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Monday, 11 February 2013


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Thanks for the links, especially "Pity". Smith was one of the photographers who grabbed my attention and my heart back in the '60s when I first got interested in photography and he has never quite let go. Some of his work, especially the Minamata book which I own, is the most emotionally challenging photography I have ever come across, simply because of the raw humanity of it.

And as a much more recent discoverer of TOP, that link also introduced me to your T.O.P. 10 which I found highly interesting. You will not be surprised to know that I don't agree, but then I doubt any reader agreed completely. I suspect most of us could find at least one image there that, if it wouldn't make their top 10 and the Smith would certainly make mine, might at least be by a photographer whose work they would have included. I will only add that you're a brave man trying to pick a top 10. That's not a venture I would like to attempt.

You realize that if you weren't self-employed you'd get canned for absenteeism ;-p


I hope the recombobulation goes well. Take it easy for a while!

[Thanks. I'm actually thinking I should take February off every year, and go somewhere warm to rejuvenate.

I've been coming to some realizations lately. When I started TOP, my great ambition was to keep it going for one year. I thought that was pretty far-fetched at the time, and I had serious doubts that I could do it. That was in 2005. And here we are.

TOP is great work--people seem to like it, I'm good at it, it's fun, I enjoy it, I meet great people I'd have no access to otherwise (really, I hear from interesting people every day, a huge plus to the work), and I make an adequate living. But the grind really wears me down--I typically don't take weekends off, and I take one short family vacation a year, a situation this is likely to end soon. I know TOP looks easy, but it's actually quite a lot of work. The solution is duh-simple--just start taking some time off on a regular basis like normal humans in normal jobs do.

I've started to realize I'll probably be doing this for the rest of my life--I'm unemployable for practical purposes (I'm 55 and have been out of the official workforce for 12 years) and also there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. I'd like to take more pictures and I'd like to write a book or two, but there's nothing stopping me from working those things into my life.

Of course, with my luck, just as I plan to settle in for the long haul, something unforeseen will probably blow up in my face and bring TOP to an end...I'm a bit superstitious that way, which has sort of made me reluctant to plan for the future (or slow down). But. Nothing is guaranteed in life, so you might as well just plan as if you can and then take what comes. It's the only thing to do.

I'm actually having a business card made, as we speak. First time for that. Feels...dangerous. [g]

Taking a few days to think these things over. Nothing will change soon, though! We'll be back to normal before Frank knows it. [g] --Mike]

This is unacceptably inflarious!

Absotively, Gene.


I'm not a particularly religious person, but, I would say that one thing the Ten Commandments really nailed was establishing the Sabbath Day. And, that was thousands of years ago when there was a LOT more to get done just to maintain basic survival mode.

A few suggestions: Pick one day per week and don't work on TOP related things at all. Recruit enough guest columnists so that they can provide a posting for that day in rotation. You are almost there already, you might need a couple more folks to help out and then you will need the discipline to step away from the computer (easier said than done, I might add). You could choose to make that two days/week, and use older articles to fill in the second day. You've been at this writing thing for a long time and have a lot of great older material that is still relevant. I know that I, for one, would be happy reading that stuff again.

I used to think that the biggest threat to sites like TOP was the imposition of state sales taxes on internet sales which has caused Amazon to withdraw its affiliate program from those states. But, lately I see that Amazon seems to have seen the writing on the wall and is coming to terms with those states that impose the tax. Now I think the biggest threat is due to smart phones. Like many, I spend a lot less time in front of a computer and more time with my iPhone which is always with me. When I spontaneously decide to order a book or other item it is much easier to just fire up the Amazon App, tap a few times, and I'm done. Because of my loyalty to TOP, what I do is fire up iPhone Safari, launch TOP, enlarge the screen so I can see what the heck I'm doing, navigate through the Amazon links on Safari, and order what I want. This is too cumbersome and I am certain that as more and more people only use mobile devices it will kill the affiliate business. I hope they work out a way to allow affiliates like TOP access to the Amazon app.

Mike, I think you should take at _least_ one day a week completely off from TOP, and schedule at least one week of completely TOP-free vacation time every two months.


It must be bad. He's resorted to text speak.

Just kidding of course, Mike. I must admit, though, that along with all of the discussion on topics that I enjoy, I also really appreciate your skills as a wordsmith. Few of the internet haunts I visit offer the level of writing that TOP does. You'll occasionally have me running for my dictionary, too. Improving my lexicon while reading about my favorite subject? It doesn't get any better than that.

I hope you can find some way to reduce the stress of keeping TOP running. I wholeheartedly concur with the others that finding some time for yourself every week would be a very good thing. We all get weekends. Why shouldn't you?

Hey Mike, another follow-up to world's ugliest car. But this one is so ugly it's cool...and cool for other features as well. Until today, I'd never heard of it:


Hang in there with T.O.P. Being self-employed is no easy task (I know the feeling), but on the upside, when you get really pissed off at the boss, you can fire him.


Ditto on all of the comments above.

"recombobulation" - I saw that on a sign at the Milwaukee airport, (returning from AirVenture), after running the TSA gauntlet. Is that your source also?

If you decide to write less, try to leave your site up. I've only recently discovered it, and I find it a trove of information.

Thank you.

[Hi Mike, Yes, that's where I saw it too. And don't worry, I'm not retiring yet! --Mike]

Mike: I hope you read this several days after I post it :-)

Several years ago in the USA I worked for LEXIS-NEXIS, on the legal database side. A few years after I started working for them, Reed-Elesvier, the Dutch-English conglomerate bought them out and, as with many acquisitions, there were cultural changes. One big one was the shutting down of local (expensive) offices and making the reps home-based. We spent 95% of our time with clients, so it just made sense.

They were very generous. They set up two phone lines at each of our homes-one for 2400 baud modems (9600 baud was soon to follow) and one for a phone/fax/printer/answering machine (also provided). We got to raid the local offices for any office furniture we wanted and got a $500 allowance to purchase anything else we needed. We already had company laptops.

Productivity went way up, so it proved to be a smart business move.

At the annual company field employee meeting (about 1,000 people), they brought in a guest speaker/consultant to talk to us about working from home. We were all a bit shocked that he spent most of his time giving us tips on how to stop working at the end of the day, on weekends, and when we were supposed to be on vacation. It seems the problem with people working from home is that that's all they do, 24/7. They don't seem to be able to help themselves.

One tip was to shut your office down at 5 pm, close the door, put a lock on it if need be that requires you to get a key from some other location in the house to open it. Tape a piece of paper and pen to the door and jot down notes about thoughts that occur to you-BUT DO NOT GO INTO THE OFFICE AREA until the next workday. And, if like me, you didn't have a dedicated room for work, buy a kingsize bed sheet and drape it over your work desk area till morning. The point was to make a physical demarcation for the end of your day.

All those tips were good advice and I ended up getting more done in less time because I knew my day would end at 5 or 6.

My point in all this is that you can probably do as well or better with TOP by taking deliberate and measured time off and have a full life.

Like most of us, I can live with only getting TOP fresh five days a week.

In any event, I wish you well.

John Driggers
Adelaide, Australia


Suggest you get yourself into the sun and buy yourself a ukulele.

(not necessarily in that order).

Best wishes,


Here's a link to the Milwaukee Airport sign mentioned above...

I also love the "Wiktionary" definition...

Not sure I would want to work for "Frank", seems like he might be one of those bosses who values the time clock more than the work product. ;-)


As several have said, it would be good for you to take some time off every week; at least a day, if not two. Not taking time off is, I think, the thing that would bring TOP to an end.

Even if no new pieces are published or comments moderated for a day or two your loyal readers, the ones that generate income, will be back the day after to see what's new. You might need to say something like "New material Tuesday to Saturday" at the top of the site.

Perhaps you need a small and trusted general staff who can moderate comments according to your wishes. I suppose that they don't have to actually live anywhere near you, though people you have met would be a surer bet.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices that you still moderate comments when you are 'away from' the site. This is not taking time off! (Nag, nag, nag!) : ]

Kind regards

Please pace yourself for the long term Mike. I enjoy TOP too much to see you burn out. As a Brit I see major value in disciplined time off. I consider it more productive in the long term and that it makes you more focused in the short term.

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