Coffee heat rising

Quick (HOT) Trip to the Park…

A crisp 99 degrees at 7:30 this morning. But this balmy figure was besmirched by the humidity: almost 30%. Yeah: that’s thirty percent.

Ruby and I set out for the requisite doggy-walk around 5:30 or 6:00. Hoping the park would be free of its usual dog-and-human horde, we went in that direction, since she dearly loves to walk around in the park.

And yeah…there were fewer people. BUT the usual morons who ignore the law were there chasing their dogs around off-lead.

What is it about a sign that reads


that’s hard to understand?

And do people who feel entitled to ignore that law (it’s a county-wide leash LAW, not a local park rule) seriously believe that other people and other people’s dogs just loooove to have their pooches come bounding up to them? Is it really possible that NONE of these ninnies has ever landed in the middle of a dog fight? Or are they just too stupid to imagine the scene in the ER when they’re carted in? Or the scene as their dog lays on the ground bleeding out, after someone’s German shepherd gets done with it?

Ruby is fairly harmless, as she weighs only 35 pounds.

But the late, great Anna the Ger-Shep most decidedly was NOT harmless. And…her life’s goal was to rid the earth of other dogs. To that end, she had developed a strategy:

When an idiot’s dog would come bouncing up to her, she would assume a goofy grin. This would cause the idiot to imagine she wanted to play with his dog. No amount of hollering at him to KEEP YOUR DOG BACK! would make a dent on the nitwit’s stupidity. Some of them would reply, “oohhh it’s all right! They just want to playyyyy!”

Yeah. If eviscerating your dog and scattering its guts across the park is “play,” I guess so.

This is why I tend to stay away from the park: it’s a magnet for the Dumb and the Feckless.

But today Ruby was determined to trot over there. Why not? thought I…

Well, we didn’t have any Dog Incidents (despite several nitwits’ off-leash dogs). But my gawd! The HEAT!

It was just too hot to make the full mile’s circuit around the park.

So we walked down to the southwest corner, where the house that the aging owners apparently lost is under construction…and under construction…and under….  They’ve been trying to restore that place for at least a year, and finally have given up. Saw an ad recently that they’re selling it as is.

And “as is” is one, unholy, deconstructed mess. Whoever buys it (if anyone is foolish enough to buy it) is gonna have to tear it down and start over. That will include rebuilding the swimming pool, too.

How you could possibly sell it for enough to cover the repair and reconstruction costs escapes me. It’s right on the corner of an east-west feeder street and a road that goes from the northernmost border of North Central all the way south to the state office building complex. So….commuters in the know who have jobs or business in that complex ride that street all the way south in the morning and all the way north in the evening. You’d be crazy to choose to live in a house on that road! Especially in that specific lot…

I met the son of the couple who own(ed) the place. And I suspect he was a guy with a prison record and so couldn’t get a decent job.

At one point I wanted to hire an arborist. I’d heard about this guy via the neighborhood Facebook page…and it appears that some of the glowing recommends offered there were, uhm…slightly exaggerated. He did an OK job, but — frankly — not great. Gerardo and his boys would’ve done a better job, and Luis certainly could have. But ohhhhh no! Nothing would do but what I had to hire an “expert.”

My suspicion is that the guy was an ex-con who couldn’t get a hired job, and so had to start his own little low-talent “business.” Friend of mine has a son who was (for ridiculous reasons IMHO) clapped in the slam, and he has had one bitch of a challenge getting paying work, now that he’s “paid his debt” to society.

Hey! How hard can it be to trim trees, right?

Well…hard enough to surpass that guy’s skills, that’s for sure.

Presumably, his business went nowhere, and I’d put money on it that the parents’ Social Security and savings weren’t enough to support all three of them, even with a paid-off house.

If it was paid off. They may have had to borrow against it, either to start the guy’s business or, if my speculation is right, to pay his lawyers’ fees and fines.

WhatEVER, they vacated the house, and the contractors who bought it for renovation labored for months and then just gave up. So it’s sad and yet kinda morbidly interesting to walk by there and watch the construction efforts.

My guess is, they’re trying to sell it to someone who will level the building and start over from scratch. Which probably should’ve happened in the first place.



Four Quick and Easy Ways to Generate Income In Your Everyday Life

by John Garber

If you want to improve your financial situation, you have two options. The first and easiest is to cut expenses. There are plenty of articles on our site and elsewhere with great advice on how to do that.

What’s rare is good advice about the other option: how to make more money. Adding more cash to your bottom line will improve your financial position. Below are our four favorite ways to do that.

Note: These Are Not Second Jobs

Some ways to earn extra income amount to getting a part-time job or starting a business that becomes a part-time job. These are great ideas for people with extra time and energy, but they’re not the only option.

This list has four solid models for you to bring in extra money without devoting significant time to it. You have a life to live, people you love to spend time with, and a career. These ideas will help ease financial stress without spreading yourself too thin.

Four Personal Income Generators You Can Start Using Today

1. Purge and Profit

This income generator combines the benefits of making your home tidier with bringing in extra cash, usually for a one-time or short-term money infusion. There are many variations, but they all follow the same basic framework:

  1. Clean your house, using a box or bin to accumulate things you can live without. Move stuff too big to fit into the box to a special place in your house.
  2. Identify which of these items has a monetary value.
  3. Sell those items on Craigslist, eBay, or similar websites or have a garage sale to sell lots of items at once.
  4. Bundle up items that didn’t sell the first time and re-list them together. Often, people will see the value and buy them during this second round.
  5. Donate what’s left to Goodwill, and get a receipt for tax season (you can deduct charitable contributions if you itemize).

Whether you do this with a single collection you once loved but now don’t interact with, or by pulling stuff out of every room in your house, it’s not hard to make several hundred dollars from this method. It’s even easier if you follow a few of these best practices:

  • Clean the items first, so they look as attractive as possible
  • Take high-quality photos to include in your listings
  • Write detailed, compelling descriptions for each entry
  • Answer potential buyers’ questions quickly and professionally
  • Set prices according to what similar items sell for
  • Don’t hesitate to haggle and bargain to sell as much as you can in as little time as possible
  • Publicize your sale on social media and other venues

2. Monetize Your Hobby

You likely have a hobby or interest, something you enjoy and you do well. There are ways to make money off the skills and expertise you’ve accumulated from it. Examples include:

  • Creating an Etsy account to sell the product of your crafting hobby
  • Writing articles for magazines associated with your hobbies and interests
  • Pet-sitting or dog walking if you’re an animal lover
  • Offering personal services, such as cleaning if you’re an organization junkie
  • Coaching or teaching people who want to learn more about your hobby or interest
  • Creating online content, like an e-book or video course
  • Putting your photographs on image clearinghouses like Getty Images or Flickr
  • Selling your artwork in local galleries and cafes

These are just some of the ways people turn their passions and interests into cold, hard cash. For some, it’s a way of helping the hobby fund itself. For others, it’s a route to a better financial situation.

Start by considering your hobbies. What do you love doing so much you’ve become an expert at it? How might you turn that skill and expertise into something other people want or need? From there, put together a plan.

3. Find Part-Time Work Online

You don’t want the demands of a traditional part-time job, but you can make money in small sessions of flexible work using a number of different online sources. As with monetizing your hobby, there are dozens of ways to do this. Here are nine you can get started on right away:

  • Log in to Mechanical Turk to do small jobs that add up to big money.
  • Get paid to fill out market research questionnaires on sites like Focus Pointe Global and Delve.
  • Participate in paid surveys from Survey Junkie, Pinecone, or Prolific.
  • Set up an account at Fiverr or Upwork to do simple design, editing, and writing tasks.
  • Review websites for UserTesting.
  • Google “Get paid to _______”, filling the blank with tasks you might find fun to perform, like “write,” “watch TV,” or “play games.” Log in to the sites that best match your needs. Read the fine print carefully.
  • Deliver with services like DoorDash and Deliveroo.
  • Review music at Slicethepie.
  • Become a mystery shopper through any number of sources. (Just Google “mystery shopper” plus your location.)

You can choose one of these options and pursue it heavily, or work on several options over the course of a month to generate a substantial income stream. Either way, the opportunities are real, as is the difference they can make for your finances.

4. Flip Products

This is the riskiest item on this list, but if you have the expertise and a little cash available, it can become a reliable and easy way to make extra money.

  1. Find items for sale at well below market rate. Books, furniture, power tools, yard equipment, and watches are good candidates for flipping.
  2. Clean them up and research their potential full value.
  3. List and sell them on eBay or Craigslist.
  4. Use some of the profit to scale up the project by buying more items to list.

The key to success is finding reliable sources of goods at well below the price people will pay for them. Research how much certain items are selling for on eBay and Craigslist, then look for them in locations such as:

  • Estate sales
  • Garage sales
  • The clearance rack at stores you frequent
  • Lots and bundles sold on eBay
  • Thrift shops
  • Craigslist giveaways
  • Flea markets

Also, let friends, family, and acquaintances know you’ll take their items to the dump or Goodwill when they clean out their homes. Make it clear you plan to sell things you think you can flip. Most people won’t mind if you’re upfront about it.

Final Thought: The Real Question

When deciding which income generators are right for you, ask yourself how you want to earn your extra money and what you want to use it for.

Do you want to earn a one-time lump sum to pay off credit cards, afford something you need, or make a single change to improve your life moving forward?

Or do you want to earn a little extra money on a regular basis, so your monthly financial life is a little easier?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but knowing your goals will help you pick the strategies that will make the biggest difference in your financial life.

John Garber lives on the West Coast, where he works in technology and currently has a few side hustles in play.

Dog(walk) Days of Summer

Summer is tentatively turning its golden-locked head toward fall. Nights are growing longer, days shorter, and the other day’s violent storm knocked the temps down a few degrees. As I scribble, it’s only 98 out here on the side deck, just fine for breakfast, coffee, and computerized time-wasting.

You think I jest? Yes, it is “only” 98, by comparison balmy with recent days whose mornings have started out at 102. It’s a little drier than it was the other day, too: Wunderground pegs the humidity at a mere 38%, as nothing compared to yesterday’s 64%.

The endless doggy walk…

Ruby-Doo and I got a late start on the morning’s trek — didn’t leave the house till 6 a.m. But to my surprise, we hardly ran into any other dog walkers: only three dogs in a good two-mile perambulation. Which is like…the Twilight Zone, where you wake up one day and discover you’re the only person in the whole town.

What explains this Great Absence? I figure it’s Labor Day: this is the last big three-day weekend of the summer, and anyone who has the means flees the city for one last fling in the cool(er) high country. If you can take off Friday — which lots of people can — you wangle a four-day weekend. And if you work for a government office? Well!

At Arizona Highways — which is run by the Arizona Department of Transportation, making everyone there a state employee — we used to store up our vacation days so they would straddle a three-day weekend. So, for example, my boss would take four days off right after Labor Day, giving himself a week, and two weekends away from the office: (saturday.sunday.monday.tuesday.wednesday.thursday.friday.saturday.sunday) nine days off for the price of four vacation days.

Ultimately, this was remunerative, because the State of Arizona was required to pay you for unused vacation time when you retired. There was a (very generous) limit to the number of days you were allowed to stash for this purpose, but you can be sure that by the end of any given fiscal year my boss was always maxed in that department. 🙂

Didn’t do me much good, because my husband was in private practice and was expected to…oh, you know…show up to work? That kind of unreasonable demand. However, I still got enough vacation days to take off on the junkets he liked to indulge himself in: Hawaii and waypoints.

At any rate, whatever the reason, it was mighty quiet out there between 6 and 7 this a.m.

Susan-B.-Anthony-DollarIn the lengthening shadows of (financial) winter department, I discussed the current budgetary horror show with WonderAccountant. She pointed out that because I never owe any taxes and I get a large refund every year, it’s unnecessary for me to have the feds withhold income tax from Social Security. Cancel that! said she.

Well. Easier said than done.

After some fiddling around on the Internet, though, I finally found a form online. ONE LINE in an entire page of bureaucratic fill-in-the-blanks allows for a “Do not withhold” request. Checking the box and signing at the bottom requires fiddling around with downloading and then printing the form: duly done. then the page suggests you can either mail the form to a Social Security office or drive to an office near you and submit it in person.

So I figured I’d drive up to the SS office in Paradise Valley today and drop this thing off.

But on second thought: There’s no “dropping off” at that place. Dollars to donuts, I can’t just hand this thing across the counter to someone. I would surely end up having to take a seat and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. Depending on the time of day, wait times range from 45 minutes to three hours.

To turn in ONE FUCKING LINE??????????


Now the plan is to drive this over to the post office, stand in line there (almost as interminably, but surely not for one to three hours), and send it Return Receipt Requested. What a nuisance!

Well. The $300 a month that SS is now extracting from my paycheck will re-fund the empty Emergency Savings account, thereby taking up some of the slack.

That will still leave an $8870 shortfall, per annum.

But, noted WonderAccountant, now that we’ve converted The Copyeditor’s Desk from an S-corp to a sole proprietorship (and paid last year’s taxes!), I can take money out of that without tax consequences.

This year.

But then what?

It looks like the choices are…

  • To get a paying job. (Right! Know anyone in the market for a 74-year-old female employee? Har har!)
  • To cut every expense possible. (Done. Now what?)
  • To hustle up at least net $10,000 worth of business in the coming few months.

Ten grand is an awful lot of amateur novels and Chinese scientific treatises.

Truth to tell, the amateur novelists are paying one helluva lot more than the Chinese scientists. This is because a budding author’s draft magnum opus typically runs upwards of 30,000 words. At 4 cents a word, that’s $1,200. Or more. Usually more. The last two authors who hired me paid over $3,000 apiece. But even at only $1,200, that’s…what?  Three amateur novels would yield $3600, leaving a mere $6,400 in the shortfall. This would require about 20 Chinese scholarly articles to cover.

And that ain’t a-gonna happen. It might be workable if I could extract $3,000+ from every wannabe novelist. That is the going rate – 4 cents a word – if you look it up on the Net and you believe what other editors publish on their websites.  To make enough to generate at least 10 grand a year, then, I’d need to land three or four budding Herman Melvilles. Or Isaac Asimovs…most of them dream of writing science fiction.

The only way I could make that happen would be to really hustle the editing bidness. This would mean showing up at every local club of wannabe writers in the Valley — and showing up regularly. And handing out professionally written and laid-out marketing junk at every meeting. It has to be said that the last two novels I picked up came from members of the West Valley writer’s group.

That outfit meets in Tolleson, almost an hour’s jaunt from my house. It’s a horrible drive, and then you have to sit through three hours of palaver. The members are very nice and a delight to socialize with. But because nothing very useful — for my purposes — is said, it feels like an aching waste of my time. Especially if I have paying work in-house.

If I’m having to go to four or five such groups’ meetings, we could be talking about 12 to 15 hours a month of achingly boring time suck…plus drive time. I cringe! Surely there must be a better way??????



Woo HOO! Cleaning Lady Jamboree!

So Luz the Wonder Cleaning Lady, who has begged off coming ’round once a month, saying she wasn’t feeling well, her husband wasn’t well, and whatnot, called out of the blue and invited herself to come do battle with the Funny Farm.

This was good — very, very good — because even though I’ve tried to keep up with the chore-a-day strategy, truth to tell I’ve let it go somewhat and the place needed a serious deep cleaning.

And no one can deliver that better than Wonder Cleaning-Lady. The house is so clean it sings. The tiles feel like glass under one’s bare feet. And speaking of glass…you can see through the windows again. Isn’t that unique?

I think Luz does so much better with the windows than I do because she uses a commercial product. It looks like her theory that my DIY Windex knockoff doesn’t work as desired is…well…correct.

She brings a number of her own products. The window cleaner is something called “Sprayway.” I’ve never seen it…my guess is, it probably comes from a dollar store or maybe a Walmart. Here it is on Amazon…it seems to be pretty well liked by that august emporium’s buyers. Hmmm… one commenter says you can get it for a fraction of the price at Target. So…next time I’m there, I may look for it.

As for the floors? There’s no explanation other than that she can cast some sort of magical spell.

It looks like what’s happening Chez Wonder-Cleaning Lady is that she’s taken on more clients than she can handle without killing herself. She said that several of her customers have kids who graduated from high school last month and so threw big parties to celebrate. Apparently she was over at their respective houses helping to prepare for the shindigs and then back again cleaning up the mess.

In addition, she was trying to deal with a lot of other customers, her own kid who’s now out of school for the summer, and an ailing husband.

You also get the sense, in talking with her, that when she arrived in this country she probably didn’t realize how much demand there is for contract cleaning help from someone who actually can and will do the job right. Those cleaning services are terrible, to say nothing of ridiculously overpriced. So people who know how a house is supposed to be cleaned and what it’s supposed to look like after the job is done will try (often with much frustration…) to seek out single entrepreneurs who will contract to come to your house once every week or two or once a month. A woman who learned how to clean from her mother, who knew how to clean, will invariably do a better job and usually will cost less. Even though she’s worth far more than a slap-dash cleaning service… 😉

Luz’s English is much improved over what she had when she started here at the Farm. And, since she’s a very bright woman, I expect she’s wised up to what her services are worth. I’m surprised she hasn’t started a cleaning service of her own, hiring out some of these jobs to underlings. It would be tricky — many cleaning ladies are here illegally, and so it would be risky to employ them and difficult to pay them. Luz will take checks, which indicates that she’s legal enough to have a bank account. But many, like my would-be “intern,” need to be paid in cash. These days I usually pay her in cash, too, since she doesn’t come very often and since I suspect it’s easier for her not to have to dork around with depositing a check.  With those kinds of complications, she probably doesn’t want the hassle of having to hire and supervise underlings.

At any rate, I hope she stays in business for a long time. That lady is just the ticket!

Paying Work DONE! At last….

Oh, the TERROR OF PAYING WORK for the indolent freelance operator. 😀 Over the past nine or ten days, I’ve actually had to (gasp!) WERK, a horrifying prospect, rather than play at pretending to write things.

Hence the regular posts at Plain & Simple Press fell off the side of the earth.

First one, then two, then three scholarly papers flew in from our Asian writers. One of them was quite arcane: higher mathematics, on a subject so celestially abstract it exists only in orbit around Pluto. Another, thank God, in from an êminence grise in Asian journalism studies: intelligible. On media law…not exactly my specialty, but at least I once read the AP Libel Manual from beginning to end. And finally, just as looked like it was safe to go back in the water, along came a statistical study testing the allegations of a theory that says an individual’s propensity to indulge in victim-blaming is mediated by her or his own physical height.

That was weird.

But once you plow through the experimental construct and the calculations, it’s pretty interesting. It actually does appear that — probably because of psychological and biological perceptions of the social significance of body height — people do experience an effect on their world-views and attitudes from their relative body height. There is, as it develops, a whole sub-branch of sociological study on this topic, with its own jargon.

Who knew?

Well, needless to say, I haven’t gotten any of my own diddlings-around done over the past some time.

And as usual, God. Damned. Word decided to indulge a catastrophic crash just as I was wrapping up today’s project. It shut down and disappeared the entire edited version of the mean-short-folks paper.


I hate computers.

Fortunately, I now generate edited versions with Compare Documents: Make all the changes, unmarked, in a copy of the original. When finished, run compare-docs on that against the original. The result shows all the changes in “Track Changes,” in a new file.

It crashed my completed cleaned-up file, too. But mercifully, when I re-opened the file I found it had not lost any data (that I could see) in that file. I hope not. Because I just sent the damn thing back to its author.

This project was rather more time-consuming than I would like given what I was paid. At 3 cents a word, it only generated about $93, hardly worth the number of hours I put in on it. I mean, the number of hours above and beyond the time required to rescue it from Word.

But it pays the bills. I guess. The three of them together probably generated enough to cover a couple months of Cox bills, plus the Web guru’s fees and the hosting charges for FaM and P&S Press. Thus I’m not earning anything, but I’m not going broke, either.

Hm. How much did I bill this week? Hmmm…. $242.74

Let’s see…if I cleaned house, at $80 per job….yup. It would’ve taken me 3.03 days to earn that much. Just about a third of the time I spent on these three papers. Only without the computer aggravation…

How much does one earn greeting Walmart shoppers? Here in Phoenix? $9.82 per hour, 48% below the national average. That would come to just about 10 bucks less than my three clients paid, in toto: $235.68. Not counting the tax withholding…

So I guess I’m doing better than I would at Walmart.

Heh! Here’s a site that says Costco greeters make $24 an hour, or $50,000 a year. Dayum! That’s as much as I earned teaching at ASU with my fine Ph,D.! However, here’s another site that begs to differ: says Costco pays $15.71 an hour, 17% below the national average and a far cry from 50 grand. Still, three days of smiling at the unwashed masses would have grossed $377.04…that’s $134.30 more than I earned reading Chinglish math papers.

Hm. I doubt that withholding would’ve come to $134. And about all you’d have to use a computer for would be checking in on the time-clock. Think o’ that!



Want To Become A Freelancer? Build An Emergency Fund First!

From your seat at your desk, chained to your cubicle, the gig way of life looks like a refreshing alternative to your fluorescent 9–5 reality. Freelance workers get to choose when they want to work, where they want to work, and for whom they want to work. Being your own boss offers you newfound freedom and flexibility, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s not always easy to leave behind what you know for something entirely different.

Change to your routine won’t be the only difficulty you face. Going it alone as a freelancer can also be financially challenging, as you won’t have many of the same support systems to help you prepare for emergencies, disability, or medical issues.

You can still survive these crises, but it will take careful planning before you can cut your shackles. The following tips will help create a financial cushion for your new life as a freelancer.

Figure out what you need

Some financial experts suggest you squirrel away as much as one year of wages to cover unexpected issues that limit your ability to earn a living. Others suggest saving 20 percent of your income to cover smaller emergencies like surprise household or auto repairs. If you aren’t sure which is more appropriate or realistic for your circumstances, you may want to speak with a financial advisor about your options. They can help you create a plan that gets you where you need to be.

Automate savings

Saving doesn’t come naturally to everyone. For some, it’s a lot easier to let go of their hard-earned dollars than it is to keep them. If that’s the case for you, you may have better luck with tricking yourself into saving.

One old-fashioned method of trickery is putting your extra change in a piggy bank — though this only works if you rely primarily on cash to make your purchases. In an increasingly digital world, where you can use your phone to buy office supplies or your morning cup of joe, you won’t always have physical change to save.

Automating your savings is an easy workaround that lets you save without really thinking about it. You can pre-authorize automatic withdrawals from your account and put them into savings at the start of every month.

Skimming off the top of every month has a trickle-down effect. You’ll have less money left over to cover the necessities once you’ve contributed to savings, so you’ll have to be careful with how you spend it. By working with a smaller monthly budget, you’re less likely to spend your money on unnecessary things.

Though you can achieve this through any basic e-banking account, you can also turn to automatic money-saving apps, such as Acorns or Chime’s savings account, to help you make saving easier than ever.

Search out fintech alternatives

Life is full of surprises, and many of them aren’t the happy kind. Sometimes, they arrive in the form of an unexpected bill or traffic accident that tests your finances. If this happens before you’ve built up a considerable emergency fund, you may not know how to cover a fender bender paid outside of insurance. While traditional advance loans can help cover some financial issues, they aren’t always the right solution thanks to your career choice. They can be difficult to secure, or they may take too long to arrive in your bank account.

When you’re missing critical funds during an emergency, a company like MoneyKey can help. They’re part of a bustling fintech industry that provides alternatives to the traditional borrowing experience. While many retail banks follow outdated methods to review and approve cash loans, these fintech lenders have a fresher take on lending. Unlike conventional banks, online lenders like MoneyKey remove some of the complexities that act as barriers to getting the help you need.

They do it all online, so they can help you faster with online payday loans that you can receive in as little as one business day. Online lenders even have apps, so you can solve your cash flow problems faster and easier than ever before.

Know your online resources

As an office grunt, you have access to an HR department that can answer questions about benefits, insurance, and other money-related concerns. You won’t be able to rely on these professionals once you quit your job and start freelancing.

You need to be proactive if you expect to find the answers to your burning questions about the gig life. Luckily, in the age of information, you can find every answer to your questions online — and then some.

When you want basic information about how to budget or save wisely as a freelancer, personal finance websites like CNBC, Nerd Wallet, and Wise Bread offer simple tips to balance your books. Freelancers themselves often write these guides, making them reliable sources for advice on how to build a retirement fund, contribute to benefits, and make an emergency fund.

Freelancing takes work, but it’s worth it

Freelance work can seem like an amazing opportunity when you feel like you’re stuck in the office. Before you take a flying leap into freelance-hood, you need to face the financial realities of this career choice. While it offers your more freedom, it may be more difficult to recover from emergencies. Prevent this from happening by developing a robust emergency fund before you quit your day job. You’ll be better prepared to appreciate your new line of work.