Julie's Web Journal at Stately Barrett Manor

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Writing. Technology. Life.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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10/13/2014 1:04:53 PM
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Midnight, With Small Catnip Collider
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Because I freaking seriously need a cat picture today.

Tags: Pictures  Cats

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10/9/2014 10:48:32 AM
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Metaphor For A Monday
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

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10/6/2014 5:47:40 AM
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Not How I'd Planned To Spend My Friday
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Midnight's idea of spending a lazy Friday did not include hiding from the vacuum cleaner. And as you can see, she is not amused.

Well, let's start with the good news: The power is back on at my mom's house, and my living room looks better than it has in ages!

It's not difficult to connect the two dots. After yesterday's storms swept through, over 185,000 homes were left without power in North Texas. My mom's house was one of them. Fortunately the temperatures were cool and they were able to open windows and stay comfortable. Yet, with two hospital stays in as many months*, I wasn't sure my mom was up to another night in a home without power. The options were a hotel or here. 

I've been in FenCon Panic Mode for most of the last two months, so you can imagine the state of my living room. "Worse than usual" ought to about cover it. I decided I'd better at least get that room in shape for company. Chris helped me move crap to the garage storage area. (We had brought a bunch of stuff in to go through it, but with the heat and everything else that happened... So it's back. But for how long? For. How. Long?) I hauled out the vacuum cleaner and got going. 

By the time I'd finished the floor and the second couch the phone rang. Power was restored. After only 18 hours. I think their record was 22, and that was during a heat wave. 

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I finished vacuuming and did the dusting. The room looks a lot better, but there's still one pile left. I just pooped out. But hey, it's done.

My cleaning plan for this week was to tackle the desk and sewing area if I had the energy. Oh, well. Ghu knows how long it would have been before I tackled the living room otherwise. I do have some cunning plans for the rest of the weekend, most of which involve relaxing. And beer. 

Have a good weekend!

* I know I'd mentioned at least one hospital visit on Facebook, and for the sake of the old lumber-attic, here we go: Mom had a stroke in early August. We were dining at a restaurant in Dallas, and fortunately we were very close to Parkland. Say what you will, but they're a level one stroke center. They got here the serious clot busters, and she was home in a few days, and back bowling in a couple of weeks. This was no TIA - her entire right side had gone dead and she'd lost the ability to speak. Her neurologist said she'd dodged a bullet. Last week she was back with the same stuff that got her in May of last year. She did her vampire impression with four pints of blood, got probes in both ends, and nothing out of the ordinary was found. She's still weak from the blood loss, but the doc says she'll eventually be fine. All she can do right now is take care of herself. Which she does anyway. And those of you who know my mom know she's pissed to be down and not able to do much. She's stubborn, but in a good way.

Filed under: Pictures   Cats   Life      
10/3/2014 11:30:55 AM
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A Storm, With Pictures
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Along the lines of the previous post I have some pictures to share. But before I do I need to fill you (and my future self, because I sometimes forget dates) in on something.

A couple of weeks ago my husband presented me with a birthday gift - an Olympus OM-D M-5. Read the specs and weep. It's a lovely micro four-thirds camera that harkens back to the classic OM series in terms of design. Think of it as a sweet little baby SLR on steroids. Holy moley, it's going to take me forever to figure this thing out. 

Just a few hours out of the box, the image stabilization system died. I mean it burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. Olympus was good on their warranty, and I got the repaired camera back on Monday, while collapsed from FenCon. Today was a good day to take pictures. You can see the post-storm image above. Here's one when the rain was moving in:


And one more post-storm: 


Hey, we're fine. This side of Plano didn't get hit hard at all. We still have power, too, which is better than I can say for some people I know.

Now I'm off to relax and watch some telly...

Tags: Pictures

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10/2/2014 7:52:52 PM
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The Virtual Lumber Room
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett
A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library where he can get it if he wants.
--Sherlock Holmes, The Five Orange Pips

So yeah. Long time, no post. I thought about this the other night when I tried to remember when a certain event happened. The journal jogged my memory. We tend to go to Facebook these days because of its immediacy and the lure of immediate(ish) feedback. But what about when I want to find something? A picture? An event? It's back to the journal and the search engine, clunky though it may be.

So I'm going to make an effort to start updating again so in the future I'll have this repository in the virtual lumber-room. 

Tags: Life

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10/2/2014 7:47:57 PM
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No Spam
Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett
Just an (archived) cat photo.


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9/9/2014 1:39:25 PM
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