Monday, October 29, 2007

Pimp My Blog?

Since I've started this blog, I've become a little obsessed with finding new tricks for accessorizing it. I found an excellent resource for free "must haves" for Blogger blogs at Russian Mafia Babe already had FeedBlitz and AdSense, and as I was adding Technorati and signing up for PingOat, I started to wonder.

At which point does it cross the line? Where does it go from classy to overly made up?

I love all the tools. I have an engineering background and could play with free widgets until I go broke from not doing any actual paying work. But what are the most important, and where do I need to stop?

To help guide me, I've taken a critical look at some of my favorite, daily reads. For example, features only his blog, his blog, his blog: posts, signups, consulting services. No AdSense, you have to search for the social bookmarking buried on the refer a friend page. On the other hand, has more of a we're all in this together feel to it, with lots of social options but still a pretty clean format.

Yaro Starak's is about as opposite as can be, with ads, social bookmarks, lots of extras including audio and screenshots. By the way, if you haven't done it already, go to his site and sign up for email updates! Pro Blogger at is also pretty tricked out.

My favorite mom blog,, is all about content. And ads. If you like the content click the ads. No bookmarking, have to search for the RSS feed, no option for email signup. Similar setup for

So where does this leave yours truly, Russian Mafia Babe? She's still somewhat of a newborn, and at the moment wants it all. Kind of a techno - internet - mom - maserati blog. Life isn't all about being a mom, but then again the mom part sure enriches the techie geek part.

Keep reading, I'll keep posting and tweaking. Let me know what offends and what works. And please, by all means, if you like it, Digg it. Just click the link below.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Careless Angel

Sorry, this post moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see right sidebar to order.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Funky Mom Blouse

Today I was trying to decide what to wear, and I passed over the scorned shirt without really considering it.

I had always liked that blouse, particularly because it went great with jeans and covered up slight, and not so slight, fluctuations in weight.

But one day I was putting it on to take 4-year-old Sara to school, and she asked me, “Why are you wearing that shirt Mama?”

“Don’t you like it?”


“Why not?”

“It’s funky,” she said, confident in her fashion sense.

I had no idea she knew the word funky or what exactly it meant in this context, but I was relieved that her pronunciation was good; that's a tricky word. We’ve been striving for a bilingual upbringing – we do live in Miami after all, and it is a global economy. Better to take advantage of the opportunity to learn another language. But it does lead to bizarre words that I’m not sure are in either language.

I agreed to change, of course; no mom wants to embarrass her preschooler by wearing a funky shirt in front of the whole class and the teacher, and now the poor, previously favored blouse remains in the closet, never getting out to see the world.

Was that overindulgent parenting, I wondered, letting my child’s tastes influence my own clothing style?

Or was I wrong? Was the blouse that I chose on my own indeed out of step with what was usually considered well dressed?

I tried to remember if any adult had ever pointed and laughed while I was wearing the blouse and didn’t come up with any instances, but I couldn’t remember receiving compliments either.

The only sure way to decide will be to pull it back out in say six months to see if it is still funky in Sara’s eyes, or if her phase has passed and I can wear it again in public.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Night of the Living Tooth

Sorry, this post moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see the right sidebar to order.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How long is too long in the bathroom?

My partner had the nerve to tell me not to take long using the bathroom one morning. “I mean, don’t make a vacation of it,” she said.

Normally, using the bathroom takes as long as it takes. But life changes after having kids, and with a toddler and a 4-year-old in the house, I’m willing to stretch any chance for some alone time as long as possible. I’m a woman, but I finally understand the stereotype of a man taking the newspaper into the bathroom. It is the one room with a locking door, and it gives you an undisputable excuse to scream for the other parent when there is a commonplace emergency.

In fact, now that I think of it, having kids has explained a lot of mundane mysteries for me.

For instance, all my life, I rigorously walked the grocery cart back up to the store after emptying my purchases in my car. Carts littering the parking lot were a puzzlement to me, and I must confess to unkind thoughts about lazy grocery shoppers. But the first time I shopped with a baby, I unloaded the bags into the car, strapped the baby in her car seat, and stood staring at the grocery cart as if I had never seen one before. Really, was I supposed to disembark the baby, walk us both back to the store, and then both back to the car again? That wasn’t going to happen after an hour trying to make meal decisions with a screaming, wriggling, unhappy infant annoying shoppers throughout the store. I didn’t think the store personnel would enjoy seeing us back at the entrance again so soon anyway. That’s why bag boys walk people out to the car, so they can bring the cart back, I thought. But I really didn’t want to make small talk with a bag person (no offense, small talk with anyone is taxing under the circumstances) either. So right there, I got lazy and hurried away from the evidence.

The grocery store seemed to hold a concentration of mysteries. The pile of unwanted items at the register baffled me before kids. Did people really put stuff in their carts and then decide against them at the last minute? Marshmallows, fruit bars, and the occasional beauty item sat unclaimed and unbought, crowding the tiny space before the conveyor belt. It took awhile, until my first child had a sufficiently long reach and quick grab to pull random brightly colored packages off the shelf and into the cart before I had to stand at the check out wondering why on earth I, a vegetarian, had canned ham among the contents. Then I saw Sara swipe a Milky Way off of the display and had to sneak the unwanted ham onto the People magazine display, whistling innocently.

Kids are wonderful; I love my two little precious ones, wouldn’t trade them for the world. But I have to admit that I never could have imagined the many revelations, both grand and minute, that they would bring to my life.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dreaming of Sara

Sorry, this story moved to my ebook, The 10 Best Stories in the Universe Written by Me. Please see the right sidebar to order.

I thought I could be an internet millionaire/ or/ how I found out about the Russian mafia

Chapter 1 Gullible

If you have an email address and spend any time surfing the Internet, then I am sure you have received the same email that lured me in, the one that started my descent into the abyss of internet marketing. I’m proud to think that I’ve grown adept at avoiding the most common internet spam and fraudulent schemes. I’ve never set up a bank account for my Nigerian friend who holds me in such high esteem. I’ve never invested in any cream or potion of dubious origin that is guaranteed to increase my penis size – ok, I am a woman, so maybe that one was easy. I’ve also never used my home as a drop shipment address for the offshore business whose owner will repay me ten fold.

No, the one that got me concerned a topic much closer to my heart. This one would make me a fortune by teaching me to write an eBook in just seven days.

What writer doesn’t want to hear that blissful combination of words. You will be rich, and you will write your book in just seven days.

I knew this was something I could do, and I could imagine my words read by hundreds of thousands of folks paying rapt attention throughout the United States. Oh, why stop there? With translation software, people all over the world would read my book. I already had my topic: I would teach people how to write grants. Fiction would have been my preference, but I needed something a little more solid to start with. I had run a successful grant writing business for several years, so I would consolidate my knowledge into a book that would teach people how to write grants.

You may think, “How many people are going to buy that,” but that thought came and was quickly dashed by the upbeat sales letter, which included testimonials from previous satisfied customers. How could I be so late in receiving this email? These people had already made their fortunes, and I was just now receiving the sales letter. Clearly, I had to start immediately.

The sales letter also explained how an eBook eliminated the troublesome search for an agent and negotiations with a publisher. This was the wave of the future, the techie revolution that allowed authors to directly reach the masses, all without killing trees.

Part of the attraction of selling and buying over the internet is that there is no one around to stop you from making your purchase. No sales clerk will look at you in reproach as you sheepishly pay for your jujitsu knife. No dressing room attendant will roll her eyes at the miniskirt you try to pass off as being for your daughter who happens to be your same dress size. No, on the internet, nothing stands between you and your purchase except for your credit card number, which I gladly provided with the assurance that my information was protected on their secure server.

I bought the course for the bargain, special price of $24.99, a price that would NEVER BE OFFERED again. How lucky could I be? I had found my perfect vehicle for becoming a millionaire, and it happened to be on special for that day only.

Even better, the course was itself an eBook that I could immediately download. The clock had already started running on my seven days ‘til millionaire status.

In all honesty, if I had read more carefully or at least considered more carefully what I was reading, I would have realized that I was not being taught how to actually become a millionaire in seven days, just how to write an eBook. But I felt confident that the millionaire part would surely follow shortly thereafter.

I followed the course to at “T”. Well, not exactly. The course encouraged me to just write without worrying about spelling or grammar or even logical flow of information, we would go back and fix that later. Even though I kept trying to take this advice, I couldn’t ignore grammar. I couldn’t just type a paragraph that didn’t fit in the flow; I had to fix these problems as I went along. I had to fret and worry and pull my hair over every word. And references, I had to track down references, and everyone knows how twisted the internet searches can be. A search to find out who wrote a particular quote can lead to hours long reading about the French Revolution, which has nothing to do with grant writing, by the way.

So it took a little longer than seven days to complete. Actually, quite a lot longer than seven days by the time I read the information, wrote, researched, revised, wrote some more, tried to find some more information to add, stretched the writing, and finally added an author page, title page, table of contents, and index to reach the suggested 50 page minimum for an eBook of premium value.

But the point is, I followed through. I did create an eBook of which I could be proud, and that I thought would be very useful to the organizations that had already been kept waiting for longer than my allotted time.

Now, indeed, I had this eBook, locked in my computer with no way out. And that is where the course I had bought ended.

No instructions on how to reach the masses who were waiting for my tome. Nothing about building an email list, collecting money, how to deliver the product. No affiliate team waiting to market and promote my prize. I needed some way of getting my millionaire in the works book out on the web. But the seven-day bible didn’t mention any of this. My timeframe was already skewed way past seven days due to the writing, a website would surely set me back quite a bit more.

I went back to the original sales letter, which I had bookmarked in my Favorites folder. Nothing about how to send out your eBook. I went back to the guru’s site, expecting that there would be “Volume Two, Selling Your Seven-Day eBook” available for sale. Still, there was nothing.

to be continued