This Blogger Life

To Some, Blog is still a four letter word

For this week’s “This Blogger Life” our ChicagoNow leader, Jimmy Greenfield, asked us to write about our writing processes.
“Write about your process, your worries, the joy you feel when you write something wonderful, the pain you feel when you publish something that you know isn’t very good.Write about where you write, when you write, why you write and, perhaps most importantly, why you don’t write.”
A slue of fellow CN bloggers have covered this and ironically one of the reasons I don’t write is because “WTF would I have to say that hasn’t already been said at this point?”

Many people still think of blogs as online personal journals and amateur author opuses  (or is that just my friends who won’t like my FB Page?)  Random Bits of Interesting tossed between Stream of Consciousness tangents and long winded what I did this weekend tirades.  And yeah there are a lot of blogs out there that still do that.  Heck, I even used this platform to write about my neighbors lawn service who blocks my driveway — hardly award winning copy by any stretch.

This was my office…before it got converted into a nursery

where the magic blogging happens


Still, there is a lot of work that goes into a professional or even quasi-professional blog.  By the way,Professional isn’t strictly limited to whether you get paid or not.

As for my actual process.  Like Julie Hammerle of Hammervision  aptly pointed out: We like to think that we sit “in the leather chair that faces the woods, not the creek” because it better attunes us to the Creative Muse.  In reality, most of us write wherever we can, when we can and as quickly as we can in order to get the post out the door before the idea because irrelevant, overdone or crushed underneath the neverending demands of Life, The Real World and our Daytime/paying jobs.

The Process Itself

It starts of course with an Idea.  I have lots of them.  Most of them are garbage.  Many of us have draft folders full of half started posts or lists of topic ideas that may never see the light of day thanks to writer’s block or our Creativity Muse taking a smoke break.  Right now I have 12 drafts in the WordPress queue and those are just ones that have got that far.  Sometimes to get the Creative Engine going I’ll go for a run or think about my post during my drive to work.  Or if I get stuck with one post, I’ll start working on a different one.

What I usually do is open up Notepad and start typing.  occasionally I’ll do the Outline thing we learned in school.  For instance for this post I did:

  • Idea
  • Outline
  • Notepad file
  • Tools

Once I get a good chunk of text I decide that I have the makings for a publishable post.  If I don’t have enough or I still want to flesh it out, I’ll either save the file to my Google Drive or I’ll put it on my personal blog.  Sometimes that’s where it goes to die, a throwaway paragraph to augment a picture of my cat or backyard sunset view.  Other times I’ll resurrect it and flesh it out more here.

I mentioned Tools.  Usually that’s just sticking the text in Word and doing a spellcheck and word count.  I prefer the Word spellchecker over WordPress because it is a little more robust and catches minor grammar errors. Occasionally I will also cut and paste it into Hemingway to see if I have too many pretentious sentences.

Finally I put it into the CN WordPress interface.  This is where I do the formatting and final editing.  I come up with a good lead sentence and hopefully an SEO friendly headline, preview it a few times and then find a good photo or two to go with the piece.  If I decide to make it a gallery then I have to find a few more.  Sometimes this is more time consuming than writing the post because we have to either us our own photos or have permission to use other people’s photos.

Remember that professional thing I mentioned?  There are thousands of amateur blogs out there that link to photos without having permission to do so or giving any form of credit to the photo owner.  They are small fries and like a jaywalker or spitter in a large metropolitan city, will unlikely ever be brought to justice.  However, it is classless to deny content creators the little reward they tend to get (credit and possibly a little ad revenue) by stealing their stuff.

Blogger Currency that fuels our Culture of Collaboration

I try not to spend too much time on a particular post, not just to avoid a time suck, but because 1) I realize that they aren’t all going to be the works of Vonnegut, Hemmingway or Bradbury or even John Scalzi* , and 2) more than one CN blogger has remarked that the posts they work the hardest sometimes get very light traffic whereas something they put together quickly and without much effort went pseudo-viral.

That said, I have to confess that it tickles my butt when publish something and Google Analytics shows it getting good traffic.  I try to act like I’ve been there before, but I get a real tickle when one of my posts makes the front page of ChicagoNow.  The encouragement that comes from reader feedback such as those desired shares, likes, tweets and comments.  Sometimes I even draw in a new subscriber or FB Page like.  Seriously, it’s a “like” not a kidney. Go ahead and like the page. Then invite all your friends to do the same.

*who I’m convinced is my more successful doppelganger
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There are a lot of cliches out there that are meant to provide short nuggets of wisdom. Platitudes and hackneyed phrases like Things Are Not Always as They Seem or It’s Not Always About You. Well Chester it is always about you and I’m here to tell you exactly why things are always like they seem.


Thank you for reading and I hope you will comment below. Here’s the part where I beg for stuff because we get paid in likes, shares, re-tweets and feedback. Please also do any and all of the following:

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Life Lessons

7 awful cliches and what they really mean


The back gate that leads to the alley was in need of some repair. While the wood itself was still serviceable, the gate had somehow shifted and it was hard to open and close.  There was also some wood rot and structural disintegration that prevented me from simply patching it with a few new boards.

I actually considered outsourcing the task to a handyman but it would have cost me time and materials way out side my budget.  The handyman suggested I just get a Fence Kit from one of the Big Box stores and cut it to size.  He said he could do it for $50 an hour and estimated three hours of work or I could do it myself.  Well luckily we had mild weather over Thanksgiving Weekend when my FIL was in town. Since we don’t have premium cable the next best thing is working with one’s hands.

The final cost of the gate was about $75.


If you liked this post, you should check out How to Build a Fence Gate on the Cheap

Thank you for reading and I hope you will comment below. Here’s the part where I beg for stuff because we get paid in likes, shares, re-tweets and feedback. Please also do any and all of the following:

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Weekend DIY

Fixing a broken fence gate on the cheap

Life Lessons, Uncategorized, Wacky World Wednesday

I want to break up with the gym

This is an experience I had trying to quit my gym a few years ago before I had a blog, which meant I  “blogged” by sending my “posts” through e-mail to friends or posted in the Notes Section of Facebook.   I’m sure most people just deleted the e-mails without reading them.  Rather than re-work the piece to change the tense from present to past, I’m going to cut and paste.  Also, My friend David over at The Quinn-tes-sen-tial wrote a good piece about his experience with his gym so be sure to check it out.

Small Gym At The Office

Not the Ray Meyer Gym

I’ve been a member of the Ray Meyer Fitness Center at DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus since 2004. It was a great deal at the time: a discounted alumni rate and it was on the way home. All I had to do was pack my workout bag in the morning and after work, get off at Fullerton Brown line stop, go work out, and get back on.

At first I was even able to complete a workout and get back on the EL within the same 2 hour transfer window. But the workouts got longer as I’d include a spin class. That prompted me to switch to a monthly CTA pass.

Over the years, things have changed. I stopped taking the brown line to work  so it’s not as convenient to take it home and stop at the gym — especially when I leave my car at the blue line station in Irving Park. Also, the gym mostly caters to students, not alumni nor other non-student members. This is evident by the elimination many of the late evening spin classes.  Who can get to the gym at 5pm!

So after realizing that I hadn’t been to the gym since February, I called and asked about cancelling my membership. You can’t just do it over the phone, you have to fill out a Membership Cancellation Form (MCF). The lady who took my call offered to fax me the form. About a day or two went by when I realized I didn’t receive the fax. I called back and asked for someone to fax me the MCF. This went on for a couple of months. I’d periodically remember that I wanted to quit the gym and would call and never receive the fax.

I decided to drop in one Sunday afternoon before going to mass since my church, also DePaul, is across the street. Alias, the Membership Relations part of the gym was closed at the time I got there (about 90 minutes too late). No one could find the MCF form although a nice Polish kid did try to help. I started to count this as one of those times when it would be helpful to speak the language of my ancestors, but it turns out it wouldn’t have made a difference because he couldn’t find the form.

I politely suggested that putting the form on the website might be

  1.   Useful,
  2.  so very 21st century and
  3. a FUCKTACULAR idea.

His response indicated that he had drunk a full gallon of the corporate cool-aid when he said “oh the reason we don’t is because we have it right here where you need it when you want it”.

“But you don’t have it here,” I pointed out. he smiles and shrugs his shoulders while checking the same file cabinet for the fourth time to see if the MCF had magically appeared.

small changing room

Flash forward to Monday. I called the gym again for the MCF. This time it actually arrived at my fax machine! I filled out the form and tried to fax it back. I’d hear the busy signal and the report sheet would come back busy/noresponse. The thing about cancellation is that if you don’t do it by the 15th of the current month, you are charged for the next month. I’d be able to use the gym but since I’m not using it now, it’s kinda a moot point. I was determined to get this resolved, so I called and asked if their fax machine was, in fact, working.

The lady who answered — same voice as the one who promised to always send me the fax — said it was working. Let’s call her name is Trudy. I explained my issue and Trudy suggested I try it again, and added, if it doesn’t work I can email it to you. I know what she meant, at least I hope she meant that I could email her a scanned document, because if not, I’m not sure how her emailing me something would help.

After trying to send the fax several times over the next couple of days, I called back and got the same lady and asked if I could indeed  scan the MCF and email it to someone. She said sure and gave me an email address. This is on a Friday afternoon and With the 15th of the month deadline drawing near, I could just see my email sitting in someone’s junk/spam folder.

Finally, at the end of the day, I get an email that say:

I am out of town until Tuesday, I will have Trudy follow up with you regarding your cancellation.

Thanks for letting us know.


Now I’m thinking that the fate of membership, whether or not I will be charged another month’s dues, depends on the skillset of Trudy, the lady who couldn’t or wouldn’t fax me the MCF all these months. The lady who thought the problem with her fax machine could be solved by emailing me. I’ll be lucky if I don’t get charged twice each month from here on in!

While heading home I entertain a wild thought: there’s a scene in the movie Reality Bites where Winona Ryder sets camp at a gas station and offers to pay for everyone’s gas in exchange for cash. I start to figure out if there is a way I can do this with my gym membership. Maybe just send homeless person after homeless person into the gym to use the shower and take advantage of the complimentary towels! Alas, I recall that they check my gym card against a photo they have on file.

The good news is that Monday I did receive an automated email from Campus Recreation: “We received your request for cancellation. Your membership will expire on 7/31/09. ” The bad news is I’ve gained some extra pounds and could really use a gym to work out at right about now.

Thank you for reading and I hope you will comment below. Please also do any and all of the following — I know pushy right!

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small changing room

Corporate America

STOP saying you are busy!

In Corporate America there is an animal called the IMSOBUSY. The IMSOBUSY is too busy to stop in the hallway and say hello or make friendly banter, but always has time to tell you how busy she is.

What to grab some lunch? Lunch is for losers. How was your weekend? Cannot talk now, I have something important I’m working on that cannot wait and when it’s done, something more important than bonding with coworkers will take its place.

I’m So Busy is often the war-cry of the inept or the incompetent.  Everyone gets busy at one point or another in Corporate America. And obviously there are people who use the mantra “I’m so busy” as an excuse to get away from someone as fast as possible.

And then there’s this:

“A couple years ago, there was this Op-Ed in the Times, this guy who was all whiny, like, ‘Why is everyone always saying they’re busy?’ and I was like, ‘I’m sorry, but are you a dipshit? You know all these people just don’t like you, right?’ ” Source

There is a group of IMSOBUSY that take being busy to a religious level. They not only act as if they are busier than anyone else in the company but that their busy is the only thing of importance in the world right now.

Just stop it. Right-the-Fucking-Now.

Your busy isn’t any more important than my busy (or lack thereof). We are creating spreadsheets and slidedecks, not developing Cold Fusion or putting the finishing touches on the Cure for Cancer.

Surprisingly, the IMSOBUSY somehow has time to notice when you are doing some non-work related task like talking to your spouse or browsing Amazon.

This is why everyone at the office not so secretly hates you.

Not every single moment of your working day needs to be sacrificed to doing something work related, no matter how unnecessary. That’s not how work should work.

Some jobs are more transactional and some are more “CPU-intensive”.  Others require just a lot of being there waiting for something you have no control of to happen.  Thee side effect of this is a certain amount of down or idle time.  And you can only fine tune your time sheets so much.

According to a survey, 64% of employees regularly spend time surfing the Internet on websites unrelated to work. Those are the ones who admitted it, so the number is most likely even higher.

If you want to be a workaholic, fine.  Don’t pull me into your reindeer games Chester!

If you legitimately are Perpetually Too Busy it is because you are over tasked, inefficient or both.

If you have more work than is possible to do in a given day and you are constantly struggling just to get thing done than that is a resource/manpower issue between you and your manager. If your manager refuses or is unable to hire more headcount YOU and only YOU have to determine if this is the place for you.

Just don’t ask me for help because I’m busy!

Thank you for reading and I hope you will comment below. Here’s the part where I beg for stuff because we get paid in likes, shares, re-tweets and feedback. If you like my posts, funnies and random facts, please also do any and all of the following:

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