2014 by the numbers

Last day of the year, and while every year you stay above ground cannot be called a bad year, 2014 was not a great one for me by any measure. A little older, a little broker, the world is a little bit hotter and many people are a whole lot colder. For the site, the number one search terms were all heart attack, all the time, under various phrasing. After that, Titanoboa, the monster snake came in second, a search term “859th page of the Bible,” about a supposed cancer cure in the good book rated third, atheist related and science/astronomy related searches rounded out the rest of the top five.

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This FTB sub-site site served up about half a million unique hits and logged over 3000 comments from fellow atheists and skeptics. About 80 or so of those visitors kicked in donations adding up to about $400, mostly in the last few weeks during the holiday drive. My pay official payout for the year for the site was a little under $250. This is the last week I’ll ask for donations until next year — if necessary then as I pray to what false gods may be that there will be no reason to bother — so please consider sending some holiday cheer my way if you have a couple of remaining bucks to spare.

The year started with me just being laid off thanks to exceeding FMLA while recovering from a heart attack and complications. Thanks to the new way unemployment was calculated under the stimulus act, and the failure of Congress to extend the money side of it, I qualified for only three months instead of the usual six it would have been any other time. Thankfully, I quickly landed a job with a well known software company that had lots of benefits and decent starting pay after the initial two month temp period. On the very last day of that two months, the company laid off several thousand employees with no warning including me. Since I’d only been there for a few weeks there was no unemployment or severance.

Then job number two, again with a large networking company bragging about their great benefits, this time with a 90 day trial period. Sure enough, that company laid me and a bunch of others off with no warning after I was a couple of weeks into the full time period. This time they got an extra special perk; I had massively funded a flexible spending account for the remainder of the year to help pay for badly needed medical visits. The earliest I could get into the docs for most of them was during the holidays, being a new patient and all, had to have my insurance card before I could even call and set up the initial visit. Which means they kept every dime of the 100 bucks I had put in and even took out another 100 for my final paycheck even though it was cut off. The only way I can get any FSA funds back is for services rendered before my last day, which amounted to 26 bucks for a single script.

I lost two dear friends in 2014, but not from disease or accident. One died at age 47 from medical neglect over an easy to treat condition had he had access to regular healthcare. The other had been outsourced, worked some temp jobs, slowly went completely broke, became increasingly despondent and finally checked out at age 55. Other friends comforted me with “it’s not your fault,” and you “couldn’t have known”. And I agree it wasn’t my fault. But I sensed it, there were signs, I should have trusted my instincts and stuck my nose into their business. I’ll never make that mistake again.

I never had to worry about getting my feelings hurt in a relationship in 2014, because I didn’t go on a single date. I didn’t make any new friends and many existing ones drifted away; poor people aren’t fun to hang out with. Loneliness, securing basic food and shelter, avoiding situations where we’ll be secretly or openly shamed or blamed occupies most every waking hour.

I guess I’m just an optimist. I see 2014 as just a year of bad luck. My solution is to forget about being middle-class and just do whatever I can to do some good and enjoy what life is left. In 2015 I’ll be helping a friend who who is recovering from a harrowing ordeal, details here, and working on some projects I’ve been delaying for a long time.

My New Year’s resolution is a new New Year’s tradition. You know all those fundraising emails we get bombarded with these days? They have subjects and headers like “Help Us Stand with Obama for the Workers of America,” or “We’re so close to feeding the hungry!” And when you open them they have little or nothing to do with the stated subject. It’s just a pitch from a wealthy group, some highly paid political consultant or rich politician or pampered pundit probably making a solid six or seven figures, hitting up regular working people for hard earned dough. The right is notorious for this but it’s not limited to wingnuts by any means. My resolution is to find their contact info and send THEM an email explaining I’m exactly the kind of person they’re supposedly raising money to help, that I’ve been working for ten years now mostly pro-bono promoting their goals to an audience numbering at time in the hundreds of thousands, and to ask them when I can finally expect a modest share of the badly needed relief I’ve helped raise?

Immature I know, but I’ve done it a couple of times this morning and it makes me feel better.

I hope your New Year is better than this last one and maybe we’ll all virtually gather here in 12 months to talk about that. I was up all night helping my friend, she had a rough time with some new meds and dealing with some pain. So I’m going to go to catch up on sleep. Be safe my friends and I’ll see you bright and early in 2015!


  1. magistramarla says

    Here’s to a happier and healthier 2015 for both you and your friend.
    I’ll raise my glass toward Austin and think of you tonight.

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