The Hungry Writer

An unemployed writer keeping sane during The Depression II.

Posted by The eDater on March 30, 2009

So much to be sorry about.

So much to be sorry about.

Well, to both of my readers, apologies. I’ve gotten busy with actual paying work – freelance one and all – and this blog has suffered the consequences.

Over the next few days or weeks, I’m going to reassess what, if anything, to do with the blog. Will it continue? Will it shift focus? Stay tuned – sometime, the answer will come.

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Keeping ’em at bay

Posted by The eDater on February 20, 2009

Want a, hehe, job?

Want a, hehe, job?

Well, they’re coming out in full force now. I just got a “job offer” to work as a “legal representative” performing the duties of accounts receivable, or something like that. All I need’s a bank account and a desire to succeed!

I do wonder how many people fall for these scams. I mean, these are now becoming fairly highly targeted, so the success rate has to be pretty high for it to be worth the scammers’ time. I once heard that regular scam emails only need to hook about 2 people out of every million to be profitable – but this particular one is just going out through Careerbuilder. How many active unemployed can there be on Careerbuilder, anyway?

Ok, don’t answer that. Too depressing.

Then there’s another one I’m getting over and over – offering me freelance writing gigs. All I need do is buy their list of gigs! Then I’ll be paid $450 for every story I come up with!

Now, maybe they’re sending this out to everyone… but I suspect they’ve already got a good idea I’m a writer, and they’re targeting me. Again, how many of us out-of-work writers can there be, to make this profitable for the scammers?

All part of the mounting evidence in the case that needs none – this is a serious depression.

Speaking of serious, I’m seriously considering a slide down the Degree of Desperation ladder. I’ve been headhunted – because I can speak some Japanese. The job – phone tech support, in northern Baltimore, for Japanese folk (and during Japan’s business hours – otherwise known as the graveyard shift). The headhunter even repeatedly stressed – this could be something you can do just until you find something else. He was almost apologetic about presenting this suck-ass position. But there ain’t many Japanese speakers in the greater Baltimore metro area.

And I just might do it. It’d screw with everything else, but it would be, well, something. Tho the jury’s still out – the freelancing is actually coming along pretty well, and I wouldn’t want to mess with that… I’ll keep you posted.

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Potpourri

Posted by The eDater on February 12, 2009

Power off.

Power off.

Well, during the Movement Hiatus, plenty of fun unemployment stats.

AT&T will soon face strikes from up to 20,000 workers. Jobless claims dip ever-so-slightly, while those living on bennies (like me) are at a record high. Work-at-home scams are hitting their boom days (and admit it, my fellow Jobless Naughts – late in the latest of evenings, alone with your pitiable pile of possible jobs, knowing full well these are scams – you still secretly want to try them out, just in case. I know you have. I’ve even considered “researching” some of these things, figuring I could write an article about the scams. But secretly, you hope to strike that gold.

(Resist! Take it from a former-and-still-sometime copywriter – these guys aren’t even very good at the junk they put out – but when folks’re scared enough, they’re easily persuadable. Just breath deep, friends. Much better. Digression paused.)

The always-popular human interest look at the Depression is up and running. And I’m seeing all sorts of useful anecdotal evidence, of which more later.

But to me, one of the biggest pieces of news this week came from Pioneer. Not only are they laying off 10,000 – they’re halting production of their flat-screen HDTVs. Why does that one really strike me? Well, not only did Pioneer make one of the better HDTVs, but they were pretty popular. Like, the leading seller not that long ago. Recently, not as high as Sony or Panasonic – but still one of the first five firms you’d think of for HDTVs.

And Panasonic’s high-end model, the Kuro, was generally regarded as the best mass-produced HDTV. A true cut above. It was the one I’d targeted for the day after it rains gold. In most business climates, The Best Product will always have a small but significant niche. Not today. No one’s willing to pay the premium anymore, not even the wealthy or the technophiles. Bad times. (Tho for the record, if you have the means – get a Kuro during the blowout sales. They’re amazing TVs, won’t give you trouble, and should go for a song now. I wish I wish I could do this.)

Additionally, Pioneer doesn’t have too many other high-volume consumer electronics that it excels in. Name one. Sure, it makes CD players, a few things for home theaters and car audio… but this felt an awful lot like the beginning of the end for them. Of course, another business facing extinction doesn’t make many ripples these days… but as we move further back up the supply chain, this Depression just proves itself more than a minor correction.

Observed signs: on the way to LA, there were no lines at the security gates. Most people brought food with. No middle seats sat in for most of the two-part flight. My friend stars in a show on an HBO project – well, it was an HBO project. They just sold off the whole section, firing almost everyone in the process. The office – shared with Yahoo! – was, predictably, huge and empty. Literally, hundreds of empty chairs lining bare cubicles, or filling empty offices. The few who remained all had that pained look of the recently-jilted, jittery laughs and gallows humor mixed with a strained stressed look.

Except for the actors, of course. They’re used to this kind of thing. And their show had made the cut, along with one other. At least, until the buyer goes under themselves.

Degrees of Desperation watch: I just came quite close to accepting a job writing 5-10 hours a week, for about $50 a month. A joke, right? But hey, it’d be writing at least, with a remote chance of getting a buncha page views and maybe almost earning a fifth of a real salary if everything broke right and I far exceeded my hours requirements.

To be clear, I’m not taking it. But I did seriously consider it. Might as well get paid a little something, right? Yaha.

Although, the freelance projects are starting to come along, and pay nearly half a salary given a smooth process (bumpy process would take around 3-5 times as long, really cutting into the money-per-hour).

Righto, more about LA shall follow – I think the constant blue sky would get to me for a full year, but for two weeks in a grey winter, wow – but for the moment, let’s freelance.

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Al…most… Back…

Posted by The eDater on February 9, 2009

Mysteriously, Ryan's hair grew long and streaked during his late-night cram sessions.

Mysteriously, Ryan's hair grew long and streaked during his late-night cram sessions.

It’s been quiet on the blog recently, due to an intense couple days prepping for the FSO exam (yes, there’s a slim chance I’ll end up a diplomat as an indirect result of the economic crisis). So, I know you’ve missed my witty postings as the latest crummy financial press gets put out there, but fear not – the test comes today, and after that I’ll be all yours.

Well, I am travelling to LA as well… and playing nurse to an injured friend… but other than all that, I’m all yours. Really.

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News From the line.

Posted by The eDater on February 4, 2009

I'll take my computer, thank you very much.

I'll take my computer, thank you very much.

The line is growing – an estimated 522,000 last January, according to ADP. And that number, of course, won’t have any of February cuts – like the 15,000 Panasonic just announced (half in Japan). Thank goodness we don’t have to stand in the cold, but can apply and submit our unemployment from the comfort of a good coffeeshop, for instance – or lying in bed. Yeah internet!

In other news, Obama has proposed limiting executive pay to $500,000 for any company that accepts TARP help. I think this is a great move – if only because the bonuses that have still been handed out are one of the biggest PR disasters of this whole mess. I see folks get apopleptic over that.

Of course, poor Obama has been under attack from every angle already, and this is no different. Forbes fears the compensation cap will cause some banks to forego TARP payouts. You know what? This is ridiculous on the face of it. Drive away talent? Where to? It seems like rags such as Forbes still don’t get it – THERE ARE NO JOBS. Anyone who has a job is counting their lucky stars, and waiting for the axe. Anyone think they’re such a whiz kid they’ll get snatched up by another company in the especially-beat financial industry? Kudos, kid, good luck. You’ll need it.

And any bank or financial firm with an executive team so greedy they can’t curtail their pay for a year or two – I don’t want ’em. Let it fail. Let it die. They’ll get exactly what they deserve, if they just can’t bear to earn a mere $500,000 in ’09. Are these ‘responsible’ journals just trying to argue for argument’s sake, or do they actually believe this horseshit they’re trying to foist on the public?

Oh, and an aside about poor Obama, because it looks to me like he’s gonna take it on the chin for the next four years, as this crisis isn’t causing generous moods. The appointees, with their owed taxes – yes, that’s ugly. Bad fortune that that happened, and quite possibly bad screening. Not good at all.

But most people I hear are talking about some sort of double-standard – that if Bush had appointees with similar problems, he’d be hammered up and down the court.

Two problems I have with that. One, people are thinking of Bush at the end of eight years, compared with about 2 weeks of Obama. Of course there’d be less patience with an old prez than a new one – Bush’s patience would have been used up years ago.

But the bigger problem is, Bush had appointees with much worse sins – and he got, if anything, less flak than Obama. I’m thinking most explicitly about former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who – at the time of his appointment – had already penned a legal defense of torture, and had acted as Bush’s personal attorney and White House counsel (setting up the conflict-of-interest problems that predictably surfaced later).

Those things, to me, are a whole lot more worrying than some back taxes owed. And there were some folks that gave voice to their displeasure – but the outcry wasn’t so great that Gonzales withdrew his name, as Daschle has.

This whole “liberal media bias” is the greatest hoax the GOP has ever commited – gotta respect it, but I wish folks were aware of the amount of manipulation that goes into it. I’m not saying the media is GOP-biased either – just that it’s easily batted around, and the GOP is better at it.

That might change with Obama as well – but for now, there’ll be plenty of other meaningless lumps that’ll get in the way of real policy reforms. And that, friends, is the sign of a system so broken, it must soon die.

Let’s hope we’re not there quite yet.

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Gettin’ Creative

Posted by The eDater on February 3, 2009

Yours, for $101 and some sweat.

Yours, for $101 and some sweat.

Can’t sell your Hawaiian house? No problem! Why not host a writing contest, with the winner getting the cottage! At $101 – and with a stated aim of $6,000 entries – you could move that 3 bed/2 bath house for over $600,000! There’re a couple other prizes, and some of the money is being donated to area schools… call it $550,000.

I love this idea. Always fun to see folks thinking outside the box – and it’s attractive enough that I’m even considering spending $101 I don’t have to entre. The biggest stumbling block for me – the topic. One of those “What’s aloha mean to you?” type thangs. By the time I finished 3rd grade those types of forced topics started churning my stomach.

But, it’s a house! I can always buy some alka-seltzer.

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Anecdotes of the abyss.

Posted by The eDater on February 3, 2009

Did you hear about...?

Did you hear about...?

So my sister goes to her book club, and during the discussion, they make a startling discovery: Every single one of them has a brother who was just laid off.

My Dad, meanwhile, is enjoying the reports of a co-worker’s son. This guy was a high-powered hedge fund type, making 500K a year, something like that. Of course, he’s been let go. And since his layoff, he’s encountered the same broken record I have: Sorry, we’re not hiring. It’s hardly worth trying for the next few months.

Or, as Planet Money reported in their anecdotes of the crisis, some folks aren’t flushing like they used to. One family used to lay two scoops of sawdust in their compost toilet to “flush”: now, they’re rationing down to one. The reason? All the carpenters who used to happily provide the scrap wood, they’re not working. There’s no furniture being made – so no sawdust as a byproduct – so, better get used to that smell.

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Brave New World.

Posted by The eDater on February 2, 2009

From the San Fran Sentinel

From the San Fran Sentinel

So, the numbers summed for the month of January: 162,962 layoffs. And of course, that’s the conservative number – we know, for instance, IBM has a lot more layoffs in store than they’ve got listed so far.

Meanwhile, gotta love that the Super Bowl had ads from both Monster and Careerbuilder. I’m tellin’ ya – this is about the hippest time to be unemployed yet. We are so in.

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Don’t you dare cough near me.

Posted by The eDater on January 30, 2009

Just, Step, Back.

Just, Step, Back.

It’s been a morning of paperwork for you favorite unemployed author. Two days ago was the Blizzard Drive, yesterday the Great Unpacking, so today only made sense as a time to Tackle the Mail.

The good news – soon, I’ll receive my severance, various new checks will be deposited and accessible, and my tight living quarters will breath just a little more freely.

The bad news – it’s unreal what they want for COBRA! I mean, when I was living abroad, and I got this crazy expensive insurance that covers you in every part of the world for every possible situation or malady – that was just over half what COBRA was asking.

Needless to say, an able-bodied, able-minded lad like myself with time to kill wasn’t just going to take the easy way, not when he could probably find some insurance for, at least, that half-price premium.

I did one better, friends. I’m at one-third the COBRA cost. For better coverage. Really makes you wonder, what do we have COBRA for, anyway? Other than for a few pre-existers who wouldn’t be able to get coverage otherwise (and the fact that they couldn’t get coverage any other way is, well, indefensible).

Of course, while my apps are being processed (one for the real deal, one for short-term coverage while waiting on the real deal), take your sick, your tired and your weary and lock ’em in the next room.

Meanwhile, for those of you who couldn’t bare to peak the news this morning… Japan joins the recession march, our GDP falls at a 3.8% annual rate (and people are ecstatic it wasn’t worse!), and Davos starts to come ’round to my way of thinking.

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Defending your life.

Posted by The eDater on January 29, 2009

Like this, but the pasta's fattening.

Like this, but the pasta's fattening.

It’s perhaps the most dreaded aspect of unemployment. We can all do without the money, you can get used to homelessness, and health insurance is over-rated for all those with intact achilles tendons.

But, in a society where what you do is often who you are, an unemployed shlub faces the withering cross-examination sooner or later. Prepare as you might, it takes saintly patience – and faith – to escape this well-meaning attack.

And I don’t claim to have either.

It hasn’t really begun yet – my grandmother isn’t in town, after all – but the set-up is there. First, suggest gaining some skills. Throw some job leads out there which have absolutely nothing to do with your experience, interests, or aptitudes. Tell stories of someone getting lucky and imply that should be you. Suggest random careers that graze an interest – but, but, they pay pretty well. Ain’t that enough?

Sooner or later it may be – but the worried closest often descend the Degrees of Desperation faster than the subject. After all, it’s just a job title to most of them. Only to you will it be your life – or a huge mass of hours therein.

And refuse these suggestions at your peril – you’re unemployed, after all! I’m not sure unemployed folks really get that big a say, do they? Beggars and choosers and all – right?

In the depression, one of the commonest complaints wasn’t the hunger – it was the feeling of impotence. The inability to provide. You’re going to feel this at some point, if the jobless state lasts long enough.

And in this market, it will.

And when that feeling comes – well, you’ll be ready to do anything.

So, how should you defend your life? In my opinion – don’t. Take all the suggestions. Act on a defensible number. Re-examine your inner kernel often enough you can hold it steady, but no need to mention it. Just graciously accept everything coming in, almost apologetically – too bad you’ve created this uncomfortable social situation, sorry, but I sure do appreciate you braving it to help.

And then do what you want, anyway. Often, what you want and what is offered will cross over – and then, if haven’t been too busy defending yourself, you’ll hear it and run.

Now, see if you can get all those emotions and contradictory ideas to work together – without snapping once, without doubting once. Saintly indeed.

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