Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A $170 Toothbrush?!

In my last post, I blogged about odd jobs.

While this isn’t exactly a job, last year I became a BzzAgent.

It doesn’t pay actual money, but I’ve gotten some great new products from it. And, theoretically, when you collect enough points, you can turn them in for prizes or donations to charities. It takes a while to accrue points, however, and I haven’t taken advantage of that, yet.

I have gotten to test out brand new Pledge wipes, Listerine Whitestrips (before the commercials were everywhere!) and Grey Poupon mustard.

Some of the products haven’t been so good. I signed up to Bzz about a software program but, honestly, I’ve been afraid to download it. They say it’s secure, but I don’t like the idea of uploading the entire contents of my hard drive to the Internet.

Yesterday, however, I got my best Bzz product ever! I received the new Sonicare Flexcare 940 Series toothbrush w/ UV Sanitizer. It retails for $169.

Now, would I have bought a $170 toothbrush under any circumstances? Probably not. But it was free! I immediately went out and spent $30 on additional heads, that way my husband can use it, too. After using it once, I was so impressed that if it ever breaks, I probably *will* purchase a replacement.

I’ll post more in the coming weeks. It’s supposed to make your teeth whiter, reduce tartar and plaque build-up, etc. etc. It will be interesting to see, when I go for a cleaning next month, if there’s a noticeable difference.

Okay, I just realized I’m blogging about toothbrushes. But it’s a $170 toothbrush! That counts for something, right? (What is this world coming to that people will spend $170 on a toothbrush? That’s a blog for another day.)

The thing is, I also received 3 coupons for $10 off a toothbrush. With it being the holidays and all, I’m feeling generous. I will send a $10 off coupon to the first three people to post a comment here. And I’ll throw in a few for $1 off TV Guide, too. Of course, you’ll also need to send me an e-mail at my gmail account with your address so I can send the coupon. (That's easy to find, but mention in your post if you can't track it down.) The coupons will go to the first three people to post here.

There’s nothing fishy here. I promise. If I could do this all virtually (without your having to give an address) I would. But I can’t think of another way. And I’d hate for these coupons to go to waste.

There is one small catch. Please promise to post back here in 2 to 4 weeks and let me know how you like the toothbrush, that way I can write a Bzz Report about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Get a Real Job? Not Me!

I’ve worked some strange jobs. Paintball magazine editor doesn’t even top the list, which is pretty unusual considering the sports demographic is 89 percent male and, well into my adult life, I’d never played any organized sports or held a gun.

But I’ve also worked promotions for a country radio station, been an advice columnist for an online men’s magazine, and, more recently, a beauty product tester.

And the Auction Jobs. Ah, the famous art & sports memorabilia silent auctions for charity, which I blogged about in this post.

I work auctions about two nights a week to supplement my freelance writing income. Not only is it fun (most of the time), I’ve also made some great connections. But I don’t need to justify myself… Really. ;)

The other night, at a hoity-toity hospital fundraiser, I started a conversation with the lady selling raffle tickets, a volunteer for the organization. She asked if I worked for the hospital (a common question for the night; many people started conversations that way, by means of introduction.)

I replied, “No, I work for the company running the silent auction.”

“Oh,” she said. “That’s a job?”

“Um, yes,” I replied, wracking my brain for a snappy comeback. “But I also own a magazine,” I added, by means of salvaging some self-respect.

Why I should care, I have no idea. They say women begin “discovering themselves” in their 30s, blossoming into confident, glamorous, devil-may-care vixens, secure in themselves, their careers, their sexuality, their life-choices. When will I get the inner confidence and self-respect to just let these things slide, rather than feeling like I have to prove myself to complete strangers?

Regardless, I felt it necessary to defend my life and justify my means of income.

Then, out to dinner last night with a close friend, we started talking about holidays off. Because my husband works for the school district, he has most of this week off. My friend, who works for a bank, gets to leave early Christmas Eve, but was lamenting working on Black Friday.

Then she added, “Well, you don’t have to worry, Dawn. You don’t wor— “

I stopped her mid-sentence, pointing my fried shrimp at her like a loaded weapon. “Go ahead,” I dared. “Finish that sentence.”

“Well, I mean… you don’t have a real jo—“

I smirked, one eyebrow raise, shrimp still poised for attack.

She finally found the proper phrasing. We’d been through this before. “You get to set your own hours and you don’t actually have to DRIVE to an office,” she finished.

“Yeah, isn’t it great?” I grinned at her.

I know freelancers can relate to this... Writers, I'd love to hear your worst "my family/friends just don't understand what I do" stories.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

These New-Fangled Machiney-Things

This blog originally launched as a venue to share my store stories- adventures of a 10-year, on and off career in retail.

As luck would have it, I haven't had to work retail in a while... and I'm even avoiding it this holiday season. (Ah, the temptation to deal with the hordes of angry, rushed shoppers... the people who want you to pick out books for everyone on their list... the ones who come in to a bookstore only once a year and don't know the difference between fiction and non-fiction.)

Nonetheless, I had an experience the other day.

I had to make a photocopy, blown up to twice its size, and was in the Staples shopping center, so I decided that would be easier than struggling with our aging desktop computer and the photocopy/fax/printer.


Office equipment and I don't get along. The most difficult job I ever had to do as an editorial assistant was make photocopies of the proofs for each of the magazines the company published.

So I figure I'll pay a little extra and let the girl behind the counter do it for me. She says she can't. I approach the self-service machine. It's jammed. I walk away and try the second one. This one just doesn't seem to be working.

"Can you help me with this?" I ask.

Then I laugh, "I just don't get along with office equipment! I'll probably jam it or break it or something. "

She points to a slot. "Just put your card in here."

"Um, what card?" I ask. In the past, you made your photocopies, then brought them to the cashier and paid for them.

She looks at me funny. "Visa, Mastercard, whatever..."

"Oh." I pause. "What if I want to pay cash?"

I'm making one copy. At most, this will cost 10 cents. I can't see putting 10 cents on my debit card.

She looks at me funny again. I feel like the person in the commercial who stops the entire line at the coffee shop because he wants to pay cash rather than "swipe it." Fortunately, no line is forming behind me.

"Well, then you put your money in this machine and you get a gift card to swipe."

I look at the machines. Cards are available in denominations of $1, $5, and $10 (probably higher amounts, too, but I don't stop to look.) "How much is this one copy going to cost?" I ask.

"Oh, about 7 cents."

I process this for a moment. I have to buy a card for $1, to make a 7 cent copy, at which point I will have to carry a 93 cent gift card in my wallet indefinitely. I don't shop at Staples often and hardly ever make photocopies. Besides, the odds of me remembering to use the 93 cent card next time I make a purchase... Yeah.

Now I become one of the customers I detest, asking questions I know the answer to, and asking the clerk to clarify what is clearly--well, implied--on the signage.

"So this 7 cent copy is going to cost me a dollar, no matter what?"

"You can't get the money back from the gift card, if that's what you mean, no. But you can use your charge card, instead."

I thank her for her time and walk out. Whatever happened to photocopy machines taking nickels and dimes?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ninja Warriors Have What it Takes

My husband recently got me hooked on G4’s T.V. show, Ninja Warrior. Part reality TV, part game show and part sporting event, picture MXC (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge) without the inane commentary.

In the show, called Sasuke in Japan, competitors try to complete impossible-looking obstacle courses under insane time limits. When the competitors fail and fall into the icy cold, muddy water below, it’s actually quite amusing. When they complete the course, hitting the buzzer with mere fractions of a second left, it can be as exciting as Game 7 of the World Series.

My husband and I aren’t into organized sports. But get us going with this show and you’ll see us cheering, yelling at the screen, “Hurry, hurry, you’re running out of TIME!” and “Monday-morning quarterbacking” their strategies and decisions like insane sports fanatics.

What really stands out, however, about the athletes on the show (and the competitors are true athletes—lean, fast, strong, muscled and disciplined) is their sportsmanship.

They cheer each other on, share tips and advice, and leave the course with a smile regardless of the outcome. I watched one of the “Ninja Warrior All-stars”, Nagano, who has completed the final stage of the course twice in his career, fail at the end of Stage One last night. Incidentally, out of 100 competitors, only two completed the stage!

Nagano’s hands slipped off the rope and he plunged into the icy water. When he emerged a second later, he was smiling. Smiling and laughing! He knew he did his best, and he’d have other opportunities in the future.

Perhaps the structure of the competition, which allows more than one winner, promotes good sportsmanship. It’s not a “him or me” proposition. The athletes are competing against the course, not each other. Whatever the reason, these athletes win— and lose—with grace… something I don’t see often enough here in the states.

It’s heartwarming to see athletes trying their best, supporting each other and, to quote a friend of mine, “shaking hands, playing hard, making friends and remembering it is just a game!”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Good-bye, Tony...

I am angry and sad and frustrated today.

Worst of all, I feel helpless.

A friend of mine passed away this morning. Medical science has the technology to help him, but he was less than a month short of being eligible for Medicare. Tony needed a defribbilator, and was hanging on until Medicare would cover it, as the operation would have been in the hundred thousand dollar range.

Tony was a small business owner, self-employed his whole life, and just didn’t have the money or the insurance. On December 1, he would have become eligible. His doctor scheduled the operation last week.

But now it’s too late.

I feel like there is something I should be able to do about this. Not single-handedly, of course, but some way I can act as a catalyst for change. And, of course, not for Tony, but for the thousands of other self-employed individuals out there who can’t afford insurance for themselves or their children.

Then I look at a friend of mine in Canada, who traveled to the States for medical care. He said he was treated like a king at one of the best facilities in the world, because he was paying cash. So I know the solution up North is not “the answer” either.

I guess this is basically just a vent. And a clich├ęd one at that: the high costs of healthcare for self-employed individuals. I also know there’s no easy solution, and I’m very grateful that my husband has a job with good benefits and security, which permits me to live a fantastic lifestyle, working from home.

It’s different to vent about health care in the abstract, however. This time, it has hit home with the loss of a gentleman I worked with a few times and will always think fondly of. Rest in Peace, Tony, you will be missed.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thoughts on the Blogosphere

What is the blog-o-sphere coming to when bloggers blog about blogging?

But, as a newbie to this realm, I have some observations. Things that people who've been a this for a while probably take for granted. So if you get something out of these random ramblings, great.

Honestly, I haven't blogged because I find it hard to beat my last post. (to paraphrase Dave Barry... I did NOT make that up!)

Researching my latest PR & Marketing project has put me in touch with a whole new side of the Internet (hey, get'cher mind out of the gutter.) As a frequent contributor to Church Production Magazine and Sound & Communications, I know technology is a big deal in today's houses of worship.

But I had no idea of the scope of church technology websites. From Church Marketing Sucks to Church Technology Review, this is big business. Like I said, I knew there was a market for it, but had no idea how big the market was until I started digging.

Basically, an Internet junkie (which I am) can pick any single topic --any topic at all -- spend all day, every day, researching it on the Web, and never run out of information. Between web sites (updated frequently), blogs (updated daily), and forums (updated practically by the minute) you could stay glued to your monitor for days.

Which is quite the danger in my line of work!

On a semi-related note, next week marks the WAH Expo, a virtual conference for work-at-home types.

I have completely forgotten my point, however. So I'm going to put it in your hands, readers.

What's the oddest thing you've ever researched on the web? What web site have you come across that made you say, "They have a website (or ten) for THIS?"

Let's look at some of those more obscure topics (please keep it clean) because... well... I have nothing better to do with my time than explore offbeat websites. LOL

No, really...

P.S. Since this post has turned into a huge link-dump anyway, let me include a shameless plug here. Please vote for my story, A Heart, Waiting, at The Novelette. Thanks!!