Thursday, May 31, 2007

More wedding pictures

The CDs with our wedding photos came last Thursday, but I delayed posting about it due to my step-grandmother's recent passing.

In any case, I now have some new photos to add to those I posted before. I'm just going to post a few pictures below, and let them speak for themselves!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Freelance Work Exchange is now GoFreelance.com

According to WritersWeekly.com, Freelance Work Exchange has changed their name. As Angela indicates, they can change their name all they want, but that doesn't change the nature of the complaints about FWE. Freelance Work Exchange -- or, as they now are calling themselves, GoFreelance.com -- has been accused of everything from deliberately avoiding members who want to cancel their accounts, to regurgitating job ads that are available for free on other job sites.

My advice: Writers should not only avoid Freelance Work Exchange/GoFreelance.com, but any other service that charges you a membership fee in order to browse job ads.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My beef with Associated Content

I've discussed Associated Content before, so you may know that I have very mixed feelings about this content mill. One of the biggest negatives I see is the way the payment system is set up: You get paid peanuts until you 1) write for peanuts for a while and prove that you are willing to do anything -- even starve -- for your writing, and 2) get lots of people to rate, comment, and pay homage to your content.

The unfortunate thing about this system -- and here I get to today's point -- is that it turns would-be writers into a new breed, a unique blend of used car salesman and spammer, forever trying to get more people to read their crappy content.

This morning I found in my inbox an email from an Associated Content writer. It reads:

Appreciated your entry, How Society Supports Low-Paying Writing Jobs By Katharine Swan.

Just getting into writing in earnest, after Hurricane Katrina. I don't know thought I'd leave a link.

Have a nice evening.

At the bottom of the email was a link to his content producer page.

I can't help but wonder, does he think he's being clever by putting it that way: "I don't know thought I'd leave a link"? (And does he realize that sentence makes him seem not just an amateur, but a pretty poor one at that?)

It annoys me that Associated Content would set up a system encouraging their writers to harass other people for hits. It annoys me even more that since most people probably don't feel comfortable emailing complete strangers and inviting them to rank their articles, this system is probably nothing more than Associated Content's way to justify paying their "less ambitious" writers peanuts.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Freedom of speech, blogs, and censorship

My regular readers probably know from my previous posts that I do not believe in censorship. However, I so frequently see bloggers decry comment moderation as a violation of their First Amendment rights that I wanted to post on what constitutes freedom of speech...and what doesn't.

Yes, the Constitution gives you the freedom of speech. But what does this mean? For starters, it means that the U.S. government (theoretically) can't do what China does and punish bloggers who say things that "the man" doesn't like. However, the First Amendment does not mean that you have the right to talk on someone else's dime. It also does not guarantee that anyone is going to listen to you.

For instance, if you send your book of brilliant political commentary to a publisher and he turns it down flat, you can't coerce him into publishing it by calling upon your First Amendment rights. You can, however, decide to self-publish the book. Your right to free speech allows you to say or write or publish anything you want, but it doesn't absolve you from having to foot the bill.

How does this relate to blogging? Simple. I am paying to publish my own blog. (Just because I use a free blogging service doesn't mean I am not paying -- I pay for my own website hosting, and host my blog on my own URL.) That means that your right to free speech doesn't mean that I have to pay for you to have it. Since this blog is my space, I can decide whether or not I want an insulting comment to appear on it. While it is a mild form of censorship to delete someone's nasty comment, it's not real censorship, because you are quite able to self-publish your comment -- that is, to get your own blog and use that space however you see fit. That's the right the First Amendment reserves for you.

Hopefully this will clarify what is or is not a violation of someone's First Amendment rights. With this in mind, I am going to change my blog's settings to allow anonymous comments again, in the hopes that my "anonymous" commenter from several months ago has given up harassing me. Although I will, of course, refuse to publish any unreasonably nasty comments, I also reserve the right to turn off anonymous commenting again should the need arrive.

I look forward to again hearing from some of my readers who don't have Google accounts!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yo ho ho, a freelancer's life for me!

My week of being alone is finally almost up -- Michael comes home today!

I had several assumptions going into this week, some of which turned out to be true, and some of which didn't.

Assumption #1: The entire week would be as lonely as Sunday was.
Thankfully, this was not true. Sunday was difficult, probably because I'm not accustomed to taking Michael to the airport in the middle of the day. But in fact, the rest of the week wasn't as bad. I always get up after Michael has already left for work, so most days I got up and started my day just as I always would. The evenings were a little strange -- it felt like the day lasted longer, somehow, because evening would come and go without Michael coming home from work.

Assumption #2: I'd have lots of time to work.
Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha. I don't know quite how it happened, but I ended up only having one evening to myself -- and that was yesterday evening, after spending all day with my family.

Monday evening my mom helped me walk the dogs. True, it didn't take up all of my evening, but enough.

Tuesday evening I babysat.

Wednesday evening I went out to dinner with a friend.

Yesterday... Well, read this post for more on what yesterday was like.
So as it turned out, I had only a little more time in the evenings than I would have if Michael were home. The major difference was that once I came home from doing whatever I was doing, the house was quiet -- which meant that I could work in the evening without distraction if I wanted to. (I did work several evenings, though not last night.)

Of course, managing the house while Michael was gone required some time, too. I didn't clean or anything that ambitious, but I did do the dishes every night, which Michael usually does. Grace and Emma also kept me busy: feeding them and letting them out on my own, trying to adapt to Grace's schedule, waking up (sometimes) in the middle of the night to let Grace out, and washing her favorite throw rug whenever I didn't happen to let her out on time.

Assumption #3: I'd get lots of work done.
This kind of goes along with Assumption #2, though not quite. I actually found that I didn't get much work done Monday -- still acclimating to the idea of being alone for the week, I guess -- got about the usual amount done Tuesday and Wednesday, and got absolutely nothing done yesterday (for obvious reasons). What happened yesterday would have hijacked my day regardless of whether or not Michael was in town, though, so I'd like to think that I would have gotten lots of work done otherwise.

Assumption #4: Singlehood is a good state of being for a freelancer.
Yeah, I think I still agree with this one. Being single would definitely make it easier to live the freelancer's life -- writing when and as much as you wanted, without distraction. Although, as I discovered yesterday, not having a significant other around certainly doesn't mean you won't have family responsibilities to tend to.

Of course, the nice thing about freelancing is that it's so darn adaptable -- so being single isn't a requirement (as all of you freelancers know who have significant others, spouses, and/or children). As long as you can train yourself to work around a schedule, you can do anything with your freelancing... Which is, of course, one of the reasons why I love it so much!

To grieve or not to grieve

Shortly after I got up today (Thursday), I learned that my step-grandmother had died early this morning. Although the situation is unique -- as I'll explain momentarily -- I still was tied up all day because of it, and accomplished pretty much nothing today.

Interestingly, I'm having a hard time explaining this. Three or four times, I've erased everything I'd written and started over again. I don't know why this is so hard. Like I said, the situation is unique -- "unique" meaning that I was never very close to Virginia. When my dad told me that my uncle (my mother's brother) had called to say that Virginia had passed away, I thought curiously, Am I going to cry? A quick moment of introspection told me that no, I wasn't anywhere close to tears. In fact, I felt nothing more than surprise: We had always thought Virginia was in better health than my grandfather. In fact, my mom just got back from visiting less than a week ago, and Virginia seemed fine.

It's trying to tell the full story that's getting to me, I think. As difficult as Virginia was, I just can't bring myself to publish the extent of it -- she's gone now, after all, and can't hurt our family any longer. Suffice it to say that Virginia was not a very nice person. When she first came into the family, creating bad blood between her and her new husband's kids from the get-go, we thought her antagonism was directed at us; over the years, though, we've realized that she was like that toward everyone.

Not all of my experiences of Virginia were bad, though. She was nice to my sister and I when I first met her (I was 11). For a while there she was the one reminding my grandfather of family members' birthdays. And in the last five years, she and I had started corresponding intermittently by snail mail. (Never mind that she managed to criticize my career choice and my marriage to my mom just five days ago.)

With all of this in mind, I was rather surprised when my mom started crying at lunch today. (They invited me to lunch last night, since Michael is still out of town.) I decided to spend the rest of the day with my family... Which is why, of course, I didn't get anything done.

It's funny how something can affect you and not affect you all at the same time. Several times while writing -- or trying to write -- this post, I've felt like I might cry... But of course I haven't. Yet at the same time, Virginia's death was monumental enough to hijack my to-do list and occupy my thoughts. The truth is, I almost can't believe she's not there anymore -- she seems so real in my thoughts.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cures for the lonely-hearted

Ways to treat yourself when you're feeling lonely:

1) A big bowl of ice cream
2) A hot bath
3) An evening with a funny juvenile novel

After an afternoon (and part of an evening) of reading and hanging out with the dogs, I was finally starting to feel a little less depressed about being alone in the house. Then Michael called as he was getting ready for bed, and the tears started all over again. Frankly, I'm surprised at myself -- I'm not usually this weepy, and I had no idea being without Michael for a few days would make me this miserable.

Anyway, to try to get back to feeling semi-okay about the whole thing, I had a bowl of ice cream, took a hot bath by candlelight, and started to read The Higher Power of Lucky, a challenged children's chapter book that I blogged about a few months ago. I'm starting to feel a little better again, but I'm not going to try to work tonight -- I'll just continue reading until I go to bed.

Sans Michael

Tonight will be the first night I have spent apart from Michael in almost two years. Michael is away on a business trip for the next few days, and it feels very strange to be alone in the house -- even stranger still to think of going to bed alone, waking up alone, and eating my meals alone.

I've been planning to use this time to get a lot of work done. Michael has proved time and again to be an irresistible distraction when I am supposed to be working, so I figured several days without him would be a perfect opportunity to work ahead a little.

Now, I'm not so sure. Dropping Michael off at the airport was much more upsetting than I had imagined -- I teared up when we said goodbye, and actually started crying when he called me ten minutes later to say he'd gotten checken in. When I got home, I didn't feel like doing much of anything: I went outside with the dogs, ate a snack, found the webpage where I could track Michael's flight, and finally settled in to read for a little while. And that's how I've spent the last few hours.

I'm feeling a little better after having read for a while. I'm hoping that I'll be able to shake the gloomy feeling off after a little while and get down to business, but I decided that if I need to take tonight as an "adjustment" period, I might as well let myself have it. After all, I'll have plenty of time to catch up.

I have some goals that I am hoping to meet while Michael is away, of course. I have several projects that I would like to knock out: book reviews, personal essays, (paid) blog posts, and several pages of web copy. More importantly, though, I've decided that it's high time I start pursuing my fiction aspirations again. My goal is to either 1) dedicate a couple of hours each day to writing some fiction, or 2) get everything else done so that I can dedicate an entire, uninterrupted day to fiction. I haven't decided yet which plan is the better one, as they both seem pretty appealing.

Well, I'll post again later and let you know how I'm getting along!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The post about Grace

In my post about the wedding and honeymoon, I mentioned that we came back with a second dog, and promised to blog about her soon. Unfortunately, I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to do so. Today, however, I need some "creative warm-up time" before I get started on work, so I decided to go ahead and blog about Grace.

As you can see, Grace is absolutely beautiful. She looks like she is American white shepherd, which is (I was surprised to learn) a distinct breed. Her ears are huge compared to her face, which gives her a slightly comical look, and to make her even more endearing, she has a habit of cocking her head to the side when you talk to her.

Michael's brother rescued Grace last summer, after seeing a sign offering her to a good home. She had been chained up underneath her previous owner's trailer, abandoned, and left for dead. The neighbor started feeding her, and put a sign up when she realized Grace's owners weren't coming back. Grace therefore came into the family in terrible condition: dirty, skinny, and infested with fleas.

We wanted Grace from the very beginning, but Michael's sister-in-law didn't want to give her up. However, in the last few months there have been some issues in the marriage, and she was moving around a lot -- with the dog. Grace doesn't eat well when she's nervous, so she lost weight again -- and because she probably never got to her full weight in the first place, she's now so emaciated she looks like a holocaust survivor.

I often joke about our other dog, Emma's neuroses, but Grace has some more serious ones, all stemming from abuses in her past I'm sure. In fact, I see a lot of symptoms in her that would be taken for PTSD in a human. She has violent bad dreams on a nightly basis; she startles at loud noises and becomes terrified by certain stimuli (such as rainstorms); she paces a lot, especially during rainstorms or other stimuli, and with an intensity uncommon in dogs (which could be interpreted as an inability to get certain thoughts out of her mind). She also has other little quirks, such as being afraid to go outside.

Grace is in rough shape physically, too. Besides being way too skinny, she has a limp or lameness in her back right leg, which Michael's brother noticed shortly after getting her last summer. Michael and I noticed right away that it was still there, and that long walks made it worse. We thought it was hip dysplasia, which is fairly common in large breed dogs, but the vet at the vaccination clinic thought it could also be a torn ACL. We're going to make an appointment and get it checked out in the next week or so. In the meantime, we have her on buffered aspirin and glucosamine/chondroitin, as per the vet's recommendation.

Despite all of her little issues, Grace is a sweet dog, and my heart goes out to her for what she must have endured at the hands of her previous owners. She's a bit timid, but affectionate, and attached to us very quickly. She's extremely eager to please, and as a result quickly modifies her behavior whenever she realizes she is displeasing us. She has done well with our other dog, quickly taking the role of subordinate dog (although Emma is certainly lording that over Grace). She does have an unfortunate proclivity for chasing cats, but she is realizing that we don't like her doing that, and has backed off considerably.

I got a new camera last night (mainly because I was so disappointed in how pixelated my honeymoon pictures were), so of course I immediately tried it out on Grace. I took a rather amusing video of Emma pushing Grace around:

In this video, you can see more of Grace's cute little head tip:

She is whining because I mentioned the word "walk" when I was getting her to tip her head for an earlier video. Grace is really smart, and understands an astonishing amount of what we say. We've taken to spelling certain words and talking in code, just as parents do with small children.

Anyway, my work is calling me, so I had better get to it. I hope you have enjoyed meeting Gracie!

Poking fun at low-paying "employers"

This ad on Craigslist has apparently been making the rounds. Thanks to Kristen King for sharing the laughter.

If you ever see a genuine ad that says basically this same thing without the humor and sarcasm, run the other way as fast as you can:

Vaguely defined writing/editing/translating job for virtually no money

Are you young (inexperienced), motivated (willing to do anything for a byline) and creative (full of ideas I can steal for fun and profit)?

We are a start-up company (basically, me and my laptop working from my parents' basement) looking for eager (dumb) writers, editors and translators (university graduates with useless degrees and no jobs) to produce and manage content for an exciting new group of internet ventures (read: excuses to sell ad space... we, that is I, could care less what the actual content is).

Writers: You will be expected to produce 300- to 500-word articles, each hour on the hour, 10 times a day, seven days a week, 53 weeks a year (that's one extra week, in case it happens to be a leap year) on a subject that you have expertise in (tying your shoes, breathing, astrophysics, general wankery, etc.), duly researched and cited according to APA, Chicago, MLA, and Ulan Batur Goatherding News styleguides. A minimum of three expert sources, each with conflicting opinions, must be interviewed. Also, please suggest 20 alternate headlines, in iambic pentameter. Note that none of these will be used. Articles may or may not be attributed to you. Compensation: $1,000 per article (Note: the preceding dollar amount employs British-style punctuation, so the comma is actually a decimal point. I know, you went into writing because you aren't very good at math. It pays a dollar an article... which is why you should have tried harder at learning the multiplication table, or whatever.)

Editors: You will be expected to take the voluminous stream of endless banging on of typewriters produced by our team of trained monkeys, and make it legible and interesting to all demographic groups, from three-year-old bedwetters to 80-year-old bedwetters, and everyone in-between. Basically, you will turn shit into Shinola, and you'll always be behind schedule, for which we will berate you constantly. All corrections will be entered on paper, with our own proprietary set of 537 copy editing symbols (really, just a bunch of random squiggles we doodled on cocktail napkins after one too many martinis.) You only get to see the list once, and must commit it to memory, failing which you will be flogged in public. For your own safety, you will be asked to remove your belt and shoe laces before each 16-hour shift, and keep away from pointy objects. Compensation: The thrill of seeing your name in print, and all the hot gruel you can eat (limit to one bowl of gruel.)

Translators: Have you ever seen a web site that used some online service to translate text from English to French, with horrible results? Well, we want you to correct them all. When you're done (there's only a couple hundred, or thousand, give or take), send us all of them. Compensation: We'll see if any of the sites like your version, and if they're willing to pay for it, we'll send you the full amount, minus a small brokerage fee (99.9 to infinity percent). We can't guarantee you'll be paid, or that any of your work will actually be put to use, but won't you feel better knowing your translating skills aren't being wasted? (That was a rhetorical question. Sarcastic too.)

Please send your CV and a 500-word sample article on a subject that interests you (which you agree to let us, that is me, post up--without paying you--whether or not you are hired).

Location: My dungeon, I mean, office
Compensation: As little as possible, without it being considered slavery (usury, maybe...)
Telecommuting is ok.
This is a part-time job.
This is a contract job.
This is at a non-profit organization.
This is an internship job
OK for recruiters to contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
You may contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
PostingID: 330703256

Monday, May 14, 2007

When being diabetic is scary

Those of you who read my blog regularly may remember that I am a type 1 diabetic. Anyway, most of the time I don't mind -- taking a shot with every meal or snack is so normal to me that sometimes I catch myself being surprised when characters in movies that I identify with don't take a shot with their meal. (Funny, huh?) There are times when I consciously think, Wow, hey, yeah... I'm diabetic!!!

Yesterday was not one of those times where I forget or don't mind being diabetic. I struggled with mild lows all day -- between every meal or snack, actually. Then, a few hours after dinner, I started crashing and didn't recognize the symptoms. I just thought I didn't feel well from the wine I had with dinner. (Sometimes wine doesn't sit well with me.) After Michael suggested several times that I check my blood sugar, I finally took his advice... and discovered my blood sugar was well below the crashing point.

It took nearly an hour before my blood sugar climbed back to a level where I could think straight again. I was out of glucose pills, the fast-acting chewable pills that I take when I crash. We didn't have any candy, either. So Michael spoon-fed me honey and opened a soda (which, unfortunately, had natural sugar -- so it wouldn't work as fast as, say, a Coke).

Even while Michael was pretty much shoveling honey into my mouth (I was too dazed to want to chew, let alone pick up, anything), my blood sugar kept dropping. It fell to probably my third-lowest reading ever before it started to come back up. When I finally regained the ability to think straight again, the past hour or so had become a blur -- like a dream that you only half-remember when you wake up. Needless to say, I didn't feel like working anymore (which I'd been intending to do).

The problem with days like yesterday is that it really screws with my work goals. When I have a low, it takes a long time to feel "normal" again, even after my blood sugar returns to a reasonable level. Usually, I feel tired afterward, maybe even a little disoriented depending on how badly I crashed.

Of course, the best thing is to minimize days like yesterday as much as possible. For a few days I'd been suspecting that my nighttime dose (I take a 24-hour insulin called Lantus) was too high, but so far I'd had no clear indication of it. My blood sugar has been a little difficult to control since we returned from our honeymoon, and I think it has something to do with the large amounts of food and exercise we were getting there -- any change in metabolism tends to affect the amount of insulin my body needs. When I took my nighttime dose of insulin last night (several hours after I crashed), I cut the dose back by a few units. I'll just have to monitor it closely over the next day or so and see if it is helping.

Today, unfortunately, I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks to the combination of dryer problems and yesterday's blood sugar drama, I didn't get my priority assignments done as I had intended. If I am going to catch up in any reasonable amount of time, I need to buckle down and work pretty seriously.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My weekend has been hijacked!

I've been playing catch-up all week, trying to get back into my work routine after nearly two weeks away. So far it's been fairly trying, which means I have some work to finish up on this weekend.

Unfortunately, our dryer chose last night to die on us, which complicated my weekend plans quite a bit. (It's been squeaking intermittently for about eight months, so we knew it was coming -- just not now.) We spent a considerable chunk of our morning trying to figure out what the model number is (can you believe it's not on the dryer at all?!), researching dryer components, and visiting a local used appliance and repair shop.

Ultimately, we decided the dryer -- which is at least twenty years old and rather basic -- wasn't worth trying to fix. The repairs would have been only about $70 less than the refurbished dryer we bought (which is considerably newer, I might add, not to mention considerably nicer), and although we might have been able to fix it ourselves, it no doubt would have cost us an entire day -- not to mention a week's worth of frustration.

The delivery crew brought the new dryer (and took the old one away) just a little bit ago. In the end I think this little escapade cost us about four hours, but unfortunately I babysit tonight so I'm on a bit of a time schedule. Luckily, I only have a couple of priority jobs to do this weekend, so I'll just concentrate on getting those done.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'm a married woman now!

I'm back to work today. After spending most of the morning catching up on email and touching base with clients, I'm taking some time out to blog. There's a lot to cover, not to mention pictures to share, so be prepared -- this will be a ridiculously long post.

The Wedding

The wedding went beautifully. Prior to the ceremony, I spent 3 or 4 hours with the photographers. I have to admit I loved being the focus of attention (particularly because my feet didn't yet hurt at that point). It also helped keep me busy and prevented me from getting nervous (although I don't know if I would have -- I was never nervous about getting married, just getting everything ready in time, and all of that was done before we left home).

The photographers sent me about a dozen downsized pictures; they're going to send me full-size versions of everything on CDs and DVDs, but I haven't gotten those yet. My favorite picture of myself so far is this one:

As I've probably already mentioned (and as you'll know if you read my wedding blog), the wedding was 1920s-themed. My dress was from 1929, and when I found it I loved it so much that I decided to plan the entire wedding with the same theme. Therefore my bridesmaids had modern flapper-ish dresses, Michael and the other men wore tuxes with coat tails, and I encouraged our guests to wear 1920s outfits as well (which most of them did!). My outfit was almost entirely vintage -- my veil, although new, was attached to a period wax-flower wreath, and my shoes were also from the late 20s or 30s. I even, by a last-minute stroke of luck (and my mom's good eye), had an authentic 1920s cloche hat to wear for the reception!

The ceremony went beautifully -- no mess-ups, thank goodness. (I think tripping or stuttering during the ceremony is every bride's fear.) Although we didn't end up dancing at the reception, it was still perfect -- it was a small wedding, very intimate, and it never felt like dancing was needed to "keep the party going."

The Honeymoon

The next day, Michael and I left for our honeymoon. We went to the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania, to a resort that I used to go to with my mom's side of the family when I was a kid. It's been 12 years since I was there, 15 years since I was there regularly, which gave our honeymoon a dual significance for me: intertwining some of my happiest childhood memories with the promise of the future.

Driving up to the resort for the first time in 12 years made me cry. This is what it looked like:

And a picture of the back of the building:

It's so relaxing there, and there's so much to do, too. We hiked, rented mountain bikes, swam, and stuffed ourselves silly with three gourmet meals a day. (Don't worry, we did all of the usual honeymoon stuff, too. ;o) Here are a couple of pictures from one of our hikes, a place I had been to as a kid and was eager to visit again:

It's a very upscale resort, very British in its customs as well as its architecture. We had to go out and buy Michael a suit especially for this trip, but WOW did he look nice. We both loved dressing up for the evening meals.

After leaving Pennsylvania, we went back to Michael's brother's house and visited with him for a couple of days before returning home. We spent a lot of quality time with his kids, visited my horse Panama, and came back with a second dog -- but I'll leave those stories for my next blog post. Also, in another future blog post I'll be participating in a meme Harmony tagged me for: the Thinking Blogger Award.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I'm back: New posts coming soon

I want to apologize for my long delay in blogging or publishing/responding to my reader's comments. Michael and I just got back into town from our honeymoon! However, since we couldn't take as long as a trip as we wanted, we're not officially "back" yet. Michael goes back to work Tuesday, so that's when I'll resume work, too.

Since I want to maintain the honeymoon atmosphere as long as possible, I'm not going to resume blogging until Tuesday, either. However, come Tuesday, I have plenty of exciting things to blog about: our wedding, our honeymoon, and our visit with Michael's family (and my horse). I'll post plenty of pictures, too!


Popular Posts