My Small Steps in Defeating Capitalism

I am just one person. But change starts with one person.

This is how one person is defeating capitalism this year:

I am vermicomposting. This has so many benefits! Up to 40% of my garbage will now be transformed into fertile soil that will be used for my herb garden. How does this have to do with capitalism? Well, for one thing, I won’t need to buy herbs and soil. But in the grand scheme of things, I will contribute less to garbage pick ups and landfill expenses that our tax money is paying for. I am giving the budget more room to pay for meaningful things like, healthcare and education! All our actions have an impact.

I will make vermicomposting bins for others. The worms in the bin can double their population every 3-4 months. They will stop breeding when the bin is full. But I won’t let it get there. If I make a new bin for someone every 3-4 months, and they in turn make a new bin for others, and so on, then something significant would have happened. I did the math. If I follow this program, in 2013 I can prevent 156 litres of garbage from going to the landfills. In 2014, 2560 litres of garbage will be prevented from going to the landfills. I will write a blog post about this new program I made for myself..

I will not buy any new clothes. I feel like I have accumulated enough since I grown into a full size adult, which has been eight years or so.

I will continue to live like a stoic. And it’s not so bad! I don’t own a car. I don’t have cable. I don’t have TV. I pay very low rent, and very rarely, if at all, buy alcohol. Going to music jams and living in a vibrant neighbourhood and eating good food is what makes my day to day life fun.

I will avoid eating at restaurants. It’s really hard, but if I watch Zietgiest once a week, I am sure I will have the motivation and develop the discipline.

I will bring awareness. I am publishing this blog. Also, in my upcoming album, I will have many songs about debt slavery and human trafficking.

 

Bonus:

I will attend at least five protests this year.

I will learn more about independant energy.

I will learn more about hydroponic farming. I will learn more about vertical hydroponic farms.

I will read more about how others are living off-grid.

 

Now will the world be a magical place in 2014?

A Few Ways To Reduce The Tuition Fee

Students have swarmed the streets protesting against the 75% increase in the tuition fee. If you do the math from 2007, the tuition will increase by 143% in 10 years. It’s as if the government can bully people into paying whatever they say, no matter how opposed people are and how unfair. Many others are saying that they don’t want to pick up the tab through what is already high taxes. They say an increase was overdue because of the lack of quality in education and inflation. The price index has gone higher, but not by 143%. Even though Quebec has the lowest tuition, it also has the highest taxes, so why would it make sense to raise the tuition on par with the rest of the provinces? Until the tuition increase, there was never any question of quality of educational when Quebec is still reputable for world class universities like McGill and Laval University. It sounds like to me that money is being mismanaged at the cost of both tax payers and students.

If universities raise the price, then it will become a place where the richest go, not necessarily the smartest & hardest working. That’s not fair for anybody.

The most logic I heard in the agreement is to establish a committee that would oversee university expenses. There needs to be an absolute fundamental change to stop universities from wasting a lot of money that they do now. This should be the central focus of blame in this crisis, but it isn’t. Everyone is making out this crisis as a student vs. tax payer issue when the real culprit is the university itself and the complacent government! We need to start looking at solutions that works for tax payers and students.

Here are my five suggestions to make universities financially fair for everyone:

1. Only four years of free university full-time. If you choose to do another degree, or if you fail and need an extra semester after four years, you have to pay the full price of university, which is the international student fees.

University has become a place for many people to roam from from one major to another. It is more common nowadays for someone to be a full time student until they are 30 without a completed degree. Many people are ‘finding themselves’ at the expense of tax payers. Currently, all university courses are subsidized, it doesn’t matter how many times you failed the class or how long you spent in university, all courses are always subsidized at the same price. It’s only nowadays we are hearing terms like, “professional student” when the only thing professional about it is getting away with freeloading. Taking in knowledge at the expense of taxpayers without making any meaningful contribution to society of that knowledge is like stealing. What’s the logic in having people work hard in a job they probably hate to pay taxes while others get to take an unlimited vacation in university?

I believe education is a right, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it can happen in a university setting. There is nothing wrong with lifelong learning, there are plenty of other alternatives other than universities. University is simply a place where you are formally recognized for your knowledge to enable you to get a job. It’s that piece of paper that is proof that you sat through eight semesters and listened to a professor and did the homework. Before you enter into a major, ask yourself, ‘Do I need this proof for a job I want?’ If not, then learn outside, go to the library, use the internet, you can still listen to a profesors lecture for free in class, or online. If you have an interest in acadmic learning, attend seminars, take a free course on khan academy, attend doc screenings, read, join a book club, volunteer at an art gallery, travel, subscribe to an independant journal, read and write to the letter to the editor, or be keen and contribute an article yourself. You can email a professor with any question, and they are more than likely to get back to you right away. You don’t need to be shy about it. Professors don’t work for the universities, they work for the public, the tax payer! Email him/her and ask for the course outline of the course you are interested in, and he/she is most likely to give it to you so you can see what kind of material a certain major is learning. Education doesn’t happen in four walls. There are plenty of ways to be involved with acadmia without blowing a fortune in university.

If you are 100% sure about a degree you want to do that will allow you to qualify for a career you want, then go to university. Don’t be indecisive and make someone else pay for it. As the saying goes, ‘Indecision is worse than making a wrong decision’.

2. Eliminate administration staff. It baffles me that in this internet age and with the advancements in computers, we still have to go to a crowded student office to get things done by an administration staff who always demand more money and benefits. Any university student will tell you that they had at least one experience with getting incorrect information from admin that screwed them over. It’s human error. We have the technology now to make a program that is full proof of any problems, we can do all administrative tasks there. And what about administrative jobs? Take that money and invest it in maintaining the price of low tuition and use the difference to fund research positions. These are the meaningful jobs that are always the first to get cut. Everyone knows at least of one person who is un(der)employed after getting a university degree. Instead of offering newly grads a meanial task at reception, we should make use of the knowledge they required with research positions that will enhance our society, rewarding those tax payers who susbdized the degree!

3. Universities should be more selective & accept less students. There’s accessibility, then there’s just anybody, particularly with B.A. degrees that always have the lowest requirements. Anyone can enroll with a mediocre C average. Anyone can graduate with a C average (like George Bush). This devalues the degree. It isn’t fair for those who strived for earned higher grades and put in the same boat as those who didn’t. University degrees aren’t impressive as they were 30 years ago because anyone can have one. University is becoming a place where only the people who want to pay for it go, not necessarily the people who are the smartest.

4. Eliminate advertising budget. If your university is a place worth going to, an accomplished alumini should be your only walkng billboard. The right candidate for a certain university will go based on academic merit, alumini and professors. What does it say about a prospective student when they chose a university because they saw an ad at the Bell Center during a hockey game?

5. Eliminate text book fees. This isn’t in the tution, but its that extra fee that all students dread. All text books should be available for e-reading at a lower cost. Text books are so primitive. They are heavy and waste so much paper. Text books are only good for a few years before they have to be replaced again with a new edition.

You can call these ideas radical or unrealistic, but these are the only solutions to make the best investment in our future, to enable our hardest working and smartest students with an education and tools that will make a better world for everybody.

My attempt at a viral website – One Year Review

Last summer, I decided to roll up my sleeves and throw myself in the trenches of online marketing. I started a website, funnyloveletters.com, a blog on real life sappy love letters. I figured with all the voyeurs in the world, the idea would instantly go viral. It kinda did, but there is still a long way to go and I learned a lot of lessons I thought I would share with other budding online entrepreneurs.

Could this be the beginning of a viral website?

My journey started in summer 2010, I was working towards a Google Analytics and AdWords certificate. I was well versed with SEO, and I also knew how to set up a website. I heard about the Google Advertising program (Adsense) and I had a friend who said he made an income off of it, so I decided that it was time to put what I know to the test. I just needed an idea!

The idea of a website with sappy letters came to me a few years earlier when I got a huge 5 page love letter from a guy I barely knew. At first it was creepy, then sad, but then funny. Wouldn’t it be funnier if other people read it? But would they? And how would I start this website? How much time will it take? When will I see a return? It was going to be a little bit of work, so I needed some compelling evidence to see if it was worth the trouble.

I did some keyword research and found that “funny love letters” had a pretty high search volume on Google. It is now listed as having 2400 searches per month!

The domain funnyloveletters.com was available. Having the keywords in the domain would make it easier to get to the number one spot. I originally wanted a more fitting name, “sappyloveletters.com”, but there were barely any Google searches for sappy love letters. And this project was more SEO oriented.

I also used the website awkwardfamilyphotos.com as a model. They post up awkward family photos submitted by users. If people were willing to post up embarassing pictures of their families, they would surely post up embarassing letters of people they don’t like? According to alexa.com, awkwardfamilyphotos.com has an obscene amount of traffic. They also got mainstream media attention from CNN, Time Magazine, Huffington Post and even The View.

I was convinced! So I bought funnyloveletters.com, and got to work. I used a diary themed template with wordpress, then posted the five page love letter. Then waited. I got a few letters by asking friends and posting ads on craigslist. At first, it was slow, but now its picking up. I didn’t push the idea onto my personal network and didn’t advertise, because I wanted to see if a viral idea could stand on its own legs.


Reaction

A few people became obsessed with funnyloveletters. They would spend hours on it, and visit the website daily. Some of my visits were coming from Facebook, so I could see that people were telling others about the website. I knew I must be getting on the right track. It seemed like people were entertained by the letters, especially the ones in the “Angry Love Letters” category that were getting the most hits. I had someone email me once to say that the website was thereputic for her.

126 visitors spent at least 30 minutes on the website.

SEO

As I got more letters, more visits, more facebook “likes”, I was climbing up the Google charts. In just a few months, funnyloveletters.com became number one on Google for searches on “funny love letters”. It can also be found on the first page for searches on “love letters”. This is very important since I depend on Google, and only Google for all my traffic! And for all those self-claimed SEO’s who think its all about the back links, this website result proves otherwise! I had no back links for funnyloveletters.com whatsoever, other than a meagre mention on my personal blog. My hypothesis is that the website became number one because:

  • the keywords were in the domain
  • the bounce rate was very low
  • people were sharing the website on social media networks
  • because the ad to content ratio was low
  • the website was regularly updated on a weekly basis
  • the website had original content
  • the website had a lot of content

Money

There is no money to be made off of Adsense, I made a total of $7.70 this year. That’s pretty low considering that I brought 15,082 visitors to see their ads! The online consensus seems to be that only 1% of visitors click on ads. So how does my friend make money off of Adsense? His network of websites combined has 120,000 visits PER DAY. He makes it a full time job to write blog posts. I don’t know if I want to commit more than a few hours per month.

The Future

For the website to continue its success, a lot of work needs to be done. It needs to be a full time job. To monetize this website, I need two things:

1. Sell merchandise

2. Get more visitors
To achieve this goal, I need to go the full nine yards with marketing. I have a massive to-do list to get through:

  • FLL needs to rebrand
  • get a new professional design
  • set up an online store and products
  • advertise
  • beg journalists to cover the story
  • beg the public for more letters!

It’s a bit overwhelming for just one person, but when I see the growing numbers, I think it just might be worth it! I can’t lose momentum now!

Flattened Oranges

A flat orange I picked up by mistake. And how couldn't I? There's no avoiding them!

Has anyone noticed as the years go by that oranges are getting more flat?

I have to run my hands through mountains of oranges until I can find a nice round one.

We can’t let food providers get away with it! But we do, among many other strange food practices (ex, gmo’s).  The least they could do is spare a few oranges from being stuffed and squashed in a cargo and sell it at a higher price. I wouldn’t be thrilled, but at least I can pay for food I can eat!

Buskers Aren’t Necessarily Homeless

At the metro the other day, a flute player was piping away. He continued without a flinch when an old lady stared pitifully, pulled out a sandwhich from her purse then placed it into his music case.

I decided to take a picture of this to inform others that not all musicians are beggars. Many buskers are professionals who take busking very seriously. They set an ambiance! Usually, busking is the last resort for musicians who haven’t a clue on how to monetize their talents.

For some, it’s a difficult decision after spending countless hours of practice, getting into obsene amounts of debt from music school and then face the possibility of being confused for begging.