Easily Confused Words: Winter vs. Vintner

Winter and vintner are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Winter (pronounced “wihn-tuhr”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a noun, it means the colder solstice of the year. In the northern hemisphere, this happens December-February. In the southern hemisphere, this happens June-August.
  • As a verb, it means to vacation in an area during the winter months. For example, people in northern climates in the US, if they can afford it, winter in Florida, Arizona, or other sunnier places.

Vintner (pronounced “vihnt-nuhr”) is a noun. It means someone who sells wine.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Vijay quit his high-stress job in hedge fund management to start a vineyard and small goat farm. In five years, he was the most successful vintners in his area. Once his staff felt comfortable running the store without him, he wintered out of town. Sometimes he took in film festivals. Other times he went to Sedona, Arizona.


Easily Confused Words: Some vs. Sum

Some and sum are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Some has multiple forms that all revolve around an ambiguous quantity.

  • As a pronoun, it means a group, usually people, of an unknown, but significant number: i.e., Some feel fried chicken isn’t healthy.
  • As an adjective, it modifies a noun: some days, some people, some cats. Again your talking about a group of things, but you are identifying those things.
  • As an adverb, it modifies a number or another approximation.

Sum also has multiple forms.

  • As a noun, it means the answer of an addition problem.
  • As a noun, it means the total of the components or parts of something.
  • As a verb, it means to do the math, to survey, to determine the results.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Sommersby was finding it difficult to sum up how he felt about his latest breakup; he had thought Simone was the one, and now it was over. It was going to take some time. 

News and Infotainment and the Music Biz in My Lifetime: Netflix

“Why can’t you stop watching Netflix?”

I saw this story today with its click-bait headline. It got me thinking about my own views of what Netflix has gotten right. I think it boils down to three words: convenience, quality and variety. There are some sidebars to those points below as well.

  • Convenience, insanely cheap convenience: Netflix delivers a smorgasbord of content for under $8-10 to start. That is insanely cheap compared to what cable has always cost (nevermind the upgrades to HBO and Showtime.) With streaming, it’s all at your convenience. No hopping in the car to shop for a videotape or DVD only to find out the hottest new titles are sold out. Or, aw shucks, I brought the disk or tape home and its been played so many times its scratched and warped and unviewable. The original Netflix DVD in your box wasn’t half-bad plan either, but the company didn’t want to get stuck in a rut and left behind, a la Blockbuster.
  • [SIDEBAR: Someone in the CNN article said young people don’t know what it means to watch something when it’s on, instead of when they want to watch it. Actually, though, a funny thing happens on twitter when MTV runs a feel-good, coming of age classic: that title is trending. I think it’s cool when I spy Freedom Writers and Love and Basketball are trending. Why? Because it’s being rerun on cable, most likely MTV, right at that moment. All these teens scattered around the US are having this “flash mob viewing party” thing and can’t resist commenting about it online. These kids probably don’t know each other, but they share this film as a source of ’emotional comfort food’ they always enjoy coming back to. This kind of phenomenon is the stuff that made The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music legend for us middle-aged and older folks; those two films were regularly run on network TV around major holidays. Hallmark cards has proven with the The Wizard of Oz you can make a fair amount of money selling new merch for movies that are older than most Americans alive today. Isn’t that amazing? So I counter what this person said a little. Yes, most kids younger than myself know and love convenience-watching, their tune will still change once they near puberty regardless. Once adolescence arrives, preteens and older kids are more flexible with their watching because they want content that their parents don’t understand, don’t care about, don’t approve of, or both. If it’s convenient and/or the parents have a copy, “it’s not desirable/it’s probably for little kids” in an older child’s mind. That means sacrificing individual convenience for a bigger purpose, “getting away from the parents, finding friends, and establishing my own identity.” Now I’ll move on.]
  • More on Convenience: “Free Refills” If you found something you like, Netflix doesn’t play keep away and say “sorry, tune in next time.” They say “hey having fun? have a refill, let’s keep this party rolling.” Now that it knows what you want, it wants to give you more of that if you wish. If you are binge-watching it even pauses between episodes to ask if you’re still there and still interested in watching. When you run out you can start on a new show or at least some common thread content–same genre, same cast members, same director, or all of the above. 
  • Quality. Netflix delivers lots of quality content you couldn’t find anywhere else: the documentaries, for instance. The only place to see docs in the pre-cable, non-cable world was PBS. Otherwise, maybe someone in your community was giving a special viewing at the library or a cinema, but you need typically need a certain community size, more urban landscape for that to happen. When I was younger, it seemed like NYC and LA were the only cities in America where it was possible to see all the movies that were truly out. Everywhere else got only blockbusters and big-budget pictures. [SIDEBAR: I am surprised to learn that people mainly watch Netflix for binge-watching old TV shows because cable, and even local affiliates, run lots of reruns already, they just don’t run them at the viewer’s  convenience. This is another point where Netflix is winning. I learned that some public places with TVs will run binge sessions of old TV shows, and preferably the content is child-safe which means 1980s and prior programming. It’s hard to run modern series because inevitably the content gets racy now and again.] 
  • SIDEBAR: Instant, but not necessarily classic: You’d think the oldest networks would make an effort to make shows people might still want to watch 10 or 20 years from now. Give the crime shows and reality shows a rest, stop trying to be shocking and salacious all the time, stop trying to be so edgy because networks always lose when they try to play the cable content game. Will people watch old episodes of Big Brother, Survivor, and will they 20 years from now? I seriously doubt it unless they get the MST3000 treatment. Write something the late Andy Griffith would have starred in, that guy was the Elvis of classic TV and long running series. And bridge generations for gosh sakes. Modern Family’s shown it’s possible and it can really work. Our population is grey-haired, don’t write the 40+ age groups off so quickly.
  • Variety. I like the docs, the indies I never would have seen otherwise, and catching up on shows I never saw when they were hot just to see what I missed. We have limited basic in our house so we’re missing this current Game of Thrones wave, and we also missed the LOST wave a few years back. Clearly, I’ve never been hip, but Netflix is still interested in ‘being my friend’ so to speak, it’s also other people’s friend for old TV series. Then there’s the House of Cards and Orange is the New Black crowds, it’s their friend too. Netflix is winning by being a lot of things to a lot of different people. As the article pointed out, networks fail because they abandon shows that have followings and they interrupt series for major sporting events all the time. Networks are classic commitment-phobes: they want your relationship until something better comes along. They get a winning series, then they knife it (and its audience) in the back with shifting scheduling, and stop everything for sports seasons or big events. Maybe this made sense in the 3-5 network, pre-cable world. It doesn’t now, and it hasn’t for probably 30+ years. It’s what they’ve always done and they don’t seem motivated to unlearn it anytime soon.                                                 Cable challenged their status, now Netflix (and Amazon and Hulu and Crackle are challenging it, too. Let’s see how they survive the next 20 years. Networks always think people need them and acted with arrogance and too big to fail attitudes, Netflix has always thought how to better serve its customers. Yes, those customers are paying, but it’s insanely cheap price to pay for good relationship that’s respected by both parties. 

What are your thoughts, blogosphere?



Adventures in Freelancing: oDesk

Today on Kathleen’s Adventures in Freelancing, I share some things I’ve learned as a virtual work virgin in the last couple months.

I signed up on oDesk in the last couple months, in the hopes of finding supplementary income. I am learning about being a virtual worker without having to earn a degree in it. I am getting exposed to software and other people who work in things I knew nothing about before, and those two things are PRICELESS and I am loving that.

SPOILERS/LET’S GET REAL: If you haven’t yet or were thinking about diving into online work, please be advised that these platforms probably aren’t a great idea to fund your wedding in 6 months, save for college next year, or other short term strategy to raise fat cash.

This is a slow burn. For a writer, it’s yet another delayed gratification income stream. That’s not bad, it’s just I am still adjusting from being a long-time “wage-monogamous” (so to speak) employee.

I’ll go ahead and warn you I am snarky with some of my commentary below. Now, on with the show.

I signed up on oDesk. After passing 4-5 multiple-choice writing-related tests (this is not the best determination of writing skills, mind you), I earned a 20+ job application limit per day. Unfortunately, after 2-3 hours of filtering through ads for work any given day, I can typically apply for maybe five legit jobs, tops. I wouldn’t suggest getting on there daily and spending hours scanning their ads. It will feel like a lot of lost time. It does for me, anyway.

Here are some reasons why:

  • PORTFOLIO LINK FRUSTRATIONS: oDesk has relationships with some portfolio sites, but not all of them. I am a writer, I have profiles at contently.com, clippings.me, and slideshows on my blogs. oDesk has a relationship with LinkedIn and Behance, but not Contently or Clippings. Behance is great for graphic designers, web designers, photographers, videographers, and other visual artists, however, they are not a one size fits all (OSFA) creative work showcase site. There’s a wide array of workers out there, oDesk, try to meet more of them halfway.
  • REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE THAT DOESN’T TRANSLATE QUICKLY TO THE VIRTUAL WORLD: I have years of real-world experience, but I am new to oDesk. I make a point to put this information in my profile and every one my cover letters. A lot of employers on oDesk want seasoned oDeskers. They point-blank tell you they are discriminating against the newbies. Seasoned oDeskers have 4.5 stars, lots of positive commentary, lots of happy clients, lots of high test scores. I don’t blame any employer for wanting any and all of those things, but I suspect, like me, there are perfectly qualified people are out there getting brushed off for simply being new to this virtual neighborhood. I only apply if I know I could do the job; I want the work and need the feedback to build my profile. I think you should be able to get points for writing coherent applications so people can see your skills, energy and commitment in lieu of happy clients. Big picture, skills and quality performance should win out, not seniority on the platform, so I hope that’s what oDesk plans to work toward.
  • LOTS OF JOBS, NOT LOOKING FOR ANYONE IN PARTICULAR: Many job listings are written poorly, sometimes with one vague line: “Need a writer now, please apply” or something to that effect. This ad is far too general to be worth responding to and I don’t think it should be “post-able” at all. If the employer can’t take the time to say what their project is, what type of writing is needed, what language, and how many hours may be needed, I (nor anyone else) can apply with a good conscience. It’s a waste of one of my limited number of applications to respond to this half-a** job post. I thought about pinging them and saying “hey if you can tell me much more about your project I may apply” but then I decided against it because I’m not their mom and they probably aren’t listening to a lowly newbie like me anyway.
  • PAYMENT FRUSTRATIONS: Many jobs are “fixed-price”, which means oDesk can’t intervene if you did the work, but then didn’t get paid for it or get any feedback because the employer’s account magically disappeared. Sorry overeager, naïve virgins, life isn’t fair. If I hadn’t had my share of getting stiffed in real-life 15 years ago, I’d get burned here too, I’m sure of it. Again, I just don’t apply. But the minutes it took to review this post are time I’m not getting back. Perhaps jobseekers could click a “report this post” button on these type listings so they are marked for deletion.
  • PAYMENT METHOD  NOT VERIFIED FRUSTRATIONS: Many jobs aren’t fixed price, but a little question mark appears to the right of the screen in 9 point pale gray type (READ: easily unnoticeable) that says “payment method not verified.” Again, I don’t apply to these. If it were my job site, you couldn’t list any work until your bank account was linked and verified. Until you can pay people and plan to pay people for work performed, you’re not an employer, in the real-world or virtual-world. oDesk should police these employers better.
  • EMPLOYERS MAY BE COLLEGE STUDENTS DELEGATING WORK: Maybe I should just write these term papers that get posted on oDesk as long as the pay is coming in, who cares? But kids getting the degree but not doing the work cheapens the degrees of every student that did do the work and truly earned their degree. Sadly cheaters and slackers don’t get a special colored degree to indicate they cheated and slacked their way through college, and will probably resort to those same tactics in the workplace. Yeah, I’m old-fashioned, I just don’t like being an accomplice to this work.
  • LONG-TERM WORK MAY BE AVAILABLE, BUT NOT COMING TO YOU EVEN IF YOU DID A GREAT JOB ON THE SAME TYPE WORK FOR THIS EMPLOYER: Many employers post separate tasks and work assignments, and find workers that worked out great for each task. Everybody’s happy, right? Only when you read a new assignment, you scroll down to see what previous workers said. Mysteriously, it doesn’t appear experienced oDesk employers sought out their former oDesk stars to do repeat business. Don’t they want to be happy all over again? I just want to forewarn new and potential oDeskers that taking a low rate because you think this is going to be a longterm relationship is something you need to be wary of. They may say there’s more work in the future, but they could be saying that just so you lowball yourself. This could be a one-night stand and it’s probably safest to approach it that way no matter what. Do the best you can regardless, and rack up the stars, but never expect a long-term partner or oDesk soulmate, so to speak.
  • LANGUAGE AND NATIONALITY FRUSTRATIONS: Many  job postings are looking for speakers of languages other than English or residents of specific Asian countries. That’s fine. Until I become a speaker of those languages or a resident of those nations, I don’t want or need to see these ads, period. On the flipside, people who do live in those countries shouldn’t have to see ads seeking native US English speakers, Americans, or countries besides their own. It’s wasted exposure. oDesk needs to let its users conduct a more filtered search based on their background and skills, and furthermore (echoing previous bullets) seeking people who can and will actually pay.
  • SEARCHING FRUSTRATIONS: If I’ve clicked the “X” to the right to not see an ad in my feed, users need to have the option to not see it again, ever. Ditto for ads more than a few days old or ones with too many applicants or already interviewing “finalists.” I could be your dream applicant, but if I am too darn late to the apply, no one cares.
  • CHARGING FRUSTRATIONS: What a user charges on oDesk usually does not correspond to what he/she would charge in real-life, at least not at first. Typically, the user is lowballing his/her rates to get their profile noticed and get work and feedback. As the user applies for jobs, he/she adjusts his/her rate accordingly. I am not publicizing my profile on oDesk until I am charging more, which kind of makes the whole process seem like a wasted effort early on. I don’t think it is long-term.
  • OTHER PLATFORMS: I’ve signed up on other platforms. Elance expects me to pay if I wish to apply in multiple categories of work, which I think stinks when I’m a writer who simply wants to be available to type things for other people if they need it. Maybe the answer is to just offer admin first, they foray into writing on their site.  I also signed up on TaskArmy and have yet to hear from anyone about writing articles of various lengths.

When I hit snags in the freelance or virtual economy, it’s easy to reminisce about what it was like back in the old days of reporting to an office for a 9-5.

But really, it was just the steadier, higher pay that was better. The rest was limiting and frustrating. I had to dress up, look cute, and commute daily and sit in some insane traffic jams with hundreds of other people every day of the week doing the same things. I wasn’t paid for the time it took to do any of that primp, prep, and travel. Yes I was paid for the hours spent in the office, but there were wasted hours being onsite and being available but waiting on others, information from others, or paperwork processing. In government, what should take an hour can take weeks. And if its December, the people you need approval from are off for the rest of the year and you’re at work with almost nothing to do in the interim. UGH!UGH!UGH! And then there’s all the theatrics and mind games of getting along with your officemates, which really sucked during periods of downtime. I definitely don’t miss petty office dramas that were the norm in white-collar jobs. If I had to go back to work I’d take blue collar work or temp work. Why? Because let’s work or let’s go home cause there’s no work to do.

Nowadays downtime with one client means I can maximize my time in so many ways. I can look for other work, read a book to improve my game, take a walk outside, take a drive, go to a lunch lecture (which never was possible 9-5), go to a conference (which never was possible 9-5), write a blogpost, join an online discussion. Hooray freelance work and wage polygamy.

My spouse and I hope to hit the road and work from it very soon. ‘Fingers crossed.

I Had to Share: A Cool List for Creators of All Stripes from Austin Kleon

Next March, Austin Kleon has a new book coming out. It’s called “Show Your Work.” If Kleon’s name sounds familiar, it’s because this will be his third book. His previous titles are “Steal Like An Artist” and “Newspaper Blackout”. Kleon is a self-described artist who draws.

On the new book’s companion blog, there’s a top ten list that provides a sampling of the book’s content. I think this list is timely, essential reading for creators* in the 21st century. It’s also an effective “teaser” for the book. This link is here.

#1 is “You Don’t Have to Be A Genius.”

No one undertakes anything new in a state of omniscience. Put more simply, No one can know the ending before even beginning.

And who would do anything if they knew the ending? Where’s the fun in that?

I am excited about this book. Until it is released, there will be more teasers to get me (and other interested readers) by via Twitter, @austinkleon, and at the blog, showyrwork.com.

*=I could add entrepreneurs and anyone else having to start a new chapter of life here.

A Sense of Place

I am watching my folks move this week after being in this area almost 50 years. It is hard to see them leave, but it is a relief to see them choose a house that’s far less maintenance. And they will be living closer to my sibling and his/her family. I worry about them staying busy with leisure, and focusing more on enjoyment. I hope they pursue those things as actively as they maintained their residences all this time. 

Charleston is a nice city and a pretty nice place to live. I think I’ve mentioned it before, it’s a changed a lot in my lifetime. Progress is great, new business and “destination desirability” are great. It’s lots of jobs, lots of buzz, and there’s some glamour that comes with that buzz. Cities have high and low points, after some sleepy decades, Charleston is at a high point right now. 

As someone who’s lived here a long time, though, it gets harder and harder to recognize the place  as it works so vigilantly to be a place where travelers want to visit. 

I’m asking myself what lifetime long, strong bonds I have left tying me to this area. I don’t mean a residence or possessions. I mean things that can’t be backed by insurance, irreplaceable things.  I am not sure there are any. And I feel “all at sea” about that.