Tuesday, October 30, 2012

...The Worst They Can Do Is Say No.

My work experience the last 12 years has leaned toward customer service and technical support. So my job search had been centered around those skills. The problem with that is the companies that hire for this skill are ones that I've already applied to or have worked for and won't get hired back to.

I have other skills, of course. Writing comes to mind. So I've expanded my job search to include writing, proofreading, editing and the like. I've even reached into Technical Writing, even though I haven't done that - much. I did a little bit of documenting while working for US West, but since they don't exist any more (eaten by Qwest, and God knows who else), I don't have any real references for it. I'm tempted to take a manual I find online, poorly written, and make into a fine example of Technical Writing, just so I can prove I have the skills. Maybe I'll even post it on this blog. Rants and Ravings of a Technical Writer. :-)

But I'd be worried about copyright infringement, not that I'm worried about getting sued. I'm so far in debt just for medical expenses that one more lawsuit won't hurt my credit. But from the perspective of a writer, it would bother me. Would I want someone else taking my work and correcting errors in it? No, I would not. Because everything I've ever written since time began is perfect. ;-)

Today I applied for a Technical Writer job at Red Hat. It was the only position in the Raleigh area I was even remotely qualified for. And, as the title goes, the worst they can do is say no. Many companies have said no so far.

Still, I'm offering my services on a web site called fiverr.com, where anyone can offer a service as long as the price is $5. Anything to make a buck at this point.

Last year, I tried to work with a company called Odesk, which is a third party site that brings together people looking for work and people looking for work to be done. The problem with that site is you have to bid for the services. It's an international company, so you have people from all over the world bidding on the same projects you do. Things like customer service, technical support, etc. The problem comes when you try to bid a livable wage. You get undercut by someone who is offering to do the job for half or even less than half of what you might consider a livable wage.

Say you wanted a customer service position, working from home, and you were willing to work 40 hours for $7/hour. Here, that's below minimum wage, but in places like India, that's top notch pay. And that's the competition I'm facing there. I saw bids as low as a dollar an hour. And I'm tempted to try that, just to get a reputation, but somehow I don't think I'd get very far in the long run if I had to keep that up.

So life goes on.

Sandy is still in my area, sort of. We're getting wind and rain, but nothing like they are further north. By tomorrow it will have moved north of where I am and we'll have blue skies again. I hope everyone in the affected area stays safe.

That is all!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Generating Income

As an addendum to my last post I commented that my AdSense account had generated a few dollars from the last report. I'm pleased to report that has increased again in the last few days, and October has proved to be the most profitable month so far, generating more than $5 in income, raising my total to above $44.

The big generators so far have been my video on how to set up KeyClone, which was done several years ago, and by the way is still valid, my videos dealing with my Panda washer, and my videos on how to work Sudoku.

I fully expect those videos to continue driving income, hopefully more, but I'd be satisfied with the current level, if I could only generate other videos to drive even more income.

Well, short of a benefactor to help me get started, the only way for me to get things going is by my own hard work. I've been taking a course on how to find work online, work at home type things. Now my current situation makes phone work unappealing (Who wants to hear the sounds of a shelter in the background of a phone call?) so I'm working on finding work that does not require phones, such as proofreading, online chats/emails for tech support or customer support and the like. This line of work has real potential for someone working at a shelter, and I'm hopeful that something will be forthcoming soon. I can also take this type of job on the road as long as I have access to the internet.

So that is the plan for the next 2 weeks, find what I can and then work it as often as I can.

Healthwise, my shoulder gets beat on 2 times a week, by a very competent therapist. We're making progress, as he stretches my shoulder and arm where they haven't been since the accident. It is a painful process, though. One particular tendon isn't cooperating and just hurts like hell when it is manipulated. Still, I'll survive.

That is all!

Saturday, October 20, 2012


A sampling from the events and thoughts from the last week:

1. I have a code in my node. My cough, which had been improving, has worsened again. The problem is phlegm, coming out of my over-productive sinuses and dripping into my throat. The phlegm then hardens and sticks into my throat, causing me to not be able to breath very well until I cough and dislodge the phlegm. I've had this problem for years, and I'm sure the problem cost me more than one job. In its worst case, I was driving home from work (back when I had a car) and suddenly found myself unable to draw a breath, let alone cough it out. Luckily I was almost home (literally in the parking lot) and was able to pull over. I had planned to run into my apartment and call 911, but before that happened, the phlegm loosened and I could breathe. I could not breathe for about a minute. Not a pleasant situation. I live with it, though others think I'm spreading the plague. F*ck them. I have yet to find a medication that will help this condition.

2. Earlier today I watched the Big Bang Theory while streaming online. I had tried that last night, but the wifi here was so congested that it would have taken all night to watch it. It was still start and stop, but since the people who usually take up bandwidth by downloading torrents are still asleep, it was easier. I bring up torrents because the man sitting next to me at the moment was downloading the program that allows such torrents to run. I have never been tempted to do such an illegal thing. In fact, I get people all the time who ask me if I have any movies or songs they can download to their ipods and computers. I politely tell them no, and they look at me like something's wrong with me. Forgive me if I choose to stay on the right side of the law. I suppose there's a reason why some of these people have spent time in prison, while the worst I've done is a night in jail over a disputed check.

3. I started a class this week that teaches me how to find work online where I will actually work online from anywhere that has an Internet connection. The point of the course, however, is lost because there are 6 other men from the shelter taking that course, and none of them is computer literate. So the instructor is being forced to help them along more than she normally would. I'm helping where I can, but I'm only going to go so far without being paid. I have, however, learned of several useful web sites, like prezi.com, a presentation-building web site. The instructor suggested I try to find work as a 'Virtual Assistant' which can mean a lot of things, but in my case a proofreader position would be nice. I was trying to look for web sites offering such positions and when I found one that doesn't require a subscription fee, they wanted their proofreaders to have at least a Master's Degree. I'll have to do more research.

4. The last blog, where I asked for applications for an assistant for Mike's News Hangout has drawn exactly 0 applicants. I suppose I'll have to have the money in hand to get any interest. My daughter did offer, but bless her heart, she's even more introverted than I am, and I really could use an extrovert. I really enjoyed traveling with her in the Spring, and I won't rule out traveling with her again, but she has a job right now, even if it is part time, and I won't take money out of her hands. If you're interested, though, the position is still open, and my desire to make Mike's News Hangout work has not diminished!

That's all the randomness I can muster for today.

Oh, one more note: As of today, my AdSense account has accumulated $42.30, an increase of roughly $3 from the last time I reported such totals. May not seem like much, but that comes from mostly 2-3 videos on my youtube account. Imagine if I had a hundred videos making $5/month. This is the basis for making Mike's News Hangout, and why I need to hire an assistant. Making a profit is possible!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Help Wanted: Mike's News Hangout - Assistant

It's time to pull all the stops out and get this company off to a roaring restart. I plan to finish putting together a business plan that will highlight what I've done so far, what little money I've made from it, and what money could be made if I can get the funding for one year of operations.

The key is for me to hire someone who is energetic, young, appealing, an extrovert and is capable of helping me shoot, edit and post videos, as well as sharing the driving.

No, I don't have the money right now. So if you want the job you might have to help me raise some money.

So here are the qualifications I'm looking for:

18+ (I'd consider 17 if you've graduated from High School.)
Visually appealing (as in when people see you on video, they like you.)
The ability to shoot, edit and post video. Experience with youtube is a definite plus!
Computer and Internet literate - Windows (or you can bring your own Macbook.)
A valid driver's licence with no recent marks against it. No DWI at all!
Non-Smoker (I'm allergic to cigarette smoke, not good to piss off the boss.)
No drugs (especially if you drive.)
Willing to spend some nights in a motel (separate beds) and some nights sleeping in the van to save money.
Willing to interview people (personable, friendly.)
I'm willing to accept applications from male or female, but if you're male, you'd better knock my socks off. I need someone to counter my deficiencies.
Willing to commit to the road for one year. I'll make it worth your while, I hope.
I'd be happier if you were a geek and can speak 1337-speak along with me. If you're a gamer, even better. Not necessary to like World of Warcraft, but it will help, since at least some of our videos may center around that.

What I need from you:
An email to me at mike.fox.wow at gmail.com that gives me your name, and a little about yourself and why you want the job. Attach or link a video that gives me the basics of your personality. It can be made for me, like an interview (use your imagination, a good thing to have), or something you recorded before. Why do I need this? Several reasons. First, I need to see how you look and act on video. Second, if you get the job, I want something I can present to a potential lender to show them that I want to hire someone to help me make money from this.

One more thing I'll need if you get the job is help raising money. Being the introverted person I am, I'm not outgoing enough to be the spokesperson. I need an extroverted person who knows a lot of people who can donate small sums and help us get off the ground.

My Donation Page

What I'm willing to give in return:

Assuming we make the goal for donations and/or loans, I am willing to pay a salary of $20,000 for the first year, plus room and board (yes some nights spent in the van) for the entire year. If things go well, I'll pay a bonus based on the profits (after loans paid) of the advertising we get.

What you get:

A chance to see the country.
To see your smiling face on youtube.
A chance for others to see your smiling face on youtube.
Oh yeah, a place to stay and food to eat and $20,000 at least.

My Youtube Site

Here you can see some of the video I've already show and get a feel for what I want to do. (And why I need help!)

Okay, that's it! I may (with permission) post some of the videos on my youtube site. Good luck to all of us!

Mike Fox
Mike's News Hangout

Friday, October 12, 2012

If you have to advertise it...

There's a young woman who occasionally rides the same bus as I do (for all I know she rides the same bus all the time). She's young, and cute, but to my eyes painfully thin, and gaunt, and resembles some of the pictures I've seen of heroin addicts.

She has tattoos on each of her fingers, a single letter each, that I spent some time deciphering today. On one fist was 'ABLE', which I took to mean she was 'able' despite her youth. But I couldn't quite work out the other fist. Then I realized it read "ADOR,' as in 'Adorable.'

I wasn't quite sure if I thought that tattooing that on her knuckles was really a good idea, but I suppose it's a conversation starter. I'm not a big fan of tattoos, but if you feel the need to broadcast that you're adorable, you probably aren't as adorable as you'd like.

Just my two cents.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

CompUSA Bad, HP Great!

I didn't have a particularly good weekend. It rained, it was cold, my knee was killing me, and the power adapter for my computer suddenly decided to stop working.

At first I thought I'd hop over to CompUSA, where I bought the computer back in April, and see if they could provide a replacement adapter on the spot. I waited outside CompUSA for 40 minutes for them to open, went in, explained my issue, and was told in no uncertain terms that the power adapter was not covered by warranty. I left the store less than 2 minutes after I went in, angry and frustrated.

I borrowed a friend's adapter to put a charge on my computer and then fired off an email to HP customer service, explaining my problem and frustration. I heard back a day later saying they would be happy to replace it and it was still in warranty.

I am so angry with CompUSA at the moment. Maybe I should have asked for a manager when I went in, but I was not in the mood to be polite about it. But I know that I'll never go there again.

I want to give kudos to HP for their friendly, effective customer service. They are replacing the adapter at no charge and sending it via Fed Ex. I can't ask for more than that.

As for CompUSA, there was a reason the store went out of business the first time. It looks like history is repeating itself. I won't miss them this time.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Xerox - Weeding out the bad by abusing their employees

The views expressed in this article are mine and mine alone.

I've been taking an 'HRD' class the last 3 weeks, where I learn how to find a job and interview skills. A couple of the guys in the class have stated that they'll be starting jobs at Xerox (formerly ACS) in the coming weeks, and I decided to share my experience with them.

I didn't want to scare them, I just wanted them to be prepared, because while I had enough experience in customer service to know what to expect from the customers, I had no experience with ACS/Xerox, and if I had known what I know now, I may have been better prepared to handle the stress.

Because Xerox call centers apply the 'ultimate stress test' to their employees.

I say this out of experience and as a warning. Xerox/ACS has advertisements all over the Triangle area, in fact all over the world. They seem like they're hiring like crazy. What's really happening is they're turning over like crazy.

I discussed this with the man teaching the class, and he told me it's a management style. Something like 'turnover management.' He compared it to UPS which apparently pushes new employees to their limits in hopes of getting the 'bad' employees to quit.

I call bullshit on both of them. What they are doing is nothing short of abusing their employees until they quit due to stress. It means they have to give less raises, less benefits and they pay no attention whatsoever to the needs of their employees.

In the case of Xerox, it goes like this: You see hundreds of ads for customer service positions, and they interview dozens of people every day. Some of these positions are labeled as 'contract' which means they'll cherry-pick the best people when it's over to continue. Sometimes, as in my case, it's permanent.

I worked as an Apple Adviser for 6 months back when ACS was just bought out by Xerox. I went through 3 weeks of training on Apple computers. I was thrown on the floor with little other preparation.

The job itself is stressful. Customer service is one of the most stressful occupations you can have. I expected that up front. Apple customers are particularly picky.

The process of judging how well the agent is doing happens on several battlegrounds. Each manager has to listen in on so many calls and rate the call. There is a QA agent who also rates calls. Apple management also listens in on calls.

If that were the end of it, I would have had no problem with them. But there is one more source of how we were rated: The customers. Randomly, a customer is sent an email asking them to rate the agent they talked to. Here is where the problem gets complicated.

Apple insists that there be no more than 1.5 bad customer reviews per 10 calls. Anything less and you get put on probation and you lose whatever bonus you might have made.

The problem is, when the customer gets the email, s/he might have talked to several different agents, and all it takes is one bad experience with one agent to make all of the experiences bad. I had a number of negative feedback from customers who weren't complaining about me, but were complaining about someone else, or some policy of which I had no control over. My manager felt for me, but couldn't remove the negative feedback.

It's a flawed system because Apple and ACS/Xerox only look at the numbers, not the real reason.

In my case the stress was exasperated when ACS decided they were paying us too much, and the $9/hr minimum we were guaranteed, became $8.50.

In the end, it became increasingly clear to me that Xerox did not care about its employees. I'm still in touch with a number of them, and I know of only two of my original classmates that are still with ACS.

Is this the way we want an employer to treat its employees? I know it's a business and there are a number of demands being asked of them, but I've worked at a number of call centers and the stress was never as high as it was with ACS.

So if you see an ad in the paper for Xerox and think, 'Hey, that sounds like fun!' You've been warned. Brace yourself for the stress test that would make an astronaut go nuts.

As always, thank for reading.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Taking a Beating - er, Physical Therapy

I had my first encounter yesterday with Physical Therapy.

The first thing the therapist says is that there's nothing more he can do with the knee without surgery. I'm tempted to take that to Social Security to see if I can get a disability claim for it.

The next thing he does is examines the shoulder. It appears the shoulder is 'frozen' or locked into place. He made some measurements of how far he can move the arm, and then began probing around the arm and shoulder. He found a spot behind the shoulder that is extremely sore and he worked that hard.

He tells me that the 'capsule' of the shoulder might be torn or damaged and that might affect the mobility of the shoulder. The only way to tell is with an MRI, or surgery, neither of which I can afford - still no insurance. But he says he can work around that so that in the next 4 weeks I should get some mobility back, especially when reaching behind. He did mention that my deltoid muscle might be partially torn, and that might also affect movement.

He gave me several exercises to try, and a day after taking my first beating, I thought maybe there was some increased mobility, but it quickly froze again.

So the bottom line is that I have to see this guy twice a week for the next 4 weeks and we'll see where it goes from there.

On the good news side, I have started putting more effort into my 'Shy Boy' story, and have posted the first part of the story on my hub pages account.

I still have not heard from Vocational Rehab, and I'm still hopeful that I will. They have 60 days to respond.

I have been posting for jobs, and still have not received a call back on any of them. Not sure what's going on. But I am trying.

All in all, not a bad week so far, and I will continue to work on my writing during my spare time. Let's face it, I have more spare time than I want. But sometimes the muse doesn't visit me and my mind draws a blank. *it happens!

As always, thanks for reading!