Friday, May 30, 2008

"The Topix Jungle": Chapter 3 (The Beginning)

My original born on date for Topix was February 10, 2007. My first persona was created using my real name (not this one however), which is currently under suspension by the powers that be

My next persona was created in July 2007 : Da Bishop
This one I bring out for special occasions, like the holidays or my birthday.

Finally, the one that I currently post under, was also created in October 2007: Cedar Mountain

As you can plainly see, I've been a very busy {and a somewhat very naughty} boy.

Anyways, the first forum I posted in after creating my initial persona was one called Offbeat. Back then, it was a lot more free spirited than it is now. So not finding anything of interest, I went to a forum called "Top Stories". There, I found things more to my liking, with various topics more suited to my personal tastes.

After about a month or so of posting, I came across a fascinating couple who came aboard about a month before me, who went by the names of "Hitesrunprincess" and "Okimar". We got to talking about things and quickly became fast friends, posting on mutual threads and generally creating light mayhem and fun in the process. And as friend, we eventually got to exchanging e-mail addys, and began chatting that way as well.

A few months later (April 2007), after experiencing a particularly bruising insult battle in another forum, I created a thread called "Chat Room Rage", which soon became quite popular, attracting all kinds of people from all walks of life. Eventually, that thread took on a life of its own, exceeding my expectations and becoming what it wasn't intended to be: a chat thread. So, about a month later, I created another thread "Cult of Personality", which also became a very popular chat thread.

On that particular thread, I came to know a good many people that I formed more than a few lasting friendships with: Calibeachbum, PaisleyPosey, A Bug and A Wish, Matt from Akron, Grace Nerissa and Rods o1. Others became merely passing acquaintances: Jamie Tuna, Rotor Head, Billy R and JoJo Bell. Still others fell somewhere in between: Rick (Olney, MD).

Overall, it became a hugely successful chat thread. So much so, that one of the posters on it, Rotor Head (former military man), created a thread called "The Olde Village Pub".

Unbeknownst to all, this thread became the breading ground for what was to become a truly dark period in everyone's Topix world.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

FMLA: The Bad Employee's Best Friend

I work in state government, and have been for the past 12 years. Currently, I work in payroll, grouchily creating paychecks for malcontents and incompetents, and dealing with nincompoops for cry for their precious tuition reimbursement money.

All kidding aside, I really do enjoy my job. Have been enjoying my present position for the past 4 1/2 years. Made a ton a new acquaintances and more than few good and close friends. Most importantly, I've earned the respect of the staff members I do payroll for. So much so, that for about six months after I left my previous agency, I had staff members asking me when I was going to come back.

But I digress.

This particular post will touch on one, of many, fascinating things that I've experienced/seen in the past four and a half years of doing payroll: namely FMLA or it's official name, The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993.

Originally designed to help people who are/have become seriously ill, keep their jobs without fear of losing them, it now (at least from where I work) has become the premier tool of abuse for bad employees.

In the public sector (state govt.), abusing/perpetually exhausting your time is grounds for dismissal. Under FMLA, you can do the aforementioned things, and not get fired. Since it's in the labor unions best interests to keep every bad employee working, what do think their first reaction was, once they got around to actually giving this act a thorough reading?

That's right, they advised ALL their union members to apply for it, whether they need it or not. That way, if they abused their time or exhausted their time, they couldn't get disciplined for it. With FMLA, it's virtually impossible to prove that someone is abusing it, no matter how much circumstantial evidence you produce.

Example, say I have problems getting up in the morning because I'm a alcoholic. I get the necessary forms and bring them to my doctor to fill out, saying that I have some kind of bogus medical condition and I can't start my job until 11 in the morning.

Presto, chango! I now have the luxury of showing up late and not get into any trouble for it. Further still, because I'm not there, other people have to pick up my sorry butt and do my job for me.

Just what the doctor ordered, the perfect tool for a bad employee to use and abuse. And because of this, people who have legitimate medical problems/issues/conditions, get looked down upon by people who only see the bad co-workers use and abuse it, and lump them all together.

Politicians. Good intentions, bad execution.


Yes, writing.

Another topic that I will be covering rather heavily in this blog, is writing and all the various components associated with it (publishing, agents, magazines, journals, etc.), as well as my personal experiences in pursuing this hobby/potential second career.

I don't consider myself a "professional" by any stretch of any one's vivid imagination, but I can turn a word on it's ear from time to time (good examples would be some of the more wild posts I made on Topix in the past year).

Note: the term "fodder for the future", means that this will be a topic I will cover later in more detail.

I got interested in writing rather late in my life, as I didn't start seriously doing it until Winter 2005. At that particular time, I was going through a rough patch in my life, so I decided to work out my issues by putting them down on paper. For whatever reason, the words came fast, came furious and came easily. So much so, that I had a 195 page manuscript completed by April 2006 (that's about five months for those who are mathematically challenged).

It was pretty good (or so I thought at the time), so being the overconfident individual that I am, I started submitting it in the summer of 2006. By the virtue of incredibly lucky break, I was able to hook up right off the bat with an agent, The Eaton Literary Agency (fodder for the future).

After spending gobs of money have a professional revision done (fodder for the future), by the spring of 2007, it was being submitted to other publishers. In the fall, unhappy with the glacier pace that things were moving, I detached myself from my agent (fodder for the future).

After suffering through a dozen rejections (fodder for the future), I decided to pursue the self-publishing option for my book (fodder for the future).

In a way, I hope to pass on what I've learned (and is currently learning) about the writing/publishing game to everyone. Consider this simply another friendly user guide.

First writing tip for the day: what you've just read, is what some people in the business would call "an outline". Basically a condensed version of whatever novel/story you are trying to sell. Also what most agents prefer that attached to your query letter when you're trying to successfully solicit their representation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"The Topix Jungle": Chapter 2 (Introduction)

As I previously stated, one of the major topics that this blog will cover, will be my experiences as member of the Topix online community. It's safe to say that it has been a very unique and rewarding experience, rewarding in some aspects, while humbling and humiliating in others.

The first few chapters of this story will basically cover my beginning in February 2007 to the present, with other chapters devoted to the other various tangents that I've experienced on a personal level during that same time frame. Additionally, I will post my Topix timeline in three to four month increments, which will be easier for everyone to follow along.

As a disclaimer: The story you are about to read is the truth according to me. The only names that will be used in it, are the online names of the various posters I've met and either became friends with or enemies of. Also as a disclaimer, I unfortunately have very good recall about things, situations and events that have happened in my life. Because of that, I will do my very best to protect their reputation as much as possible. The only person that will be exposed to any kind of scrutiny, positive and negative, will be me. With that said, let's begin.

A note on terminology: I will be using terms that may sound strange but really do make sense. The main terms I will be using, along with a brief explanation, are as follows:
  1. The Nationals: This term will be used to describe the the main forums that are in Topix. They are Forums & Polls; Top Stories; Popular; Local; US News; World News; Science & Technology; Sports; Entertainment; Offbeat; Video; 2008 Elections.
  2. Local(s): This term will be used to describe the forums that are run by the media partners affiliated with Topix, i.e. your local newspaper has stories online that you can comment on.
  3. Threads: This term is used to describe any topic, story or poll that you can comment on.
  4. Registered User/Unsigned/Persona: This term is used to describe anyone who has officially joined the Topix community. As an official member, it lets you basically custom design your profile or even become a story editor. It also let's you track the amount of posts you make.
  5. Greyed out/Unregistered user: Basically, any one who isn't registered. You don't need to register in order to comment. You can use any kind of name on, so long as it isn't a dirty word, to post under.

These are the basic terms that I will be using throughout the course of this narrative. Other terms that I may use, I will explain them in a way that will be easy to understand. Now that I have set the ground rules, it's time for me to take everyone on a truly unique tour of one very good online community.

Quality Time

To continue: I went out on a five mile walk yesterday (May 25th) in the early afternoon. Let me tell you a little bit about it, and I hope you'll get an understanding as to why I love living where I do.

Like I mentioned previously, the road that runs directly by my house is a dead end road. Not a complete dead end, as one of those concrete barriers was put up to prevent people from driving further on up, and there was one last side street you can go down that will take you to whatever destination you were trying to get to.

As the nature of local politics and lawsuits go, another section was blocked off at the other end, to prevent people from traveling down the road as well. In essence, after fifteen years or so, you have a man-made nature path. The road has been reclaimed by Father Nature, with bushes, trees and various kinds of plant life.

As you walk up the street and through this particular section, a change really does come over you. Some people have a particular place they go to to unwind, relax and meditate. My particular place is this approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile overgrown road. For me, it becomes my private little meditation area.

Really. When I walk through this area, whatever problems I got immediately melt away. There are times when I have just stood there for a few minutes, and experienced nothing but the sounds of birds and the breeze blowing through the mountain.

Continuing with my walk, I come out to the other side of the blockade, where the only signs of life is the local regional center for the moderately and severely developmentally disabled (please note, while I abhor PCness in all its despicable forms, this will be the only exception I will make). I then make my way past what used to be a hospital for children and down the side street. I still haven't hit any signs of people and I won't until I get to the center of town. Like most small towns around the area where I live, on Sundays it seems that everything goes into shutdown mode.

By the time I got to the center, is when I actually began to see people. Once I got out of the center, I was back to seeing very few people, but quite a few cars. Basically, the walks that I take are as about as close to quality time for myself that I can ever possibly get.

My walks let me clear my head, meditate, work on solutions to problems, work out writer's block, or just simply let my mind wander around while the body goes on autopilot. Where I live, I consider it a slice of heaven, because the small town/rural charm of the area, in the middle of hard core suburbia, simply can't be beat.

Springtime In Suburbia

We had beautiful weather yesterday here in New England. Let me tell you a little bit about where I live and what the weather and the day was like.

As you can probably tell by the title of this post, I live in the suburbs. Matter of fact, I'm about five minutes away from most major highways in my area, and about ten minutes from the city limits. So I'm sure you're sitting there wondering how can he be bragging about where he lives, considering he lives in the suburbs of the city?

Simple really. The area where I live, is about as close as you can get to ruralness, yet still be in the suburbs. For instance, I live right across from the title of this blog. Right now, everything is in full bloom on the mountain. Here's a good description of it from an upublished short story of mine:
  • As the sun rises, the curtain slowly opens to reveal a breathtaking view. A canopy of trees, as far as the eye can see, is emblazoned by the morning light. Their emerald-colored leaves wave in the gentle breeze, beckoning you to come visit Mother Nature.

It is truly indeed, a wonderful sight to behold. The street that runs by my house actually dead ends further up, so on the weekends there are no cars traveling on it. Which makes it the perfect place to do a walk. The street that I live on, is what I call an "oasis of solitude in the middle of suburbia". No matter what time of day, nor what day of the week, you can stand in your back or front yard, and hear absolutely nothing from the world around you. I live about three minutes from two main throughfares, but all you can hear is the wind blowing through the mountain, and the various birds singing. It is indeed soothing to the soul, especially after you experience a brutal day in the real world, or cyber word.

As for the weather, it was indeed spectacular. Was in the high 70's with just a touch of a gentle cool breeze. Not a cloud in that deep blue sky above. Very sunny and very dry. Perfect for doing just about anything, whether you were walking, bicycling, having a picnic, or simply lazing about in the shade.

In my case, it was taking a five mile walk through the mountain and the town....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"The Topix Jungle": Chapter 1 (Prolouge)

As I mentioned in my intial blog entry, I participate in the online world of Topix. I've been doing this for over 15 months now, and for the most part, it's been pretty good. I started much like everyone else did, by commenting on a story in my local newspaper (The Harford Courant). Shortly after doing that, was offered a link to Topix, which I joined in February 2007.

For the first ten months or so, I posted under my real name, one of the few posters to do so. In July 2007, I created another persona called "Da Bishop", which was based on a fictional character I used for one of the core threads I posted on (The Cult of Personality) back then. The reason for doing so I will explain in future posts, but I spent the next three or four months as that particular persona, which I used to act out as a unbalanced version of me.

By the spring of 2008, I created a third persona, "Cedar Mountain", due to the fact that I wanted to make a clean break from last year's fiasco (more on that in later posts). For the most part, it's been pretty much a success as it's the one I currently post under.

Topix, for the most part, has let me develop, polish and refine to a razor sharpness, my debating skills that I wouldn't have never been able to do in the Real World. But there have been pitfalls and problems associated with Topix that have closely mirrored what you might find in the real world at your current place of employment. The topics that I alluded to briefly, will be covered in future posts. Thus, the reason for the inital title of this post, as each post about Topix will be considered a chapter.

In the coming weeks and months, this will become about one of five major topics this blog will cover. I will try to give my unique point of view regarding my experiences, both past/present and good/bad, with Topix.

As a teaser, one of the items I will cover is the fact that I have one persona completely purged from Topix (Baby Gooey, a unregistered poster), and one other currently suspended from posting as an officially registered poster, but still able to post as an unsigned (grayed out) poster.

I would like to have this major topic be a user guide for the novice and experienced chat room poster/blogger, so that you can avoid the potential headaches that come with participating in an unique Cyber World environment.

Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome my friends to the show that will not ever end. First of all, I would like to give a great big thank you to GumbyTheCat, for suggesting that I should "branch out" my writing skills by doing a blog.

Now, down to the business at hand, the explanation of who and what I am. My name is Georgie B and this is my first venture into the world of blogging. This is not my first time in dealing with the CyberWorld, as I'm very well known in the land of Topix (more on that in future posts). One of the names that I do post as in Topix, is as the name at the top of this blog.

As for what I'll touch on, it will be somewhat eclectic in nature, but the main focus will be on Real World misadventures; work (I'm a state employee, more on that in future posts); the CyberWorld (Topix in particular, definitely more on that later); and basic observations on whatever happens to strike my fancy.

I am also a writer, not by trade but by hobby. I don't do traditional short stories, but more chapbook type stores. I will be the first to acknowledge that I am incapable of writing anythng that is G or PG rated. Most of my output (unpublished so far) has leaned towards the dark side of relationships. In the coming months, I will be touching more on that subject as I plan on self-publishing my contemporary romance novel.

In all, the views expressed here on this blog will be mine and only mine. I can be somewhat longwinded, but I always have a point to it, or in some cases, multiple points. To give you the reader some idea on how I think and observe the world around me, I will leave you with two favorite sayings of mine, that can apply to both the real world and the cyber world:

"There are days where I would like to inhabit my seven year old daughter's version of reality. Today is one of those days."

"I don't deal with stupid."

The Legal Disclaimer

All the content that you see here, except for the posting of links that refer to other off-blog stories, is (c) 2008-17 by G.B. Miller. Nothing in whole or in part may be used without the express written permission of myself. If you wish to use any part of what you see here, please contact me at