Tag Archives: blogger

Will write for food! … Or walk your dog!

Hey there! Hey there! I’m still trying to line up a freelance gig or two for the coming weeks. Please let me know if you are in need or know someone in need of a writer-editor-blogger-dog walker-house-sitter-dishwasher. Cheers!

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Blogging around a very small world

This cracks me up just a little bit. I have “Letters From Away” on two platforms – WordPress and Blogger – because when I first started the blog I wanted to spread out the reach a little bit.

Anyway, one of the features on the Blogger metrics is a list of countries in which visitors to the blog are located. What strikes me somewhat odd – yeah, “odd” is the word – is how many visitors are from countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore.

I know one person who is currently in one of those countries. She’s working at a newspaper in Beijing.

The only other person I knew who regularly traveled to that part of the world no longer travels there. At least, as far as I know.

I’m guessing visitors from those countries are merely stumbling on me via a search engine. I seriously doubt I have an international following. I don’t have the ego to believe that.

But it is proof – as if we needed more proof – that the world is a pretty small place.

Here’s the list from the past day or so.

United States                                                                                               60
China                                                                                                               23
South Korea                                                                                          20
Canada                                                                                    6
Poland                                                                                     1
Latvia                                                                                      1
Sweden                                                                                                  1
Singapore                                                                                       1
Netherlands                                                                         1
United Kingdom                                                                    1

What? Your job is to help people find jobs?!

Here’s a little irony for you … well, quite a bit of irony, actually.

I’ve been looking for work for the past 15 months. After 22 years in the newspaper business, I was laid off. Over the course of that 22 years I have been a reporter, columnist, copy editor, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor, website staff writer, and blogger. I’ve been trying to find work, usually via online job boards and websites, networking via friends, LinkedIn and Facebook, and by simply keeping my ear to the ground.

I’ve been pretty open about the experience. At least, with my family, friends, and those of you who have visited “Letters From Away.” I’ve written about the frustration of the job search and the various pitfalls that have occurred in the past 15 months.

But I wasn’t very open with the other tenants of my apartment building. I don’t know any of them very well and I felt uncomfortable opening up about that sort of thing. And apparently some of them have not caught onto my blog, if you can believe that.

Anyway, I was walking down to the basement garage on Saturday when a guy who lives in one of the downstairs apartments came out.

“So, where are you working now?”

“I’m not,” I replied.

“What?!”

“Yeah, today makes 15 months since I was laid off,” I informed him. A mix of surprise and shock flashed over his face.

“Listen, I think I can help. …”

I’ve been living in the same apartment building since late 2006 and out of work since March 5, 2009, and I had no idea that my neighbor worked for a county agency that helps people get back to work. One of the programs for which I may be eligible is a six-month, 50 percent salary grant where an employer would be reimbursed for 50 percent of a worker’s salary for six months.

That does a couple of things, of course. It gets workers into jobs, it gives the employer a worker and a chance to see what the employee can do to prove himself or herself in a job and it gives a little time for the economy a little time to come around so that at the end of the six months the employee has a better chance to be held on permanently.

 I’m not exactly sure what else the neighbor or the agency can do to help me, but I have an appointment to talk with the guy tomorrow.

Sometimes you just have to whack it

This is not adult  entertainment, so get you heads out of the gutter. This isn’t about whacking that “it.”

Readers – from Maine to California and back again – know I’ve been out of work for the past year. So, cable and satellite TV both have been well out of reach financially.

And, frankly, the cost of both even before I was laid off on March 5, 2009, from a newspaper job after 22 years of experience in the industry kept me from paying for either just on principle alone. The cost was and is unreasonable.

So I went with a digital TV converter and rabbit ears antenna. Rabbit ears were good enough for generations of TV-watchers, it was good enough – sort of – for me. It was not nearly acceptable for someone who loves to watch sports, movies and the assorted nature programming, but I had to make due.

When “broadcast” TV went digital, I requested and received a government coupon and then purchased an APEX DT250A TV Converter.

As such electronics go, it was inexpensive and cheaply made. Cheaply. And when I use “cheaply,” I mean the box the size of a hardcover book was a truckload of yak dung.

It worked well enough – as long as the rabbit ears were just so – for a couple months.

But Thursday night the box failed right in the middle of the “NCIS” rerun I was watching. Know this: No one comes between me and “NCIS,” not even NCIS Special Agent Jethro Leroy Gibbs. OK, maybe Gibbs might do it, especially after one of his trademark slaps to the back of the cranium, but you get the point.

But on Thursday evening the TV screen went snowy. Not just a flurry, but a storm the likes of those that have hit the East Coast this winter.

I did not have a remote in my hand – no, really, I didn’t have a remote in my hands – so I figured I had not mistakenly hit a button that might have caused the snowstorm. I checked the cable connections, the antenna connection, the power source, and then rechecked them twice. I was resigned to give up for the evening – it was late enough that going to sleep was a better option than obsessing over it any longer.

The next morning I took off early enough that I did not watch TV. I was off to the Empresso coffeehouse on Pacific Avenue in Stockton to continue the job search and blogging efforts. I have two versions of “Letters From Away,” one on WordPress and one on Blogger, and another about what I see at various coffeehouses I patronize, especially Empresso and Exotic Java, that I named “Coffeehouse Observer.”

After going through job and news websites, blogging a bit, and getting a few other online tasks done, I returned to the apartment in the early evening. I was in the middle of some mundane tasks – as if watching TV isn’t mundane enough – when I remembered that I would not be able to unwind watching TV.

I also remembered that there was one thing that I had not done the previous evening – whack it.

I turned on the TV and the APEX box, picked up the box, and gave it a couple of good whacks.

It worked.

I am watching an episode of “Criminal Minds” on the ION network as I’m writing this blog.

There you have it. Sometimes it simply pays to whack it.

Letters From Away moves to a new home, while keeping the old

Letters From Away, my blog about what happens in Maine and to Mainers, has a new home. But I’m not nearly ready to get rid of the old home. I like it too much.

I plan to keep Letters From Away on WordPress.com, but now I’m going to have a (nearly) identical version on Blogger, too. It’s called the same thing – Letters From Away – but has a slightly different URL. It is http://lettersfromaway.blogspot.com/. There is a link on the WordPress.com version to the Blogger version and a link from the Blogger version to the WordPress.com version.

Why?

Well, I started the original version – the WordPress.com version – because I wanted to keep writing during my unemployment, reach out with information about my (limited) online portfolio and my LinkedIn profile, and keep idle hands from being so idle.

Frankly, it has been a bit more time-consuming than I first expected and I’m not getting the number of visits I would like, but I do realize blogging is a bit new for me and that it takes time to generate a following. And I rarely have a chance to promote Letters From Away – or another blog I write, Coffeehouse Observer – and when I do promote it, it usually is to my Facebook friends. But I’m hoping things will pick up.

And I think this is something that I can keep up once I have a new job.

And it should be something I can do should I return to Maine. The “from away” part in the title of the blogs refers to a Mainer phrase to mean anything or any person that is from outside of Maine. It is a phrase usually spoken by a Mainer with a bit disgust. Well, quite a bit of disgust.

So, if I do return to Maine, I can simply change the name of the blogs to Back From Away and just keep on going. Or I can create new blogs and link back to the older blogs to give readers context.

To make a short answer longer, the “why” in adding the Blogger version is to spread out a bit more, to give my writing, portfolio and hunger to get back to work a wider audience.

I hope you visit either version of Letters From Away. They are on slightly different templates and the Blogger version has a news feed feature for news from Maine and the rest of New England. For that reason, I may limit the links to news stories from Maine newspapers on the Blogger version. I’ll figure out all that later.

Well, enjoy! Or not. It’s your choice.

And as always, please feel free to contact me via the blogs or email me at keith.l.michaud@gmail.com to report bad links, copyediting errors or whatever. Thanks!

I’ve been a very, very bad blogger

It is clear to me that I have been a very, very bad blogger the past couple of weeks.

In many ways I have completely failed. But in a few others I think I have excelled.

Well, “excelled” may be a bit much, so let us agree that I have not done as well at some things as I have others. And I vow to strive to do better at the things I failed to do well, while continuing to do the things that I might have done better than, well, the things I did not do so well. Well …

What I have not done well lately is write fresh, new content for this blog about Maine and Mainers from a perspective of someone “from away.”  It has not been because of so-called writer’s block or want of trying. It simply has been a matter of time and not seeming to have any to write new content.

Frankly, I am still getting over the holiday haze, but now am looking forward to what great and special things will happen in 2010. Top among those things is finding employment. I am hungry to get back to work.

If you have read this blog before – I am a “blogger,” but what are people who read blogs? – you will know that I have been out of work since March 2009. I was laid off after 22 years working in the newspaper industry. And you would have to be from the dark side of the moon not to know that the newspaper industry has been hit very hard the past couple of years – continued high costs of paper and other materials, continued high profit margins for stockholders, lower revenue due to lower advertising sales due to the housing crisis and the auto industry crisis and the national economy crisis.

Leaders in the newspaper industry failed to heed the warnings that came to them a decade or two ago that a new age in information dissemination was coming – the Age of the Internet – and they made little effort to adjust. And what little effort they made came much too late for tens of thousands of very talented people in journalism and for many newspapers which have now long ago shut down their presses. I blame newspaper owners and publishers the most, although everyone in the industry has a share of the blame.

Because of all that I have been looking not only for a newspaper job, but for employment in the nonprofit or government sectors. There is a chance that what they used to say is still true, that writing skills are appreciated in very nearly any field. I am not 100 percent convince that is true given the traditionally low salaries in newspapers and other media, the decreasing salaries in newspapers, other media and for freelancers, and the low wages for “writers” in industries in which writers are not traditionally thought to work. And the disintegration of language because of what passes as “allowed” writing in emails, texting, blogs and other electronic media belittles and besmirches what professional writers do. That is the way of the universe.

And I also have given thought to returning to college to earn a master’s degree in another field, perhaps pubic administration. I believe I would go with an emphasis in nonprofit management over government agency management, because for some time I have wanted to do something for the greater good and working for a nonprofit has the feel of doing something more directly good for people.

What I think I have done fairly well for the past couple of months is to: 1) aggregate news about Maine from various sources, usually from Maine newspaper websites; and 2) post stories and other information about the plight of the people in Haiti following the earthquake last month.

Of the former, I usually have posted a headline of a story of interest and maybe some comment along with a link back to the newspaper’s website. I sometimes use the share feature on newspaper websites and sometimes the effort requires a little more work than that, but I always link back to the newspaper so the newspaper is getting the Web visit and the full credit. I gain nothing from the exercise other than keeping idle hands busy.

Of the latter, the effort to help spread information on what happened, what is happening, and what people can do to help Haitians seems a very tiny effort comparatively speaking. I wish I could do more. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and we have an obligation – not as Americans, not as members of one of the richest nations in the world, but as fellow human beings – to do what we can to help. Mainers have represented themselves well in the effort to help Haitians and it makes this Mainer “from away” proud to post those stories of Mainers’ efforts.

When I started this blog only a few short months ago, the intention was to write about and comment upon Maine and Mainers from the perspective of a person now “from away.” I had planned to comment each day.

Things have been hectic lately and sometimes it is a bit overwhelming to try to live up to my own intensions.

But I will strive to be more diligent about updating my blog.

Come back to Letters From Away every so often, won’t you.