go inside to cool off and get a drink of water. Three messages. One from Chris and two from Sears - Sears wanted to know where I was. Hello? I'm here, waiting for the service guy.

I panic. Call the service guy's cell number and leave a message telling him I was here and had been since 8 am. Then I called the national service number and told the woman there I had been here all morning and wanted him to come back. She couldn't promise anything. That's when my blood pressure started rising. I told her that if they put on the voicemail message they'd left that I had to sit by the phone all morning until someone called to be sure someone was here, I would have done so. What would have happened if I'd been in the bathroom doing my business? Geez.

So, the service guy calls back and says Sears should let people know they need to stay in the house while waiting and said he'd try to squeeze me in this afternoon. So I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Sears calls back. He can't come and the earliest he can come back is next week. I blew a gasket and said that was unacceptable and he needed to come this week. We paid EXTRA for the maintenance agreement to go through 2010. I expected better service than this. Nope. I said fine, I want them to come pick up the damned dryer. She transferred me to customer service.

The woman there very rudely told me I had to call the store I purchased the dryer from. Why? They were customer service. She pretty much hung up on me.

So I called the local store. The woman who had sold us the washer and dryer wasn't in and the woman who answered listened to me and sighed. She said they were taught to not be rude to customers. She apologized and said she'd have her manager call back.

Angie, the branch manager, called back a bit ago and said that since the dryer is six months old, they can't take it back but she was going to see if she could get the service guy to come back this week. I'm still waiting for her to call back.

I am boiling mad. Do NOT buy washers or dryers from Sears. They do NOT back up those items. We bought other appliances from them and have had no trouble with service with any of them, just the washer and dryer. I don't know what gives, but I am NEVER buying anything else from them. As soon as the washer and dryer are paid off, the Sears credit cards are being put in the shredder.

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Now on to other news. I did a couple of podcasts for a very cool web site - when you get the chance, take a listen:

How To Combat Spam

If you get a moment after listening to it, it'd be tremendous if you could go to Frappr.com and push in a pin as a participant. That way everyone can see where you're from. I did it!

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The yard work I did today was something that was long overdue. We had some sea roses trying to take over the driveway and some other native plants, so I weeded, trimmed (with a super duper fun electric hedge trimmer) and pulled and prodded. I looked like a soccer player at the end of game, all dirty, sweaty and gross, ha ha.

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Chippy actually ran around my feet this morning when I went out to feed him. I stood still and watched him. He sat on his hind legs a few times to look up at me. I wish I could speak chipmunk to understand what the heck he was doing, but he was cuter than heck.

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Tomorrow I'm doing a different kind of book signing. I got a local Internet cafe to sponsor a talk by me about email spam and I'm going to serve Hormel SPAM, crackers and cheese and sign copies of my book. Between the two of us, flyers have been posted all over town and I had a few people email me about it. It should be fun!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Kennebunkport Book Signing

Since I'm fulfilling previously scheduled book signings, I did one at Kennebunk Book Port in Kennebunkport, Maine (say that three times fast, ha ha).

Chris went with me and Rich, one of the owners of the bookstore, had let me know his order of my book from Ingram hadn't come in yet. Luckily, I had ordered a box of books for a signing on Tuesday and that had come in on Friday, so I brought that box with me.

Rich had me set up on the deck outside the store - thank goodness it was a gorgeous and cool day. Plus an umbrella over the table I was sitting at. Rich got Chris and I some mocha coffees and the three of us chatted for the next two hours. Rich is a funny guy and had some good stories to tell.

Every once in a while someone would come by and I'd talk with them, but not one book sold while I was there. Book signing is not glamorous believe me. And wonder of wonders - no weird person like I usually get at my signings!

Afterwards, Chris and I stopped in Wells to pick up dinner, then headed home. Chris made lobster pie (a recipe of his own making) and we relaxed and watched a tape of a new show called Psych - it's a nice twist on psychic detectives and is truly funny. We're hooked!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Book signing, flight home

New Orleans photos are NOW UP.


Sooooo, have I mentioned how much I hate doing book signings? After Thursday night, I now know why Clive Cussler has a thermos of tequila with him.

Since the four people who had promised to go with me to the book signing reneged at the last minute, I had to pay $20 each way for a taxi to the Barnes & Noble. Not to mention no dinner because I'd planned on having dinner with them before the signing, but by the time they notified me they couldn't do it, it was too late to get something to eat.

So, I get to the bookstore and they have a nice display at the front of the store with a big poster. I met Whitney, the bookstore's publicity person and she set me up. I did notice that my book signing had not been listed in their monthly newsletter, even though I called and scheduled the signing last month. Whitney got me a tall green tea frappucinno and sat at the table, ready to sign books.

Mind you, they mentioned the book signing several times at the conference and I mentioned it in both of my presentations. No one from the conference showed up.

I always get at least one "nutter" at my book signings. It never fails. This time, it was the first person to approach the table. This woman seemed very nice and said she'd written a book (I always get at least one person who says that to me as well) and said it was a spiritual book. I told her good for her. I was waiting for the usual "Can you give me your agent's phone number?" (yes, people have the audacity to assume I will just hand that information over) or hand me their manuscript to look at. Yes, that happens to me as well.

She was pretty good - she just said she knew she would have to look for the right publisher for her book. I wrote down a couple of writing web sites for her to go to for that kind of info and she thanked me. Then it happened:

"My saviour told me that although my book was written well, I had to put it into chapters and not sections," she confided in me in a whisper as she looked around to make sure no one heard her say that to me.

Um, okay.

Another lady came up, chatted for a bit, bought a book and left. For the next two hours, the security guard, an older black man, chatted with me or I browsed the discounted books behind me. Going on 9:00 pm, a woman with her daughter came by and talked with me, then bought a book. Her daughter was thrilled that I signed it to her.

Two books. Of which I'll get at most just over $1.00 in royalties per book. Yep, that's how much I usually get. Not Stephen King money, that's for sure.

Anyone out there who thinks authors make loads of money - the normal author doesn't.

So, Whitney called a taxi company to send a car to come get me. Turns out the bookstore was in Jefferson Parish, where all those shootings and murders have been taking place. I was safer staying at the hotel in the French Quarter.

I got back to the hotel at 9:30 and ran into this college student who had been at one of my talks. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was going up to my room. He said I could hang out with him and his friends. I hemmed and hawed and he said, "Don't go up to your room and be alone watching TV."

Okay, he convinced me. So I ran up to my room, dropped off one of my bags, hit the restroom and went back downstairs. He was waiting for his friends, so I began talking with a woman who was with one of the other conferences (no, not the GI Joe collectors conference).

Another college student, a girl who had also been at one of my talks, showed up. She said they were going up to her *parents* room for a beer before heading out.

I looked at them and said, "I'm your parents age. I'm going to have to beg off."

They looked disappointed, but I really felt uncomfortable and said I'd chat with the lady I'd just met. So I sat down and chatted with her until one of her friends showed up, then I went to my room and watched TV.

I have to admit, it was a depressing end to what had been a good trip up until then.

I have decided that except for the book signings I have already scheduled - which thank God, aren't that many - that I am not going to do any more. I am sick of dealing with apathetic bookstores who could care less. I am sick of only a few people showing up to buy a book when I have to take at least four hours out of my day to drive to/from the bookstore, then spend 2-3 hours at the bookstore, plus cab fare if I'm on the road.

All the time I spent at this bookstore, I could have been hanging out with people from the conference and enjoying my time in New Orleans.

Like I said, now I know why Clive Cussler brings a thermos of tequila. Yes, he is more famous and has lines of people waiting, but he told me the tequila takes the edge off of hearing the same, "I've written a book, too" or the nutters like the ones I see.

The next morning, got up, hit the fitness center, packed, headed to the airport. Checked in, got on the first flight to JFK. I had almost three hours for a layover, so I had a nice lunch at one of the restaurants there. No massage that day. I just didn't feel like it. I mean, I was really depressed (and still am).

Got on the next flight home to Portland, Maine. JetBlue lost one of my bags. I'm supposed to get it back today - it was to be on a later flight last night. This is one of my expensive Coach bags. Nothing too much in it. Clothes that can be replaced. All my important stuff was in my carry-ons.

Got home at 8:30, hugged Chris and the dogs and told Chris no more book signings (well, except for at the conferences I speak at. I could have sold 50 books at this conference, but the Dept of Justice doesn't allow book sales - although I had four books with me that I sold on the side to people who wanted them).

Called JetBlue and they said they'd call back this morning with a delivery time. I'm still waiting.

Sigh. The bright spot is Chippy came running this morning when I went out to feed him. Chris said he'd been hesitant yesterday when Chris tried to feed him. I think he was happy to see me!