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Whatever rings Mel's bells

Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

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.

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

 

Time to be moving on

I have some unpleasant news folks; due to some recent policy changes, I’m going to shut down my Etsy shop.  A few days ago I got an email sent out by the CEO of Etsy discussing these new “clarified” policies, and frankly I was appalled.  Etsy bills itself as a marketplace for handmade goods, but over the past years the “handmade” section has been taken over by mass producers pretending to be crafters.  By checking sites like CraftCount that track the top sellers, this becomes obvious.  The top several sellers are from Far East countries well known for large numbers of sweatshops, and with average daily sales in the hundreds for each of these shops it’s obvious these aren’t individual sellers.

Well, as of January 1st, the rules allow these sellers to hire employees, use fulfillment services, and even involve outside manufacturers – as long as they’ve designed the product.  By redefining the term “handmade” to include work that CLEARLY is not handmade, it puts the nail in the coffin of small, indie sellers like myself who not only design but also create all our own goods with our own hands.

So I’m leaving.  This is not a decision I’m making lightly; I’ve spent nearly five years on Etsy.  This change will affect every aspect of my business.  But I can’t compete with that demographic and I don’t want to.  That’s why I went to Etsy in the first place – because I want to be part of a community of small sellers like myself.

To make a long story short, I’ve started migrating my listings over to Zibbet.com as of this week.  To where, you say?  I know, I hadn’t heard of them before either.  But they have the potential to compete very strongly with Etsy in time.  The costs are lower to start up, they actively police listings and flag (and even remove!) shops that are out of compliance, and they have a firm reputation for fast and personal responses.

I hope you’ll come visit me at my new web home http://www.zibbet.com/MelsBellsJewelry which will be (slowly) filling up with all the same goodies from my Etsy site, as well as a bunch of new stuff you haven’t even seen yet!  Thanks for all your support, as always.  I’m trusting that this change, though frustrating for me, will lead me to a better community that I’ll truly fit into.

Depression

K, so if admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, then I shall do so.

I’m dealing with some depression right now.  I’m at a crossroads in my life, and I’m feeling ready for a change.  But the change is taking so long in coming, it’s getting frustrating.  I was just saying last night, I’ve gone through the part where I let go of my plans and embrace the new paradigm.  So I’ve turned the mental corner and I’m ready for the new thing now.  But it isn’t coming!  So I’m still stuck here in my old life, the one that won’t work and isn’t working and that I’ve already given up.  But I can’t go on to my new life yet.

So I’m feeling really out of sorts and it’s really messing with my head.  I guess the only thing to do is soldier through and deal with it, huh?  At least I have friends who I can turn to and get it off my chest, which I really need to employ more often because it’s a much better coping mechanism than my usual ones.

Know what?  I think I’ll go clean the affirmations off my mirror and write a new one.  Something along the lines of, “You will succeed if you apply yourself.”  With the IF really big.

And then tonight I’m going to go see my wonderful family and celebrate my nephew’s birthday and bask in the love and appreciation and togetherness and understanding and BELONGING that makes me so happy to have been born into this bunch of people.

Take that, depression.

Opposite Day

Imagine for a moment that you are known for, almost defined by, your positive demeanor.  Imagine that you have put on a positive attitude like a coat you wear year-round.  Imagine that you fight any negative thought, that you self-talk your way out of any low point or discouraging event or setback or moment of doubt.  Imagine that you consider a positive outlook to be a basic part of who you are.

Now imagine that you look back on the last five years of your life and can see that every damned thing you’ve done is crumbling around you.  Imagine that everything you’ve set your mind to has failed.  Imagine that your very best efforts, your blood and sweat and tears and stress has gone to feed the insatiable, gaping mouth of a black hole.

Doesn’t it make sense that you’d want to run away from it all?  Doesn’t it make sense that your greatest desire would be to pack a bag and run away to join the circus?  Or maybe the Navy?  Especially if you know that the end result will be to get you into a better place, a place where you can have back the life you really wanted all along?  Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to give up all these things (that are falling apart anyways) for a few years, in return for getting them back in spades later?

Now imagine that you’ve made the decision to take that step.  And you’ve even started to feel good about it – feel excited about it.  And you’ve accepted that you’re a failure and your best efforts aren’t good enough and you might as well throw in the towel because why would anybody want you to stay anyways?  I mean hell, nobody even reads your damned blog, so who really gives a crap?

Nobody, that’s who.

(Not completely true; my family – who I once promised I would never leave again – gives a great deal more than a crap.  But this is hyperbole, there’s not much room for the nuanced tones of reality in this post.)

Anyways (sorry about the rabbit track there), now imagine that after you’ve accepted your own worthlessness, after you’ve realized that you’re a failure and it’s time to start over, after you’ve worked yourself around to a place where you can give up the life you love and you’ve been clinging to so desperately (even though it really isn’t working), and after you’ve come to terms with the nature of the new reality you’re looking toward, then and only then do you get a hint of hope that you might actually be able to make this work.  Then and only then do people reach out with a form of help that actually meets your needs.  Then and only then do you get a sense that you’re appreciated and wanted and maybe you shouldn’t assume that leaving is actually the best option.

So what do you do now?  What do you do once you’ve turned the boat and taken the first steps in a new direction and mentally re-written your life?

How hard to you try to keep the life you really want?  How far do you pursue it, when you know that the option to leave depends on a pretty narrow window of opportunity – a window that shrinks every day – a window that you can’t even get the involved parties to define clearly for you?

How far do I push this?

Refinement

There’s a bit of religious imagery that has stuck with me since childhood.  In I Corinthians 3 Paul talks about all of our works being tried by fire, and the unworthy things are burned away and the worthy things are refined.  He says if we build with lasting materials our works will survive the fire and we’ll be rewarded, but if we build with “straw and wood” it will be burned away and we’ll be left with no reward.

I’m not religious any more, and I don’t believe that this will ever literally happen.  But I can tell you for sure that it happens to me all the time right now.  Troubles come along, and they set my life on fire.  And let me tell you, having your life set on fire is not fun!  It burns, it hurts, and it’s really scary to see everything you’ve built start to melt down around you.  But I’ve found that when I face my fears, and come to terms with reality, and accept what is really happening, I can use the situation to become a better person.  But it’s not automatic, in fact it takes quite a bit of effort.

First, you have to ask yourself how you got into this situation.  Think of what you could have done differently.  Imagine a similar situation happening again, and see yourself doing it differently next time.  Recognize the flaw, the mistake, the error, the blindness, whatever it was in yourself that either caused or allowed the bad thing to happen.  If nothing you did contributed to or exacerbated the problem, then think of what you can learn from what you’re going through.

The important part is to look.  Look at what you’ve done.  Look at who you are.  See yourself, see the great parts and the icky ones both.  See the things you love about yourself.  (If you can’t see them, ask a loved one to tell you one thing that they like about you.  Then remind yourself of that wonderful characteristic EVERY DAY.  Tell your mirror three times a day how awesome you are because of ________.  Repeat till you believe it.  Then repeat some more.)  See the things you don’t like about yourself, and then figure out what you can do about them.  (If you can’t figure out what to do about it, ask a loved one for advice.  If you don’t have any loved ones that you can trust with either of these tasks, that’s what professional counselors are for.)  Look at yourself honestly, seeing both good and bad.  Know thyself, as it has been wisely said for millenia.

When the trouble-dragon comes around and starts burning your whole world down, it’s natural to fight it.  It’s natural to want to stay wherever we are, and to look at the destruction as a bad thing.  But pay attention.  The things in your life that are worth saving – genuine relationships, healthy behaviors, a positive attitude, a strong moral code – will survive the fire.  They may be melted a little, they may need to be polished and get a little TLC after all that stress.  But they’ll survive.  And the things that aren’t worth saving – fair-weather friends, unhealthy habits, negative attitudes, loose personal ethics – will be fueling the fire, and they’ll be consumed by it.  After the fire dies down, you’ll find yourself with more room to breathe and to rebuild.

So I’m not afraid of the fire.  I don’t particularly enjoy going through it, I’ll tell ya that much!  But I know that whatever it takes away, even if it’s something I desperately wanted and depended on, I can survive on what’s left from it.  And I know that whatever is broken down in the fire can be rebuilt afterward.

Birthday thoughts

Obviously updating my blog has not really been much of a priority for 2012…  So it’s about time I fix that.  I shall begin by posting here a bit of life commentary I wrote today.

34 years ago today at 1:39 in the morning, my mother and a doctor she didn’t really like that much got to introduce me to this world. When I was a wee thing (six-ish perhaps?) I nearly got swept away by a river. About ten years after that I was thrown from a horse and fell wrong, and got the immense joy of laying on the ground, unable to move, wondering if I would ever walk again. (Spoiler alert: I did.) Eight years after that, during an incredibly difficult part of my life, I decided I was done with it all and started planning my exit strategy. (Spoiler alert: I changed my mind.)

Every day now, I get up and choose what kind of day I’m going to have. Every day I choose what kind of life I’m going to lead. I’m not gonna lie to you, some days I don’t make good choices. AT ALL. But you know what? It’s pretty darned incredible to look at my life; at what I’ve done and where I’ve been. It’s pretty darned exciting to see all the potential, to look at my bucket list and know that it’s a pretty safe assumption that I’ll live long enough to knock a good number of things off. It’s pretty darned encouraging to know that I have people to share this life with, from casual friends that I rarely see to dear ones that I spend a great deal of time with. It’s pretty darned humbling to read about people who have done more with their lives when they have less to work with than I do.

So every day I get up, and I’m proud that more often than not, I choose to do good and useful things with my life. I choose to do right and to help those around me. I choose to learn so that I can make even better choices.

I’m not perfect. And life isn’t perfect either. But I’m awfully fond of it, and I’m very happy to be here. And I’m soooooo excited to see what the other two thirds of it are going to hold!

It’s a good day. 😀

What?  No, she did NOT just write that!  Christmas is about family!  It’s about giving.  It’s about love.  It’s about others.  It’s about the little baby Jesus asleep on the hay, for Christ’s sake!!  (I don’t think that came out quite right…)

Christmas in my life has been a day where my family gets together, eats great food, exchanges presents, and spends time together.  It’s wonderful!  I love Christmas, and when I was away from my family it was really hard to not be able to share this time.

The fact that we all live very close together now, and we spend a lot of time together, doesn’t make the family time aspect of Christmas less wonderful.  The fact that we get together every week and cook for each other doesn’t make the eating-great-food aspect of Christmas any less special.  But the fact is, the only thing that we do at Christmas that is specifically and uniquely a Christmas tradition is – what?  We give each other presents.

Now, I don’t feel the presents are important because I’m materialistic.  Giving (and getting) presents is NOT about stuff.  It’s about knowing the person you’re giving the stuff to.  It’s about saying, “I know you, leeettle seeester.  I know you’re wonderfully goofy, and you have an incredible carefree way of approaching the world.  So when I saw this little trinket, I thought of you.  And I bought it for you. I know who you are and I love who you are.  So Merry Christmas.”  You can say those words all day (and I think you should say them, too) but there’s an additional impact that comes when you reinforce the words by giving the person an item that illustrates what you’re saying.  It’s a symbolic gesture, I know, but it really does carry meaning.

So that’s my reasoning.  That’s why present on Christmas are so important to me.  Because it’s not just about stuff, it’s about special stuff, and the process you go through to get it for them.  It’s that contemplation of who the person is, and what sort of thing they would like.  Then you look around and see how you can translate that person’s life into an object.  It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s intensely personal.

Do I ever get duds?  Oh, sure.  There are times I can’t figure the person out, times I can’t find something in my price range that they’d like.  I feel a tiny bit of failure when I have to give a gift card, but fortunately it’s tempered by the fact that I know they’ll enjoy picking out something for themself.  Hey, extra spending money is always a bonus in this family!  😀

So yeah, the presents are important.  But only because they’re a visible, tangible, giveable form of love.

Oh, and as for the baby Jesus thing?  That would certainly be a vital part of it: a central, integral part of it, in fact.  If I were Christian.

Class Warfare

I just read an article quoting (yet another) wealthy Republican politician on tax policy.  As usual, he claimed that raising taxes on high earners ‘class warfare,’ and cited his own proposed policy of flat taxation, meaning that everyone would pay the same percentage rate.  He made the claim that it’s fair because there are no loopholes and “Everybody gets treated the same.”

So apparently all the tax credits and tax deductions that make our tax code so complex should be removed.  Okay, let’s run with this for a minute.  Families with low incomes and multiple children will no longer get tax credits.  Homeowners would no longer be able to deduct mortgage interest payments.  Students would no longer get tax credits on their student loan interest.  That’s pretty much telling the middle class to bend over, as far as I’m concerned.

Now, I guess I’m too lazy (and too fed up with political doublespeak) to read a bunch of this gentleman’s talking points and suss out what he would answer to my objections.  But I think most folks who buy into this bilge would respond that rich folks wouldn’t be able to reduce their income either.  So everybody would pay 9% (according to this particular plan) of their income in taxes, across the board, right?  Eminently fair, right?  Puts everybody on the same playing field, right?

After all, none of us really pay the 15% or 28% or 33% that the IRS tax tables start with, do we?  We all use every tax break we can get our hands on to reduce that bottom line.

Except that most of the wealthy who avoid taxes don’t do so the same way low- or middle-income people do.  Low income earners pay less in taxes mostly because they’re in lower tax brackets, a nod to the fact that they barely make enough money to survive in the first place.  Middle income earners can reduce their tax bills somewhat because of certain types of spending they do, on homes or student loans or medical bills – and because those are deemed necessary but burdensome costs, the tax code (again) is set to give them a break where they need it most.

High income earners, on the other hand, aren’t eligible for many of the tax breaks available to their poorer counterparts.  When they reduce their income to avoid taxes, it’s usually done by offsetting business or investment losses.  That’s right, they make bad decisions that lose them money (money they don’t actually need to survive) and they get rewarded for it with tax breaks.

Saying that all the “loopholes” are equal completely ignores the reasons for each of those “loopholes.”  They do not exist for the same reasons and they do not have the same effects.

Tax breaks for lower-income families result in more spending.  Why?  Because these are people who already have to spend every penny they get to survive, and each of those pennies has a half dozen places it could go.  So pretty much any tax refunds they get are spent right away.

Tax breaks for middle-income families result in more spending and a bit more saving, because these folks usually have most of their needs met, but they still have a lot of wants.  Not to mention, they are able to plan for the future, so they are more likely to put tax refunds toward things like retirement and their kids’ college tuition.  So again, this money either goes right back into the economy or is saved to be spent later on specific, planned things.

Tax breaks for upper-income families, however, don’t generally take the form of annual refunds.  They take the form of lower taxes paid, and they don’t help anybody but the rich themselves.  They don’t boost the economy, they don’t offset government assistance that would otherwise be needed.  The only moral reason to keep them is the argument that the government should get anybody’s money.  And even the Tea Party isn’t ready to say that yet.

So all this talk about class warfare is actually the pot calling the kettle black.  The rich and powerful (who make the rules) are scared that the rest of us (who let them) will require them to pay their fair share.  Take one for the team.  Get a little skin in the game.  However you want to put it, the same idea remains.  Contribute something of value that will help this country survive.

Face it, trickle-down economics does not work.  That theory assumes that people at all socioeconomic levels spend the same way, which is patently false.  We need to discard the idea that the rich will save us all, accept the uncomfortable idea that those of us who are able to do more are going to have to do more, and get on with it already.

‘Cause things are getting ugly and the American public is getting real tired of this.

Cited article can be found at http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/cain-nearly-quit-campaign-florida-straw-poll-says-115734617.html

Another reason I love science

So last post I wrote about how great it is when you’re wrong.  Specifically, how great it is when you realize you’re wrong, and you figure out how to fix it so you’re right again.

After I wrote that, I got to thinking about why else I love science, which is the scientific community.  That’s right, all those nerds with pocket protectors and coke-bottle glasses with tape on them.  They’re my buds!

If you recall, it all starts with a question in your mind, which you answer with a hypothesis.  You then use that hypothesis to predict what will happen next, and if you’re right then it lends credence to your hypothesis.

This is where experimentation comes in.  So what does it take to create a good scientific experiment?  First, it has to be observable.  In other words, is has to be available to the senses of anybody who is interested.  For example, if I say that I can communicate telepathically with aliens and perform dozens of experiments in which I write down the contents of the telepathic conversations I have, my research will not be taken seriously.  (Note that this actually doesn’t prove I didn’t talk to aliens, it just means that I have no evidence.  Which is why the burden of proof is on the positive side of things.  You don’t have to prove I didn’t talk to them, you can just say, “That’s nice,” and get the hell out of Dodge.)

Second, it has to be repeatable.  I have to be able to perform the same experiment over and over again, and get the same results each time I perform it.  This ensures that the answer you got was not the result of an aberration.  In other words, repetition shows that you got a real result, not a fluke.

Third, it has to be controllable – you have to be able to change things about the experiment to figure out what’s really going on.  For example, you can hypothesize that the protective outer coating of a seed also makes it harder for the seed to sprout.  So you might plant a bunch of seeds that you’ve nicked to see if they sprout faster than intact ones.  In this experiment, you can plant some seeds that you nicked on the bottom, some that you nicked on the top, some that you nicked on the side or end, and some (a ‘control group’) that you didn’t nick at all.  This way, you get to observe how the different actions change the outcome, and you therefore learn even more.

(Keep in mind that this does not in any way discount the value of observational studies, where the hypothesis cannot be actively tested but can only be supported or disproved by observation.  In fact, there are many branches of science where observation is the only way to experiment.  Theories found by observation are no less true or trustworthy than those found by intentional and active experiments.  Even though some people like to think they are.  Ahem, climate change deniers…)

So what’s so incredibly cool about scientific experimentation?  Well, since the knowledge you get is gained from repeatable and observable and controllable actions, it’s accessible to everyone.  EVERYONE.

Yep, universal knowledge is real!  If I say XYZ is true, and this is how I found out about it, the skeptic in another city or state or on the other side of the world can perform the same experiment and see if I’m off my rocker.  And if it doesn’t work, than s/he can say, “This doesn’t work, I tried it.”  Then I can come back and ask if s/he controlled for ABC factor, or used UV protective glass, and why those would have affected the results.  So then my friendly little skeptic can try it again taking those factors into consideration, and suddenly ts/he says, “Holy crap, it does work!”

See?  It’s not that I was wrong, it’s that the methodology used was wrong.  But since all the details of my experiment can be compared to all the details of his/her experiment, we can compare notes and figure out why we got different results.  And then we find – THE TRUTH.

Hot damn, that’s fun!

Remember, if other ppl can’t verify your work, then you might as well not even do it.  Because science is at heart a peer-reviewed undertaking.  Medical and scientific journals?  That’s my pocket-protecting heroes’ way of saying, “Prove me wrong.”  If nobody can, then it really is right!  If somebody does…  Well I guess that’s the point we go back and figure out what went wrong, huh?

And as I wrote in my last post, that’s a good thing in and of itself.