…and your little dog, too.

29
Jul
2012

Anyone that knows me, knows that I date a lot. Working alone as a freelancer from home, it is a big part of the way I socialize. I honestly think that there is no such thing as a bad date, everyone has something interesting about them. And even the dates that most people would classify as terrible, I classify as interesting, something to tell a story about, a good blog post at least. Ready for the latest? Here goes.

A really cute guy contacted me on OK Cupid a few days ago. I checked out his profile and noticed he spoke several languages (always a plus with me) and generally seemed quite compatible. And although he listed at the top of “things he could never live without” his dog (we’ll call her “Liza”*), I decided nevertheless to meet up for a coffee date. Yesterday, we met in the afternoon for the date, and it went really well I thought. We shared a ton of common interests and the date stretched over two hours as we got to know each other. We talked about travel, and languages, and eastern religions and a whole raft of things with an easy familiarity. It wasn’t even until near the end of our date that I realized that the small gym bag at his feet actually contained Liza. She had been well behaved and quiet the entire time, and although I am not a fan of purse dogs, she was in no way annoying to me.

My date informed me that he had to go help a friend of his, and was sad to leave, but would I be interested in meeting up later? The date had gone very well and I found him really attractive, so I said sure, imagining that we would be, I don’t know, making out a little later at the least. He texted later and I invited him over for a movie and hanging out (read what you will into this). When he arrived at my place with his purse dog still in tow, I was a little taken aback, but realized he hadn’t had a chance to go home in between and tried not to make a big deal as the dog scurried around every corner of my apt (and on the furniture) while he put down some paper in the bathroom and showed Liza where it was located “in case”. We ordered a pizza and started to watch a movie, and I foolishly imagined we might sidle up next to each other on the sofa, watch the movie, and maybe get a little comfortable with each other. But this was not to be, as he spent the entire movie with Liza on his lap or chest, stroking her and keeping his distance but for the occasional reaching over with his foot to rub mine.

I literally sat there dumfounded, wondering where the hidden camera was. I was so flummoxed, I just sat through the movie, waiting for it to be over and not paying very much attention to it. I kept wondering to myself how to end this date sooner, perhaps with a casual line to him about  how I had totally forgotten that my extended family was about to arrive for a 2 month visit in a few minutes and I needed to prepare, or that I had some rusty razor blades that I would rather being playing with. Near the end of the movie he mentioned how bad he felt, not about bringing Liza along on a first date, but that he really should have fed her sooner, the poor thing was ravished. I helpfully suggested that the only decent thing to do was march home that instant and get the poor dear something to eat. We hugged and exchanged an extremely chaste kiss, and he left. I went immediately to my iPhone and deleted his number.

*as always, names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved

The other meaning of “free” in freelancing

28
Jul
2012

I often talk about the life of a freelancer, its upsides and downsides. On the whole, I really wouldn’t want to change my work life much, I love the flexibility and control it affords me over working for someone else, and I am someone who deals well with the ups and downs of remuneration in such an environment. That said, this week I had two not so great things happen that, while not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, are nevertheless among the hazards of working for oneself.

The first issue is with a non-paying client. As you may remember form my previous article on the subject, I don’t let people run up a huge tab with me. I never let them owe me more than the amount I am willing to walk away from. Still, there is nothing more frustrating that chasing after money you are owed. I am truly blessed most of the time as I have very rarely had a client be more than a week late with a payment. This client, however, is over a month past due and the various emails I have sent are met with responses of the type “I can’t do anything while my boss is on vacation” and other such hogwash. I assume the necessary utilities such as phone and internet get paid (you did respond to my email after all, albeit several days later, so that service has been paid at least).  I sent them a letter today explaining that no more work will happen on their site until I have been paid in full (not just up to the amount of last invoice), and that I am leaving on vacation for a month at the end of August, so if they want their site to work before the end of September, they jolly well better get their check-writing fingers in gear.

The second issue is somewhat my fault, for not doing enough due diligence before quoting a project fee. A very good client of mine who I really like, asked me to step in and fix a few things that her publisher had done wrong on a site showcasing some of her work. I would have been hired to do the site from scratch, but the publisher had their own internal guy who fancies himself a web developer, and they felt it best to do the work in house. I only looked at a few comps and asked some simple questions, and so I assumed I knew based on the answers to these questions how the site was put together (how it would be logically put together, anyway) and made my quote based on those assumptions. Little did I know until getting into it that the previous coder had apparently never learned anything new about web programming since 1996, and I had to manually manipulate some 50 individual files when we should have just been dealing with just two or three templates that were re-used across the site. All in all the site took roughly double the amount of time I thought it would. I didn’t really feel comfortable charging my client either, because we have a good relationship and I didn’t really think it was fair to her. Live and learn, next time for a fixit job on someone else’s work I will ask to look at the code directly before quoting anything.

I’d say in about 90% of the cases, I come in under quote and ahead of schedule, but sometimes things like this happen. In the first case above, there is really nothing I would do differently at all, I have a clear process for dealing with late payment, and it is being executed as I am comfortable with, even if it is a bummer.  In the second case, I can see changes I can make to improve my outcomes. Practice makes perfect.

Busted II

22
Jul
2012

A few short months ago I wrote about a funny coincidence where I was dating the same guy as a friend of mine, and we coincidentally found out about it. (The kinda douchy part was that he had canceled a date with me to make one with my friend the same day).  They say lightening doesn’t strike twice, but I just recently dined with another friend of mine, and he was describing this new guy he was dating and how excited he was about him. They had seen each other 4 times in the last 10 days, and my friend felt it was really getting serious. He was telling me how sexy the guy was and how he was really getting into him. As he was describing him, I realized that the guy is someone I have been talking to online recently, and who has been sending me increasingly insistent messages about wanting to go on a date. I even ran into him out at a restaurant last week, and he made a point of coming up to talk to me, flatter me, and ask for my number. Since that time he has proceeded to send me a string of texts about how attracted he is to me, and how he can’t wait for our first date. Like any of us, I suppose, he has his cute lines he uses on people, but it was odd to compare texts with my friend and see many of the same ones. My friend was a little devastated I’m afraid, as he really thought this was going somewhere. He couldn’t imagine that with as much time as they were spending together recently that the guy would even be interested in pursuing anyone else, even if it was far too early for them to have any sort of monogamy talk. And I will admit, that it seems a little odd to me too. If I had gone out with someone just once or twice in a month or so, it would not feel odd to see other people. But 4 times in less than two weeks? For me, that would mean I was really interested in someone, and that would kinda preclude pursuing other options until at least this courting had run its course. My friend has a date with the guy tonight in fact, but has told me that he doesn’t very much feel like going through with it, and I can’t blame him. Especially since I myself  just received a text from him yesterday asking if I was free this coming Tuesday.

Needless to say, I won’t be going on a date with this guy, ever. Men, you are dogs.

I love it when an empty threat actually works.

20
Jul
2012

I am leaving the country on a longish trip starting in late August, and so I was hoping to get my phone unlocked so that I could use the local SIMs and service in the countries I will be visiting. I had recently heard that ATT (my provider) was finally officially unlocking phones at the end of their subscriber contracts, and I knew that I was very close to being at the end of mine. So I called them and asked them to unlock my phone before I leave for my trip. The woman on the other end did a lookup and told me my contract would not be over until the end of September, so there was no way they could unlock it before then. In a calm and sweet voice, I explained to her that while I would still be paying on my contract of course, it was insane to expect me to pay ATTs exorbitant rates in Europe while travelling, and that I preferred to use a local SIM. She said she understood, but this was the policy and they would not change it for anyone. I asked to speak to a manager, and got exactly the same story. I told them at the end of the call that because of this I would probably switch carriers when my contract expired, and that I felt it was ridiculous that they would not unlock my phone one measly, single month earlier, especially since I had been a customer in good standing for so long. They said they understood my frustration, but there was really nothing they could do.

After hanging up, still full of discontent and bile, I dashed off the following email note to their support:

I am going out of the country on Aug 24, and need my phone unlocked  before then. Your reps on the support line said you wont do this, even though I am a great customer and have only a month left on my contract.  If you refuse to unlock my phone, I WILL move to another carrier as soon as my contract is up. Do you really want to lose a customer over this?  You will.

Not ten minutes later I received an email from ATT informing me that they had unlocked my phone, and that I should do a restore in iTunes to activate the unlock. Sure enough, after doing the restore I was greeted with this glorious message:

Yay!

A misleading electricity bill

19
Jul
2012

New Yorkers pay a lot for their electricity, among the highest rates in the country. I routinely pay more every month for far less electricity usage in my one bedroom apartment than my parents pay in their good sized home in Indianapolis. And the summer, with its heat and extended AC usage, usually triples or quadruples what I pay in the winter months. So when my ConEd bill arrived this month, I was expecting a somewhat hefty bill, but was surprised that it was the rate I would usually pay in the cheapest month. I scoured the details of old and new bills to see if I could spot any difference, and then suddenly I saw it: This month (as opposed to every other month) the meter reading had been “estimated” instead of “actual”. Not sure exactly what this meant, I placed a quick call to ConEd to ask about it, and was greeting with a message about “currently experiencing a work stoppage”. I took to the web and found out about ConEd’s lockout of 8500 workers and their fight with the Local 1-2 Union. The lockout started at the beginning of July, I am not sure how I missed this news, but I started scouring the web for more information about it. And all I could find, for the longest time, were articles about the lockout conditions and length, what the workers were doing, how management was coping, and the like. But it was like pulling teeth to actually find out what the meat of the dispute was even about! I got bits and pieces of info from ConEd’s website and statement on the matter, and a few small retorts from the Local 1-2 site, but not much. (Note to Local 1-2: it would be really helpful to your cause if you laid out in clear terms exactly what is being demanded of you and what you are asking for, clearly linked from your home page). As far as I can tell, ConEd, worried that the workers would strike without warning, initiated a pre-emptive lockout, and then canceled health benefits and wages during the lockout. This is a pretty shitty tactic, if you ask me. And with the numerous heat waves that NYC is experiencing, it seems a really risky time to attempt to go without 8500 workers. ConEd seems to be trying to squeeze concessions out of workers when it made over a billion dollars in profit last year (and its CEO received massive pay increases). I could understand if ConEd was hurting financially, or even if they wanted to reduce their outrageous rates to customers, but this is clearly not what is happening. They are simply trying to maximize profit at the top, the expense falling to those at the bottom. This is part of the reason I believe that certain industries (like utilities) should be publicly owned, and run in the public interest.

At the swimmin’ hole

15
Jul
2012

I continue to be amazed at the natural beauty of the area surrounding Ithaca. Yesterday we went to a swimming hole type area with a small waterfall and beautiful woods and rock formations all around. In the heat, the water was so refreshing and the place seemed so idyllic. We sat for a while under the waterfall, swam a bit, then hung out on the rocks before heading back to the town for an ice cream. In the evening Jonathan and I headed over to another of the finger lakes, and had dinner in one of the “fancy” restaurants in the area and sampled some of the mediocre local wines. It has been a great little trip, seeing Jonathan and relaxing in a kind of forgotten summertime of another era. It really makes me want to come back to this area and explore more in the future.


From Ithaca II

My fig farm in the desert

14
Jul
2012

I had a strange dream where I was running back and forth for some mysterious team, carrying water and supplies in a desert region of the world, perhaps the Sahara. There was a cool but demanding woman who was kind of my boss and at one point my dead friend Andrew was there (but also wasn’t there) and we were talking about his origins in this arid region, his growing up tending to these fig trees. It was all quite sad, my friend was there as a kind of ghost, and we were recounting his story, how he had come from this desert place. His world was the world of these fig trees and tending to them. I would soon be taking over, trying keep the grove alive with what I had been taught about their care and it was all very bittersweet. There was a wizened old man that I was relaying Andrew’s story to, and I kept looking down at a small puddle of water at his feet and feeling sad for my friend who was not really dead, but not really alive and present, either. My sadness was for the life that he had been given, and his burdens related to being in this world, these trees, and this region. I awoke to a cat on the bed, pawing at my chest and staring at my face intently.

Ithaca

13
Jul
2012

So I am up in Ithaca for the first time visiting my friend Jonathan who is part of a summer program for pointy headed grad students (It is called “Queer Technics”, whatever that means). His friends are all very nice and we had a fun evening last night with cocktails and ribaldry which resulted in Jonathan and I being a bit slow to get  started today. But then we walked to the center of town to get lunch, and then took a totally lovely and meditative walk in an area called Taughannock Falls. It was all rustling trees, falling rocks, small waterfalls and eerie peace. We came back completely blissed out. Check out the photo album below…


From Ithaca