Archive for the ‘Just An Observation’ Category

Picking On People Is Harmless Fun, Right?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I know people who are nasty. I'd say they are bullies. I've seen them pick on people. I've seen them find something someone is sensitive about, and focus on it. Or share someone else's secret. And in many cases, these people laughed while they did this. Often, they're looking around to find approval and see if others will laugh with them.

So thing one, never laugh with them. Thing 2, call them on that crap.

I've been watching some of the videos from the It Gets Better Project, where LGBT people talk about the bullying they experienced growing up. The thing that amazes me is how many of those people look visibly upset telling their stories. These are people who are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s… they haven't been bullied at school in DECADES… and they are STILL hurting from the memories of it.

I was bullied in school, but not for being gay (mostly because I'm not gay :) ). I was bullied usually for being the smart "know it all" kid, and sometimes for being the artsy-fartsy weirdo. My mother put me down frequently (mostly for being the artsy fartsy weirdo), and my father was as good as absent. I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I fantastised about suicide often. I was sure it was the only was to solve my problems.

I never tried to kill myself, and I think that was only because I had a close friend who tried to kill herself when we were teens. That hurt so much, and she never really told me why she did it. So, I focused on going to college in another state, and starting my life over when I got there… which I did. Somehow, I had my head on straight enough to NOT turn to drugs, promiscuity, or other self-destructive behaviours.

And if you are or have a teenager in a world of pain, you can start your life over too. Go to college out of state. Parents, get your bullied kids to liberal colleges out of state. That's my advice!

Words can hurt. Words can ruin someone's life. Think before putting someone down. If you hear your child belittle another kid, put a stop to it. Teach them that's not acceptable. The people who hurt me were someone's children, and somewhere, they learned that this is how you talk to someone… or this is how you feel better about yourself.

The cycle has to stop. Picking on people is NEVER harmless fun… not for the recipient of the comments, and not for the true intentions of the speaker.


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Are Pay-Per-Bid Sites A Scam?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

There seems to be a flock of new "auction" or "reverse auction" sites out there. Many people wonder if these are scams. We've all seen ads for $56 iPads and $72 week-long vacations that people won at these new auction sites. Let's use OffAndAway.com as an example since I recently stumbled on it, and let's also compare these to eBay since many of us know what eBay is, and how to use it.

For OffAndAway (OAA to save typing), you have to BUY bids. On eBay, bidding is free. OAA charges $1 per bid.

OOA doesn't let you bid a maximum amount like on eBay. Every bid on OAA raises the price by a fixed amount, which is 10 cents. That means when the winning price of the item goes up $1, OAA collected $10 in bids from various people. On OAA, something that ends at $400 started at nothing, and went up 10 cents at a time.

eBay auctions have firm ending times. OAA auctions are extended 20 seconds every time someone bids. If someone bids with 1 second left, there is now 21 seconds on the countdown clock. This makes auctions go on for HOURS past their originally-stated end time.

For both styles of auction, you can lose by a very small amount. It can be frustrating! If only you got in one more bid! :)

So are pay-per-bid sites like OAA a scam? Not if you completely understand what you're getting into. OAA is more like a raffle or casino game. You might buy raffle tickets, you might put money in a slot machine, and you might never win. Same for OAA. You might put in a zillion bids at $1 each, and you might still lose. You might bid on eBay and not win, but at least that cost you nothing.

When playing with pay-per-bid sites, remember to count what you're spending on bids in your budget. If you won something for $100 but spent $100 in bids, that was a $200 item. So be a smart shopper!

I do find the business model interesting. Let's say that a hotel is willing to give away a few-night stay, and let's say they make a deal to sell it to OAA for $500. OAA lets everybody bid and fight. Many of these hotel packages are ending around $300. At $1 per bid, that's $3,000 OAA collected from bidders who played the game. That easily gives the hotel the $500 they want for the stay, OAA pockets a pile of money, and the winner is thrilled to pay $300 for a hotel stay that might be worth $1000.

I think we will continue seeing more of these sites, but the funny thing is that I think they only really "work" for buyers while the sites are new. Once prices are being bid up to market rates, or once people get tired of the 20-second extension and the price per bid, then the site will drop off. Plus, who would tell friends about this? They don't want to bid against friends! I think this is why we see so many of these come and then go. I wonder if anybody will ever create such a site that really finds its sweet spot.


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MLM: A Psychological Study

Friday, November 19th, 2010

 

A few months ago, a client came to me wanting to tell me about a great business opportunity that was just going to make me so much money. He was sure it would make me $20,000 per month. Well, sure, I'd like that. I emailed him asking him to tell me more. He started sending me to websites that had videos. All the videos were REALLY long, and revolved mostly around three things:

  1. You're not spending enough time with your kids. You're not getting the things you really want… that vacation, those nice things, some time on a yacht. This is to prime your desire, and get you motivated to jump on what they offer as the solution to fill that desire.
  2. Questions and statements that challenged me to be "good enough" to be part of this.
  3. How I get paid for levels and levels of people. If you know MLM, you know the more people you bring in, and especially when you bring in people who sell the product, you get cuts of it. Whatever! 

But let's back up and look at #2. I think I have now watched close to an HOUR of videos this guy's MLM company has produced to try to get people into this idea. Here are some great phrases from the most recent video he sent me:

  • "This is not for everyone. Some people can't really grasp the idea of freedom… of owning their own time." Puts you on the defensive. Of course you understand freedom and the value of your time! You wish everyone else did! You are fired up.
  • "[Some people can't really grasp the idea of] being free from the stresses and frustrations of ordinary people." Well, you are special. You do NOT want to be lumped in with ordinary people! You are extraordinary! No, she is NOT talking about you! Fired up.
  • "Other people simply aren't willing to take action, to take responsibility, and to take steps to get what they say they really want." Hey, don't say that about me! I take action. I follow through. I work REALLY hard! I WILL take steps to get what I want! Fired up.
  • "You are here because you're ready for a change. You're sick and tired of wanting and not getting." This is the "we understand you are different and better" part. Yes, I'm ready for a change… I want so much I'm not getting. This is the "we feel your pain" part to make you feel connected to what they are about to say.
  • And let's not forget the images in the videos and on the web pages… the yachts, the vacations and landscapes, the nice cars, the huge houses, the happy families. Those are all chosen very deliberately to make you think you can have this because other people have it, and you deserve to have it too! Well, you DO deserve to have it, but the road to that is not through this MLM system.

I had over a dozen emails with this client plus a phone call because I couldn't tell what this business was. What am I selling? What is this product that is so amazing that I'm going to make all this money? He kept telling me that the product was the business opportunity. That doesn't make total sense to me. I am an entrepreneur, and I live in a world where a product or service has to be for sale.

I finally had to talk to the top of the pyramid, who explained to me that it was a travel concierge service. That's what is for sale. In this economy? Really? When we're all booking with Kayak and Orbitz, you think there is a lot of people who would pay $$$$ for a travel concierge service? I thought the people with that much spare money already HAD one… it's called a travel agent.

I ran an informal poll of my Facebook friends. None of them would buy it. That's what I thought. And don't forget you're going to pay monthly to be part of this pyramid. But I noticed that both my client and the top cheese made me feel like there was something wrong with me for not seeing what an amazing opportunity this was. They told me they had NO problem signing many people up every day for this, and they were raking in money like mad. Everybody involved in it was raking in money, and I seem like I'd be smart enough to get this, but I'm just going to miss out. That was the message.

They just contacted me again to show me their next product. It was hard to figure out what this product was, but it seems to be some sort of training kit (like CDs, books, I'm not totally sure) that was going to teach you to run an online business. You would learn things like time management, information mining, running online ads, etc… So their target audience is that really smart person with sharp business skills… who needs this course?

The bottom line is this. Some MLM systems have nice products that people like, and the focus is not as much on the pyramid. I have bought Arbonne products and liked them. I never felt like I had to or wanted to join the pyramid. Many MLM systems play on fears… fears about money, not giving your family enough love, not giving your family enough PERIOD, not having those nice things other people have right now.

The video I just watched had MINUTES about how the economy is so much better than people say. After all, drive by a shopping centre! Cars are parked there! People are walking out with bags. They are spending money. Cruise lines are building new ships because people are spending money on "luxuries" like vacations. This is just more stuff to make you feel like you are not giving your family enough. You just may not have money to spend like everybody else. You'd better fix that, and these people have that fix.

Do not listen to the fear-based crap. Do not fall for all the information that will make you feel like the loser in the wolf pack. Or like you aren't keeping up with the Joneses. When you hear a video challenge if you are really "able" to grasp this, or are you really ready to make things happen for yourself, or something like that, know that they are playing with you. This is a game, and the guys at the top are typically the only winners.

It's a mind game, period. These video scripts and LONG web pages are specifically written to play into your fears and desires. Don't fall for it. No matter what the "opportunity" looks like. Don't fall for it. It's a gamble. Most gambles are NOT worth it.

Let's just think for ourselves for a moment. I know many people who try and use these MLM systems. I know some who are involved in a few at a time. If they are THAT lucrative, wouldn't you need to only do one? And wouldn't you need to do very little work because it's just going to make money for you, once you get it going? How many of us know people using MLM systems? And how many of us know those people to be RICH? Totally financially independent? With all that free time to hop from vacation to vacation, just like the video said? I know zero of these people. How many do you know?


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Who’s Running Your Meetup Group?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I joined a Meetup.com group for eBay sellers. It was run by a dude from a company that we don't directly compete with, but some may think is a competitor. OK, no problem yet. He welcomed me in. Thanks!

Yesterday, I got a mailing through Meetup from him. It was sent to all of the members. It was his guide to "Getting Noticed" on eBay. OK, let's give that a read. Oh, it has his company URL on every page. Oh, it's the middle of holiday selling (mid-November), and most sellers don't have time to change their holiday selling strategies right now. Well, let's give it a read anyway.

Sweet holy Lord, I strongly disagreed with some of the advice in there. Most importantly, it was a document about getting noticed, and it said NOTHING about Item Specifics. Right now, Item Specifics are nearly THE most important strategy to use so that your items do well in search results.The fitment database would be the equivalent for Motors sellers.

However, the guide had plenty of room for examples of their design work. In general, I'm against their style of design as I feel it works against current technology as well as the way eBay shoppers approach a listing. But then again, if any other company took my approach or had my UX/UI background, I'd have a direct competitor in the eBay world, which I don't. :)

So to sum up, the eBay Sellers meetup group is run by a vendor who would probably like every member to hire him. He sent everybody a guide with incomplete and incorrect information. I emailed him about this, and his response mostly orbited around how people like the guide. My point was that they don't know what info is missing! He told me they worked hard on it. My take: not hard enough if it's missing Item Specifics. Does this guy NOT know about Item Specifics? And he's passing himself off as an eBay expert?

Oh look. I just noticed that his company is the sponsor of the group. So they're the sponsor AND they run it.

I wasn't comfy with the whole scene, and not because a few people might think we compete. I left the Meetup group. I can just imagine every meeting, this guy plugging his company or giving wrong advice, and I'll be there correcting him or rolling my eyes. Better to spend my time somewhere else. I have run Meetup groups, and I have always chosen to NOT run the group when I might be a vendor to other members. That's my choice. Won't be everybody's.

Who is running your Meetup group? Somebody with something to sell you? How do you feel about the "subtle" sell, where the company name just happens to keep popping up on everything you see related to that group?


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Who’s Running Your Meetup Group?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Oops! Double posted. Please see http://aswas.typepad.com/hall_of_fame/2010/11/whos-running-your-meetup-group-1.html  Sorry!


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Measuring Dog Years

Friday, November 5th, 2010

In the wake of the passing of my dog, I had a session with my therapist yesterday. I talked about how hard the decision was, and how some people seemed to feel that I hadn't waited long enough to choose euthanasia.

The dog had been unwell and unhappy for 2-3 months. She had no diagnosis and no course of treatment, which meant no hope for improvement. The only thing the vet could say for sure was that her kidneys were slowing down. While the dog still had a spark of life to her, I couldn't stand watching her decline. I thought about her problems, and asked myself how I would feel if I had those every day for 2-3 months. I'd be miserable after a DAY with the symptoms she had.

The therapist pointed out something I hadn't considered. For those of you struggling with the pet end-of-life decision, I hope this will help you. The therapist reminded me that 2 dog months is a human year. So imagine having those health problems for a YEAR. Well, when you put it that way…

I also think I was "lucky" to know my dog as well as I did. I work from home, so I could watch her all day. I knew every symptom and wart, and I could tell if anything were 1 millimetre worse. If I judged her health and pain by the "big greeting" I might get if I come home after being at work all day, I wouldn't have seen the reality of what she seemed to struggle with all day. I can imagine someone who is not home all day thinking this animal was pretty fine, and letting this go on for months or years.

Some of my friends made it sound like it was too soon. She had a spark of life. She was still eating. She could get up and move around. She wasn't crying all day. Personally, I think if I saw an animal not eating, not moving, with no life, I would say it was too far gone. I could never bear to look at my beloved kid, and see palpable pain. Don't listen to people who say you have to wait until your dog looks a lot like death. If you are looking to keep an animal from suffering, an animal that close to death has probably been suffering a while.

Thanks to Facebook friends who came out and said yes, they've had to do this, and their main regret was waiting too long. It's a very hard decision. No time seems like the right time to end a pet's life. I don't struggle with the decision anymore, but I struggle with her loss.

It's full-day one without her. I miss her. The house is so quiet, and how alone I am seems really obvious. I keep wanting to sing to her, or ask her to clean my plate. I know it'll get better with time. For those of you struggling with this decision, I hope some of my difficult decision will help you.


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Rita Levitt, 12 Dec 1997 – 4 Nov 2010

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

That picture of her is at age 2 months. That's one of her shoes, her very first and fave toy ("Little Stuffed Puppy"), and her collar and tag. I am not keeping a body or ashes.

The vet was fantastic, my friend Margery was an amazing rock and support, and Mickey the cat came too. He's now sitting at home in the spot she laid in in the last two days. His tail is down.

I will love her and miss her forever. I am grateful to her for every moment we had. She changed my life for the better every day. For As Was fans, she will live on forever as the cartoon character on the website. :)


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My Dog, Rita

Monday, November 1st, 2010

I know I said it would be personal radio silence, but I'm dealing with something really tough, and my blog pals have really been there for me over the years. Thanks, blog pals…

I'm having a really hard day. I am getting closer to the decision to have to put my dog down. I can't stop crying. It's difficult, and no choice feels fantastic.

Rita is nearly 13 years old, and I've had her since she's 7 weeks old. She is the Jack Russell in pictures with me. Heck, she's even a cartoon mascot on the As Was website (and will always be, if up to me!). She's been the only consistent element in my life, and certainly nicer than the guys I dated. :)

She's a freaking genius with a great command of language, and a real sense of humour. She thinks she is a cat, and loves cats. She hates dogs, and will attack dogs, so I've spent 12+ years apologising to neighbours. This is from 2007, and no, I didn't train her to do this. She was doing it, so I gave it a name. She learned the name.

In 2008, Rita started having pee accidents, mostly in the kitchen. I figured she just wasn't getting used to the new house, or still hated the guy I was living with. She was slightly better in 2009, and I didn't see other symptoms, so I didn't think much of it. But a few months ago (from when I'm writing this), the pee thing got out of control when she started having pee accidents in her sleep. This lead to a bunch of vet visits, including an emergency one my house sitter had to do while I was on a business trip.

What has unfolded since has been a bunch of health problems, all unrelated, and some that have nothing to do with pee or kidneys. I'm also seeing cognitive issues as well as balance issues… in the smartest, sturdiest little hunting dog ever… it's just not like her. Our vet is out of good ideas. His two most recent ideas were 1) to run every test for every disease, just to rule every disease out, and 2) send her for a catscan because maybe all the seemingly unrelated problems could be a brain issue. He ran urine and blood tests, and they only showed that her kidneys are slowing down. No disease or infection (yet). Some of the tests he wants to run are $300 each, let alone what any treatment might cost.

I decided after he told me that that whatever are her last months should not be full of tests, meds, poking, prodding, treatments, or surgeries. I just want her to be happy and feel as good as she can. I'm not sure how good she feels. She looks pretty unhappy most of the day with some sparky moments. She goes from sleeping to me rushing her outside to pee before she pees inside back to sleeping. On my last trip, my house sitter told me she was thinking of setting an alarm every 2 hours (at night) so she can wake up and take the dog outside (so she doesn't pee in the apartment). I feel like I spend a lot of my day looking for a mess, wondering if there is a mess, smelling a mess, cleaning a mess, and trying to avoid a mess.

The next thing in my life is a big move (stressful) and some changes to my career. I work from home now, so I've been able to do the 24-hr care cycle. I think it would be worse if I were gone all day (and she's home, scared, going in the apartment), and it's likely that my career changes will have me gone a lot. We've been sitting next to each other all day, every day since February 1998. She falls apart when I'm not there (which is why I have a house sitter that stays overnight rather than just a dog walker when I'm gone). So I don't think my next move is NOT going to go well for a weak and sick dog who gets depressed when I'm not there.

I thought about giving her to some friends who love her, but that made no sense. It doesn't seem right to give someone a sick and elderly pet who needs nearly 24-hr care, and is only going to have increased problems and vet bills. That's not really a companion. If they made dog assisted living, that would be the right place for her!

Even though she still has a bit of a spark, I'm thinking the quality of life isn't there. It's now a 24-hr cycle of care between the pee, and unfortunately also throwing up and diarrhea… a lot of that IN my apartment, even with me taking her out every 2 hours. :( I'm patient, and I'm not mad at her. I know this is the best she can do right now. But with the vet having no clue, and there being no treatment other than stabbing at catscans, I think it may be her time.

I plan to give her the best few weeks ever. I got her a burger at Carl's Jr today. :) I just want her to be happy, and seeing her decline has been beyond heartbreaking. I have no idea how much discomfort or pain she's in, and I know I do not want to see the day when I can read palpable pain on her face. I wouldn't be able to handle that… I don't think I could deal with the idea that I kept my dog alive to the point where she's in agony. It's hard enough to see her with all the symptoms she has now, physical and cognitive. I'm not sure I could bear to see her get worse… hence the decision I'm coming to.

I also have 2 cats. Mickey grew up with Rita, and he's now 11 years old. Eve is nearly 10 years old, and I got her in January 2010. So I'm not alone, but that doesn't make this easier. It just means I'll have to do through this at least 2 more times… and it's agonising. I'm barely making it through my day. One of my best friends has human hospice training, and is really helping me out. She's making the call I can't make right now.

Thanks to anybody who writes in with support. Everybody else can keep his or her lack of support to himself or herself.


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Blog Lockdown

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Apologies to fans of this blog, but I have to spend the next unknown amount of time not posting about anything that is personal. You won't know when or if I've moved. You won't know where. You won't know what I'm dating. :) I have to have radio silence for a little while.

I am involved in a legal battle with an ex-boyfriend… the kind of guy who will use any small thing he can find out against you. I thought we had reached a deal that gave us what we both wanted, but I just learned that he broke that deal, and has declared all-out war on me. He will lose, and have nobody to blame but himself and how efficient he is with self-sabotage.

But for now, I have to protect myself. I am also blocking from my Facebook wall any people who might know him and be in touch with him at all in any way. If he wants war, then I'm turning off my 24-hr news cycle, and giving him no info. He doesn't deserve that level of trust.

While I thought he and I had a deal, I was comfy being public about my life. I should have known better. I should have known he would break the deal, and start on a truly irrational path of trying to "win" or have some sort of weird power over me. Based on what our legal issue is about, and how we're in zero disagreement over it, I can only assume this is about power… feeling like he won this his way and on his terms. I guess doing this on mutually-agreed terms was too damaging to his fragile psyche.

Once this matter is settled, I may be open to sharing the wacky and fun adventures of my life. Thanks to those who enjoy reading it. I hope to be back to our regularly-scheduled wackiness ASAP. :)


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The Math of Birthday Sex

Monday, October 25th, 2010

OK, I got your attention with that one.

Something I've been doing for a laugh is taking people's birthdays, working roughly 9 months backwards, and trying to figure out… ahem… how they got here.

Time after time, I find that when I do that counting backwards, I get to one of the parents' birthdays. I'll start by embarrassing myself. My birthday is early February. Count 40 weeks earlier, and you get early May. My father's birthday is 22 May. Since not every pregnancy is exactly 40 weeks, I'm going to go ahead and call that birthday sex.

One of my clients was telling me his son's birthday was this past weekend. I know his birthday is at the end of January. There's about 9 months between those two dates. :) I hadn't said anything to him, of course.

All those birthdays around the first week of October? New Years Eve sex.

Go ahead and laugh… http://www.timeanddate.com/date/dateadd.html

http://brassflowers.com/?themedemo=sunrise

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