Memorial Day Flag Flying from Auburn Alabama

I am glad we still celebrate Memorial Day in this country.  Somehow it seems that as the political correctness of our culture takes over everything we end up loosing an understanding of what made this country great in the first place.  It sickens me to see stories like the one of the Iraq veteran who displayed the American flag in his apartment window and was told to take it down or face eviction due to the fact that the flag is offensive to some of their residents.

Charlie Price of Wisconsin served 8 years for his country in Iraq and Kosovo to find that he isn’t even allowed to fly the flag he fought for in his own window. The couple is now fighting to amend the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 to include renters, and I hope they are successful.  Sometimes it seems that you are no longer aloud to hold an opinion in this country because it might offend someone.  Who are these idiots who have now decided that we need to be a country of brown plain-jane, average, robots, who all believe in the same thing and can never disagree with anyone else?

There is no greatness in average, no conviction of ideals or principles in living a life of medium gray, and these types always seem to get the headlines. It gets tiring to hear the moaners, whiners, and complainers beat the drums of complacency and strive towards moving the country to be average, but sometimes they seems to be yelling the loudest.  Now, instead of being the innovators and inventors, we are having to rely on Russia and Russian built rockets to take us into space, who would have thought that 20 years ago.

It is still the greatest country in the world, I just wish some of it’s residents would take a history lesson and see that America was not built on being average.  The History Channel just finished an interesting series called America The Story of Us.  Though some of it was a little subjective, it showed the overwhelming story of how much innovation, determination, and sacrifice people made because they believed in themselves and what this country stood for.

My family has had people who fought in the Civil War, WWI, both of my grandfathers served in WWI (see Son of a Son of a Photographer), one flew a B-24 Bomber in WWII in Europe, my dad served in the Air Force, and my cousin decided to go into the Navy after 9-11 and is currently serving in the Navy on a nuclear submarine.  I am thankful for their service to this country.  Because they served, my wife and I are able to enjoy living in this great country.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day.  It has been quite a stormy weekend with some crazy weather but I managed to get outside and take a few photos (and some of the dog of course).  The heat is definitely on its way, the pasture, trees, and everything around has taken on the brilliant green of summer.

National Polka Festival in Ennis Texas 2010

We have very few traditions in our house.  We usually try to have special days throughout the year, but not necessarily on the day everyone else decides it should be done.  One tradition we have maintained for the last five years is going to the annual National Polka Festival (their website needs a serious update) in Ennis Texas.  This year through all kinds of different circumstances we were not able to make it, but today, for the last five years, we have been in Ennis enjoying some of Deborah’s Czech heritage with all the other Czech, German, and Texan people from around the country.

Each year Deborah has hand made an authentic Czech costume, and I usually get a vest and or shirt to go along with her costume.  This past year her costume was red, white, and black.  In order to enter into the Czech dance contest you must be in full costume, so Deborah has made a point to hand make hers each year.

Since we were not able to be there this year I thought I would post a few photos from last year.  We are already making plans to be at the festival next year, but at least this year I saved about 10,000 calories from all the great Czech and German food that always accompanies the festival.  I am sure everyone will have a wonderful time this year, we will be enjoying our Memorial Day weekend at home, watching all these thunderstorms rolling through.

Bose Great Customer Service on Damaged In-Ear Headphones

Normally I would not just do a post to plug a specific company, unless they had done something really outstanding (or perhaps done something really poorly), which Bose has done now, at least twice.  Way back on November 26th 2008 I bought a pair of Bose TriPort In-Ear Headphones from Best Buy for around $100 including tax.  At the time, they were probably the most expensive ear-bud type headphones I had purchased but looking back, it was the best money ever spent for that type of thing.

Not only do these headphones have the best sound quality of any ear bud headphones (see my product review on CNET) but Bose backs them up with a total and complete one year warranty.  Big deal right, well, except for when you wear them every day in all different conditions and they don’t make it that one year.

In July 2009 the wires fried and my nice expensive headphones had lasted about 8 months.  I contacted Bose and they replaced the damaged pair, for free, and in about a week I had a brand new pair of headphones.  Those Bose sent me in 2009 lasted until last week with photo below, about another 8-9 months.  So I emailed Bose again, thinking this time I was out of luck, and once again they offered to replace them for free.  Not only that, but they even offered to upgrade the set to the mobile version with the inline mic for $29.

It seems that once you pay for something from Bose, if you use them like I do, you have a perpetual warranty.

Bose told me again that this new pair, being shipped around June 1 2010 will carry the same full one year warranty. Wow, just love when a company stands by their products. Our culture is fully immersed in the generic, low quality, disposable, product lines that flood our discount box stores, but there are still a few companies that make a high quality product, and usually the higher price is well worth paying. Of course, they also get my business beyond these headphones.

My wife has a pair of these headphones, and I also own a pair of their QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (probably the best pair of headphones on the market for the price, see my CNET review), and their Bose On-Ear Headphones (an in-between model).  Some audiophile will argue my point on sound quality, but for the price, and some are far far more expensive, Bose has found a great medium between price and quality

In this case, my high price of $100 for a pair of high quality in-ear headphones from Bose cost me about $0.08 per day if I include the new pair that are on their way.  There are a couple of caveats with this of course.  If your headphones last longer than a year, you are pretty much out of luck.  I am probably not the most typical user of these headphones.  I wear them, and have worn them, on a tractor cutting 40 acres of grass through the entire summer, in the woods, on a bike, a motorcycle, in the car, in the rain, snow, and every other imaginable condition.

Of course the negative you can take from this is that obviously, under heavy and daily use, these headphones lack a bit of durability, but as long as Bose continues to stand behind them, I’m ok with that at this point.  Products today, even high quality products, anything that is mass produced, are really made for the “averages”.  If you are an under-average user, you pay more and get less, and if you are an over-average user, you pay less and get more, simple as that.

Good customer service and high quality products are a hard combination to find today so I like to point it out when it comes across path.  I can think of only a handful, like Apple, maybe Honda? What are some of the companies and products you have found today that have similar customer service?

Update 2011

The above post was made after Bose had replaced my in-ear headphones. The ones above last just about one year, and once again, they replaced them, for free, in the summer of 2011. I’m still amazed at their customer service, and still love the in-ear headphones, even though I can’t get them to last more than a year.

Update 2012

Once again, as comical as it seems now, these headphones lasted me about a year. They fell apart just about at the 10-11 month date, and once again, Bose replaced them for me, for free. This is now about my 5th set of these headphones, which I paid for back in 2008-2009. I would like to point out that I am probably considered to be a very heavy user of these headphones. I wear them several hours a day, every single day, and often wear them outside on a tractor while mowing the pasture.

How Do You Make a Maximum Impact on Something?

After using tumblr for two plus years i finally figured out what it is good for, rough drafts or incomplete thoughts. Where my blog is for more polished and complete thoughts, tumblr makes a great place to throw out the unpolished. Below is an unpolished, incomplete thought process of a blog post i am working on right now.

This question above is something i have been thinking about and struggling with for years, perhaps more than a decade. How do you do something that will make a lasting impact, that will make the maximum impact? The short of it is i have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what it is you are talking about, it can be making an impact on anything, your work, missions, an individual, a blog, financially, or playing a video game.

My answer. To make the maximum possible impact you have to make small, incremental, continuous progress towards a stated, or unstated, goal, which continues to an almost unspecified length of time. This is how Dave Ramsey would tell people to build wealth, this is how you build a community on your blog, this is how you make a difference in a person’s life, you do it one small step at a time and keep working at it on a continual basis. What doesn’t work? Doing what i call dart-board ministry. Throwing darts at a board and either doing something only once, or continually changing your methods, objectives, and goals. This is the fastest and easiest way to kill all momentum and progress.

The Work at Home Job Scam, the Freelance Job

This is a followup, and part 2 of a 4 part series, on the work at home factory job of today (read part 1, The Work at Home Job Scam, the New Factory.  This post deals with the freelance job market, the upcoming posts will deal with the call center jobs and Internet evaluator or website annotator jobs.  Keep in mind the term “freelance” encompasses a huge genre of work from photography to writing to virtual assistant to anything you can find on Craigslist in the job area.  The scope of this post is really just dealing with Elance and the Elance alternatives.

Elance is the biggest player in the Internet freelance job area.  After paying for their premium service for 2-3 years, and trying over and over for years to find a good flow of freelance jobs, I found exactly one decent hard working person who hired me to do some ‘Internet research” for $10/hr, which over a period of 6 months has earned me $85.  I still do work for him, he is trying to build his business, and he pays higher than most at $10/hr, but after almost three years, I have found nothing legitimate and it cost me $14.99/month ($450) for revenues totalling $80.

I am not here to say Elance or the others are scams (although there are posting scams all over the place), I am just trying to point out the value of your time and what it is worth.

There are plenty of alternatives to Elance like oDesk, Guru, Rentacoder, Scriptlance, Mturk, Freelancer, Getacoder, and some of my observations from sites like these are:

  • there are always tons of jobs available
  • Elance at least has it down to a science as far as pay and project organization
  • you are competing with an endless supply of workers from India who charge $1/hr (yes, on average your competition will charge $1-2 PER HOUR)
  • you have to work literally for nothing to get started by taking projects that will pay $50 for 30 hours of work
  • you are competing with noobs and people who have no idea how to run a legitamate business who will do anything for nothing, though their work is often very low quality, something you can easily overcome
  • quality is not valued as a whole… I have found the large majority of listings on these sites are looking for the cheapest possible outcome, with no regards for quality work
  • and of course, there are tons of scams everywhere you look, offers for work that will have your ISP ban your service, have eBay shut down your account, or worse… some offers might reward you with a federal search warrant and your computer equipment confiscated

Of course not all freelance work is like this, but I know of many people, who live and work within the U.S. and have to pay expenses associated with living in this country, not India.  You can only work for nothing for so long, eventually you have to either cut all expenses (not realistic) or have some revenue.

I have basically worked freelance as a photographer for more than 15 years and the key is to slowly build a client base that will recommend your work to others.  It is slow, tedious, and doesn’t pay well, but it’s far better in the long run than the results from these sites listed above.

Do yourself a favor in the long run. If you are interested in doing freelance work, treat your business like you would any other entrepreneurial endeavor by looking at some of the basics. For what it’s worth, my list also includes ::

  1. Don’t quit your revenue stream (job) until you are established
  2. Determine what unique skill or art you are going to freelance (what’s your market)
  3. Be prepared not to make any money early on, but even so, stay away from the sites above
  4. Pursue your passion, not a position
  5. Know that trying to monetizing your passion may destroy it or at least significantly change it
  6. Seeking alternative “positions” in that industry may also destroy your passion
  7. Seek out others who are doing the same thing and try to learn as much as you can from them
  8. Working more hours will not always equal better results
  9. Trying to integrate your passion into #1 above (results may vary)
  10. If you can mentally live without a steady paycheck, a 401(k), a retirement package, and stability, forget about #1 and pursue your passion instead of the culturally accepted “American Dream” but when you struggle to find your way, re-read #3, then, as Buffett would say, breathe in, breathe out, and move on.  My wife and I went over 15 years without a single paycheck (the W-2 type) and I still managed to eat.

Have you had any experience with Elance or any of the other sites listed above?  In my experience most, if not all, of these sites way over promise and way under-deliver for those with quality, experience, and education in their field.  I would love to hear if you have had any success with any of them in your freelance pursuits.