Friday, August 23, 2013

Affording the Convention

Question: When should one start to save for the NCRA annual convention?

Answer: NOW!

If you've got an incredible income, sure, go ahead and pay for it at the last minute.  Or if you like to keep credit card debt open, have a go.

This entry is not for you.

The bill for travel to the NCRA annual convention can get pretty steep, and the price can be daunting to come up with, even if you've had a pretty good year.  This is my strategy.

I alluded to this a while back when I did a blog post on what my dad taught me about business.  We were able to afford a good family vacation because Dad would put a small amount of money away every month.  Every month, faithfully, all year round.

So I apply this principle to my budgeting as well. Every check I get from anybody, I take a percentage out for taxes (you'll have to figure your percentage out on your own), a percentage out for charitable giving, and a percentage for the NCRA and Illinois annual conventions.  Off the top.  Every time, no matter what.

 photo Shut-up-and-take-my-money_zps8b89688e.jpg What am I saving for?
  • Travel expenses to and from the hotel. Last year this particular expense wasn't much at all -- just two tanks of gas.  But next year, since it's in San Francisco, I'll need airfare (for two) plus transportation to and from the airport.  And cab fare if we decide to go a few days early and explore the city.  If I need parking, I budget that under Lodging.
  • Lodging.  I've always found it worthwhile to stay at the hotel in which the conference takes place, even though the nightly rate may be more than at another hotel.  It's great to be able to run up to your room to pick up something, or drop off the bag of swag you scavenged from the vendor hall, or simply sleep in a bit later than you would had you stayed across town.  When you receive your estimated hotel bill as you make your reservation, be sure to add in a few hundred for resort fees, parking, or taxes not included.  Yes, I said a few hundred.  ($15 dollar resort fee + $20 daily parking fee)5 days = $175, and that's not counting taxes.
  • Convention registration fees.  Including any contests you sign up for, any software classes, AND some money to participate in fundraising activities like silent auctions or raffles.  Include a guest ticket for the Saturday President's Party and/or the awards lunch if you're bringing a Muggle spouse.
  • FOOD.  This.  I get nerdy with this one and count up ALL the meals I will have to pay for.  Breakfast, Lunch, and Supper.  Since I usually go all-inclusive with my registration, Saturday I don't have to count lunch or supper (awards lunch and President's Party), so I don't need to budget for that. I count all meals on departure day and return-home day, since I ain't cooking as soon as I get home.  Count every meal up, add up the estimated cost, and multiply that by 2.  Meals are ALWAYS expensive in resort areas.
  • Fun money!  If you decide to tour the city or go to a Carrie Underwood concert with friends at the last minute, have some cash for that.  If your spouse is coming with you, he/she will need SOMETHING to do while you're in sessions.  Include this too.
  • Equipment/professional enrichment money.  Convention is the BEST time to get merchandise, since a lot of vendors run convention specials.  Now is the best time to try out that new writer *cough*LIGHTSPEED*cough* and meet the author of that book you've been wanting.  And have her sign it!  NCRA usually has neat reporting tchotchkes and T-shirts for sale at their booth too.
  • Expenses related to your home.  Like pet boarding and whatnot.
That's a lot!  But it IS doable.  I'm not rolling in the dough, but I can say that going to both state and national conventions has definitely helped to advance my career, and therefore, my income.  The connections and the knowledge and the fellowship I've gained are worth every penny.

Start NOW!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Journey's End and Regeneration

Coming out of the regeneration, you know, it wasn't massively painful. It was just very exciting. I thought, well, I think going into it probably is a bit more painful. Yeah."
Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor)

 photo 172117-i-regret-nothing.gif

Yes, if you're not into Doctor Who, I realize that quote probably won't make much sense. But I had to use it because it encompassed my feelings about August 8.

I thank you all for following me through this adventure. It was wonderful to meet everyone, and your support meant a lot.  I mean a LOT.

"Journey's End." I didn't pass, but I did turn in a 370 wpm take.  I wanted to at least turn something in if not pass, and I did! Although it wasn't remotely close to passing.  But there were little stretches where I had it.  And there actually was a 390 take that almost...seemed...gettable.  Hopefully we'll have another Guinness attempt in the future, and I'm definitely on board -- IF we have a decent amount of transcription time. This arbitrary 10-minute limit was ridiculous. Mark Kislingbury would have gotten it, I believe, if we'd only had a decent amount of time.  By my math, we should have had 18 minutes.  I didn't even have time to proof or spell check, much less untangle problem areas.

"Regeneration."  I need to figure out what my next goal is. This may take a while.  I'll let you know when I do. :)  Until then, I'll still blog on a generally weekly schedule, I believe. I've gotten into the habit of blogging regularly, and I kind of like it!
 photo 2013-08-04-peter-capaldi_official_doctor_who-533x710_zpscb5404b1.jpg
Besides, the state speed contest is coming up in a month.

If you're wondering what The Impossible Goal is, you can read about it here.

(In keeping with my Doctor Who theme of illustrations for these past several entries, here's the upcoming Doctor. I'm looking forward to what he brings to the role!  And I promise I won't be quite as Who-centric in future posts.  Unless a reeeeallly cool picture surfaces that fits the post perfectly.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Four Days to Go

graphic from
Well, this is it.  Here we go.  I've upped the practice speed to 575-600 words per minute.  Hopefully that'll give me one last edge.  I haven't tested myself in a few weeks, nor have I had a "slow day" that I've referenced in a previous blog.  I honestly don't know if I'll make the speed or not.  There's been times where I've gotten stuff at the target speed.  There's been times where I've blown a slow-down at the end of a Magnum Steno video and it was SLOWER than the target speed.

Thursday after the attempt some of us are heading to the hotel bar -- WHICH bar is yet to be determined -- to celebrate.  Join us!

I'll try to remember to post something after the attempt (and before I get to celebrating the finale) with the results.   Next week will be the debriefing, autopsy, recap, whatever you want to call it.

But a preview of one of the lessons learned from this past year and a half:  Practice faster material than you're doing now. However fast you're practicing, it's not fast enough.

And regardless of this week's outcome, I'm definitely going for the NEXT Guinness attempt. You betcha.

If you're wondering what The Impossible Goal is, you can read about it here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

One (full) Week to Go

If you're wondering what The Impossible Goal is, you can read about it here.

 photo Doctor1.jpg
This is not him. It's the First Doctor.
About a week and a half to go.

I'm still really burnt out on talking about the attempt.  Seriously, if it weren't for the love and support of Mr. Stenoray, I'd greatly slack on practicing because OMG WHO CARES it's so close in time and it's not like i'll gain any more speed this close and aslkdfja;sldkfj.  Not to mention without his encouragement, I wouldn't be in this race to begin with.  Love you, Babe.

Will I have the speed? I don't know. I'm really hoping to at least turn in a 370. On a good day I can get some stuff, and the tests will be only 60 seconds apiece, so we'll see what happens.

I'm looking forward to celebrating Thursday evening after it's over. :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Two Weeks to Go

If you're wondering what The Impossible Goal is, you can read about it here.

 photo Second_doctor.jpg
I must admit... I'm sick of hearing about the world record attempt.  I don't want to talk about it.  I'm so glad it's getting closer so it can be OVER with. I mentioned the Oatmeal's Blerg last week, and I've got a combination of the Blerg with Grumpy Cat instilled in my brain.  I'm still practicing. I'm just not excited about it, and I DON'T want to talk about it.

But of course that's no excuse to slack on practice.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Four Weeks to Go

If you're wondering what The Impossible Goal is, you can read about it here.

 photo DoctorWhoPeanuts.jpg August 8 is getting closer.  I'm getting closer as well to the target speed, but only slightly closer.  O, had I only six more months! I had a particular thought a while back that no matter how much I'd practice, when it came time, I'd wish I'd practiced more.  Well, I guess I feel that to an extent, but I also don't feel that I've slacked off. Even during busy times.

What I'm really feeling, which I feel after EVERY SINGLE speed and/or realtime contest, is "I must shorten my writing even more."

Did I use the Fast & Furious movies analogy before?  Finger speed is like the can of nitrous that Vin Diesel or Paul Whatshisname (Walker?) uses in the races.  It's good for short bursts, but you don't wanna be using that stuff all the time or it'll harm your system. (I think. IANACM.)

Short writing is the engine.  You want it strong and powerful, and it'll sustain you over long periods of time.

"Briefs make me hesitate!" Then you haven't LEARNED the brief.  Me, I tend to hesitate more over multistroke words than with one-stroke words. Briefs and a shorter theory makes each job easier for me.  I'm always on the lookout for multistroke words to reduce to one stroke, and I review briefs with my flashcard app.

"I don't have TIIIIIIIIIIIME to learn briefs!"  Yes, you do. You just haven't found/won't find it. If you have ten seconds to write out a few briefs on a sticky note and pop that sucker on your steno machine, you have time.  If you're watching American Idle (see what I did there) or any television at all (which you're not captioning), you have time.  If you're working on supper and you have to let the food simmer for 20 minutes, there's a bit of time.  Post a few briefs by the frickin' TOILET ferkryinoutloud!!!  If you want your job to be easier, your scoping faster, and your realtime better, you'll find the time to improve your skill. That's what professionals do.

Okay, I just went all Larry Winget on y'all. Sorry about that (kinda). I can't help but feel so strongly about this though, because this past year and a half of speed practice and shortening my writing has made SUCH a difference in work!  I have long, exhausting days, sure.  However, my feed just gets better and better, the easy jobs are more frequent, and the killer jobs are farther between.  That's been my experience.

I sat down to begin this post not really knowing what to write, and this is what happens :)