Doing Massachusetts

I’m a native Californian, born and raised in paradise. The weather along our more than 3,000 miles of tidal coastline is spectacular practically every day. The Sierra Mountains are our border sentinels, over 14,000 feet at their peaks, stretching 400 miles long of pristine wilderness to world-class resorts. Ski after brunch and be tanning, running, biking on the beach by the afternoon—from mid-October through early June. Ask me my religion, and I’ll say I’m Californian. We are a culture all our own out here; active, progressive, wildly creative—fantastically separate from anywhere else, yet intricately connected to the world.

I was married a little over a year when my husband sold his software to a company in Concord, Massachusetts. A three year, onsite contract was part of the purchase deal. After the blood oath that we’d return to California when the three years were up, I agreed to leave my family, friends, and Bay that I loved, and move to one of the oldest towns in the U.S.

I’ve never been a fan of the east coast. The weather sucks most of the time. Even the young people look older than most old people in California. I’d visited Boston just once, ten years earlier. Mid-August, and it was hot and wet and sticky. The city was dirty, crowded, crumbling, aged, with an excessive number of churches. I don’t remember finding anything I actually liked about the place other than the dim sum in Chinatown.

A decade later and Boston hadn’t changed much, at least from the plane’s view as we flew through the thick air over the dilapidated city into Logan Airport. The sweltering July heat came through the crack where the gangway met the plane and felt like a sizzling brick wall. I hesitated as I stepped onto the walkway, fighting the urge to run back on the plane and beg them to fly me home.

My husband waited for me at the end of the walkway, all smiles. I wanted to slug him. He’d come to Mass. a week before me and found us a rental in Concord, and the entire drive there he chatted it up—how beautiful the historic area was; the one-bedroom with studio house he’d found with its great location just blocks from town center.

What I saw out the passenger window after passing through congested Boston and manicured Cambridge was swampland. Rivulets lined with oak, birch, and pines were all that broke up the tangled shrubs and thorny vines that covered the ground and wrapped the fallen trees. I half-expected to catch a glimpse of the Creature from the Black Lagoon moving through the dark, heavily forested rolling hills.

My mood went from bad to black as we came into Concord’s tiny town center. Culture shock wouldn’t touch what I felt. Graveyards were the front lawns of the churches that stood on every other corner. Old stone and brick buildings lined the main streets of the town. Old meaning 1600 and 1700’s. Art galleries, bakeries, bank branches and real estate offices occupied these crumbling two-story structures, which met at the town circle. Every person I saw was White.

The thick smell of mold and the cloying scent of decay hit me as I got out of the car in front of the ramshackle Colonial Inn, which was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War, according to their bronze plaque. The air was stifling and still. I could barely breathe. People on the streets milled about as if in slow motion. Three years would be an eternity here.

The oppressive heat was suffocating. I had to find air. My husband suggested we go to the Concord River where he assured me there was always a breeze. We drove to Minuteman Park, walked to the end of a creaky wooden pier and looked out across the river to the old stone bridge where the first battle of our War for Independence was waged. I was immersed in the past and felt the weight of it upon me, but I didn’t feel any breeze. 

The screened porch of our rented one-bedroom house turned out to be a haven, shadowed from the heat and separate from the bugs, except for the hive of wasps in the dormer of the upstairs ‘studio’/attic we spent the afternoon eradicating.

Summer passed to Fall, and the brilliant colors of the foliage was only marred by the attack of the insect population as it moved indoors in search of food and shelter from the impending cold. Autumn lasted about three weeks until the first frost when everything died and became flat gray.

The only season in Massachusetts I looked forward to [back in California] was winter, anticipating the pristine beauty of snow. And its splendor can not be denied while it’s falling. But shoveling the drive, managing the icy roads, and freezing my ass off from early November until mid-April was harsh at best, and within hours of falling, the clean white blanket was speckled brown with road grim from the plows and street traffic.

Spring in Mass. brought allergies from hell. I felt like I had the flu for a straight month when everything was blooming. Then summer set in, and there was no air in the air again. There were excessively heavy rain storms though, that invariably flooded the basement numerous times from mid-July through late-August.

I’d left paradise for purgatory.

There were times of spectacular beauty in MA—those few weeks of fall, or a couple weeks in the spring when gray gave way to vibrant greens and crystal blue skies. But the days of sunlight and life were few and far between. At least through the summer months, every night at sunset was Attack of the Monster Mosquitoes! The other eight months everything was frozen or dead, and it was too snowy and/or cold to go anywhere.

For two and a half years I endured Concord. It got, if not easier, more routine serving my time there. I learned to dress for the weather, especially in layers because restaurants, theaters and clubs were usually blazing hot inside for some unfathomable reason. Other than a few affable store clerks and a couple of business associates, I never made any real friends there. Most of the people were as cold as the place, and prided themselves on their rudeness. By late fall of my third year, after totaling my car while nine months pregnant when a snowplow on the other side of the road dumped fresh snow on my side, I’d had more than enough of Massachusetts.

Two months after our son was born, and four months before his contract with the Concord based company expired, my husband accepted a job offer from a tech startup back in California.

We drove through several blizzards across the northern U.S. in mid-winter because it was the quickest route to get home. The February afternoon we drove onto Alameda Island in the San Francisco Bay it was 70 degrees and sunny. Across the sparkling blue water the sun was setting behind the city. The air was crisp, almost sweet with the fragrance of fog, the wind whipping around with the windows rolled down as we cruised along Shoreline Drive. People were walking, running and cycling along the strand. A few die-hard wind surfers were out on the bay doing their last sail for the day. And I said a silent prayer to hope that we were home to stay.

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Copywriting “Test”

Had an interview for a Copywriting contract that required a ‘test.’

Here’s the ‘test:’

Create five (5) YouTube Channels that can “go viral,” which, according to this ‘digital marketing agency’ was “20 million views in one week,” with these prompts:

  • Create a “Seek and Find” YouTube channel.
  • Create a “Mouse Maze” YouTube channel.
  • Create a [tween] YouTube channel: “Imagine you are 13 and develop a superpower…”.

I stopped reading the “Test Deliverables” after that because this agency asked for a total of 5 unique YouTube channel ideas, their only instruction to create channels to “go viral, with 20M views weekly.” I hope the absurdity of this request is not lost on you, since about .03% of all YouTube Channels get 1M+ views on any given video.

And remember, this is a Copywriting ‘test,’ not a product development gig, which, seemingly, this marketing agency does not know a BRANDED YouTube channel actually is a product offering, and should be developed and marketed accordingly.

Five, free, viable YouTube channel ideas requiring little copy—this agency did stress an ‘attention-grabbing’ visual—including thumbnail layouts and storyboard drawings. Oh, and they required I sign an NDA saying that whatever I came up with on their ‘test’ was theirs to keep. Five (5). Free Channel ideas. Per applicant.

Their ‘test’ gave no OBJECTIVE for creating these channels—no sales goals for any company, or the channel itself to realize profitability. No reason for asking applicants to create these brain dead types of channels, other than the unmentionable of making the user the PRODUCT by selling their data, then slamming those same users with pay-per-click ads on every webpage visited forward.

The prompts in their ‘test’ were pulled from the latest trending crap on YouTube. The agency asked applicants to pile on more intellectually void baseline garbage to these senseless trending channels, following the Fire, Aim, Ready marketing method of business failure. Clearly this ‘marketing’ agency doesn’t really understand, well, marketing, assuming they were really looking for a copywriter, and not just garnering free content ideas. There are three business MARKETING reasons (not personal, ego-building social sharing) for a YouTube Channel:

  1. As a marketing/branding channel for a business.
  2. As a data collection tool for tightly targeting future marketing campaigns.
  3. Selling collected data to Affliate Marketing brokers.

Applicants for this copywriting gig were not asked to market an offering of value, nor to build a marketing campaign (or YouTube channel) for any specific targets, nor did they instruct applicants to actually create and MARKET (i.e. BRAND) a YouTube channel for any specific business. They are under the delusion if they just get “views,” they’ll get sales, which data shows is a lie (https://freakonomics.com/podcast/advertising-part-2/), promoted by these very ‘digital marketing’ agencies to get clients. (https://www.ippglobal.org/post/truth-about-data-science)

Of course, after reading their ‘test,’ I turned down the prospect of consulting for them. I felt angry though, that they were not only asking for free, unique IP, but also the IP they were asking for was truly thoughtless, flat out bad marketing, sure to put more ‘digital’ garbage on the ever mounting pile of crap already on YouTube. To quell my anger, with my rejection of consulting for their agency, I included an answer to their first prompt:

Create a Hide & Seek” YouTube Channel:

A Year of Free Beer for Finding NAME OF FAMOUS IPA BEER.

AR (augmented reality) game to find the bottle of famous IPA BEER (or any other idiotic thing that’s trending). Everyone 21 or older with mobile can play. AR has NAME OF FAMOUS IPA BEER bottles in places around each major cities, but also standard beer bottles, and area sports team logos, (even cross-sell with image placements) that ‘lead’ you to the ‘right IPA.’ First to find NAME OF FAMOUS IPA BEER (in any given round, which may be a week or more per round) to collect all that global data, (which then can be sold to screw us all further), wins the free beer for a year, every month getting new IPA flavors.

The TARGET USERS of this YouTube Channel will be:

  1. Lowest hanging target is the sudo-intellectual, over-educated ivy-league crowd, mostly White men; Christians, Jews, Agnostics—higher education levels; MMORPG, FPS, and MOD gamer; Software, Marketing, Admin, Finance; STEAM; democrats; mid – upper income; 21 – 60.
  2. Lazy, generally fat, FPS gamers, beer and sports-loving men. White mostly. Conservatives. Apatheist, Christians; low – mid income; blue-collar job; pensions; 18 – 65.

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Why Middle-Men Apps Screw You

I’ve been looking for a home to purchase on REDFIN in the Seattle area for over 5 yrs with no luck. The homes I want are either too expensive, a flat out rip off, or an offer is accepted within 24 hrs of listing, which we can not do being in S.F. We’ve bid on 5 houses up there, and were ‘out bid’ 4 times.

I’ve defaulted to using REDFIN.COM almost exclusively, as they released MLS data within minutes of the broker’s listing. ZILLOW, REALTOR.COM, and their like get MLS listings hours, sometimes days later.

I assumed that REDFIN was helping me find a home. But what this SaaS offering is really doing is supporting the 1% wealthy, while screwing most potential home buyers. Making MLS listings available to everyone online, which is just about everyone with any money globally, does NOT level the playing field for buyers. It introduces 50+ interested buyers at every doorstep, jacking up housing prices with fierce competition for the same property.

Real estate brokers love this software! They now give you access to their MLS site (Matrix), knowing we all get it from REDFIN anyway. Promoting “competitive bidding” makes them richer with every sale.

Book a trip on HOTEL.COM or EXPEDIA lately? Ever? You’d get a better hotel rate if you call the places you’d like to stay, and talk directly to the front desk. I’ve booked family vacations for 21 yrs, and every single time, without fail, from Victoria, Canada, to Venice, Italy, the rates are cheaper if you call the places you plan to stay. The original idea with travel apps was they’d buy in bulk and sell at a discount. But like Pets.com, these sites quickly learned the destinations were not very flexible on their rates, so they ‘pivoted’ their SaaS with marketing. They sold users on ‘Packaged Deals,’ but you’ll be locked in to their ‘deals,’ which often aren’t ideal, and your vacation will cost more booking through them, even though they advertise that they save you money. Travel apps offer you no real value, and often rip you off, adding charges to cover the cost of maintaining their business.

Same goes for most middle-men SaaS offerings. It cost money to run their platforms, and they pass that cost on to their paying customers.

Ever use ANGIE’S LIST, or DIAMOND CERTIFIED RESOURCE to get recommendations for services from contractors to dentists? Their ratings are a LIE because the VENDOR PAYS to have their name on these lists. DCR says they reach out to the vendor’s customers by phone, which they likely do, with numbers the business gives them. Maybe they get the wife of the vendor on the phone, and of course, she just loves his work! And this is all the checking they do. Then they give the business a 5-star diamond rating, so you’re more likely to hire them. And the customer is more likely to keep paying DCR to appear on their lists.

Developers and marketers of these types of SaaS apps will argue they are “doing good” for the world, whatever that means. (Doing good for them?) They are ‘setting information free to form an egalitarian society,’ you’ll hear Silicon Valley types batting about this hype. But I’ve already established that these apps, and their like jack up the cost of goods and services, as IRL middle-men do. Creators of middle-men software will tell you they are offering you a ‘convenience.’ OK… first, with a few clicks you too can book flights, hotels, car rentals, excursions online, and do, even using most travel apps. Do the research and you can find all kinds of information about a company or vendor, including ratings across a broad spectrum, not just paid for ratings on ANGIE’S LIST. And how convenient is it being robbed of your money and information each time you use these self-serving ‘services’?

Ever wonder why entertainment events had gotten so expensive (before Covid)? The only way to buy tickets was through an online ticket broker. And good luck getting a refund if you needed to cancel, or the event was cancelled. You’ve purchased through an APP, which generally provides little to no customer service that is easily accessible.

Want to know why you can’t afford the home you want today? Partial thanks to MLS Listing apps like REDFIN. These apps are not only valueless, they are dangerous. The ripple effect of their ignorance is almost as expansive as the socioeconomic damage from their continued existence.