And .. We’re Back

Once upon a time I made a New Years resolution not to make any more New Years Resolutions, and so far I have kept that.

I have an unrelated goal this year, however, of being a more disciplined marketer blogger. I write stuff, and I’d like people to read it. This is one of the ways to make that happen.

We left off last August, and I have learned some thing since then. I won’t try to recap four months of hard lessons in one post, so we’ll stick to what has been discovered recently.

When lighting for TV (I’ve been involved with this recently in my day job) remember that the camera doesn’t see light, only light bouncing off of something. That’s why they obsess over even washes – it really does matter. In the distant past,  up to say five years ago, you could blend the washes by adding a bunch of diffusion. With HDTV, diffusion looks like – diffusion. Hard light is better.

We still added a bunch of frost.

In theatrical lighting (and TV lighting uses the same toys) LED lights are now competitive in every area except price. And they are one generation away from digging into that as well. Nobody’s going to FEL’s or BHP’s. Honest.

The Droid is a good camera, but using it that way sucks up battery fast. It is a second rate GPS, and a clunky DVR.I ended up hiking with four separate devices.

The Hiking Guide is 90% in the can. Save your receipts, and write down contact info in two different places.

If you trade away your two leading scorers for spare parts, your team won’t do as well. It’s not so much that Sarver let Stoudemire walk away (though he shouldn’t have), it’s that he failed to replace him with anyone who would be a legitimate starter (not an all-star – just a starter) at the power forward position. They traded away their leading scorer – and they still do not have a legit 4. This current roster can’t make the playoffs. I can vaguely understand  that Sarver is maneuvering around the salary cap and the near-certain lock-out looming next season, but I really don’t care. The Suns were contenders six months ago. The owner squandered that. That’s why every game from here out will have more empty seats.

My wife and I were gifted with attending Dave Ramsey’s Fiancial Peace University. 80% of that course is the same information  you can learn from any other basic financial advisory course. Make a realistic budget. Stay in that budget. A couple of things Ransey teaches that others might not:

  • If you don’t have $1000 in the bank, you are wasting your time trying to pay down credit cards. You’ll only end up running them back up for emergencies. So put that money in the can first, and if you spend it, make minimum payments until you’re back up to $1k.
  • As you start paying off the credit cards, start with the lowest balance first, regardless of interest. Statistically, this approach has a better chance of success.
  • Along this same line, you have no business investing until you have 3 months expenses in the bank (which is easier to get to if you pay off the credit cards).
  • Any investment that doesn’t reliably return at least 6% won’t keep up with taxes and inflation.

Now Dave (as we call him in the class) also recommends mutual funds, claiming you should get 12% out of them. After all, the stock market has made money in any ten year period since the great depression. He’s out of date there (we were watching 2006 DVD’s). We are in a ten year period where the market overall has lost money.

Which brings us to the links:

From Slate

The above from a long and enlightening article in Slate.

And fun with math and money from the BBC – who really likes this sort of facty-stuff.

 

Now you know.

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Some quick notes before I pass out

If you’re just hiking for fun, all you really need is water and some idea of where you’re going.

If you are researching a guidebook, though, and you are not fussy about preparations at the trailhead, you end up with poor notes, bad pictures and incomplete GPS tracks. I’m tired of that, so I’m going to make a trailhead checklist.

Even if you’re an interested party, graduation ceremonies challenge anyone’s ability to withstand boredom. This is the best format we can come up with? Really?

The starters for the San Antonio Spurs could probably force a 7 game series against the Suns, if they could play 40+ minutes every game. They can’t, and the Suns bench (which is probably a play-off team in the eastern conference) has walloped them early in the 4th quarter every game.

Tony Parker is every bit the defensive liability that Steve Nash is. It’s just that Bruce Bowen isn’t around to make up for that anymore.

There is much talk through the media, mostly from guys who picked the Spurs to win in 6, about how the Spurs have too much “championship pride” to be swept. Pride is beside the point. What those championship teams had was better defensive speed, better shooting range, a deeper bench and younger legs. Why would these aging legends what to run themselves half-to-death to squeak one victory away from a Suns team that will only humiliate them back in Phoenix? Pride?

Pride can force a game seven. It rarely forces a game five.

You know that Goran Dagjic and Leandro Barbosa and Steve Nash would be in violation of HS 1070 every time they take the court at the USAC, right? There’s no place to keep your papers in a basketball uniform.

If you’re a German Tourist trying to decide between Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, how hard is that decision now? There are a lot of different languages muttered by the folks who crowd the uptown Sedona visitor’s center. They’ll be less and less now.

Much as I would like to T-off on the Show Me Your Papers law, it will not survive the court challenges.  By that time, though, it will be clear to all but the racists Tea Party ilk that this thing absolutely creates more problems than it solves.

Now You Know.

Abuses of power both serious and trivial.

First the trivial: The Suns have a tough schedule ahead – still. Why yes, I have written about that on PhxSunsNews.

Do you know the difference between a Canadian SF writer and a dangerous terrorist? Neither do the US Border cops . Canadian writer and academic Dr. Peter Watts was stopped by Customs and Border Patrol officiers on his way back to Canada through the Port Huron crossing. I mention that because it is the fact a lot of posters get wrong. He was then beaten, detained and charged with resisting arrest. Anything more specific is in dispute.

Seriously, though, how badly trained do you have to be to require pepper spray to subdue a middle-aged Canadian biologist? Beyond the obvious civil rights concerns, that’s just an embarrassing lapse of competence.

You can contribute to his legal defense fund, and his pal Cory Doctorow is on the case (both facts pretty obvious if you follow the link). I suspect the charges get dropped long before a court date.

What I find really creepy is the one in 20 commentators on these things who take the position that the cops are always right because they’re cops,and if they beat the shit out of someone, they must have deserved it. Look, I’m a 40+ middle-class white guy who’s never been arrested, never even been in court outside of jury duty or a traffic violation – and even  I know better than to blindly trust the police. Watching the watchmen is an essential responsibility of being a citizen in a democracy – or even in a quasi-republican corporate oligarchy.

As evidence of what happens when a community ignores this responsibility? Joe Arpaio and his war against the rest of the county government. And here, the ratio of cop-worshipers is even higher.

Every time bad cops beat up someone for no good reason, they put good cops in danger. Because if I’m really a bad guy, and I believe I’m going to get beat up no matter what, why not throw the first punch?

Flex Your Rights offers a lot of advice for dealing with The Man under stress.

Roadblock Revelations deals with border security abuses, particularly in Arizona – where they aren’t always polite like the might be in Port Huron.

Now, links to graphics:

The Guardian has some sobering graphs on troop levels in Afghanistan.  Scroll down to see how many more private security forces there are than actual NATO and US troops.

Info is Beautiful painstaking compiled graphs regarding climate change, with contrasting claims each side of the debate makes about the same information. Note that no serious scientist disputes the warming – they just dispute the cause.

Finally, Sketchy Santas. Merry  @#$%ing  X-mas.

Now You Know.

After the Holidays

Thanksgiving in the USA. I was busy. Learned a few things.

When re-roping a fly system, someone is going to have to get on top of the head-block and feed the rope through – unless you’re a lot smarter than we were.

There is no biography of Alvin Gentry on line that I found useful – so I wrote one.

A timely, topical entry for Examiner, such as this one on Phx camping stores Black Friday specials, earns me about $0.40 for an hour’s work. So I stick to relatively evergreen stuff like campground profiles.

At the in-laws, I have to seize control of the TV or it will be stuck on game show re-runs from the 70’s. Not kidding. There are two things I can put on the TV that will not generate controversy from the wide confluenec of family in attendence: Sports or science documentaries.

From Nova, I learned that there are two different dream cycles: REM and non-REM. REM cycles ted to be more creative, but also involve more negative emotions. Non-REM dreams are more positive, but more limited to actual memories.

From Scientific American Frontiers, I learned one of the few useful things to coem out of Biosphere was the Biosphere Diet, a high vitamin, low calorie diet born of desperation (their gardening scheme yielded a fraction of expected results), but which actually left the participants leaner and healthier than when they went in.

Oh, and when the Detroit Lions have lost, its time to serve the turkey.

A backlog of [writer] links:

Book Marketing Maven: blog ideas for your fiction-writing blog

Caren Gussoff shares 5 Truths about Editors

And some more opinion of the Demand Studios and ilk dillema:

Carol Tice’s 7 reasons not to write a $15 blog (a numbered list – just like a non-fic freelancer…)

Now You Know

 

 

 

Sssh! I’m supposed to be working…

Because everyone at my day job has Something Important To Do but me (both my projects have been substantially delayed), but I’m hanging around trying to look busy.

Really, I don’t even have to look busy, but when I get bored I become a pest.

It’s finally happened: a teacher told us the truth. The reason Johny can’t write is because hand writing is not an element of the AIMS test. Have we mentioned that Arizona s the worst ranked state in the nation in education. We is.

It doesn’t matter what we think of trading Amara Stoudemire. It’s all up to him.

Fox News applies known physics to fleeing from zombies. Because we care about your safety.

Time poll on our most trusted news-anchor. SPOILER: Vermont was the only state where John Stewart did place at least second.

And finally, another site cataloguing weird urinals: Porcelin Poetry

Now You Know.

Beyond Demand Studios

I have decided to blow off Demand Studios for a while. Some of that simply coincided with the creative blahs that left this blog unattended for a week. But most of it had to do with money.

DS pays a flat fee of $5-20 for a 250-500 word article – preferably with photos. I decided from the get-go that they didnt pay me enough to find photos for them. But they had some topics on the list that I actually had an interest in, so I wrote them up, and the money appeared in Pay Pal. All well and good.

But what they purchased for less than a penny a word was All Rights. So I can’t re-use that material elsewhere, which – so you know – is the staple of free-lance profitability. The difference between a hobby and a living is the ability to sell an article (or at least a version of it) several different times.

My stuff about headlamps and forest rangers appears on Trails.com, if you care. But I’ve been paid off and have no incentive to actively promote the content.

Angela Hoy of Writer’s Weekly did a long expose on DS recently, and while I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, the fire kinda went out after I read it. I don’t care the Freelancewriting.com is in cahoots with DS. I don’t really mind that DS makes a lot of money (a lot!), though I think they’d be better served sharing a little more with the writers.

To be fair, Deborah Ng, of freelancewriters.com objects to Hoy’s characterizations.

DS claims proficient writers can earn above minimum wage, which runs contrary to my experience. Of course, I am notorious for over-research. If I knew the subject of a $20 article, and could bang it out off the top of my head, this would be true. But that seems the exception for just about every writer.

I do not, as a matter of policy, track writing income by the hour. On that basis, I make far more money as a stagehand – let alone a technical director – than writing anything. I calculate income by the published word.

Now, factor in that I don’t have to query – they pick the topics. BUT factor in my time slogging through their long (and slow-loading) topic list, chock full of unclear, troublesome prompts. Well, still easier than concocting a 250 word query.

Even so, $.04/word – max – is below my minimum rate – which is based on first rights, not all rights, and never includes photos (always extra!).

I’m not saying I’ll never write for them again. After all, the check cleared. I’m just saying that I’m not that hungry – and I don’t anticipate getting that hungry.

Web writing in general pays a fraction of what free-lancers have become accustomed to from magazines. But the web isn’t dying – its growing, Magazines are having the opposite experience. So I ask myself, do I want to fight with all the other veteran freelancers for a hold on the last parts of the ship still above water? Or do I cast about looking for a new way to stay afloat on what has become a very different ocean?

(The metaphor’s a mess – I know. This blog is always a first draft. You get what you pay for. )

I’m not the only one trying to figure this out.

Meanwhile, after 23 articles, my Examiner earnings are still below what I grossed in 9 articles for DS. But that will eventually reverse. And my Examiner experiment is more of self-education about SEO than serious revenue generation.

And I just took a gig blogging about the suns for phxsunsnews.com for a rate so low I dare not speak of it. But that’s largely recreational.

I’m thinking about starting a blog covering the sea-change in short non-fiction. Since I’m desperately trying to keep track of it anyway.

But I’m not making any promises – unless  you’re writing me a check.

Now you know.

Panic and Pride and ignoring the circus

The circus elephants dance backstage. They’re fond of dance-pop.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to ignore the circus at the USAC this week as much as possible. It’s not that hard: if the spots work – I can go hide. So I do.

Let me now debunk the legend I heard today that bra sizes originated in the army. in the 1930’s, Maidenform was the first company to actually make bras in different sizes (small, medium and full) but Warner Brothers Brassiers (no relation to the movie conglomerate) devised the alphabetical size categories that have become industry standards.

See how the internet improves our lives?

Yes. Its true. Had the Suns held on the Shawn Marion, letting him walk at the expiration of his contract, they would have saved more money than the humiliating Shaq “trade” (neither of the players they received from Cleveland are expected to be on the roster next season). These are the wages of Panic and Pride.

We’re not even to the all-star break, and you can write off the D-backs. Hows this for historically perverse: “Can’t wait for Cardinals season, so that we can see our team win once in a while…”

For the writers: Book Marketing 101

And lost in all the Micheal Jackson Is Still Dead nonsense – the state of Arizona is either going to pass the most regressive budget in my lifetime or shut down completely by July 1st. Flat tax. Elimination of the property tax that provides the bulk of the money for the most poorly funded state education system in the nation. I am understating how bad this is. More on this later.

Now you know.