Post 70: #Coronavirus and a global perspective.

Today we’re free-form writing.

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 70.

Do People Ever Really Change?

Charlie, Metro #Washington, DC

I held on to the notion that the lockdown would alter some of our less attractive behaviors. Oh, how naive I was!

This week I ventured out to go to a doctor’s appointment. It’s not the first such trip I’ve made during lockdown. Typically, the highways have been pretty abandoned. But on this day, it was almost traffic as usual for 10 AM on a weekday. However, it wasn’t driving as usual. The folks on the road were INSANE!! More than they ever were before lockdown. Driving like they were competing in NASCAR. Swooping in and out between small spaces, between other cars, where tailgating was being observed. There were at least 10 near-collisions. It was as though everyone thought any minor lifting of the lockdown entitled them to revert to the behaviors of 2-year-olds.

I dropped in at a Trader Joe’s on the way home and the shoppers acted like they were members of some exalted royal family. It was a scene of entitlement on steroids.

Apparently, at least in DC, the lockdown hasn’t humbled or changed the population at all. In fact, it’s ramped up their hubris quotient.

Was there color when you were little?

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

One day, years ago, my kids ran up to me, wanting to discuss something. They were about 4 and 6 years old at the time, and they had clearly been discussing something serious among themselves.

“Mommy, was there color when you were little?”

Photo by Kaboompics .com on

At the time, I *think* I resisted the urge to laugh. I gathered them close and we talked about how blue skies, green grass, and bright flowers had been around forever. We talked about crayons and black-and-white versus color TV. We talked about how the world had changed since I was a little girl growing up in New York City. We talked about pizza and mac & cheese and ice cream. We talked about getting sick and going to the doctor and eventually being all right. We talked about how the universe took care of us and how everything always worked out the way it was meant to work out.

My kids were eventually satisfied my answers and ran off to play a new game. Every time I remember this conversation, I smile at their innocence but worry about how the world has changed for us all.

What questions will future generations will ask? Will history be kind to us?

Jeff and I are like Trump and Xi

RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

I buy almost everything I need from Jeff’s Amazon. This has been the norm for more than 15 years because in Beirut, I can’t find everything I need. I used to be in love with Jeff’s Amazon. Select, add to cart, checkout, two weeks later I receive my order.

It was an amorous relationship full of flirting, romance, jealousy, and sometimes arguments (when items were not available on Prime!)

And then the Lebanese financial crisis began. Banks closed, more and more items disappeared off our grocery store shelves…then came Covid-19 and lockdowns and supplies dwindled in Beirut, in the US, and worldwide.

What to do? Our spoilt lifestyle came to a halt. Going to a Dean and Delucca-style store became a thing of the past; buying organic Scottish smoked salmon became a memory; finding gluten-free baking flour became a major search on all the local store sites. Yes, serious first-world problems. Luckily, I had loads of toilet paper! So, I order much of what we are missing from Jeff’s Amazon.

That brings me why I am finally falling out of love with Jeff’s Amazon. Just like the Idiot in Chief (INC) was in love with Xi Jinping when he invited him to Mar-A-Lago at the beginning of his doomed presidency, he also fell out of love…but he tends to do that way more than I do.

I am having a love-hate relationship with Jeff’s Amazon (the one with the INC is a permanent hate-hate relationship) because of how Jeff treats his employees, especially when it came to precautions during the pandemic. The way he feels it’s his right to not provide them with a good working environment, doesn’t pay them if they call in sick because they contract Corona, lack of job security/protection from Corona, healthcare benefits, and decent pay among many of their grievances.

To put it in numbers:

  • Jeff Bezos is worth $147.3 billion.
  • The US Government is worth $123 trillion.
  • The Chinese Government is worth $63.8 billion.
  • Xi Jinping is worth $12.5 billion.
  • Donald Trump is worth $2.1 billion.

Jeff commissions Chinese products made by Chinese sweatshop workers who get an average of $3.37/day; the products are shipped to the US for Jeff’s warehouse workers to pack them for us at $15/hour. Then Jeff gets tax breaks (up until 2019), so that leaves the majority of what I pay going to Jeff.

In any idiot’s mind, the numbers are outlandish.

In a smart person’s mind, I buy from Jeff, who buys from China, who now pays taxes to the US and Chinese governments, and the two presidents fight with one another over COVID-19 among many other issues. Five entities gain, the other 2 get paid pennies. So just like Trump and Xi are having a trade war, I am going to declare my personal war with Jeff.

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No copyright infringement intended.

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Post 54: #Coronavirus and a global perspective…

…on freelancing in the age of #Covid-19

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 54. 

I am my own boss

Wayne Wallace, McLean, #Virginia

I am my own boss. I make my own hours. Freedom!

These and other lies do NOT describe the life of the freelancer, self-employed, or small business owner. The reality is much more like having a job without the security or any level of certainty.

The idea of being my own boss was certainly appealing. What I quickly learned is that I no longer had a boss; I had many. I am now answerable to every customer, every employee, every vendor. If I don’t do my job, people and bills don’t get paid. Healthcare benefits, cell phones, computers, all need to be paid for, set up, maintained, and occasionally replaced. I am now answering to everyone, rather than just one boss.

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No copyright infringement intended.

It is true, I make my own hours. Unfortunately, for most freelancers, that means 24-hour workdays. We are never “off.” Gigs take more time because we NEED the work product to be as good as it can be. There’s no buck to pass if quality is less than 100%. If we’re not working on a project, we’re chasing the next one. And if we’re not doing that, our thoughts are consumed with the next gig, where it will come from, what we should be doing right now instead of going out to dinner, watching a child’s school performance, or enjoying a vacation. (A note on vacations: you will work during them; family will not be happy.)

But there is freedom. That part is not a lie.  We chose this career path, even if unwittingly. We can be as successful and as free as we chose to be (provided we’re willing to put in the work). While the burden of success is on us, as freelancers/self-employed, small business owner, so is the reward.

Haikus in Confinement

Hadi Madwar, #Montreal, #Canada

As a freelancer
I am at a loss for words
So I wrote haikus

Original image from
No copyright infringement intended.

I am so fed up
Acting like it’s all so fun
When it’s clearly not

What’s cookin’ tonight?
Omelette with cheese and mushrooms
Why not, who cares, lol

Good evening Netflix
Here’s to another binge fest
Films though, not junk

Let’s take out the trash
I love being so tidy
And I miss the stairs!

But is it raining?
Or is the neighbour bowling?
Well, at least it’s noise!

The other neighbour
Is venting, venting, venting
About zoom meetings

Here’s an idea
Why don’t I do some yoga
To burn that pound cake

That’s so authentic!
Someone baked a whole grain loaf
Like everyone else

Oh Trump said something!
He said what, something stupid?
This is getting old

If I look into the mirror
And stay two big steps  away
Is that far enough?

I am waiting for
My prince charming to tell me
That lockdown is done

This is not a dream
This is not a quarantine
This is a nightmare

Doing just nothing
Seems easy enough a task
When you haven’t tried.

For a limited time only!

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

Want to be a freelancer? No problem! This week we’re offering our Freelancing for Morons course for only $9.99!!! This is a SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLAR VALUE and it’s yours for under ten bucks IF YOU ACT NOW. But wait! There’s more!

You see these promoted scams – er, ads – every day, all over social media. IMO, the folks running these ads are taking advantage of other people’s misfortunes, and hopes for future success. They promise you riches in weeks! minutes! You know those people who say they started making a six-figure income after reading a book or following a particular method? They’re lying.

The reality is, it takes A LOT of hard work to be a successful freelancer or entrepreneur. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

I’ll help you get started, and I won’t charge you.

Go back to basics. If you want/need to start freelancing, figure out your top three to five skills or services. The three to five things you do really, really well. Now go through your contacts and send them all an email that you are offering those skills on a freelance basis. Build a website using free templates. Get on social media and let everyone know you’re available to provide those services. Figure out your target market(s) and collect contact info, then use it. Update your LinkedIn profile and search for relevant work there. Join freelance sites and job boards if you like, but do not join the race to the bottom on bids. Let your friends and family know what you’re doing so they can help you spread the word. Believe in yourself and your skills.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

I’ve heard of too many people who get on freelance sites and provide work for free, just to get a good rating. That is nonsense! Or folks who will write content for $1 per 1,000 words – that is racing to the bottom. If you value yourself, your skills, your education, don’t go there. Instead, keep networking and trying.

Stay confident but avoid self-aggrandizement. Be realistic. Price your services fairly, even competitively. It takes a while to land the most difficult contract: the first one. After that, it gets easier, especially if you do a good job, focus on delivering a quality product, and follow up with the client to make sure they’re happy with your work.

Good luck! And seriously, if I can be helpful, I will. No charge, no books, and no time limit.

We can adapt

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

“In this unprecedented time…” We hear those words a lot. Everyone has had to experience a shift in their daily routines and work process. 

We see many manufacturing industries turning to making medical gowns and ventilators. But these are the big boys. What happens to the sole proprietor? To those who have lost jobs? We have seen the closures of many businesses that have been forced to throw in the towel in defeat.

However, I would like to focus on the positive for a moment. I am impressed at how quickly small businesses have adapted to the “new normal” of not operating from a brick-and-mortar location. 

I know a boutique clothing owner in Fairfax, VA, who took to social media like wildfire. She posted on Facebook and blasted emails to try to keep her business afloat. There were videos of her and the new collections to entice customers to purchase online. A form of digital catalog, but with a personal touch. She also began selling stylish face masks that were selling like hotcakes. 

This is one of many resilient small business owners who have had to adapt to the situation in order to survive. 

There has also been a growth in nonprofit organizations trying to help local businesses. My nephew in Vermont has developed a business called Local Maverick to unite these nonprofit organizations and local businesses so they can support each other. 

In my opinion, support groups are essential for entrepreneurs who need to quickly adapt to a changing world. A solid support group to help you through the transition. Change is difficult, and if entrepreneurs cannot modify their strategies, they will fall behind. 

The future of many businesses is on the line, but what this pandemic has shown us is how creative and flexible people are. Hopefully, we will all come through this with more resilience and the courage to take chances. 

Local Maverick T-shirt sales to support Vermont food bank

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here.

Post 24: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 24. Important Note: WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship.

Before and After

Samia Madwar, Toronto, Canada

A few days ago I started listening to the audiobook version of Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, a novel set in New York City during the Great Recession. We see the city, and its class divides, through the lens of a Cameroonian couple hoping to get a Green Card and stay in America. Their employer is an executive at Lehman Brothers, one of the firms whose bankruptcy was seen as a catalyst of the 2008 global economic crisis.

Listening to the novel takes me back to that time of uncertainty, when the news was filled with daily reminders of the lives and communities shattered by the crisis, much as it is today. I think about how that period shaped my own outlook; like so many of my peers, I never take financial stability for granted. Now, as I watch others chronicle their experiences—including in this blog, of course—I try to imagine what stories we’ll tell about #COVID-19 in a year from now, or five, or ten. How will we remember this time?

I try to spot some clues in the stories people are telling now. Amid the regular updates, breaking news alerts, and various epidemiological studies, I’m reading about how pandemics have shaped human history and how this one fits in, or how living in isolation comes hand in hand with another epidemic—that of loneliness.

One of the best essays I’ve read recently was written by a friend who has had to practice self-isolation for years due to a health condition. In a beautifully written piece, she urges those complaining about physical distancing now to gain some perspective.

Remember that what you’re coping with now,” she writes, “is what a whole lot of people have been coping with for years and years and years.”

I’ve also been buoyed by the stories artists are crafting. Some designers are fashioning face masks (like this one and this one), poets are writing—well, poems (here’s one by an emergency physician)—and illustrators are capturing their impressions and mirroring ours, too.

Whenever I hear people refer to the “before times” and speak of a time after “all this” passes, I hope they’re also paying attention to the present—the “during.” Because that’s where all our stories will happen.

Closings and Openings

RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

Today I spent the day rummaging through what is left of my closed-down business. 

As I took things out of closets and drawers, flashbacks of happier days  came to me. The day I opened my business, the day I saw it mushroom into a bigger space, the day I moved to a larger location, and the day I felt on top of the world for my accomplishments. I believe I am now at the “acceptance” phase of mourning this loss. 

Then I thought of all the people who are facing the same predicament I had to face. My predicament was due to a black hole called the Lebanese Economy, which led to many small and medium-sized businesses to cease to exist. More than 800 restaurants have closed countrywide.

Many people the world over are facing dire economic decisions, and many small and medium-sized businesses might have to close due to #COVID-19. Let me tell you, it is a very difficult decision to make. 

Some of my dilemmas were:

  1. Having to lay off people and increase unemployment in Lebanon.
  2. Being an entrepreneur and hoping that the dark cloud will just move over and brighter days will come.
  3. Building for so many years and with a witch’s wand all is gone overnight; the customers, the team spirit, the magic.
  4. Being unable to sustain the standards and quality I worked so hard to achieve. 
  5. Dealing with suppliers who fail to understand that we are all in this together.

…and much more. It took me from October to February to make the decision. I was holding on with every bit of determination and resolve I had! Come March, I spent many days crying. Hell, sobbing. To see my 23-year-old baby on its death bed was very difficult. 

Then one day, I woke up and I was ready. I took the leap and found myself on the other side. Things began to fall in place and I became happier. Looking back, I wish I had contemplated less and acted more. 

To those considering the fate of their business, as hard as you might imagine things on the other side, please take the leap. In retrospect, having been burdened with a tormenting decision like this, today I feel liberated and ready to go on opening old drawers and shredding the past while holding on to its beautiful memories. But I’m looking forward, because the future cannot be all that bad. I have to have faith in that.

The Clash Understood

RafifJ in Malaga, Spain

Dear Self,

This year will be 17 years. SEVENTEEN YEARS since I co-founded my small business. It’s been 17 years of hard work, client relationship management, and near-constant recruiting. This little company is almost as old as my eldest son, and just may have caused me more anxiety than his Terrible Twos, Defiant Fives, and Morose Pre-Teens ever did.

In 17 years, we’ve fired a few clients; retained many, many others; and worked with fabulous consultants. In those 17 years, we have enjoyed tremendous successes, helping our customers win billions of dollars in new contract awards. We’ve retooled organizations and created efficient processes. YAY.

We have also made knuckleheaded mistakes. One of them is a major lesson (future entrepreneurs, DO NOT DO THIS): we put literally everything we have into this business. FAIL.

For 17 years, we have found ourselves swinging back and forth on the business pendulum. And then we come back to the same old question when things are down: should we stay or should we go (in or out of business)?

Now with the #Coronavirus, our small business is at risk. It’s not that we can’t work remotely – we’ve been doing that for years. But now quite a few clients are penny-pinching as they too fend off impending financial disaster.

We’re here at that crossroads again, asking ourselves whether we should stay in (as we literally have to do) or go out (as we literally are not allowed to do). Dear Self, we need to make a decision…so you gotta let me know: should we stay or should we go? If we go there will be trouble, and if we stay it will be double.


Anxious Small Business Owner

Where have you been?

Letter from Tina F. in Fairfax, Virginia, to her clients:

Hello my friends!

It has been months since you have heard from me. I am truly sorry. I know that this #Coronavirus has disrupted a lot of people’s lives and I am no exception.

The month of January was rather busy for me with corporate events and headshots. I took some time off during the slow month of February and was looking forward to March so I could start marketing and catching up with my photography business.

No one would have ever predicted that within the first few days of March, #COVID-19 would be declared a pandemic, sending the stock markets crashing. Or that schools and businesses would close and countries would limit travelers at their borders. Or that people would be asked to stay home and cities would go into lockdown, virtually bringing the world to a halt. No one would ever have guessed.

So where have I been? For a few days I was paralyzed. I had been contemplating the effects of all this on my small business. I have been thinking of ways to stay afloat. Should I offer online classes or a virtual class? But I’m not a teacher. I don’t have anything that can be boxed and packaged and mailed to clients. It’s not that easy when you are a portrait photographer. My career relies on photographing groups of people at weddings and office parties. I take pictures of families and newborn babies. I need to connect to people and look them in the eye, or touch their hands, so I can place it in the right location. Keeping social distancing would not work well at all.

I was reminded of my younger days, when street photography was a big part of my life. Human interaction as a street photographer was limited for me. I was just a voyeur and I wanted to keep my distance. I think I should go out and do that again, but it’s not worth the risk.

So where do I go from here? Well, there are two parts of my photography that I have kept mostly to myself. My first is a passion for photographing architecture, landscapes, and nature. And another passion is for manipulating photographs in Photoshop. And those do not require anything but me, my camera, and my computer.

Therefore, until the world goes back to some semblance of normalcy and I can once again engage physically with my clients, I will use this time to catalogue and categorize my own photography and even display some of my previous work to you all on a regular basis.

I hope my photos make you smile as you travel vicariously through them.

Stay safe, my friends.

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here. 

Post 11: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

Day 11. We’re chronicling our experiences during the #COVID-19 lockdowns, quarantines, and other restrictions. Join us!

The Upside of COVID-19

Cindy Castellana, Falls Church, VA

I believe we would all agree (at least those of us who do not live on Pennsylvania Avenue) that this whole #COVID-19 thing is pretty serious – and not in a good way.  Recently we have heard about the true nature of the human spirit rising up.

There have been countless stories of people taking care of their neighbors and thinking of those less fortunate. Then there is the seemingly worldwide outpouring of thanks to medical professionals who are stepping up, often at their own risk, to take care of the rest of us.

But how about those who, in the process of going about their everyday jobs, find a way to provide us with a little bit of joy and just put a smile on our faces? For example, there is Adam the Zookeeper at the Melbourne Zoo who used the Giraffe Cam to show us how to bust a move. 

There are those Policia in Spain doing what they can to keep their communities calm and safe. And today I heard that Starbucks is promising to pay their employees for the next 30 days, whether or not they are able to work.

We need these stories to counter the unbelievable things we hear that just make us sit up and say…WOW.

For example, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is willing to risk his own life to get the economy moving. He feels that if he is willing to be out amongst his peeps, so should the rest of us. 

I don’t think so. 

Then there is the woman who licked a public toilet seat, hoping to get the Coronavirus so she could build up antibodies and then go on about her life.  I guess she isn’t thinking about the whole I could die from this thing. And, of course there are those folks who partied hardy on the beaches during Spring Break, who are now surprised that they are getting sick with the virus. 

Maybe these are just examples of the natural order of things helping to thin the herd


Fiction vs Reality

RJD in Beirut, Lebanon

Collecting thoughts these days is tough. Only a month ago, I thought of a dear friend who lives in Milan and it took me a whole month to get in touch and check in on her and her husband.

Upon updating her on life in Lebanon, I came into a realization that was both frightening and surreal. Inasmuch as I was in the act, I was emotionless. Now the deluge of emotions is finally hitting me hard.

After the October Lebanese Revolution, my business suffered. This month, I had to close it down. The week I was calling the finale after 23 years, we were ordered as Lebanese to go into lockdown. Even though I couldn’t say goodbye to my team and clients, the emotional closure, grief, anger, frustration, and helplessness are taking their grip on me and making me feel more down than I ever imagined.

I spent the last few days weeding through paperwork, small items that made my business experience special, packing, discarding and donating…and I stopped a few times in tears. You can’t discard 23 years, a whole career, an identity into boxes and trash piles. I can’t. I wanted to celebrate and embrace the end. The age of Corona has robbed me of that…the Lebanese politics, economy and corruption took that away from me.

True, my anguish is nothing compared to the poor(er) people looking for a piece of bread…nothing considering the people being buried with no one to say goodbye…nothing if you think of war victims…refugees…nothing in light of the world gone amok I say to myself. But it was my world and I need to take a few days to mourn it, I say to myself, I am allowed to grieve.

I am trying to remain real and not imagine that I am living a fiction movie right now. I must hold on. My friend’s words, from Milan, resonated with me all day:

“I’m so sorry my darling …your place will always be the best there ever was! But an end is inevitably a beginning. Beirut….akh! But we must look ahead. Which gets harder as we age. Fail we may, but sail we must! Bhibbek kteeer. Lots of love from your Italia! 😘.”

From Milan

I love you too, ragazza 💜💜💜💜 and I shall sail…


Shut Down by Coronavirus

Tina F. in Fairfax, VA

As the time passes, I forget what day of the week we’re on and the news sounds a bit repetitive.

I think it was a few days ago that our Governor of Virginia gave us all new directive and instructions to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. It included the usual list of closures and listed essential establishments to stay open. GUESS WHAT?? Turns out that liquor stores are essential and will remain open. Hallelujah!!!

But that’s not what got me thinking. It was the announcement that all schools in Virginia will remain closed at least until the end of the school year. Within a few minutes parents were posting about how sad it was that their high school seniors’ school year is over. They will not get to experience the right of passage that every privileged high school senior experiences. No Prom, no photos, and no walking across the stage to receive their diploma.

I get it!!! It is a blow. But honestly, I was secretly thinking that this maybe what is needed to curtail all the unnecessary and extravagant rituals that have developed over the years. Those elaborate “Promposals” for a start. They were really getting out of control. Teachers would allow students to “Prompose” during class. The media was plastered with clever ways to get someone to go on a date with you. All this was the beginning of hundreds of dollars’ worth of expenses. There were the tickets, attire, dinners, limousine hires, and photographers. Not to mention the announcement and the block parties and all those monetary gifts. So look on the bright side, think of all the money you will save!

We are facing an unprecedented time of disappointing firsts for most of us. But I think I can help.

I offer my Photoshop expertise. Send me a photo of your high school senior’s face and I will send you a series of photos of them in graduation gowns and prom dresses. ALL THIS FOR $100!


Even a simple delivery can kill you

RafifJ in Malaga, Spain

Every day of our extended lockdown I learn new realities associated with coronavirus. Today I realized that anything I order for delivery must be sanitized before it enters my home. After I bring it in, I have to sanitize my home all over again. I should probably even take a shower and wash the clothes I was wearing.

You think I’m overreacting? Well, I take precautions – not because I’m paranoid or a hypochondriac – but because my 17-year-old son lives with me. Anything I drag in, he gets.

The sad reality is that we can no longer take for granted our daily routines. Think about the steps you take in performing the simplest of functions – all the things or people you touch, what you eat or drink, how many times you touch your face in between these activities. Try counting them and the numbers might surprise you. In short, every thing or person you touch is potentially going to kill you. A lockdown and proper care can save lives.

A lot of people still think nations and local governments are overreacting. There’s a particular so-called leader (and his sycophants) who wants to save the economy instead of saving lives, and I’m delighted that #NotDying4WallStreet was trending yesterday. Maybe People Power and Twitter Power will turn the tide against the insidious incompetence in the White House.

With the number of cases exceeding 47,000 in Spain (and rising fast), it’s obvious that we can’t be too careful. As numbers rise exponentially in the United States, more people realize now that the problem is not just the economy vs the people; the fundamental problem is the utter lack of leadership in the face of this deadly virus, which claims people of any age, any race, any belief.

COVID-19 is forcing humans to change a lot more than our processes. We’re re-examining our values. Some communities are doing what they can to help one another, learning along the way how to deal with new rules in an increasingly virtual world. Other groups – well, let’s just say that this deadly pandemic is exposing more than just our immune systems – it’s highlighting the greed and corruption at some of the highest levels of the very governments elected to protect us.

So I’m #NotDying4WallStreet; neither should you.

#StayHome #StaySafe and #WashYourDamnHands.


Thank you for reading our blog! All feedback welcome.

If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here.