Sunday, August 21, 2016

A spot of dirt road mountain biking

At every point of the compass outside of Parys town, we have dirt roads. They just sit and wait for people to run, ride and dirt bike them. I haven't done much mountain biking at all but with Celliers back in the saddle and preparing for Crater Cruise (a big mtb event out here in September), we set Sunday afternoon aside for a ride.

The route we chose is a 25-kilometre loop on the Sasolburg side of town. It's a five kay ride from home to bring the distance total to 35 kilometres.

We took the loop in a clockwise direction. The first 3/4 of the route is definitely the most interesting and I delighted in seeing the numerous properties - accommodation places and farms - that line the route. We also had some quick sightings of the Vaal River and saw a lot of game - hartebees, springbok and, I think, reindeer. And two donkeys.

As with most things, I really should get out on my bike more often. It's always a timeshare issue with running and paddling and biking - of course running always gets first priority.

As an aside,  I ran a really good time at parkrun yesterday despite feeling a bit off - I've been surrounded by sick people all week as a result of a bug going around town. It is good motivation to put in a bit of speed work in the week... One of the ladies told me that she's peeved that I turned 40 recently because now I've moved up an age category so she is no longer first in her age group. Hahahaha.

The area is very attractive with the wide dirt road, game, vegetation, hills, koppies and rock outcrops. But, within another two weeks, Spring will have sprung and everything brown will be dressed in green. Can't wait!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Writing job websites

In looking to expand my client base and also diversity of writing projects, I turned to the internet. I read a bunch for websites referring me to this or that platform and I registered with three of them.

Registration is time consuming because it also involved creating a profile and adding examples of your work to build up a portfolio for a prospective client to look at.

Two of the sites are of the 'Don't call us, we'll call you' format where they'll connect you with jobs that match your skills. I've heard from neither of them in six weeks.

The third came with many recommendations, Here 'employers' looking for people to create content put out job descriptions for which writers can bid and apply. What I like about this is that I can look through a list, see whether my skills match the employer's requirements and then I can apply.

A nice feature is that you can see if there is feedback from writers who have previously done work for the job poster, how much in total they have paid to writers, how many jobs they have paid for and whether they have any unpaid invoices. I've seen very few posters with a history - most of the numbers are at zero.

Aside from this, the site has two major problems.

The first is that very few employers know what they want. Job descriptions rarely mention the theme of the writing, even fewer offer a reasonable rate and many want a ridiculous amount of content; but they all want high-quality writing by experienced writers who are native English speakers. They want content that is original and free from plagiarism. They also regularly mention 'long-term work' or 'ongoing work'.Take this example that came through today:
"I am looking for an article writer to join my team of writers for a long term job. I need someone who can produce quality articles with a great speed of writing. The applicant should be able to produce 5,080 words in a day with grammar error free, therefore we need mostly native speakers as well as the Philipinos and anyone who can only write an article without grammar errors. Samples should be attached. Thanks"
They are offering +6 months work at around 30hrs/week and $20-$47/hour.

I did a search on Google to find out how many words a day well-known authors write. The result came up with: "Jack London wrote between 1,000 and 1,500 words each day. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day".

There are many posts looking for super-high wordcounts from writers.

Their numbers are set at zero. I don't know whether they've posted any jobs before but they certainly haven't hired anyone and they have paid nothing.

And this brings me to the second problem with the site.

Most jobs stay open for a few weeks and they receive between 10 to 50 quotes from applicants. Most of the job posters have never employed anyone on the site and not all jobs that are posted end up hiring people.

Of the nine jobs that I've applied for two haven't hired anyone (this goes back six weeks). One job was deleted. One hired an agency that has a profile, not an individual. One hired a retired doctor who specialises in medical writing (at $50/hr) to write blogs on inspiring senior citizens (huh?). One that needs "hundreds of articles in a short time" for a unique online magazine has hired an agency (makes sense). The last three jobs are recent postings.

Of interest, jobs posted vary greatly - from needing people to write ebooks, grant applications, sponsorship letters and reviews. How's this one... An establishment that pays people to write good reviews and to post these online (they have clearly done this before because their status reflects how much they have paid in total thus far):
"Hi, we would like professional reviews posted for our establishment. This can be done per hour or in bulk. Reviews to be posted to trip advisor."
These platforms can work and there are some genuine and interesting jobs posted. Sifting through the non-genuine content to get to these gems is the challenge and when you find them there's no guarantee that you'll land the job.

I recently paid $5 on Fiverr for a logo design. Although I liked the logos the guy I chose designed for me, I'm not using them as they are. His designs gave  me was the creative kick I needed to develop my own ideas and to modify his logos for my purpose. This was a good online job-commissioning experience.

Night paddling, at full moon

Last night my paddle club, Likkewaan Canoe Club, got together to paddle on our stretch of the Vaal River under the full moon. We were on the water just after 19h00 and it was spectacular.

A gathering of paddlers with plastic Epic surfskis recently donated to the club. The young paddlers were quick to grab the surfskis to try them for the first time. Other paddlers were in K1s. Lots of colourful glow sticks were seen on the water. Such fun! Photo from Lee-Ann.  
Warm, hardly a breath of wind and the only ripples on the water were those caused by our kayaks. The moonlight was bright enough to paddle without headlamps; its reflection off the water adding to the silvery glow.

What I did find 'disorientating' was getting on and off the kayak in the dark and onto the floating dock. A very strange sensation.

We had a good gathering of 21 paddlers for the flat water paddle - many of them our younger paddlers. There were also five white water paddlers who paddled from the clubhouse and downstream to the hang bridge. They got in two 'laps' between 7pm and 9pm. These guys all know the river really well so paddling through tricky channels by moonlight is a regular evening of fun for them.

I have barely paddled this winter season an having had such a good summer season, I'm looking forward to getting back on the water regularly.

We're really fortunate to have the club only a few kilometres from home and river all around us.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Weighing up 'offensiveness'

I watched a YouTube video the other night where comedian Steve Hughes rips political correctness, offending people and being offended.

On Monday, my husky friend Kiska howled almost non-stop from the moment his dad left for work. We'd had such a super weekend together that my heart ached for this poor dog and his sorrowful howls. His dad returned home much later that usual and I sent him a text message suggesting that he leave Kiska with me during Tuesday - dog sitting.

He dropped Kiska with me and although I wasn't home all day, our domestic worker was around. Kiska fared really well (no howling) and we wrapped up the afternoon with a run before I took him to his home, across the road.

I had a chat with his dad, who is a sweet chap.

He mentioned that he'd spoken to the lady next door to us (directly across from him) and his neighbours on either side. All three women told him that they were not bothered by the husky's howling during the day.

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

Kiska's howl is hardly a whisper. It is a full-bodied, deep-throated HOWL. And, to me, it is mournful and sad and lonely. Facing the street, I have double-glazed windows in my home office (I can see him from my seat) and our front doors are also double-glazed glass. We usually don't hear much.

My neighbours bordering on the back of our property hear him howling. Friends a block away can hear him too.

While I can tolerate the sound, his howls wrench my heart. It is just not right for a dog to be like this.

Apparently this behaviour is not new. Kiska's dad told me that in his previous home, he would howl when his dad left for work but would quieten down when the old man living next door came to give him a pat.

With Wednesday being a public holiday, Kiska had his dad's company but for Thursday, his dad said he would "see how things go" instead of taking me up on my dog sitting offer. See how things go? He is at work all day, not here. How can he see how things go?

As expected, poor Kiska howled a great deal on Thursday and even more on Friday.

When I got back from parkrun this morning my little friend was howling so I went to say hi. He bumped up against his gate, eager for touches and rubs and kisses. He talked to me and bounced and couldn't get enough loves. I rubbed his back and sides and chest and head and stroked his ears, talking to him the whole time. When I left, he continued howling for the next 90-minutes - until his dad returned.

His dad probably thinks I'm a fruit cake because the three neighbours told him the howling is 'no problem'. I think they're probably trying to be kind and understanding with their 'white lies'; they're trying not to offend Kiska's dad.
My mom has a good example of our aversion for offending others. Let's say you're waiting for the elevator. The doors open and inside is an unkempt man with a scary demeanour. He immediately sets off your alarm bells and all your natural instincts are screaming at you not to get inside. What do you do? You get inside - not wanting to offend the guy. And then you're attacked inside the lift or followed to your apartment... Is your safety less important than hurting the guy's feelings? 
By not telling the truth, these neighbours are preventing Kiska's dad from taking me up on my dog-sitting offer, which would result in a much happier Kiska and a far quieter neighbourhood. He, in turn, is trying not to be intrusive to me or to take advantage of my offer.

I am distressed by the howling. I struggle to concentrate on my work because with every howl I look at this poor dog from my window and wish he was here - happy and content with some company. The noise is one thing, but I just cannot begin to understand how my neighbours apparently feel nothing for the dog, who is clearly distressed.

Until other neighbours start addressing this issue, Kiska will continue to stay home alone every day. And he'll continue to be sad and bored and lonely. He will howl. All day.

And all because some neighbours are too afraid to offend.

In my situation, honesty from the neighbours would result in a positive outcome for all - especially Kiska.