Monthly Archives: June 2008

Things Finally Shifting

New Kirnu roller coaster in Linnamäki (Helsinki)Whew!! This has been a roller-coaster year! My house was on the market and I got a bid. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but it looks like it might just be a done deal. Just in case, I went and put a townhouse on hold that will be held until my closing date. If the closing falls apart, I’ll be out a security deposit, but the buyer will be out their earnest money. So, it’ll be a wash.

I have been debating for some time whether to go cheap and dingy or upgrade and nice for my home. I am not buying. The real estate market is very unstable, in my viewpoint, and that’s part of the reason I am selling now, and not two years from now when I will probably leave the area. Seeing as I can’t make enough in equity to pay a real estate commission after two years of owning a home if I did buy again, I am choosing to rent. I really like renting because there are no maintenance fees and you can get nicer digs than if you own. So, I got a really good deal – very high-end townhome and I am delighted! I’d never be able to afford this home if I bought since it comes with it’s own yard maintenance and all the maintenance indoors too. Adding up maintenance in my old home, I had spent more than the 1% they say to allow for maintenance. It was more like 2 to 3%. So, I figured I could use that money to upgrade my living arrangement, without having to deal with the headaches of arranging people to come and fix things for me all the time. That was like a part-time job in itself!

So, now, here’s the really funny thing. I am going to try to get a room mate for a spare room. I am going from a 1500 square foot home to a 2500 square foot townhome. I am paying about $600 extra in rent – BUT – I have that much more space and I plan on getting a roomie, who will pay – heh, heh, – $500/month. So, doing the math, and I just seriously upgraded for just $100 extra and no maintenance costs! I don’t even have to mow the lawn! I will be saving any where from $3000 to $6000 a year making this move, in maintenance costs alone.

So, for all those people who say renting is worse than buying, I say: Pooh! Pooh! I am really happy NOT to be a homeowner anymore and hopefully this deal will go through and I’ll never be a homeowner again! And, in case anyone is wondering, the housing market in Raleigh is taking a dive, I think. I had to pay closing costs for my buyer, something completely unheard of before. They have plenty of choices out there and the townhome area I went to had MANY rentals out and FOR SALE signs out too. Prices there are dropping too.

Did I mention I can still deduct a home office on my taxes even if I rent? Ha, ha, ha…It’s getting tougher and tougher to be a homeowner these days. From real estate taxes that increase while values drop to maintenance people who believe that, because gas prices have shot up, they are entitled to over $100 just for walking over your threshold, whether they fix your problem or not. I say: “Good riddance!!!”

My Friends Are Priceless

whippet snippetOkay, one of my friends decided it would be funny to send me an application on Facebook called “Owned.” It starts out by saying:”See how much your friend thinks you’re worth…” The title itself didn’t sound promising. I don’t need anyone to tell me what I’m worth, so I left it there until night time and then decided that if I didn’t like it I could uninstall it. So, I installed it. Sure enough, it was a black market of human beings (their online photos) and anyone in the circle of friends can bid on your picture and “own” you. It was a little cute, and somewhat funny initially, but after sleeping on it, I uninstalled it. Why? Several reasons, but the main one is that: My friends are priceless.

Auction Off My Friends?

See, one of the tricks to get this application to go viral is to offer an outrageous amount of virtual money in your account (so you can go out and bid on other human being’s pictures) for having put one of your friends up on an auction block for $1 and inviting them to join. It even put in a friend’s picture and told me which one hadn’t joined that I could trick into this. You know, I just couldn’t do it and I wondered how many of those other people thought this was more funny than sad, because that’s what I think about this application: sad.

The Human Marketplace=SLAVERY

Why on earth would I want to spend my day seeking out other people’s pictures to bid on? To be quite honest, at the end, it was a bit disgusting. I’m not for slavery, and this smacks of virtual-slavery. People are getting ego highs over “owning” other live human beings, if not for real at least in their fantasies. Disgusting. People get all riled up about video games that show people being shot and massacred, but now it’s okay to condone slavery, because it’s all a fun game? Count me out! And, my friends aren’t going on the auction block because of me either.

Owner/Owned: They Think The Same

It’s important to realize that what we allow in our minds and in our realities says a lot about who we are and how we treat other people…And, I truly believe some people want to be owned just as much as other people want to own them. They perceive their value as being based on how high someone bids on them or how popular they are. That is being owned, as this application so rightly puts it. I’m just not one of those people.

*Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by f10n4

Apps, Widgets, and Virtual Hugs – Oh, My!

primping at 2 amI am deep in the heart of virtual accessorizing my different online profiles. I’ve received, one virtual rose, found out how to put YouTube videos in my website, and am discovering the interesting world of high-tech fashion online. Gosh, I almost feel as if I have to primp in front of a mirror every time I enter another web site. All of this stuff is downright fascinating, if it’s not time-consuming, but there is a method to all this madness.

We Love Who We Are

Did you know that the top reason people communicate on social networking sites is to communicate some sort of identity? That’s right! That’s the reason people join these sites, the reason they are so popular, and why it’s very important to have the right image on them, depending on your needs. After all, it isn’t just you looking at the profile. There are a ton of people who might visit it, including potential future employers. For me, it is often my clients and so they want to see that I am a professional writer or my spiritual resume, and many of these sites can show just that. So, today, I was also offered a virtual drink, which I declined. I don’t drink that much in real life and I want my profile to be as authentic as it can be. To show up with multiple drinks would be a little inappropriate for who I am, considering my sites are about spiritual and professional aspects of who I am.

Marketing On Social Networks

When people click with your identity, they really buy in to who you are. In marketing terms, you already have someone interested in doing business with you. You build up a contact list based on all those seemingly frivolous interactions with roses, virtual hugs, or common interests. And, this is at the very heart of good marketing – to have some sort of empathic connection with people so that they trust you. Since you can’t shake their hand or look them in the eye, in a conventional sense, some of these applications and widgets serve the same purpose. We’ve just started to figure out how social networking is changing the marketing landscape, but one this is for sure, it’s still about the human connection.

*Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by blinkbyblink

Favorite Free/Open Source Programs For Business

You Are FreeI’ve been around computers forever, and I’m always pleased to find something that can replace a proprietary program with an open source one. You may be surprised to learn (I was) that even WordPress is an Open Source program, even if they have commercial area. They also have a WordPress.org area where you can download the Open Source version. Wikipedia defines Open Source Software (OSS) as follows:

OSS can be defined as computer software for which the human-readable source code is made available under a copyright license (or arrangement such as the public domain) that meets the Open Source Definition. This permits users to use, change, and improve the software, and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified form. It is often developed in a public, collaborative manner. Open source software is the most prominent example of open source development and often compared to user generated content.

Most of the time Open Source software is free, unless someone takes a version and makes it into a commercial product. But, the original Open Source Software would still be free to distribute.

So, here are some of my favorites…

OpenOffice

This program has a suite of products like Microsoft Office from spreadsheets to word processors. As a writer, I love OpenOffice because it can allow me to save in various different formats (even MS Word) and appears to be a lighter install than MS Office. I don’t have to pay to upgrade the product every time a new version comes out. When my pc crashes, I can re-install without going through all sorts of security hassles and proof of purchase stuff. And, so far, I don’t notice much difference between the features I use than MS Word.

Firefox

This is a great browser (I’m using it right now). It is based on Open Source philosophy and anyone can download it for free. I find it much easier to use than Internet Explorer and love the multiple tabs feature. There are so many programmers aware of Firefox’s popularity that you can get free extensions for practically anything you want.

WordPress

I just recently found out this is Open Source Software. I am very excited about trying it out on my web servers. WordPress.org does need an to meet specific requirements, but it claims to be an easy install. I will write more about this later as I see how it suits my needs. I already love the program as a free portal, but want to include blogs under my own domain where I have more control. I am eager to see what the advantages of doing it this way are and will talk more about it as I learn more.

Woke up, and realized that loss is the same as gain…

yingoly  yangoly 1Just, wait a minute and hear me out. You know there are always two sides to one coin and that coin is still money, even if you are on the heads side or whether you are on the tail side. What difference does it make which way it lands? The only reason we think we lose is because we are so invested in one side or another that the fall of the coin becomes an emotional experience that ties us into choices of wins or losses.

I’ve noticed very large losses of physical money appearing on my ledger, however, with them are also coming some very big gains in non-physical value. I’m finishing up the Master’s program. I’m getting ready to sell my house. Eventually, the cycle will have to follow through so those losses in physical money, that went to non-physical gains, will have to come back into physicality again and the gain will be as big as I allow it to be. That’s what I think. The only thing that can stop it is my emotional investment in one side or another. That’s where we get stuck. So, it appears, if you want to be very wealthy you are going to also have to have a high tolerance for risk and loss. Otherwise, you could end up getting stuck on the very big loss side as the cycle goes back and forth because of trauma.

I think the best explanation I can give is to take a look at the mandala of the ying-yang symbol. All of reality is made up of dual elements. There is nothing in our present reality that doesn’t have this feature. Duality is a basic component of physical reality. Positive charges must always have negative balancing charges, and so on, for them to be a balanced whole. The ying-yang symbol illustrates this very well. Now, both sides are mirror copies of each other. One side could be thought of as physical, objective, reality and the other side could be thought of as non-physical, subjective, reality. Say, the left is subjective and the right is objective. Now, imagine that this ying-yang symbol is painted on the floor and you are standing at the tail end of right side. What do you see? Loss all around you. Everywhere around you is abundance, but you see lack. You don’t recognize that you are only standing on one portion of the cycle and that it has to shift. If you get traumatized, you just stay right there crying your eyes out. But, if you take action, you can start to shift out of that loss into the gains that either in the objective arena. What’s interesting is that in that spot of lack, right next to it is the spot of ultimate gain in the subjective nature of our internal spirit Self. When we lose everything that’s when we have the most to gain. So, that is probably why the dark night of the soul is seen by most spiritual traditions as a holy place where great growth can occur.

Mandalas are symbols of the whole Self, according to Jung. The ying-yang symbol is a mandala. One can meditate on these symbols to obtain a degree of understanding and to move us into the correct energy flows so that we can create consciously instead of getting stuck in our emotions.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by oddsock

Social Networking: Complicating Life, But Great Business Opportunity

My memoriesI was reading one of those wealth books, whose name escapes me now, but I believe Kiyosaki and Trump were both discussing what it takes to be rich. They said that the level of complexity increases in your life even though the basic model is still the same: own a business or invest. That’s because both Trump and Kiyosaki believe in the cashflow quadrant where you only get rich learning how to make use of other people’s money or time, not your own. You can’t really do that if you are self-employed (with no employees) and/or an employee of someone else. So, I’ve noticed recently my life is becoming decidedly more complex and I’m wondering if it is because I am learning how to go to the right side of the cashflow quadrant or because I’m not very efficient. Probably a little of both, since I’m learning. The thing that has really made things very complex right now, is my re-enchantment with social networking.

MySpace

The last time I visited a social networking site was when I had my very successful blog on WritingUp and the entire site went down and never recovered. I was left without any contacts from all those people I had spent several years of my life with and no way to contact them. So, I started looking online and found some of them on MySpace, but very few. I put up a profile and found it to be too complicated and too lengthy a process of keeping in touch and frankly, I had a Master’s program to do and tons of freelance work. Why the heck would I want to waste my time diddling with MySpace? It seemed to be taking up huge loads of my time and providing no return on it. Definitely on the wrong side of the cashflow quadrant.

FaceBook

Now, I am ghost-writing a whole lot of freelance ebooks on generating income online with social networking, and one of these places is Facebook. Facebook? I didn’t even know what it was until I did all the research and now I’ve changed my mind. I’m beginning to see how to leverage places like MySpace and Facebook to do Internet marketing, but it is a much more complicated model than conventional marketing. It takes patience and it means you have to learn as you go. However, they do very well in helping you develop a list of contacts in your niche market and finding out what the market wants or needs. You can’t spam anyone, and I wouldn’t want to anyways. That was one of my major complaints with places like MySpace in the past: people trying to grab your attention all day long while you had better things to do. Social networking has evolved to the level where the workload of keeping in contact is now more distributed and easier through applications and templates. So, the initial work is the most you do and the rest is fairly straightforward. Then, people interested in you or your products can do the work of marketing for you and that’s definitely on the right side of the cashflow quadrant.

Conclusion

So, now I have a blog, a website, two social networking profiles, several freelance writing profiles, many emails, and I can’t even tell you how many usernames and passwords I have to keep track of. Thank God I figured out how to do that! Otherwise, my head would really be spinning! Why am I doing all this? Well, for one, it’s nice to keep track of everyone I meet and I meet a ton of people in my day-to-day life. The people online are not even the tip of the iceberg. I have a very poor memory and these social networking sites are ideal for people like me who have to rely on technology or systems to help us keep in touch without sounding like morons for forgetting things. It’s just hard to keep up with who does what when you have hundreds of people you’ve met in your life. I’m still trying to figure out if I can contact people in different countries as I believe I’ve lived in over 14 different countries by now and most of the 50 United States. You know how big my contact list would be if I had started earlier? But, that’s not the point, the point is that all those people could end up helping me build my business and expand my social life, if only I could keep track of them all and social networking is a great way to stay in touch and let people know what you are up to, whether it is writing a book, teaching a course, or selling tupperware. And, you don’t even have to email them directly to do that anymore. They can just become a permanent friend on one of these sites and the system does it all for you! It does complicate things having various profiles online, but you have to realize how much more complicated my life would be if I had to keep track of everyone manually to build a bigger business. I would never be able to do it all without hiring a personal assistant. So, yes, I am complicating my life, but I am also laying the groundwork for a great business opportunity.

I will write more about what I learn on these sites as I go along…

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons license by scarleth white (click image to see some of the fun coding they put behind the picture. It really makes a visual impact! Once in Flickr, just mouse over to see the comments on each individual picture in the grand collage.)

Will 2008 Never End?!

I don’t know what is in my energy that is producing the type of dumb money ideas that force me into large money commitments on a monthly basis in 2008. My income hasn’t gone up, but my expenses are exorbitant this year, all because I have too many high-cost projects ahead. The year started out with a bang, and puff puff, when my car apparently had a blown head gasket. Another $4,000 later from various “problems” with the car, and I am now in June averaging an extra – get this – $1500 in expenses per month this year. My budget and my finances are completely blown. This came about also because I had the bright idea to sell my house while I’m finishing up my Master’s degree. Another several thousand later in house fixes and another $3,000 in tuition fees and I can tell you I have no idea how I’m managing to stay afloat. This year has been a WHOPPER, financially, and I wish there were some magic alarm clock that would allow me to hit the snooze button until 2009.

Decisions, Decisions…

So, I’ve been entertaining the idea of quitting the Master’s with only two classes left to go. I just can’t seem to do it, even though I think spending money on a Master’s is a waste of money and would not recommend it to anyone. I’m too close to the end now to quit, but it may be the thing that puts me on the edge of bankruptcy, when all is said and done. Ask me after I’m finished whether I think it is a waste, and I might have a different answer. Right now, I think monetarily it’s one of my poorest decisions ever. I just don’t see it returning the value that it cost me to get any time soon. Not to mention the monetary stress of having to juggle this while the rest of my life falls apart. Yeah, some financial advisors call school debt “good debt” but I think there are some things that will never pay you back for the aggravation you went through.

So, today I am thinking that I was too ambitious trying to sell the house while finishing the Master’s and trying to make up the debt my car put me in. Now, I am in an even worse position of trying to figure out how to finish the fixes on the house, while paying my tuition, and my normal bills – and losing time on work because I have to be in Colorado at Naropa University for a week for this summer intensive. I kept thinking I should save the tuition, bail out on the intensive, and finish the fixes on the house to sell it FAST. But, I won’t be able to take this required course for another year and I will have to get a special dispensation to take it that late. So, I have to take the course now and screw up the rest of my finances for good. So, what did I learn?

Only Chew Off What You Can Handle

I think the thing I learned is that I should have only had ONE major goal at one time and when I was done with that attempt another. Putting two at the same time causes conflicts. I should not have put the house up for sale while I was attempting to finish this Master’s, it was a recipe for disaster. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. But, it’s too late now, and I totally screwed myself. No one to blame for this predicament but me and I can only hope that I get smarter later because I’ve shown a propensity for financial stupidity as of lately. For now, the rest of the house fixes are on hold until I can figure out how to handle the tuition payment. I was trying to do them both, but it’s not going to work. The carpets can wait, the tuition cannot wait.

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons by Kenner