Site Meter
On the side of a hill in the deep forest green, tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground,
blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain sleeps unaware of the clarion call.
On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves washes the grave with silvery tears,
a soldier cleans and polishes a gun.
War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions, generals order their soldiers to kill
and to fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rewriting Sunday

Starting to rewrite way too late, but fortunately I have a slight reprieve until Tuesday to get the first 50 pages done. This past week the voices had been bugging me that I was sloughing off. I should be looking at this layoff as an opportunity to write.

For anybody who has been laid-off, we know that finding a job is in and of itself a full-time pursuit. And I've been over obsessing that search as well. I've been having a hard time dealing with not having a day thing.

But yesterday morning my brain clicked over and I've been pouring through all my notes from Viable Paradise. And really wishing I had three more hours with Teresa. Most of the other critiques I'm going through and will be recycling their notes. I'm keeping what she did. It's like watching magic. And I think I need to study her notes a few more times to glean all the info I can.

So, a little bit of a stuttering start, but Chapter One is down. Now, the first fifty is also the segment I've already rewritten a few times, so I don't expect the counters to move that much, but we've still added to he word count. We're up to 73311. Now it's back to the coal mines.

Raas Xaafuun is a full story. I'll let it molder a bit before going back for another turn through it. Probably after I've gone through most of this rewrite.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Cost of Tea in China

There are two ways to price a service or product. The first way is the way most people believe products may be priced, and that's by cost. However, most product are priced the second way, on value. Pricing by cost is fairly simple, you take how much it costs to produce a certain product, market it, ship it, shelve it, etc., ad on a profit margin and blammo, you've got your MSRP. However most products are priced by value, also know as "what the market will bear." You can think of this pricing as based on, in the case of books, "how much enjoyment you get out of the book compared to how much money you've got to spend." There's a little but more to it, like how much other products in the market place for the same sector cost, the experience, quality, all those other things compared to what you want to sell.

Price by value will typically (but not always) be more than price by cost. And there is usually more cost in a product than people really give a thought about. Like that blue color used on your blue jeans, not only does that need to be specified (and if you don't think there isn't big money in spec'ing color, you have no idea), it needs to be formulated, blended to change the denim used in your jeans. And you'll notice that each make of blue jeans have a slightly different shade or tint of blue to them.

Now, the value side of the equation works more on this equation, "How much value (there's where this formulation gets its name) does this product/service provide? We think it's worth this much." I first saw how this works in management consulting, specifically in tax consulting. The argument typically went like this, "Our audit and tax practices can save you an extra $X on your tax bill, we think it's worth at least $1/3X (you still save 2/3X)." With an effective practice this increased billing by nearly 10x over straight cost+ models.

You can also think of these models as commodity versus service (although, it's a little misleading as some services are priced on the cost+ model and many commodities are priced on "what the market will bear"). Maybe "value-added" is a better word than service.

You can look at this as how much you pay for your commodities. Say, clothing. Most clothing sold in the US about 30 years ago were produced in the US. Now, most are produced elsewhere (including growing cotton here in the US, shipping it abroad, manufacturing the cloth, cutting and stitching it into the final product and then shipped back to the US). The overall cost to produce has been reduced (not that much as you've introduced costs of shipping, high costs in long distance management, spoilage, and higher manufacturing errors - ie. quality). Notice they didn't really pass the savings on to the end consumer. So what happened is the pricing on the wholesale side went to commoditization and on the consumer side it went to value (this is why brand name and identity are so important, even through they've lost cache in the past twenty years). This is why Wal-Mart (and great mover in the commoditization of production) can "roll back" prices. Really, they aren't loosing money (for the most part), they're only reducing their gross profits (and is a whole different post on how you can sell some product for less than cost but still make an overall profit - both as loss leader and shipment cost structures).

Over the past forty years the cost to physically produce a product has dropped dramatically because of modernization, miniaturization, and automation. However, the incidental costs, the parts most people don't see or recognize as part of the product, have increased.

And here is where we come to a current discussion, the price of books. Back in the 70s the cost of the book was mostly in the product itself (the paper, ink, and binding). The actual production costs of the printed book is less today (even before adjusting for inflation) than it was forty years ago. However, the other costs of the book (the part hidden from the consumer) have increased to offset the reduction in production. Editors, marketers, packagers, illustration, layout/typsetting, etc have all increased until they are the largest part of the cost of the books. These are all upfront costs. That is, before you see the actual product, someone needs to pay for all that. Once paid for, though, they don't all need to be done again (or at least they shouldn't need to be done again). However, their cost needs to be amortized throughout the expected sales cycle.

This is part of why, as print runs keep being reduced, the one-time costs become greater parts of the final price per piece. Again, forty years ago it wasn't uncommon to print 20,000 books as an initial run (and expect to sell 80%). These days 10,000 books is a sizable run (and you're doing good to sell 70%). So instead of costing out your production for 16,000 pieces, you now need to make the same (well, more because it's adjusted for inflation) on only 7,000 pieces. So you see how the cost of the physical production of the book can be reduced by over 60%, but why books now cost more?

This is also why when the discussion comes up about ebooks most people miss that the actual cost of the pulp, ink, and glue of the thing they hold in their hands isn't what they're really paying for. So they don't understand why ebooks aren't heavily discounted. It's pretty simple, the costs that were bourn by the 7,000 physical pieces are now being reduced to 2-3,000 physical pieces and 6,000 electronically delivered pieces (and, just so we're clear, that delivery of the electronic products is not $0: server storage, bandwidth, virus protection, quality control, storefont software, etc all cost money). edit And actually it'll be more like 5,000 hard copy and 1,000 ebooks (another post is how even in these days, two-thirds of music unit sales are still CDs).

Now, the good news, once all those precosts are amortized out, the price of the ebook version of a text should drop dramatically. And this whole argument about how the big publishers are against ebooks is a bunch of crap. Ever listen to one of those big publishers talk about the cost of returns? Yeah, the big publishers love the prospect of ebooks and their elimination of the need for returns. They just want to make sure they're able to stay in business to continue providing their readers with a quality entertainment experience and their authors (and themselves) with a livelihood.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Disconnection Friday

Nonsequitur comic. Yeah. So feel like that guy. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Most of the jobs the past three days are reposts of older jobs. So this time I've done various levels of research and sent of direct emails to the decision makers. Not sure if it will help, but hopefully. There's a few positions not in my profession that I'll also need to apply to. Right now I'm in the middle of rewriting the resume to make myself appear more appetizing for those. I haven't done front office work since college, but I think I still could drive a desk pretty well.

Went online to look at the summer schedule for Lakeland. Yet another example of "gee, everything online is so much better," thinking. Really, tables are just fabulous when looking through large amounts of data and comparing multiple criteria. They're very easy. Unlike, say, formated paragraphs which tell me everything I've already preselected for.

Watching the Health Care Summit yesterday, my blood pressure went up appreciably. Today's argument, of course, was all about reconciliation and how it actually has been used, as compared to the rhetoric surrounding it (COBRA, Welfare Reform, Bush Tax Cuts I and II). Just small things to hear the minority tell it.

Snow has come again. Another snowmageddon record breaking storm. Spring will be here soon enough. And if past years are any gauge, by June we'll be wondering when the heat will break.

Sent poems off to a local contest run by the Akron Art Museum. Finished a full draft of Raas Xaafuun. I'll still need to run through it a few more times. Part of the disconnected feeling comes from this. I like it well enough, but it doesn't sparkle in my head either.

Yes, today is just a grand feeling of discombobulation. How's your day?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Karma is going to be a busy person come the recovery

Several "Ten Rules for Writing" lists from the Guardian. (grokked from Jay Lake).

One job listing for a designer using Flash; less than 10 hours a week, on an as needed basis, there's 13 candidates, and the average posting wage is $10.71 an hour. Okay, I get just a little less than that on unemployment for applying to two jobs a week. Seriously, WTF kind of jobs market is this? Oh yes, karma is going to be working overtime come the next uptick. Don't believe me? Here's a screen capture.

I guess I didn't do a post on pricing schemes (value versus cost), which I'll need to do soon. See, $11 an hour for Flash programming is ridiculously low. Any design work for that amount is ridiculously low. Seriously. My first design job back in 1990 was for $13 an hour, and that was slave wages back then (but at least I got medical). Eleven is "just graduated high school student living in their parent's basement" wages.

(As an aside, I guess I also haven't done a post on terrorism, which I'll also need to do soon. I went to look for it the other day to make a point with someone and realized it wasn't there).

And then there was this on elance: "8 pages product catalog with text and photos. About 50 photos not provided, must be included in bid price." It's also a food supply company. Shooting food is a speciality (and requires a deep knowledge base to get it right). The budget listing is less than $500. In fact, most of the jobs have a budget less than $500.

Okay, if design is going toward a cost pricing model, it's time to get out. Cost is the Wal-Mart pricing model, only it's the common perception of the Wal-Mart model, not the reality. Or, it's the pricing model Wal-Mart enforces on their suppliers. Once that happens, it's a dive to the bottom. Industries crash this way. So, yeah, I'm thinking transitioning out of this isn't such a bad idea at the moment.

And, if I can say it, the "data entry at home" jobs and their postings (which have clogged up my searches the past few days) need to roll over and die. They're the spam of job postings.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday muddled through

When I was but a wee lad and playing baseball, I remember the coaches telling us that even if we were thrown out at first, we needed to "dig, dig, dig" and make it there anyway. I think some of the olympians needed to have heard that before. It's not over until you cross the finish or they carry you off.

So, today, we started applying for positions outside of the design field. I might not get as good of pay, but sometimes a job with benefits is better than no job. I'm also finding it interesting what people are asking for, especially for my profession. Essentially, you have to do everything. Print, web, consulting, and maybe specialization in some office productivity software. Oh, and it's an entry level position. Heck, I've even seen "unpaid intern" positions that offer "a learning opportunity." Since many of my friends are in writing, this is the equivalent of "exposure" publication. Now, an internship in a studio, that's one thing. Being an intern in what's called "in-house" just is looking for slave labor. Especially if you report to someone other than a Sr. Designer or Art Director (the two I've seen report to someone in sales or the management team - ie. not the design management team).

Learned about "ultrasound tech." Wow. (do a salary search for your locality - holy frijoles) Unfortunately I can't find any place local that trains for it. Sigh.

Started cleaning up the Raas Xaafuun story. Really should be working or rewriting the novel. Beating myself up for not doing that. I'm hoping this is my brain saying, "Okay, enough time off, get back to work." Maybe I should hit the Village Hall to get broadband and start submitting some things that I let drop off the radar. Also should query some submissions that are over a year old.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Random late Mondays

Spent the day running around. I think I need to start into a definite routine. I'm thinking up early, Wii Fit, shower, walk (if weather permits), search for jobs, work on edits, chores, lunch, the wip, fix dinner, etc. Okay, maybe not all in that order. Especially if freelance comes in (two quotes didn't get work, only one very short project in the works).

I'm also going through tutorials for CSS. Pretty much what I remembered (and not exactly exciting). Soon we'll get into positioning and floating and that fun stuff. Then I'll need to redo my website incorporating all the new buzzy stuff to show that yes, I can do this stuff. Now won't you hire me. It's a problem when the people you work for don't sell the cutting edge things. And I've always learned better by doing and solving problems than reading a book.

Tonight there was a mandatory information session for health care technology program candidates. We went over a ton of crap, and frankly, it's a wonder anybody goes through this. Waiting list for Radiological Tech is 2-3 years. Which means I take the none clinical and radiologic specific classes waiting for a turn (and work on the immunizations, I have to get my CPR card, again, get medical insurance, do a background check, take the HOBET test). I have a question into the dean of the program concerning my court marshal and if that would disqualify me (for both the program, certification, and employment you need to pass a criminal background check). I don't think it would (not felony, not drug related, no violence, etc). But you never know and it's better to ask now than be surprised after spending a bunch of money and time. Also, for entrance, fees, GPA, tests (except for NET/HOBET test), and waiting time, the Radiological Tech program is the most rigorous. For the majority of it, I'm not worried. My concern is Anatomy and Physiology I and II. Those will be the make it or bust classes. If the classes are structured in their presentation, I think I'll do fine. If not, the memorization will be an issue with me. And I have to keep a 2.8 GPA while doing it. Then again, I might just be psyching myself out.

Oh, and Jay Lake has another point on why I support health care overhaul (and why I am, specifically, a "pro-public option because we'll never get single payor" kind of guy).

And for the writing, I have most of the Raas Xaafuun story down. Just need to plug some holes in it, and then rewrite to make it darker, moodier, and more horrorish. Today's new writing concerned getting out some stuff that was a rewrite of an older story (never finished). I still don't know if it is a story or what the conflict is (main thrust is accepting what we are, no matter how much it hurts).
"Are the feathers your gandfather's?"

"They're my own," Jackson said. He kid looked quizzical and he quickly added, "When I was a boy, a little older than you are now, I climbed the tallest pine tree I knew and had a talk with old-man eagle." He put the knapsack on and started walking up the trail. The kid followed. "'Give me you tail feathers,' I said to the old bird. 'You'll molt soon and won't need them.' And then he said, 'An eagle does not give his feathers away.' And then he jumped me." Jackson slammed a fist into his other palm. "Knocked us both out of the tree."

Jackson stopped and waited for the kid to catch up. "On the way down I wrestled with him and pulled four feathers out before he got away. Then I put two feathers in each hand and started flapping for all I was worth. By the time I got to the ground I had learned to fly." He paused to catch his breath. "That's why eagles cry when they see me," he thumped his chest. "They know I know their secret."

"That's baloney," the kid said.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Be careful for what you wish for

The other day I was in the Village Hall when our local Tea Party organizer came in with pamphlets. She asked the clerks if they new about the big meeting up at the KSU Ashtabula Branch to talk about the increases in the electrical distribution charges, the removal of the all electric discount, generation charge increases, and what they could do. I'm very glad they didn't try to engage me. I understand how upset they are.

And slightly disappointed. So, the organization that really would like to have less government involvement in their lives, are upset there's less government involvement in their lives. Yes, PUCO (our state regulator) screwed up (not the first time with First Energy, see the CFL's at 1000% plan and the mercury release plan). PUCO has long been taken over by corporate interests because of several conservative administrations just not giving a damn about it (and arguing against any regulation at all). In fact, they pushed to deregulate the state's energy production, all in the name of "competition" and "lower prices." Well, lower prices haven't come about. And for First Energy's area we've only had two other companies offering competition. The first, Green Mountain Energy pulled out when First Energy held back the collected fees for more than six months (which was illegal, but nothing was done about it). The second, Gexxa, just pulled out (no explanation has been forth coming). So First Energy has no competition and is very lightly regulated.

And most of these people were very happy to abandon NOPEC when it looked like First Energy was going to give them a discount.

So, want to lower costs? Well, you can re-regulate the market, introducing a stronger PUCO, one that answers to the people, instead of being run second hand by the industries. But that means more government interference in your daily lives, something you've argued against (and let slip away because you felt that an unregulated market would work best for you). Or rejoining NOPEC and making it stronger. But that's a collective, something very much like socialism, which again you've argued against (by conflating things that really weren't equal).

And now having got exactly what you argued for, less government involvement and an open/free market, you're not happy about it. Really hate to tell you we said so. Yep. We really didn't want to be in this circumstance.

Oh, hey, how's you're health care insurance going? What's your increase this year? Also, notice how Medicare Advantage and Part D (you know, those parts the conservatives made sure were privatized, and mandated overpayments to) are also increasing their premiums by double digit percentages? Also just saw a Fox News report about how doctors' offices are now requiring you leave a credit card on file in case your insurance doesn't pay, or pays slowly. They'll just charge the card now. Yep, seems doctors, who most have a billing department, have grown tired of fighting your insurance companies on your behalf. Good thing we stopped that horrible reform.

I believe this is what's known as being hoisted on one's own petard. The good thing for us is that businesses are not long term thinkers. For them, having defeated the problems last quarter, they are far beyond it. And they don't expect you to see the connections.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Groundhog Day All Over Again

The spammers have left their burrows and haven't been frightened by their shadows. Just a few trial comment postings. Sigh. Here's a hint, if you're replying to a blog post I did three years ago, yeah, I'm thinking you might just be spam. Sure, there's a chance that someone is doing searches for things and lands on a page. But then to leave such a non-comment comment, I don't think so.

Today is the test. We'll see how we do. Had some slight test panic this morning. Don't know where the heck that came from. I'm normally good with these things. I think it may have to do with really wanting to hit it out of the park so they don't even think about putting me in an enumerator position. And I think that "wanting to score the best" emotion is what might be doing it. I've never really felt the need to do better than others, just do the best I can.

Also, looking at the materials for Radiologic Tech, there's also a test I need for that. Strangely enough, there's a science part of the test, but that result of that section isn't a determinant to get into the health technologies programs. The rest of the test is a general skills (math, writing, reading, cognitive), a little more rigorous than the census, but not by much (multiplying compound fractions? Really, it's a digital age, we do it with decimals now). The program itself is fast paced (most semesters you have 15-18 credit hours). Since some of those are not major specific (English, Math, Speaking), I'm hoping I can either have my BFA stand in for it, or test out of them. There's a few classes I'll need to take (as my high school experience is way too long ago). Basically three classes; Bio for Majors, Medical Terminology, and Anatomy and Physiology I. The first two I've got no issues with (heck, if I can test out of Bio for Majors I might try that, Terminology I think there's enough holes in my knowledge base there I should take it). Anatomy, though, is going to be my weeder course. It's not so much the gross anatomy things, or the functions, it's the memorization of the latin names. I've never been really good with that. Hopefully if it's presented in a logical format it'll make more sense to me. And supposedly you can complete all the coursework at night and on weekends (according to the program director Bette talked with). So that would be good.

One of the things that came up my research of it is those who have more than one methodology skill set have a better chance of being hired, increased salary, and of being promoted. The certificate programs for CT and MRI are basically the same except for four hours of clinical work. So, if I continue this, oh yeah are we going for both.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A station break for these important whatevers

The US Census is hiring, and there's a local temporary office in Painesville (Regional Office is Detroit). At one of the colleges Bette works at they'll be having a test tomorrow. So I called up and asked if they had any office jobs left open (the flyer implies that they do). Hemming and hawing proceeded. Of course, any position I would receive would be based on the results of the test they administer. Sure, fine, but I really don't want to be an enumerator (those are the people on the streets, knocking on doors). I did a canvasing job in college and I only lasted a few weeks. It's not something I wish to re-experience. But I'm good and numbers and statistics, and I do really well in an office setting. At the end of the call the person answering the phone (who had to ask if I, as a non-student, could take the test at Lakeland. Yes, I can, BTW) said I should make sure to take the sample exam so I'd be prepared.

Sample exam and actual test both have 28 questions. Both only allow 30 minutes to answer the questions. They suggest you set a timer for the sample test. Okay, so I set the stove timer for 30 minutes and dug into the sample test.

Am I bragging if I say it took me only 20 minutes, including the time to walk from the kitchen and get all the papers and a pencil ready, reshuffle the papers, get up and turn the timer off. What if I say I got 100%? Now would that be bragging?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

There has to be an invisible sun.

Nuclear is one of the most expensive generation technologies out there. Don't believe me? Well, I don't blame you. Most of the arguments center around the cost if you don't include the development price. And then, sure, it's one of the cheapest. However, the cost of developing the plant is astronomical compared to other forms of generation. Again, don't believe me?

Okay, Perry Nuclear Power Plant was constructed by the company that became First Energy here in NE Ohio nearly 33 years ago. And they're still arguing with our PUCO (our state regulator) on increasing rates and fees to help pay off the initial costs of building the plant. Operating costs are wrapped into your generation costs on your bill. This is still paying off actually building the place. And while they don't have to replace the fuel often, when they do it is very expensive.

And did I forget to mention the numerous safety violations. Although Perry is First Energy's safest plant, they've still had their issues of being shut down for months to correct safety issues. Davis-Bessy is worse. You may remember they were shut down for nearly a year to fix a problem were acid had eaten a significant hole in the reactor lid. You know, that six inch thick lead dome that holds the radioactive emissions within the reactor chamber that is supposed to be visually inspected every month.

And then there's the waste. Forget the spent fuel (although there's been problems with that), I'm mostly thinking about the deuterium tritium and waste heat water. The waste hot water can be mitigated (although it does cause local environmental damage), the deuterium tritium, however, is a long term concern. It's low-level radioactivity, but there's a lot of it. Most people don't know it's held in large (hopefully) lined ponds and tanks. This is what most of Yucca Mountain will store. The actual fuel is only a small part. edits Dr. Phil reminds/schools me that it's actually tritium that's the radioactive byproduct of fission.

Oh, and Yucca Mountain still isn't online. Once it is, it'll take fifteen years to ship and prepare the waste we already have (that's not counting the extra waste we produce in those years).

Is nuclear power better for the environment? Yes and no. It's a trade off. Right now we're mostly concerned with decreasing our green house gas emissions and nuclear power (in it's generation) produces very little. However, producing the fuel rods, construction of the plants, and operations off the plant site do produce those gases. Not as much as a coal fired plant. And the waste nuclear produces, volumetrically wise, is much reduced. that waste, however, is a centuries long issue.

So, why do the French have so many of them? Because they don't have much local coal or natural gas and their African colonies holdings are rich in uranium. Germany has a larger installed base of solar power (yes, Germany, more northernly and more cloudy than most of the US). China is becoming the world leader in wind technology. Iceland gets all of it's power from geothermal. But you don't hear about emulating them, do you? (Again, my approach is 1) location specific, and 2) has a larger component of point source generation)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

He can tell me what to do, but he can't tell me what to feel

Doing some big thinking lately. I love graphic design. When the juices flow and everything starts working together and coming in and you can maintain the grids and proportions and arrive at a design that kicks butt (and the client actually lets you keep it that way), it's a high I can't describe. Ecstasy I'm sure is very close to it. When a client tells me that a design we did for them is bringing them in new customers or making their sales easier, that's also a big jolt. Heck, I had one client who's criticism is that I made them look too professional and their customers thought they had been bought out by a big corporate interest (but still increased their customer list, just lost some older customers)... well, bad designer, I made them look too good. That's fixable (and it was the direction they wanted to go - with a more professional image).

However, graphic design is a young person's game. When I got the job at a printer I was pretty happy. That's an old designer's job, and my boss was younger than me (which meant, I thought, I could have a job until retirement). I did well in the job, and I got to do some good design stuff. But I look out and I see at least half the graduates in my class are no longer working in the industry. I'm at that point in my career of dying my hair to appear youthful (although the Wii Fit say's I'm in my early 30s - Wii Fit Age), and I never wanted to be that guy.

If I can stay in design, I would love it. I'm looking at expanding my skills. At the moment I have a bunch of PDFs about how to program XML to drive InDesign (not cutting edge anymore, but I doubt the kids know it). I already know how to script Xpress. XML, though, is the near future and I've been remiss by not looking into it. I can automate most repetitive things in most programs, but not InDesign. So I need to fill that gap. And just in case you're wondering and don't know what I'm talking about, I am a power user of design software. I like knowing how to make them dance and sing and get files that are easy on the production end (hint, stop using transparency, most RIPs don't handle it well and you're costing yourself a half hour of expensive production time by saving yourself 5 minutes). But we're back to being 43 in a field that likes to eat youth. People see my 20 years of experience and think, "his ideas are old" instead of "he knows how to get things done." That's a handicap.

So I'm starting to look at alternatives. If Bette was able to get health insurance, it would be easier. I probably would focus on writing novels in that case. Today, shoveling the driveway, I was thinking about healthcare. See, about seven or eight years ago I shattered my left fibula by slipping on ice in my driveway. If I had done that today, or a kidney stone like I did last summer, I'd be screwed. I don't believe I would qualify for Medicaid yet, and I have some money put away that I probably wouldn't qualify for charity care. Instead, it would bankrupt me. That's not a fun thought as your clearing away snow and breaking up the plowed drift at the end of the driveway that threatened to close off the end (it's where the street plow would throw snow - so deep, heavy, compacted icy snow).

For those of you who don't know, my first major in college was computer programming, math option (yeah, XML, and HTML in it's day, doesn't scare me at all). I didn't leave programming because I couldn't do it (actually, I was quite good). I had already passed the weeder courses and was admitted to the honors program with computer programing as my degree. However it felt empty. Sure, it's a kick when you do your first recursive sub-routine successfully. But you can't walk into Home Depot store and point to a computer program and say, "I did that." Although you can with a Hunter Fan box or a Delta Woodworking tool (yes, I've designed both, unfortunately it's been long enough ago that those designs have cycled out now). And the first thing I'd learn with a new programming language was the output routines so mine would be nicely formatted (instead of a blank array of numbers which were the outputs) and labeled. Information architecture is in my blood and design offered more of an outlet.

Health care jobs are the growth industry (and still will be even with healthcare reform). It's too late to do doctor (I would probably go for anesthesiologist) or pharmacy. Also, I don't have that kind of drive for those that it requires. However, I can do (and would like, I think) radiological technician (Bureau of Labor Statistics outlook page). Having a bachelors degree already would help (somewhat). And the schools Bette teaches at offer classes (mostly associate degrees), so there's some financial help there. It pays well (from what little research I've done). It's a nice balance of healthcare and technology usage. It's experiencing a evolution of tech. They work for hospitals, federal hospitals and military hospitals, private offices, and specialty centers, so there's plenty of places to work.

It's too late to register for classes this spring. Summer would be the first classes I could take. I have until then to land a new job, have a successful freelance practice, be working somewhere, or line up financial aid (I don't know if I'd qualify for retraining funds or not), work through admissions, line up classes and a schedule and explore the profession. Of course, nothing is stopping me from doing all of the above. I love design, but I'm not sure it's loving me back at this point.

Do you breathe what I breathe

Gov. Rich Perry (TX) says that greenhouse gases aren't harmful to humans. Okay, Gov. Perry, I'll accept your argument if you can survive in a chamber filled with 98% CO2 for ten minutes. Do that, and I'll say you have a point. Hey, you should be able to hold your breath for at least three of those minutes. And, yeah, I'd like independent verification. I'll bet the Guinness people would be willing to observe and time it for you. It would be a record worthy of their record book.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Races

Why I love PBS, and especially the Newshour (you know, besides that Jim Lehrer is a Marine veteran):

A conversation with Ursula K. Le Guin. It includes some of her thoughts on the Google settlement, e-books, universal libraries, and reading in general. Damn. Smart. Woman. (Okay, slightly disappointed about not even knowing someone with an e-reader, but I think she just hasn't seen them use them).

They also had a report on the increase in Anthem heathcare insurance premiums (full disclosure, I hold 56 shares of Wellpoint) in California (mid year increase). Unfortunately they don't have a link to it yet (here's an LA Times article "WellPoint says the increases of as much as 39% reflect rising medical costs and that its profit margin in California is 'in line with and below that' of competitors."). Notice the insurance spokesman is lying with statistics. Health costs are rising, but not in the way he insinuates. The insurance industry hasn't renegotiated the rates they pay for over a decade in most circumstances (as your doctor if you don't believe me). However, more people are using the system, and more tests are being ordered. So the gross number is going up, the prorata isn't so much. And the number of the insured is going down. Also, if you believe his figures on profit (again, profit can be defined in different ways, gross, net, actualized, etc), ask your insurance company for the "experience" numbers on your policy. "Experience" is the difference between cash in and cash out for the year (or term of insurance - note, "cash out" includes administrative costs and executive compensation).

edit And gee, you can buy Anthem BC/BS in California? Why, you can buy that here in Ohio, too. And I'm guessing in most of the states my readers live in. And here I thought from the rhetoric that none of the insurance companies could compete or sell across state lines creating in-state monopolies. Oh wait, yeah, that wasn't what they were really arguing about, was it?

In other news:

Jay Lake's handy guide to genre distinctions. he he he.

Today was filled with driving. Made two appointments (one in morning, one in afternoon). Seriously (mumble, mumble). This is not a way to be efficient and cost effective. And this is why freelancers charge travel time. Economic incentive to use technology. Also, beginning to see positions re-posted on the job search sites. Really? I can f^(&ing do those jobs. I sent you my resume, and you don't even call me for an interview, or a pre-interview? So not right.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Sunday that feels somewhat normal (and it shouldn't)

How do you sign an ebook? Sarah Zettel gives us the low-down how how she got Tobias Buckell (whom this link is grokked from) to sign her ebook copy of Sly Mongoose.

Have I mentioned one of my friends started up a blog. She's doing book reviews as her blog posts. You can find her at Lycans Librarian Blog. And, yes, she is (or was) a librarian (have I said Librarians Rock! recently?). She ran the first writers group I belonged to. We were kind of the lone genre writers in the group. I have a feeling you'll be hearing more about her soon (I shouldn't spill the beans).

Working to add all the blogs I used to follow into Google reader so I can keep up with them.

Today's wanted posting search was meager. Only people with specific web technology expertise (yep, we're back to "must have 5+ years experience doing the exact same job responsibilities the exact same way we want you to do them here" cycle). Did the skills exam on the Department of Labor website. And you know what? Damn, I'm good. Yes, once people know me, they realize I can do things. What I don't know I pick up quickly (as long as I can experiment with real work). Took the online test for the Census. They say to expect a half hour. It took me fifteen minutes (Bette needed my help with something in the middle). Guess how I did.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do I always have to begin with Kay if I want to kiss?

So, anybody besides me think adding wingsuits to the ski jump would be an interesting event? Of course you could only have the arm wings, as the flap between the legs would slow you down on the take-off. And just where are the Colbert Nation logos on the speed skaters' thighs? I don't see them (although they have the Nike logo clearly displayed). And there was a technical problem with the inside cauldron. Yes, we know. Can we move on? And tomorrow with the luge restarting, just how many times will we be told (and review the video) Kumaritashvili was killed on the fastest course ever designed?

Wasted the day away by not getting much done (just little stuff). However, I did discover that Lifetime Channel is excellent for writing horror (got another 700 words or so out). Also working on taxes. Hit the question from our accountant, "Do you think your income for 2010 will be less than 2009?" That's a "yes."

Since I've gone through the whole registering process on Monster and CareerBoard I'm now getting "Don't you want to sell insurance/be a financial planner" spam. No, I like to look at myself in the mirror in the morning. At least to shave. Not many new positions popped up on today's searches. In fact there was only one (and it was also in Canton). However, I guess being online kept people from phoning me for freelance (didn't expect them to be in on Saturday, but I guess they're in 7 days - really, rehire me already). Anyway. Feeling a little frustrated and angry at the moment (at myself as well as in general). Will probably show my face at the new place next week. Did I mention about quoting only an hour for a job, and being asked to come in, which would triple my quoted time?

Anyway. Thinking about taking the census exam. WIll need to see if they have office positions available locally. I did door to door in college and don't want to do that again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday should be job searching, but posting

So, have a quote out for a job that'll probably take an hour to do, but they need to get me files. If I drive there to pick up, it'll triple my quoted time. Hopefully we can FTP it.

Toby Buckell point us to Patrick Rothfuss answering the "advice for new writers" question. Excellent answer. Sometimes people think I'm from Orwell. I've lived here for only a decade (only two more years than I've been a councilman here). Why Orwell? Because my house was $123k. Closer in to Cleveland it would have been over $200k (although it may have been larger, but I'd have less than half an acre, which was one of our requirements). One of my fears of this joblessness is not being able to keep the house (although we should be good for awhile - but that's a bigger fear for me than the "not being able to afford food").

Did you happen to catch the first three minutes of graphics for the Vancouver Olympics (the Cpt. Vancouver mapping the end of the Western World)? Sometimes I feel frustrated and angered by my chosen profession (see Toby's rant on the Dodge ad). And sometimes I just love my chosen profession. Really, it was that f^(&ing fantastic. But, the Theme to Pirates of the Caribbean as the Olympic background music? Really NBC? So much stirring music available and you pick that?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No more speed, I'm almost there

Just wrapped up some freelance work. Yep. It's past midnight. Ah, the joys of freelance. On the plus side it's looking like I'm still damn good with estimating. Tomorrow I expect a lot of rushing around. Another job that's due tomorrow, and I haven't heard anything about it since I quoted. Sure, it'll only take an hour, but it's not like it's an hour from the time you say, "go." And I have to figure out how to get a 57 megabyte file to the client in time for him to have lasers made and drive to the end client. More joys of freelance.

Spent time in the meeting tonight multi-tasking by upgrading my resume on Monster and filling out all the forms properly. Sigh. I think I'm going to go with plain text resumes for internet connections. Word just screws up, and RTF has a habit of going martian. Plus, you know, you have my resume. Why do I have to then also say, "here is my work experience, here are my skills." Read the damn resume. Also, some of the words the form makers use, as Inigo Montoya said, "I donna think they mean what you think they mean."

Now I need to wind down and get some sleep.

So, anything new on teh inetnets?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Story Bone

Most times, the ghost you think is supposed to be haunting a space isn't the ghost that is there. But it's willing to let you think it is. Ghosts are often lonely that way.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hand Waving

Budget Cuts
Lift American Spirits

Note to Sarah (hey, you're one of us, right, we use first names), get it right before you write it on your skin. Like, I don't know, use a piece of paper first. Or, hey, they have these things called tele-prompters. It's electronic text. You can edit it as much as you want before getting on stage. Seriously, cross-out edits... on your hand?

The only way to make this better would be if the edits had been done in red.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Repeating Myself

Applied for my old job. Apparently AT&T Calling Cards don't like fax machines (tried getting the damn thing to dial I don't know how many times).

There's a few interesting positions out there. Some heavy design positions I've turned my resume in for.

And let me just say, I hate web submission tools. They only accept .txt or .doc files? You can't do crap with those. And one job site, who will remain nameless, frankly I think should roll up and die. There's several options you can get on the site, most of which cost a subscription. And they're willing to give you a free evaluation of your resume (again, only .txt or .doc). First critique, "Well, your resume doesn't look designed very well." No crap, it's a .doc file meant to work anywhere. You can't do shit that way. Oh, and they're willing to help me. And it'll only cost $200+. Yeah. Thanks. BTW, your automation tools suck.

Didn't get any writing done today. Merrie Haskell did a blog post and in the comments there was a discussion about how male writers don't talk about the housework they do. So, here it is. I spent a good chunk of the day cleaning and sweeping. We had leftover turkey in the fridge so I didn't need to cook anything today. And the turkey, we cooked it yesterday, had fat. They're making turkeys fat now.

In a strange head space at the moment. A strange mix of frustration and optimism, gotta do and don't wanna. Mixed up.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday's Writing Observation

Writing Cthulhu Horror is more difficult when Puppy Bowl is on the TV.

No. Really. It is.

Of course, Puppy Bowl is its own form of horror.

edit having a mental block on typing; "Then the screaming started. I couldn't see where it came from. Then Spider was with me. Shouting in my face. And I realized the screaming came from me. I lay in my cot, cocooned in blankets. Spider in my face, shaking me awake." Took me like half an hour to get that out. Weird.

later edit Got out exactly 1100 (mostly) new words on a rewrite of Shadows Over Raas Xaafuun. Decided to take to heart a criticism that the weird starts too late in my stories (normally I like to set you up in the real world and then show it to be through the looking glass later on). So, yeah, okay, it's a vision, but it's pertinent to the story and hopefully sets us up for the character change and creeps you all out. On the plus side, you know right up front it's a dream/vision. So there's no, "ha ha ha, it's only a dream" moment.

Digging the Kitty Half-Time Show. Especially the kitties biting the string on the swinging toys (instead of the feathered ball at the end). Much better than the "Who's Greatest Hits" other halftime show. Pete can still wang on the guitar, but both he and Daltry can't hit those high notes any more. And the guitar work on the opening of the first stanza of "Pinball Wizard" was kind of unsteady. Ah, kitties.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Saturday in the Snowpocalypse III

Snowpocolypse is striking the East Coast and all my friends out there. Hoping you all make it on through to the other side. It's looking like it'll dump two feet or so in New Jersey. When we would get a quarter-inch of snow, they would close the school in Gibbsboro. Two feet will shut the place down for a time. It'll also mean good sledding for the kids. We would rarely get a snow this good. One winter we had a freak occurrence of several storms back to back, with just enough warmth in between to create a layer of ice between the snows. It was holy heck for people trying to get to work, but it was glorious for us kids. It meant excellent sledding. One of the rare times.

I spent most of today online checking for jobs. Found a new site that aggregates several of the minor search engines. Of course it's only for Ohio, so if you live outside the state, sorry. It's Ohio Means Jobs a part of Quite handy. And the main Indeed site will do you across the rest of the country. From there I found that Harry London Chocolates was looking for a Senior Designer. A job that's right up my alley. It's in North Canton, but I could go live with my Mom while working there and looking at housing options (if I would get it). I'm perfect for the job, though. At least by their description. And we had been talking about moving closer to our friends (the other option is to move much farther away and become hermits). Bonus points for "major discount on products" in the store. So much for my loosing weight.

Which, speaking of, I haven't been talking about health in general for a bit. Well, being unemployed I thought would be a bit of a problem. However, it turns out I've been loosing weight. Don't know how I did it, but it's there. The Wii Fit confirms it. Well, today I did go back up a pound and a half. Right now I'm still ahead of my goals for meeting the doctor in two months (which I'll hopefully have a job by then, or I'll have to cancel that one as well).

My application for unemployment was approved. So I'll get a little money that way. Right now all of those "federal extended benefits" end this month, so right now we're looking at the standard 26 weeks of benefits. There's a couple new wrinkles since I applied last time. Right now I'm trying to get them to do direct deposit, but the online site keeps defaulting to a debit card. And I need to register for a state run jobs program. So far, I haven't been able to find out much about it. And, even though they've taking everything else to online in this state, this program isn't. I've got a number to call. Who knows if I need to show my face at a desk.

Tomorrow I need to get back to writing, and apply a few more places. No rest for the people like me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A statistic on a government chart

Today the news was all over that unemployment dropped to 9.7% ("Celebrate good times" it's not), but still lost 20,000 jobs last month. Well, it's all about sadistic statistics. One, each number is produced by different agencies going by different collection techniques. Actually the really good news is that temp employment is up and so are hours worked. Those stats are more important than others as they're the leading indicators of employment trends (as employment is a trailing indicator of the economy as a whole). So I was more heartened to hear that temp work is up and hours worked are up.

I guess that means I should get registered with the creative temp agencies.

Today I did a lot of driving, playing chauffeur for Bette, and I needed to get out of the house. Put a different perspective on things. And I discovered, part of my neck problem was driving. I had been slowly getting better, but now I hurt again. Good thing one of the stops was to pick up a "cervical traction set." This is the play at home version of the traction unit my chiropractor had been using which actually helped relieve a lot of pain. Until I had to stand up. Gravity is a bitch.

So tonight I'll rig myself up, and do it each day. I really wish congress would just pass the damn Senate Health bill already. Why? Well, I have a diagnosis that basically says I have a pinched nerve because of disk compression and injury. That, as they say, is a "pre-existing condition." So is the metabolic syndrome (what I take the metformin for). Since the business closed, there's no COBRA. Yeah. I'm even more in favor of insurance reform.

However, I've been loosing weight this past week. I'm already past my goal for two months from now (using the Wii Fit Plus). Actually, I'm past my second goal (where I added another 3 lbs to the goal). Yeah, I'm trying to look on the bright side.

How have you all been doing? And yeah, I know, I need to post more and I need to frickin' get back to the writing part. I need to look at this as an opportunity. It's difficult for me to see it that way.

Oh yeah, that statistic, my job is .005% of those jobs lost last month.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Still Alive

Trying to get into the swing of the new schedule and not doing very well at it. Although I've been getting up earlier each day. I guess that means I'm finally getting over being exhausted.

I'm back to editing a friend's manuscript that's way, way overdue. Every time I've sat down before there's always been something to interrupt me. But now I'm able to devote hours to it.

The little voice in the back of my head keeps saying to start writing new stuff, and edit my own book. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. Still need to get things in place. Started filing for unemployment last night. Sigh. They say it only takes 15 minutes, but after 45 minutes of screwing around with their site I called it quits. So I'll have to do that again tonight.

Been sending out emails to people who might be of help in the search. Contemplating if I should do something different, but feeling that anything else wouldn't pay as well (and we all know how well graphic design pays to begin with). Pickins is short. Hopefully those jobs will be coming back soon.

Also, I'm trying not to spend too much time online as that ties up the phone line (even though I'm including my cell in all my correspondence). New notice put up at the old day thing gives a different spin than what we were told, but reading between the lines those developments weren't unexpected.

Hopefully soon I'll have more to say, and get back to commenting on everybody else's blogs. I miss reading abotu what you all are doing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day One

This morning it felt a little weird to not be going into work. When did I become that guy? I didn't get up early. Instead I let myself sleep in.

On the plus side, last night I need a lot fewer pain meds. So there's that. Here's hoping I'm on the road to mending. That would seriously be a good thing.

Today a client called needing a quick logo email. I called him back saying I sent it out. He told me he had lent out my card to several people recently. I asked if he needed an apprentice cabinet maker. We joked a little.

So maybe a little freelance work might come my way. Of course, it's because I tried to pull a double recursive Murphy's Law by focusing on freelancing this year in a stealth attempt to have another good writing year. But as we all know, Murphy's Law isn't recursive.

I made a mistake by not calling the other company today. I'll need to rectify that tomorrow.

I did spend part of today making progress on critiquing a manuscript that I promised back a few months ago.

Still feeling out of sorts. Hopefully I won't get used to that.