Entertainment

Blog till your death!

The New York Times has an article about blogger’s health and their reluctance to

In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop

By MATT RICHTEL
Published: April 6, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.

“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

It is unclear how many people blog for pay, but there are surely several thousand and maybe even tens of thousands.

The emergence of this class of information worker has paralleled the development of the online economy. Publishing has expanded to the Internet, and advertising has followed.

Even at established companies, the Internet has changed the nature of work, allowing people to set up virtual offices and work from anywhere at any time. That flexibility has a downside, in that workers are always a click away from the burdens of the office. For obsessive information workers, that can mean never leaving the house.

Blogging has been lucrative for some, but those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post, and in some cases are paid on a sliding bonus scale that rewards success with a demand for even more work.

There are growing legions of online chroniclers, reporting on and reflecting about sports, politics, business, celebrities and every other conceivable niche. Some write for fun, but thousands write for Web publishers — as employees or as contractors — or have started their own online media outlets with profit in mind.

One of the most competitive categories is blogs about technology developments and news. They are in a vicious 24-hour competition to break company news, reveal new products and expose corporate gaffes.

To the victor go the ego points, and, potentially, the advertising. Bloggers for such sites are often paid for each post, though some are paid based on how many people read their material. They build that audience through scoops or volume or both.

Some sites, like those owned by Gawker Media, give bloggers retainers and then bonuses for hitting benchmarks, like if the pages they write are viewed 100,000 times a month. Then the goal is raised, like a sales commission: write more, earn more.

Bloggers at some of the bigger sites say most writers earn about $30,000 a year starting out, and some can make as much as $70,000. A tireless few bloggers reach six figures, and some entrepreneurs in the field have built mini-empires on the Web that are generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. Others who are trying to turn blogging into a career say they can end up with just $1,000 a month.

Speed can be of the essence. If a blogger is beaten by a millisecond, someone else’s post on the subject will bring in the audience, the links and the bigger share of the ad revenue.

“There’s no time ever — including when you’re sleeping — when you’re not worried about missing a story,” Mr. Arrington said.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we said no blogger or journalist could write a story between 8 p.m. Pacific time and dawn? Then we could all take a break,” he added. “But that’s never going to happen.”

All that competition puts a premium on staying awake. Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.

He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.

But make no mistake: Mr. Buchanan, a recent graduate of New York University, loves his job. He said he gets paid to write (he will not say how much) while interacting with readers in a global conversation about the latest and greatest products.

“The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write — that’s kind of cool,” he said. And, yes, it is exhausting. Sometimes, he said, “I just want to lie down.”

Sometimes he does rest, inadvertently, falling asleep at the computer.

“If I don’t hear from him, I’ll think: Matt’s passed out again,” said Brian Lam, the editor of Gizmodo. “It’s happened four or five times.”

Mr. Lam, who as a manager has a substantially larger income, works even harder. He is known to pull all-nighters at his own home office in San Francisco — hours spent trying to keep his site organized and competitive. He said he was well equipped for the torture; he used to be a Thai-style boxer.

“I’ve got a background getting punched in the face,” he said. “That’s why I’m good at this job.”

Mr. Lam said he has worried his blogging staff might be burning out, and he urges them to take breaks, even vacations. But he said they face tremendous pressure — external, internal and financial. He said the evolution of the “pay-per-click” economy has put the emphasis on reader traffic and financial return, not journalism.

In the case of Mr. Shaw, it is not clear what role stress played in his death. Ellen Green, who had been dating him for 13 months, said the pressure, though self-imposed, was severe. She said she and Mr. Shaw had been talking a lot about how he could create a healthier lifestyle, particularly after the death of his friend, Mr. Orchant.

“The blogger community is looking at this and saying: ‘Oh no, it happened so fast to two really vital people in the field,’ ” she said. They are wondering, “What does that have to do with me?”

For his part, Mr. Shaw did not die at his desk. He died in a hotel in San Jose, Calif., where he had flown to cover a technology conference. He had written a last e-mail dispatch to his editor at ZDNet: “Have come down with something. Resting now posts to resume later today or tomorrow.”

Personal

Adamant About Being on Top

This past weekend I joined friends for the 30th birthday of one of my friends, Aysel. Aysel upon first meeting could be considered an Eastern European or Mediterranean Charlotte York (of SATC fame). Exactly she’s Azerbaijani; today Azerbaijan, which represents one of the largest countries around the Caspian sea region (aside from Russia) resulting from the USSR dissolve in 1991. She has a very straight forward, no-nonsense toughness with a slight air of family royalty, and overall engaging to have as company.

We entertained dinner with her gracious family and friends at Serafina; some whom came up from Miami. The wine and hospitality overwhelmed the dinner. Although it was a quick night for me, we later had the roof top overlooking Times Square, of the Dream Hotel for an after party and I washed down a square of birthday cake with some Perrier-Jouët.

Happy Birthday Aysel!

Lifestyle

These scientist want you to be weak and die

A couple of “Dr’s” did some digging and couldn’t find a study that proved drinking 8 glasses of water a day contributes to human health – despite finding claims that “People in hot, dry climates and athletes have an increased need for water, and people with certain diseases do better with increased fluid intake”

Did they report, why these people needed water in the first place? No. Just that healthy people don’t need 8 glasses because there wasn’t a study that named 8 as the golden number.

Liquid H2O is the sine qua non of life. Making up about 66 percent of the human body, water runs through the blood, inhabits the cells, and lurks in the spaces between. At every moment water escapes the body through sweat, urination, defecation or exhaled breath, among other routes. Replacing these lost stores is essential to rehydration. (Scientific American)

The human body needs water to maintain enough blood and other fluids to maintain proper functioning organs (Kidneys, lungs, liver, skin etc.). Dehydration can result from loss of water and mild to severe results are (some of which we all have experienced from the lack of water intake from a night of drinking – which has been scientifically proved to dehydrate humans) (Rehydration Project):

# cannot pass urine or reduced amounts, dark, yellow
# cramping in the arms and legs
# weakness
# low blood pressure
# fainting
# convulsions
# a bloated stomach
# heart failure
# sunken fontanelle – soft spot on a infants head
# sunken dry eyes, with few or no tears
# skin loses its firmness and looks wrinkled
# lack of elasticity of the skin (when a bit of skin lifted up stays folded and takes a long time to go back to its normal position)
# rapid and deep breathing – faster than normal
# fast, weak pulse

Severe:
# hypovolaemic shock
# diminished consciousness
# cool moist extremities
# a rapid and feeble pulse
# low or undetectable blood pressure
# eripheral cyanosis
# And ultimately Death.

These Dr’s whole premise seems to be around this:
“For average healthy people, more water does not seem to mean better health

Hello. Asshole. This is completely subjective. What’s “average”? What’s “healthy”? How do people get “healthy”? Did drinking water contribute to that “average healthiness”?

Their proof is not that they scientifically disproved the benefits of water (8 glasses a day), is that they could not find scientific research to back these claims.

I would bet that the claim for 8 glasses of water is from a law of averages. Every person is different, some may need 6 some 9 glasses a day. That intake is assumed in not just glasses of water but in the food, soda, fruit and other sources of nourishment that also contain water. An 8 glass a day regiment ensures hydration and avoidance of the symptoms mentioned above.

To announce that not drinking 8 glasses of water a day is not beneficial WITHOUT scientific research to back up this claim is simply irresponsible.

These Dr’s are either very bad at correlating research to justify/disprove this claim, very poor researchers in general, or just making a claim to make a name for themselves in the news… Your call but I have to go piss all over this now that I’ve finished my 6th glass this morning.

Sports

Getting insane on the court

When younger, I had a huge temper when I played sports. Frustration got the better of me and quite often took me out of a match in individual based sports like golf, bowling and tennis. Not so much in baseball or basketball as I subscribed heavily to the team player focus; you know, I was only a fraction of the problem if we were to loose a game and rarely found a reason to blame myself for any loss.

In HS we were fortunate to have a tennis sponsor. A local tennis shop, if I recall, aptly named The Tennis Shop, was owned by the parents of our supper-star player Ryan Johnson. We loitered their frequently during the season like after school kids at a 7-11 drinking sports drinks, picking up free racket strings, neon tennis balls, wrist bands of all colors. Rackets themselves were heavily discounted and The Shop had a great “check-out” program where we could use new rackets for trial any time we wanted (for as long as we wanted). Like a tennis star I carried 3-4 rackets all strung at different tensions for different types of play (and courts should I just happen to stumble on to a grass or clay court).

When a match would sour, I had a nasty habit of chucking my racket either at the back fence or into the net. I’ve missed the net on several occasions and had to deal with an irritated opponent thinking I was gunning for him when my toss rose above the tape. In one inter-high school match I blew an easy cross shot and smashed my racket in frustration to the ground shattering the head in three pieces. $100s worth of damage, but at least I had 4 others to fall back on.

Mikhail Youzhny however, takes his anger up a notch, beating his racket to the dome repeatedly and drawing a gash of blood and look of lunacy for his tantrum. This act forced the match to be held up while he was stitched – I’m sure the blood spilled on the court encouraged the battle – he went on to win the match in 3 tough sets:

Entertainment

Ken Lee!!! Tulibu dibu douchoo!!!

AI is something exported all around the world. I don’t watch it but do get to hear the gossip of the Sanji’s no talent stint/hair and Antonella Barba’s naked pictures. Like here in the states, even in Bulgaria there are the William Hung’s that just can’t sing, let alone know the words to songs. Check out this version of Ken Lee:

Personal

The St. Maarten Vacation Mash Up

I just heard a horrific story about a friend of mine traveling on the island of St. Maarten and is currently recovering from the attack in a Miami hospital. Here’s the details:

JL was walking with two family friends down a relatively dark street when they were all approached out of the shadows by three armed men. The men quickly demanded all their money. As JL was going through his pockets to oblige, one of the men pistol whipped him on top of the head with his glock. The impact of the gun broke his skull, and shattered pieces of his skull into his brain cavity.

With the other two men holding guard on JL’s other friends, there wasn’t much they could to to assist while they were robbed. JL was carried to the local hospital in St. Maarten; unfortunately these island hospitals don’t regularly staff neurosurgeons. His family was notified and they gathered what money they could on short notice to charter a private (low level) flight direct to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. While there, he underwent brain surgery to remove the shards of skull from his brain tissue.

Fortunately they acted quickly and the operation was a success! As a result of the attack, JL does suffer from neural damage which has paralyzed his right hand, however, with days of therapy we’re hoping that he will regain full use of it in the near future. Unfortunately, this isn’t guaranteed and is more hopeful than anything else. He is is good spirits, and we all made sure to keep conversations light and friendly to keep him from stressing about his situation.

If this casualty wasn’t enough, he now has to deal with the American Health Care system. As a student and massage therapist he’s unable to work without his dominant hand. With the limited health insurance he does have, his out-of-pocket medical bills have already run over $20,000, not including the immediate travel expenses endured.

JL’s family and friends have put together a donation site to help him with the looming medical bills and living expenses, while he concentrates on therapy and recover. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to help donate; it’s much appreciated.

Being confronted in an alley by armed men in your own town or even in America is frightening enough, but in another country, with lacking care and facilities, it could have been down right deadly. We are all fortunate that his friend and family acted quickly and pulled together to get JL to safety and he’s well on his way to recovery. JL: Recover Fast and Well my friend

Culture

The Uzi

I played baseball for almost 8 years (I really can’t recall the exact time frame but I did end my time on the fast pitch field my softmore year in HS). During that time I, like many baseball fans collected numerous baseball cards. They are all stacked up in storage at the rents collecting dust, critters, mold and what ever else is up in the attic destroying my youthful passion.

Collecting cars kept me interested in the sport,understanding the stats but I never got into the value perception each card carried. Is Jose Canseco’s rookie card worth more than Todd Worrell… I have 3 Wally Joyners you want to trade one for a Rodger Clemens? blah blah… I started collecting private sets as well like the True Value superstars set, or the full box set of Donruss Rookies.

The whole thing soured from me when a fellow baseball player, Jimmy, I traded cards with got upset because he felt I took him in a favorable trade. I think I traded some mint Dan Quisenberrys and Mattinglys for his mint Dwight Goodens and rookie Mark McGwires… what ever at the time just cards… but he went through my sets and either stole one of the cards out of each set or bent them to unfavorable value. This and a few other events lead to the dismiss of our friendship but ultimately I realized they’re just cards and fawning over packs of cards for that one defect or rookie card that will be worth hundreds SOMEDAY just didn’t seem like a worthwhile use of my time.

Topps is printing cards in their 08 deck of “Future Stars” and one such listing is that of Japanese high school pitching phenom named Kazuo “The Uzi” Uzuki. Reportedly he can throw an 104 MPH fastball at 18 and on his way to becoming the first Japan-based high-schooler to jump straight to professional baseball in America.

I know when I came to these type of cards in the deck they went on the stack of gum and trash that never really were kept. This card, as it turns out, is a fake: Kazuo Uzuki means “the first son of April” in Japanese. The placement of this card is intentional by Topps to generate buzz and played on the consumer as an April Fools ruse. To me this is just bull shit and I hope it backfires. A true collector will probably figure out that this was a faked card from the beginning – if no stats are searchable but the act of playing this joke for publicity doesn’t bode well for the true fan that really just wants to participate in the sport.

Upper Deck is apparently adding presidential cards this year, which also should have been cut on the production floor. Who cares–

Society

Dem Smart in Duh Citay

Watching NY1 per usual to catch the “In the Papers” section where they read the top headlines and stories for us non-paper subscribers… when I caught a quick story on the Nation’s city High School Graduation rates and more specifically that New York City is among the worst large cities in the country: .45 percent of all New York City high school students graduate within four years. That ranks New York 43rd among the top 50 cities.

Less thank half the kids in New York City graduate high school in 4 years (if at all)! That’s incredible!

What does the NY Dept of Ed have to day about this? Uh well that this is an IMPROVEMENT! “Department of Education said that the city’s graduation rate has risen six points since the study was conducted”

In the America’s Promise Alliance study Mesa, Arizona, faired the best where 77 percent of students earned a diploma. The worst was Detroit, where just a quarter finished high school.

Some other interesting stats: Asians more than any other ethnicity graduate more (80.2%), females more than men (73.6%) and kids from the suburbs graduate more than those from rural, towns, and urban districts.

My hometown areas faired well: San Jose was ranked #2 (Mesa beating only by 0.1%), San Francisco ranked #5, Sacramento ranked #9 but Oakland edged just above LA and New York at #41.

Politics & Government

Sinking ships

Yes this is going to hit hard for the still invested share holders but don’t look at the top dogs to have been hit so hard, they’ve known for some time the stock was over valued and to get out as much as they could early on.

The execs who drove the concern into the ground get golden parachutes and medals of freedom not the jail time they so richly deserve and the average working stiff gets the shaft in destruction of trust in public institutions and lowered services while being pick pocketed by taxes.

They contributed to the evaporation of confidence and thus, the sinking of Bear. This is far from over and the friends I have in the finance area are all scrambling to hold on to their shirts in the wake of more to come.

Lifestyle

A moment of silence please…

The creator of the best fast food breakfast sandwich has passed: Herb Peterson, the inventor of the Egg McMuffin had passed away at the age of 89. Herb’s invention actually paved the way for McDonald’s to introduce breakfast to McDonald’s restaurants – previously only lunch & dinner were served.

Herb actually began his career with McDonald’s Corp. as vice president of the company’s advertising firm, D’Arcy Advertising. He even wrote McDonald’s first national advertising slogan, “Where Quality Starts Fresh Every Day.” Peterson then became a franchise owner of six McDonald’s restaurants in Santa Barbara and Goleta, California. As a fellow lover of eggs Benedict, the idea of a quick and easy to make replication this was the perfect introduction to the breakfast market, which as of now accounts for 30% of McDonald’s revenue (the breakfast menu).

Head out to your local McyD’s for a sandwich in his honor.