Julie's Web Journal at Stately Barrett Manor

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Writing. Technology. Life.

Meowy Catmas
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett
At last, the Catmas Card!

Thanks to Chris for his assistance in getting the card put together. Physical cards will get dropped in the mail this weekend.

Tags: Cats

Filed under: Cats   Catmas         
12/19/2014 10:38:13 PM
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Dear Spammers...
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Have a cat. She is real. She gets your spam, too.

I do not need plans for a shed, thank you. Don't call me Julie "Two Sheds" Barrett.

I may qualify for student loan forgiveness! Thanks, but I got my degree back when tuition rates were reasonable.

Your email says your name is Kevin, yet you introduce yourself as Christy. You want to give my web site a makeover, but you don't know the difference between "a" and "an." And then you sign your name as Kevin and include a huge footnote about penalties for spammers. Yeah, I see what you did there. Try again after you've resolved your identity crisis and had a few classes in English and American law.

Please tell me more about how I can save six times the amount left on my home loan by refinancing. 

No, Tim, I am receiving your email because you spammed me. Not because I wish to use our marketing services. 

Burglary is real. So is spam. 

The delete button is my friend today.

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11/5/2014 9:25:46 AM
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My Day
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett
Since I'd already voted early, and since it was raining, I stayed in and got busy. My day so far:

Cut out several hats and washed the fabric for more.

Worked on one commission job.

Put together a new backdrop for photographing hats. I'm not entirely happy with it, but it ain't a bad start:


Photographed another hat for a teardown post over at Steam Cat. (Nothing to see on the teardown, yet. But there's a nifty new article on the care and feeding of steam irons.)

Ordered more embroidery thread.

Priced more fabric.

Now I get to go pull the fabric out of the dryer, cut up some squares, and start embroidering for call box deerstalkers. While that's going on, I'll be nearby at the sewing machine at work on the commission.

So  how has your day been?

Tags: Pictures  Life

Filed under: Pictures   Life         
11/4/2014 4:35:00 PM
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Get Off Your Ass And Vote
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett
(Apologies and kudos to those of you who already have voted.)


It's simple: Voting is making your voice heard.

And I hear you whine: But I'm one of millions! It doesn't matter. Down at the local level races are often decided by a handful of votes. You don't like who got voted in as dog catcher, and she only won by a hundred votes? This is why you get off your ass and vote.

And I hear you whine: But the party in power wins all the time.  Or I hear you whine: My party is gonna win. They don't need my vote. Remember the picture from 1948 of a victorious Harry Truman holding up a newspaper with the headline DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN? Would the outcome have been different if some people had just gotten off of their asses and voted?

And I hear you whine: I can't get the ID to vote. I'm disenfranchised. And I say, get off your ass and file a provisional ballot. The Supreme Court will be looking at the Texas Voter ID law. I suspect the number of provisional ballots filed will tell a story one way or another. Your vote may not count in the outcome of any races (unless you can get your ID back to the county within the allotted time), but you'll be leaving a strong message that you want to vote.

And I hear you whine: It's my right NOT to vote. Well, that's true. And I don't want to hear you whining about the government in power if you couldn't be arsed to get off your ass and vote. Go in and vote a blank ballot. Write Mickey Mouse or Alfred E. Neumann in for an office. Instead of sitting on your ass and whining, get out and let those in charge know you don't like any of the candidates on the ballot. 

And I hear you whine: But big money controls the elections. What does my vote matter? Here's why it matters: If we all get off our asses and vote, if we stop voting straight tickets, if we take the time to research and vote for the candidate rather than the party, big money isn't going to win. We will win

So get off your ass and vote, already. And if you don't, I don't want to hear you bitching at all.

Tags: Politics

Filed under: Politics            
11/4/2014 9:41:53 AM
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Blog Housekeeping
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Big first aid on the web site today. I'd been noticing some craziness in my links and some other database-driven items, but I'd chalked it up to some bad SQL code. Today I thought I'd take ten minutes to dig into things and discovered that almost every single database table had all the data duplicated - sometimes twice. Removing the data wasn't difficult except for the Journal, where I had over 3,000 duplicates in the table. 

I think it happened when I tried a backup last April. To make matters worse, many of the duplicate entries in the Journal table were corrupt and I couldn't know they were corrupt until I tried to delete them. So, yeah. Lotsa fun. 

Let me know if you see any problems.

I also went in and cleaned up the links on the journal. Lost a day of work, but this needed to be done. 

Now it's time to go forage for something for dinner...

Tags: Technology   Life

Filed under: Techology   Life         
11/3/2014 4:06:02 PM
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Monday Mumblings Can't Get A Break
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Last night I had the old responsibility dream again, with a side order of anxiety attack.

Or maybe it was just the chili I had for dinner.

Either way, the dream was certainly a metaphor for my life lately. It seems that every time I'm ready to move forward with something, every time I sense success within my grasp, something happens. The frustrating thing is, that something isn't always something I have control over. And that was the nasty thing about the dream. I tried to get control over things and couldn't. 

I was at a convention, several time zones away from home. I was helping with the convention, but someone had comped me a really nice (sweet?) suite in the hotel, which was a pleasant surprise indeed. Then my cell phone rang. It was someone who knew I was out of town and insisted I had to fix whatever issue was going on with them. The person who should fix it was not competent to do so (at least in the mind of the person on the other end of the phone.) There was nothing I could do. I finally talked the person down and evidently convinced them that the person who *should* fix the problem was competent to do so. 

During the phone conversation there was an earthquake. I think it was my husband getting out of bed. I was probably tossing and turning and making all sorts of noise. I can't blame him! 

So I rang off the call, took a deep breath, and was confronted by someone who was determined that I didn't deserve the room I was comped, and in fact didn't even deserve to be at the con. I'm not sure if it was all a cruel joke or what. I just know I was staring at the pile of luggage that had moved out of the bedroom during the earthquake... 

And poof! I was gone. I woke up shivering and coughing (had another bad air day yesterday to boot) and spent a couple of hours on the couch, drifting in and out of sleep. 

The thing is, stuff has been happening that I have no personal control over, and it's is throwing a wrench in things. The latest is another issue with my retina. I woke up one morning about a week and a half ago and discovered a ton of new floaters along with evidence of hemorrhaging. Ewww. So I called the retina doc, and his office squeezed me in. Chris was kind enough to drive me down and spend three hours with me. One laser scan and one sonogram later ... they weren't sure what was going on. Had a follow up last week and they're still not sure. But I'm supposed to watch for signs of detachment. And I still have these huge floaters in my left eye that are interfering with my vision. We're on a "wait and see" basis for those. There's a surgical option, but it's not something I'm crazy about.

And this is something I have absolutely no control over. It's not a lifestyle thing, I didn't go and get myself hit in the head. I was born with these crazy eyes. 

I think the takeaway from this is that stuff happens, and it's how I react to this stuff that's important. I can let it get me down or I can work through it all. But dag nabbit, I'm getting tired of this stuff happening right when I'm on the verge of something good. It's wearing me down. 

Or maybe it's just the chili.

Tags: Life

Filed under: Life            
11/3/2014 10:27:56 AM
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Cussing At The Embroidery Machine
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

(Current sewing machine and previous embroidery machine. No, the table doesn't look that clean today.)

So this is one for the lumber-attic of the mind. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned this, but over Christmas of last year I replaced the Brother above with a Singer Futura XL-400. It's a nice machine, but it can be just as persnickety as the Brother was, though in different ways. Yesterday it ate a couple of pieces of felt, so this morning I opened the machine, cleaned everything, rethreaded, turned on the machine, and was told I had the wrong size hoop connected.

Okay, I get that error once in a while, and the fix is usually to turn off the machine and restart it with no hoop in the bed so it can reset. This time the machine told me to connect the USB cable.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? So, it was off to the troubleshooting races:

Disconnect and reconnect the cable.

Plug the cable into a different port.

Disconnect the embroidery bed and reconnect.

Several combinations of the above combined with cycling power, and/or letting the machine sit for a while with the power off.

Installing the software on the new laptop. 

Applying a software patch to both computers.

I even tried colorful language, and lots of it!

Finally got the software to start on the new laptop. Normally, the software complains if it doesn't detect the machine and refuses to start. Now I got the hoop size error. Grr.

More wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Rocked the needle wheel on the machine.

Bingo! The embroidery arm moved, the hoop was in position and ready to go.

Mind you, I had already threaded the needle using the built-in threader, so the needle was in the correct position. Well, that's a new one on me. I lost a couple of hours of work this morning, but this beats the heck out of a repair and a $100 copay on the warranty. Oh, yes. 

So this post is here to remind me what I did today, because the time WILL come when I have the same problem, and I'll be racking my brain trying to remember what I did today. 

And now it's back to work. Time for the next issue!

Tags: Life

Filed under: Life            
10/21/2014 12:41:15 PM
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It's Friday. Have A Cat.
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Midnight is catching some zzzz's this afternoon. 

Me? I'm glad it's the end of the week. The stress level has dropped just a bit. Yay. 

More later, perhaps. After I do the laundry, hit the grocery store, sew out a logo for a client...

Tags: Life  Cats  Pictures

Filed under: Life   Cats   Pictures      
10/17/2014 1:25:54 PM
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About Yesterday's Post...
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Have an cat picture from the archive before I rant. You're welcome!

So some stuff hit today. Virtually all is TMI, so I'll leave out the details, except to say I'm probably overreacting. But maybe I'm not. I dunno. We'll see. (No, it's not a health issue.) I've also spent most of the day wrestling with hats (my next band name) and ruined about half a dozen. That's some income down the drain, and ties in with another part of yesterday's rant. Why yes, I'll charge you the price of materials I used to make THIS hat, shall I? Who cares about the time designing, the fighting with new fabric, the discovery that the new embroidery machine doesn't sew out one of my most popular designs as well as the old machine? That doesn't cost money. Oh, no. Not at all. You just cover my materials. That's fine. I don't have bills to pay.

Except I have. 

And this is one of those times I wish I could chuck it all and go back and get a "real" job - one where the pittance I make gets paid on time. There are some problems with that, though. One is professional commitments. Another is some mild health issues that sometimes keep me tied to the house. Maybe what you think, maybe not. I'm not oversharing on that one. You're so welcome. The overriding problem these days is my schedule. 

I've been freelancing for over 25 years, and the flexible schedule is both convenient and necessary. And sometimes it's damned inconvenient. But we'll talk about the necessary first. Because I have a flexible schedule, I'm the one who can take off to take care of personal business with no "penalty." (Of course, there's a penalty. I don't get paid. Or I make up the time later if I'm knee deep in a project. Sleep? Who needs it? I do.) When it comes to taking care of family, I'm happy to do it, in spite of the cost to business. Hey, some of these family members took care of me at one time. So yeah, it's my turn. 

But I let something else happen along the way. I resent the hell out of it, but there's no one to blame but me. I've let people dump their part of projects on me. Sometimes it's a partner on a paying job, but it's also sometimes that I'll take up the slack for someone when they're in trouble. It's one thing when a friend is ill or in trouble, but some people have taken advantage of my good nature, and I hate picking up the pieces they drop at my feet while they're out enjoying themselves somewhere. And I've let it get worse.

This is something that will stop. Now. 

If you're sick or in trouble, I'm there for you. Otherwise, I'm learning to say no. This is another thing that's been a long time in coming. And it's going to hurt me a lot more than it hurts you, believe me. Your pats on the back make me feel good in the short term, but they don't pay the bills. They don't give me the BIC time to write, nor to work on other creative endeavors. 

Does this mean I'm quitting some of my activities? No, generally speaking, I'm having a good time and it's good for me both personally and professionally. If nothing else, I have to get out of the house once in a while. ;-) But damn it, being a volunteer doesn't mean I'm volunteered to do your work. I have enough of my own, thank you. 

I have to quit doing your work and doing my own so I can feel better about taking care of my family and doing the things that need to be done.

Whew. Have another archived cat.

Filed under: Life            
10/14/2014 11:03:01 PM
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Monday Mumblings Is Quite Possibly Preaching To The Choir
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

This post has been a long time in coming, but it's something I need to get off my chest for my own personal well-being if nothing else. I also warn you that it may sound like I'm whining at first, but please read through to the end.

It seems that hardly a week goes by without seeing another author or artist about to lose their home, have their utilities cut off, do without lifesaving surgery, or lose a pet, along with crowdfunding to help that author or artist out. It's lovely when the Internet can come together to help someone, but for those of you who aren't authors or artists, I want to ask some questions:

Did you whine when your beloved author's book sold for over three bucks, yet feel no qualms about putting more than that in on the crowd funding? 

Do you moan when an artist won't drop their prices to just cover the cost of materials, and then wonder why they're in financial trouble?

Do you hire someone (independent) to mow your lawn or clean your house, then gripe that you have to pay them more than minimum wage, and that the bill is due when services are rendered?

If so, I'm talking to you. If not, and you still wonder why so many authors, artists, and independent workers are in trouble right now, then please read on.

Why yes, there are Kindle millionaires, but for every million seller there are good authors languishing. Why that happens would take a few thousand more words to explain, so we'll not go there. Just know it happens. But when you consider that the average self-published book only sells 1-200 copies - even with the Amanda Hockings of the world averaged in - and you may begin to understand. If that self-pubbed author sells their book at $2.99 and qualifies for the 70% royalty on Amazon, that's $209 or so for every 100 copies sold. Not bad, but if they only sell a couple hundred copies, that's not a lot of money. 

But you say, the share an author gets from a publisher is smaller than that. True, but (in theory, at least) the publisher takes care of the editing and cover art and marketing. It's a trade-off that many authors are willing to make. 

No, I'm not advocating for any particular publishing model. I'm just stating some facts, and the next paragraph is true whether an author is self-published or has a fat NY contract. 

But wait: There's more! Income, FICA, and Medicare taxes must be paid. Even those who make so little that they get their income taxes back still have to pay FICA and Medicare. If you're employed by someone, you split those taxes with your employer. The self-employed get to pay the whole thing, though we do get to take about half of our FICA taxes as a deduction. Still, the self-employed are on the hook for more taxes right out of the box. 

Sure, the self-employed get to deduct costs of doing business, but what if that self-pubbed author paid an editor and cover artist and still only sold 200 copies? What about the time not writing that they spend promoting their book or doing bookkeeping related to sales? What about health insurance? Business insurance? Costs to maintain a checking account and P.O. Box? Promotional bookmarks and other materials? How about buying print books to hand sell at conventions and signings, and the possible sales tax issues?

On top of everything else, independent authors, artists, and contractors have to deal with startup costs and figuring out how to live while their business takes off - if it ever does. This is why we don't give up or day jobs for a long time, are married to someone with a good job - or both. 

Here's a scenario a wage-earner should never have to face:

"Congratulations!  You're hired! We love your work and know you'll be an asset to our organization. We're putting you on the team for a product that's going to be released next year. Now, as a token of faith in our company and our project, we expect our employees to make an investment toward the success of our product. You will purchase your own desk and your computer. I know that sounds like we're asking a lot, but when that product starts flying off the shelves next year and we can start to pay you, you won't regret it. How do we calculate your pay? That's a good question. It will be a percentage based on how many units we sell, calculated on our profit after our expenses."

You would say "thanks, but no thanks," and rightly so, as violates many wage and hour laws. But this is something independent contractors, authors, and artists have to put up with all the time. We buy the supplies, we put out the work, and THEN we get paid, and not always on time. Try telling the electric company your employer said he would gladly pay you Tuesday for burgers you flipped a month ago, but Tuesday was three weeks ago. As a wage earner, you can report your employer to several state or federal agencies. You may still not get your money, but it doesn't cost you anything to file a report. We contractors have to sue or put a lien on goods, and that costs money on top of what we're owed. And like you, we may still not get our money. We may be able to write off the bad debts, but we have to raise our prices to cover our losses. So that $2.99 book becomes $3.99, the price on that piece of art goes up, the cost to mow your lawn or clean your house goes up...you get the idea. 

So the next time you gripe about the cost of a book or a handmade good or some service like getting your hair done or your lawn mowed, consider what it *really* costs to provide those goods and services, and understand that the people behind those books, goods, and businesses really also what most wage earners have: The opportunity to live independently and pay the bills. We want health insurance (no political rants, please). We don't want to have to suffer the indignity of appealing for donations to make the rent. 

Me? I'm fortunate, and here's where you may think I'm whining. I have a husband - and a good man he is! - who earns a decent living. We have a roof over our heads and we manage to pay the bills. However, there was a time when I pulled in enough money from writing to not only help pay those bills, but to enable us to save money for things like vacations. It's been ten years since our last vacation, but that's a first world problem compared to those authors who wake up every morning, look at their Amazon statements, and wonder where the next meal is going to come from. I get up some mornings and wonder if it really is worth it to push myself like crazy to produce handmade goods for the sound of crickets in my online store or to keep writing copy when the pay is less than 1/4 of what it was before the recession hit. Really, why in the hell do I bother?

I do it because I enjoy the process of creating, and I'm fortunate that I'm able to do that. But what if my husband's employer walked in today and said that his office was closing and that he wasn't losing his job, it was just being moved 1500 miles away? Or across the ocean? That did happen once. And while I honestly believe the odds of that happening again are very low, we don't have any control over the economy. If it crashed tomorrow and my husband lost his job I'd be the wage earner until he found another job. And what if something happened and he was no longer able to work? Frankly that scares the living crap out of me. Because no one wants to pay over three bucks for a book. No one wants to pay much beyond the cost of materials for my handmade goods. I keep working to bring costs down, but they're at the bone now. I'll lose money if I drop my prices.

And yeah, those problems are nothing compared to the problems other people are experiencing, but that doesn't mean my frustration isn't real.

So what do I do? You tell me. I'm out of ideas.

Tags: Life

Filed under: Life            
10/13/2014 1:04:53 PM
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