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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Career Advice From My Career Mishap

Just so happens I wound up in a pretty good job, at a pretty good company doing very unique work in an industry I was interested in but knew little about. The position wasn't something I was accustomed to, that being operations and technical support related.

I found this gig through a varied, harrowing and often frustrating search. I've been on dozens of interviews and learned a bit about myself and what I want each time. When I landed in my current role, I felt less than satisfied with where I stood in the company. I wasn't doing a ton of work with what I was interested in, but the longer I stayed, the more I was able to feel my way around the subject matter my company deals in. Despite not working with the deliverable, being on the back end made me more curious and forced me to try to learn on my own what the hell we were doing.

Sorry to speak in vague terms, but my point is that this past year has proved that taking a less than ideal job is a calculated risk. Winding up in a "rut" is a bad thing, but if you're able to stay in a less-than-perfect job for a while and get your footing in your real interests while still getting your work done, then you're truly making the best your situation.

Never settle. If you need to make ends meet doing something you don't love, always keep planning. Always keep your Plan B fresh and ready for deployment. If the economy is going to be as bad as many believe, keeping your day job may be necessary, but knowing what you're going to do next is also necessary as well.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review of Seth Godin's "The Dip"

My "Secret Santa" gave me Seth Godin's book "The Dip." Talk about a well timed and thoughtful gift! Knowing who my secret Santa is, I realize that I once spoke with her about entrepreneurial aspirations that we both shared. She is a photographer and I am a creative marketer. We're both in different stages of realizing our dreams.

Seth Godin's book, "The Dip" is an 80 page business novel pleading and begging the reader to quit. Funny how at no point did I ever wish to quit this book.

The premise of "The Dip" is that anyone who wants success in any facet in their life should do some serious soul searching get their priorities straight. Godin asserts that if you can't realistically be the best at something, or dominate a market, then you are wasting your time in doing that thing. "Average is for losers" according to Godin.

"The Dip" wants the reader to be confident that they can overcome the initial curve of difficulty and tribulation that is associated with becoming the best. The book also differentiates between tough learning curves and arduous roads to nowhere.

Many individuals have aspirations but settle for less because of conflicting ideas about what the costs of their dreams will be in relation to their current comfort. Seth Godin rattles you with short, concise ideas that hit the core of what confuses us about true risk versus reward.

I read "The Dip" in less than an hour. I'm forcing it upon all my friends who I think are open minded to quitting something and getting beyond their own personal dips and curves.

I fully intend on reading Seth Godin's other books. I recommend you start with "The Dip."

Now, to get down to my 10,000 hours of hard work. I've got a few hundred so far!

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Need A Small Plot of Land for Green Building

There are a lot of inspiring stories in circulation about innovative green building and land developments all over the country. Pick up a Dwell magazine and you'll see mind blowing contemporary designs in arid desert, lush Pacific forests and secluded Northeast cabin country. But, the whole idea of green building and sustainable design is to have it accessible to the most people possible so that the concepts actually reduce carbon use.

In Lawrence, MA, Powerhouse Enterprises erected an extremely green and energy efficient home. The health and beauty of the house is astonishing. It is being sold for $300,000, which considering the innovation involved, isn't a bad price.

But, I live in Worcester. Why can't these ideas and practices be proliferated to all regions? Shipping a green home long distances (my Lawrence example isn't far, but I'm talking more about somewhere like Arizona) defeats the purpose of building an energy efficient dwelling. All regions can get into something like this, I'm convinced.

What I want to do is get funding from who-knows-where and buy and develop a piece of land in Worcester with a green and cleanly built home. I don't care if I live in it, sell it, or whatever, but this is something I want to do for Worcester. Sustainable living in Worcester with green buildings being marketed and built could bring a new sense of vitality to the region. I love all the three deckers, but retro-fits and condo-conversions get old after a while.

The real estate bubble left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. This idea sounds simply delicious. This is sort of just a stream of conciousness business proposition. But, what do you think of this idea? I've seen something like this happen in Philly. Any suggestions, criticisms or comments?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays

I've got lots of things to write about and discuss, but today I'm just going to continue hanging with my family and relaxing before the year ends.

I hope everyone has had a magical Christmas, Hanukkah and any other holiday you may celebrate.

Being generous is better than getting a lot of gifts. I re-learn this every year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This Isn't A Poetry Open Mic - This Is Our Economy

It is time for economists and Obama enthusiasts (myself included) to stop waxing poetic about the "new economy." Renewable energy has always been available to a capacity. We grasped about for it desperately when gas was $4.00 a gallon and now we're starting to get into the "move slow" mindset that was so prevalent in the civil rights movement. We're giving this movement a sense of novelty and aura that it doesn't deserve yet.

As I scroll through my RSS feeds I read one article after another about how we are either entering into the dawning of a new, clean, green renewable, sustainable, whatever-able era, or how solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel will fall into an unrecoverable abyss while the "clean coal" cheerleaders continue to pump false propaganda at the public which is only meant to keep us on track towards a total carbon economy.

Let's not wait for the morons in congress and the senate to hold hands and offer us a "new deal" with Obama. Obama will create a lot of excitement and executive level motivation, but don't think he's the founder of these principals. All he can do is unleash restrictions on the market that keep renewable energy and sustainable development un-competitive. Who are they to offer us anything? They hold none of the answers. The answers lie within our universities and businesses that are creating these technologies and implementing them in the market.

I am a small business owner now. I want to work in renewables. I don't want to market consumer goods sold by international sweatshop distributors (Wal-Mart, Target, etc). This is a time of doing, not talking. We don't have 8 years to plan. We have 8 years for government to enable and then step the hell out of the way and let people become educated and empowered about how they can turn out economy and the environment around.

When the hardest work is finished and the ship has altered course, only then can we can this the "new economy."

If you were asked to do your part (and I am officially asking you), how would you act? How could your lifestyle be morphed into an ecologically industrious one?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The 2008 Toyota Yaris Hatchback - Great Snow Machine!

This past February I bought a brand new 2008 Toyota Yaris. It was my first new car and I bought it after quite a few months of searching and bellyaching over pricing. But, my Yaris has served me exceedingly well so far. Incredible gas mileage is now matched with great snow handling ability. The Toyota Yaris is basically a snow machine, but a lot more practical and safe than the kind Todd Palin uses.

I am convinced the Yaris, with some tweaking and modification would make an excellent rally styled car. I went barreling around in my house to the super market to pick up a few things and even when forcing the car into a controlled slide in poorly paved roads (empty roads too, I'm not completely stupid!) I was able to correct and power out of the slide quite easily. Plus, with the transmission being a 5-speed manual rather than automatic, I never felt in danger of an un-intended skid because I was able to effectively downshift while coming to a stop.

I've driven rally cars before, usually extremely powerful and stiff riding beasts of the automobile type, but my Toyota Yaris would hold it's own as far as handling goes. Not that I'm in the financial shape to be able to mod a car to the teeth, but if I could, my Yaris would make a great starting point.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Can You Recommend A Good Business Book?

I like to read a lot. I am always reading at least two books at a time and I usually read about a book a week in all. I have been an absolute fiction freak for the past 4 years, but I'm shifting towards business books a bit more now. The entrepreneur in me is screaming to be let out.

I have been contributing to and reading blogs quite heavily for the past year or so. I've always blogged to some degree, but I became resolved to write every day in a purposeful manner and realized that a blog focusing on issues that people of my generation face would be good motivation to raise the bar each day.

That being said, I've been reading business blogs lately and they have given me excellent motivation and advice for starting my own business. I also reviewed a business novel called "Jack's Notebook" by Gregg Fraley, which I loved as well. Now my appetite is whetted and I no longer crave fiction as much as I do a good business novel. I want to read practical and applicable advice on how people started their businesses and how I can get mine going from the point it's at now.

I'm very interested in any and all suggestions. Whether it's a blog, published white paper, etc. I'm hungry for all knowledge. I'll obviously search some out and whatever I read and really like, I'll share with you.

What business books, or any books for that matter, have changed your perspectives in 2008?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Disheartening Stories of Contentment

I'm reading a whole lot of blog posts right now saying how Gen Y'ers need to buckle down and forget about career surfing and just stay at the jobs they dislike because of how bad the economy is.

I don't need to be told how bad the economy is. I know it when I see my stocks and when I see what companies are going through. This is no secret.

But, as Mike Davis, a.k.a. The Global Citizen says in his v-log series "Notion to Motion," there is no recession on passion.

Essentially, we all need income to some extent. Some have student loans and/or families they need to support, but there's never any excuse for off putting work towards your dreams on hold.

Every day you may have a couple hours or just a couple minutes to sit down and do something truly constructive that helps your life. Whether it's blogging, developing a business plan or having conversations with interesting people that give you good ideas, you should take time every day to do something for yourself because life certainly takes plenty out of each of us.

I don't say all of this in a narcissistic context. All I mean is that there are certain fine details of each day that need tending and they're unavoidable. Planning for your future to some degree is really the only thing that keeps humans going in a meaningful way. Otherwise you fall into that daily routine of nothingness and habit that so many are subject to.

Some of you might say, "that's just the way it is." But, we all have the ability to choose, so we should make good choices whenever possible.

Never defer the dream.

Monday, December 15, 2008

5 "Green" Reasons Why I Should Buy or Build A House

I've been getting antsy to buy a home in the past six months. Every time I hear whispers of a "bottom" in the market, I count how much money I've got in my savings account and start shuffling through local condo listings. What about my "green" dream home?

I realize condominiums and houses both have their benefits. Condos are basically maintained like apartments due to a condo fee, but there are limitations on what you can do to the structure and property. Homes tend to have a lot more costs associated with them, but they're all your and you can virtually do anything within the law with your property. Now, whether you buy land or work with existing property and make it green.. that's a whole other discussion...

Assuming there is a "real" bottom in the market and it is well publicized, I figure I'll want a house over a condo because:

1. I'll probably have a yard that I can landscape in an ecologically friendly way. If I choose a condo, I'll probably have little control over who gets the landscaping contract. The lowest bidder in all likely hood will have the poorest practices.

2. I can put a windmill on my ecologically landscaped property. Seeing as I'm not the biggest design or aestetic freak you'll meet, I'd love to put a big, honkin' windmill right on my property to give my house that uhm... whatever look. More importantly, it will give me electricity and will eventually pay for itself!

3. You better believe I'll be decorating with solar panels. My solar paneling will be like a rapper's bling... seriously abundant!

4. Upgrade carpentry is at your convenience, not your neighbor's. I won't have to worry about working hours of the building, or other technicalities. I can gut my home and renovate it whenever and for however long as I like.

All this being said, I know there are major financial issues that come along with all of these grand plans. But, people do this. People like me.

To my homeowner people, what do you think of this? Am I correct in my assumptions? Condo owners, how much freedom do you feel that you're afforded?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Self-Defeating or Evolving?

What's the difference between being self-defeating or evolving as a person? As a young person, when you pick a certain path, whether it be the high, low or middle path, you're usually respected on some level if you stick with whatever you choose. If you don't stick with the plan, then people say, "I don't know about that guy/woman."

As a young man or late teenager, depending which way you look at it, I decided to go to college rather than pursue a trade and take over the family business my grandfather and uncle own. I did this for many reasons that aren't necessarily relevant anymore. Either way, I chose to do something and I made it through college. Suddenly, I needed to choose again.

What are my options, exactly? Marriage, kids, house and a 9 to 5? Ha! That's the anti-choice as far as I'm concerned. Things are a bit more complicated in my mind. I could choose to go at my career full bore and hold a few jobs to get my rep. up, which is why I'm already doing. I'm not sure how well I'm doing, but I know I'm working hard, either way.

Also, there's the location question; where do I want to be now and in five years? I've talked a bit about buying a home because it will stabilize my financial situation and give me a sense of place, rather than a frenetic transient lifestyle that I've been used to for my entire adult life.

I'm quite close to settling in one place for a while. It'll probably be Worcester where my family lives and where the cost of living is lower. I'm also close to launching my small biz which will hopefully allow me to be independently employed under my own terms in coming years. I also think I'll be in grad school in September if the schools I'm applying to are not stingy.

All this being said, I feel like it wouldn't take a lot of convincing and a little bit of opportunity to pull up all my roots and take the hell off to wherever the action and interest is in the world. If I got a call from a solar installer or manufacturer in Colorado and asked me to get out there by New Years and get to work, I'd be gone so quick you wouldn't even know what had just happened.

Although, that situation probably won't occur at this point in my career, who knows? More importantly, what does it mean that I want this to occur? Are my constantly evolving ideas and goals a good thing or are they keeping me from achieving anything truly meaningful and measurable in life?

I suppose these are the questions that need to be asked before the year ends. I ask for and appreciate any and all input.

Are you facing and significant urges to change your life around beyond recognition?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tag - It's Not Just For Kids Anymore, Bookworms Play Too

My southern New Jersey homie Tara Ronda tagged me to do this little bookworm blog to display the quality of my book collection. I swear I didn't fix this; the book I picked was about 4 inches from my forehead on the shelf of my cubicle. So, here we go:

Rule One: I have to grab one of the books closest to me, go to page 56, type the fifth line and the next two to five lines that follow.

Rule Two: I have to pick five people who love books and who could receive the Bookworm award with honor.

"Maria," called the woman of Pablo and when the girl came in the door she said, "Water for this comrade."
Robert Jordan reached for his flask and, bringing the flask out, as he brought it he loosened the pistol in the holster and swung it on top of his thigh. He poured a second absinthe into his cup and took the cup of water the girl brought him and commenced to drip it into the cup, a little at a time. The girl stood at his elbow, watching him.

-For Whom The Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

I've read all of the drunkard's other books with mixed opinions. I chose this one as one of my next reads because so many famous people love it. Maybe if I read it, I too will become famous.

My five people will be: Ashley, Gregg, Steph, Sarah, and Connie.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Click Almost Heard Around My World

Yesterday was bad. Every little thing in my world was pushing on a vice that had my entire being wedged and crushed. So many aspects of my life are stressful right now. I know I've got it far better than a lot of people out there. I just feel like certain parts of my life are asking for way too much of me and there seems to be less and less of the best parts of my energy and attention to go around at the end of every day. Yesterday I wrote a post about everything I "hate" and as I went to publish it I had a wave of guilt and apprehension come over me. I realized that I definitely want a lot of things out of life right now, but I also have a lot of things I've wanted in the past as well. So, I oped to not publish (thank god).

Here are some cool updates I'm positive about:

I'm building my new businesses with some great resources and inspiration from Jack's Notebook written by an amazing writer, speaker and entreprenurial mind in Gregg Fraley. Also, Mike Davis, a.k.a. "The Global Citizen" has been laying down some quality v-logs on how he is starting a business from concept to operations, or "Notion to Motion". I look forward to it every day.

I'm working on two steady freelance project as well. One is building a website that revolves around early career advice. Great concept. Another is SEO writing. Both are through

At the end of every day I think about how much I want to work for myself full time. Last night I had a conversation with an entrepreneur who said, "you know how people say you'll need 6 months of income to support yourself as you start a business? Make it 3 years of income instead." Basically he meant that you'll need time AND money to make great things happen. I have time, and I'm working on the money part as hard as I can.

Hopefully after the holidays I can get back to saving. Gift buying/receiving is one of my least favorite things to do, but I go along with it. It's one of the few ways I can really show I care about certain individuals. There are other ways, but I can only make people food or sing them a song so many times.

The condo front is still creeping along. I have several friends, mostly couples who own a house or condo. They're convinced I won't find what I'm looking for in my price range of $25,000 to $70,000 in Worcester, but I say foey to them! I think the bottom has yet to be seen and I'm crossing my fingers that when the bottom does come, I'll have the credit and down payment to snatch up a home of my own. Until then I refuse to hop on anything unless it's damn near perfect.

Will 2009 be the year of the reclusive, industrious James in spite of all this economic turmoil? I say "screw it!" Why sit and worry about the economy. Just keep working and creating as long as you're creative.

On a side note, my sister took Albie the cat back to the shelter yesterday. He was sick and simply un-trainable in regards to getting him in the litter box. The Vet said he probably has something wrong with him and that they're unsure of his background because he was a stray and only stayed in the shelter two days before I took him home. I hope whatever is ailing him is fixable and that he finds a good home eventually. As for my quest with for a cat, I have six months to pick any other from the same shelter. Right now I'm going to focus on getting all the cat pee smells out of my apartment first, then I'll worry about being a foster parent to a feline again. I'll be sure to pick more carefully next time, for sure.

Monday, December 8, 2008

How Blogging Saved My Life

Okay, that's being dramatic. I think getting rid of my television 5 years ago saved my life, to be honest. But, blogging as a participatory and observational activity is truly one of the most pleasurable daily things that I have in my professional and personal life.

If the internet was my monarchy, content would be king. I find so many life and career enriching tips and stories in my Google Reader. I think I'll make a JR's Top Ten Blogs List soon.

I feel like my content has been getting so many views lately, not even speaking specifically about my Bailout article but regarding my blog posts and Associated Content articles in general. I'm hitting a stride and I definitely feel like reading and interacting with so many great writers is helping me along.

I just wish I had more time to become more closely knit with my blog community.

2009 will be a year of renewed goals, re-vamped business strategy and a more excellent JR Moreau.

Anybody else planning out their New Year Resolutions yet? What are your thoughts on how blogging communities have affected your life?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cat Update

I feel like a Motrin Mom, except I'm a new cat owner instead of a new mother.

Anyways, Albie the cat is back. My cousin found him cowering in the hallway. I guess he hid from the dog somewhere. He seems a little traumatized, but I'll help him get over it.

In the mean time, I'm propping something against the door and making sure thing won't happen again.

A Really Sad Morning

Yesterday, my sister bought me a cat from the shelter as an early Christmas present. His name at the shelter was "Big Al" but I would up calling him "Albie." He's a full grown 5 year old male. He's got orange and white markings on him and is really cute and extremely friendly. He was really scared when I first brought him home, but towards the end of last night he started to come out a bit and want to be petted. I went to bed looking forward to playing with Albie the next day.

Today, I woke up this morning to find my back door wide open and the house freezing. The trash was torn up and Albie was not in his new-found spot. I looked all over the house several times for him, but my fears were confirmed; my landlord let his mastif into the back hallway as he's been told not to before, and the dog pushed open my doors and chased the cat out.

I've looked throughout the hallway, looked outside with no site of Albie. I'm scared for him as I live on a very busy street and many cats have been hit by the drivers speeding up the hill. I'm sad because this damned creature couldn't even have a full day of peace without my asshole landlord stomping around like nobody matters but him.

My sister is going to get her money back for Albie. I don't pay rent to have some asshole's dog destroy my property. He won't get a cent of rent until my sister is repaid and my door has a new, fortified lock put on it.

I'm half way between angry and sad. I can't decide which yet.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Misguided Content

Something happened in the Fall. I stopped drinking again, started writing more deliberately and suddenly my life is all aflame with creativity and desire. I'm cranking out articles every day and now I'm not quite sure what to do with all of this content.

I haven't found a vendor who will pay me respectable amounts of money for my articles up front yet, so I'm basically publishing them with non-exclusive rights on several sights and getting as much up front, and residual payment as possible. I also try to keep this blog update with substantive topics as well.

I feel like I could be doing this more efficiently though. I need a pipeline of conception to payment with a shorter turnaround time and more revenue on both the front end and residual end.

This is my content quandary. Or, call it a wish list for content solutions.

What are your creative queries? Do you find yourself lacking a better plan for monetizing your work?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My 2009 Conference Wish List

So, I'm starting to see a lot of cool conferences being planned for 2009. I'm mostly interested in "green" topics related to my entrepreneurial goals and it looks like there are some mighty relevant gatherings happening throughout the country.

Which to plan for? I can probably only swing the cost of one. There is a San Francisco and Washington D.C. event that I'm thinking about. I could probably find a friend to stay with in D.C. which would cut costs. Plus I could drive instead of buying an expensive plane ticket.

On the other hand, SF is a place I've always wanted to go. It would be hella expensive if I couldn't find somebody to stay with, but seeing San Fran could be the trip I've been waiting for.

Both conferences I speak of are highly relevant. I'll post more about them at a later date and link back to them to see what you all think.

With the crappy economy, what are some locations or staycations that you're planning as you worry about our country's financial apocalypse?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Too Much Content - Can't Write It all Down

Who amongst you readers talks to yourself? I talk to myself quite a bit. I'm a good listener when it comes to myself and I try to be a good listener in general. As far as speaking goes, usually when I say something to myself enough it eventually comes out right when I say it aloud to its intended audience.

When I have writers block, I'm sort of like a sad miscreant wandering about in my own head, blurting out non-nonsensical ideas and phrases never to be written down or heard by foreign ears.

I don't have writer's block anymore, so I'm writing down just about every good idea that comes to my head. Even the bad ideas form into good poetry at times.

The only bad thing is, my time is so disjointed and sparse, I have to start like four pieces at a time and work on them rapid fire just so that I don't forget them and have bandwidth to complete more the next day.

If I get behind on what my own brain is producing, I'll be in real trouble. We're talking, JR Goes Crazy kind of trouble.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm Popular for Unpopularity This Week

Last week before Thanksgiving break, I wrote a satirical and theoretical article of which companies I think deserve any kind of bailout. I referenced a car company, a solar company and a financial institution. I didn't say anything explicitly bad about Evergreen Solar (ESLR), except that I thought it got a raw deal in it's stock dilution.

That being said, after angry and concerned emails and comments, I realized that something in my article prompted the title to get picked up by Google Finance and THOUSANDS of people have read with great interest, my satirical and theoretical article on government bailouts.

I feel like I've hit the lottery in a sense. See the screen shot (notice, article B on the upper right hand corner) and then check out the actual article on Associated Content.

...and just to be perfectly clear, I do hold stock in Evergreen Solar (ESLR)

Gifting Like An Educated Pauper

So, I've decided to modify the scope of my gift giving this year. I've been focusing more on individuals and their potential likes and dislikes, rather than setting a dollar amount on how much I should spend. Seriously, who expects the world of others around this time of year when the country is in a recession and everyone is trying their damnedest to get through it. Considering that I don't know many people who are literally hard up for dough, I'm feeling less like pity giving and more like giving them something that will better them and not cost a lot. Books, cooking utensils and useful electronics are along the lines of what I'm contemplating.

I have been thinking so much lately, not just about gifting, but about saving, investing and buying a home. I feel like even though we're in a recession, there are even more reasons to live agressively, especially for a person at my age and of my circumstances.

I feel like if I play it safe, I lose. How are you feeling in the recession right now? Are you thinking big, or just thinking how to survive?

oDesk Makes Interactive Freelancing Easier

If you're looking to freelance and you don't quite have the professional network or experience to confidently jump into your own consultancy yet, check out oDesk. oDesk is an online service that connects freelance providers with buyers. Buyers post ads

I started freelancing part time about 4 months after I graduated from college in December 2006. The first project I got was doing market research for a sustainable economic development conference in Houston, Texas. I worked about 15 hours a week for a few months. It was really exhilarating to get hired for something I'm actually good at and passionate about. I would leave my then 9-5 job with huge excitement because I knew the next few hours would involved me holed up at a local coffee shop doing work that was rewarding, rather than draining and stressful.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Location, location, location!

So, I'm now looking at Condominiums in the Main-South area of Worcester. Some people familiar with Worcester may initially think, "eek!" But, Main South is becoming more progressive and upscale in a lot of places and I spent a lot of time there growing up, volunteering and working in the community.

One of the catches of living in the Main-South area of Worcester is that Clark University will let you go to school there for free. This is a ridiculous deal as Clark is quite expensive and prestigious. It also shows the commitment that Clark University has for Worcester’s Main-South community. They’ve always been known for buying up lots of property for dorms and administrative buildings in the past. I like Clark University a lot because the give and take with the neighborhood is pretty even. I don’t feel that Holy Cross gives much to the neighborhood it’s situated in which happens to be where I grew up. WPI does quite a bit in the community from what I hear, but the specifics are lost on me.

I feel an article or expose coming on. What are Worcester’s colleges doing in the community? There is a lot of controversy to whether Universities pay enough taxes and fees, so I’d like to add my two cents and see what I can dig up.

On a side note, still in Maine, eating, fat and happy! What’s going on for your weekend?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wrapping Up The Week

I may not blog for the rest of the week as I'll be all over New England getting down with my family. So, I'll drop by and give a few updates now just in case:

1) I got accepted to Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Graduate Program of Management in the Marketing Innovative Technology program. Not an MBA, this program offers all of the classes, resources and perspectives I could ever want for a marketing and technology based degree.

2) Although I am accepted, my status as a non-matriculated (not full time) student has left me in-eligible for financial aid of any kind. I cannot secure a federal loan and a private loan is my only option to pay for the classes. Anyone who knows me is aware of what I think of private loans, so I won't elaborate. In short: I can't pay for my classes and as of now, I will not be starting them in January.

3) I'm going to take the GRE and/or GMAT's and enroll in the fall and try to get a full fledged financial aide package. Whatever I've got to do to get through this red tape is what I'm going to do. Grad school and starting my own business are my next steps.

4) I'm still looking and saving for a condo. This priority fluctuates up and down my list. I've looked at my situation from many angles and realize that I need to do a few things before buying a condo is actually beneficial to my financial situation. It is not out of reach though. Not by any means.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How To Talk About Your Job And Not Bore People

By day, I work for a software company, which sounds very 1990's if you ask me. Sometimes I like to just leave it at that in conversation, but if I feel the person I'm speaking to is sharp or interested I'll delve in a little deeper about what the software actually does (and why I'm qualified to work on it). I've been here a little less than a year and it was a seriously difficult thing to get people to understand or care about what the product I support actually does. The 100 character blurb that describes my position is terribly boring and obtuse.
I support front and back-end aspects of Company X's proprietary marketing and public relations analytics solutions.

Doesn't make you want to jump out of your seat and demand an explanation, no? This is why I can't be a sales person. I'd never be able grab someone's attention in 30 seconds unless I lied and exaggerated until I was struck down by powers above.
Instead, I break it down to a simple and applicable description that goes like this,
So, you know how companies have like, brands? Yeah, well they market those brands to certain parts of the population that they think might buy them. Our software measures what people say about this brand campaigns in blogs, message forums, newspaper articles, etc. Basically we hear everything that goes on within the web and we're able to analyze the tonality and frequency of when and how it's mentioned.

Usually when I break it down like that, I get a "that's really cool" and I smile and say, "yeah it is."

Other times I'll mention that I'm a freelancer on the side. That always gets a good amount of interest, especially when I say my topics of choice to write about are the environment, renewable energy, career development and the economy. Often times I don't even need to overtly network with people because they'll ask me for a card or my website.

I suppose talking about yourself quite a bit comes of as narcissistic, but I'm convinced the only real way that people can understand you in a meaningful way is if you articulate what you do and what you care about when they're listening. When you have a captive audience, don't waste it!

More importantly, be a good listener when it's their turn to talk about their lives and work. If people think you're uninterested in hearing them speak, they'll never really open up to what you have to say.

All this being said, does anyone have any good suggestions for business cards that are nice looking yet easy on the wallet? Any other creative ideas for handing out your info?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I've Exhausted All My Private Student Loan Options

After this week's stint of futilely trying to explain to my student loan lender that I paid them everything I owe them, I've finally resigned myself to the fact that I need to suck up whatever customer service and interest rate issues are at hand for a little while. I figure there has got to be some sort of resolution to the issues that people such as myself are having trying to pay back their student loans at high interest while also trying to buy homes, cars, more education, etc...

I called a credit counseling company that was mentioned on NBC. I won't put their link on here because they weren't helpful and I'm going to try and refrain from giving companies any undue good PR unless they want to pay me for it. The company I called is the largest in America when it comes to renegotiating credit card debt and bank loans. My grandfather suggested I give them a call and see what they think about student loans.

The gentleman I spoke with on the phone was stumped. He said that even though private student loans are lent by private banks, they are still backed and protected by federal law which keeps third parties from negotiating interest rates and repayment terms. Essentially, private student loan companies that make big bucks off of my loan get essentially the same protection that Stafford and Perkins loans do, with none of the interest rate restrictions and less than half of the repayment options. The phone call ended with the associate wishing me good luck and saying there's nothing anyone can do for me under the current laws.

Encouraging, no?

On a whim I applied for a pre-approved private student loan refinance and as I had suspected would happen; I got rejected without a co-signor. I have fair to good credit, but not enough to even get my foot in the door to negotiate a lower rate without dragging a co-signor into this mess. What a joke.

So, I look to the federal government to smarten up and help people such as myself out. These banks have padded their pockets enough with my overly high interest rates. The ROI on my education has been null because of this.

I feel like I've hit a dead end with this. Has anyone had any success in this arena? I am always curious to hear input on other people struggling to fight the "man."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Private Student Loan Customer Servicing: Hearing It From The Source

I got in touch with the Executive Vice President of Operations at Graduate Leverage today and he offered an apology for bad customer service. He said he had come across my blog and explained to the best of his ability the disconnect between the billing and servicing departments because one is in Massachusetts and the other is in Texas. While I'm still not completely certain that things like this won't happen again, it was interesting and encouraging that an executive from a company called me directly and offered to deal with any issues I had moving forward.

The power of social media. Cool, eh? I guess Graduate Leverage kept a customer because their management listened and was concerned about their image. That's a good thing.

On a side note, I talked to my grandfather about some of the current legislation going through about private student loan lenders and how bankruptcy may be the only answer to overwhelming debt (a road I refuse to go down). I wonder; if the federal government bails out private loan companies with the bailout package, does that suddenly turn all those private loans affected into Federally backed loans? Would that in essence change the structure of those loans, including interest rates, forgiveness and repayment options? I am VERY curious about that!

Do you think if these loans are propped up by the government then they should have to change inherently?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It Is Amazing To Be Listened To

Let me preface this that I just received a non-descript voice mail from the Vice President of Operations at Graduate Leverage saying he wants to speak with me. About what? I wonder...

This morning I got an email asking me to sign a petition to Mr. Paulson, the Treasury Secretary saying that student loan companies should not be bailed out as planned. The email alienated me somewhat though because they said:

"Most students and families do not use private student loans to pay for college, nor should they. Private loans are risky and expensive, and they lack the important consumer protections and repayment options that come with federal student loans. Providers of private student loans already receive special treatment in bankruptcy at borrowers’ expense. Taxpayer dollars should not go towards helping lenders make these high-risk loans."

I responded with:

"I was fooled into getting private student loans as a first generation college student. They're ruining my financial situation. What happens to me in all this? My interest rates keep going up and I don't know what to do. Just because I'm not in the majority of people who paid for their college with federal loans (I used as much as I could) doesn't mean I should be left out in the cold."

Shortly after I recieve this email:

Dear James,

Thank you for responding. I couldn’t agree more that borrowers like you who have already taken out private loans need better options for repayment. This issue is addressed briefly in our letter to Paulson, where we say that existing private loan borrowers should be able to renegotiate the terms of their loans. We have also been fighting for over a year to allow private loans to be discharged in bankruptcy like other consumer debt. We know that folks like you face major issues with the repayment of private loans, and we will continue to do what we can to expand your options while minimizing the risks and burdens of private loans for future students.

Take care,

Edie Irons

Communications Director

The Institute for College Access & Success

Now that is the sort of response that I am looking for! No more blank stares or silence. I want to live my life the way a college graduate should, not the way someone working minimum wage does.

Now I await the call back from this gentleman at Graduate Leverage...I am VERY interested in how this will go and what it will be about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Green Website To Shop From Online

The Green Loop

So I've come upon another website that has his and her goodies for people who like to shop with their conscience. The goods are nice looking and have high quality, but are a little pricey. There is a 15% first buyers discount if you sign up for the mailing list, so if you're interested in shopping there, be sure to sign up for a deal!

I'm dreading Christmas this year. Money is so tight and I always feel obligated to spend more than I have. It's like I have all these allocated savings funds for a house, my start-up, travel, etc and I don't have anything set aside for buying gifts. I REALLY do not want to tap into my savings at all. That may be selfish, but seriously, we're in a damn recession and I've got plans for this money!

Can I opt out this year? How about I make everyone home made cards with Elmer's glue and glitter like in the old days?

Okay, never mind. I'll get back to my eco-shopping.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We're In A Recession of Corporate Brainpower

After getting several harassing calls about money I've already paid, I have truly fallen out of love with my student loan lender, Graduate Leverage.

In 2004 I was swamped with a horrible student debt burden. My interest rates had soared to 14% under Sallie Mae, which at one time was touted as the people's champion for private student loans. My private loan payments alone were over $1000 a month. I literally didn't know what to do or where to turn. I confided in a co-worker while at my state job who was finishing Law School and asked her how she dealt with her student loans. She raved about Graduate Leverage and how they were owned by local Harvard MBA grads. I thought, cool, I'll give them a shot. So I called them up and they were able to offer me a variable interest rate loan that would never go above 7.9% interest. Granted, that's still not an awesome rate by most standards, especially when you owe over 100k, but it was far less than the 14% I was paying with Sallie Mae, so I went for it. The process was complicated but I felt the associates at Graduate Leverage were helpful.

Fast forward about 5 years later and I'm still with Graduate Leverage. I have the same amount taken out of my bank account every month. It's not affordable, but I don't have a choice in paying and it seems no matter where I look nobody else knows where I can get a better rate. So goes the doling out of my hard earned money until one day someone stole my identity and in getting my checking account funds back from the people who took them, I closed my checking account. I had to re-open a new account and re-establish all of my direct withdrawals, including my student loan payments. No problem, right? There should be a protocol involved, right?


Upon telling them that my checking account was hacked into and hundred of dollars were stolen the first thing the confused representative advised me of was that if I didn't have funds in my account that I was going to be charged fees for being late. She really didn't care to work with me to make sure my payments were made on time and I decided at the end of the phone call to just cancel my direct withdrawal and send in my payment checks directly. That's reasonable right? Well, according to Graduate Leverage's "computer records" I was 30 days delinquent with my payment and action was going to be taken. I was furious and confused after my identity ordeal that these people couldn't get it right even when I was trying my hardest to work with them. So, while I had the representative on the phone I logged onto my online checking and told her the exact check numbers and dates when they cleared (which were 5 days before they were due). I got the repealing "ohhhhh" on the other line and she reassured me that my account would be updated but she couldn't do it and would need someone from operations to do it manually. Seeing as I work in an operations/support department, that sounded strange to me but I agreed because I was ready to start yelling.

Since that phone call I've received 3 calls saying they never received my funds and I've had to explain to each rep again and again that the checks cleared and I owe them nothing until next month. They apologize and say they understand my frustration upon which they assure me will not happen again.

Me being frustrated with a less-than-stellar loan rate is one thing, but dealing with awful customer service again and again like this, especially from someone whom I'm sending thousands of dollars to a year, is beyond my realm of acceptance. As of right now, I am vowing to find another student loan company with better customer service and a lower interest rate. I will not settle for this shit any longer, especially when I will be paying them over 100k in interest over the term of my loan. Screw them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Diversifying Where and How I Buy Food

I've been out of my own for what seems forever these days. I made quite a few errors in judgment back in the days when I was 19 in Boston shopping at the Uber-chic Back Bay Shaw's supermarket. Have you ever seen a $160 shopping bill after getting a little careless with whatever you were throwing on your shopping cart? I sure have. But, since there I have developed a keen taste for where I can find good deals on certain types of foods and home goods. I've had good teachers, most of whom were broke like me and needed a cheap place to shop.

For the past two years I've been a steady supporter of Trader Joe's. They do have absolutely everything I need and usually at reasonable prices. I've written before that buying out of season or non-Trader Joe's brand goods can rack up a high bill, but otherwise the deals are there waiting to be scooped up.

I've been hearing rumblings of locals who really like Russo's in Watertown. It's sort of like a farmer's market that is open year round. I went once with my old boss to buy flowers and I was drooling the whole time, but I never went back because I got lost every time I tried to find it. This morning I mapped it out and I've decided to go there sometime today on a break and stock up on whatever produce and meats they have on sale. I'm kind of excited because I've been having bad luck with produce at TJ's lately and if I can find a new place to get veggies and fruits on the cheap I'll be a happy man. Also, I've heard they have great cold cuts and breads.

I'll keep y'all updated. Maybe I'll even let you in on what I'm cooking with my new Russo's food.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gen Y's Career Reaction: Fight or Flight

So much has been said about Generation Y's tendency to hop scotch from job to job and how it is becoming an accepted annoyance by employers. Coming from someone who has had more jobs than he can count since graduating college, I feel strange about this new normality.

First off, the reason I had lots of jobs after graduating college was because no one would hire me. For whatever reason, my experience and persona didn't fit the type of jobs that I was applying to and I was forced to work freelance and odd gigs whenever and however I could. Whenever an interviewer asked me why I hadn't stayed anywhere very long I wanted to slap him and her and scream "do you think I had a choice in that?"

That being said, today I find myself in a pretty good, fast paced job that is giving me progressive responsibility and learning potential. I am making it work and I don't feel the need to run out of the door tearing out my hair every day (how about that?). I have been here since April and come next month that will have been 8 months on the job. My last job which was in human services was easy but the lack of challenge left me unhappy. I spent 9 months there before my employer and I had just about enough of each other. Now I am starting grad school with tuition reimbursement from work and I see promise for my position within this particular company. I hope to stay for a few years and put some time in.

When I was going from job to job, it wasn't a pleasant experience at all. I craved some sort of stability. Although I know some people my age thrive off a challenge and a frantic lifestyle, I feel there is a certain quality that people who leave jobs often are missing. Not that you need to be a lifer at any given company, but I feel true experience and mastery can only come with several years of exposure to a topic and task.

That being said, I am an opportunist as many folks I know are. So nothing is out of bounds career wise, but having a steady job sure beats going on an interview every few weeks and having to answer the question "so I see you have jumped around from job to job a lot. Why is that?"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

College Graduates Are Being Ignored and We Hate It

I calculated what I'd need to make for a yearly income to healthily afford my student debt. It's about 15 thousand more than what I'm making now. WTF? This calculator doesn't need to tell me that I have a hell of a time making ends meet every month, but seriously, I've never thought that you need so much money just to afford an education.

I've said before, my student debt burden equals that of a small house or condo. Why do people in my situation get ignored when it comes to cutting privately loaned interest rates? Congress and Senate bills are being pushed through that will lower interest on mortgage loans to 3% and allow people to stay in their homes even if they default.

I'm working, paying my loans back (barely) and I haven't heard anything about these people coming to help me out. Working in public service roles for 10 years and having federal loans forgiven is a nice thought, but public service jobs are either ridiculously low paying or bureaucratically stifling creativity killers.

My generation graduated into a shit (excuse my language) economy. I had a terrible time finding a job. I know previous generations (not the past two though) had it tougher and made it through. I'm making it work and constantly scheming how to do better, but there's got to be a better way out there, no?

I feel a literary piece coming out of this.

What do my readers think? I'll listen to those of you who have student debt, whether little or small and even to those of you who didn't have to borrow for college. I just want to know that I'm not crazy for being bitter about getting fleeced each month.

Student Debt and Your Life

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Lot Of Good Stuff Going On

So, my 40 hour work week has turned into 50 hours has turned into 60 hours has turned.... you get the point. I'm working like a silly boy at my day job. It's good though as we've got lots of exciting projects crackling at once and I'm making myself to be the go to guy as much as possible. That being said, I've been getting to work at 8:30AM and leaving closed to 7PM mostly every day. Plus nights and weekends usually consist of at least a few hours of me putting in work for the following day. None of this is a complaint as I am quite resolved to rise up and master all things surrounding my job description and so fourth.

I've also lost 15 lbs. I've been eating healthier and walking a lot. All last week I was sick as a dog though and didn't work out at all. I have a natural tendency to avoid going to the gym because I work so late. Getting home after the gym at 8:30 is a weary feeling. But I do it anyways.

To top it all off, my internet at home hasn't worked all week. So, I need to stay extra late to get my work done because I cannot work from home. Otherwise as soon as I get home and get some food in my stomach I head out immediately to a cafe to finish whatever needs finishing.

Being busy is grand and all, but I'm looking forward to leveraging my skills and diversifying my time for the holiday season. I want to find people who need writing and research work outsourced. Working an extra 10 to 15 hours over the week and on the weekends to supplement my income is going to get me into a home of my own sooner and that's what I want.

I may be pushing myself, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to see how far my endurance will take me. So far I'm quite surprised at what I've been able to keep up.

Whatever I do and no matter how much more I work, I just need to keep up my health habits so I can keep the lbs coming off and keep healthy through the winter.

Also, I was told to register for classes by the head of HR. I'm finally getting to start my Master's degree! :-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hello Mr. Mac, Let's Co-Exist

Here's a little anecdote for those who subscribe to the Mac - PC wars. I was in Starbucks for my break today reading and writing to clear my mind (only for the lack of a better place to chill) and a woman decided she liked my laptop. She may have been slightly handicapped but she was very friendly. She told me it was the smallest computer she's ever seen and that she liked it very much but that she liked Mac's better. I conceded that Mac's are indeed great computers but far too expensive. As I said that the woman looked behind me and there was a man (a clear regular of this particular S'bucks) using his $2,000+ Mac. He started passive aggressively defending his consumer choice to this woman and said "he's obviously over-exaggerating about the price." Then he packed his stuff and left.

I was only stating a clear, non-subjective fact that Macs are very expensive. They're probably worth it, but they're still expensive! There was no reason for him to take offense. I thought about apologizing, but my sense of manhood and commonsense wouldn't allow it. Talk about awkward.

To Mrs. T Ronda, I know this will strike a chord with you. To any other Mac users, what do you think about this dude's reaction? Does he watch too much TV and in turn too many Mac commercials with the skinny emo guy dissing on PC's?

On top of that, I feel people are gunning for me on the road. Is paranoia settling in? Probably. It's the holidays. This is when I need my Hemingway style cabin in the woods to stay safe and sane.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Good Wind Blows In Worcester

This article was published in The Valley Patriot as well as on

A Good Wind Blows in Worcester

[Every month the Innovation Valley column explores an economic innovation that either takes place in the Merrimack Valley or is relevant to it. The following article by my colleague James Moreau explores an important achievement in Worcester we can all learn from. - sji]

"In addition to the economic benefits that wind power affords, the installation of this wind turbine is an opportunity to implement our responsibility to be a good steward of the earth."
- Holy Name High School President, Mary E. Riordan

Driving North on Route 146 into Worcester an unusual site has residents talking about the one of the city's newest renewable energy developments located on the property of Holy Name High School. The 242 foot tall, 600-kilowatt wind turbine is visible for miles from many parts of the city. Currently operational, the wind turbine is expected to provide most of Holy Name's electric power year-round, making Holy Name one of the most energy neutral schools in the world. During the winter, some electricity may be purchased off of the grid, but during the summer the school is expected to sell electricity back to the grid. Tax credits will also be sold to individuals and organizations whose contributions have helped fund the project. The massive wind turbine on a hill serves as a beacon for the Central Massachusetts region attempting to make a turn towards the new, sustainable economy that other parts of the country have already begun embracing.

The President of Holy Name High School, Mary Riordan, was faced with a problem many Americans are familiar with; the rising cost of fuel and energy. Crude oil and gasoline prices have forced many to drive less and will probably force those who use oil to heat their homes to keep a cooler house during the winter. Even electricity costs are bound to continue to rise due to the inefficient coal fired power plants producing much of the country’s energy. The financial squeeze is officially on and there is a wave of innovators in the United States as well as around the world who are thinking up ways to confront the conundrum of fueling our lives with non-renewable, dirty, carbon-based chemicals.

Natural resources and enthusiasm are good starting points for a solid renewable energy economy to take foot, but with the high initial cost of establishing and growing a business, strong public awareness and policy are necessary to fund good ideas. Each state, including Massachusetts has a particular geographic or social asset that can be exploited with renewable energy. People associate places like California and Arizona with a lot of sun and heat, but Massachusetts is currently having a wave of solar manufacturers and installers set up shop and open themselves up to the Northeast energy market. There are also certain parts of Massachusetts, as well as most other East Coast states that have a great proximity to wind patterns that are perfect for wind turbine electricity generation, such as hilly Worcester.

The proliferation of windmills in Denmark and solar cells in California are examples of proven policy and business models that have inspired communities around the world to explore their own suitability for renewable power. Worcester's main apparent strength lies in its location within a relatively windy and hilly geographic area. Additionally, Worcester has 11 colleges and universities within its county limits - a concentration of academic resources in the Northeast region is second only to Boston.

Mary Riordan's vision of erecting a wind turbine would not have been as easy without the students of WPI helping to assess the project's feasibility. Additionally, the $575,000 in grants that were secured from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative was only a fraction of the total cost. The rest of the money was donated or loaned at low interest by the local municipality, individuals or non-profits supporting Holy Name.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has made way for tax incentives to be offered to more renewable energy companies than ever before. Residential tax incentives have also been extended to homeowners who wish to use solar or wind power in whichever ways they can. These sorts of tax programs that encourage economic development in the green sectors help everybody in the long run. Businesses such as Borrego Solar, originally operating out of California have come to the east coast to set up shop and opened their first regional office in Chelmsford.

These business opportunities are also leading to exciting job training and educational opportunities. The massive shift in infrastructures and skill base will need to be met with a whole new force of “green collar” workers. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is currently working with vocational high schools and community colleges across the state to develop and support green technology and renewable energy curriculum.

A decade ago, few Worcester residents would have imagined a wind turbine being erected on one of its high schools campuses to lower energy costs in a clean and efficient way. Now with business and individual interest peaking, legislators must get to work to make way for a renewable energy economy. Marybeth Campbell, the Public Education Coordinator at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative believes there are a lot of exciting instances of renewable technology happening in Massachusetts but also stressed, “policy plays a major role in attracting renewable companies to Massachusetts.”

[To contact the author, email]

New Savings Funds

To all my personal finance blogging peeps, I set up two separate accounts with ING. One is a house fund for the down payment I will surely need for any decent mortgage when it comes to buy a house or condo. The second account is a Europe vacation fund. I feel like I'm becoming one of those workers who will never take a vacation unless I am either forced or unless I make it a point. So I've decided to save a bit of money so I can go back to Europe sometime in the next few years and see the things I missed while studying abroad. I'm pretty good about saving money when I put my mind to it. With my expenses dropping considerably at my new apartment I feel that money saved will go to good use in these savings accounts.

I also invested a little money in the stock market as well. That may be a less wise move, but I really have faith in this stock. I still think there is money to be made in the market, even when it's down! Keep and eye on Evergreen Solar (stock symbol: ESLR). It's a local solar panel manufacturer and if they're plans flesh out as they're planning, they're going to be huge. I've also got a couple financials on deck for investment that have performed well for me as well. They didn't buy that poison bad mortgage paper like banks like Lehman and insurers like AIG. I believe in their fundamentals. They're names are ING Group (ING) and Anally Mortgage (NLY).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Family Heath Rocks

Since moving back to my hometown my sister and I have been cooking dinner together a bit. She still lives at home and my mom never buys fresh food (or food at all really). So, when I go grocery shopping I'll pick-up for two and she'll split the bill with me. She's a fitness freak and measures out her food and counts calories every day. So, now I'm buying lots of high quality ingredients that she's not used to having around so she's learning new recipes and trying new things.

Her newest flavor interest is tofu (although it has a distinct lack of flavor on its own). She always attested that it made her gag and that the texture was too gross. So, I marinated some and cooked a vegetable stir fry with it. I made sure to fry the tofu well done so that it wasn't so mushy. She loved it. Now instead of buying expensive meat all the time, which we both still love, we're going to eat more soy and tofu products. They're healthy and MUCH cheaper. A pound of tofu at Trader Joe's costs about 1.50. You'd need to find a real sale to have chicken or beef at that price!

My cousin who I share an apartment with likes me and my sister's cooking too and I think he's trying to learn. He surprised me when he said he tried to go vegetarian. I think it'll be an interesting journey helping him learn to cook and discover what he likes for recipes.

Now all I need to work on is getting my mother to eat better. That could prove A LOT harder.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Messy Earth

I'm beginning to think of the Earth along the lines of my home. After all, I do live on it. In that regard I think the concepts of global warming and pollution have become somewhat lost or diluted to most humans living on this fabulous rock. We've made a bit of a mess, no? How does one deal with a mess in their home?

The first step to cleaning house is admitting that there is a mess in the first place. Complacency is the result of people acquiring a tolerance for inhospitable conditions that they usually would not. Until a situation becomes bad, the status quo or proverbial "bar" is usually lower instead of raised. The first step is admitting you have a problem. Gosh, doesn't that sound familiar?

Once people are aware and nervous about their actions, it is time to assess the damage in relation to what is taking place. If you suddenly came home to discover a sink full of dishes, empty bottles of beer and wine everywhere and confetti and silly hats scattered about, chances are a party of some sort went down. People got a little loose and messy and didn't pick up after themselves. The result of this is that you will not be able to conduct your life normally in these sorts of conditions and must take some action to correct matters.

Earth, the gem of our solar system, the most special life-bearing celestial object (that we know of) is being made a mess. Some individuals see the affects of hundred of years of modern, post-industrial civilization has had on the Earth's ecosystems. Some people's ideas of their relative impact on the planet allow them to easily write off anything they do in their relatively short lifespans. After all, one person cannot do much in the way of fixing or creating a major problem on the scale of our planet's existence. But, the exponential growth of our population and the technology that we have harbored and developed for so long is making a deeper impact on the world than anyone would have ever thought possible 100 years ago.

We have taken carbon based chemicals through various sources and burned them to create energy. That energy has fueled the growth of our societies and our innovation. We as humans discovered fuel and used our big brains with unprecedented foresight to build and maintain scientific marvels that over the course of our existance had never been dreamed of and in a relatively short time.

The point that humans are at currently is causing a shift of paradigm that will almost certainly guide the evolution of what we consider to be progress. Human beings are aware of their existence and of that which surrounds them. We want to continue to live and despite certain death that all of us face at some point in our life, a common sense of legacy is instilled in our biological and societal make up.

All of the carbon based fuels that we have burned are not being naturally processed as they may have been over the course of our Earth's existence. We are putting carbon and other chemicals in the air far faster than our planet is meant to handle. Because of our carbon habits, residual climate change and chemical disturbances are happening in our air, our land, our oceans, our food chains and even in our bodies.

The warnings of scientists and stewards of the land and ocean have been warning us of our ways for decades. Some say that moving away from nature is a move away from what sustains us. Other soothsayers believe that the answer is to live less and reduce carbon emissions and toxic chemical production.

There is also the belief that our damage of the Earth's stasis is too far gone to be fixed by inaction or simply reducing the fuel that we burn. They believe that taking carbon out of the air and restoring biodiversity are intertwined that the only route to a sustainable human presence on the earth is by learning to take care of it and letting it do the same for us.

Waking up with a hangover and a messy home isn't necessarily a message that the parties and fun of your life are over, but that you must take stock in the damage done and the lifestyle that you are living. Being conscious and courteous of your environment, no matter what scale of environment you are thinking of is neccesary to maintain a balanced and healthy life. If the Earth is happy then it shall provide and we will be happy too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Holding My Breath Until November 5th

I voted a while back via absentee ballot so I won't be standing in line today. I'm a bit melancholy at the thought though. I can imagine a sense of excitement and comradery while waiting in line amongst fellow Americans to vote.

I've read and listened to several people state their opinions regarding the option to not vote at all. Some are truly convinced the Illuminati or central bank are in control of everything no matter what. I believe this to an extent, but I feel a sense of defeat in choosing to go belly up and no voice my opinion despite controversy and cynicism.

I've written before that I do not believe either candidate is going to turn the country around 180 degrees in their first four or even eight years. But I do believe that Obama represents a rebelliousness against the paternalistic style of government that has been forced upon America for the last 8 years. I want to feel like I live in a community, rather than an isolated state of being. I want a good job for myself (I am lucky enough to have that right now) and good jobs for my neighbors and family. I want opportunities to be available for all Americans who want to work hard, not just those who were born into fortunate circumstances of wealth and power.

Spread the wealth. Spread the happiness. Help others in their times of need and you too shall be helped in your time of need.

I'm going to lay low at home and try to kick this awful cold or whatever I have. Once the poll numbers start coming in I'll be glued to CNN and MSNBC all day.

I hope everyone is having a good election day today! Despite feeling physically sick, I feel energized and good knowing that George W. Bush will be out of work soon. Hopefully he finds a job elsewhere where he can do less damage.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Evening Thoughts

Night blogging isn't so good for traffic reasons, but I figure I'll close the week out with some interesting contradictions that have arisen within me.

First, a friend told me I shouldn't spend so much time blogging. Basically the idea was that I should read as much as possible and work on fiction most of the time as that's probably where most of my potential lies.

Sometime I feel that way too, but as the topic by Jenny Frazier pointed out, blogging can be beneficial to your career if you are tact and precise in your subject matter and character. A loose or offensive online image can hurt you too. Right now, I feel like blogging is the easiest way for me to flush out my voice and ideas on a regular basis. I've started up a fiction piece this week and will try to finish it or at least get it moving rather than stopping on the first page like I do most of my short stories. Either way, I'd like to keep blogging as I feel it could help me develop a network of people who are interested in my ideas and whom are interesting to me as well.

Another person I knew told me I shouldn't pursue PR. I respect this person's opinion very much as she's quite successful and extremely good at what she does. Basically she's told me I'm too smart to get an entry level position in a PR firm. I've thought about this and while I know some very smart people who are in the PR business, I don't think that making a lateral, or more like a reverse move, into PR would satisfy me. Right now I'm developing a lot of brain function in the technical side of marketing and PR measurement. I am really challenged most of the time and an additional benefit is I like the people I work with. I think the fact that I am so adept at thinking and writing creatively coupled with my ability to learn and apply technical knowledge will help me develop my career niche down the road. Either way, I have the ability to learn a whole lot of business disciplines in my current role and I feel as if I should definitely exploit that as long as I can. Plus I feel like I am wanted here, which feels good, to be honest.

Anyways, I feel a little under the weather. Today has been pretty weird and unproductive. I've got an editorial piece going out tonight about central MA and it's place in the renewable energy market. Hopefully I can rest this weekend and give some new brain project of mine hell next week.

Until then, I hope everyone has a great weekend and a safe and happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mad Consumers Can Go Green Too!

Came across Real Goods Solar Living and I really like the ideas and products this online retailer is pushing. The products seem pricey compared to places like Wal-Mart or Target, but it's safe to assume the quality and conscience are in everything they're pushing.

Even though I'm a defiant Pagan and hate the traditional aspects of what Christmas represents (selfishness), I really like giving loved ones gifts. I want to find something for everyone that a buy for on this website and others like it. I'm going to be truly conscious about what I purchase this holiday and I hope it shows in what I give as gifts. Maybe the gift will pay itself forward into whomever receives it and that person will become a conscientious shopper as well.

Real Goods Solar, Inc.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Intent with Content: Punches in Bunches

I like to consider myself to be more than just a half-hearted blogger. I do quite a bit of driving and extracurricular in my life and I still feel like I put out some quality content whenever I make the time. There are certain avenues of which I get paid for my writing. None of them are particularly lucrative, but they do help in assuaging the feeling that I'm doing this just for my own pleasure. However, the stipulation ussually presents itself that I keep my rights to whatever content I produce, but that whomever is paying me for it gets to print it first on their website.

This is fine except for the fact that these websites that pay me take a long time to review what I've written and post payment. In which time my piece may not be timely anymore. Therefor I have resolved myself to writing blog posts in bunches so that I can submit them whenever finished and queue them up for my blog posts once the payment and publishing happens on the other end.

I think this solution will help me to keep my creative flow going and allow me to write whenever I want. As long as I write often, I should have a steady stream of paid for blog posts ready to go.

Next step: finding a fairer wage for my articles and blog posts.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Acer Aspire One Shows Ittie Bittie Genius

Friday night I sent my old dog of a laptop out via UPS to Cash for Laptops
and will hopefully be receiving the $350 they quoted me for on my particular model in about a week. I was planning on coughing up another $300 to $500 on a nice, light laptop with accessories that would allow me to be portable when on the go and then dock that baby to a big screen monitor when I get home. That WAS my plan, but then...

Strolling around a local shopping center I stopped at Staples, recalling that a few people I know have found dirt cheap deals randomly at Staples when they're trying to get rid of old stock. I didn't find anything that was on clearance, but I instead I saw the Acer Aspire One. Originally I saw this computer a while ago on a list of best priced laptops. I sort of wrote it off after thinking about the size of it. Regardless of the price which starts around $350.00, I figured the small screen would prove to be an annoyance in the long run. I came to this conclusion without actually seeing or feeling the laptop in person.

Upon playing around with the machine in the store and talking to a knowledgeable and down to earth sales clerk, I think I've become quite close to purchasing the Acer Aspire One. I'm going to shop around a bit this week and read as many reviews and product specs as I can before I make my decision.

I find the downsizing trend of electronics incredible and I'm not sure where it's going to stop. There are some damn supercomputer desktop models spec'd to the hilt that you can buy for $800. Now I can buy a computer that weights 8 lbs. less than my old machine and has twice the operating capacity in every aspect.

Technology is scary and groovy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Empathy versus Sympathy

"No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride." -- Hunter S. Thompson

Everybody has dreams and aspirations and everyone has had an experience where they fell short of those dreams. In the larger application of this idea, people take chances to become something bigger and better. Choices are made that have consequences. Some consequences are good and others are bad and long lasting.

I'm so fascinated by the concept of risk taking. It's exhilarating.

Does a hero or an admirable person emerge from a high risk situation successfully? Or is the hero a person who is able and willing to accept and address the consequences?

Blind risk taking can be done by any old idiot (e.g. financial CEO's) but risk coupled with accountability. Risk and automatic reward (golden parachutes, high severance pay) is a recipe for disaster.

Here's to building a vision and seeing it through until the end. Here's to sustainability.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Fast Lane Electronic Toll Pass is Useless

So, I've found that my "Fast Lane" pass gets me on the highway somewhat quicker than if I'd have to stop and pay the MassPike toll collectors. But, this point is completely muted by the traffic jams that seem to be a result of "Fast" lanes placed at the Weston and Boston tolls. When one heads North into New Hampshire or Maine, every single lane has an electric payment system installed so traffic can be distributed evenly across the tolls. On the Massachusetts Turnpike, all of the "Fast Lane" traffic is routed to 2-5 (out of 4-10) lanes causing a much worse bottleneck effect than even the tolls alone could cause.

At one point, fewer people had the Fast Lane pass and it was actually of benefit to use it at the toll plazas. Now every morning I see the non-electronic tolls sitting empty for entire minutes while traffic waiting to get through the "Fast Lanes" backs up for hundreds and hundreds of yards.

I know that volume going into Boston is an issue. I know I'm not the smartest duck in the pond when it comes to my commuting choices, but at the moment I need to live outside of Boston for a cheaper cost of living. So, when my only route to my daily destination is clogged to the brim, I'm feeling forced to either look for a job with an easier commute or move back to Boston again (that's not going to happen ANY time soon).

Urban sprawl and inflation are ridiculous. I wish I could afford to live in the city where I work.

AND to top that off, my car insurance went up 30 dollars a month due to living in Worcester. Must be the high rate of homicide, car jackings and terrorist attacks that the insurance adjusters take into consideration.

At least my Toyota Yaris gets great gas mileage and the cost of gasoline is getting better.

That's my gripe post for the week.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Email From Seth RE: Gloucester Talk

--My buddy Seth just sent this email out. This is Wednesday night (NOT TUESDAY), if any of you were interested or in the area. If you need a ride or have any questions let me know. Thanks!--

Hi All,

Jim Laurie and myself will be giving a public talk tomorrow (Wednesday) in Gloucester, titled:

"Soils, Fish, Climate and the Gulf of Maine - Strategies for a Sustainable Future".

Please feel free to come and to invite others.

What: Public lecture, "Soils, Fish, Climate and the Gulf of Maine - Strategies for a Sustainable Future".
Where: Sawyer Free Library, 2 Dale Avenue, Gloucester, MA
When: 7 PM
Who: Jim Laurie & Seth Itzkan
Sponsor: Schooner Adventure Lecture Series.

Sending Out An S.O.S.

Can somebody please sent Saint Bernards and a Swiss search party? I'm completely buried under piles of work!

The title just stuck out in my head, even though I hate The Police like the The Dude (Big Lebowski) hates The Eagles.

I'm going to try to make it to Gloucester tonight for Seth and Jim's presentation. I was only able to contribute a few hours of research due to recent work obligations, but I really want to be there for support and networking reasons. I'm really pumped to hear them put some radical ideas about biology and global warming into peoples heads. So, at 5PM, unless the roof collapses I'm leaving my desk and heading north. I'm well on my way to having everything done already, so it shouldn't be a problem.

I want to write a bit about Hunter S. Thompson's last article for the Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004. It would be interesting to write what he would think (a theoretical interpretation, of course). I also want to share thoughts on new consulting/job angles and making the best of my current situation.

Also, for the record: although I didn't get the job in Chicago that I truly and badly wanted to get, I understand their decision. I learned a lot about the industry and the type of person that is best suited for marketing, sales, PR and advertising of renewable energies and sustainable technologies. I'm not just saying this because I'm hurt or in denial. The next time around, or the time after that (and so fourth) I'll be able to hone in on the exact jobs I want and assert myself correctly to get that job.

I shall try to update when the dust settles. I know this blog is all over the place today. Also, I can't wait to get my other blogs up and running!

Until then, much love.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I <3 Democracy

So, I got a letter yesterday stating that my voting address has been changed and that I am now registered to vote in at my new address. Sweet! I am so happy that I get to vote!

I am going to bring this piece of paper just in case anything shady happens and some angry Republican starts babbling about ACORN.

Also, The Sole Proprietor gave Caitlin and I the best seafood meal that either of us have had in recent memory. Wow! Dijon horseradish Mako is just delicious. I thought to myself, "I am eating something that could just as easily eat me." Maple scallops? Forget about it! Not cheap, but absolutely worth it. Especially when you consider that this seafood is so good and we're in Worcester!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I've Decided My New Blog(s) and Will Be At A Speaking Engagement Next Wednesday

I figure I have two real passions that I can articulate in daily copywriting; green (stuff) and food. As of now, I write and read about both these topics daily and feel I can learn a lot and write a lot about them.

Please stay tuned for an update on the names and addresses of these blogs. I am debating whether I want to use Blogger or Wordpress.

Does anyone have any suggestions for blogging templates? Should I think about getting my own domain name eventually?

I also thought on my drive home last night, wouldn't it be fun to venture into a little video blogging? Especially with cooking and exposes on green (stuff).

If you're wondering what the (stuff) means, it's a work-around way of saying that I haven't narrowed down the green things I want to talk about yet. I'm leaning towards green media and/or green small businesses. I'll also get back to y'all on that matter too!

Also, I'm working on a speaking engagement on the Soil or Broil topic I blogged about last week in Gloucester. Jim and Seth are giving the talk and I'm helping them with researching figures. Seth wants me to talk about the part about Menhaden in Maine... I feel so unprepared! We'll see what I can come up with. I can't wait to meet all these people who are interested in finding new and exciting ways to solve global warming and other environmental issues. I'll try to link to or post up details of the event if anyone is in the area and interested in going.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Won't Be Voting. How Embarassing!

I'm a dummie. Seriously. Maybe even a f*cking @sshole. I moved recently moved and my paperwork for registering to vote got jumbled.

I can't vote. Crap!

Ugh. I have no excuse. I wish bureaucracy wasn't so rigid in its inefficiency, though.

I won't complain about anything that happens after this election. I have no right.

Please make up for my idiocy, MAKE YOUR VOTE COUNT!!!

Juggling Blogs- For Good or Bad?

Reading a Twitter post on my account FarAndSavage, a woman posed the question if she should start a food blog to justify her obsession with food. This got me thinking, should JR's Not So Literal Logging stay a generalist blog, or should I figure out what the hell I'm trying to say (and what I'm good at saying) and start pumping out quality, focused content?

I'd really appreciate some input on this subject. I will keep this blog open as a general pool for my thoughts, but I think (and hope others think) that I have produced some decent content along the way and will continue to do so and therefor should be able to put that content to better use in a subject-specific blog.

On a separate note, I wasn't offered the job in Chicago. The reasons why were as I suspected; lack of trade show and technical experience. We'll see how the engineer they hired does as a creative sales and marketing person. I wish him/her the best. I still plan on pursuing a similar position in a "green" business or will attempt to venture into my own business. Whether I stay up local or far off, the pursuit has been tiring but rewarding thus far.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Curry and Computers

I've got plenty on the brain today, but what I find most compelling is the absolutely delicious Potato Curry dish Seth's housemate Rich made at the Sputnik party and the new MacBook Pro that is being blabbered about today.

I always challenge myself to cook new and exciting things that at one point I felt were out of my grasp. In that respect, I feel like cooking is much like life. You get all the right ingredients together one way or another then you start the alchemy with a little bit of heat and hard work. I'm going to purchase a good ol' cast iron pot and cook a curry one of these coming weekends. I really hope I can get my family to eat it, but if they don't I'll have no trouble working the finished product over in a week. Here are some cool links to curry recipes. Not sure which one I'll use yet. If you want to come over and eat, feel free! I'll save some for you ;-)

That reminds me, I want to cook with and for friends more. I feel like if I wind up in my own apartment with my cousin Nick I'll want to make it as homey as possible. Do any of you have interesting recipes I should try to make? Maybe you can make it first and I'll sample it. I'm very open minded, so bring on all challengers!

On the technology side, I've officially sold my old laptop. The beast will serve an immobile person well, but right now I need something lighter. On this live weblog reviewing the new, amazing and expensive Macbook Pro, there is also a section highlighting the best priced laptops on the market. I'll probably for one of them seeing as I don't want to spend too much out of pocket compared to what I got for my elephant laptop.

Are there any hardcore Mac heads reading this? Are there any tangible benefits to owning one? Is it the quality, image, processing power, etc? Or just the coolness of owning high priced machinery? Let me in on your secrets!

On a side note, I have two blips I don't feel like elaborating on too much.

One: why are non-work meetings and conferences scheduled during work hours during work weeks? For someone who doesn't have clout to pull flextime at will, I wish there would be more evening events or weekend events for those of use who simply have to be in the office.

Secondly: I don't think I got the Chicago job. I've just got a feeling. I haven't heard anything and I was supposed to know over a week ago. They're either really torn or so busy with the person they hired that sending my rejection letter is an afterthought. I know I shouldn't be negative, but waiting for an answer makes me miserable. Like I've said before, no matter what happens I'm going to kick, punch and scream my way forward into a career involving sustainability.

That is all for now. Happy Monday on a Tuesday.

Friday, October 10, 2008

American Divisive Politik; Ne Pravda

Divide and conquering works, right? This election's politics have been so perplexing in the last year. I'm becoming so terrified with the state of our country and the world surrounding it, the choice of candidates has almost paled to the choices I'll have to make in the coming years, decades and lifetime. I cannot foresee too much major positive change being made in the next four years or maybe even eight years. I think the next president needs to concede his relative powerlessness to the overwhelming financial and national security circumstances that we face and bring the country together rather than invent and demonize a new segment of the world or even our own population to raise fervor and aggression. I don't want anymore war in my lifetime. I never want to kill another person for a made-up cause fabricated by my government. I want to watch people in my community succeed. I want to succeed.

I need something to believe in. I'm so convinced that John McCain is going to lead us to another war if elected president. I don't think he's a terrible person, but all he really knows and loves is the military and I think he truly finds war to be a glorious endeavor. Fighting terrorism and foreign aggression is necessary, but preemptive aggression is unacceptable. I'm voting for Barack Obama because I *hope* he will lead us towards peace. I know nothing is a surefire bet, but I absolutely must vote and I won't let my fears dictate my decisions towards a future filled with war and economic hardship, which is all I have truly known in my adult life under McCain's party.

Obama '08. That's how it has to be. I don't want to, and cannot imagine it any different. May whatever God help us if we cannot get through these tough times.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Can't State A Whole Lot Right Now

I logged onto my account yesterday for the first time in about a month and the money I had invested through their website was worth about 1/3 of it's original value. This isn't even as bad as most of the stocks in the market right now. I'm glad I stuck mostly to renewables and steered away from all financials (except for Annaly (NLY)). If the entire economy tanks, I'll probably suffer a little. I won't be able to buy much and I may have trouble staying employed, but we'll all come out of it better off eventually. I'm sort of rooting for the big downfall lately. When we hit bottom we'll be cleansed.

Haven't heard too much regarding my job prospect. Angst and frustration are the words of the day for me. I really hope I hear something by COB today or at least before the weekend. No matter what the outcome is, I just want to know so I can start planning for my immediate future which has been a toss up for quite some time now. Ugh.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Soil or Broil: Thinking Outside of the Greenhouse Effect

Two friends and colleagues of mine, Jim Laurie and Seth Itzkan have compiled a paper entitled: Soil Restoration, Ocean Anoxia, & Menhaden Reduction - New Considerations for Climate Change Dynamics and Mitigation.

I am extremely satisfied with this work as it represents years of research and dialog that have taken place about problems that affect every living being on this planet. Climate change is just one of the many scary events that are happening in this particular point in human existence. War, economic meltdown and social turmoil are all matters that we as a people can look at with a frame of reference to recent history. Dramatic climate change, on the other hand is not.

Until recently, most of the data surrounding carbon levels in the air in relation to planet temperature and atmospheric make-up have been purely speculative. However, recent scientific research has uncovered telltale signs of similar carbon levels as requisite signs of previous extinction episodes.

What other signs are pointing in the direction of an extinction episode related to carbon and it's sequestration? Are humans responsible for this situation, and if so, to what extent? Most importantly, what can be done if it's already not too late?

Please take a few minutes to visit the Soil Age Group on Google Groups, sign up, download the paper and please leave any feedback you have here with me or contact Jim and Seth directly through their emails listed in the document.

New Considerations for Climate Change Dynamics and Mitigation (PDF Format)