Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

writing humor

As part of my constant search for knowledge, even about things that could be considered relevant, I began an effort to understand Google Analytics so I could analyze my website’s performance. No one told me I would have to perform some analytics on the analytics.

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Free Advice: Worth Every Penny

Lately, I have taken to signing up for free webinars and teleconferences about writing and marketing. I look at it this way, most of them are an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes long, they only cost time, so if I learn only one thing that might help me, then the hour was worth it. If I don’t learn anything then it only cost me an hour of my time. Continue reading

Writing from Home Lessons

Courtesy Unsplash.com

Courtesy Unsplash.com

As I continue on my working from home until I find a real job journey, here are some lessons I have learned along the way.

  1. The only way you can concentrate on writing is to shut off the television when Maury, Jerry and Steve are on. Unless of course you are researching how far we have fallen in society. (Advice: If you ever appear on “The Maury Show” stay out of green room.
  2. Do not leave the computer on if there is any chance the cat will decide they want to sleep on the keyboard. If you do and he or she does you will end up with pages and pages of unreadable nonsense. Of course there may be times when that might actually be better than what you actually write.
  3. Spending hours on Facebook is not really research no matter how much you try to convince yourself.
  4. Spending hours looking out the window is not really a “creative enhancement exercise” no matter how much you try to convince yourself.
  5. Listening to your favorite music station while you are writing is not a good idea, unless you want to find yourself typing the lyrics of all your favorite songs into whatever the current project you are working on It happened once before, when I came to your door, No Reply. See what I mean?
  6. Spending your writing time playing with software just to see what it can do is not writing no matter what you may think. You really don’t think you will need to translate your work into 47 languages do you?
  7. Along the same lines as number 6, spending your time searching the web for “Free Software that will write your book for you without you even being there” is not productive. It does not exist no matter how hard you look, trust me on this one.
  8. While eating cookies may actually be necessary to keep the creative juices flowing, eating them over the keyboard can have adverse effects on your typing abilities.
  9. And finally, no matter how you look at it, playing Solitaire is not writing, research, marketing or corresponding with your potential readers.

Now with all that said I am happy to say that I have completed the first draft of one of the books I have been working on, This one is about dealing with fibromyalgia and it will be coming out as an eBook soon. I need to go through the editing process and then format it and find someone to design a cover.

Stay tuned.

On Peanuts, Monkeys and Freelancing

I must say I am certainly learning things about this whole freelancing thing I’ve gotten myself into. I do admit it can be kind of nice watching the snow pile up around me as it has been here for the past two weeks, knowing that I don’t have to go anywhere (remind me to tell you sometime about my experience last week during Juno). But on the other hand when business is slow there is more time to sit here and watch the snow pile up.

Not to worry though as work is trickling in. But here is my problem, one I am sure that is shared with other new work-at-home types. Until I can get established with my own client base, I need to rely on various freelancing sites to get work. Some day I will review the ones I use, for the most part I have no complaints, but each time I bid on a project, I am reminded of the old adage, “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” Yes this is similar to “You get what you pay for.”

Below is an actual posting I responded to, followed by an email I received cancelling  the project. The question that arose in my mind is where is the line drawn between price and quality? Should one lower their standards just to get work coming in?

Let’s look at a job posting I replied to earlier this week:

Hi,
We’re looking for the CHEAPEST option, so please submit your proposals accordingly. We need an editor to go through some articles (about 30-50 posts, 500-1000 words each) and enhance the quality:
– Expand the material
– Fix grammar, style, other errors
– Make the articles more readable and professional
All articles would need to be expanded by 200-400 words; they all vary in size, complexity, and how much is required to be fixed in there.
I will provide you with examples of a variety of different posts and we can discuss the price accordingly. Optional: please submit an approximate price you’d charge per 500/1000 word article to edit.
I will message every proposal that I feel is suitable for the position and we can go from there.

Thanks for looking into this!

Basically this client is looking for someone to proofread 30 – 50 posts, add to each post and rewrite them. This particular client didn’t provide any samples for me to look at, so I was unable to judge how much work would be required on each, but assumed they are of the usual quality meaning several hours for each. There is one thing I learned working for my father all those years ago (well, although I will never admit it, I learned more than one thing) and that was if you are going to do a job, do it right. This means going above and beyond the norm. So looking at the metrics (now there is a good word) showing the high, low and average bid price ($1370, $22, $285) I placed what  I felt was a fair bid, in fact, it was lower than the average. (I have a pricing strategy we can discuss some other time)

Today I get an email saying the job was cancelled and here was the reason:

I couldn’t find a freelancer that could meet my budget requirements

If we put on our detective hats, what can we learn about this client and job? The lowest bid was $22 per post. If you recall, the client asked for a per post price. Again, assuming this was of average quality, it would require a minimum of two hours to do an average job. This means the client wants to pay less than $11 per hour. After paying the site’s fees and all the taxes, this comes down to about fifty cents an hour. So going back to our earlier adage “If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys”, what kind of job do you think you will get done?

Is there someone out there who would do this job for less than the $22? Probably. But here is the question: Do I want to be that guy? Could I lower my standards and do it for $1 per post? Sure, but would I want to? No, and actually I am not sure I could lower my standards that much. As it was I gave a low-ball price hoping to get some money rolling in. I guess the lesson here is people will try to get everything for nothing and they will get what they pay for. You are the one who would have to live with the decision to become a monkey.

The Freelancer’s Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Have the Career of Your Dreams – On Your Terms

How to Quit Your Job: Fire Your Boss and Take Control of Your Life for Good

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The Technology Conundrum

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I used to say that a bad day on the computer is better than a good day at work, but that was before I depended on a computer to eat. Okay, not like eat, but to put food on the table. If you don’t have the right tools, then you can’t do the job.

Now for the record, I am not what you would all a computer geek as I once was, but neither am I a newbie (the use of those two terms may date me, I know) but I know enough to realize that, as my father used to say, “You can’t make pork out of pig (fill in the blank this is a family blog).” The key to working from home is productivity, when you ain’t producing, you ain’t eating. Now that I actually have work trickling in, I need to up my game, as they say. Okay, pigs aren’t really game, but I think you get the idea. Now, where was I?

In the last week, I have realized it is time to upgrade from (as my friend and technology adviser Mike suggested) an Edsel to at least a Yugo. Unfortunately that is easier said than done, and where the technology conundrum enters the picture. You see, beginning way back to the time of the Edsel, the automotive industry began what they called “Planned Obsolescence”, basically they would design a model with the intention of making it obsolete in a few years so the owner would want to upgrade. The computer industry does the same thing, which leads to the trials and tribulations I went through today.

First, my financial consultant, Buttons the Wonder Dog, and I decided it really was in the best interest to upgrade our technology. We began searching for what we needed and that would fit into our very tight budget. There is only one thing harder than searching for new technology using old technology, and that is actually trying to buy it. I admit, the equipment I have been using is somewhat dated, in fact, during my search I learned that you don’t need a 3 1/2 inch floppy drive any more. But even with the inconvenience of having to really, really, bang on the C, V, and Q keys to get them to work, it really isn’t that bad. You would be surprised how many words with those letters in them may be substituted with others. After a long and tedious search process, I finally found one that would suit my needs and more importantly my budget.  Little did I realize that the search was going to be the easy part.

My technology adviser advised me on the one to buy and all I had to do was order it. In fact, using my PayPal account, I could order it with just one click. Fat chance. You see, when your computer is slow it takes a really long time to get anything in done. In act, I tried to place the order three times and each time the website timed me out with a message “This is taking longer than expected, please try again.” And that was it, back to the beginning.

I thought in this case the fourth time would be the charm because I figured out a plan. The main problem was the fact that it would take me so long to type in my information because of my defective keyboard. Never one to give up, I put everything into a Word file and all I had to do was cut and paste. I made sure everything was correctly typed, and I was ready. Everything went as planned until I was ready to submit my order to PayPal. Here comes another message, “We’re sorry but you don’t have enough money in your account or this transaction.” It seems I didn’t order one computer, I was up to four.  Every time I was bumped off, my order increased by one. This was my fourth time at the site, so I had four computers.

I guess I can get used to using my old equipment, after all, I’ll have time to catch up on the Maury and Springer shows. Just forgive the missing letters.

 

Around the Dog Grapevine

Courtesy Unsplash.com

As I mentioned in my last post, I have had plenty of time lately to contemplate the mysteries of life, the universe and other important things. If you recall, last time I was wondering about what dogs think. This led to a somewhat logical next step, that being, what do dogs talk about? Now, I don’t mean with their owners, that is obvious to anyone who has spent any significant time with a dog, but rather, when they talk to each other.

I live on a lake, and this time of year, before the ice is thick enough to be on, it can get pretty quiet and peaceful. After awhile you hardly even hear the gentle roar of the interstate. The other day, I began to notice my dog reacts differently to the other dogs that bark around the lake, making me think that each dog is talking about something in particular. (Note: This also happens the rest of the year, but because of the lack of leaves, sounds tend to be more distinct and can be heard over longer distances.) Hear (pun intended) are some examples:

  • There is a dog somewhere across the lake who barks, not consistently, but every once in awhile. Sometimes Buttons, my dog, will hear it, perk up his ears, and let out a little “woof”, maybe two or three, then go back to whatever he was doing (usually sleeping). Other times, the same dog will bark and Buttons jumps up and has to go outside, run to the shore of the lake and bark, rather fast and loudly in answer to this other dog. What are they talking about? I can only assume that the first time, the other dog is just saying hello, and the second time he is sending some kind of warning.
  • The dog in the house behind us, also has two separate barks to which Buttons reacts differently. Pretty much in the same way as the first one mentioned. Although with this one, Buttons runs to the back of the yard and actually patrols the perimeter. Again, I think this is some kind of warning.
  • There is a third dog we only hear occasionally. I believe this is due to the humans it belongs to only are here occasionally. This dog, with a very loud and deep bark, doesn’t bark much, but when it does, it seems it is only for one of two reasons. The first is to let the other dogs know it is here (since this is out of Buttons’ territory, he just lets out his little “woof”, which I think is kind of like a F you and ignores it. The second bark, I believe is in direct response to the fourth and final dog in the neighborhood.
  • The fourth dog, actually two dogs, one male, one female, live in the next house over from me. I don’t know much about different breeds of dogs, other than these two are way outside of my budget and you are unlikely to find them where we found Buttons, at a rescue shelter. Both dogs have remarkably similar barks, however I can distinguish the two, based upon Buttons’ reaction. One, I assume the male, will bark and Buttons will go outside, to that side of the yard and respond. I assume this is some kind of warning that maybe there is an errant squirrel crossing the line. Both of these dogs are not allowed off their runs so, unlike Buttons, can not continue the chase very far. It is my assumption this dog is asking for some help, and Buttons will usually take off into the woods. The female however, is a different story. When this one barks, which is every time it is outside, while it sounds like the other, I can tell it is the female, again by the way that Buttons reacts. At first bark Buttons will perk up his ears, like with every bark he hears, but with the female, he kind of rolls his eyes, lets out a little snort and goes back to assuming the sleeping position. This tells me, as does the way the other dogs around the lake react, that she is talking nonsense, perhaps spreading gossip, or more likely complaining about the her partner is some way. If only the other dogs could be like Buttons and ignore her instead of arguing.

Admittedly, this is an unscientifical, study, just based on my observations. By the way, the word unscientifical, while not officially recognized by any known dictionary, comes from another interesting cultural phenomenon I have been studying, the day time talk shows like Maury, Jerry Springer, et. al.

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Thinking About Thinking Dogs

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After an absence of a few months, I am back. Now I am sure there are some of you who are happy to hear that because you can’t wait to read all of the fine prose I write. Then there are others I am sure, who hadn’t even noticed I was gone.

Now that I am no longer riding around all day, listening to the radio and looking at the scenery, I can only imagine you are wondering “What will he write about now?” I am here to say, that not only are you wondering that, but I am as well. In fact I have been wondering about it for the last hour, so much so I even asked the dog for some input. And that is what began me thinking, “Does Buttons (my dog) understand a word I am saying?” Then that led me to thinking “What does he think about all day anyway?

For example, he was sitting on my lap gazing out the window, very intently. I had to know what he was thinking, I had to get inside his head. So off to Google I went.

Of course I realize that, like people, some dogs must think differently than others, and perhaps, again like people, some dogs probably don’t think at all. But do they think like we do? Evidently they do, sort of. It seems that dog have a brain very similar to ours except it only develops to about the same as a 2 to 2 1/2 year old human. Which makes sense. According to an article in Discovery Magazine they even have quite a range of emotions, again like those of a small humanoid. This explains a lot, about both humans and dogs. Dogs dream, and some even can understand human words, although they rely mostly on your actions and even your tone to understand and listen to you.

One article (see next paragraph) article says that dog owners should try an experiment. Go a day without saying anything to your dog, only use gestures and see what happens. The article claims the dog will still understand you.  I have yet to try that experiment with Buttons, but I have at times tried it with people and it doesn’t work. But then some of the gestures may not have been all that appropriate.

I also came across another article, this one on the Mother Nature website listing 11 things you do that your dog hates. I have always thought there were some things my dog, even though he appeared not to mind, secretly in his little dog brain didn’t like. For example, according to Mother Nature dogs son’t like to be hugged, or patted on the head. Evidently dogs take this as a threat, a sign of dominance.

It also claims that dogs don’t like to be bored. This begs the question – what is boring to a dog? My dog will sit on the window will (something he learned from the cats) and stare out the window for quite some time. His eyes are moving, his nose is twitching, but other than that he sits still. For one who has a hard time sitting still, wouldn’t this be boring to a dog? Of course, he could be thinking about how he is going to finally catch one of those grey squirrels that run around the yard.

This leads to another point, why can’t he figure out that when he traps a squirrel under the woodpile that after a few minutes it has run out the other side? Instead he will sit there for hours waiting for the critter to return through the same hole it went it. Wait, I think I did the same thing once, but it involved a keg of beer going dry and I couldn’t understand why nothing was coming from the tap.

Maybe dogs are more like us than we think after all.

Sorry I Pooped in Your Shoe (and Other Heartwarming Letters from Doggie)

I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs
Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life With Dogs

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A Pontification on Getting Old

So I started thinking the other day about getting old, more specifically, some of the things I have noticed about getting old. Now, I am not complaining about getting old, it happens to everyone, well unless you stop it and there is only one way to effectively do that, but cryogenics just doesn’t appeal to me.

Anyway, what started me thinking about all this was my weekly trip to the pharmacy. I used to think it was funny when my dad would go into the pharmacy and he was on a first name basis with everyone there because he was there so often, well guess what? But that isn’t what started me thinking. I realized that when I go to the pharmacy I always meet someone I know, whether an old friend or just an acquaintance. Normally these people are the same people I used to run into in one of the purveyors of alcohol establishments I used to frequent. You know, there just might be some kind of a connection there.

The thing is I don’t feel or look any older, well except for the fact it takes me a little bit to get the joints loose enough to be able to get out of bed in the morning. And there is the whole prostate thing going on. (Ah to go back to the days when I could just whip it out and go and not have to wait five minutes just to start.) At least it gives me time to memorize the phone numbers written on the stalls in the highway rest areas. Of course, I forget them by the time I leave but I try, not that it would do any good for me to call them anyway.

But other than that there really aren’t any changes, unless you count the fact that I can no longer grow hair where I want it (namely on the top of my head) but it has no trouble growing in my ears, nose and eyebrows. Really, nothing has changed.

And just because it takes me a little longer to get places, that’s only because I want to take my time. We should all take the time to smell the roses whenever we can. Okay, so I don’t have any roses between the recliner and the bathroom, but there are other things to enjoy on the trip. Besides, there are roses outside the house where I park the car, I can smell those. Oh, that’s right, those roses aren’t there anymore, I had to stop trimming them because for some reason the pruning shears didn’t seem to want to close anymore. This was okay, they took on this wild look, unfortunately they ended up being transplanted down the street on the side of the road. Who knew roses would root themselves in a ditch after un-sticking themselves from the undercarriage of a car that may not have seen them as it was backing out.

No, I pretty much haven’t changed much in the last forty years, why, I bet I could get up and run around the lake like I used to. Well, if I used to, but never actually ran around the lake, or the block for that matter, but had I did it then, why, I m sure I could do it now. In fact, maybe I’ll go do it right now… or maybe not, besides it is pretty near my bed time.

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A Pontification on Dead People

I bet you all thought I was one of the “dead people” since it has been some time since my last post. No, I can assure you that I am alive and semi-well just very busy with some editing jobs. So all of you loyal readers of my blog can now rest easy, I am here. Okay, so maybe I don’t have a whole lot of loyal fans since I this is only my sixth post, but some day, who knows.

So, I started thinking the other day about dead people. No, not about making dead people, or eating dead people, or doing anything with dead people, but rather what I would ask them if I could. You see there was a post on my Facebook page the other day with one of those questions that people like to put out there. Of course, what these people don’t realize is that when they do this I think about the question for all those long, lonely hours driving around my little part of the world. In fact, sometimes, I think about these questions more than about what I am doing and that leads to missed exits, runned red lights (somehow I don’t think runned red lights is correct, ran red lights?) and other mishaps while driving. Anyway, where was I?

Yes, the question was “If you could talk to any dead person and ask them one question, who and what would you ask?” The problem I had is when I would come up with any one name and question who I thought would be the best, I would then come up with another. Here is my list of who and what I would ask them, in no particular order, but possibly with a political bent:

  • Marilyn Monroe – What really happened the night you died, were the Kennedy’s connected?
  • Lee Harvey Oswald – Did you act alone?
  • The Founding Fathers – What do you think of the country now?
  • Martin Luther King Jr. – What do you think of the direction your movement has taken? Is it what you expected?
  • Richard Nixon – Do you still think you are not a crook?
  • Confucius – Did you really say all that stuff or did you have a staff of writers? And how do you feel about having your words in fortune cookies?
  • My father – How did you manage to get smarter as I got older?
  • George Washington – Is it true you never told a lie?
  • Ted Kennedy – What were you thinking when you drove off the bridge?
  • George H.W.Bush – Wait, he isn’t dead yet, oh well, I’ll ask anyway. Do you still want us to read your lips about the no new taxes thing?

That’s it for now, although I am sure as I drive around tomorrow I will think of some more. How about you?

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A Pontification on Road Signs

I started thinking the other day about road signs. During the course of my time behind a dirty windshield I see a lot of road signs and sometimes, well, you just have to wonder about them. dsc_04291

For example when I am in northern Vermont and New Hampshire there are signs that say “Moose Crossing – Next Two Miles.” There are also similar signs for bears and deer. This brings up the question: How do these animals know where to cross the road? Do they have some special sense which tells them they can cross the road at such and such a place? What happens if they cross somewhere else, will they be ticketed? And who knew that moose could read?

Another sign which always perplexes me is the “Watch for Fallen Rock”, which is similar, but not the same as the “Watch for Falling Rock.” If you are watching for fallen rocks, obviously you are looking at the ground which means you aren’t looking at the sky, or at least in an upward direction. Now, if I am not mistaken, after all it has been some time since I studied physics, but in order for something have “fallen” it has had to have been “falling” at some point. If something is falling it must be higher than where it has fallen to, i.e. the road. Have you ever seen it pour up rain? The same is true for a falling rock zone, if you are watching for fallen rocks  you aren’t watching for fallen rocks. Do you see the problem here? Who decides which action you should take?

rocksignAnd what about the sign that says “Falling Rocks Do Not Stop”? Are you supposed to keep going after the rock lands on you? Do you run over the rocks that have already fallen? I could use some clarification here.

I won’t even go into the “Workers in Road” or “Workers Ahead” signs. First of all if the workers are in the road, well I’m sorry but they are the ones taking the chance of being hit and perhaps they need to watch out for cars. I also think someone needs to define “Work.” After all I drive through many a work zone and very rarely do I actually see any work being done.

What I really like is what I saw the other day, there were signs posted for a “Work Zone Ahead”, one stating there would only be “One Lane Ahead” and a third one letting me know that there was a “Flagger Ahead.” I slowed down, eagerly looking for the work zone and after a half mile saw the same signs on the opposite side of the road, which told me I must be out of the work zone and the workers had decided to not actually work that day. I speeded up, drove around the bend and lo and behold there was the work crew and flagger. So, if the flagger gives you the death stare because you almost run him over is it your fault? After all they aren’t in the work zone now are they?

Then there is the mystery of changing mile signs, not the mile markers but signs saying: “Podunk 5” which let you know it is five miles to Podunk. Up in Vermont there is a sign on one of the interstates (like there are a whole lot of interstates in Vermont) which says “Barre 18 Montpelier 19.” Obviously Montpelier is 1 mile further than Barre. At least until you get to the next sign which says “Barre 9 Montpelier 11.” Does anyone else see the problem here? Still further up the road the distance goes back to being one mile apart. Now before you send me angry letters, the numbers may not be exact but the distance between them is. How can the distance change from one mile to two miles then back to one mile? It is all the same road and as far as I know there has never been an instance of a town getting up and moving. Well, I guess there may be a few that have moved due to circumstances beyond their control, but I bet they never moved back.

And by the way, there is actually a real place called Podunk. It is in Massachusetts and my mother actually lived there as a child.

Have you any signs which cause you distress? Let me know.

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