Me and My Bros go to Mardi Gras

So, do you like to party?  I am really into partying.   Most of my friends are too.  Usually, on a Friday or Saturday night, sometimes Thursdays (a friend of mine said Thursday is the new Friday, which is funny!) me and my bros will either roll to a friends house, or out to a bar, and just party.  Like till 2 or 3 if its a bar, and later if its at a friends house.  As you can see, we are very serious about parties.  We will not just pass up a party if we are tired or if we feel like going to the movies instead, or if a girlfriend is upset about it (a friend of mine likes to say Bros before Hos, which makes me feel bad so I don’t say it, but it’s funny).  We will just go.  Most of our girlfriends like to party too, though, which is helpful.  When we were all in college together, me and my bros would go to a beach for spring break or some similar stretch of time off (summer, for example) and we would literally spend an entire week partying.

I don’t want to give you the impression that we are only serious about partying. We are serious about other things, too.  For example, one of my buds is getting married in a couple of months.   This is Very Serious.  I didn’t think he’d be the first one to get married, but his girlfriend–I mean, she’s cool and all, but you could tell she was the kind that would have a lot of expectations of a guy.  Anyway, so knowing that he was getting married, and knowing how marriage can really change a dude, we all decided to take the ultimate party trip, just one last time, all bros.  Not like a Bachelor Party, but like, the last party of all parties.  We had gone to Vegas before, right after we graduated, so we figured this time we would really do it right and, so we’re  going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

You may be surprised to hear that only one of us has been to Mardi Gras before.  It seems like we would have made it there a lot sooner. But I’m glad that we saved the Ultimate Party for such an important moment in our lives.  The gravity of the situation will surely force us into more focused and intense partying than we have ever experienced before.   Don’t worry, I’m totally going to keep you guys up to date on what happens.

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Our New Economy And Me!

Here’s the thing.  I have a bit of grant writing experience.  My last job, for example was titled “Grant Writer” and I literally went to work every day and wrote and researched grants. It didn’t pay much but for most of the time I was there it had great benefits and was generally a pretty comfortable job to have.  I got laid off because a full time, salary grant writer is a big investment for an organization, and times is hard.

People keep suggesting to me that I do contract work.  This is fine.  I’d love to do this.  I’m basically dying to do this.  Even though I think contract work is problematic on a societal level (basically, it drives down the value of work, especially creative work, and requires almost no responsibility to the paying member of the contract to s/he who is producing the work.  If you have a graphic designer friend, I encourage you to ask them about this. You might start with “so, do you have health insurance?”) I am still into the idea of doing it.  I’d like to set my own hours, work from home, actually make money rather than not, etc. Plus I actually like grant writing. Which I believe might be insane.

The problem is that somewhere along the line, a rumor got started that says that grant writers who write on contract traditionally charge a percentage of the final grant award.  And everyone  expects this to be what you propose.  It also sounds great: “So you get 10% of what we make.  If we make $100,000, that’s $10,000!”   The problem is that this is absolutely bananas for everyone involved. (side note: not everyone.  I just had a perfectly reasonable meeting with someone who understood that this wasn’t a great idea.)

First, this looks pretty bad to funders.  Even if you don’t mention it in the proposal or the budget, if they find it out they might question the validity of your need for $100,000.  Was it padded by an ambitious grant writer, wishing to make 1/4 of their annual income in one fell swoop? Organizations develop reputations with funders and it is extremely important to maintain a reputation of being efficient with funding and being tansparent with how you spend it, now more than ever.

Second, this creates a motivational structure that works against the needs of the organization.  Grant writers will lean towards the larger grants with bigger payoff.  They will avoid smaller foundation grants that may require a lot of work for a smaller amount of return, that may be suited for the individual projects pursued by the organization.  Why invest the time and effort for such a small payoff?

Third, this payment structure is almost entirely disconnected from the amount of work needed to complete the grant. This can cause writers to apply for larger grants rather than smaller ones, even though sometimes smaller grants are best for the organization’s needs.  This also disincentives efficiency and responsiveness on the part of the organization. A grant writer will need to work very closely with an organization to obtain all of the information necessary to qualify for a grant.  As an outsider, a grant writer needs to learn about your organization, your history, and the state of need in your community. A grant writer needs to obtain documents and budget information from your organization as well.  By devaluing the initial amount of time that goes into the process, there is no incentive for members of your organization to cooperate with the grant writer readily.  This is unfair to the grant writer, because it places the burden of obtaining this information on an outsider.  Without timely response from many employees at your organization, the viability of the proposal can be compromised.  Deadlines may be missed, or key pieces of information may be left out, leading to rejection.

I think misunderstandings about the grant writing process–not some great moral failing–is what leads to the idea that a percentage charge would be a fair system.  For instance, there’s a base level of work that almost all grants require.  Beyond that, the amount of work varies a lot more by funder than it does by the potential amount of the grant.  To an absurd degree.   Many grants have several steps involved.  You might have to write a Letter of Inquiry. Usually, this is a narrative, a great deal of documentation, and a rough budget.  There’s no average structure for a grant, and there’s no average amount of time it will take you, and it definitely is not based on the maximum amount of possible funding.  Additionally, some grants aren’t a solid award amount.  When dealing with state and federal governent grants, these funds are often based on the amount of work the organizaiton actually carries out once the agreement is made.  There’s no reason a grant writer should be paid based on the amount of services an organization is able to provide after they are out of the equation.

Most importantly, if the acceptance and rejection of funding proposals was 100% dependent on the quality of the proposal, a percentage structure would be reasonable. But it never is.  For instance,  a grant writer cannot disguise an organization’s poor record keeping or history of financial trouble.   Similarly, a grant writer can’t change the mind of a board member who just is not interested in funding projects that involve children and will never approve it no matter how good it is.  A grant writer might ask for $200,000 and receive $9,000 due to the huge losses a foundation sustained during the financial crisis and has not yet made up.  Because so many of the factors that go into approving a grant are largely out of the control of the writer, it is almost always unfair to pay based on approval and award amount. A rejected proposal is not always the sign of a bad grant writer.

The best way to pay a grant writer on contract is by a negotiated hourly/daily/monthly rate.  This incentivises organizations to work readily with the writer, to reduce the amount of time the grant writer charges.  This also removes the disincentive to apply for small grants, which may be most valuable to organizations.   It’s a fairer pricing structure for organizaitons in the long run as well, because as the grant writer becomes more familiarwith the work of the organization and the issues the organization addresses, the amount of basic ground work on the part of the grant writer is reduced–the grant writer can do less research and even cut and paste between proposals.  Staying with a single writer is also good for the quality of the proposals, which are more compelling when the writer is familiar with the needs stated in the proposal.

I am also firmly on the side of paying people for their work, even if the proposals aren’t eventually approved, and paying them when the work is finished, not when the decision is announced–often many months later.  I’m biased of course, but I don’t think this is an unreasonable demand.  Organizations take financial risks all the times and as far as they go, this isn’t the riskiest kind.  What I mean to say is, please, give me your work.  I swear we can work out something fair for both of us.

Follow up: my friend Erin, graphic designer, said she does have health insurance, she just gets it though the health food store she also works at to supplement her freelance income.  Unsurprisingly, health food co-op employee insurance premiums are cheap!


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On Valentine’s Day, I used to complain about how it was a “bullshit holiday,” citing conspiracies for the card companies like Hallmark and General Electric and Phillip Morris to make single people feel terrible about themselves.  I used to celebrate this holiday by getting together with some of my other single girlfriends and seeing a romcom and then, after they left, drinking whiskey until I a. vomited, b. called my ex-boyfriends, and c. passed out.

But this was different.  This year, I experienced what true love was like, and what makes Valentine’s Day so special.

Benji surprised me with a homemade valentine that rivaled the surprise birthday party he threw me last weekend.  Here is a photograph of it:


"Just imagine how terrible you're going to feel if you find this sometime after you leave me for someone else."


The best part was that I finally didn’t have to lie to my coworkers the next day about what I actually did for Valentine’s Day!!!


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Happy Valentine’s Day, Ya’ll

You guuuuyssssss I really miss my blog.  I have decided to try to rekindle our romance on this, Valentine’s Day 2011.   Here’s a treat:  I am unemployed again as of last Friday!  This means I have an exceptional amount of free time, and I will maybe start blogging again? Who can say!

Let me summarize what has happened since we last spoke:

  • You all lost the guidance you needed to lead full, fully-realized lives.

Here are some topics i might have blogged about in the past six months, had I been committed enough:

  • Robert Byrd DIED shortly after I wrote the last thing I wrote about him???!!!!
  • I moved to New Orleans, where everything is weird.

    What New Orleans Is Always Like

  • Sharkz Records put on Arkansas Midnight Madness 2k10 with some small degree of success.
  • I started working at AND got laid off from a substance abuse treatment facility, which was funny but I think you had to be there.
  • I joined a improv comedy team called Snacktime.  And I’m kind of obsessed with it.
  • My cat got a tooth removed, which was cute and expensive.
  • I got my first credit card, which came in a greeting card that said Baby’s First Credit Card
  • My car, referred to in this blog as Hondaleeza Rice, was totalled, requiring me to purchase a toyota camry, and I have come up with no good names for it.
  • I was really planning on writing about a disease Joni Mitchel mentioned that she has in an interview a long time ago.  It’s called Morgellons and it is absolutely banananas.

That’s pretty much it.  So now what?  I don’t know.

…Still no takers on my advice offer?


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And also

Here’s a good post from Ken Ward Jr. at  his Coal Tattoo Blog today.  I think it’s helpful if you want to know what’s going on here with this stuff.  Also, yesterday was West Virginia Day!:

West Virginia Day update: Another year older

June 22, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

A year ago on West Virginia Day, I wrote a piece for Jason Keeling’s A Better West Virginia blog about the challenges West Virginia faces in figuring out its future and how the future interacts with the coal industry.

Among other things, I wrote in that post:

Through the climate crisis and the continued outrage over the damage caused by mountaintop removal, West Virginians are confronted with major challenges about our coal industry. While coal no longer has the statewide economic impacts it once did, it is still a major source of good jobs in coal-producing counties — and in some places is really the only economic engine. But the state has never really fully faced up to questions like: If coal is so good, why are all of the places it is mined still so poor? That’s changing though, because the global challenge of dealing with global warming, and the national furor over mountaintop removal, are pushing us along.

We’ve seen some fascinating and important developments since then, including the remarkable two statements from Sen. Robert C. Byrd (see here and here) about the future of our state’s relationship with coal. Among other things, Sen. Byrd advised us:

The sovereignty of West Virginia must also be respected. The monolithic power of industry should never dominate our politics to the detriment of local communities. Our coal mining communities do not have to be marked by a lack of economic diversity and development that can potentially squelch the voice of the people. People living in coal communities deserve to have a free hand in managing their own local affairs and public policies without undue political pressure to submit to the desires of industry.

But we’ve also seen other political developments, like Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s increased hostility to dealing with climate change, and Rep. Nick J. Rahall’s refusal to even consider both sides of the mountaintop removal issue.

We continue to be educated by new reports on the science, economics and on-the-ground realities of coal. There was the great report by Downstream Strategies about the inevitable decline of Central Appalachian coal production, the blockbuster paper in the prestigious journal Science about the impacts of mountaintop removal,  more work by West Virginia University’s Michael Hendryx about the connections between coal and health problems in the region, a National Academy of Sciences study on coal’s huge hidden costs, and a report by the group Physicians for Social Responsibility about coal’s Assault on Human Health.

As I mentioned in a post last week, this past year also shocked many folks back into the reality of the terrible toll that coal mining can have of mining families, when 29 workers died in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine on April 5. It remains to be seen what sorts of lessons we’ll learn or reforms will come from that disaster, the worst in the coal industry in 40 years.

There are some groups, like the JOBS Project, working hard to diversify and green West Virginia’s economy. But one thing that I wrote about a year ago on West Virginia seems to not be really getting much attention, and that’s this promise from the Obama administration, mentioned when the EPA announced its crackdown on mountaintop removal:

Federal agencies will work in coordination with appropriate regional, state and local entities to help diversify and strengthen the Appalachian regional economy and promote the health and welfare of Appalachian communities.

Is there hope that West Virginia is moving forward and confronting these issues a positive way that will make the state a better place for live? What do you think?

Some of the things Robert Byrd has said in the past year really are incredible, and I think either a. a sign that things are changing or b. a sign he’s felt this way his whole (very long) life and is just getting around to it now.  Also, note the mention of Boone People, if that is the kind of thing you are inclined to note.

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Appalachia’s Own Unstoppable Oil Spill

I’m moving.  Like I said only two entries ago but many months ago, I am going to New Orleans.  Since deciding that, you might have noticed there’s been a little bit of an environmental disaster.  If you were going to ask me the same questions my coworkers asked me every day the last month I was working with them, and I was not worried about causin’ trouble, these would be the answers I give you:

–Yes, I am still going

–No, I’m not going to work for BP.  (Alternately) No, I don’t have any specific plans to wash off birds.

–Yes, I too am sad that I won’t be able to eat the seafood soon.  But you know, I can’t eat much fish here in West Virginia either, due to the mercury content of the fish.  The oil spill was an accident, but here in West Virginia (and in plenty of other places in the country) we gladly continue to poison the populations in our rivers and streams in order to “keep the lights on” by burning coal.    In West Virginia, most of this electricity is exported.  This means that even if you live in a state with progressive environmental policies, you’re likely still polluting headwaters somewhere.

–Yeah, It’s really upsetting. Though, frankly, not much more upsetting than the common and oft-defended practice of blowing up mountains in the state.   I don’t want to rank them, since they’re both terrible, but if you’re in West Virginia and you’re upset about the fact that this could be causing permanent ecosystem damage, its effect on the water supply, and its effect on the economy, take a look in your backyard.  This is happening here too. Every single day. You probably know people this is affecting personally–you probably ARE one.  You should transfer your energy to getting mad at Massey Energy and other companies that depend on the destruction of all other livelihoods through mountaintop removal so that their investors and no one else can profit.  You should transfer your anger at the Obama administration for not acting sooner to people who care more about what you think–your local politicians who work with the coal companies to make sure they can keep blowing up mountains.

Like I said, I’m not interested in ranking extraction industry destruction.  I just want to call attention to the fact that it is completely insane to me how angry people are at BP but how they won’t get angry at the coal companies who are deliberately destroying ecosystems and communities and yes, also the economy. I’m so glad people are finally asking whether or not this is worth it.  Like the “outsiders” that protest here about mountaintop removal, we have every right to ask that, we have every right to be angry when there aren’t solutions, we have every right to demand change because its our ocean too, just like our mountains are the “outsider’s” mountains.  If we criticize BP without turning the same eye to coal producers, then we are making a huge mistake.

Edit for clarification:

Many many people in West Virginia do get angry at coal companies, and I didn’t mean for this to come off as critical of people in this state.  I was using this format to draw the parallels for people outside of the region.


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Alex Chilton

Alex Chilton died of a heart attack last night, and marks pretty much the first time any famous person has died and I cared much at all.

I guess I don’t really have much to say beyond that.  But here’s The Replacements:

The Replacements Alex Chilton

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