Thursday, January 26, 2012

Philosophical and Financial Run Around

Brain has to recharge.  Can’t get clear.
Things I’m pondering with no real answers right now:

Continuing the degree.  My school is being unreasonable and though not actually coming out & saying they’re refusing to send me an itemized bill, I’ve asked for one seven times now and still have nothing.  They just keep referring me to the online finances tab but that’s where the confusion has come from to begin with.  They say I owe $834, the financial current due reads $151.  Most recently I was told that, since I didn’t have a payment schedule set up on my finance page to pay for the thing they’re saying I owe but won’t provide a bill for, I’m going to be suspended from continuing classes.

When is the last time ANYone just forked over $800 because someone said ‘Oh I know your finance tab says you only have a current due balance of $150 but this is for last year.  Last year’s bill (that the disbursements from federal aid covered) is what you owe.  Pay no mind to the actual figures.  Oh yeah & sorry but we don’t generally send out bills.’  Or something to that effect.

So here’s the deal.  The real deal, the crux of it all.  In bullet point format (which doesn’t make it any easier to choose the right answer but it does make it faster to type).

Ø  I’m a year away from graduating with a bachelors in English.
Ø  I’ve wanted to finish school for a very long time.
Ø  I’m too close to the end to give up now.
Ø  I recently read some disturbing news about Ashford University and some financial practices that make this situation sit even less well in my gut.
Ø  I’m tired of being in debt.
Ø  I’m never going to stop accumulating debt if I continue going to school anywhere.
Ø  I am nearing the end of a long road but no matter how tough the battle does it really make a difference in the end?
Ø  I want to be able to say that I hold a bachelor’s degree in English.
Ø  I am about to publish a book without a degree.
Ø  I don’t need to take classes called Mind & Machine to self-publish a novel and be a Writer.
Ø  I’ve been a writer for years, now I’ll be a published Author; all still before any diploma would show up.
Ø  I’m sick of school impacting my everyday life.
Ø  I’m afraid of leaving now only to have to start repaying loans in 6 months when I haven’t even sold a single book on the open market yet.
Ø  I’m less marketable in the mainstream job market without a degree.
Ø  I could give a crap less about the mainstream job market and will do just about anything to ensure I can work the way I want – from home, typing for a living and on “tour” singing for my supper.
Ø  I join organizations and no one has asked where I went to school, only what my book is about.
Ø  I’m getting a headache thinking about all of it.

I’m lost with no clue how to solve this volley in my head.  And I could go on for about 600 more bullet points but somehow I don’t think that’s the best source for curing writer’s block you know?

It’s really something to consider because the money already spent isn’t entirely a waste, I gained a lot of knowledge so far, but how can I really truly show that without having that piece of paper in my hand?  And if I leave now isn’t that money all a waste in the long run?  Or is it?  I just don’t know anymore but I do know that I feel like getting a degree is great but getting it from a University that has apparently been using potentially shady practices with hundreds of student’s money really catches in my throat.  Mostly because now I feel like I’m one of them.

Matt says I should just contact the Attorney General in the state of Iowa if they continue to refuse to give me an itemized bill.  Maybe I should do that anyway.  None of this stuff showed up when I first Googled Ashford University when I first considered them as a higher education option.  I’m a 4.0 student but this entire thing just escapes me as making any sort of logical sense.

I know I have to dig deep into my heart & soul to find the answers, I was just hoping I didn’t have to dig into my wallet because that was what financial aid was supposed to be for.  And if I do decide to just pay them so I can resume my classes how invested am I really going to even be now?  Will I slack off knowing all that stuff above has bubbled to the surface or will I continue as usual studying hard and getting good grades?

Most importantly though, what if the exact same thing happens at the end of my next year of school? 

My brain is about to cave in.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Terrifying. Exhilarating. Expensive.

Some of you know I started a new blog called Writesy. It is connected to my new Etsy shop of the same name and in that shop I’m selling all kinds of fun wordy bits. There’s my chapbook titled Trying for the Moon, a Mini-Zine series, and now I’m planning to add to the collection with my first self-published fiction novel titled Ripple the Twine.

Yes people that’s right, I’m giving up the hunt for a big House and I’m moving into the mid-sized House of my own. Time to spruce up the old walls up and bring this project back to life. And I’m doing it myself. Could I be more excited and petrified right now? The answer is no. No I couldn't.

This is my first manuscript, most of you over the past two years, since it was completed, and the five or so months prior to that while it was being written, heard a LOT about it over here. Well I stopped talking about it all the time but I never stopped querying. Twenty-six total Agents queried, bet you can guess the number of rejections right?

Sure twenty-six isn’t the hugest number, maybe I could keep going, but this book ain’t selling itself once we’re out of hockey season. Hello? One of the most prominent character traits is my female main character is a lover of the Boston Bruins.

You know, Boston Bruins? Just gained number one in the Eastern Conference with the win over Philly yesterday? Yeah I know, most New Englanders were watching that other team who now has to come face to face with Manning in two weeks. No, no. The OTHER Manning. That’s why it’s so weird that Brady can’t just pull it together in his presence.

But I digress…

As I was saying about the book, she loves the sport of hockey. Hell, doing research for her character back in 2009 completely revived my own interest in hockey! I hadn’t really been into the sport since the Neely, Sweeney, Axelsson days but having to learn all the new rules and going to games (READ: doing research) I was all about it again!

No sooner did my book come to pass than the Bruins went and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in my lifetime. Um, hello? Gods of fate, much? And I don’t make predictions only half way into the season but they sure look well positioned to at least give that idea another run this season.

Must. Publish. Book!

So here’s the deal, I wrote a whole post about Ripple the Twine over on the aforementioned Writesy blog. I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think!

Putting Money Where My Manuscript Is

And now, to learn all the ins and outs of the world of books…and to find a way to pay for it all. Innovation here we come!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We’re (Not) Gonna Protest?

Yesterday, in protest of SOPA / PIPA many websites went dark as a way to show just what would really be left without them.  It isn't like the internet shut down or anything but still, without Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist and my blog I'm sure the world was crumbling.

Wait, what?  You didn't notice my blog was dark?  Yeah, not surprising.

But I stood for it anyway even though I knew no one would see but me! 

I'm sure a lot of you are wondering why I'd be against these bills, why I would even think of throwing my support against the possibility of lessened copyright infringement punishments and increased risk of piracy.  The answer is simple, the bills put forth in Congress and the Senate do not contain those issues in a way that makes me comfortable to release my work under their protections.

Do you know what SOPA and PIPA are?  Before I continue I should probably link you up to a whole bunch of places to build your knowledge on these issues that I've been all jacked up about since last October/November.

SOPA Full Bill text
PIPA Full Bill text
What it means for you, me, the internet as we know it as found on Google.
The best explanation in simplest terms so far is here on from yesterday.

Now that you're back from your light reading I think its safe to say that the single most important quote of all in the Forbes article is direct from the mouth of President Barack Obama "Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small."

To be clear, it isn't that Google, Craigslist, Etsy, deviantART, Wikipedia, and me (among hundreds of others), are for online piracy, au contraire!  What we aren't for is the potential that these bills allow censoring of perfectly reasonable site content because of the mistakes of a few.  What do I mean?

Okay, say someone who is an online pirate of music has an underground blog on where they share the link to an album they stole.  The link is so underground that you have to know the exact moment it will be available and click to download before it's gone.  One day the musician in question actually stumbles upon the link.  In normal circumstances this person's site would be taken down and everyone would applaud the musician for the tenacity and vigilance.

Where the likes of SOPA and PIPA come in** the government would have every right to shut down because of the one offender.  Yes that's right, every single one of the blogs on blogger would go bye-bye.  Mine included, most of my bloggy friends, etc.

The thing about this is that it affects every single last one of us in the long run and completely undermines the internet.  Say blogger goes down.  I had posted some kind of brilliant article (dare to dream) that thousands of people linked to inside and outside of blogger.  My link is now broken, those people's stories are now broken...and so on...

The sweep would be so far reaching that in a matter of days, hours, minutes most every free sharing site and every single search engine on the web could be shut down.

Want to share your last birthday party video on YouTube?  Sorry but that site is gone.  Want to sell your most recent handmade mini-zine?  Sorry Etsy is shut down too.  Well who cares about all that silly video and retail stuff, surely we'd be able to find credible information for our school papers by conducting a search on Google.  Oh, I'm sorry, Google who?

The thing is, as a general concept I have zero problem with what I think they're trying to go for here.  I don't want my work stolen either, used for someone else's benefit.  I mean that's my intellectual property right there and I deserve the right to protect it.  But I will not protect it by watching the entire Information Age crumble under the weight of two far reaching bills.

If you have anything on the internet - pictures, a profile, a blog, articles, video, etc. - please review the Full SOPA text and the Full PIPA text above if you haven't already.  Get educated, get informed, don't wait until it's too late.  Some of us have been talking about this bill** since last fall and are just happy the masses have finally begun to see just how dangerous it would be.

** Though separate bills in separate places (Senate/Congress) for the sake of simplicity I'm bundling them.  Please read the full bill text for both if you would like to know the differences in their overall sweeping attention.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Goodfellas or Real Science?

So this morning Ginger posted a link over on Facebook and it’s been stressing me out ever since.  The guy is a scientist for Peet’s sake and he’s allegedly been using grant money to snow the public about the benefits of red wine – findings that he’s published in multiple medical journals – but apparently it’s all been a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
The thought of some dude in a lab slicing up garlic & drinking red wine makes me think Das watched a little too much "Goodfellas".  What's next?  All helicopters really ARE following you?  Is this what my tax money pays for in this country?  And, hey, where’s my chance to do that study, huh?
Hell, I’ll eat garlic & drink red wine every single day and hire a couple interns to come hang out with me while I do it if the Government is going to subsidize it.  Actually, nah, never mind.  I think I’d rather if they let me publish works about sitting around with my friends and smoking a whole bunch of pot then eating a bag of Doritos.  My study will be on if that kind of behavior is causing any benefit to the mind.  Sounds amazing don’t you think?
I already started the research years ago and I can safely say that back then I sure felt a lot less stressed out, much happier and lighter in body.  Can I get my grant now?  Isn’t that how it works or do I have to write some long philosophical dissertation on why the G.O.V. should start sending me pot so I can resume the research?  Guess Das was a pretty fantastic Writer.  Perhaps he should be a hero, not someone I'm upset with.
Yeah, I know.
You all know I have a tongue in cheek on one side but I am completely tongue free on the other, right?  The thing that really bothers me about these kinds of articles truthfully is that it brings a person down, man.  I mean here we are with a whole slew of people believing that a glass of red wine & a little garlic everyday have great benefit to their heart.  They feel lighter in mind, body and spirit knowing they’re doing something great.
Then kerblammy!  Suddenly it’s like ‘yeah, sorry about that, we kinda fucked that one up giving our money to that guy to study that stuff, we’re pretty sure he took off for Italy on our dime’ or something equally out of control as that.  Because no matter how you look at it the guy did get money, spend money & publish what is now being called into question.  Sigh.  Then we question everything and it makes us sad because there’s no way to know the real truth.
Well I say to hell with it.  To hell with them saying that maybe garlic & red wine aren’t as fundamentally amazing as they said they were before.  I’m going with my own evidence on this one and here’s what I know to be true for me:
1.      Red wine is delicious.
2.      Garlic is delicious.
So I’m going to continue to eat and drink and enjoy the laughter with friends and family while I do.  Laughter and lightness really are just overall good for our heart…our mind, and our soul.  So at least there’s that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Got the Ill Communication

I haven't been using the word "but" as much as I used to which goes right along with making no excuses this year. So far everything I've done has been something I either wanted to do or it was going to be a direct long term benefit.

Then there was the dentist last Friday and it was tough to remind myself how it could be considered a good thing.

About a year ago the tooth around the root canal filling I had put in many years ago, cracked. Because there was a root canal the crack didn't hurt or anything it just started becoming an annoyance and I knew the tooth really shouldn't be there anymore. It had to go but...and this is where I attempted to make an fear of the dentist had me wanting to cancel and curl up in the corner instead.

But...and this is where I reversed the excuse on myself...I stopped listening to my nervous but(t) and made the appointment to have the extraction.

I won't go into detail all I'll say is my dentist said she never saw someone metabolize Novocaine that fast before. Yeah, I probably should have told her about my inner racing mind & body. Multiple shots of Novocaine plus one of epinephrine later and my poor little face had one more hole created inside it.

Matt was sure to be happy, I was finally going to keep the random babble to a minimum for a couple days.

Like I said on FB, pain is not my BFF so I picked up my prescription for vicodin on the way home & started taking it right away.  I felt no pain throughout the day but other than that benefit I started to wonder why people were clamoring for that on the down low.  I didn't feel anything.  Hmm, I guess maybe that's the point.  At any rate, the day went by fine, I drank soup and protein shakes, swallowed some strawberry yogurt, and ate cheezy puffs that dissolved in my mouth to stay nourished.  Truth be told I was starving (shocker), plus I wasn't allowed to smoke all day which was a nice side bonus.  I took my last pill of the day around 10:00 and went to bed around 11:00, glad to have the whole thing behind me.

Then at 6:30 Saturday morning I found out why I will never take that much sought after white pill again. I woke up so nauseous and with such heavy clammy chills and shaking body that I started to freak out that something had gone wrong with the extraction. I could hardly get to and from the bathroom without weaving all over the 8 feet between me and the door. 

It nerved me so much I woke up Matt, something I'd never do on his sacred weekend hours of sleep under normal circumstances. These weren't normal circumstances.  He rubbed my back for a few and then made a bunch of sense that I was probably dehydrated & lacking in protein since my body was probably using anything I'd put in the day before in trying to heal my face. I agreed and grabbed one of the protein shakes I had picked up for my liquid diet.  I drank as much as I could as quickly as I felt my body would let me and then went back to sleep.

I spent until about 10:30 in bed then until about 3:00 on the sofa purging that heavy medication out of my system through ingestion of lots of liquids. Luckily I never lost my cookies. It scared the crap out of me though and today I'm just thankful my pain is almost gone because I don't even want to take a Tylenol.

At least I found out and it will be quite unlikely I ever have the need to go on that stuff again. Guess I can add it to percoset as another prescribed med I just can't handle. And people wonder why I keep smoking and drinking, they're my only possible vices, no pills for me!

I'm back to my usual self today except a little achy pain but my plan for the rest of the day is to lie down.  For a while anyway. Enjoy your Sunday and I'll catch up with all of you next week.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jenn Gets Technology

Oh its on now. This is going to be fairly short because its being written from my phone. Yes its scary but true I got myself a Smartypants phone. And its even cool enough to know that Smartypants is a misspelled word if I write it in a text.

Ability to write on the go? Yes please!

I am pretty excited to give this whole 21st century thing a go and even though the battery doesn't last as long as my laptop it will still be cool to have the option of blogging or writing while on the road or whatever.  Oh yeah, and it has a Kindle app too. Swoon. You all know I love me some real books but hey, reading is reading.

Another quick update before I test this posting from my phone thing out...the two pictures I posted before New Years are one each a yea and a nay. The house was one we had bid on and though super cute there were major safety concerns and we had to walk away in the end. The hunt continues on that front but I'm sure it will come eventually. The picture of "Trying for the Moon" is my latest small-run self published book. Its an addition to my zines and I'm running 100 books total for the first run. For all of you who have a copy now I want to thank you so much! Anyone who hasn't heard about it yet but is interested you can read about it on Writesy.

Hope this posts, and now to catch up on my reading!