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The Poetry Scam

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I'm sure it's not news to anyone that - which I won't actually link - is a scam. The idea is a simple appeal to the vanity of the average person. Tons of people have written at least one poem on a whim or for a school assignment. Poetry is also extremely subjective; because it's highly symbolic, in most cases it will have more meaning to the person who wrote it. Even the form of poetry is defined more by what it isn't than by what it is. Some poems rhyme, some have a particular meter or rhythm, some have specific combinations of these things. And then, some don't have any of these features. For the longest time, I thought that poetry was a written work without a factual basis or narrative - but then, I've seen poems with both.

The point of this game of pin-the-definition-on-the-amorphous-blob is that poetry does not really have objective standards to which any particular work can be held. What I think is great poetry might read like third-grade drivel to someone else. I know people who don't like at all any poem that doesn't rhyme.But when a person writes a poem, unless they do so under great duress (i.e., begrudgingly for a school assignment) they're likely to do so in a way that approximates their ideal of what poetry should be. When I though "poem" meant "twenty lines or fewer with a rhyme scheme", that's what I wrote. And in the end, because I wrote to my own definition, I thought I was hot shit.

That's what preys on. Just about everyone has a poem, and who doesn't want to see their poem in print? You submit your poem - under 20 lines, of course - and it goes in for a "review" that never happens. After it's determined that the poem is good enough (read: was submitted), they congratulate you, and tell you it's to be printed in their next anthology. You haven't won any money, but you are getting published, assuming you release them to use the poem. If you'd like to see the poem in print, remit $60 for your leather-bound copy of the book and a certificate. Additional copies can be had for $60 is simply extraordinarily expensive vanity publishing. To call it anything else is completely disingenuous.

I follow the writing jobs on Omaha Craigslist in my news reader, and tonight, the following job popped up:

Craigslist scam

Since I do write both prose and poetry, I followed up on the ad. A few moments later, I received an email, explaining that my name, email, and a brief poetry sample would be required to determine whether or not I was a fit for the site. Fishy - but they weren't asking for the poetry sample yet, so I entered my name and my semi-junky email address. And then there it was: a redirect to

Why on earth is scamming on Craigslist, I wondered, as I closed the site. Then, up popped a javascript window-in-the-window. The following conversation followed:

  • Ashley says: Wait don't go! I'm sure others would like to see what you've written. Please type "Hi" if you see me.
  • You: Hi
  • Ashley says: Thanks for taking a minute. You really should enter our poetry contest, it's free. Just CLICK HERE to get started.
  • You: No thank you
  • Ashley says: You're welcome
  • You: ...sorry
  • Ashley says: It's Ok. CLICK HERE to enter the contest.
  • You: You're a robot.
  • Ashley says: My name is Ashley and of course I'm not real but wish I were :)
  • Ashley says: I can answer most of your questions though.
  • You: Why is scamming on Craigslist pretending to be a job?
  • Ashley says: I'm sorry, I did not get that.
  • You: I bet you didn't.
  • Ashley says: Sorry, still didn't get it.
  • You: Smile! You're on candid blog-cam. Goodbye!
  • Ashley says: I don't think I can help you, you can contact customer service at 410-356-2000 ext 2
  • Ashley says: will award over 1,200 awards and prizes totaling over $200,000 to amateur poets in the coming months.
  • Ashley says: We have become the definitive source for personal creative expression in the world. CLICK HERE to join us.
  • Ashley says: Over 7 million poets worldwide are profiled on our site.
  • You: No. Goodbye.
  • Ashley says: Sorry I couldn't help. If you change your mind you can CLICK HERE to return to our site.

Emphasis mine. Audacious claim, eh? I thought Livejournal had that one in the bag. Be careful where you invest your time, people.

I suck at keeping up with this thing. Therefore, I provide here a mostly-complete update before I have to once again retreat for the evil that is school. I spent a good deal of late July and early August simply taking time for myself. I made a to-do list, and I used it. I cleaned up my office (most of the way). I handled some obnoxious financial badness, and also took some positive steps to clean up our finances without requiring disaster conditions as impetus. I took wedding photos for a friend of my mother, did loads of Spanish, and prepared for the upcoming school franticness - I always know it's coming, and I'm never ready. Then, last week, I flew out east. I flew from Omaha to Chicago to Boston on Monday, and landed early Tuesday morning. (As in, a few minutes after midnight.) I was slated to be delayed on my first flight enough to make me late for the second, so United booked me on a couple American flights, then proceeded to try to dick me out of the miles. (I still have to mail them the boarding passes to get credit for the flights.) Well-kept Boston secret: the shuttle from the airport to the train station stops running long about midnight. P.S. so does the train. My original transport with Kara from plane-landing-place to bed-sleeping-place fell through, so the plan was to take the shuttle to the train (subway, I suppose: do not call it either of these things when you are there, for it is the T, and if you call it something other than this, you will get funny looks) and the <strike>train</strike> T to the MIT campus to chill until Live Entertainment became available (i.e., the person I was visiting made it back to town). So I hopped on the wrong shuttle, and I wound up at the Chelsea Employee Station. Yes, it seemed a touch odd that everyone on my shuttle seemed to be an airport employee, but I chalked it up to hopping on around midnight - shift change time, yeah? Anyway, the very nice shuttle driver - Alberto - chatted with me for awhile (my favorite bit was discussing the many ways Spanish has to tell a woman you love her) and took me back to the airport to wait for the 4:30am shuttle to the 5:00am T. The only food open was a Very Suspect Dunkin' Donuts With No Shortage of Ghetto But a Definite Shortage of Croissants; I bought a twisty glazed donut, then a few hours later, an everything bagel with cream cheese. (It is strange how different "everything" tastes, out that-a-way.) And copious amounts of coffee, of course. I read the rest of American Gods (which I started on the plane), finishing just in time to catch my shuttle. (Reading American Gods and other Gaiman-foo on the trip has made me itchy to write. I have story ideas. This always happens when I fly.) Shuttle to the T station, blue line to the green line to the red line to Kendall/MIT station. I got off there around six in the morning, then proceeded to wander aimlessly, no thanks to a couple of helpful folks who, when queried, told me that MIT was "all over [there]". I struggled until normal-ish business hours to find a restroom, eventually finding one at the Coop. And a wireless internet connection, courtesy MIT! I took an amusing video to highlight my toilet frustrations, then dorked around online for awhile until stuff started opening. After a couple hours, I grabbed a map and navigated my way on over to 14N to check out the Science Writing graduate program. The lady in the Science Writing department - Shannon Larkin, I believe (and I think she'll forgive me if I'm wrong, as she's aware of how sleep deprived I was when I met her) - was extremely genial and very thorough in describing the program. She didn't seem put off by my tangential train of thought, which might reflect well on her, the department, MIT, or some combination. She was effusive and competent and just nice to talk with. That's so underrated - all of it! As a result of my talk with her, I'm pondering the brutal stabbing of the voice in my head that says, "But I'm tired of school!" and possibly an application to the program. I had lunch at a nifty little (Greek?) place up near Central square, Brookline Lunch. They have an excellent idea for what should be in an omelette, which is to say, everything. Then I hopped back on the T (thanks to my handy week pass) and dashed up to Harvard. Harvard left me completely cold. Everything that felt like home at MIT felt like an overstuffed and still uncomfortable chair at Harvard. Which is not to say that it's a horrible school, or ugly, or even unpleasant - I'm sure people get a fantastic education there, the campus is pretty, and so on. I suppose it was just that: Harvard seemed so conventionally pretty, so uniform, that I was struck by the overwhelming sameness of everything I saw. I like surprises and disconcerting nooks and pockets of space for my many moods, and MIT seemed to play well to that (even if my predominate mood during my visit was tired). So pretty well immediately after arriving at Harvard, I took to the streets and the T tunnels on my tired feet and went back to MIT. I found a couch up in the Writing department, figured out what was up with Kara, and promptly attempted troubled naps. It should probably be noted that I packed light, carry-on only style, to avoid carting around five-piece Samsonite hell during all of this. I had my purse and my laptop backpack, which contained reading material, toiletries (all of the dry variety), clothing, and the laptop. It was really all I needed. So the wandering was not loaded down, but the sleep was hampered by my rampant paranoia; though I was tucked away in a very quiet corner, I was committing some sort of cardinal sin by Traveling With Many Valuable Possessions. Sleeping curled around a backpack is fitful. A few hours and some obnoxious traffic hassles later (5pm-ish, at this point), Kara rolled along my way, and we headed to her place. Recollections get fuzzy, here, but I believe there was showering and Red Bones for dinner, then we struck out on an ill-advised and ultimately failed attempt to find a drag show. Sometime around 11:00pm, I decided that the feet just could not take it anymore, and after nearly 36 hours of nearly-awake, I had to call it quits. Back to the T station, back to her place, and we retired to el bed-o. Wednesday (which, if you're keeping track, was both my second and third day there, sort of), we woke up late, had Indian food that apparently didn't agree with me (but tasted good!), then set off to LUSH for requisite stocking-up-on-bath-foo. We grabbed some henna for our hair while we were there, bought a couple books off a street seller, then pondered going on a duck tour. Given a combination of weather, cost, and lateness, we opted to check out The Garment District instead. It was kind of a bust - little to nothing in the XL+ range, so nothin' doing for me - but looking at obnoxious hats was fun; it was determined I should wear pimp hats, and Kara should wear top hats, particularly ones with Hideous Numbers of Sequins. We then walked home, primped briefly, and drove to the wrong Melting Pot for the gift certificate I had for a Fondue Experience. They honored the certificate, and we had the promised Experience, though I believe I will go ingredient shopping and have the same Experience at home for about a quarter of the cost (perhaps with less capital E). Particularly if I am eating with a vegetarian-or-something-like-it again; there wasn't a veggie in the main course that couldn't have been suitably sauce'd up for five bucks. We went home and henna'd Kara's hair - we were going to both do it, but I think I erred on the thick side with the henna and we ran out almost before we were done with hers alone. Alas. But she smelled yummy and herbal for days after, which was more pleasant Experience (at about a fifth the cost of the Fondue sort, and just as gooey). Then there was more sleeping. I was apparently catching a cold, but I wouldn't be certain about that for a day or so. Thursday, we milled about, showered, packed up, and headed north to Portland to pick up Will. There was much rejoicing and hugging, and then driving in the direction of his new place. We were greeted by the arrival of his bed, and also baby kittens nesting just outside his door, because apparently someone shorted him on his damned cute quota, or wanted to see me convulse and revert to the vocabulary of my babyhood. We proceeded to shop for all manner of home stuffs for him, as his moving strategy apparently involved throwing away anything that appeared to have possible uses in a new apartment. (Tongue firmly in cheek.) Friday was a good deal more of that, plus poking at the Chamber of Commerce for Answers About The Community. This all culminated in sangria-making and some hardcore chillaxing at Casa William. Saturday, we went to Scarborough Downs for lunch and pony-watching. My chaotic influence must have been working overtime, as one of the horses broke free and tried to jet out the service entrance. After lunch and a credit card kerfuffle, we picked up a rental car. We took Kara back down to Cambridge so she could prep for further traveling fun, then proceeded to get hopelessly lost in the death spiral that is driving in the Boston Metropolitan Area. Sam, to the rescue! He helped us avoid driving past Harvard for a fifth time, and to find the evil sign for the right turn we'd repeatedly failed to make - the sign which, against all logic, is located on the far left of a large intersection, through a thicket of trees and several lanes of traffic. I liked Boston. And then I drove in Boston. We fell into bed in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Sunday was a day for relaxing in the most complete way possible. Except that part where there was life stuff that needed sorting, still. We took a little evening drive up to a suburb of Portland to check out a car - one that seemed like a killer deal, but wound up not being it because the seller seemed bent on not allowing a prospective buyer to do diligence, obnoxiously. We looked at another car Monday morning, which wound up being the winner instead. And then we bought me a new bag for my return trip, as my laptop backpack was staying with Will, along with the laptop and such, which he bought. The return trip was a minor nightmare. We packed after we bought the new bag, then drove down to Boston in the rental and dropped it off at Logan, as agreed, then found my gate with plenty of time, so I chatted with Will about the laptop a bit - showed him the essential programs, set up a user account and all that. (This is not the nightmare part, of course.) Then it was onto the flight. For whatever reason, it would only let me check in through my first stop, at New York's LaGuardia International Airport. When I landed, therefore, I had no boarding pass for my next flight. I exited the secure area, hopped on a bus to the other terminal (brilliance) since my second flight (to Chicago) was on United itself, rather than a United affiliate (US Airways). When I got there, I couldn't check in at the carry-on only kiosk - it told me it couldn't process the itinerary change. Itinerary change? I thought. What itinerary change? Turns out my New York -> Chicago flight was delayed by a couple hours - enough to kill my Chicago -> Omaha connecting flight. So, rather than getting me to Chicago and then dealing with it, they stuck me at the end of a long line of similarly delayed folks so as to delay me the maximum amount possible. When I got to the counter, I explained my situation. "Can you get me home by 8:30am? I start a new job." "No," the nice lady told me. And I must have looked sufficiently crestfallen, for that got changed to a, "Well... let me see." She wound up putting me on a flight that was scheduled to be leaving an hour and a half earlier, but was actually leaving ten minutes later than the scheduled time for my originally scheduled flight, which made silly forty minute connection at O'Hare a ridiculous thirty minute connection. A ten-minute-late takeoff made it a stone-stupid twenty minute connection. And so when I landed at terminal C at O'Hare, nineteen minutes before the scheduled takeoff of my final flight (gate F12), three terminals away from said flight and at an hour that the shuttle to the other terminal was no longer running, I hoofed it. I shoved off my plane, I ran down moving walkways and stupid halls that stupidly lacked them, up the up-escalators in defiance of gravity, around corners and passengers. I ignored my burning fucking lungs for my fifteen minute sprint-jog-powerwalk-sprint-jog-powerwalk, only to arrive at the gate and find the door closed. "I'm sorry," the lady behind the counter there was saying to a similarly beleaguered couple. "We have to close the doors ten minutes before takeoff." We had seven minutes left. In the only good news from the entire debacle, the flight crew was negotiated with, we were escorted out onto the plane, and I did, in fact, make it home shortly after midnight, Tuesday morning. I hadn't eaten in about twelve hours, and the Boston -> Chicago leg of my trip had introduced me to the joy of sitting adjacent Boys Gone Wild, a screaming child and his non-English-speaking mother, a woman with the plague, a deaf woman who was apparently surly about said impairment and anyone who noticed it, and a chatty businessman brandishing college Spanish skills with bravado. Taco Bueno soothed my hunger and the immediate sleep once I was fed soothed my surliness. And I made it to my internship on time. So there. </Travelogue> Still vaguely sick with this cold. My internship started this week. Next week: UNO classes, eight credits. Teaching at UNO, two credits. The week after: Metro classes, three credits. I'll be busy, but it's actually a decently happy busy. Ciao, kittens. I'm off to bed.


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In his post "the perils of coincidence", John August says:
Like several million people worldwide, I saw Spider-Man 3 this past weekend. And like a substantial percentage of these viewers, I got frustrated by the number of unlikely coincidences in the movie.
He puts his finger on the problems I had with the movie. (I also had issues with the pacing and the fact that characters seemed to overlook blindingly simple conclusions and solutions in favor of ANGST ANGST ANGST.) Also, only bad guys have rhythm. That's all I'm sayin'. (Link includes spoilers.)
My lab manual for the course I'm taking on climate and waters (Philip Suckling's Studies in Weather and Climate) on tornados rated F5 on the Fujita Tornado Scale:
F5: 261-318 mph Incredible Tornado. Incredible damage: Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distance to disintegrate; automobile-sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 300 ft (100 m); trees debarked; incredible phenomena will occur.
Editorial comment: Needs more exclamation points. :) Edit: Fine. Because you all have no imaginations, this is what was in my head:
Real-Life Resume Blunders to Avoid: Your resumé is a professional document. Give it the proofreading and editing it deserves. (And incidentally, if you're in the market for such proofreading and editing, I'm your girl. References and rates on request.)

Creative Goals

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  • Taking 12 credits this semester, rather than my typical 15-20. Sensible. Sane.
  • Teaching two sections of lab. Still sane.
  • Was not hired for the position at the new Apple retail store in town.
Given that my schedule this semester has stabilized into something eminently sane, I should actually have some decompression time. So, I have a few goals for this semester:
  • School: Finish those labs from last semester. For real. All the way.
  • Design: Get the blog redesign project I started done. All the way. It's really mostly done - I just need to convert to templates and make a few more decisions about how to display archives.
  • Photo: Take 100 photos per week. I have a camera which it is reasonable to carry around (the Casio EX-S600EO) with a freaking 2GB SD card; I no longer have any excuse not to go crazy with the taking of pictures.
  • Photo: Enter at least one contest at DPChallenge per month. (Why not use that for inspiration?)
  • Video: Get approved as a video stock contributor at iStockPhoto.
  • Writing: Write a substantial piece of short fiction. I'm not talking about serious "literary fiction" - I'm not even sure I know what that means, actually - I just mean something longer than the look-at-me-we-all-have-ADHD flash fiction I can bang out in a single sitting. A plot would be good. Characters required. I'm thinking 3,000-5,000 words. (I just know that if I can get one done, I'll have loosened up the knotty problem of how to turn my ideas into words.)
  • Music: Finish one of the songs I have started. I've got about six sitting around, each with about half of the lyrics written, an idea of the melody line for those lyrics... then nothing.
I think the overall idea here is very much like throwing spaghetti at a wall; I want to see what sticks. I do a lot of disparate stuff, and seeing what holds my attention when I genuinely have time for it seems like a good idea. ...and then there's the lab thing, which I threw in there as my own personal guilt-trip. Any thoughts? Things I've mentioned to you or that you (knowing me like you do) think I want to be doing this semester that I've left out? Comment!

Open Letters

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Dear Apple, I love my iPod. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it. ...okay, maybe I did. The larger screen is love. Color? Even better. The software for viewing contacts and calendars is much improved. Request: please have a discussion with the person who decided it would be ok to make the middle button completely flat. I am now not only missing a piece of tactile feedback concerning where my finger is on the device, but it is difficult for me to press the button without jogging the touch-wheel. I have moderate-length nails which cause me no difficulty when I type, nor with the multitude of tiny buttons on the other electronics I own. They shouldn't cause problems with the iPod, either. xoxo


Dear Apple, I would very much like to have the iMac I ordered. I understand that you are v. busy and that this product is very popular, however, I would like to note that telling me that my product is going to ship late - and up to two weeks late, at that - the day after it was supposed to ship... well, let's just say I've made that sort of mistake before, and it didn't work out well. Don't worry - I still love you. <3


Dear Casio, Manual appears to be missing from box. Received something manual-like, but only four of the pages are in English; remainder appears to be repeated text in several other languages. Will admit interface is fairly easy to pick up, but you know how methodical physics is making me. Where are the equations? ^_^ P.S. Camera so pretty! Very thin! Must be staying away from the twinkies. Appears to have adopted my wardrobe.


Dear UNO, Some of your computer lab rules appear to be unenforceable; others, not in line with your practices. For an example of the former, see the "offending, intimidating or harassing others is not allowed" rule. There are several people sitting within earshot who could potentially be offending me if I got offended by things like obnoxious laughs, clothing with religiously significant symbols, or the fact that anyone is actually looking for pictures of Lil Jon in a fashion that is not intended to be ironi-- wait, that does offend me. The guy next to me is seriously built, and would intimidate anyone except (perhaps) my sister. I would recommend retooling the language on your signs to be more meaningful. For the latter, look no further than your rule against attaching peripherals, when you have pulled USB extension cables through the holes on the desk explicitly for the purpose of making the attachment of peripherals easier. Perhaps these rules predate the addition of said cables. In this case, I recommend what is called a "revision". That's where you change content that is no longer correct. Helpfully yours, Erica
Visualize a sheet made of rubber, stretched tightly in all directions - flat, smooth, essentially featureless. Now imagine a heavy sphere, like a marble, placed on the sheet. Imagine the smooth, uniform, gradual depression in the sheet, the gentle curve in the material. Juggling this set of images, now add another: another marble, shooting across the surface of the sheet, leaving its own impression on the surface as it moves across. See in your mind this second sphere roll close to the first - just glancing off the very edge of the transformed sheet. Replay this in your head, sending the second marble closer and closer to the first, until the second marble can no longer escape the impression of the first, instead finding a circular path about the first. If in your head, you can conceptually extrapolate this image into three dimensions, you will have a vague picture of our current understanding of gravity; the marbles are massive bodies, like stars and planets, and the sheet is a two-dimensional slice of space-time. Gravity, as we understand it, is a distortion in space-time caused by these massive bodies. A conceptual framework like this is not necessarily a practical or necessary framework for everyday use, though. Einstein's elegant space-time distortion is still taught years after students learn the Newtonian model, because while Newton's model has the fundamental failing that it says nothing about what gravity actually is, it does give a simple mathematical framework for calculating the effects two bodies will have on each other as they pass. The formula essentially says that the magnitude of the gravitational force between two objects is proportional to the mass of both objects, but inversely proportional to the square of the distance they are from each other. The effect is a function of two quantities - the masses - and distance. Both models of gravity tell us that two masses at a sufficient distance from each other will have essentially no effect on each other. They have very little way, even supposing a sudden dose of sentience, of determining that the other even exists. The events required to make these two bodies aware of each other are simple, straightforward, and yet desperately unlikely. The two masses must simply travel close enough to each other to move through the other's sphere of distortion, or sphere of influence. For an orbit to exist, the two must travel close enough for one to become trapped in the circling path about the other. For an orbit to be broken, some external force, strong enough to overcome the distortion, the mutual attraction, must push one object at an appropriate angle, such that it is not simply immediately recaught in a circular path about the first. And if that should happen, freely moving through essentially empty space, the two semi-sentient objects should eventually move out of range such that they are essentially where they began - without knowing that the other truly exists; out of influence range, out of touch. Think about that for a moment. Every single day that we make a phone call, or jump on one of these magic internet boxes, or watch a television show from the other side of the world, we violate in a limited, human way one of the most elegant laws of the universe. When we write a letter, we confirm the continued existence of our mass with one a thousand time smaller than ours. To be human is to have incredible power; the simple facts of our memory and indomitable will allow us to continuously confirm that which we have seen - that which has frightened us, that which inspires us, that which we reject, and most importantly, that which we love. Distance does not equal absence. (Cross-posted from All Write Already. Also, credit is owed to Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe for a good deal of the visualization/metaphor for the physics bits.)
I feel as if I should write something, but today, I'm not certain what that something is. I have a vague tug telling me to write something on gender and sexual identities, but it's still sort of stewing. I have an even vaguer tug telling me to write something about my fundamentally whacked-out relationship with uncertainty, but that's very, very still stewing. I have a hideous compulsion to post a lot of song lyrics. I refuse to do this without having something to say about them, preferably something insightful. Mutter. Vote? Leave a comment - what do you want to see me write about? What opinion of mine do you desperately need word-i-fied?

Read this:

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Update: I suck at the internet - the first time I tried this, I misread the Amazon instructions and assumed they'd be pulled from Amazon's server. Bad me.
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  • ".$arr_xml['BeforeText'][$i]." ".$arr_xml['Text'][$i]." ".$arr_xml['AfterText'][$i]."
  • \n"; } echo ""; } } function tla_updateLocalXML($url, $file, $time_out) { if($handle = fopen($file, "a")){ fwrite($handle, "\n"); fclose($handle); } if($xml = file_get_contents_tla($url, $time_out)) { $xml = substr($xml, strpos($xml,'(.*?)', '"'); $n = 0; while (isset($out[$n])) { $retarr[$out[$n][1]][] = str_replace($search_ar, $replace_ar,html_entity_decode(strip_tags($out[$n][0]))); $n++; } return $retarr; } tla_ads(); ?>

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