Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Evening Craigslist Clickathon

(Update on the "scraps of literacy": A hopefully regular reader named "sittingpugs" suggested to me that I use a digital camera, that way I can adjust various settings. I plan to try that very soon.)

In 1st grade, 1990, my classmates at Stirling Park Elementary in Casselberry, Florida always called me a "computer hog," because I was often on the only computer the classroom had, a computer that only worked if you had a floppy disk in the separate drive. Yes, a floppy disk. I think one of the games available was "Number Munchers," where with the frog-like "Muncher," you'd munch, say, multiples of 5. It became "Math Munchers" years later.

I was never bothered by that comment, because it's true. At this moment, I have tabs open in my Internet Explorer browser for the "J! Archive" (http://www.j-archive.com/), devoted to archiving Jeopardy! games, YouTube ('My Road' by Quinn Walker, because of an episode of "Scrubs" from last week called 'My New Role' which found Dr. Cox trying to adjust to his new position as Chief of Medicine), my e-mail, the 'dashboard' of Blogger, news from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the celebrity drag show called "An Evening at La Cage" at the Riviera Hotel and Casino has closed after 24 years (a shock, considering that the Tropicana is closing the showgirl spectacular "Folies Bergere" on March 28, after 49 years. The Strip is vastly changing), and Google.

But it's not just my penchant for keeping 8-10 tabs open at a time in one web browser that makes me a "computer hog." After I wake up in the middle of the day, I get on to check various news websites to see what's going on, such as later today when the results of the Israeli election will be announced. Curious about that potential shift in power. Plus there's my Battleship games on itsyourturn.com, called 'Battleboats' on there, many movie news websites, Film Threat, the site I write for, and so much else that I can't think of right now, but I know I'll remember those sites later when I access them.

That would probably be applicable to a lot of people though. But there's also the hours I spend online each evening, compiling job listings for a freelance writing newsletter run by a woman in Texas who inherited Freelance Daily (http://www.freelancedaily.net/), from someone else and about two years ago, put an ad in one of the newsletters that she was looking for someone to work on the newsletter. Either an unpaid intern, or a paid someone. I decided to be that "paid someone" and there apparently wasn't much demand for the job, because I was brought on right away.

The program created for the newsletter, accessible on a website separate and private from the one containing the newsletter archives for subscribers, is wonderful, if it was ever fixed, something that hasn't been looked into, but I've gotten better at inputting many of the listings manually.

The genius of this program is that there's one section where you adjust the dates for ads you're seeking from Craigslist (February 10, say, listed as "Feb 10" in the "From" box and make sure that the "To" box lists the same date), click the "Get Content" button, and the program automatically gathers up listings from various locations on Craigslist. San Diego, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, all of them and many more pulled in. Another tab in the program lets you "filter" the ads through, by way of five buttons on the left side of each ad, corresponding to various categories, such as 'Straight-Up' (for magazine writing ads, or writing ads that don't really fit anywhere else), to 'Copywriting' and 'Technical.' Just click one of those buttons and the ad is dropped into that specific category. Another tab lets you see the newsletter as it'll be seen by the subscribers, and another on the far right lets you put in a 'quote of the day' and change the date of the newsletter for each day.

Freelance Daily goes out to subscribers Monday-Friday, which means I'm at work on this Sunday nights through Thursday nights. Sunday nights can be the most trying, because there's three days worth of listings to sift through, from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Thursday nights for the Friday newsletter are usually the easiest because it's more than likely that those who would post ads are already inside the weekend, and so there's not that much to pick. Generally, I can get that newsletter finished before or a little after 11 p.m, faster than other nights. The newsletter is sent out automatically through a site called Your Mailing List Provider (http://www.ymlp.com/), where you set up your newsletter to go out and out it goes either right away or at an appointed time set by you.

The "listing generator," as I call it, hasn't really worked all that well for a long time. It used to pull in 300 listings or so which would cover the bulk of what was posted on Craigslist and leave me to only click manually through the locations covered and many extra ones, to pick up what might not have even been considered, usually in locations not swept by the program. Now it picks up only about 120 or so listings, sometimes less and that makes a lot more work for me, having to manually type in the listings, copying and pasting the text of the ad too, as well as the e-mail address. I wish the work could be made easier by the 'generator' being fixed, but as might be imagined, the newsletter doesn't make a great amount of money, and therefore a tech guy could only be contacted if the program wasn't working at all. I understand the owner's stance on it because she does a lot each day keeping the newsletter promoted and running another small business she has. Plus she's got kids and a husband, and the day shrinks.

But if it weren't for those "computer hog" days all the way back in 1st grade, I wouldn't type as fast as I do. I've gotten awed comments from classmates through all my years in school, and other people, wondering how fast I type, and a few who wondered how many keyboards I've destroyed. I've never tracked how fast I type, and no keyboards have ever been harmed. In the case of the black one I'm typing on right now, Dell makes them strong enough to face me. That helps the newsletter work go by fast, provided that I don't dawdle on assorted websites, which is sometimes difficult.

Because I compile these listings every Sunday night through Thursday night, it does get tedious. I scroll through the same cities every night through the listing generator, and I click on the same cities on Craigslist. Click and click and click, though sometimes with me it's clickclickclick. That fast on a mouse too. It's why my fingers are the only strong, toned parts of my body.

With that tedium, I need entertainment while I'm working. My bookmarks are jammed with it, in different categories, such as one for books that interest me, which must contain over 500 Amazon links by now. I've never counted how many, but it takes about 40 seconds to scroll through the entire list. There's also lots of YouTube links in my main folder, the bulk of them probably dead, as I've clicked on a few of them and found that the videos were removed or NBC Universal ordered them taken down, or some other music label who hasn't yet figured out the value of marketing on the Internet. Some are smart enough to repost the videos on their own accounts, so that's a start.

Then there are those miscellaneous links, such as book blogs, poetry sites, a Nintendo game site that boasts replicas of the old Nintendo games that you can play by using only your keyboard (http://www.virtualnes.com/), and hundreds of others spanning all kinds of interests. I think I've even got a few cooking websites stashed in there, though I don't have as much of a passionate interest as my sister, who wants to be a chef). It's problematic when I'm clicking through these sites, rather than gathering listings for the newsletter, and then the hours tick by and I'm at 3 a.m. once again without much of a newsletter to send out yet.

I've figured out one way to try to combat not only the Craigslist boredom, but to keep myself on track. The KCRW radio station (http://www.kcrw.com/), which broadcasts NPR programs (including "Morning Edition") and their own music programs, has one every Saturday morning from 3-6 called "Strictly Jazz," hosted by Bo Leibowitz, a calm, considered, thoughtful voice that's the only one to have to introduce jazz pieces. I'm more into jazz than I was when I first listened to it about a year ago, but am still gradually easing in. However, Leibowitz's program makes me ease more quickly because of what he offers, including Dexter Gordon, jazz from other names I've never heard of, and my favorite part of his show: The women. I love the voices of those jazz chanteuses. I especially love a voice that matches a lone trumpet wailing deep into the night on a city corner lit only by an overhead street light, with apartment and office buildings looming in the shadows. I like to imagine that the trumpet plays loud enough to render useless any objection that the apartment dwellers could have. They can't stick their heads out of their windows and yell at the trumpeter to cork it, because they're laying in their beds, knowing that the trumpet's notes match their own feelings that swirl around them as they try to sleep. It's one of the many images in my mind whenever I hear good, articulate jazz.

I ought to find more programs like that on the Internet. There's one on WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington D.C. called "Hot Jazz Saturday Night," which plays "vintage jazz, swing, and big band recordings from the '20s, '30s and '40s," according to the website (http://wamu.org/programs/hjsn/). And there's also the 'Real Jazz' channel on Sirius/XM which I listen to occasionally, but never before I've listened to 'Strictly Jazz' if I haven't already during the work. I'm usually watching a movie in my room or on the Tivo around 3 on Saturday mornings, so I never listen to the program live. Always archived. Still brings the same pleasure, much like when I've got KCRW going on an early Monday morning around 4, laying in bed, eyes closed, and I hear a song that makes me want to know the title badly and I wait until the DJ comes back on, and scramble to find a pen on my nightstand and onto the back of one of the pages of my New Yorker cartoons page-a-day calendar it goes, along with the name of the artist, to look it up later that day, maybe even find the song on YouTube, and revel in it again, such as with "That Night" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u5aoZgDK6Q), the only song I know of that feels like Los Angeles. I've always been looking for that song, and this is it. I won't leave you hanging as to what I mean, and I'll address that in another entry because it requires that kind of attention. But it involves trying so hard to connect with a place because of simply being there, and not being able to click with what others are so used to.

Even though I find putting together the newsletter tedious (and that feeling is more pronounced before the end of the week), I do find value in it because of what it brings to the subscribers: Potential jobs that they don't have to scour Craigslist themselves to find, because they're all right there, categorized in that newsletter. It saves freelance writers time, and I get a lot of satisfaction when it's full of listings that I know will be useful, when the pay sounds right and the writer of the ad sounds honest and straightforward in who they want to work for them. Though Monday's newsletter took a lot longer than it should have (surfing the Internet during, because three days of listings can sometimes be frustrating), I felt that exact satisfaction with 85 listings offered, confident in nearly all of the jobs being of use to someone. Though it may be later in the morning than I'd want it to be by the time I'm done (the newsletter usually goes out at 3 a.m. my time, pacific time), I don't feel so frustrated when I'm that satisfied. I've helped someone, even though I don't know who they are. And that's pretty good. Admittedly, the paycheck, mailed to me every week, helps too.

I've noticed throughout this entry that my reasons for considering myself a "computer hog" don't match up to the belief shared by my former classmates. It's also because I get frustrated when someone is on the computer too long when I need it. I used to argue about it, especially when my dad used it, long before he got his laptop which has been a godsend in other ways for me. That'll be in another entry covering the other work I do, which also requires extensive time on the computer. My mom never liked those arguments between my dad and I, which were alleviated with that laptop. I still get a little ticked when my sister's on here a lot longer than I'd hope, especially when it starts getting late into the evening and I have to start work on the newsletter. But that hasn't happened in such a long time and so isn't such a concern anymore. It can definitely be said that the trait I had in 1st grade is still with me, but larger now. And that's yet another entry for me to write, about traits like that one that are still with me today. My elementary school teachers were accurate in their assessments of me.

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