My Blog

Whatever rings Mel's bells

Inside my brain

Have you ever looked at a person who’s studying and wondered what’s going on upstairs? Humor me, and I shall describe what I’m experiencing. Perhaps you’ll find it interesting.

I’m currently studying AC Theory. Well, I’m currently writing a blog post to get a break from studying my AC Theory. But I digress.

The topic currently giving me figurative hives is inductance. I won’t go into the details, but basically it’s the principle that makes motors and generators work. When you put a magnet and a conductor together in the right way, you can turn motion into electricity, or vice versa. Wickedly cool stuff in practice, but understanding the principles behind it has proven a bit more complex for me.

When I say complex, I really mean incomprehensible and mind-boggling. Start with a bunch of brand-new jargon. You know, words that don’t make any damn sense, but which get thrown around to refer to very specific concepts.

Then, consider that the concepts themselves are new. So not only do I not understand the words being used, I also don’t understand what they refer to. This has led to a two-step approach for me. First, I ignore the terms and figure out the concepts, then second I back up and apply the terms to the concepts that I now can understand.

This is tricky enough when I have a teacher lecturing, but today I’m doing a make-up class, so I’m on my own. Just me and the ol’ textbooks.

Yup.

So how am I doing with all this, you ask. Well, to be totally frank it isn’t going well. I’m a bit overwhelmed.

Part of my psyche is babbling incoherently, curled in the fetal position in the corner of my brain and crying its little eyes out because it doesn’t, it can’t, and it won’t ever understand. That’s right, my starting point here is that I’ve utterly lost it. (Not an exaggeration; tho I’ve developed enough self-control that I won’t ACTUALLY do this, I have a clear mental picture of exactly how it would look.)

But it doesn’t stop there folks, because there’s another part of my brain that’s calling it quits. Yes, a not-inconsequential part of my mind has thrown up its hands, yelled, “DONESKI!” to the uncaring sky, and picked up its heels as it hits the road. Done and gone and not coming back. Nope. This is BS and I have better things to do. I’ll fail the test, study for another week, and then figure it out later. Don’t even care, my give-a-damn is past repair.

The rest of my mental faculties have spent the last hour and a half idly scanning the text, trying to string together the words on the page in a way that will make some form of sense. I read the questions in the work book, turn to the text to understand them, and find that the concepts are presented in a completely different way. One book is full of square pegs, the other is populated with round holes. And I have to somehow build a saw that will cut one to fit into the other, without any experience or instructions.

What I’m saying is that it sucks a little.

It’s not insurmountable, but it takes a lot of effort. More effort than I would expect it to, in fact. Many of you know exactly how this feels; the comments field may end up populated with your similar experiences. (Please?!?) The answer is, of course, to finish this essay, shut the laptop so I’m not tempted to go to Facebook, and focus on my work. Which I will do very shortly.

So next time you see a student staring uncomprehendingly at a page, consider that seeming inactivity might mask a world of energetic (and psychotic) internal motion.

Adventures in gardening

Apparently, spring has come.

I say apparently because winter never really took much of a hold on the Northwest this year.  We had a couple really bad weeks in November and December, but other than that it’s been around or a little above freezing at night, and somewhere between 40 and 60 during the day.  (Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Easterners who refuse to live here because “you want four real seasons.”  Hope you’re enjoying record snow storms!  No really, I do hope you’re enjoying them, because that would really suck to be stuck in if you didn’t like it.)

The weather isn’t really getting any warmer, and in fact it’s been stupid cold lately during the day.  But I’m seeing people on Facebook, starting their plants inside.  So it seems like that time.

This weekend I went out on the porch and weeded my little containers.  Princess and Chickadee did their parts as well, with Princess eating all the grass she could stuff into her fuzzy little face, and Squeaks dragging everything inside to play with.  This, of course, led to bits of dead plant all over my living room as well as a pile of green vomit on my bedroom floor.

Thanks, guys.  I love you, too.

I did finally rescue the lone carrot from my corner pot.  Pretty sure I planted it in the fall of 2013, but I can’t grow carrots in this soil to save my life, so I left one to see if it’d ever get larger than my pinky finger.

Carrot

It did.

From that angle, it looks like 2 carrots, but it’s really one with two legs.  Couldn’t tell you what variety it is, since I planted a couple, but it looks like a Nantes type, possibly a Merida.

Turned out a little on the woody side, which is not unexpected, but not as bad as I’d feared.  Honestly, since I get all my carrots from the grocery store, this guy wasn’t any worse than a decent store bought root.

I just need to double down on soil quality so that I can grow my own.  I just adore sweet, fresh carrots!  Like candy…  *yum*

I’ll be starting a few plants soon, though we buy most of our starts from local farms like Pheasant Farms.  What are you growing this year?

I have a confession…

I know this will truly be a blow to many of you fellow Seahawks fans, but I must tell the truth.

I have not been a 12 for very long.  Only since the fall of 2005, in fact.

Egad, does that mean what it implies?  That I became a fan in the winning year of 2005-2006, when the Hawks went to the Superbowl for the very first time?  Oh, dear.  Yes, I’m afraid it does.

But before you write me off as a fair-weather fan or a bandwagoner, understand that I didn’t grow up with football.  In fact, I didn’t grow up following any kind of sports at all.  As a teen, my sister got me involved with horseback riding, dressage to be specific.  So I watched the summer Olympics with great interest for some time, but I must say it didn’t stick with me.

Maybe it’s because I don’t like to be the only one in the room who cares about the outcome.  Or maybe it’s because I’m lousy at learning a game on the fly and require some assistance in learning WTH is going on!

Whyever it may be the case, I never really paid any attention, until in 2005 I found myself surrounded by friends who did pay attention to football.  Very close attention, in fact!  They were tailgaters, boosters, Monday morning quarterbacks, cheerleaders, and more.  Many had played the game as kids, and they dragged me (not unwillingly) onto the field on holidays.  (Not even touch or flag, we played tackle!  Ahhh, the memories…)

So it was that as the “boys of fall” started the season in September 2005, I had reason to come along for the ride.  And what a ride it was!  In August I couldn’t have told you what a safety was, but by January I was able to converse in an intelligent (albeit limited) fashion about teams, players, prospects, and how the year had gone.

Then, the most amazing thing happened: we went to the Superbowl!  I got to watch Mike Holmgren guide Matt Hasselbeck and the rest of our boys to the Big Game.  I also got to watch in horror as they lost said game…  But hey, it was my first year watching, and it was magical.

Now, as Pete Carroll demonstrates a new way to run a team, as Russell Wilson redefines what a winning quarterback is, and as John Schneider builds the least predictable winning roster ever seen in the NFL, I get to see the future unfold.  I’ve been here for the founding of this dynasty, which I do believe will last for a decade or more.

Does that sound pompous and arrogant?  Overbearing?  Overdramatic?  Maybe it is.  But the way Seahawk football is played, the way the team is run and the way the players are treated by management and treat each other, all these factors make me believe we’re seeing something new, something that will stand the test of time and be seen as an alternative to the Bill Belichick/Jim Harbaugh “tough love” meme that’s currently accepted as de rigueur in the NFL.  And it’s pretty tough to argue with results like this, wouldn’t you agree?

Today, I’m a 12.  Tomorrow, I’ll still be a 12.  I stayed a 12 after we lost the big game in ’06, and I’ll be a 12 even if the unthinkable happens and the franchise falls apart next year.  I guess what I’m saying is similar to some Texas bumper stickers I’ve seen:

I wasn’t born a Hawks fan, but I got here as soon as I could.

Aaaaand then life happens.

Two weeks ago, I was going to start the year with a bang.  I had plans to dig into these new wedding ideas and get cracking right away on new products.

Work had other plans for me…

I’m currently working ten hour days, which when you add my commute means I get home and two hours later have to be in bed.  In fact, even eating dinner and taking a shower only leaves me with about seven hours max of sleep a night.  Cut that a bit shorter because of the time lying sleepless, and the situation gets even more grim.

I’m leaning on the small “energy shots” rather than my usual carbonated energy drinks, since B vitamins seem to be the lesser of two evils.  And if I’m honest, driving nearly an hour and a half in the morning is less hateful when traffic at least keeps moving the whole time!  But it’s still wearing on me pretty badly.  I’m a week in with possibly another week left.  And why?  Because of this:

jetkiss1

That’s what two decommissioned A4 Skyhawks are supposed to look like when they’re broken into pieces, painted a couple shades of pink, and installed in a 60′ deep hole in the ground.  Erm, I meant a rail station.  (Same diff.)

Apparently, they’ve been cut and reassembled, painted, and carefully packaged up for their trip to the Great Northwet, where I will likely get to watch them get installed in a few weeks.  This is a recent photo:Jet kiss

Out of respect for a fellow artist, I’ll just say that it’s not my cup of tea.  More power to him for making his vision happen successfully, and I really hope it all turns out exactly as he saw it in his mind.

In the mean time, we have to get all the lighting in place so that future train travelers will be able to see “Jet Kiss,” as the installation is called, in all its glory.  This is where all the overtime comes in!  And my currently insane schedule.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/119481257@N08/  (There’s supposed to be a photo I took of the inside of the station box here, but the internet hates me.  I’ll consult my media and technology guru and get it on here within a day or two.)

As you can see, the space isn’t very well lit right now, so we have our work cut out for us,  But we’re getting there!  And since permanent power has been turned on, we’re in the process of getting all the lights working.  So in a few weeks, hopefully this space will be flooded with light!  Which, for me, is the really exciting part of my work – watching as the project comes together in its final form.  Huzzah!

If you’d like to read more about the project, here’s a recent article with good info, as well as more renderings of the design.  Also, check out the Sound Transit page, which includes a webcam so you can be all creepy-like and spy on my colleagues and I.  ;-D

Time for a change

Well, the Christmas sales season has come and gone, and I’m sad to report that my sales were weak.  I certainly can’t point to anyone for that except myself.  I left a lot of opportunities on the table because of my schedule and my need to prioritize.  Frankly, it’s kind of insane to try to run a business with everything else I do!  And when you consider that I’m selling in a glutted field, it’s not hard to understand my distinct lack of wild success.

Honestly, I look at my pieces and I don’t see a common thread.  There’s nothing recognizable about my pieces – nothing that makes them obviously mine.  Nor is there anything to set them out from anything else on the market.  I have a couple of amazing ideas in the works that will make both of those true, but unfortunately they both require time commitments that I just can’t fulfill right now.  :,-(  Though I am slowly squirreling away all the supplies and tools I need to make them happen.  And eventually, I will get laid off and have some time…  But that doesn’t help me now!

The other thing about my pieces is that they don’t stand out.  They’re balanced and attractive, aesthetically pleasing and sometimes meaningful.  But I don’t think they’d ever make someone stop in their tracks and release an involuntary gasp.

Basically, I’m saying that I don’t think I’m a particularly special snowflake, and I’m tired of putting this kind of energy into a business endeavor that isn’t going to go anywhere.  So it’s time for a big change.  Like, a REALLY big, world-shaking, life-changing, paradigm-shifting change in direction.

I look around, and I say, what’s selling?  What do people want to buy that I enjoy making?  What can I make that will satisfy my desire to create, and also satisfy a need (or desire) that people actually have?

Short story long, I’m going into the wedding market.

Starting this weekend, I’m going to pack up my office and all the unfinished or half-finished projects so I can start developing new products.  Pinterest is quickly becoming my friend!  I’m getting great ideas for what brides are looking for right now, and I’m going to use those as guidelines to design things like attendant gifts, table decorations, and of course jewelry and accessories for the bride herself.

On one side, I’m very excited!  Big projects and plans always get my peanut brain going, and I love developing ideas and figuring out what I need to make them happen.  On the other side, I’m scared. To. Death.  Change of this scope is daunting, to say the least.  Comfort zone?  Not even sure where it is at this point.  I need to reinvent myself, rebrand what I do, and in some ways start from scratch.  Practically, this means everything from business cards and packaging to descriptions on every social media site I have a presence on.  (See what I mean about big plans?)

I guess what I’m saying is, watch for updates.  It may take me a few weeks or even a couple months to get what I want to do right, so you might not hear much from me right away on new product.  Rest assured, I’ll be busy behind the scenes.  And when I emerge from this dark, scary cocoon, you’ll be treated to some amazing things!  I may even share some of the process as I go…  Sneak peeks, anyone?

So stick around.  There’s a lot to see, and though its going to be a rocky time, it’s also going to be fun.  And after the growing pains are done, a whole new world is going to open up.  Hey look, I’m excited again!

I’m All About that Bass too!

Yeah, I’m gonna weigh in.  (See what I did there?)  Love it or hate it, “All About that Bass” is all over the news.  And as a singer-songwriter, I’m gonna throw my two cents into the ring.

So why has an infectious and bubbly pop song intended to promote body positivity caused such a royal stink on all sides of the social spectrum?  First, it’s an infectious and bubbly pop song, which means it has repetitive and simplistic lyrics.  Personal taste accounts for a lot of the dislike, which is fine.  The song doesn’t resonate with you.  Hey, it takes all kinds of kinds, people.  So instead of bitching about how it’s such an awful song, say, “Nah, not my style,” switch stations and get over it.

Second, some people take issue with the message, saying that instead of supporting “heavy” or “large” or “big” women, it demeans and insults “small” or “thin” or “skinny” women.  Well, let’s analyze for a moment, shall we?  Trainor calls out 2 problems in particular – unrealistic body standards in magazines (Photoshop comments in the first verse) and scorn from thin women (called ‘skinny bitches’ in the second verse).  So what about them both?  I think we can all agree that the vast majority of women’s bodies that we see in the media are altered a ridiculous amount and made totally unrealistic.  From this video courtesy of iGirlTelevision (warning: it’s a mostly-nude woman, so don’t get your knickers in a twist) to side-by-side comparisons of photos before and after digital alteration, it’s plain to see that fakery has gone mainstream.  So this is an extremely valid point.  Come on, now, make it stop!

What about the skinny bitches then?  Isn’t it awful that she calls out thin women in such an insulting manner?  Uh, no, I don’t think it is.  Why?  Because she says it herself – skinny BITCHES.  Not skinny WOMEN in general.  I think we can all agree that there are, in fact, image-obsessed women out there who condemn their heavier sisters for their weight.  Haley Morris-Cafiero is an Associate Professor and Assistant Dean at Memphis College of Art, and her photo series Wait Watchers is composed of photos that speak volumes about the way women look at each other.  The glares, the sidelong glances, the superior looks, all speak to an attitude which openly demeans heavy women, and which is distressingly socially acceptable.  The thing I find endearing about the lyric in question is that, addressing those who fat-shame her, she immediately turns it around and points to their own insecurities as the probable cause of their bad behavior.  I like to paraphrase it as saying, “It’s awful for you to hate on me like that, but remember that you are yourself beautiful as well, and you don’t need to be so mean when you should love your own wonderful self.”  Almost Buddhist, really.

Third, the overall theme breaks down to “It’s okay that I’m not thin because guys actually like heavy girls better.”  This critique I agree with.  We should be happy with ourselves because we’re happy, not because we have a better chance of landing a potential mate.  Really, this argument feeds right back into the insecurity advertising engenders in the first place – You aren’t good enough, so you’re going to end up lonely.  FEAR FEAR FEAR Buy our product!  Some people will say that men really do prefer heavier women, and that fact should be called out openly.  In my (admittedly brief) research on the matter, I didn’t find any consensus on the matter, so I’ll let it lie.  And no matter what, men’s desire aside, the point of healthy body image shouldn’t be to attract a partner, it should be about finding how you want to be for yourself.

Some of you are surely going to call me out for inferring more thought and intent than Ms. Trainor put into the song.  And maybe you’re right.  But consider that she’s been a professional songwriter for 2 years, with songs recorded by Rascal Flatts and other artists.  Also, the interviews I’ve seen (video on the page will start to play automatically) demonstrate that she is a thinker, and while her self-expression is still undeveloped, it’s at least heartfelt.  So I’m inclined to think that, despite her youth, she chooses her words with a purpose in mind.  I can tell you as a fellow songwriter that turns of phrase can be extremely specific and meaningful.  So don’t dismiss phrasing or word choice so easily.

Overall, I wish her well.  Unfortunately, she’s getting lambasted by people who’d probably complain if you hung them with new rope.  But hey, that’s life.  The song’s all about haters and how to get past them, so I guess she’s on the right path already.

Future Mel’s advice

This morning I was on my way to school, jamming to Brick House, thinking about a meme my niece had posted recently about healthy body image.  Like a lot of other women, I do struggle to reconcile my own body, which I know is healthy and strong, with the images I see around me in movies, on magazines and on the internet.  (Mind you, I don’t own a TV, I rarely see a movie, and the only magazine I subscribe to is Guitar Player.  So I’m not even as immersed in these images as most women are.)

As I so often do, I reminded myself that my waist isn’t as thin as a model’s, but my “thick” body is strong.  Could a wasp-waisted gal do what I do?  Could she move materials like I can?  Could she operate a pony threader?  Could she spend all day carrying wire around the job site with 15# of tools on her person?  I submit that she could not.

All that made me laugh a bit about my life.  Here I am, driving my paid-for vehicle from the apartment I can afford by myself to the school that comes along with the wickedly cool apprenticeship I got into, and I thought about how the circumstances of my life have turned out so differently from what I used to anticipate.  Then, one of those moments came when you think of the person you were ten or fifteen years back, and you wish you could tell that younger self that things really are going to be okay.

That’s when it happened.

I realized that ten or fifteen years from now, things will still be okay.  They’ll probably be totally different, and likely in ways I couldn’t even anticipate today.  But that future me would probably look back on me right now and have a message:

Don’t worry.   Things are going to change, not everything you’re doing now will work.  But you’re gonna be okay.  Life won’t happen the way you’re trying to make it happen, but good things will still come to you and you will find success.

And suddenly, some of my stress melted away.

Thanks, future me!

Sale Fail

Have you ever had a marvelous idea?  Have you ever implemented said marvelous idea, and been on the eve of pushing the button to make it happen – only to realize IT CAN’T?

Yeah.  Turns out I’ve screwed the proverbial pooch on the fancy Grand Opening of my shiny new Zibbet store, The Bead and Bean.  The sale was to be BOGO free over the weekend, plus free or discounted shipping rates.  Then Monday it would go to 30% off the whole store, and be that way all next week.

Unfortunately…  Zibbet’s sale function doesn’t accommodate BOGO sales.  And while I can do free shipping, I can’t unless I do a percentage-off sale.  So I changed my welcome message to explain why I’ll have to credit back those amounts via PayPal after the sale, and prepared to go through a lot of hassle.

Then I looked at it from the customer’s perspective.  And immediately decided that as much hassle as it was for me, it’d be more for them!  (Or, perhaps, for you…?)  So I said, screw it, I’m just going to do 50% off the whole store with discounted shipping.  And if I get a bunch of people who each buy one item for 50c and I have to pay $3 to ship them out…  Well, maybe they’ll be happy enough to come back later and buy again.

More importantly, I’ll sleep well tonight knowing I’m not making my customers jump through hoops in an attempt to get them to give me more of their money.  Because, pardon the language, but f&@k that.

I made a THING today!

 

After

Isn’t it pretty?  The purple briolettes and rounds are amethyst, and the tiny rounds and larger ovals are natural aquamarine.  It started out looking like this:

Before

“But what is it?” you might ask, and you’re right to ask the question.

I’m really not sure.

Perhaps it’s the middle of a new necklace.  Or maybe, my first set of bodice jewelry.  Tho it’s a little small for that.

Honestly, I’m just not sure yet.  But it came out exactly as I wanted it to, so I’m very pleased.  And I’m sure I’ll figure out what to do with it later!

So I guess, stay tuned.  Sooner or later, this little thing is gonna come back as part of something really fabulous.  And whatever it becomes, I think you’re gonna like it!

Confession time: I don’t really put 100 beads into my hundred packs!

How many are really in there?

Behold, a bag of 100 bells.  Red, aluminum, shiny, very pretty.  Perfect for holiday creations, Mardi Gras, Valentines, or anything you think should be jingly and red.

But wait!  Are you sure there are really 100 bells in there?  Maybe we should check.

Let's count.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...

 

Start counting!  1, 2, 3, 4, 5…

24, 25, 26, 27...  Keep counting!

 

Keep counting!  24, 25, 26, 27…

That's a lot of bells!

 

That’s a lot of bells!  There have to be at least 100 there, right?

Hmmm.  Actually, there aren’t 100 bells in the bag, there are 104.

How many bells do you have?!?

 

This bag of green bells has 106!

So what’s the deal with the extras, then?  Isn’t it enough to give people what they’re paying for exactly?

Well, sure, it’s enough.  I mean, when two people strike a bargain, they each agree to provide something specific.  As long as both parties carry through with what they promise, that’s pretty even-Steven.  And for the most part, my counts are exactly what you’d expect them to be – a lot of 36 stone beads will have 36 beads in it.  A 16″ strand will be 16″ long.  (Well, if the 16″ mark lands in the middle of a bead, of course it might be slightly longer.)

But when it comes to bells, or beads, or jump rings, I use what are called heavy counts.  In other words, I’ll count out 100 of the item, then I’ll throw in another 3 or 4 or 5.  Sometimes I’ll have a few extras and no ideas to use them myself, so I’ll just add them to the packs I’m selling.  Also, although I sort all my loose items by hand and discard any unusable ones, I am human and unfortunately err from time to time.  I’m much happier knowing that I can guarantee each bag or lot will contain as many usable items as I advertise.

Also, I’ve never been in the business of giving only the minimum.  I expect more from myself, and I aim to give much more than that to my customers.  So you can rest assured that every purchase you make from my shop will contain AT LEAST as many usable items as you expect it to.  And when your new goodies arrive, if you want to, feel free to count and find out exactly how many are really in there.  ;-D