Tag Archives: housing crisis

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.

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Ungrateful, greedy banking industry can’t take this away – yet

I am very probably like many Americans just now. I am wondering how the U.S. banking industry can show such filthy ungratefulness and bottomless greed.

First, it contributed significantly to the housing crisis and the economic woes we as a nation have suffered the past few years.

Second, the government bailed out the industry.

Third, to end-game credit card and banking reforms, the banking industry drove up interest rates and added excessive, oppressive fees to banking and credit card services.

Fourth, excessive bonuses continued to go to the very people who helped create the problem in the first place.

Yes, the country likely would have been in a far worse situation if the government had not bailed out banking institutions, but the hedonistic greed and gluttony must stop or the banking industry is likely to see a fiscal revolution the likes of which it cannot imagine. I am already planning on moving my banking and credit card services to smaller, more personal community financial institutions. It will be a fraction of a drop in the bucket, but it is my own very tiny protest against the indifference, greed and ungratefulness.

And here is another very tiny protest – I am keeping good credit despite having been out of work for nearly a year! I just opened a quarterly credit report from one of my credit card companies. I continue to have a credit rating in the high 700s.

The dirty, ungrateful, greedy banking industry can’t take away that – yet

Frankly, I was amazed, even though I shouldn’t be. I have been pretty good about avoiding the use of credit cards since being laid off from a newspaper job in Stockton, Calif., so the balances on my several credit cards generally go up only due to interest – which is a killer – or because of new fees – which is cranking me up quite a bit.

And for the past couple of years I have been making larger payments to pay down the credit card balances built during a part of my career when I was not being adequately paid. I depended on the credit cards for necessities – food.

Looking at the credit rating, the big three – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – each had me in the high 700s for the first fiscal quarter. Each of them showed a 3-point reduction in the second quarter, which was the first full quarter that I was without a job. I used the credit card to purchase a laptop computer and other items needed for the job hunt, so there were charges placed on my various credit cards. And, unfortunately, I could only make minimum payments.

But as unemployment continued, I shied away from using credit cards at all, I do not have a mortgage payment and I am rather stoic in my spending, even before being laid off.

To my surprise, two of the credit agencies showed my score in the third fiscal quarter as constant to what it was the previous quarter and Equifax upped my score by 8 points!

I held my own in the fourth quarter, too. There was no change up or down in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

While I doubt I will be able to hold this credit rating steady if unemployment continues for very much longer, I find it terribly positive that I have been able to maintain excellent credit it a time of personal and national economic upheaval.

I, therefore, pat myself on the back. Someone has to.