The Year to Come

I couldn’t help but feel a little depressed all of December.  The end of the year was upon me and I felt I had nothing to show for it.  I have a blog I barely wrote for, which nobody reads any way.  I had spent all of November and December trying to get a “real job” and failing miserably.  I had to ask my parents for a loan–again.  And it wasn’t helping that someone at Facebook decided to make a stupid, gimmicky, 2014 “Look how much cooler my year was than yours” slideshow nonsense that we could show off to all of our friends.

I’m looking down the barrel to another year working as a glorified cabby, and continually making less and less for it.  I’m 32, living with roommates, no tangible life accomplishments and no job prospectus whatsoever.  While 2014 was still better than 2013, there’s still A LOT of room for improvement.  So instead of looking back at the year that was, I choose to look ahead and–to borrow a phrase from my roommate, friend and EVR1 Institute founder Brandon uses all the time–set my intentions.

Last year I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do and where I was headed.  That has since solidified… some.  My constant problem is that I’m always pulled in five directions at once.  I want to invent something, I want to write, I want to sing, I want to dance, I want a real job.  When I try to divide my attention equally across all of those things, nothing happens.  I either have to give up on some of those things, or get some discipline.  And since I’m no quitter, 2015 will be the year of discipline.

At first I thought I would suck it up stick with Uber, but driving for New Year’s Eve last night was abysmal.  I can take the stress of driving for Uber if I know I’ll be earning a good wage.  But my take-home keeps shrinking the longer I work for them, and it’s becoming harder to justify keeping it up.

It was also a huge bummer to sink the better part of of two months writing cover letters and refiguring resumes; applying to countless jobs and coming up with nothing.  While I will continue the job search, there will be some clear boundaries set so I don’t get my hopes too high.  And this way I’ll still have time left over to work on the writing I want to do.

I was most surprised by how upset I was that my blog was not more developed.  I was proud of myself for actually building it last year, but then I never really committed to making it fly.  I thought of it more as the “hobby” that I would do in the meantime while I worked on figuring out whatever it was I was working towards.  That hobby has become this year’s goal.  By the end of the year, this blog is going to fly.

One of the ways this will happen is with your help–if you feel so inclined that is.  I’ve signed up for an account with Patreon and I’m asking for one dollar per blog post.  You’ll see the link to my Patreon account beneath each post going forth.  This will also help encourage me to commit to posting one article each week.

I’ve set a goal of $1000 dollars per blog post before I take ads down.  I realize that’s A LOT of money.  Patreon wanted a number when I signed up, so I gave them a number.  Shoot for the moon, right?  If your New Year’s resolution was to support the arts, consider starting with me!  I can assure you, 100% of the proceeds will go towards a starving artist…

Time and money permitting, I have a new invention I will be working on developing this year. The goal is to make that be a real thing people can purchase by Thanksgiving–just in time for the holiday rush.  (Of course, my subscribers will get one for free!  If you want one, that is.  You might think it’s a stupid idea.  Or worse yet… don’t drink coffee!  Seriously, how do you people operate?!)  More on what my crazy new idea is in the coming weeks.  I’ll kick this year off with a recap of last year’s invention and what happened… and didn’t happen.  Which will require your participation as well!

I sincerely wish all the best to everyone in 2015.  I’m looking forward to a new year and making this one better than last.  It’s both exciting and daunting to have so much control over my life.  But then again, that’s why I chose this path in the first place.

Happy New Year!


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Support Open Source through non-profit bundling

A week after Heartbleed wreaks havoc on the internet, I read this article that says unless Open SSL is properly funded, it could happen again.

Open source software is probably the greatest use of the internet; a utopian idea many were shooting for in the first years of it’s existence: the ability to bring bright minds together for the advancement of society.  Their contributions have benefited most everyone–as the wide swath of people affected by heartbleed will attest to–and yet none of these people have ever contributed a dime.  If they had, heartbleed might never have been an issue.

Utopian ideas are well and good, but the fact of the matter is we live staunchly entrenched in a capitalist society.  I’m not saying that it’s a better solution, I’m saying that is reality.  If you give something away for free, you cannot expect people to do the right thing.  People will use your product and be ever so grateful it existed; then feel a little bad when they don’t contribute anything toward your product, but still have many excuses, or just avoid you altogether, when asked to put a little money in the pot.  *cough*wikipedia*cough*

I am one of those people.  My excuse?  I’m poor.  All my friends will attest to that.  In fact, if there’s one thing in my life that has been consistent, it is my dismal financial situation.  I write a blog no one reads for heaven’s sake.  But, in reality, I could probably spare $20 a year.  The problem is, after living hand-to-mouth for so long, thinking about that $20 as a lump sum always makes me nervous.

What I propose is a way to tack on non-profit donations to my internet bill.  I don’t want to think about donating any lump sum, much less to more than one organization.  But if my internet bill were five dollars more a month, I probably wouldn’t notice.  That extra five dollars could be divided up between Open SSL, Wikipedia or whatever else I chose to support!  And since it’s bundled with the internet I already pay for, it doesn’t feel like another burden on my meager income.

You could take this concept and run with it, and make a whole business out of bundling non-profit donations.  That way instead of having twenty bucks here and thirty-five dollars there taken out piecemeal, you could enroll in a program that will auto-deduct a certain amount every month.  Then you can support your NPR, PBS, ASPCA and whatever else feel you need to.  You won’t be surprised when your membership comes due at random times during the year, it will just automatically renew if you’re enrolled.  And you’ll be able to plan for it every month, since it will be a regularly recurring transaction, like other bills.  You can feel good about yourself and forget about it!

On Demand Dinners

The “Everything On Demand” culture that’s currently en vogue is rubbing me the wrong way a bit.  If you can afford it, there is an app that will send someone grocery shopping for you; there’s an app that will send someone to pick up and drop off your dry cleaning for you; someone who will clean your house for you, someone who will cook and deliver it for you, someone who will deliver you for you…  It’s all a bit too much.  I know it’s supposed to make our lives convenient, but I can’t help but think it just makes us lazy.  Let’s be honest with ourselves, are you really spending ALL that time working?

I don’t think I could use some of these services out of principle.  20 years ago delivery people were usually high school or college students making a little cash on the side.  Today, they’re more likely to be heads of families doing whatever they can to make ends meet.  It’s hard for me to use a service that employs modern day servitude.  But this wasn’t meant to be a lecture.

I’m sure the problem is also my perspective.  Having worked as a delivery person for Caviar I know what it means to hustle for tips, and then freak out the second you’re not insanely busy.  It’s a lot of mental wear and tear for the deliverer all because someone was too lazy to put on a pair of pants and venture forth into the world.

In this case, I’m only going to pick on the meals-on-demand companies that cook a balanced healthy meal for you that day, usually only two options: veggie or meaty; then deliver them to you within minutes of your ordering via a delivery person who has a hot box in their car stocked full, trolling the neighborhood, waiting for someone to bite.

Some people are legitimately busy; and I understand that home cooked meals are sometimes a luxury.  You’ve worked a ten hour day, get home, and are too starving or exhausted to spend another 30 minutes or so trying to whip up a meal of the meager contents in your pantry.  It’s too late to actually go out and eat, or you’re too tired.  Instead, you call SpoonRocket or Sprig or one of the other home-cooked meals-on-demand services that will whisk a piping hot healthy meal to your doorstep in 10 minutes or less.  Pretty amazing, right?

The problem with this model is on the business side.  In order for you to get your piping hot healthy meal to you in no time at all, requires a fleet of folks just driving around in their cars, waiting for a call to come through.  This seems like a lot of wasted time and energy to me.  The company will spin it as something you can do in your off-time to make a little cash on the side, and who doesn’t like more cash?  But you know what?  I think I like my off-time as actual down time better.  My idea of spending my free time is not in a car driving around in circles and speeding to my destination once an order comes through.

On demand does not necessarily have to mean delivery.  In fact, I think there’s a better way to handle this problem.  What if the meal were waiting conveniently for you somewhere on your way home?  Say, in a large cooler in the metro station?  You could pick up dinner, hop on the train, pop it in the oven and by they time you’ve changed into your comfy clothes and poured a glass of wine, you’re dinner would be ready!  Meals would be even more inexpensive because the cost of delivery would be so much less.  You get a healthy, home-cooked meal, and no one’s time or gas is wasted.  If there are meals left over at the end of the day, they could be donated to homeless shelters!  Everybody wins!

Ride-share Insurance

A friend forward me this article yesterday.  Full disclosure: I drive for Uber and Sidecar.  (Sorry Lyft, I just can’t get over the fuzzy pink mustache… and ornery sign up process.)  I have normal insurance, and I’m pretty sure I said that my job was a “driver,” however, I didn’t specifically mention that I drove for any ride-share companies.  This may come back to bite me in the hiney, but I’m a gambling woman.

Aside from being a reminder that I should drive as safely as possible, it also seemed like a huge business opportunity.  Someone needs to step up and create an insurance company specifically for ride-share drivers!

There’s a huge need for it, think of how many drivers there are for Lyft, Uber and Sidecar in the bay area alone, much less in the cities they’re expanding too.  Plus, isn’t insurance is the ultimate pyramid scheme?  Okay, maybe that’s not quite right, but people will give you money every month regardless of whether or not they get into an accident.

I’m willing to bet that ride-share drivers are a better gamble to insure again for a number of reasons: they have a perfect stranger in their car, they’re comfortable enough with knowing their way around that they want to drive perfect strangers there, and they’ll only become more experienced the more they drive!

Could someone please jump on this fast?  While I am a gambling woman, it’s always nice to hedge my bets.  All I need is a (heavily monied) forward thinking person to jump on this and make it happen.  Only then will all of the huge, hulking insurance companies realize that they’re missing out on an opportunity for screwing us out of our hard earned money.

Farm Raised Shrimp

I just read this article about how fishing for shrimp is basically the worst thing you could possibly do to the ocean.

Sobering, right?  Neither farmed or wild caught shrimp are a good option.  I looked in the Oregon Pink Shrimp option referenced at the bottom of the article, it seems like they created a fancy net to reduce bycatch.  Which is good, but not great.

My least favorite phrase is “that is not an option.”  Especially if you’re telling me never again to eat those scrumptious little sea bugs.  Of course, after reading what they dump into the “farms” I don’t think I will anything for the rest of the day.

Which brings up the question, WHY are people farming shrimp this way?  This seems completely backward on a number a levels.  Shrimp are bottom feeders, their job is to eat poop!  You buy them to put in your fancy-pants saltwater aquarium to keep it clean.  Why on earth would you pump diesel into your shrimp pond?!  More importantly, why are will still farming like we don’t know anything about the world ecology?

Someone please start a sustainable shrimp farm.  Don’t clear the seafloor to build it, put it next to the ocean, and have sea water pumped in and out.  (If the Monterey Bay aquarium can do it, so can you.)  Using ocean water will ensure a natural habitat that the shrimpies can thrive in, which can then be drained for easy harvesting with zero bycatch.

Even better, build a shrimp AND a fish farm together!  Raise fish that have a plankton based diet (sardines, anchovies mackerel–all high in Omega fatty acids!) which live in an environment with live seawater pumped through.  The seawater the fish live in get pumped through to the shrimpy-shrimp, which now has lots of poo for them to feast on.  Two sustainable, healthy food sources!

Of course, I’m armed with all the knowledge I’ve accumulated by reading plaques at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  You should work with an actual ocean ecologist.

And for those of you would like to eat conscientiously, the MBA has made a Seafood Watch website where you can look up different types of seafood!  Enter in what you’re looking to buy and it will tell you what to avoid, good alternatives and best choices!  I typed in “shrimp” to play devil’s advocate, and they reference a couple other alternatives that the pink shrimp in Oregon.  Although, I have no idea how I’m supposed to tell which farms are verified in South East Asia.

You can keep up on issues such as ocean ecology, overfishing and what you can do to help!