To Dump or not to Dump

southbridge landfill

Photo from Umass.edu

Let’s talk about the landfill and Question 3. Tuesday is election day here in the beautiful town of Southbridge, MA. And I do mean beautiful. Yes, there are some areas that could use a little paint and landscaping, but that is no different than any other town or city in the country. Almost every day I walk around downtown at lunch time and I see the beauty of the buildings. I see signs of rebirth for many of these although I still see signs of neglect in others. Continue reading

A New Chapter Begins

This past weekend I began a new chapter in my life. After a self-imposed exile, I and my way better half moved back to the place I have always considered home, even after 35 or so years of not living there. We are heading one town away from where we are now to Southbridge, MA, the town I grew up in.

I have been thinking about doing this for some time now, especially for the last year after landing a great job in Southbridge. I realized just how much I missed it. Now some people think there must be something wrong with me, and they just might be right, after all, I have been living on the greatest lake in the area, on property that my family has owned for almost 100 years. Some would consider moving back to Southbridge a step down, but I don’t  see it that way at all. Rather I look at it as a coming home.

True, Southbridge is not quite the same as it was when I left. There are many changes, the school system is rated one of the worst in the state, recently having been taken over by the Commonwealth, and it also ranks among the bottom of the list in income. But still it is Southbridge and there are many good people here, of all stripes. There are many people who are trying to make a difference. I think it is time for me to be one of these, I don’t know how or at what level yet, but perhaps it is time for me to give back to the town that gave me my start in life.

  • The town that provided me with the set of values I still hold.
  • The town that provided me with a first-class education.
  • The town that made me who I am today.

Of course, there may be some who might not think I turned out so well, but so be it.

As I have been walking and driving around Southbridge, I see good things and see not so good things. I see neighborhoods that were once well kept with manicured front lawns, fresh coats of paint, porches where people would sit and talk to their neighbors, that are now rundown and unkempt. But I have also seen signs in other neighborhoods of improvements being made. Three-deckers being remodeled, front yards being landscaped, pride being taken in the homes and neighborhoods again.

Southbridge is no different than a thousand other small towns throughout the country. Once burgeoning industrial centers, with full employment and vibrant retail operations, the factories moved out, malls and then regional shopping centers replaced the downtown stores. Towns where personalities take over politics and actually working together to improve conditions often takes a back seat to who is siding with who against another.

Will I become involved in the local political scene? That is hard to say at this time. I will admit I have been perusing the local cable access channels attempting to get up to speed on what is going on. But until such time as I make a decision on how I will proceed, I will be spending my time getting to re-discover my new/old home town, and writing about it here.

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

The Meaning of Life or Something

As I  sit here in my study, pondering life, I have come up with the definitive answer to the eternal question, “What is the meaning of life?” This has been a question that has plagued man for ages. Greater minds than mine have pondered this question and have failed to come up with the answer, yet, here I am, as unscholarly as one can be, and I have found the answer.

Continue reading

Blogging: Where the Hell have I been

I realize I haven’t been very consistent with this blog, or any of my others now that I think about it, and that isn’t a good thing. It breaks one of the main rules on “How to be Successful in Blogging” and that is

Computer

is to be consistent in how often you write, whether it is once a week, every day, so your readers will know when to expect something from you. I guess I believe in the “Roy Philosophy on Blogging” which is to keep ’em guessing. Could this be why I am not successful? Hmmm. Continue reading

The Technology Conundrum

58_edsel_pacer

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.

 

Out of the Frying Pan

and into the fire.

Of course I am talking about my recent decision to enter the “Work From Home” movement. Okay, it really wasn’t 100% my choice, but since the options for this old dog seem to be somewhat limited, I am actively pursuing this option, at least until the unemployment runs out. It is something I have always wanted to do, so now is as good of a time as ever. And what can be better than to make money at home anyways?

This means I will be periodically be updating this blog with things I have learned about the working from home process. I know, I know, for the three of you who actually read this blog, periodically isn’t very periodic, but I am working it into my writing schedule. This is the first thing I learned the last time I was unemployed, you need to follow a set schedule. It is all about time management.

Let’s call this the first Working from Home Tip

Tip Number 1: Have a schedule and stick to it

When you work from home, there are some advantages, and some disadvantages. One of the advantages, especially for someone like me who is really a hermit at heart, is you hardly ever need to leave the house. This comes with some inherent problems however. The main one is you hardly ever need to leave the house. It isn’t like you need to get dressed, get in the car and drive somewhere. My morning routine now consists of rolling out of bed at 8:00 AM (much better than 2:45 AM when I was working in the real world), walking into the other room, having a cup of coffee and … starting my daily routine.

The last time I tried this, I didn’t have a schedule so my routine was more like, roll out of bed whenever, have two, three, four, cups of coffee, log onto the computer, read my email, go on Facebook and read all kinds of posts, never missing a link to follow, and before I knew it, it was time for lunch and my nap. Not very productive.

Even now, I look around and there are plenty of chores that need doing, and if you don’t discipline yourself to work at your business, you can easily fall into the trap of doing those chores instead of doing the things needing to be done for your business. Fortunately in my case, housework has never been my passion or a strong suit, although I do work time for it in my schedule. Why? That will be another tip down the road: Keep those who live with you happy and avoid misery.

My typical day goes something like this:

  • 8:00 AM – 8:30 AM – Get out of bed, have coffee and breakfast, watch the news and read emails. I look at this time as my commute to the office, it is just really short and uses no gas.
  • 8:30 AM – 10:30 AM – Respond to emails, search for work on various freelancing sites, like Elance, Guru and Odesk. This includes finding suitable jobs and sending out proposals for them.
  • 10:30 AM – ? – As soon as I am done sending out proposals, I jump right into working on any projects I have for paying customers. If I have none, I will work on some ongoing writing projects (like blogging or articles I hope to sell). This is also a good way of marketing myself and building a portfolio.
  • 3:00 PM – I normally stop working for awhile as the better half gets home. We have dinner (and yes, sometimes I even cook, love my Crock-Pot
    ) and spend time together. After she goes to bed, I will either continue working on a project if there is a deadline, or I may read, either books on writing, editing or anything that catches my eye. After all the more reading you do, the better writer you will become, or so I am told.

I follow this schedule on the days the better half works, when she is home, I try not to work as much, unless there is something really pressing. I still check my email and put out proposals, but other than that, I am all hers.

So far I have found this to be rather a good plan, at least for the last three weeks. I had a few unanticipated things thrown in there, but I still have been accomplishing much more than last time. Now, if I could only spend more time on paying jobs and less on the other things…

I hope you enjoyed this post and tip. Please feel free to comment on it and send it to your friends. And as always, if you would like to help me out, you can purchase something from Amazon by using this link:

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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 Writing Songs

I started thinking the other day about writing songs. Now don’t worry, I am not going into the song writing business, after all, I have enough problems writing blog posts that make sense, can you imagine what my songs would be like? Not that I haven’t tried.

My guess is anyone who spends long periods of time alone, whether driving or doing any solitary activity, has made up songs in their heads. After all you can only listen to the radio or CD’s or MP3″s for so long, hearing the same songs over and over. So it isn’t long before you start singing and making up songs.

Those of us of a certain age remember a day when there was nothing but AM radio to listen to. In those days you were quite limited to what you could listen to, especially during the day. At least at night you could pick up signals from some of the more powerful AM stations for quite some time. I remember picking up WBZ from Boston one night in Tennessee. During the day it was common to have to change the station every hour or so. And there was no scan or search feature on those radios, nope, you had to slowly turn the dial. And your listening pleasure was limited to where you happened to be. Top 40, talk radio, country or western, and who could forget Sunday morning gospel music in the south or various Lithuanian, Polish and French music.

But then life turned good. FM came into being, although even the music selection was somewhat limited, again based upon where you were. Nothing like elevator music to get you going on a long drive. Ah, those 1,ooo strings. This led to eight track tapes and cassettes. An improvement, but even that was tiring after a while, but at least it would fill the gaps. Yes those were truly the good old days. But once again I digress.

Where was I? Ah yes, writing songs. I consider myself from the in-between generation, growing up at the end of sixties and early seventies, a time of great change in the world. and I have to admit I was very naive about a lot of things. For example, when people would tell me that songs were about drugs and not really about what I thought, you know innocent things like love and breaking up. Now I have to admit there were a few out there which I agree were drug induced but then there were others, I just couldn’t believe. But now that I am older, I do see things differently.

Take the classic love song from Melanie, “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates.” Obviously a nice little ballad about a girl who likes to umm, roller skate around the neighborhood. Maybe not so much.

I ride my bike, I rollerskate, don’t drive no car
Don’t go too fast, but I go pretty far
For somebody who don’t drive, I been all around the world
Some people say I done all right for a girl. –  Melanie Safka

Just saying. Although I do remember roller skates and roller skate keys.

Anyway, the problem I have always had when trying to make up a song, actually the same problem I have if I ever try to write poetry, is the last line of the verse or stanza or whatever it is called. I never can get it just right. It’s a lot like writing a blog post..

 

Roller Derby Firestar Girl’s Roller Skate, Size.-Jr 1

Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting: 126 Proven Techniques for Writing Songs That Sell

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