Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Gig, First Article Posted

I arrived home last night at the usual time, anticipating a busy evening, and hurting greatly due to my rheumatoid arthritis. Clean-up of the basement from the hot water heater leak was on the evening schedule. That had consumed most of the at home hours Friday, Saturday, and (less so on) Sunday. I also figured I'd have to cook supper, as my wife has been "on strike" from cooking for a while now. Not on strike in the union sense, but just having no desire to do so.

I whipped up taco salad with ground turkey (low fat, of course). It had been a hot day, but a shower came up as I was driving home, and the brief dash from driveway to garage was through cooler air. I didn't walk through the house, but put my portfolio and calculator on the kitchen table and went straight to work.

It was hot in the kitchen, but it's supposed to be hot in the kitchen, so I paid no attention. Then Lynda said she was real hot. I walked across the great room to the thermostat, feeling the heat. It was 87 degrees, and the digital printout said "cooling on". My first thought was that, during the hot water heater replacement, someone had turned off the wrong breaker by mistake and had never turned it on. But that was Saturday afternoon. Surely we would have felt a warming house on Sunday. I checked: all breakers on; inside air handling unit running; outside heat pump not running.

I went back and forth from stove top to various rooms in the house, opening windows. It was now cooler outside. About the time the taco salad was ready I finally remembered that our AC guy said that the first thing to do if the AC wasn't running was to turn it off at the thermostat, let it sit a minute, then turn it on. I did so, and immediately that outdoor unit kicked on. Who would have thunk you'd have to re-boot your air conditioner? For 30 minutes I had visions of having to replace something on the AC, and they weren't pretty visions.

What does all this have to do with the title of this post? Not much really. I went to The Dungeon after supper and did my thing with the carpet shampooer, sucking up more moisture. Then I went to the computer and wrote a new article for Suite101.com, the first in a series on technical analysis for stock trading. I hope to write quite a few in this topic.

During the day I had worked with the editor at Buildipedia.com to put the finishing touches on my first article there, which was scheduled to be posted at midnight. As of 7:45 AM CDT it has already been read 33 times. That's good exposure. I don't think I can reveal how much I am being paid for this, but for on-line writing it's a good amount, much better than the little I earn at Suite101.com. I'm working with the editor at Buildipedia on concepts for several more articles, perhaps as many as 10 to 20. Right now they seem hungry for feature articles, and I hope I can provide many. Here's the link to the article.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Few Thoughts About Internet Content Sites

The battle is raging concerning the type of writing known as Internet content sites. That's the type of site Suite101.com, where I write, is. The pejorative term applied to them is content mill or content farm. Some call them content aggragators. I think I'll stick with content site for now.

Those who consider themselves journalists run down the content sites based on: low quality of the information provided; low quality of the writing; low pay for writers; lack of editorial input; and quick turn over of writers. Where are the editors, they ask, who will make sure the story/article is "balanced" and complete, and that the writing is good? Where are the fact-checkers, they ask, who verify that the information given is actually correct?

These are all valid concerns. I can only speak for my experience at Suite 101. Management there says that about 20 percent of those who apply to be writers are actually accepted. Articles are to be 400 to 800 words. Writing is to be based on SEO-search engine optimization--so that people can find the articles. Quality of writing is a secondary concern, but it is not ignored. Suite has no fact-checkers, relying instead on the writers to do it right. Suite is constantly advertising for new writers, and consequently have a lot of educational tools to bring new writers up to Suite style.

Suite does have editor input. I've had about 10 of my 106 articles either flagged for correction or had the editor make minor changes. But I've seen lots of other articles go by with misspellings, grammar errors. Some have poorly constructed sentences, and poor organization of information within the article. Suite 101 definitely has quality issues.

Yet, the site provides a service that seems to be wanted: information. Information that is easily found electronically. Information that may be shallow, but tells just enough that the reader goes away satisfied.

America has changed, perhaps not for the better, but it has changed. Writers need to change with it. Print publications will be with us for a while. Perhaps fewer of them, and maybe more specialized, but they will be with us. I'm not sure the average information reader really cares much about the quality of the writing. Sure they will notice horrendous grammar, but many other things an editor would fix for a print publication seem to be of no consequence to a reader.

Content sites--or maybe they would be better called "Information sites"--are part of the new information supply dynamic that is being tested through the search engine Internet. Whether this is a temporary thing while the world transitions from print info to electronic, or whether it is the future, I don't know. I know that I'm trying it for now, with no plans on quitting any time soon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Home Again...

...and back at work. We arrived home last night about 11:30 PM local time, 3535.8 miles after starting. I took a wrong turn in Pennsylvania that cost us 30 miles. We diverted for an Interstate highway traffic backup, also in Pennsylvania, which cost us about 10 miles. And we had another six mile diversion. So it should have been about 3490. I had predicted 3500, so not too bad.

It was a good trip, with many good activities. Not a lot of time to rest, except during the driving. And even some of that was stressful. We were driving just east of St. Louis during the rush hour, when the heavy storm hit. Radio reports said some roads were under water, Interstate 70 was closed due to water, and a building collapsed north of downtown. A lot of people pulled to the side or exited, but we plowed on, often at 25 mph. Rush hour traffic was gone. We stopped at a Flying J for coffee and a brief rest, and resumed at 6:00 PM. Traffic was light, the rain was then light, and we made good time the rest of the way.

We never did get to a Bob Evans restaurant. I enjoy going to them once during a trip, but the timing for supper never did have us near one of them. Another time I guess.

Well, it's 8:00 AM here. I've been through 101 e-mails on the work e-mail, my boss wants to see me, another engineer wants to see me, and I just learned that another engineer quit while I was gone. The good news is that, despite lack of profitability, the company paid a one time bonus to employees last week. That's what the boss wants to see me about. I good start to a short work week.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Long, Long Time Ago...

...on a galaxy far, far away, I was in high school. Cranston High School East, to be precise, class of 1970. We had our 40th year reunion last night. This is the first one I attended. Of a class of about 725 (numbers given last night ranged from 700 to 749) 79 came. That seems like a small number, but everyone said it was better than number 35.

I saw three people from the old Dutemple Elementary School. Macia, Roger, and Jimmy all went to the other junior high school, then we were reunited for the high school years. That went back a long way. Grace was there, who I went to church with (though different elementary school), then jr. high and high school, so we went back a long way. I brought some grade school photo albums, and we got a kick out of looking at them.

Four of us from the old "A" division at Hugh B. Bain Junior High were there: Jane, Sharon, Jeanne, and me. That was fun to see them. Jane was in physics and science with me, and I had brought some memorabilia from that class. She had a great time looking at it. Ginny from that class was also there. She said she needed another drink before looking at what I brought, but never got back to it. Shawn from physics class was also there, I understood, but I never did see her.

Well, I may have seen her, but a lot of people didn't look the same. Some I had become familiar with their present appearance from Facebook, so wasn't surprised. A number of people look like a little older versions of themselves, but well preserved. It was casual dress for the guys. The women tended to dress up a bit more, and there was lots of cleavage showing. I told my wife and cousins this morning that I hadn't seen so much cleavage since Bay Watch was canceled.

Some people I hoped to see weren't there. Gary, Kenny, Bobby G. Art, Bobby F--all skipped it. And my three closest friends skipped it in favor of our Monday night gathering. Even with many gone, I'm glad I went. Oh, and it was good to see Barbara, whom I was in home room with for six years, but never in class together. That was a pleasant surprise.

So many there I didn't know, so was meeting for the first time. How could I not know classmates, you wonder? Because there were so many, and I had the circles I was in and didn't meet a lot of the kids outside of those circles. I was in band, and there were four of us from the band. I played football, and six footballers were there. I ran track, and four of us tracksters talked briefly. Of course, nowadays we'd run the 100 in times we used to have for the 440.

Will I go again? Who knows, but most likely not. They may not have a 45th, and ten years is a long time to plan for. I won't say no, but possibly this was a once in a lifetime event.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Long Distance Driving

I fell in love with long distance driving right after graduating from college. Up to that point, growing up in Rhode Island and rarely ever leaving the state, I had little opportunity to drive more than about 45 minutes at a stretch. I remember driving to Hartford from URI junior year to see a football game at Central Connecticut, and once driving from Framingham straight to Snug Harbor, but that's pretty much it. Maybe an hour and a half in a day.

So when I graduated and was to drive to Kansas City to begin my life as an engineer, I gave myself a week to get there, not knowing how many miles I would be able to drive in any day. I packed up everything I owned (except some books, which dad shipped later) in my 1966 Plymouth Valient, with its slant six engine, and headed west. I made a brief stop in Darien CT for gas. That was about 3 hours from Cranston, so I'd already set a personal record for driving.

The next stop was somewhere in central Pennsylvania, then Youngstown Ohio, then finally that night, after 13 hours and 30 minutes of actual driving time, I stopped in Mansfield Ohio for the night. I learned I could drive for long distances at a time. In fact, I loved it. Just me and the radio and the truckers and the pavement and whirr of the engine.

That's where I plan on stopping tonight, driving in the opposite direction. Then on to Upton Massachusetts on Thursday. Looking forward to time with family and friends, some I haven't seen for 40 years, one family member who arrived last May who I haven't seen yet. I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, I found the high school memorabilia I was missing, quite a bit of it, almost all related to what we called "Howie's Class". Chuck and Joe will be interested in that. Gary, perhaps not as much. Don't know if any others from that class will be at the reunion, but I'll have it there just in case.

Spell checker won't work, and not time to proof. See you all. May not post for a week.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Time Short for Writing

Yesterday I turned in my first article to Buildipedia.com. If accepted, and I feel confident it will be, it should appear on the site in a week or so. Payment is supposed to come in not more than a month. I can sure use the payment. And I'm looking forward to the next assignment...

...so long as they don't give me too tight of a deadline. I don't like to give much about my schedule on-line. I'm sure thieves/home invader professionals have set up Google alerts for the words "I'll be away", and then go after homes during that time and clear them out of all valuables. Yes, I'm sure these hoodlums have become quite tech-savvy.

But I'll go ahead and say it. I'll be away for a little over a week, on a 3500 mile road trip. I'll attend my 40th high school reunion back in Rhode Island, visit with family, visit with friends, and maybe see my sister on the way back. This will be the first of my h.s. reunions I'll have attended, and I'm looking forward to it.

I'm actually prepared to be disappointed in it, however. Our graduating class was about 700 people. Of those 80 some odd are on Facebook, and the report given on Facebook is that about 50 alumni will attend. Is it possible it will be that low? Perhaps that is only those from Facebook who are attending, and there will be many others. My best friends from school, who all live in RI, are ducking the main reunion in favor of a private get together of a few of us. Perhaps a lot of our class still live in RI, and for them the reunion doesn't hold much interest. Or they've been to them in the past and they don't feel the need to attend again.

Actually, I probably won't attend again. High school was not my favorite three years, for a variety of reasons. College was much more enjoyable for me. But I want to see of those I haven't seen in 40 years one last time. I can't explain it, but I want to be there. I think that will satisfy me. There are fewer reasons to visit RI the older I get. Who knows when the next time will be.

I obviously won't be on line much for the next week. I may work on some draft posts for this blog. I have five book review type posts to do, and a few writing ones. No shortage of things to write about, just little time. Still, if the opportunity arises, I'll try to get on line and post an update. While I have few readers here, I want to give you all reasons to keep coming back.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Suite101.com - One Year Review

I applied to Suite101.com on June 17, 2009, was accepted the next day, and posted my first article on June 21, 2009. By the end of June I had 10 articles posted, had less than 100 pages views, and a whopping 2 cents in income. So I'm going to transpose my effective anniversary to June 30, 2009. Having just passed a year, then, I thought I'd pull together some statistics. Here's a summary.

Articles posted: 105
Page views: 68,033
Earnings from articles: $106.07
Earnings from contests: $101.00
Typical $/article/month: $0.15
Range $/article/month: $0.06-$0.20
Earnings /1000 PVs: $1.56

Even though I don't like the way images load into this blogger template, I'm attaching several charts from my Excel spreadsheet. I hope they come out readable, though they never seem to organize themselves on a page the way I want them to. Each can be clicked on to get an enlargement. The first is a basic page view record with daily page views and 7 day running page views, the second page views per article per day. Both of these show the number of articles posted. The third is a revenue chart showing daily revenue, 7 day running revenue, and revenue per 1000 page views. The fourth is revenue per article per month, and the fifth is revenue per month.
These charts tell a story. First, that the amount of page views I'm getting has drastically reduced from a peak in November, but especially this last couple of months. Second, that I've never been able to figure out how to make money at Suite. The subjects I write in just don't seem to generate much revenue. Third, that revenue is generally growing, not because my articles are becoming more popular with age, but because I've added more articles. Fourth that revenue simply hasn't stabilized much; it's still all over the place.
A year is a good time to evaluate whether this endeavor is a good use of my time. Probably not, but it's something I mostly enjoy. There is a good community feeling in the Suite forums, and I've made friends there (Hutch, if you read this, may the Internet Force be with you). Possibly the 85,000 or so words I've posted in articles have made me a better writer and added in some way to my writing resume.
I'm going to keep at it, but at a significantly reduced rate than I did in my first year.
Now, time to post this and see how it all formats.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review: A Question of Character - A Life of John F. Kennedy

It used to be that I picked up most books about the JFK assassination and read and kept them. Then I started picking up bios of JFK, always used. In June I bought at a thrift store A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy by Thomas C. Reeves (1991, Prima Publishing, ISBN 1-55958-196-4). I began reading it right away, finishing its 491 pages (including notes) in about a week.

The opening paragraph of the Preface is instructive:

It seems that I have always liked John F. Kennedy. I first saw him on television in 1956 when I was an undergraduate. The young senator was courageously struggling at his party's national convention to win the vice presidential nomination, and I was taken with his good looks, energy, inspiring language, and grace in defeat. A look at Kennedy's credentials as a war hero, intellectual, and liberal convinced me that he had a splendid future.

That tells the framework of where the author is coming from, but you sense a "but" coming. The Preface goes on to describe how the early biographies and memoirs of JFK were totally positive, what he later terms the Camelot School of Kennedy historians. Such people as Schlesinger, Sorensen, O'Donnell and Powers rushed out books that showed JFK to be a president who would have been envied by both Washington and Lincoln had they been alive.

But the "but" comes. By 1975, twelves years after Dealy Plaza, the literature began to take on some negatives. By 1977 it was exploded by Judith Cambell Exner's book revealing her affair with him. In the decade after that, the Camelot School did their best to maintain the illusion of excellence of JFK's life and presidency, but it was only a matter of time until more truthful, more balanced books and articles began to come forth.

Some time ago I read Seymour Hersh's The Dark Side of Camelot, published in 1997 but researched beginning around 1992. I was shocked at some of what I read in that. Well, not really shocked, as I had already come to know that JFK was not the man many thought he was. But before that book I assumed his failings were in personal character, not in his job duties.

Hersh exploded that myth. Except it had already been exploded by Reeves, five years earlier. Hersh spent a lot of time on Kennedy's womanizing. Reeves does also, but he goes more into the failings in doing the job Kennedy was elected to do, as well as in credentials. Here are some of the items that are well explained.
  • PT 109 and war record. I need to read some more on this, but Reeves says that in all of WW2 one, and only one, PT boat was ever rammed by a Japanese ship, and that was PT109, under JFK's watch. The reason: these boats were so fast that they could easily out maneuver a much larger vessel. That this PT boat was rammed was a blight on JFK's war record. He showed some heroics in rescuing his men, but it was an apparent lapse on his part that cause the boat to be sunk in the first place.
  • Profiles In Courage. I had heard something about this book being significantly edited, by Ted Sorensen, and that JFK should not have been given full credit for it, certainly not a Pulitzer. But Reeves shows convincingly that Kennedy had almost nothing to do with the writing. Sorensen did it all, including the research. And the Pulitzer was won because papa Joe Kennedy bought it. As I say, Reeves is quite convincing.
  • Kennedy's health. Hersh showed how JFK's health was a basket case, which seemed to be at its best right when he became president. Reeves fills in some gaps Hersh left out (or, since Reeves came before Hersh, that Hersh decided didn't need to be covered). Massive doses of medicinal drugs and "feel-good cocktails" kept JFK going. Reeves says even Jackie took amphetamines with JFK.
  • Work ethic. Reeves explodes the myth (and Hersh spread the ashes) of JFK supposedly being a hard worker as president, as he had been a slackard legislator. At first he barely worked half a day, though later the demands of office grew on him and he was forced to put in longer hours. One disturbing event Reeves documents is the separation of Kennedy from the nuclear football, when JFK furtively traversed tunnels under New York City to get to a two-hour stand. And Reeves speculates that, given JFK's normal MO, this could have happened many times.
  • Political expediency. Reeves says JFK had no core of beliefs upon which to base policies. Everything he did (except maybe the Cuban Missile Crisis) was done based on "what will get me re-elected?" This is why he became ineffective in dealing with Congress; of course, many of them did not respect Kennedy because of his poor record as representative then senator. But this book is quite revealing in how the political calculation pretty much trumped any consideration of "what is best for America?"

I'm out of time for tonight, but will come back to this in another post in a day or two. Let me say the book is well worth the read if you can find it, even at full price instead of 50 cents as mine cost. It's going into my library.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Long and Busy Weekend Lies Ahead

Well, the boss just sent out an e-mail: Anyone not pushing a tight deadline may leave at 3:30 PM. I may just do that, if not quite at 3:30 then at least somewhat early. The pick-up needs an oil change, so I may go and do that.

We have Monday off for Independence Day, so it's a three day weekend. But I enter it feeling as if I have a to-do list a mile long. Of things to do at the house, that is. At work I'm in the middle of--shall I say bogged down in--the next flood study, with it going much slower than I would like. But at home I have a ton of things to do. Here's a few of the major tasks.

  • Finish writing and studying for the Life Group lesson I'll teach on Sunday. The series is called "Sacred Moments", and we are on lesson five this week. I've done the basic research, but each week I prepare a class handout. That's only half done. Then I have to do some more studying. I should read at least two more chapters in my reference book and have separate teacher's notes.
  • Write my assigned article for Buildipedia.com. It's not due until July 14, but I'll be driving east on that day, and I want to beat editor expectations. It's to be 500 to 1000 words, though I think I'll need about 1200-1300 to do the subject justice. The editor said that would be fine. Most of my research is done; it's a question of pulling the final information together and write it.
  • Pick blackberries. I went last Saturday and picked 3 quarts. I'd like to get that many again today. The patch is huge, and I don't think too many people know about it. If I can get 3 or 4 quarts between tomorrow and Monday, I'll consider it a good year.
  • Finish cleaning the interior of the pick-up. I started that two weeks ago, and should be able to finish with another hour of work.
  • Take down a "leaner" from the back of my lot, before it falls where I don't want it to and it takes two other trees with it. In North Carolina they called these "widow-makers", so I'll be careful. It's cut about 1/2 way through, and I think I should be able to finish it this weekend.
  • Filing and clean-up. Always have this kind of work.
  • Adding an article to Suite101.com would be nice as well.

I think that's enough. I'm sweating just thinking about it all. I'll get in some good relaxation too. The weather should be nice, so maybe I'll get a couple of long walks in as well. And maybe post here.