Monday, October 31, 2011

freelancing, whoddathunkit!

Like most women with children, my professional career took a backseat to my little Miss Em duties the minute she was born (probably the minute she was conceived). Women tend to do that, pick family-rearing over their current jobs, take a sabbatical, temporary maternity leave, permanent maternity leave, etc. That's why the business world  tends to promote men over them. And no, it doesn't work like that for men, unless they purposefully choose to be their family's Mr. Mom.

It's unfair, it sucks, we should change it as a society, yeah, yeah, I agree. But not quite so boisterously as before I became a full-fledged member of that demographic, because my mom-job is the most important and the best job I have ever had, and likely ever will. So I'm not complainin'. I'm just sayin'!

Now if I could only be there for my kid (flexible hours) but have a fulfilling job nevertheless (flexible hours) where I wouldn't be penalized for wanting to prioritize differently (flexible hours)?

But aha! <cue in the aha music>

the magic panacea to my career problems.
(Seriously, they should be paying me for this.)

If you are a writer or blogger, you can totally pull this off as a steady paying gig. Here's how it works:  
  1. Sign up: fill out a profile, write a little intro about yourself, throw in some contact info. Be sure to list credentials you can substantiate once people ask to see your portfolio. Can't say "I am good at writing about astrophysics" when really, you have no clue, because they will ask to see a writing sample about it at some point.
  2. Check out the job offers: Here's where it's really cool, you get to pick your own assignments. You don't have to get stuck performing a task that you hate because it's part of your 9-5 package. Each assignment is your choice, and furthermore...
  3. Pick your price: It's completely up to you how much (or little) you charge, if you can get away with it. The system works on competitive bidding, but honestly, I was passed over on a job for someone who charged considerably more than me. So it's not always the fee the clients take into consideration, though it IS a big factor.  
  4. Work at your pace on a project that you chose for a fee that you set: This is the sweet deal. You can work in the middle of the night, you can wake up at the crack of dawn, it's totally up to you. As long as you submit the work within the deadline (or slightly before to impress your client), they don't really care how/when you did it.
  5. Get paid: This is the best part. It's automatic, more or less. Elance has this nifty escrow system for fixed job prices (and payment verification for hourly jobs) where the client who posts the job commits to the budget ahead of time. So when you are done, you just mark your job as complete to send a bill and presto, you get paid. Of course there's always some asshole who will find a way to cheat you, but I have yet to come across any. It seems that the system is fairly secure in its conception and delivery.

I know I saw something on the Elance site about referring people and getting points, or money, or some sort of incentive, but I don't care to look for it right now. This blog is not for peddling stuff to my readers. But if you think this is up your alley and you would like to give me credit for telling you about it, let me know so I'll figure out how to do it. 

You can always send me a Veuve Cliquot as a token of your appreciation. 
I think I can put that to better use :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

blogging with amy

There are very few things that have impressed me, lately. Call me jaded, call me elitist, call me a snob. But if, like me, you have seen the massive quantity of utter gibberish out there in cyberspace, you're probably unimpressed too, you jaded, elitist, snob!

But there I was surfing the net about ebooks (do we still say that? am I supposed to use trolling for all web viewing activities now to sound cool... or is it hot, or da bomb? I CAN'T KEEP UP!), which led me to more dribble and more people peddling their bullshit guides and how-to's, and then, tadaaaaa!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ 

The doors of heaven opened up to a harp-like music accompaniment, and in stepped 

through the curtain of clouds.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ 

she has yet to make a drawing expert outta me. if you think it's easy, you try it

Not only does she know her stuff (the woman makes like 2-3 grand a month just from her little free blog), she is thorough, meticulous and detailed. Yes, I am aware that all of these adjectives mostly mean the same thing, but it bears repeating because she is that good. And generous! Did I mention that most of her wisdom comes at the cheap, cheap cost of zip, zero, zilch dollars?

That's why she gets her own button on this blog 
(see right side of page)
(this is your right) >>> 
(a little lower, please)
(see it?)
(now use it)

What I have loved so far (the snipping tool demo shown above was just the tip of the iceberg):

Talk about great content! I spent most of the day linking -- out and in-- from her website to all the software, cool gadgets, and sites she recommended, most of which were free or had a nominal fee (manna from heaven for a blogger on a budget), and some of which I had never even heard of, even though I'm not a complete newbie (or as was just recently pointed out to me, a n00b).

Amy Lynn Andrews, I have the biggest girl crush on you! 
(You have been warned.)

What has impressed you lately?


Monday, October 17, 2011

confessions of a lazy woman

Sports and I were never best buddies. I always preferred less... shall we say... sweaty activities. If there was a way to get an aerobic exercise from reading a book, painting, or writing a story, believe me, I would have found it by now. But once my prime came and went, there were no other alternatives. So, despite my vehement opposition to the idea, I too succumbed to the necessity of working out.

At first, I collected numerous gym memberships: the co-ed kind, the 30-minutes kind, the women's workout and spa kind, the private trainer kind. Once the initial resolve dwindled, so did the frequency of my visits. At some point, I decided to waste invest my money on something more tangible. That's when I bought my first treadmill...

I'm afraid this generic and fuzzy picture is all I have to show you since, a while back, we forgot our treadmill in the backyard where we moved it one inspired summer, and it hopelessly rusted in the rain the ensuing winter. It's probably in some junkyard heaven somewhere now, if it has not been recycled yet to something useful. It wasn't missed much though, because, apart from the random and ever so infrequent  run jog walk slow walk, it was mostly used for kiddie acrobatics by one highly kinetic little miss Em.

Then a few years ago, several members of my family acquired and started feverishly using stationary bikes. Their tummies were tighter, their skin looked healthier, in short, they positively glowed!
So I, of course, immediately went out and bought myself one of these...

It's not what you think. I did use it. I DID! 

Well, a few times anyway. 

Nowadays , it mostly does this:

They say that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior, again and again, fully expecting a different outcome. And since I am not insane (at least not entirely), I decided to change my behavior in the hopes of yielding a better result. Intent on overcoming my stagnating state of physical activity and bettering my health by properly exercising my body,  here's what I am doing differently:

DRUMROLL... please!

  • I got a BIGGER machine. It's heavier, too, so I cannot drag it outside and let it rot in the rain.
  • I put it in my garage, not my bedroom, where I don't have any pillows or clothes.
  • I did NOT buy it. I borrowed it from someone. 
  • It was lent to me without its electrical cord, so I cannot actually monitor my heartbeat or caloric loss, nor program it to do harder sets.
  • It's an elliptical machine, one I have never tried before and don't really know how to use.

Change the behavior and you shall change the result. Whaddayathink?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

sweet saturday: little miss Em's surprise

I was sick all week, mostly bedridden, getting up only when absolutely necessary. For example to bake these (nothing like a little chocolate to help conquer the flu's blues, right?)...a cookie inside a cookie! They were the yummiest. That gal never ceases to impress me.

But the best part (when I finally was well enough to get back to a semblance of normal) was finding this on my desk:

And the pièce de résistance, this little poem, tucked inside the bouquet:

It's gonna be darn hard to top this...

Sweet Saturday to you, too!


Monday, October 10, 2011

columbus day

This has got to be the worst holiday for a parent. Try explaining to your kid that, on this day, we're supposed to honor a guy who royally screwed up on the job he was commissioned, lied about it, occupied colonized the rightful landowners, didn't even get there first, and wound up being a national hero deserving of his own holiday. With schools, banks, and post offices closing and all.

That, and not having appropriate arts and crafts (or gifts) to distract them with, so they freakin' stop asking you any more questions about the topic.

My contribution for the day? Copy and pasting someone else's work  :)


What are you doing on Columbus day?


Saturday, October 8, 2011

sweet saturday: gluten-free mini muffins

Sweet Saturday: Take Three... Success!

Since more and more people I know and love are being diagnosed as celiac, I'm constantly keeping an eye out for gluten-free recipes. This one fell in my lap out of the blue. I was watching what I thought was a regular episode of Giada at Home about a kid's party called Treasure Hunt, and lo-and-behold, the carrot and zucchini mini-muffins she made as dessert were gluten-free! Yay!

Most of the ingredients were readily available. I got to make good use of the awesome Canadian maple syrup that I recently received (thank you Nora!). Tracking down the flours (almond and brown rice) was a little challenging, and after visiting several places one would think would logically carry them and leaving empty handed, I eventually found them at my neighborhood Ralphs (another reason why Studio City is a cool place to live).

I followed the recipe exactly, which is what I do the first time I bake a new recipe. I usually have to tinker it a little bit afterwards but this one was delicious at first try and I intend to make it a staple at our home. Even the whipped cream and honey frosting, which I initially thought might be a problem, was perfect.

We gave this recipe six thumbs up!

The best part was being able to send some to my mom.

Sweet Saturday to you, too!

Monday, October 3, 2011

a day in the life of a hacked woman

Friday, October 1st, 2011 - I'm blissfully in REM sleep when...

7:16 am
I wake up to an annoying repeated buzz. Not being a morning person, I say "oh for crying out loud" to no one in particular and try to go back to sleep. The buzzing continues, insistent. And then, suddenly, respite. A moment later, it restarts, furiously. It's coming from my iphone, which, apparently, is having a little orgasm party.

7:21 am
I get up reluctantly and check my email. Sure enough, that's the culprit. There is a massive influx of messages from someone called Mail Delivery System. I don't understand what's going on. I squint and try to decipher the messages on the small screen without my reading glasses. I catch the words mail, delivery, and failed randomly in different emails. I move to my desktop to take a closer look. Holy shit, this is bad. I'm gonna need some coffee, pronto.

7:30 am to 8:00 am
There are at least 400 notifications of bounced-back emails. There are also all these other notifications from my provider regarding attempted delivery of an email I never sent. Yup, I've been hacked. I try to read some of the original messages embedded into the returned emails and find out that, unbeknownst to me, I have been peddling in my sleep, among other things, Viagra, the Genie bra, and merci merci lunettes (whatever they are). And also proposing, among other things, to "share my sexual experience" with all my family members, friends, co-workers, every company I ever ordered anything from, and all my acquaintances past and present. Holy shit. And my clients. HOLY SHIT!

8:00 am to 9:00 am
I realize that in the avalanche of automated messages, there are genuine emails, like this one:
Hello (my name),
I believe your email account has been hacked. May want to change your password.
It was a pleasant surprise to receive an email from you even if it may not have been intentional. Maybe someday you will let me know why you stopped being friends.
Still miss you much.
(his name)
I haven't seen, talked to, or heard from this guy in over 10 years. I suddenly notice that with every "holy shit" I say out loud, my dog is freaking out a little. So I just mouth it. Repeatedly.

9:00 am to 9:30 am
I'm on the phone with a tech person from my email provider, trying frantically not to sound like the freaked-out version of myself where I repeat the same information (over and over) by just changing the words a little, or give out way too much information than is requested of me. She is cool, collected, and speaks slowly, just in case I'm retarded. She tells me that:
  1. I did all I could by changing my password for this particular account.
  2. There seems to be no other virus or malware that she can detect from the info I gave her (also because I told her that the first thing I did was run a thorough scan of my computer which came back clean).
  3. I should upgrade my computer protection to this particular anti-virus software that does everything except shackle a digital intruder and deliver him/her directly to the police. 
  4. I should buy the particular anti-virus software that does everything except shackle a digital intruder and deliver him/her directly to the police... FROM HER.
Sure, lady, that's exactly what I need right now! Now will you do me a favor and call my mom and explain all this to her? Then, if you have time, since you seem so eager to help, can you start calling my uncles and aunts and cousins and friends and co-workers and my daughter's teachers and principal and my priest and my clients for me and tell them the same thing too? I'll start making a list, I'll email it to you shortly. I'll be sure NOT to use the email account that got compromised because that's EXACTLY what the hacker would want: more contact info from me. No? Really? Too much? 'Ya think?!?

10:15 am
After having paced furiously and smoked probably a pack of cigarettes by now, I sit my behind down to assess the situation.

10:42 am
My behind is falling asleep while I'm scouring google for info on what to do next. I realize that the solutions are provider-specific and that I should be grateful that I wasn't locked out of my own account (which apparently also happens sometimes) or worse, been hacked properly by having someone take over my computer entirely. But mostly that I have a lot of email address changes to request.

1:17 pm
I have thought of everything recent that has required my hacked email address as a log-in, identification, or mail-delivery, and have made all the necessary changes. I now move on to cleaning up my Outlook inbox. I find a few automated "vacation" responses to my shamefully misspelled and painfully obvious sales pitches, namely from old professors who oddly seem to be on some sort of coordinated hiatus. Oh hey, here's that guy who spent the whole semester asking us what we thought whenever we asked him factual questions, because he couldn't be bothered to read the material he required. Lazy asshole. I hope you click on something nasty and get a virus (no I don't) (but he was a lazy asshole) (maybe he's fired and wants to save face by pretending to be unavailable for legit reasons).

2:00 pm to bedtime
I spend the remainder of the day, after a much deserved copious lunch, glued to my computer, with my cell phone nearby, answering calls, emails, and texts ranging from empathizing to puzzled to downright hostile (it's a good thing I had the day off...this was so much better than shopping, right?) Even though I haven't been using this email account much of late, I have had it since 1997 and it appears that I have in fact racked up a ginormous contact list. It must have looked like manna from heaven to my neighborhood friendly (and let's not forget entrepreneurial) hacker. Sorry buddy, you're unplugged. And I think I'm doing you a favor because, seriously, who really is gullible enough to buy that shit?

Tomorrow, I will sit down and trim my contact list to the bare essentials. You want in or out?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

sweet saturday: almost there

Sweet Saturday: Take two

This is not quite as bad as the first from-scratch attempt where we bought the sweet(!) treat instead of making it ourselves.

 What we made looked good, before and after, and did some good too.

While I was setting up, little miss Em shot these.

The best part was having these little hands in my kitchen... the BFFs in action.

Quick pic before putting them in the oven.

And voila!

note to self: do heed the advice of placing the dough balls quite a bit apart from each other

This is what was left after the "sampling"... like I said, they were really good.

Saving the rest for tomorrow. Sweet Saturday to you, too.