Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

February 10, 2017
by funny

Live and Learn…

Honestly, sometimes I think the longer I live, the less I learn! Especially in the editorial bidness. Wouldn’t you think by now I would know that whatever Word can do wrong, it will do wrong?

That’s why we call it Wyrd, the Old English cognate for weird.

So I’m about halfway through an abstruse academic paper. It’s actually a pretty interesting abstruse academic paper, reporting on a study of how multinational corporations revive their besmirched reputations after one hijink or another. In China, for example, Walmart got into the…uhm…dog house after it was found to be selling donkey meat as “pork.” Make that donkey meat enriched with fox meat.

Heeeeee! Well, of course all Hell broke loose when that gem of information got out. The flap that ensued was decidedly not good for business. The authors’ research agenda has to do with identifying and assessing the effectiveness of the strategies vast corporations use to cope with fiascos like this.

About the time I reach page 20 — out of 35 — in comes an email from the lead author. Stop the presses! We have a new version!

Holy sh!t.

Mercifully, there weren’t a lot of changes. But there were enough to require me to go through the entire document and manually enter the desired changes. This was time consuming, but one helluva lot less time-consuming than starting all over from the beginning. An academic paper written in Chinglish generates and unholy number of edits, comments, and queries. I’d already spent a day and a half on the thing.

A typical margin of a typical edited page looks like this…except of course the actual time stamps appear, rather than the time of day that this morning’s fiasco occurred. → → → 

Yes. The fiasco of the day:

Normally I enter changes in a clean file, just as though I were rewriting a piece of my own — in plain old Wyrd, not using Wyrd’s squirrely “track changes” function, a tool that will render your Word file wyrd faster than you can say CRASH! Then to make the edits appear, I use Track Changes > Compare Documents, which takes the one I’m working in, compares it with the original, and creates a third document showing all the changes. This I save to disk as “Edits,” and then I save the one I’ve worked on, which contains marginal comments and queries but does not highlight insertions & deletions, as “Clean” copy. Both clean and edited files then go to the client, who can see the mess in one file and the cleaned-up copy with questions and suggestions in the other.

But, with this new development — go back in and make changes in copy that is already changed and does not show edits — I can’t easily do that. So I take the authors’ edited file — fortunately they’ve highlighted their new changes — and manually enter the new stuff into my edited copy. But because in the file I’m working on I can’t see the changes I’ve already made and therefore have no idea WTF, I do this in a file that shows all my edits. In other words, I’m now using Track Changes > Highlight Changes; Show > insertions & deletions; Show > comments; Show > formatting.

The plan, then, is to complete the project in Track Changes, then save a second file, and “Accept All” edits so as to create the “clean” file.

This works, as it always worked before the day it dawned on me that the “Compare Documents” function is far superior to the “Track Changes” function. I create a clean file, review it, make a couple more changes, and save to disk. Then I go back to the edited version to enter those changes and discover…

goddamnit! ALL THE EDITS ARE DISAPPEARED. It’s as though I’ve hit “accept all changes” in this file, which I decidedly have not. Show > insertions & deletions, Show > comments, and Show > formatting are all turned on.

NOTHING that I do will recover the visible edits I’ve entered!!!!!!!!!

Holy sh!t. This is three days’ worth of work that God DAMNED Wyrd has disappeared for me!!!!!!!

After much thrashing around does nothing to rescue the hours and hours of work, I move to Plan B: Take the file with changes accepted and do a Compare Documents with the authors’ original original file.

Ultimately it worked. But not without a moment or three of utter despair.

Thank God for Wyrd’s “Compare Documents” function. Without it, I’d’ve been sh!t outta luck.

So now I have two more academic papers and a novel in house. The work has been pouring in the door. At least two and possibly three indexes are in the wings, so I’ve got to move forward at a fast clip to get through the stuff that’s already on my desk.

And naturally, every time I turn around here’s another interruption.

This afternoon I’m meeting with my financial manager to discuss what we can do to help crash-proof my savings. That will kill the entire damn afternoon.

He is, IMHO, altogether too blithe about the possibility — IMHO again, the near-certainty — of another major economic crash.

I believe we are going to see the Return of the Bush Recession on steroids, in the not-too-distant future. He feels his firm’s investment strategy will stand strong against another recession. I point out that the last crash resulted in my losing my job at a time when I was too old to get another job, in the loss of almost half my investments, and that if my house hadn’t been paid off, I would have lost my home, too.

And if I was too old to get a job then, nine years later I’m ALTOGETHER too effing old.

So we’re meeting this afternoon, so he can try to persuade me that all will be well while I try to persuade him that Armageddon is right around the corner.

Actually, Armageddon is here. We just haven’t seen what it will do when it comes through the front door. But we will.

February 8, 2017
by funny

How much of your time will you spend for a few bucks?

How do I love thee…?

So on the way home from getting gasoline (because tomorrow I have to drive halfway to Timbuktu), I stop by the neighborhood Walmart grocery store and pick up five pounds of sugar and several packages of frozen veggies. At the bakery in that strip mall, I grab a couple of palmiers, a fattening treat of which I’m unduly fond.

When I get home, I realize the Walmart cashier has put those few little grocery items into not one but two plastic bags, which at Walmart they just leave on the bag dispenser for the hoi polloi to disconnect and carry off themselves. I’ve left a five-pound bag of sugar at the Walmart.

Which brings us to the Question of the Day: Would you jump back in your car, drive back to the Walmart, park, stand in line with your receipt in hand, haggle with the clerk, and try to get them to give you the abandoned sugar?

The sugar cost less than $2.00.

I have not one, not two, but three projects in hand today, paying between $4 and $10 a page. All the clients are in a ball-busting hurry to get done.

Ultimately, I decided to write off the cost of the sugar. It would, I think, cost more to drive back up there and beg for the sugar than to pay two bucks for air. There’s no guarantee that Walmart would agree to let me have a bag of sugar — for all they know, I’m running a scam. Something to do with drugs, no doubt.

But assuming they did, I’m earning something between $30 and $60 an hour just now, depending on which project I’m laboring over. Twenty minutes or half an hour of my time devoted to retrieving five pounds of sugar would mean that bag of sugar would cost between $10 and $20: most expensive sugar on the planet!


Tomorrow’s trip back from Timbuktu will take me past a Trader Joe, a Sprout’s, and a Safeway. Each of them will charge considerably more than Walmart, of course. But even at, say, $3.50 for a bag of sugar, that’s still a bargain compared to the value of my time when I’m actually working.

How do you feel about that kind of trade-off? Spend a half-hour to run back to a Walmart and try to retrieve a forgotten two-dollar item? Or stay in front of the computer to earn five to ten times that much?

Image: DepositPhotos, © ajafoto

February 7, 2017
by funny

So…How Would YOU Replace Obamacare?

Since a certain element in the Body Politick is bound and determined to kill universal health care — at least in the form of the Affordable Care Act — it might behoove our leaders to think about what (if anything) they would put in its place. They evidently haven’t a clue hidden inside their bituminous hearts. So…let’s help them out.

If you asked me, here’s what I’d tell them.

All vaccines will be free, including flu shots.

No one can force you to get yourself or your kids immunized (although schools would retain the right to bar enrollment for kids who haven’t had a basic round of shots). But if you have to be treated for an illness that could be prevented or ameliorated by vaccination, and you cannot prove you have a current vaccination for it, then you should have to pay for the treatment out of pocket. This includes trips to ERs.

ER treatment that’s not a true emergency — like showing up to get free treatment for a strep throat or a cold or anything else that would have been covered if you had ponied up the cash for minimalist coverage: that will be something you have to pay for out of pocket.

All preventive health care: free.

All birth control: free.

Coverage for an elective abortion:  you pay for it out of pocket. An abortion resulting from a medical emergency or severe pathology will be fully covered.

Coverage for Rx drugs: chemotherapy, cardiac disease, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes drugs are included in the basic healthcare package. For most other prescription drugs, you can opt into a special plan, similar to Medicare Part D.

You can’t be blocked from opting in if you’re suddenly diagnosed with something that requires long-term use of drugs.

OTC drugs that have been Big-Brothered off the shelves, such as cough medicines that actually work, are to be returned to the market, so that you don’t have to go to a doctor to treat a bad cough from a cold.

All other coverage would be handled much in the manner of Medicare, partially covered with flat fees, partially funded by taxes. Base hospital coverage would be free , but as with Medicare, more extensive Part B-type coverage would cost a couple hundred bucks a month: $134-$268, depending on your income. Expanded coverage would be available optionally through insurers or the government, but strictly regulated, exactly as Medigap plans are regulated now.

Care for self-inflicted harm from drug use and alcohol abuse: you pay for it. This includes treatment for ODs and injuries incurred in accidents caused by your own drunk driving.

Mental health care, even drying out from alcohol and dope (exclusive of physical disease or injury caused by abuse): covered.

Coverage for the indigent, the unemployable disabled, and the homeless: through expanded Medicare.

How will this be underwritten? With a tax on everyone, including people who are not now working but getting income from dividends or welfare. And a no-exceptions, no-cap tax on the wealthy and the über-wealthy.

If businesses are to continue offering health insurance as a job perk, then the tax exclusion for the benefit can’t be eliminated. Otherwise, Americans will have to resign themselves to paying hundreds more in taxes, as the cost of employer-based plans will be taxable. On the other hand, it may be fairer for everyone, including employees of corporations that can afford to swing health plans, to pay their own share.

Insurance premiums, after all, ARE a kind of tax. They work the same way as a tax works: everyone pays in, for the common good. If everyone in the country is paying in, individual premiums will be lower. And if we’re not ALL paying for stupidity (drug use, alcohol use, refusal to vaccinate), then shared costs will be lower.

How would you advise our doughty leaders about replacing the Affordable Care Act?

Image: DepositPhotos, © sudok1

February 5, 2017
by funny

Pricing: Is it all in the presentation?

We all know the prevailing folk wisdom to the effect that if you price something a penny or two less than a round number, buyers will perceive the cost as less than the actual price. So, let’s say you need to get $15 for your Advanced Digital Doohickey to pay your workers, cover your store’s overhead, and take home a few pennies as net income. You’ll sell more A.-D. Doohickeys if you price them at $14.99 (or even $14.98, such a DEAL!) than if your price tags read $15.00.

Sounds stupid, is stupid. But apparently it works, because everything you see everywhere is priced a penny or two below a round figure.

But…are people really that stupid? Well….

So a couple weeks ago, I decided we should revise our rate schedule at The Copyeditor’s Desk. We’ve been charging a page rate that ranged from three or four bucks a page to $15 a page for the truly unintelligible.

It struck me, after much cogitation, that it would be easier and fairer both for us and for our clients if we charged a per-word rate.

The page rate had proven problematic in several ways. To start with, Microsoft in its infinite changeability has “updated” Word’s page margins from one inch top and bottom and 1.25 inches left and right to one inch all the way around. Since our rates were calculated on the old default, that translates to about a 10% cut in pay for us. So when I tell a client $X per page, I have to make sure we’re talking about the same page size. Changing their page layout, naturally, is off-putting: it looks like I’m trying to extract more than the job is worth.

And we often find prospective clients submitting copy set in 10.5- or 11-point type with half-inch margins. Interesting, isn’t it?  You want me to help you get your dissertation accepted so you can get a cushy academic job instead of working in a rice paddy or a kibbutz, but you think it’s OK to cheat me.

A word rate obviates both those problems: no more figuring out whether the manuscript fits our parameters, and no more arguing over the length altered by the font size. It’s easy for everyone to agree on the number of words, and no hard feelings are generated.

So I changed our billing from $4 to $15 per page to 2 cents to 6 cents a word, depending on the copy’s difficulty and technical level. I calibrated the word rates so they would equate to the similarly sliding page rates — the truth is, on the lower end the word rate adds up to a little less than we were earning per page.

But here’s what:

When people see a price tag of pennies a word, even though the cost adds up to the same as the page rate, they don’t even blink.

And m’dears, the work is pouring in the door. I can freaking not believe it.

Apparently, two or three cents a word looks like pocket change, whereas four bucks a page translates mentally to an extra-large latte for each page. The price is the same. The attitude to it: night and day. Or, from my perspective…day and night.

How amazing is that? Apparently it really is true that people’s perception of how much something costs depends on how the price is presented.

Do you mentally translate the cost of a $14.99 doohickey to $15? Or do you think of it as costing around 14 bucks?

February 3, 2017
by funny

Do You Tip Counter Staff?

So…I go in to my favorite coffee house to buy a pound of their French roast beans, about the best coffee you can get anywhere.

Walk over to the shelves. Pick up a bag of “The Bold Truth!” (it is!), belly up to the checkout counter, and fork over the Visa card.

The store uses a Square attached to an iPad to run your credit card. So she does this and then she shoves the tablet in my face and says, “How much do you want to leave for a tip?”

Choices are 15%, 20%, or 30%.

I think…

Are you kidding me? I walk into the shop; I walk across to the retail section; I search out, locate, and retrieve a pound of packaged French roast coffee; I carry it over to you and hand it across the counter along with a credit card; you pick up a device and stick my credit card in it. You haven’t moved two feet in this entire transaction!

Trying not to show (too extravagantly) how peeved this makes me, I say, “I should pay a 15% tip on a $15 bag of coffee? I don’t think so.”

Then of course I feel like a bitch. She emphasizes what wonderful coffee it is. I allow as how it’s probably the best coffee in town. But I’m not paying a tip on non-service. Or rather, on service that entails nothing more than collecting my money.

Ten percent of $15 is $1.50 [TYPO in the original post!! eeek…], bringing the total tab (not counting the aggravation cost) to almost $17 for enough coffee to last a week or, at the outside, maybe 10 days. At 20 percent — the amount I normally tip in restaurants, BTW — that bag of coffee would’ve cost me $18!

Well. The Little Guy (as SDXB and I call the proprietor) does sell great coffee. But I can buy a pound of perfectly fine espresso beans for $12 at AJ’s Highly Overpriced Grocery Store. Twelve ounces of Peet’s espresso will set you back $6.64 at Amazon, meaning that  a pound — 16 ounces — would cost you $8.85.


It’s not really the $17 or $18 cost. The coffee is outstanding and undoubtedly worth that much. Even though I’m pinching pennies, I’m willing to pay for an indulgence that makes my life a little better. And morning coffee is a BFD around here. It’s one of the few small pleasures that make my solitary existence tolerable.

And I know that people who wait on counters don’t earn very much, and I know that if I were a decent human being, I would regard it as charity and pony up two or three bucks.

But…I also know that between the two of us, I’m the one who needs the charity. That lady earned noticeably more than I did today. Half my day was spent untangling an academic paper and reading the most brain-banging cant, cliché, and jargon disguised as academic writing…just gawdawful stuff.

At $4 a page, I earned $136 for that exercise in sado-masochism, which will be split 50/50 with my business partner: a net $68 for about eight hours of mildly annoying work (half of yesterday was occupied in preliminary work on the piece). It will be four to six months before we’re paid for the job we’re working on now.

If the coffee-house counter lady earns minimum wage (without tips) and hangs around the place for 8 hours, then she is paid $80 for the same number of hours, approximately, that I put in on the cant, cliché, and jargon. And she didn’t inflict any wear and tear on her own computer equipment to do it.

Think I could get away with asking my clients for a tip?

No. ‘Fraid not. About 90 percent of the time, when I quote our standard rate of about $4 a page to a prospective client, I never hear another word.

So, dear reader…

How do you feel about ponying up a tip to a counter clerk who does nothing more than take your money?

Image: Deposit Photos. © Shaiith79