Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of One Bad Year, and Now ???

2011 has not exactly been a banner year for me, except on how to burn bridges, go nearly insane from stress and then have my sanity tested in a homeless shelter.

I could say out with the old and in with the new, but I don't really expect the job market to open up come January 1, 2012. That won't stop me from applying to jobs, but I really think I need to concentrate on my writing, on blogging and getting noticed as a blogger and writer. I've heard of people making a living like that, and I'd like to be one of them.

So for me the first week of the new year means finishing the recuperation from my surgery, and probably spending less time playing games and more time writing. Not that I won't play games to relieve stress, but I can't obsess with them like I want to!

No, I'm going to work on various projects, try to find freelance assignments, and hope to keep myself in the shelter long enough to find a permanent place to stay. I'm tempted to see if I qualify for some sort of disability. I have a bad back, which precludes me from working physical labor. I have Diabetes and High Blood Pressure. Could all that net me the 'check' that some other people get each month? Most of them waste it on drugs, though. That's not a problem with me.

I received a gift card from my sister the other day, and took stock on what I really need before I went out and bought anything. So here is a partial list for those who are interested:

1. Pants, any kind, waist 42, length 28-30, the lower end of that if possible, but they are hard to find.

2. A new pair of suspenders. The old pair is getting raggedy. One size fits all. No buttons, just clasps.

3. Underwear, size 42. I have plenty of socks at the moment, thanks for asking.

4. A place to live comfortably until I can get back on my feet. If anyone wants to chip in for an apartment, that's okay with me. I can live in a surprisingly small space. Even when I had an apartment, I spent most of my time in one room, the one with the computer. I'll need Internet access too!

5. A bus pass. 31 day would be delightful, the more the better. They're $36 at Moore Square, or at Harris Teeter stores.

6. Time to write and a list of names of the people who can help me do something with my writing, as in sell it.

7. A year's subscription to Warcraft! Or even a 60 day game card. Some might consider that a luxury, but really, the game helps me relax like nothing else can.

8. If I'm doomed to stay in the shelter, shampoo would be nice. Razors, too.

9. And the most important thing of all: A job. I can do most things writing, I can do customer service, but at the moment can't work from home. I can do most things Administrative and quite a few things with a computer. I don't claim computer perfection, just above average.

10. Ultimately, I'd like to get Project Five-Star off the ground. If enough money comes in it solves the problem of me not having a job, and will give help to others like me as well. I figure $25,000 for starters will get it off the ground and into an office. More money will allow me to hire people to raise even more money. I don't consider this a pipe dream. I think this is workable and sustainable. I'd even accept someone willing to cosign a loan with me to help get this started. But then, that's up to you.

That's all I'm asking for. Some of it reasonable, some a bit unreasonable, but the bottom line is it's not much for those that have money.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Start of a New Story

I have started posting a new series of short stories that encompass a larger story line. I've been playing around with the ideas presented in this story in my head for what seems like years.

A few words of warning over this story:

1. It is highly experimental writing, not just in form, but in content as well. I'm dealing with concepts that might make some people a little uncomfortable. I hope the feedback will reflect that. Don't be afraid to say 'you've stepped over a line.'

2. The story will be told in a series of short parts, covering various stages of the main character's development.

3. Ultimately, there is only one character here who matters, also a bit of an experiment. The characters that revolve around her will change over time, but she will not, at least not for a long while.

4. It is a very looooong story, and will take a long time to write out fully in a form that pleases me. The parts will be short, but there will be many of them. Think Harry Potter and then some, sent out chapter by chapter. Patience will be required!

With all that said, here is the link for Part 1!

Now I tried to submit it to Yahoo Contributor Network, but it was rejected, but only because the editor didn't realize the italicized parts were part of a telepathic conversation. I really didn't feel like arguing with an editor every time I posted something like that. So I'm using Hub Pages, because there is still a chance of getting paid for it. But you still have to read the story for me to get anything out of it!

Thanks for reading and don't forget I need feedback!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Just Where Have You Been, Young Man?

I apologize to my regular readers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google+ G+’ers, for my absence the last few days. Let me tell you a story of pain, loss, of comfort and distress, an opportunity lost, possibly another gained.

On Saturday night, just after dinner, I began to experience pain on the right side of my body. At first I thought it was the pie my bunk partner had offered me, something his girlfriend had made. But the pain seemed centered around my right lung. It was never a bad pain, always 3 out of 10, but always there. My first thoughts were that is might be a collapsed lung, or pneumonia. At first, I took some aspirin and tried to ignore the pain. I went to bed early since it was a white flag night and the dining hall was filled with extra men.

I tried to get comfortable, switching between my left side, my right side and my back, but found that none of those positions felt at all comfortable enough for me to sleep. By 10pm I realized the pain was not going away on its own and headed for the front desk to ask them to call an ambulance. I had decided not to take my laptop, since that felt somewhat awkward. Big Mistake!

The EMT’s were polite enough. I’m sure they had seen a number of fake symptoms before, but the woman at the desk told them she believed me. (I rarely complain, except on these pages.) So the EMT’s bundled me in to the ambulance and asked me where I wanted to go. There are 3 major hospitals in Raleigh, Rex, Duke, and Wake Med. I had had several bad experiences with Wake Med in the past, but since they at least had my record on file, I decided to give them one more chance.

The EMT’s took all my vitals, asked me numerous questions, informed me my blood pressure was too high, and took me to Wake Med. Once there I didn’t have to wait in the waiting room. They took me right to a treatment room. I got the same flood of questions that the EMT’s asked, plus a few more from the nurse, and then a short while later the doctor came in. She was pleasant enough, but her first suggestion was to have an ultrasound to see if there was gall stone. Well at that moment the pain still felt like it was in my lung, so the whole gall bladder thing didn’t sit well with me. I wanted pneumonia ruled out.

She humored me and had an X-Ray taken of my right lung, which turned out to be ‘perfect,’ and she didn’t sound a bit surprised. We went over some options, including going home and seeing if it went away, and I chose to get the ultrasound.

Sure enough, there was a stone in my gall bladder. A large one. So the doctor and I talked again about the options and I agreed to talk to a surgeon. Now, lest you think this was all happening quickly, let me explain that by this time it was 4am. I had been suffering from a cold since Thursday. So in addition to the pain of my gall bladder, my eyes watered, I sneezed, sniffled and coughed. Throughout the process, none of those symptoms were ever addressed! The only solace I had was a TV on the ceiling. I still could not rest.

So it was 4am and the surgeon came for a visit. He is an exceedingly nice doctor named Biswas. He explained the procedure to me, the pros and cons, and didn’t need to ask me twice what I wanted to do: The gall bladder had to go!

That decided, the earliest he could schedule me in to get it remove was Monday morning. In the meantime, I was moved to a different room. It was not a regular hospital room, it was technically an observation room. It was small, there were no windows, and only a toilet in the bathroom. It barely had room for the bed and a chair. And, of course, a TV. A better quality TV at that.

So Sunday I spent the entire day and night in mild luxury, kicked back on the bed, still in mild pain, still sneezing, coughing and my eyes watered, being fed by nice nurses (a liquid diet), including a male nurse. The TV had basic cable, and I had control of the remote. I napped for a while. In between instances where the nurses, doctors and dieticians came in to examine one part of my anatomy or another. Being a diabetic, my blood sugar was checked every 4 hours, as was my blood pressure (which had come down without medication), pulse (still going) and my belly. All of this before surgery even happened. The only thing I was bummed about was that I would be missing an interview on Monday. I had left the contact information for that interview on my computer, which I had deliberately left behind. So I couldn’t even call to tell them I couldn’t be there!

Monday dawned and first thing the nurses came in and started preparing me for surgery. Then before I could be fully prepared, the OR called and the operation was pushed back, apparently because of traumas. I had no problem with that. So I waited. And waited.

Finally, around 11am, they called back and off I went to PreOp. In PreOp I was wheeled to an area where two very nice nurses asked me the same questions everyone else had already asked me a dozen times (one of them kept calling me ‘young man‘, though she was probably younger than me), put it into their new computer system, and then let the anesthesiologists come in and ask me the same questions again. I wonder sometimes if they are testing me, or do they really just not share information?

Anyway, I was meeting a whole lot of new people, but the temptation to sell any of my books took a back seat. The anesthesiologist gave me something to ‘relax me’ before I went into the OR. Then explained that I would have a breathing tube stuck down my throat during the procedure, something that kind of worried me, but I’m told it’s standard procedure.

The next thing I remember after that is waking up. Now, I’ve had two other operations and the exact same thing happened to me during those operations. Literally talking one moment then waking up and it’s done. It’s an eerie feeling.

But the job was done! I was less one gall bladder, which one of the surgeons told me looked really ‘sick’ when they pulled it out, so I have no doubt that the right decision was made. I also had 4 holes in my belly, including one through the belly button, which was and is exceedingly sore. I also had a sore throat from the breathing tube.

After a time in PostOP, at around 5pm, I was wheeled back to my room, and had a parade of nurses and doctors come in to check on me. I was told I had 6 hours to urinate or they would stick a catheter in me. I’ve had one of those before. I did not want another one. I tried my best to pee, but could not produce enough to satisfy them, and around 11pm I had the catheter put in.

Now all this time I had been told I would be released on Tuesday, which wasn’t so bad. Other than the catheter I didn’t feel bad. Then the doctor came in Tuesday morning and told me he likes catheters to be in 24 hours before be made a decision to let me go, so while I got another day in paradise, it was with a tube up my penis, a cold, which was slowly fading and bags around my feet that inflated and deflated regularly, which I’m told helps those who are not ambulatory. So paradise came with restrictions.

Now, I’m rather proud of the fact that, other than the anesthetic given during the operation,  I only asked for one other pain reliever the entire time I was there: one Percoset. And that only because of the catheter. I rarely called the nurses. I was not demanding. I always try to be polite. I just lay there and watched TV for the most part. However I wished more than once that I had brought my laptop, since Wake Med has free wifi. Alas, I did not. My laptop or the Internet has all my contact information, so I could not get in touch with my friends in Raleigh. I was alone. And LOVING it! No offense to my friends, but if you had been in a crowded shelter as long as I have been, a few days of relative isolation are a blessing!

But I was worried that they would worry about me.

Wednesday dawned, the catheter was removed after 30 hours, and I found myself without an urge to pee. I was worried, at first, that they’d want to put it back in, but 4 large cups of water later, things started flowing nicely. The last obstacle had been cleared, and I would be released later that day, around 4pm.

The social worker at the hospital had brought me some paperwork about how to get my bill paid as a charity case, and also brought me a bag of goodies and something I had asked for, a winter coat. it was a medium, and I worried that it wouldn’t fit, but though it’s snug, it will zip up! She also got me some gloves and a hat, a few candy bars and some socks. The only thing I didn’t get that I really needed was a razor and shaving cream. Of all the things to cut from the budget! So I have 4 days of growth.  And my beard comes in white. I want to be young again!

I got 35 Percoset tablets at no cost, which I really don’t need. The only time I’m in pain is when I get up from bed, sit up, stand up, bend over and cough (which is a surprisingly small amount of time). So I’m torn with what to do with the medicine. I could sell it in an instant, but would feel exceedingly guilty for that. I’m going to save it for another time.

I was also given a trip pass for the bus ride back to the shelter. I had informed the shelter Sunday what was going on, and had kept them updated. They kept my bed. Since I’m technically still recovering, if I need time during the day, I can stay inside the shelter.

However I knew I wanted to come out Thursday, both to check in with my friends in the internet, and to go to a new job interview! I had a message waiting for me Wednesday afternoon, but my phone battery was too low to call voice mail. When I plugged it in and called, I found that Total Outsource Systems, a former employer, wanted me to come in for an interview for a Tech Support position. So I bummed a day pass from my case worker and first thing tomorrow I’ll take the bus downtown, call TOS about the interview (I’ll dress for it), and access downtown Raleigh’s free wifi, post this blog and then wait at the library for the interview. I’m likely to be tired, but it will be worth it!

So bad things and good things came from my little disappearance. And maybe the best thing of all: a job! Have a Merry Christmas Internet!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Devil's Advocate has been posted!

My short story, 'The Devil's Advocate' has been posted on the Yahoo Contributor's Network. here's the link!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Real Problem with Homeless Shelters: The Homeless Yawn

The longer I stay in the shelter, the more and more this fact has dawned on me. I've written posts and books that complain about the food in a shelter, about how the 'guests' are treated by staff, about the living conditions in various shelters, but the number one reason why it is so difficult to live in a shelter is:

(Drum Roll Please)

The other homeless men.

The complete and utter lack of respect for others is what drives me the most insane while living here. And most of what bothers me is deliberate, done by the offending party to be the most annoying.

Case in point: What I like to call 'The Homeless Yawn.' Normally, when we yawn, it might happen once in a while, when we're tired or just want to wake up, and it's pretty quiet, at most a little bit of an audible grunt. In the shelter, yawns take on a whole new meaning. It's done by a small percentage of the population, but it is so pervasive, that you'd think most of the population is doing it. It's a cross between a lion's roar and a Wookie's roar, and it's loud, long, and obnoxious. I've recorded some of this on audio, I may make it available later. Every time I hear this (20 times or more in a 2 hour period in the morning alone), one thought comes to my mind (other than shutupshutupshutup) is what they are really saying to me is: "I'm bored, I don't want to be here, and I want EVERYONE to know that, over and over again."

In the last few months most of those yawns were perpetrated by one man, whose street name is 'B-More', short for Baltimore, where he came from (and where I hope he goes back to). B-More was the most obnoxious person in the entire building and his bunk was just a couple from where mine is. The man is loud, and never stops talking until he falls asleep. I asked him one night if he has a volume other than yelling. He told me not to talk to him no more. I don't like talking to him in the first place.

Anyway, I think this trend for loud yawns started with him, and has spread throughout the shelter. At the moment he's no longer in the shelter, and, frankly, I hope it's a permanent thing, because despite the yawns that proliferate the place at all hours, it's still quieter now than when B-More was here.

There was another man in the shelter, in the bunk across the aisle from me, who was the second most obnoxious person in the building. He not only yawned, but he snored. He snored loud enough to wake the dead. And he sang. Loud enough and bad enough to make the dead wish they could run away. And he was always throwing snippets of rap songs out there, just one line, over and over again. That seems to be a trend in the shelter too, and it's annoying. He's gone too, caught with food outside of the dining hall and a cell phone that rang at the worst time for him.

And that's a growing trend too, flagrant disregard for the rules of the shelter: Foul language where every other word is four letters, and if you took it all out the conversation would make no sense. Hell, it doesn't make sense to me even with the language. Using their cell phones in the dorms, having their ringers on loud, trying to wash their bodies in the sinks and their clothes in the showers. Breaking into line, trying to change the channel on the TV or complaining because they can't. The worst trend of all is the total lack of respect for others in the shelter. Intimidation, asking for the food on my plate while I'm still eating it ("You gonna eat that?") Treating women badly, as sex objects or as sex slaves and frequent use of the word 'bitch' or 'nigger.' And these are black men who should know better than to use that word, but they do it anyway, because this is how they've grown up.

And worse to my mind is the blatant  homosexuality there. I have a friend who's gay, and I respect his right to be that way, but I'm not gay, and I don't want some guy, black or white, to sidle up to me and try to subtly get a rise out of me. I want my personal space, and dammit you will respect that! I've been told that guys who wear their pants down so far that certain body parts are showing are trying to pick other guys up. I've heard that in prison, that's justification to get yourself reamed. Nice to know, if I ever go to prison.

And let's leave the worst piece of lack of respect for last: Stealing. We have homeless men, some of whom are working and buying a few extra things that they need, like sheets and clothes (underwear,and socks even!), for instance, and other homeless men are stealing these goods from them. Homeless men stealing from homeless men. How much sense does that make? In a world where there is no respect, I suppose it makes perfect sense.

The point I'm trying to make is that these people need guidance to get them out of their bad habits. They need to be told by someone in authority that what they're doing is wrong, and if they don't straighten up, they won't hold a job very long. This is one thing I hope to accomplish with Project Five-Star, as at least one of the sessions will be dedicated to how to act on the job, and language, verbal as well as body, will be a key point to that. Do they really need to be told not to yawn loudly in a training session? Yes, yes they do. Do they really need to be told not to steal from the very agency that's trying to help them? Yes, yes they do. And some will continue doing what I ask them not to do, and then I will be forced to ask them to leave. but I hope that those that are left will learn to change those habits for good!

Because despite the fact that some are not salvageable, I feel the better part of them are, and that will make all the difference.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Yahoo Contributor Network

A few days ago, I responded to an email asking me to submit something for the Yahoo Contributor network, something I had never heard about before (See link on sidebar). On the site you can choose from a variety of assignments, or you can simply submit an article, a video, an audio clip and anything else you've put together, and hopefully get some money out of it. The first assignment I took was a short story with a Western theme. I took a few days to write it and submitted it just yesterday. It does take a few days for the editors to post if, if appropriate, and then they post the story on their web site. I'm still waiting on confirmation for my story, but the idea for this blog is to share the possibilities of making money from writing and other sources of media with my readers here. I also saw an assignment asking for Occupy videos that would pay $15. I did submit one of my unused Occupy Raleigh videos, but I don't known if they can use it or not, and I'm not worried if they decline it.

But what I wanted to share, from my point of view, is that I need to get back into writing fiction, and this may be the perfect outlet for it. And being part of the Yahoo network, it may get me more notice than putting something on my blog, for instance. not that there's anything wrong with posting your writing on a blog, but Google AdSense just doesn't pay much!

So here's my good deed for the day. If you're a writer, looking for venues in which to make some money for your writing, check out the Yahoo Contributor Network! And I'll let you know if I make any money on it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No More Excuses: Read the Damn Book!

Okay, I'm fed up with the lack of caring about Project Five-Star. To the point where I'm making the book available for free! So there. Read it. Care.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Can I Haz A Handout?

My attempts at making Project Five-Star into a real company, able to ask for donations on its own for the benefit of others (including myself) has run into a bit of flack. Seems someone on my Facebook page thinks I'm asking for a handout. Seems someone thinks I'm too lazy to find work on my own so that I can fund my project by myself. Seems that the little bit of work I've done for Occupy Raleigh and other Occupy sites is trying to come back and bite me on the ass.

I don't like asking for money. Some people might say that's all I ever do, but really, I haven't asked for money for myself in several years, since my family seems to think I'm a lost cause. But I believe strongly that Project Five-Star will work on so many levels, if I can just get the damned thing off the ground.

But let's talk a little about what a handout is. The term handout suggests someone is asking for something for nothing. If I've ever asked for a handout, that means I've exhausted every source I can think of (yes, even searching for a job) for money and have not been successful. I used to hate having to ask my mother for money, because I could hear the disappointment in her voice, to the point of making me cringe. And I knew it was coming. So I tried my best to make things work on my own, and Mom was the source of last resort. After she died, and I wound up homeless, I asked my family for help. My stepfather put it in no uncertain terms that the gravy train had stopped. His stepson was in a homeless shelter and he would not lift a finger.

Later that year, I received a Christmas card from him with a check for $300. It tortured me, because that $300 would have come in very handy immediately after my bout with homelessness began. At that point I had a job and was working my way out of the shelter system. Though the effort pained me, I sent the check back, along with a note that if he couldn't help me when I needed it most, I didn't want anything else from him. I told him to put whatever he would have sent me in the future to what he thought I owed him. That was 2005. I haven't received a check from him since. He has sent cards. I haven't sent anything back to him. That was my choice.

So I do not ask for handouts for myself. I live in the shelter, eat at the shelter and with the aid of Food Stamps, and I continue to both look for a job and to do work for Project Five-Star. Which will pay off, I wonder?

If you want a copy of the book, send me your e-mail address and I'll send you a pdf of the book, no charge. If, once reading the book, you think it's a waste of time, then don't send any money, but don't try to discourage me. Odds are you haven't lived in a shelter and can't imagine how rough it is. I'm working on getting a collection of videos that might change your mind. And if not, well keep your thoughts to yourself. I'm working on improving myself and the lives of others. Can you honestly say the same thing?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Speak Softly...

I was watching my own video, below, and it occurred to me just how softly I speak. Now, in this case I was in the dining hall at the shelter, and if I'd raised my voice any more, it would have attracted unwanted attention, but generally, I speak softly.

I do not carry a big stick.

I do however, carry a message of hope, and though I can't yell it from the rafters, I can write about it in such a way as to get people's attention.

Or at least that was the hope. The message is being spread, though it's a slow process. In the coming weeks, I'm going to be putting more of my message in video form. I have some video and audio taken at the shelter, and I think when people see how things really are, they might think twice about whether things are really okay or not.

I've been spending some time with Occupy Raleigh, both at their site on the sidewalk outside the Capitol building in Raleigh, and online, posting messages and videos, and generally getting the word out. The word is CHANGE.

It's funny, but I seen to recall a presidential candidate running on that platform, but nothing has really changed, and that is why I protest.

So I continue to speak softly, write hard and use social media as my big stick. If I wave Facebook around in a crazy fashion, will someone listen?

Monday, October 17, 2011

My 'Occupy' Video

I made this video after not getting a chance to talk at the Occupy Raleigh event on Saturday. It was an interesting event, and I wish circumstances allowed me to be one of those arrested, but, as I explain in the video, that would be a very bad thing for me right now! Enjoy! Sorry in advance for the bad singing!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Working Hard Or Hardly Working?

I used to think that hard work would lead to bigger and better things in my life. I practice a strong work ethic whenever I do work. I give the best effort I can when I'm working. At times this hard work and enthusiasm seemed to pay off. For instance I landed a contract position as a computer programmer while I was still in college. I impressed the man who made the contract with me. I went to work every day and school at night. It seemed to be working.

Then suddenly the money dried up. The man said there was none. I kept working, though, in hopes of impressing this man into hiring me full-time. The man who financed the company offered me a rent-free apartment, which certainly helped. But I could no longer afford to go to school.

I kept that up for a year and a half, working for almost nothing, just a few bucks every now and then to tide me over. The man who hired me bought a new Trans Am. I had a beat up old Ford Maverick that needed a lot of work, and of course, gasoline that I could not afford, even back in those days. Then the manager of the apartments told me I had to start paying rent or get kicked out.

I read the writing on the wall and left, moving from Tallahassee, FL, to Tampa. I found temporary work and worked that job to death. I got a call from my old boss who wanted me to come do some work for him, over a weekend. We negotiated what I felt was a fair deal (boy was I naive.) And I came back for a weekend. My transmission failed on my car on the way up. An unexpected expense that hurt my profits for that deal. Later on I found out he was bad-mouthing me when people called for references. Some boss he was!

But I was still working full-time, even if it was for a temporary agency. It was clerical work. I made a few friends and even played softball with them.

Then I got sick, coughing up phlegm to the point where my supervisor was concerned about the safety of the rest of the people in our office. I did not have insurance. I did go to a doctor, but the damage had been done, my supervisor arranged for the temporary service to find someone else. Hard work wasted. I often wonder if maybe I worked too hard, making myself sick in the process.

Flash forward a few years, and I'm in  Denver, working as a data entry clerk for US West. I worked hard, got noticed, and then the office closed, and I was offered a transfer to Omaha. I worked hard there too, got noticed, but the supervisor there didn't seem to like me much, possibly because she had no say in my coming there. I don't know.

But in the end my hard work landed me a programmer position, working with COBOL. I thought I had it made! I got to stay in Seattle in a hotel while I trained. When I got back, though, I found that the people I worked with did not share my enthusiasm. They had a set way of doing things. I accidentally stepped on toes. I did my best to work hard, even spent some time updating their documentation.

But in the end I stepped on the wrong toes too many times, and that job ended.

More recently I worked as a customer service rep for a local call center that handled multiple clients. I was coming off a stint with homelessness, and grateful to have any job. I worked that job hard, got briefly laid off, then called back again to work for a different client. I worked that client hard, got noticed, got promoted, pissed some people off because they thought someone else deserved to be promoted, and that led to increased pressure on me.

Stress and me don't get along well. It can manifest itself in becoming sick, migraine headaches, coughing, or becoming irritable. I don't go looking for it. It just happens. The promotion didn't work out the way I'd hoped, and I stepped down. My health was more important than the promotion. Life was hard enough.

Since then, I've taken a different look at what I want out of a job. I've worked other call centers, no supervisory positions, though. I've quit one job because I lost my apartment. I quit another because stress reared its ugly head again.

Ideally, I'd like my writing to be my source of income, but I'm realistic enough to know that it probably won't happen. I find writing to be relaxing. I find the sharing of ideas through this blog to be very soothing. I'd like it continue, to be an outlet when I need it.. I've thought about what I can do that will decrease the amount of stress in my life, but sad to say, one of those things is to not work as hard as I used to. I need to blend into the crowd more, in order to save my health.

But I don't want to do that. I want to make Project Five-Star work. I know there will be stress, but if I have more control over the situation, I hope the stress level won't be excessive. And for those that say get a job, well I've already put in hundreds of hours on Project Five-Star, and haven't seen a penny from it. I'm starting to feel like I did when I was a contract programmer. Unappreciated. Spinning my wheels, going full throttle and going nowhere. I'm trying to make a difference here, to impress people with hard work, and it's not working. Something has to give, and soon.

So which am I? Working hard? Hardly working? Something in-between?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: My Take

I've been following the marches on Wall Street and other locations rather keenly the last few days and it's time for a blog about it.

First, let me tell what it's not about: it's not about politics as usual. Politics as usual are why we are in the mess to begin with. It's not about young lazy people who have nothing better to do than complain. I know this because I've seen many that do that. Some might even claim I'm that way. ;-)

These marches are happening because things aren't right with the world and no one in power seems to care. There aren't a lot of things to be happy about right now. I know, just being alive should be enough, but what kind of life are most of us living right now? Are we well-off? Is our future secure? No, we're struggling, fighting to come up for air because some person or entity is holding us back. Some say that builds character, but I say it breeds discontent, and people who are discontent are driving this 'revolution.'

Honestly, I don't know where it will go, or how long. I'd like to see real change happen out of it, mostly in the financial industry that helped cause the problems to start with. For instance, one of the drivers of the housing bubble collapse was the fact that mortgages can be bought and sold as commodities.

Think about that.

Really think about that. I'll wait.

If you haven't got it, let me tell you how I see that. I see someone's home being shopped around by someone who wants to make even more money than the interest and fees generate. And they generate a lot of money. Your home. Someone else's home. I've never owned a home before, so while this does not affect me directly, it sure had an impact on others, making them homeless in the process. The practice of selling mortgages as commodities needs to be banned.

The fact is a lot of people on Wall Street use other people's money and other assets to make money for themselves. I'm a fan of capitalism, believe it or not. I'd love to own my own business, but I have problems with the way stocks, bonds and other commodities are sold. No one is in it to lose money, but do you have to make other people suffer so you can make a few extra thousand dollars? When something is bought at a cheap price and then sold at a higher price, aren't you taking advantage of someone with less skill than you? Shame on you! This is the biggest problem with Wall Street: the lack of compassion. The pure greed that drives the markets into a frenzy.

So what to do about it? I think electronic stock trading needs tighter regulation. Things were bad enough in 1929, nowadays the greed is so rampant that investors are taking chances with other people's money just to stay competitive. And it's ALL other people's money. 401k plans, bonds, stock portfolios. It's like a lottery today, and they money isn't going to education! (I'll leave the state of education for another blog!)

As far as the marches go, I support them! I plan to go to an Occupy Raleigh rally on Sunday. If you ask me what I'm protesting I'll say 'The status quo!' Because my particular status quo is pretty bad.

Oh, and don't forget, if you'd really like to invest in America, and get the joy of giving in return, Project Five-Star is still active, even if it has received no donations thus far. You can donate, though by going to the link on the side of this blog, or I promise I won't take your money and run. I promise that the people trained by that project will come out of it well-armed to get the few jobs that are available. I promise I won't ignore the needs of the 99% to satisfy the greed of the 1%.

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Corporate America!

 This is a letter I plan to email to the CEO of every Fortune 1000 company, customized with their name, of course!

Dear CEO,

My name is Michael H. Fox and I am founder of a non-profit organization called Project Five-Star. Project Five-Star ultimately will help house, feed and train up to 1000 homeless men and women in the Raleigh NC area, providing them with the skills they need to find a permanent job in the area. Once they have that job, Project Five-Star will help them find permanent housing that will ensure that they are never homeless again.

But Project Five-Star needs your help. I have attached a book that I wrote, titled ‘Project Five-Star: the Five Points of Hope,’ in which I lay out the plan to build the project gradually, from helping 10 men and women at a time to helping hundreds and beyond.

One of the chapters under funding is called ‘$1000 from 1000 companies.’ This chapter describes how initial funding for the company will be obtained and this is where you come in. All I am asking, just to help this company get off the ground and on decent financial footing itself, is a donation in the name of your company of $1000. In exchange for that donation, the name and/or logo of your company gets prominently displayed on the Project Five-Star web site (which your funding will help to create).  Your company will get a very grateful mention in the Project Five-Star blog ( All this advertising just for providing a very worthy cause with seed money to get it going.

Let’s get the training started right away! Go to to make a credit card donation! You can also encourage your employees to make pledges on the same web site.

Project Five-Star can help thousands get out of the shelters and into careers that will help everyone, including your company. Give to our cause so that someday the people you help can give back to you!

Thank you for your time. If you have any questions, you may send an email to me at, or you may call me and leave a message at (919) 438-1392. I look forward to hearing from you!


Michael H. Fox

Founder, Project Five-Star

Saturday, September 24, 2011

And here's another idea!

Okay, another random thought. Take it, leave it, run with it, just give me credit where credit is due!
I've been reading so much about how doctor's are worried about EMF's and how they potentially could harm the brains of cell phone users. It occurred to me that EMF's surround us at all times. That has been the case since the Earth formed. Maybe that radiation helped us mutate into the beings we are today.

That said, EMF's are essentially energy, and I wonder if there is a way to harness that energy and use it to charge a battery. I'm talking batteries for phones, ipods, and (and this excites me more than anything) electric cars. Imagine going from one end of the country to the next using nothing more than someone's cell phone signal? I mean, in a large city the power of the signals being sent has to be pretty enormous. What's to stop us from using a signal, that won't be used by anyone else and channeling that into energy to charge a battery?

Okay, folks, my imagination had its workout today. Are there any physicists that want to run with idea? Give me a buzz if you do!

That is all!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

You’ve Been Running Through My Mind

There’s an old, bad pickup line which goes something like: “You must be exhausted. You’ve been running through my mind all day.” What follows is an example of what has been running through my mind in say, the last 24 hours. Any wonder I’m exhausted?

Writing projects: I have stories that I like to test by going through the entire story in my mind before committing it to the computer. It helps me to determine if the story has a future or not. Some of those projects that I think about every day include:
    The Timmons Chronicles - Like the story itself, the writing process for this book/TV series has taken many turns. I have written 11 episodes in script form, and after reviewing what I deemed to be good episodes, I have determined that I have revealed too much too fast. The pace is staggering. So I’m in the process of rewriting the series, starting slowly and trying to be like ‘Lost’ in that the most astounding elements of the plot will be revealed slowly, through flashbacks. Status: Rewrite!

    The Adventures of Mistress Chloe - This story has been running through my mind for years, it seems. I’ve only just started to commit it to the computer. It’s about an old soul that goes from body to body, and somehow retains its memories from life to life. I’m into year 4000 now. Amazing  how many lifetimes I can conjure up in such a short time. Status: Ongoing.

    New Rome - This is a book/movie project I’ve also been thinking about this for a long time, but have committed very little to computer. It’s about a Roman officer, the first Renaissance Man, a man of many talents and ambitions, who gets exiled and put on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic, somehow makes it to the New World, and then goes about teaching his new-found Native American friends all about Rome and the evil it will bring when it comes. The project is ambitious because it will span many generations. Mostly it’s on hold because of the research involved, not only of Roman times, but of Native American languages and culture.  Status: On hold for research.

    Working From Homeless - This story actually led to my creating Project Five-Star. Semi-autobiographical, it takes a look at how shelter life can drive a man to attempt suicide. Status: Ongoing.

    The Shy Boy - Also semi-autobiographical, this story is based on events from my youth where three girls teased me to no end by chanting ‘Shy Boy! Shy Boy.’ If it goes as planned, the boy in the movie creates an imaginary friend: Wile. E. Coyote.  I was a big Roadrunner fan at the time. Status: Still in the thinking process.

Programming projects: Some of you may not realize it, but I have some education and skills in programming. I’ve thought about writing iPhone apps, but mostly I think about World of Warcraft Add-ons like this:

    OneofTen: This add-on/external program is a tool to aid multi-boxers in managing their characters. If you don’t know what that means, look at my youtube page. I use someone else’s add-on and external program to help me out there, but they really don’t do what I want them to do. So I’m learning how to program in both Java (Netbeans) and Lua, which is the scripting language used by Warcraft for its add-ons. The idea is to be able to control two or more characters from one screen, and my ultimate fantasy is to be able to do a 10-man raid by myself. It’s a fantasy because I’d need to buy 9 more versions of the game, and pay $15/month for each account in order to make it work, not to mention have either one blazingly fast computer or 3 or more very fast computers networked together. I have two computers, neither of which is fast in the least, and one of those is unavailable at the moment. Yet I will work on this project for my own future benefit and maybe to make some money on someday. Status: Ongoing.

Of course, my ultimate project is Project Five-Star, which I am reminded of every time someone does something stupid in the shelter. In other words, half my day is spent thinking about that. I’ve been thinking in the last day that I want to record the song: ‘The Job’s Not Done’ and try to get some sales generated for it. The words to the song appear at the beginning of my book, and also on my Facebook page. I’m currently trying to enlist a volunteer band which includes a lead singer, bass guitar, keyboard and drummer, because while I may be able to write, I can’t sing or play an instrument in the least. So if you know of any bands out there willing to record for free, I’d be willing to share profits! I’m also going to start putting together some of the video I’ve managed to record at the shelter (Hush, hush!) and record other things that I will post on Project Five-Star’s own you tube page. I’m doing what my limited social skills allow me to do to promote the project. I really need a staff!

And somewhere in my daily process, I find time to apply for jobs. I do not apply for any and every job out there. I apply for jobs where I have the skills, and where I know I’ll be comfortable. That by itself is not an easy process. Which is why I’m concentrating on either Project Five-Star, or selling my own works in order to make money.

I’ve got so much going through my mind that I find it difficult to concentrate on any one project for any length of time. If I had money I’d hire a personal assistant who would cook and clean for me, prod me to stop playing Warcraft or Civilization V and write or program or fund-raise and prod me to exercise (not necessarily in that order). Any volunteers? And can I stay with you? I’d share profits from any sales I made! Really I will!

So now you see what I think about on a daily basis. A lot of people may wonder ‘What do you do all day and why aren’t you working?’ Well, I am working. I’m not getting paid to do it, but I’m still putting in as much time every day doing the things I do as you do in your normal job. Probably more, because my thought process doesn’t end until I fall asleep at night, and even then, it’s a struggle, because my brain won’t let me! I still have things to think about!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Job Creation and Stimulus Money

Normally, I don't get very political on this blog (well, maybe a little ;-)) But after seeing parts of President Obama's suggestions to jump-start (again) the economy, I have to put my two cents in.

I've read article after article wondering where the original stimulus money went to. Billions upon billions of dollars were spent cleaning up the housing mess and getting people back to work. But really, where did the money go?

Did it go into the hands of those affected by the housing bubble? No, it went to banks, who caused the housing bubble to begin with. Did stimulus money go to people looking for jobs? Yes, in a way, but not everyone qualifies for unemployment and even if you do, it does not replace your full income. You're lucky to get half.

Did the money go toward creating jobs? This is a trick question. How exactly does anyone create a job? Well from my point of view, you create a demand for products and services and someone who provides that service hires someone to help the company provide the service.

Unfortunately, that company is out to make a profit, and too much of the stimulus money went to the company and not enough went to actually creating jobs. I've read reports of millions spent to create a hundred jobs. Let's say $100,000 per new job created, or more. Did all the money go to the employee? I doubt it. That's where the problem lies.

And now another stimulus is in the works. Are we going to make the same mistakes as we did before? Or can we try something different? Here's a suggestion: Seed money for those that want to go into business for themselves. I'm not talking about loan guarantees. Loans are hard to get for businesses starting out, you have to pay them back, you have to pay interest and all kinds of other fees that make banks money, and which takes the money out of the hands of the entrepreneur. No, how about just giving that $100,000 you're planning on spending per new job and give it to someone who will turn it into a business that will hire others. That's your job creation program.

Of course, there's this project I have in mind. I did state in the book that I didn't want government money, but if Obama wants to give it away, well who am I to say no?

That's just a suggestion. Ignore me if you must, but don't blame me the next time someone asks 'Where did the money go?'

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New booklet published

Yesterday I finished the book I have been working on regarding Project Five-Star. Today I used to make a book cover for it and get ready to make it available at their site and at If I had an extra $40 to spare, I'd be able to make it available at other resources, but for now this will do.

I also sent emails to The O'Reilly Factor and Piers Morgan Tonight, hoping to get some publicity for it. I haven't heard back yet but I'll post when I do. if I don't hear from them, I'll try other sources.

I don't have the link yet, but I'll post when it's ready. I'm looking forward to promoting this book. It's a cause that's near and dear to me!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Writing for other projects - literally

I know I haven't posted in a while, not on this blog anyway. I've been working on organizing Project Five-Star, and writing down every idea I can for that. That information is posted on a different blog:
I may return to writing about other things as they happen.
One thing that did happen was I had an interview with one company last week, Friday. It's a marketing company, hiring for a variety of positions. They requested that I dress 'Business Professional,'  and I had at the time, no suit, tattered pants and no white, button-down shirt, and no tie. I got 3 coupons from the shelter, however, that allowed me to get a decent pair of pants and a white shirt. I borrowed the tie. Still not quite as well dressed as the other applicants.
The Interview lasted 5 minutes, all they wanted to know was what position I wanted to apply for. All the other interviews seemed to take the same amount of time. I'm unsure what was going on, but I haven't heard from them since then.
The bad part is that my phone is out of time. I got Google Voice, and that number will allow them to leave a message, but nothing so far.
So in the meantime, I'm filing more applications and working on getting Project Five-Star off the ground. if you know any community business leaders who can give me a hand, point them my way!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Project Five-Star

Project Five-Star Overview

Project Five Star is a conceptual process for the elimination of homelessness. At it’s core it will provide safe, secure shelter and high quality food for individual male and female adults who are homeless. It will provide basic education and specialized education so that these homeless people will be able to find jobs upon the completion of the program. It will provide necessary medical, dental and optical services for those that are part of its program. It will provide them for an outlet for their talents and use income from that to help sustain operations.
The buildings needed will consist of: 4 10-story buildings suitable for dormitories. Each building will house 250 men or women. One building, set in the center of the four other buildings, will serve as a medical/dental clinic, a classroom area, and administrative offices.
Each dormitory building will have an exercise area on each floor, as well as a dining hall on each floor. Food for each building will be prepared within that building, cooked to the standard of a five-star restaurant by Five-Star members, served by Three-Star members. The staff for this operation will be trained and supervised by a certified professional, and taken from the those within the program who are willing to abide by the rules of the Five-Star program. The cleaning staff for each building will also be taken from those within the Five-Star and Three-Star program, trained and supervised by a certified professional, also be expected to provide services equal to a five-star hotel and be willing to abide by the rules of the Five-Star program.
Within each building each program member will be assigned his or her individual room. 250 rooms per building, 25 members per floor. One member per room, no exceptions. Each room will have a bed, television set, a bathroom with a shower and other amenities depending on the level of program they volunteer for. The size of the room will likely be small, but with enough room to walk around in.
Each building will have access to wifi, however no pornographic sites will be allowed and internet usage should be monitored by a staff consisting of trained and certified five-star program members.
Absolutely no drugs or alcohol is allowed within any shelter building. All guests will be thoroughly searched and recommend using drug sniffing dogs at the entrance of each building. Members caught with alcohol on their person will be permanently banned from the program. One-Star program guests may come into the shelter under the influence, however they may not enter the three or five-star program while under the influence.
Five-Star Program
There are 3 levels of program members.
One-Star program guest are simply there to have a place to sleep and food to eat. Their rooms have the basics outlined above, and nothing more. One-Star guests may use the medical clinic for basic health maintenance, but may only use the training program if space is available, based on a first-come-first-served waiting list. One-Star members can use the case management services provided within the shelter to find jobs and suitable housing. One-Star members will be assigned rooms on a space-available basis. Once rooms are filled, there will be no more rooms assigned. One-Star members will have to leave in the morning, and  return in the afternoon to see if they will receive a room. They are not guaranteed a room every night.
Three-Star program guests are expected to work, either within the program or at outside jobs. They are expected to save their money and use the resources within the shelter to find alternative housing. They are guaranteed a room and have second choice of training classes. All three-star program members must pass a drug screen and alcohol test before being admitted into the program. Three-Star members have access to a small washer and dryer in their rooms and a drop down ironing board and iron. Three-Star members also have access to a computer within their room.
Five-Star program guests have the highest level of expectation. They are guaranteed a room. They are expected to enter one of the Five-Star training programs, which include cooking, cleaning, and computer certification. Other training programs may become available. They are expected to be at work on time, be prepared to work to the satisfaction of their Five-Star trainer and maintain a professional demeanor. Profanity will not be tolerated from Five-Star members. Five-Star members will have the same amenities as Three-Star, and will be issued a laptop computer for use with their classes. Once the Five-Star training program of choice is completed, the member must use the resources of the shelter to find permanent employment and housing.

Both Five-Star and Three-Star members will be randomly tested for drugs or alcohol in their system. Any presence detected will result in removal from the Three or Five-Star program, but will not prevent them from being accepted as a One-Star member.

Training Programs
Basic training programs will consist of GED training and testing. Arrangements may be made with a local college to provide training to the equivalent of an Associate’s Degree. Five-Star program members will have their education paid for with a combination of Federal and Project funds. No loans should be applied for by these members up to the Associate’s level. Three-Star members will have help filing their Financial Aid packages, but the members should apply for loans and Grants to cover their non-Project related training.

Project training should include the Five-Star Food Preparation/Chef training, the Five-Star Hotel Maintenance training, the Five Star Computer Maintenance/Networking training, a Five Star Landscaping training, Medical/Dental Assistant training, Security training, Administrative training, Multimedia training (including creation of online content, published content, audio and video recording). Chauffer training (with drivers driving members to certain destinations via van.)

While the initial costs of the project can be expected to be high, once the buildings are built and furnished, the month-to-month costs will be covered in the following ways:
Medical costs: The cost of maintaining the medical facilities will be covered by Medicare/Medicaid billing where possible.
Other costs: Those costs not provided by government grants or private donations will be covered by selling various Five-Star Services, including Landscaping, computer repair, set up and troubleshooting, as well as Internet services such as Web Design and maintenance. The possibility exists for establishing a Five-Star restaurant close to the shelter grounds. The recording studio will not only be an outlet for members, but the results of the recording sessions will be made available for purchase online. Other shelter-made products could also be sold online to help defer costs.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Cost of Being Homeless: Part 4 - Solutions?

If, like me, you're tired of the whole homeless rants I've been posting lately, and saying 'Why don't you do something about it rather than sit there complaining?', then I've got the blog for you. What follows are some of the things I've seen that present a solution to the problem, and my own suggestions on how to permanently fix the problem.
Occasionally in the shelter, we get guest speakers. We had such a team come in Wednesday and present themselves as trying to help, especially those with criminal backgrounds who might have a hard time finding a job because of it. They offered help in the form of classes to get you over that hump of having to answer the questions regarding your criminal history.
While the group held no particular help for me, since I don't have a criminal history to speak of, they did offer a certain hope and motivation for others in the shelter. More power to them.
There are other such entities floating around Raleigh. All of them seem to be after a particular niche of homelessness: Either you're doped up or an alcoholic, or just out of prison. There doesn't seem to be an organization aimed at my particular needs. I am what's classified as an 'able bodied male' and I am expected to get out there and find a job doing anything I can. No matter that I am not really able to stand for long periods of time, am not fast enough for fast food preparation, am not really fit enough for physical work. I did try, once, to be an installer for Dish Network. That lasted 3 months. I don't have the physical stamina to do a job that requires physical labor. They don't call me 'big guy' for nothing, though there are far 'bigger guys' in the shelter.
So I need an indoor, office job. I've spent time trying to assess my own skills, and they are substantial. For instance, in addition to my writing skills, I have some web development skills. I know the ins and outs of HTML and Javascript. The problem? I have no real experience. My experience comes from designing my own web sites, and those have all gone by the wayside. I could get certified in all the computer skills I have, but each certification costs money. I don't have any to spare.
Now my situation may be slightly better than the average homeless person, except for that they can do the physical labor while I can't. I do have marketable skills. The problem them becomes where are the jobs in this immediate area? I don't have a car, I need something that is on the bus line and that works while the buses run. I got as far as an interview with Time Warner Cable in the Morrisville center, was going to get a job offer (this was about 2 years ago) and then I was asked how would I get to and from work, and would I work the late shift? That stopped me cold. TTA doesn't run that late to Morrisville and taking a taxi would be prohibitive. So I did not get that job.
Okay then. What is the solution? First, we need to take religion out of the shelters. I'm not anti-religion, but I think spiritual help needs to be separate. Second, we need to get government out of the shelter business, because they are only interested in getting people out of the shelter as soon as possible. So what we need is a non-profit organization, that may get a little help from the government to get started, but would be better off getting a starting donation from someone with more money than they need. Someone who is less interested in profit and more interested in helping people. Let's build a shelter around two things: The health and safety of homeless people, men and women, and the training of those men and women for the jobs that are available now and in the future.
So build a new shelter, with today's technology, using homeless people as the builders, training them as you go forward. The shelter would have solar panels, the latest technology, the fastest internet and wifi, and more importantly, one room for each occupant. It will be a small room, with a small bathroom. Privacy issues solved, more or less. The cooking and cleaning staff will be made up of the homeless people, trained to cook and clean to five star hotel standards. The food will be nutritious and in sufficient quantity and diversity to satisfy every person's taste and medical needs.
There will be a medical facility there, for the health, dental and optical needs of the homeless. There will be a training facility there, to make sure everyone has at least a high school education, and specific job training for the jobs that are available in that area. Have computer jobs in your area? Train and certify for the specific skills that employers want. Have a need for builders? Let's get people trained and certified on the latest technology and equipment so they can move right into those jobs. Need office skills? Let's get people trained on that too!
And now, the most important question of all, who's going to pay for it all? Initially a grant from that wealthy and generous individual would help matters considerably. Let's get some of the local businesses together, since it's their jobs we want to fill. Maybe they can even provide trainers and equipment.
But I'd like this project to be self-funding over time. So let's do this: There are a lot of talented people in shelters. I kid about the singing talents of some of the residents, but some of them have fine voices. Let's add a recording studio to the list of services we offer and let residents record themselves. Then we can sell the results over the internet, on pages designed by the residents too! We can offer our own web design services, our own landscaping services, our own cleaning services, and after wages are paid to the homeless workers who do the job, the rest of the fee goes toward running the shelter.
My my, what a paradise. Who would want to leave? Exactly why most shelters are not comfortable and friendly, because no one would want to leave them. Yet leave they must. Set a timetable for earning money, finding a job outside the shelter and then finding a place to live. That sort of thing exists now.
It's a dream. I hope it's not a pipe dream. If, someday, I get some money together, I'd like to try doing it myself. Use Raleigh as a testing ground. Let's see if this will work. Anyone out there want to try to do something about homeless people rather than complain about it or ignore it? Let's see hands?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Cost of Being Homeless: Part 3 - Health

In the last episode of this blog, I touched on the subject of health issues in homeless shelters. Let's dig a little deeper.
Let's face it, most homeless people aren't in the best of shape upon entering the shelter. Part of losing a home, and living outside for even a day or so at a time can take its toll. So when you combine 300 men in a shelter, some of them are going to be sick. Which means you stand a good chance of catching whatever it is they have. Colds, flu and coughs run rampant through a shelter, especially in winter months.
And what about people with allergies? I'm allergic to a lot of different things, including cigarette smoke and perfumes and colognes. People can't smoke in the shelter, but they come in reeking of cigarette smoke. My own symptoms range from coughing and hacking, to sneezing and migraine headaches. With the smells that permeate a shelter, it's no wonder people try to cover it up with cologne, even though they've been told not to, repeatedly.
Then there's other health issues, like lice, which I touched on briefly earlier. The mattresses in the emergency dorms are sprayed down every morning by the cleaning staff, but that doesn't solve the problem of people coming in with lice. Just sitting next to a man who is scratching is enough to spread it.
Mental health issues run rampant in a shelter. People talk to themselves, people yell out in rage or in sickness. OCD people do OCD things. These are things the normal person might see once in a while, from one or two people they know or meet. It's seen every day in the shelter.
Men fall out of beds. Men have seizures. Men have disabilities, and a few of them get disability payments because of that. Others with a disability wait to get their claim processed. More than a year in some cases. I do not claim problems with mental health. I am not disabled. I have allergies, and I get migraines. Technically, I should be taking medication for High Blood Pressure and Diabetes, but health care, while it is available, is generally hard to come by and expensive.
There are programs that will pay for prescription drugs -once, and a free clinic offers a nurse to come by twice a month. But that's not enough to care for 300+ men. So they go to the Emergency Room, mostly at Wake Med. Wake Med will charge them for the visit, but as my mother used to say, 'You can't get blood from a turnip.' So the bills go unpaid, written off by Wake Med. Guess who pays for that?
Finally, there's the general wear and tear that living in a shelter can do to a man's body and spirit. No one likes to live in the shelter. We'd all like better lives. When we can't get that for one reason or another, despair might start to sink in. I have no data on the suicide rate of homeless people, but it's something that happens.
Just chalk it up to being another cost we who are homeless have to bear.
This is all coming to a head, people. There are a lot of things that GOVERNMENT can and should do to fix this situation. I'll cover that in a later blog.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Cost of Being Homeless: Part 2 - Privacy/Solitude

Most people would lump privacy with solitude, and I guess they share a few things in common. But for me, they are two different things. Solitude is when I need to be alone with my thoughts; privacy is when people feel the need to interject themselves in whatever I'm doing.
That distinction made, being a writer who relies mostly on his imagination, I yearn to be alone with my thoughts at times. The only place to do this in the shelter is in the dorm. And even then, your chances of being interrupted are pretty high. Men come into the dorm talking, mostly to themselves, and have no idea or every idea how loud they are. Not just in talking, but in the others sounds they make. Too many of them will wear flip flops or other shoes/sandals that make a loud noise whenever they step. This is quite distracting to someone who just wants some peace and quiet.
Just last night and into this morning I had a migraine (more on health costs in a later blog), brought on by someone who decided to sing into a voice recorder and then play back his terrible singing over and over again. This was just before dinner, and I ate as quickly as possible and attempted to retreat into the dorm for a little quiet time, because noises in general tend to make the migraine worse.
But getting quiet time is impossible in a dorm setting. Flip Flop, Flip Flop, over and over again. There's one guy that I call the 'Sniffer' because he will sniff in over and over again, 20 times or more, an obnoxious sound that really makes my skin crawl. I've tried to tell him to blow it out rather than sniff it in, but he won't listen to me.
Anyway, trying to get quiet time in a dorm is like expecting spring to come to Alaska in January. Ain't gonna happen.
Privacy is another, similar issue, brought on by the fact that there are 300 men living in this shelter. For instance, I'm sitting at a table in the Dining Hall, typing on my computer or playing a game. I sometimes have a bottle of Mountain Dew beside me. One of two things will happen: Either someone, seeing the Mountain Dew and assuming I have money, asks me for 35 cents or a dollar. Mind you, I've never really met this guy. He's just someone in the shelter.
There is no law, written or unwritten, that says I have to give what little money I have to other residents of the shelter. I always, ALWAYS say no. That does not stop them from asking. Sometimes I think about putting a sign by my computer that just says 'NO!' But that would be 'uncooperative behavior.'
The second thing that happens is they make a comment about my computer. 'You got internet on that?' 'What you doing?' 'What game is that?' 'You writing?' 'Can I charge my phone on your computer?' It's endless.
When I do finally get my Cricket broadband card, I'm going to have to hide the fact that I have internet, or I'll have people wanting to check their email, or surf the web on my dime.
I had one guy just the other day who sat close to me, watching me type. I noticed he was scratching. Soon I was scratching. A shower had to be taken. I took mine, I doubt he took his.
And speaking along that line, when someone sits close to me and I can smell them, it's time for me to move. Thankfully that's not a problem at the library - most of the time. Yet the whole smell issue is something that is really hard for people outside of the shelter to grasp. Think of the scene in 'Trading Places,' where the girlfriend, waiting to bail out Dan Ackroyd's character, sprays a homeless guy with perfume (that's another health issue). Why people would want to smell like that is beyond me, but it is yet another cost of being homeless. Either you smell or the person who sits next to you smells. Are we having fun yet? NO!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Cost of Being Homeless: Part 1 - Free Speech

Over the weekend I had put together a 3 page, single-spaced diatribe on what to expect when becoming homeless in Raleigh. It occurred to me, though, that people don't want to read how bad things are for homeless people. They might want to hear about overcoming homelessness, as this link suggests. Then after further reflection, the costs of being homeless finally came to mind. Not the monetary kind of costs, but other costs. This is the first of a new series of articles, short articles, I promise, that will cover those costs.
Let's start with the most important cost of all. LOSS OF FREE SPEECH.
When you become homeless and complain about it, people get turned off. It happens. 'Get a job' and things like that. I can't complain about how bad things are because people will think of me as a whiny, ungrateful bastard. 'You're getting everything for free and you have the nerve to complain about it?'
The problem with that, is things are so bad that complaints need to be registered and heard. If people tune me out because I complain about the 'free' food and 'free' shelter, then things will never improve. And they need to improve, or things will never get any better. Trust me, they need to get better, or the whole homeless situation will never go away.
And it's not just outside the shelter where free speech is lost. I can't complain to a person who's in a bunk next to me, because he refuses to take a shower and is stinking the entire dorm. He just tells me to 'F*ck off.'
Complaining to staff frequently falls on deaf ears, because they are understaffed and overworked, and since they have heard it all before, they think they can ignore you and get away with it. And they do.
Because no one likes to hear how bad a homeless person has it. Because everything is free.
Anyone else see a problem here? Or am I just talking to myself?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dopey Malopie

All right, first, I want to say that I have no idea where the name for this character I created came from. My imagination must have taken a left turn at Albuquerque or something.
Yes, the name of my main character on my proposed children's book is Malopie, rhymes with Dopey. Malopie Miller. I haven't settled on an age yet, but I think she'll (yes she) be around 7 or 8.
I had planned on calling the book Magic Malopie, but first that would have made it hard to pronounce the name correctly, and well, at first, she is kind of Dopey. So Dopey Malopie gives kids and parents a base for pronouncing the name right, and it's kind of funny.
So what's the premise? Malopie isn't good at anything, except telling people how to pronounce her name. She can't play soccer, she trips over the ball. She can't even jump rope. She can't add without using her fingers and toes and her handwriting is unreadable. She has tried and tried to find something she is good at but can't find it. Then on her birthday she receives a magic kit and finds she can not only do the tricks in the kit, but she can make up her own tricks. Card tricks especially. Near the end she makes herself a wand out of paper mache and a drumstick, and tries to teach others about magic. At the end she is no longer called 'Dopey Malopie', but is now called 'Magic Malopie,' which could lead to a whole series of books like that.
Now, I've never written a children's book. I'm not sure what age group it would appeal to, whether it should be a picture book (though I get a picture in my head of the wand, a barber pole style of color (every color) and a light at the end her father puts on.) or even a pop up book.
So, I need help. If you are an experienced writer of children's books and want to collaborate with me on this, we can make a partnership. Send me an email at 'at', and we'll talk about it.
Beyond that, the lesson learned, and this is something I've believed in my whole life, is that everyone is good at something, you just need to dig deep enough to find out what!

A Good Weekend!

On Saturday morning, I met a friend who had invited me to see a movie with her. 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' It was a most enjoyable afternoon, spent away from the stagnancy that is the shelter. The movie was better than expected as well! I may write about that later.
When I did get back to the shelter, one of the staff told me I had a check waiting for me. I was elated, the NC DOR had come through. I found, though, that the check was not delivered through the normal mail system that the shelter uses. In fact, checks are held in a back office. I was not aware of this and had been checking the mail every day in anticipation. When I did get the check, I found that it had been delivered 5/17 and had been sitting in the back office since then. Why no one bothered to tell me this is anyone's guess.
I could rant about that, but I'll have a chat with the center director at a later time.
Also on Saturday night, I was doing a bit of daydreaming, as is my wont, and my imagination came up with a children's story, or at least the framework for it. I've had a chance to think about it consciously for a day and a half now and I think it could work. But that I will discuss in another blog, because I'll need help on this one.
On Sunday, I cashed my check and bought a new phone. Feels good to be connected again and have a number potential employers can call. I also bought some underwear and socks, something potential employers would appreciate if I get to the interview stage.
I checked into Cricket, but I think I'll wait until I get a few more dollars under my belt before I commit to that.
So overall, I had a very happy weekend and I'm looking forward to the week for a change! I'll post another blog shortly about my book proposal.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

*Sniff* Nobody loves me! *Sniff*

Today I found out the results of the pilot contest. I was not one of the top ten. Believe it or not, I prepared myself for this outcome, though I thought I stood a reasonable chance.
But that is life for a writer. Rejection is part of the game. It will; not stop me from writing, or pursuing my goals, which is to get the pilot on the air! Sometime in the near future I plan to send an email to the people at storyboardtv and rub their noses in it.
On the bright side, I have finished the rough drafts of episodes 1-10, working diligently on number 11. The plot is shifting, things are happening out of order from the book, but it's very similar.
I plan to start working diligently for, getting some money in so I can fulfill my *evil* plan of making more money. What a vicious cycle it is!
Hope your holiday was happy. I'll just carry on *sniff* writing. (j/k)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Plan Forms, Muhahahaha

The title is a bit misleading. My scripts aren't what I'm writing about, but my writing is.
Confused yet? Good.
The point is, I need to find something that will bring in money. I'd like it to be writing. Something that will buy me some time and some cash until I find out how well I did on the contest.
So with that in mind, I intend to use to generate sufficient income to keep my case worker off my back and save some money. is a site where you select the project you want to work on. The project is usually 3-400 words, more than likely ad copy for someone who doesn't want to spend a lot of money hiring a real ad writer. For your 3-400 words, you get (usually) $3-4. Not much, is it. Sometimes you get more, but not very often.
So for me to make this work, and to generate income high enough to at least buy some time, I'm going to have to write (I figure) 2 articles an hour.
Now the beauty of this, is I can write at any time. Except you need internet access to be able to do that, and the shelter has no wifi.
So I intend to get Cricket broadband, and pay $40/month for the basic service. It will be a tax write off, and I'll need it, because this is contract work. I can also write off my computer. The hard part will be driving off the people in the shelter who want to 'borrow' my internet.
NO! I'm practicing saying that even now. I don't mean to be rude, but I'M WORKING HERE!
Or I will be, once I get a little cash together for the modem and the service. I'm really looking forward to it!
That's all for now. I will report on the profitability of this at a later date.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Timmons Chronicles: Episode 8 - Finished! With A Twist!

Episode 8 of 'The Timmons Chronicles' finished this weekend. I included the monumental event, but it was at the end of Act III. I was working so hard to find a way to save the character in danger, and I did. And I did it in a believable way, I think. Of course, the main characters have no idea that particular character has been saved, but the surprise will have to wait. Many more surprises lay in wait for them. Unfortunately another minor character could not be saved.
I'm very happy with my writing of that episode. I took an event that was virtually a given in the first book of my series and I've turned it around. More to come!!!
I so hope this makes it to TV, or at least to video. I'd love to see the scene play out!
Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Timmons Chronicles: Episode 8 - On a different track

I've been enjoying myself the last few days, with writing the last 3 episodes of 'The Timmons Chronicles.' As I have stated before, I'm using a different tact than in the original novel. The results will be more or less the same. I'm giving my lead character more room to try to save the day, as a monumental moment of the series approaches. He has more power, more insight, and best of all, he's figuring out everything on his own, using clues and a bit of logic to see the evil that has befallen them.
In Episode 8, the foreshadowing comes to an end, and the event may or may not take place at the end. I still haven't made up my mind. Our hero will do his level best to prevent it, though, if he only knew what was going to happen. But he can only guess and take precautions.
I'm really looking forward to see how this ends up on the small screen. I hope you are too!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is Writing Real Work?

I've been told by my case manager that I need to find a job. I've been tempted to tell him i have a job: a writer!
I know he'll roll his eyes at me and ask how much it pays.
Most of the people in the shelter who don't have a job just hang around various places, doing nothing. And the person running the shelter says things are going to change.
That got me wondering. Can I truly claim that I'm more productive than those who sit around doing nothing, just because I write blogs, and sit in the cafeteria at night typing away at scripts? Is writing a profession or a hobby? Some might say that depends on whether you get paid or not. I suppose, when you've got no other source of income, that matters.
I am going to try to convince my case manager that what I do, night after night, is better than doing nothing at all, which is what most men in the shelter are doing. And, of course, I am still looking for work during the day, though until I get my ID and a new phone, the number of jobs I apply for will be limited.
So what does the rest of the world think? Does the potential income and definite physical labor of writing beat out sitting around doing nothing? I am worthy to stay in the shelter over the rest of the deadbeats?
You decide!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wonderful Weekend - Sorta

The weather was wet on Saturday, but for the most part I was dry, either in the library or in the shelter. Saturday night was relatively quiet, though much to my surprise, I found them showing the Baseball game on Fox on the community TV. I love baseball and can't get enough of it, but it's sorely lacking in the Raleigh area. there is no baseball team in Raleigh, per se. There's a famous team in Durham,  but really, it's too long a trip and I have no money to spare. There's another minor league team not far, but still far enough to make it impossible for me to watch. I suppose I could watch NC State play baseball. But I'm not that desperate.
But I like to watch on TV, and usually in the shelter, they're showing basketball or racing on Saturday. I can tolerate racing, but I can't stand basketball. So I was thrilled to watch the game Saturday night.
Then I went to bed. Sunday morning, around 3am, I woke to pains in my side. I've already had my appendix out, and this hurt pretty bad. At first I was thinking liver problems. I felt chills and feverish, and then I felt the kind of aches and pains associated with the flu.
Great, thanks guys for giving me the flu.
Later that morning around 5am, I felt the need to throw up. Joy! Except I had an empty stomach, so nothing but dry heaves. Fun!
Strange part was after that I started to feel somewhat better. I got about half an hour's sleep before the lights came on, and the I felt okay enough to eat breakfast. I managed to hold that down, went back to bed.
Later I got up, did laundry, and basically spent the entire afternoon in bed.
By the time dinner rolled around, I felt okay, still an occasional twinge.
So whatever it was, the dry heaves got rid of it, or moved it, or something. I'm feeling okay now.
For my second topic, the shelter strips the wax off the floors and rewaxes them, a time consuming process,  twice a year. Now is the time. They warned us Friday that we'd be forced to leave the center early, 7am instead of 8am. They turned the lights on in the dorm today at 5am, half an hour early, but they served breakfast at the usual time, something that irks me. Why wake me up early but not serve breakfast early? But it's nothing I have control over.
That process will continue through Friday. Yay. I think.
My writing continued, with work on episode 7 of 'The Timmons Chronicles' continuing. For those that have read the book, we're up to the point where a certain chemist bites the big one. Not the first death of the series, mind you, but the first one directly involving the protagonist. And, sadly, not the last.
Writing will continue.
I have, however, to concentrate on finding any kind of job. My case worker made that crystal clear. It's tough to do, however, when you have no phone, except for the one to the shelter. I think I've made the point before but if you're an HR person trying to contact me and you get 'South Wilmington Street Center' when you dial the number I provide, you might think twice about hiring me. Maybe. At any rate, I have to go through the motions at the very least, so today I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon filling out a Walmart application. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Few Random Rants/Raves

Okay, I have a lot going on in my mind and elsewhere now.
First, welcome back Blogger! It was down for a good part of the day.
Second, there's a job magazine that the shelter carries, JobFinder, that I have some serious problems with. A sample of the last issue: 3 or 4 ads for Medical Testing. One ad for donating plasma. Several ads for educational opportunities. Where were the job listings? Oh yeah, there were none. Guess they should change the name to 'Find a Job? Ha! No! Wanna Donate Plasma?'
Third, I went to DMV yesterday and got my ID replaced. Next, once I get the ID, is to get the Social Security card replaced.
Fourth, the North Carolina Employment and Exchange Commission decided to deny my unemployment claim. Not entirely unexpected, but given the questions they asked when they called me, I rather hoped they'd see things my way. An appeal is forthcoming.
Hopefully I will get my debit card replaced in the next couple of days. Not much left in the account, but it will get me a 5-day bus pass and a soda. MMMMM Soda.
Still waiting for the tax refund. it may be the longest two weeks of my life!
That is all. Go on about your normal lives.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Change to the Plot!

I worked more on the scripts for my proposed television series, The Timmons Chronicles. The series is based on my novels, 'Theater Boy,' and 'The Timmons Incident.'
The first episode was not something that was included in the book, though parts of it were hinted at. The second through 5th episodes went pretty much the way the book did.
However, for the sixth episode, I went off on a tangent, even the main character hinted that he may become unpredictable. That will last for an episode or two, then one of the defining moments of the series will happen, and the plot will return to what happens in the book, more or less.
I did this because I wanted to give my main character more power and be less dependent on his 'family.'
I'm not sure where I'm going to take it yet. I've reached the end of what I had written out last year, and it's all new. it ought to be fun, though.
I found a penny in the shelter Sunday, and decided my luck needed to change, so I picked it up. My luck was fine for all of Sunday. A friend paid me back $2 he had borrowed. We'll see if it holds up
I am STILL waiting for my state tax refund, North Carolina!!!!! I can't express how much I need this money!
That is all!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

End of a Bad Week

Well, the whole week wasn't bad, but the last 2 days of it were devastating.
First, Thursday I had put my phone on a table just inside the shelter, while I got the usual search. I apparently forgot to pick it up, and when  remembered about 1 minute later it was gone. Nobody saw anything, which really is a shame.
Anyway, no phone and no cash at the moment tog et a new one. Still waiting on the state tax refund (45 days my ass.)
The second event, much more devastating than the first was the loss of my wallet. I had taken my bus pass out to board the bus, and thought I had put the wallet back in my pocket. When I got off one bus to get on another, I found my wallet gone, about 30 seconds had passed. I went right back to the bus I had just got off of and sure enough, the wallet was gone. the bus driver said someone else had claimed it.
Now, I realize that both these incidents were entirely my fault, but the fact that no one in charge even offered to help me get back my belongings really ticks me off. the thief in the shelter was still in the shelter and the security guard (Wake County Sheriff) did not even bother to help me look. The bus driver only said it was an older guy and did nothing else.
I sometimes wonder if anyone really cares anymore. Let's all go to hell in a hand basket. And you bet this will go into my script! The whole point of the script and through out the script it will be reiterated is: There has to be a better way. We need to care as a society about our homeless, about our jobless, and about each other period.
I can only hope the state tax refund comes soon, and even then I'm going to have to replace my ID before I can cash it. My frustration is building.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Suggestions for Jobs

Since posting my resume, I've received several suggestions on what kind of job I should apply for.
I know what my background suggests. I know that I do not have any legitimate writing experience save my books, my blogs and my screenplays.
I know that my background suggests I stay in tech support. I'm sick to death of phone work. I may be willing to take tech support work if I can work using strictly email or even IM. Sadly, those jobs are few and far between, and are usually outsourced because you can't hear an accent over email or over IM!
So I'm back to what I want to do, which is write. I could take those kinds of jobs I hate, but I'm not that desperate yet. Those kinds of jobs will be around when I am desperate, because they have a high turnover rate, which might lead one to think they aren't the best jobs in the world.
Yet, they are jobs, and if it comes down to it, I'll take one, but I need a break.
So I continue my writing binge. I'm working on scripts, novels, and yes, resumes! I'm working on applying for jobs. I'm working on surviving in a homeless shelter where respect and privacy simply don't exist. I'm not going to complain about it, anymore.  People seem to think I'm ungrateful. So you will hear no more about how bad it is, except to compare it to life in the streets, which is infinitely worse.
So the saga continues, and until something positive happens, you probably won't hear from me!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My 'New' Resume

I've decided to post my new resume on this blog, open to your critiques or even job offers!

Michael Harrison Fox
1420 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27603
    Writing skills:  Proofreading, editing, technical writing, creative writing, novel writing, screenplays, ghost writing.
    Computer skills: Troubleshooting, OS Installation, Hardware installation.
PC’s: Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, XP, Microsoft Office 2003-2011, Microsoft Works, Open Office, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Blogging, Video Producing and Editing.
Apple: OS X 10.4 to 10.6, iMacs, Macbook Pros Safari, iWork, iLife, Final Cut.
Programming Languages: COBOL, Java, JavaScript, HTML, CSS Level 3.
    General Skills: Administrative, Call Center, Management, Technical Support.

Current Experience:

1996-Present     Freelance Writer
                           Job Description: Write, proofread and edit for a variety of clients, including, personal blogs, novels and screenplays.

2010 -2011     Affiliated Computer Services
                       Apple Advisor
                       Answer tech support calls for Apple CPU customers.

2009-2010        Alpine Access
                         Answer tech support calls for Sprint Smartphones.

2005-2010        Sento/Total Outsources Systems
                        Answer customer service calls for a variety of clients; act as mentor for Rite Aid rebate program.


University of Nebraska at Omaha
Associate’s Degree - Broadcast Journalism

Florida State University
Associate’s Degree - Computer Science, French

Publishing Credits:

Personal Blog: credits:


Theater Boy - available via Kindle
The Timmons Incident - Available via Kindle


The Timmons Chronicles - A proposed television series