Friday, April 11, 2008

I Would Like to Thank All of the Little People...

Well, lookie there over to the left! A Blog of the Day Award. What do you know? Whatever you know, it's more than I know because I don't know what it means. I was notified of this Major Award and was then given the BODA widget. And there it is, for all to see.

If you click on over to technorati, you will see that I am listed just above "Big Brother 9: Live Feed Reports" AND "Obama, 100 Years and a Lack of Foreign Policy Experience." So I'm in some pretty diverse company, wouldn't you say?

The irony of this situation is that just yesterday, I wrote that I am tapering off this blog to focus on other avenues. I un-joined humor-blogs.com, ate some cake in the break room and began packing the proverbial cardboard box as I prepare to move on. (Pull the Kleenex from the box, wipe my eye.) But now, you have given me pause, either to hang on a little longer as I pursue these other avenues and go totally insane, or continue on as planned. (Grab the podium on either side and bow my head. Lift my head again, stare at the ceiling and suck in my lips. Sigh ...)

I would like to thank all of the little people who have made this widget possible. Without you, I wouldn't have this widget. I will print this widget and display it over the fireplace for my family to admire.

(I whisper to the tux-clad gentleman who looks remarkably like Johnny Depp and is escorting me offstage ...) Does this commendation involve, perhaps, a check? Savings bond? Gift certificate to Olive Garden?

Happy weekend ... and thank you for the nomination and award.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Death by Blogging? Oh, My!



This is a clever little illustration that just happens to look like my desk.
I found it on the internet last weekend.
While working. Or taking a break from working.
While taking a break that lasted a lot longer than it should have.

"You want me to choose my words so carefully, then you throw a word like 'obsessive' at me. Now, unless I'm wrong, please correct me if I am, but obsession is purely a psychiatric term concerning people who don't have anything but the object of their own obsession, who can't stop and do anything else. Well, here I am, STOPPING to tell you this." - the character Jane Craig in "Broadcast News," one of the most well-written movies in cinematic history

My name is Amy, and I am a blogaholic. And it's time I did something about it. For every minute I spend writing my own blog, I devote two or three minutes to reading other blogs. A total waste of time? Not necessarily. A lot of fun? Most days. Best use of my time? Probably not. So I'm taking a blog break for a few days, maybe even a few weeks.

Blogging does not fall under my job description, but it's certainly an ancillary part of it. And I can't deny the fun factor. It is fun; "I LIKE FUN" (another Broadcast News reference). Also, blogging lends itself to some degree of selling out, without an actual "sold" sign. More like "free for the taking." And as a freelance writer, that's starting to bother me.

And then there's the problem with having only 24 hours in a day. If I'm writing about, say, OSHA inspections or the tourism market in Texas, I might just be tempted to stop for a few minutes, post a blog, check my traffic, read another blog, read the comments on other blogs, and then, before I know it, 90 minutes of my morning are G-O-N-E.

I thought it was just me, but apparently the obsession has climbed to an epidemic level and is creating undue stress in many lives. So when I read the following article, I saw it as a sign that maybe it's time to temper the obsession and take a break. Read on ...

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop

(from The New York Times)

Some professional bloggers complain of the stressful demands of a constant flow of news and comment.

By MATT RICHTEL
Published: April 6, 2008


SAN FRANCISCO — They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.
The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.

“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

It is unclear how many people blog for pay, but there are surely several thousand and maybe even tens of thousands.

The emergence of this class of information worker has paralleled the development of the online economy. Publishing has expanded to the Internet, and advertising has followed.

Even at established companies, the Internet has changed the nature of work, allowing people to set up virtual offices and work from anywhere at any time. That flexibility has a downside, in that workers are always a click away from the burdens of the office. For obsessive information workers, that can mean never leaving the house.

Blogging has been lucrative for some, but those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work.

There are growing legions of online chroniclers, reporting on and reflecting about sports, politics, business, celebrities and every other conceivable niche. Some write for fun, but thousands write for Web publishers — as employees or as contractors — or have started their own online media outlets with profit in mind.

One of the most competitive categories is blogs about technology developments and news. They are in a vicious 24-hour competition to break company news, reveal new products and expose corporate gaffes.

To the victor go the ego points, and, potentially, the advertising. Bloggers for such sites are often paid for each post, though some are paid based on how many people read their material. They build that audience through scoops or volume or both ... Bloggers at some of the bigger sites say most writers earn about $30,000 a year starting out, and some can make as much as $70,000. A tireless few bloggers reach six figures, and some entrepreneurs in the field have built mini-empires on the Web that are generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. Others who are trying to turn blogging into a career say they can end up with just $1,000 a month.

Speed can be of the essence. If a blogger is beaten by a millisecond, someone else’s post on the subject will bring in the audience, the links and the bigger share of the ad revenue.
“There’s no time ever — including when you’re sleeping — when you’re not worried about missing a story,” Mr. Arrington said.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we said no blogger or journalist could write a story between 8 p.m. Pacific time and dawn? Then we could all take a break,” he added. “But that’s never going to happen.”
All that competition puts a premium on staying awake. Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.

He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.
But make no mistake: Mr. Buchanan, a recent graduate of New York University, loves his job. He said he gets paid to write (he will not say how much) while interacting with readers in a global conversation about the latest and greatest products.

“The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write — that’s kind of cool,” he said. And, yes, it is exhausting. Sometimes, he said, “I just want to lie down.”

Sometimes he does rest, inadvertently, falling asleep at the computer. “If I don’t hear from him, I’ll think: Matt’s passed out again,” said Brian Lam, the editor of Gizmodo. “It’s happened four or five times.”

Mr. Lam, who as a manager has a substantially larger income, works even harder. He is known to pull all-nighters at his own home office in San Francisco — hours spent trying to keep his site organized and competitive. He said he was well equipped for the torture; he used to be a Thai-style boxer.

“I’ve got a background getting punched in the face,” he said. “That’s why I’m good at this job.”
Mr. Lam said he has worried his blogging staff might be burning out, and he urges them to take breaks, even vacations. But he said they face tremendous pressure — external, internal and financial. He said the evolution of the “pay-per-click” economy has put the emphasis on reader traffic and financial return, not journalism .... For his part, Mr. Shaw did not die at his desk. He died in a hotel in San Jose, Calif., where he had flown to cover a technology conference. He had written a last e-mail dispatch to his editor at ZDNet: “Have come down with something. Resting now, posts to resume later today or tomorrow.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When Cheerleaders Attack

(Editor's Note: Cooking With Amy will return ... another day. I have other things on my mind, and this is one of them.)


These girls will LONG for the days when MySpace was their biggest problem. More on this story from NBC (because I can't get it out of my head) ...

The 16-year-old victim suffered a concussion, and has hearing loss in her left ear and some loss of vision in her left eye, (Sheriff Grady) Judd said. Her face is obscured in the video and her name is being withheld.

Facing charges of battery, false imprisonment and kidnapping are (and their names are NOT withheld because they are being charged, thanks in large part to the evidence they created in the form of a videotape, which will likely convict them) Mercades Nichols, 17, Brittini Hardcastle, 17, April Cooper, 14, Cara Murphy, 16, Britney Mayes, 17, Kayla Hassell, 15, Zachary Ashley, 17, and Stephen Schumaker, 18. (I'm sorry. Can you please repeat those names? Mercades Nichols, 17, Brittini Hardcastle, 17, April Cooper, 14, Cara Murphy, 16, Britney Mayes, 17, Kayla Hassell, 15, Zachary Ashley, 17, and Stephen Schumaker, 18.)

The two boys are accused of acting as lookouts outside the house in which the beating took place on March 30. (And who says chivalry is dead?)

All are in juvenile detention except for Schumaker, an adult, who was booked into the Polk County Jail and released on $5,000 bond.

Oh, and this next little tidbit from Mercades Nichols' mom just makes the whole thing even more riveting:
“First of all, the tape that was released is only three minutes long. (The original intent behind the video was to post it on YouTube so that everyone would see how cool they are.) That was the worst of it,” she said, contradicting the sheriff. (Judd has repeatedly stated that the victim was knocked unconscious for a time. And the camera kept rolling.) “My daughter is the one who turned the video tape over to the sheriff’s department for evidence. My daughter turned it over to them.” (Well, kudos to Mercades Nichols! You should be named Polk County Citizen of the Year! Where was that backbone when the attack was going on?)

Judd said the most shocking thing about the attack is how lightly the alleged assailants took their actions. (Meredith) Vieira asked him if they showed any remorse when they were arrested.

“None at all,” he said. “When we had them arrested and in detention, they were laughing and joking, ‘Guess we’re not going to go to the beach on this spring break.’ One girl actually asked our detective, ‘Am I going to be released in time to go to cheerleading practice tomorrow?’ ” (Enough with the cheerleading already!)

This reminds me of a story a friend told me not too long ago. A girl of about 15 years old was brought into a local principal's office for having marijuana in her purse. While she and the principal were waiting for the POLICE TO ARRIVE, she asked, "So, I guess you're going to call my parents?" And she asked this as if it were an inconvenience, not as if she were scared.

I like to think that if one of my kids had been in her shoes, they would be pleading, "Do whatever you want, but PLEASE DON'T CALL MY MOTHER!!!"

We've had one slight run-in with cyber-bullying via MySpace, and it wasn't pleasant. We resolved it the old-fashioned way. We called the culprit's parents and asked nicely for the material to be removed. And it was. End of story. Will the two kids ever be best friends? Probably not, but I don't care. Lesson learned: Hey, your parents, her parents, his parents, everyone's parents ARE WATCHING YOU.

I've spent/wasted enough time navigating Facebook and MySpace to know that teenage girls are still the most insecure people on the planet and that they're willing to brag (or lie) to the entire world about the things they've done. A few minutes of fame, whether it's being promiscuous, acting with violence or talking smack is still fame. For most, it's as close to notoriety as they're going to get. Unless, of course, they get caught and are then splashed across network TV and newspapers across the country and then they ROCKET to fame and sit there for a few days.

Feeling pretty famous NOW, Mercades Nichols, Brittini Hardcastle, April Cooper, Cara Murphy, Britney Mayes, Kayla Hassell, Zachary Ashley and Stephen Schumaker?



You might find more thoughts on cheerleader attacks over at humor-blogs.com.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Your Honor, I Consider It a Privilege

I haven't been this excited since ... well, I don't even KNOW when!

The mail lady dropped off a little piece of correspondence today that invites me to serve on a jury in circuit court. I don't know about you, but this calls for some shopping! What does a successful juror wear? Work-casual? Sunday best? Resort wear? Somebody, please, help me, because I just don't know.

Of ALL the taxpayers in my county, my local government chose ME. Why do people try to get out of this? What about serving your county is so gosh-darn awful that you don't want any part of it? I have one relative who cried, "IBS! IBS!" just to keep from serving. The court administrator wisely didn't ask any questions. The summons was rescinded.

Since the mail arrived, all I can think about is the type of case I will be hearing. White-collar? Criminal? Or something like the latest cheerleader attack in Lakeland, Fla.? I watched that story as it was told in great detail this morning on "The Today Show" (thanks again, Matt Lauer!), and I'm concerned that NBC might be targeting cheerleaders, specifically those in Florida. (This makes two in two weeks, in case you're counting.) With an armload of laundry, I stopped in front of the TV, and my mouth dropped.

The video showed a gang of cheerleaders attacking another girl, who spent a little too much time talking trash on MySpace. It was brutal and shameful. And almost just as shameful was the on-air interview with the mother of one of the attackers. She defended her daughter and came just short of saying the 16-year-old victim deserved what she got. Like, she deserved two black eyes and partial vision loss in one eye. She deserved to suffer hearing damage in one ear and to lose consciousness. She deserved a concussion. In a word, she deserved the humiliation. A footnote: The attack took place in this woman's HOME. OK, she wasn't there at the time, but still . . . all over some comments posted on MySpace.

But I digress. I am angered to action. I am going to send someone to the slammer, or save someone from being wrongfully convicted. I am going to be the voice of the people, while also standing up for those who can't speak for themselves. I am going to run for foreman and keep everyone in line and on task. I will run my jury like it's the set of "Twelve Angry Men." And I will do it all for mileage reimbursement and a sack lunch. And a new outfit.

God bless America!


Seek out other public servants at humor-blogs.com.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I've Never Understood Polygamy

What goes on in the mind of someone like Warren Jeffs?

The Mormons, as a group, denounced polygamy 100 years ago, but as I understand it, he and his family broke apart from the church and among his first orders of business as leader of the new church was to bring it back. Why is this so important to him? Of all the social conflicts he could create by twisting Scripture, why this one? He's only hurting himself. And his numerous wives and children. And the many generations that follow.

I know my husband loves me, but would he love, say, 10 of me? I think not. Anniversaries would be complete NIGHTMARES, when and if he remembered them.

"Wait, I thought you were the one who LIKED to stay in and watch movies."
"What do you mean you prefer roses to daisies?"
"Since when are you allergic to shellfish?"
"Oh, for heaven's sake! I thought your ears were PIERCED!"

We have four kids, and I know Craig loves each one. But would he love 40? He might, but not very well. Or, at least, he would have troubles. He barely keeps up with the dance and piano recitals we have. And the 40 birthdays would certainly pose a problem.

"I distinctly remember that you were born in July. Weren't you? Well, eat this delicious cake anyway."
"You want a pony? I gave you a pony LAST year! Didn't I?"
"Well, I don't know if you should have an extra scoop of ice cream. Go ask your mother. By the way, which one is she?"

Then there's the issue of yard work and general home maintenance. I've always said I would make a terrible ex-wife, but I think I would make an even worse "multiple wife," if that makes any sense. Oh, the jealousy and comparisons!

"You mean to tell me that she has a built-in DISHwasher?"
"I thought you mowed her lawn LAST Saturday."
"Why does SHE get new countertops? I've put up with your nonsense a LOT longer than SHE has."

When family vacation time rolled around, he would have to take time off from work for the entire SUMMER.

"Come on, kids! We're going to the Grand Canyon!"
"OK, everyone out of the van. Next group: Panama City or bust!"
"Where did I say we were going? Niagara Falls? Allrighty by me!"

And imagine the competition among that many moms who shared my husband. I think I would have to leave the compound in the dark of night and head straight for a crack den.
"So, what is YOUR son's baseball average?"
"I saw that YOUR daughter wasn't on the honor roll."
"My kids are so smart, I just can't keep up with them!"

Here's a twist, Warren Jeffs, you crazy fart: How about a reversal of polygamy as we know it? Maybe women (and I'm not talking about myself) could choose to have multiple husbands -- one who cooks, another who cleans, one who takes care of the kids all day, another who clears out the occasional dead mouse or snake, one who books exotic vacations, another who is handy with power tools and lawn implements. And all think their collective wife is the most brilliant person they have ever met.

You'll probably find lots of husbands and wives over at humor-blogs.com.