Monday, January 11, 2016

Custom made chalices

And now a word from my sponsor (aka my wife):

Here are some of the chalices that were made recently. There is a large variety of symbols that can be used: Templar cross, Wicca pentacle, triple moon, and horned god. There are also several scrolls that can be applied. We have a variety of glaze colors to choose from; all of them are food safe. The chalices are hand thrown, underglazed and fired, then overglazed and fired a second time. The whole process from start to finish takes seven to eight weeks.

If you are interested in ordering a custom made chalice, check out Khari's Wiccan Treasures on Etsy.

Templar cross blue chalice. 

Templar cross green chalice. 

Wiccan trimple moon pentacle green chalice. 

Here is the selection of glaze colors to choose from. 

Red and black horned god chalice.

Green triple moon chalice. 

Golden brown triple moon chalice. 

Red and black triple moon chalice. 

Blue and green pentacle chalice. 

Blue pentacle chalice. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Are airlines liable for terrorism?

Larry Silverstein (World Trade Center Properties) is arguing in federal court that the airlines owe him billions of dollars in damage for their part in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The judge, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, heard opening arguments today (closing arguments are expected Wednesday).

Silverstein's lawsuit claims that Boeing owes him for designing the planes, that both Boston's Logon Airport and Portland Maine's Airport owes him for not catching the terrorists as they went though security, and that the airlines failed to protect both the passengers and property from the actions of the terrorists.

Or as I like to call this: An opportunity to collect large amounts from various companies for criminal actions done by other people.

Personally, isn't this what insurance is for? Silverstein has already collected more than four billion dollars from the insurance companies to rebuild the property. But he says that it has not been enough to cover the expenses of the rebuilding. The airlines are arguing that this whole mess smacks of him double-dipping; Silverstein disagrees.

(Oh, the judge has already ruled that the most Silverstein can get is 3.5 billion...I guess you can see why this is worth pursuing.)

But isn't this along the lines of suing a Quickie Mart for getting shot during a robbery there because they did not have armed security to stop a robber after collecting both insurance and government benefits?

The very nature of airplanes is that they are big flying bombs (and it was known in the 1980s [and perhaps before] that we were in danger if a terrorist decided to hijack one of them). The only way for Boeing and all other aircraft designers to make a perfectly safe plane that cannot be used as a weapon is for them not to make one in the first place (aka no air travel). The only way for there to be no possibility of hijackers getting onboard an airplane is to deny entry to everybody, including the crews (again no air travel). And the only way that the airlines have to completely protect passengers and property is to never actually have the planes take off from the ground (again no air travel).

Honestly, I do not want to see Silverstein win this lawsuit because legally the only way to prevent stuff like this is to return to the Dark Ages, and we all know how joyful the Dark Ages were. And if he wins, we can all expect to see more double-dipping lawsuits.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How a writer has to figure their hourly rate

One of the problems with being a writer (unless you work in a cubicle as a writer) is that you never really know how much you are going to make for each hour that you spend at the keyboard. And if you are supporting yourself as a writer, it is something that you desperately need to know.

(This also applies to all professionals who are self-employed, so bear with me if you are not a writer.)

Robert Heinlein, one of my writing heroes, used to have a policy that he never wrote anything that he wasn't going to get paid for. Now, he did do a certain amount of writing that he never unloaded (aka sold); but for the most part, he did a pretty good job of keeping to that policy. So much so that he managed to pay off several mortgages as a writer.

Now, before you view that as a sign that you too can make it as a writer, just remember that when you start looking at the amounts Heinlein got paid, he got paid in the 1950s what writers are still being paid...and the cost of everything is higher today than it was back then. Writers are still being paid by the standard rates set forth in the 1950s--I suspect that the reason why is that so many writers are willing to work for free just to see their bylaw in print. Furthermore, Robert Heinlein was a really good writer.

Estimating how much you are going to make is easier if you are fulfilling orders that you know that you are going to get paid for (especially if you know the rate of payment). Freelance writers like having clients who ask them to do regular batches of work for them. Unfortunately, one of the things that could happen is that you find yourself working long hours for too little money.

I recently got cut loose from a project that was chewing up way too much time for way too little money. I could have made more per hour if I went back to flipping burgers. The appointed tasks essentially got worse and worse as the project dragged on. Needless to say, it was one of the jobs that I am grateful that I got fired from. Besides I know that I can make more money doing other types of writing. (Why do I know that I can more doing another project instead? Because I know the spread on how much I am making on various types of projects).

What a writer needs to do--on all their projects--is to keep a time sheet, and track how many hours projects take them to complete. The amount of money that one makes from a project then needs to be divided by the number of hours one worked on a project.

(This applies to all professions--keep a time sheet--figure out what projects are giving you the most amount of money per hour--it will do your business a world of good if you do so.)

Now, for me, a lot of my writing is of the page view (you get paid based on the number of readers that your article gets) and royalty based (you get paid based on the number of copies sold). So not only do I have to keep track of my hours, I also have to keep track of all the monies collected over a long period of time. In other words, a lot of my stuff is paid for (not upfront) by the level of readership I end up with.

(This long-term collection of payment information applies to anyone who is selling the same piece of work over and over again.)

This is why one of my current jokes is that as a writer, I make somewhere between zero and thirty-five dollars an hour...some projects I have received so little money I have yet to earn my break-even point yet (my "burger flipping" wage), and on other projects I have earned hundreds and hundreds of dollars already.

I am getting better at just doing the type of work that have earned me the higher amounts based on previous outcomes. (Occasionally, I do miss because of changing markets and the continued need to expand my writing into unknown [never done before] areas.)

As I said, what I am having to do as a writer--tracking hours spent working, and overall income received--applies to other professions that do not have a clear cut hourly rate. It is worthwhile to know your estimated hourly rate on various types of work to be able to budget your earning time more efficiently.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Why leaving blog comments helps your SEO

One of the mysteries that I don't think a lot of people understand is that search engines seem to love blog comments, so much so that leaving blog comments can actually help your SEO efforts.

The reason that search engines love blog comments is that well, as I once described them, search engines are spider demons who are pretending to be human beings, who are experts in whatever terms and subjects that you punched into the query form.

And the way that the search engines do this is by weighing factors, such as the number of links there are to your webpage, and where it is coming from.

Think of each comment you leave (where you are allowed to place your website into the information field or leave one of your profile addresses) as a thread in a spider web. And if lots of people like the site that you commented on, the thread is thicker and heavier. You also have a heavier thread if your site and the site you are commenting on are actually about the same subject matter.

Basically, the little spider demons that are search engines count the number of times that the search term is found on your page (decide if it is a balanced number), and then factor in the weight of all the threads to your page to determine exactly where they are going to place your page in the search results.

So how do you use this demonic thought process to your advantage?

Be selective about what blogs that you comment on (unless you are doing a networking exercise like the commenting part of the UBC). Make sure that your site is related in the type of subject matter.

Try to write meaningful comments. If you can engage a blogger in a conversation, the little spiders notice and add more weight to their opinion of your threads.

Don't be afraid of linking to posts done by your favorite bloggers. In fact, linking to a post that you have commented on creates a double thread for the spiders to weigh.

The mysteries of SEO is simple once you start treating search engines as the demonic comment loving spiders that they really are.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Approaching my thousandth blog post on another blog

I have been blogging several years. I started out over at LiveJournal, and did some when Geocities still existed. I started blogging on Blogger in June 2007. (I also have an account with WordPress that I never used...but it doesn't count because I have only done a couple redircts posts there.)

This blog, Madcap Economics, is my tenth blog that I have set up on Blogger.

The other day, I was writing a post on my other blogs when I realized that I am approaching my thousandth published post there. The current post count (just published blogs, not the half finished drafts that I have started and abandoned in various stages) is 996.

(For the curious, the blog is called Gleamings from the Golden Dawn, and it is about Golden Dawn [an esoteric mystery tradition], Wicca, and the sharing of lots of cat pictures.)

This is one of my cats--I share lots of pictures of him.
Gleamings actually got started because I did not want to muddle the focus of my writing blog, Musings from the Inkwell...which has 488 published posts at the moment. So in the space of six years, I have written and published more than 1500 blog posts (I am too lazy to figure the exact total).

So what have I learned over the years of blogging. I have learned how to rapidly set up a blog. I have learned that the quickest way to find one's muse is to get royally upset about something that you have read on the internet. I have learned that Google AdSense works--but you really need a popular blog to benefit from it on a regular basis.

And I have learned that I will always come with another idea to blog about next week, no matter how much I think that I have exhausted all possible blog topics.

And here some of my readers were worried about coming up with 31 topics to blog about for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Such silly people, they could always default to sharing 31 cat pictures (and I have done that in the past).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A little about my father

One of the reasons that I think that I am ok with being self-employed is the fact that I got to watch my father be self-employed. My father ended up being my role-model when I was forced into self-employment. That is not actually surprising considering that his road to self-employment was also forced upon him.

My father grew up in farmland USA (Nebraska), living in a small town. He ended up dropping out of junior high to work (I believe it was simple economics, but I am not sure). When he married my mom, they moved first to Omaha, then to Colorado (Commerce City--then Denver).

The first job that I remember him having were working for a newspaper and magazine distributor (Nelson News, I believe they were called)...this is remembered simply because I ended up with a copy of every children book that they stocked. The second job he had (that I remember) was him working for a snack distributor (one of the items stocked was Boston Potato Chips which had a cute bear on the bag)--to this day, I still think of beef jerky and potato chips as a proper meal (it isn't if my wife is to be believed).

After that, Dad worked as a delivery driver for a produce company. Later when he decided to move into sales, he taught himself the ins and outs of the stuff he was selling by reading lots and lots of catalogs and product brochures. This self-teaching style ended up being my style of learning also--I tend to immerse myself into research projects with tables buried under books.

Now, each one of these career moves were advances in the family fortunes. Alas, all good things come to an end. In this case, Dad decided to support the union that was trying to organize the employees of the produce market act that got him fired and black-balled from doing any more produce work.

At least, working for someone else that is.

As a result of not being able to find any work, he started his own produce company (out of our garage, later we had a warehouse inside a out-of-commission grain elevator). A lot of my business tactics come from him...but probably only the good ones.

It was the result of this that when I became more-or-less permanently unemployed, I decided to try my hand (once again) at self-employment.

Was it a wise choice...well we will see. As for the outcome of my father's self-employment, that is a story for another day.

Friday, July 5, 2013

My own brand of negative self-talk

Today, I was reading a blog post by Linda Ursin about negative self-talk. In it, she mentioned that negative self-talk tends to rear its ugly head when people are trying to lose weight. Now in my case, I have never needed to lose weight--I have been dangerously underweight for most of my life.

(This is one of the few times in my life that I have been at a healthy weight.)

First, I came from a really poor family, and learned to ignore hunger as a kid. Then I worked twenty years in food service where you would think that you would actually get to eat; but if you are a good employee, your breaks are few and far in between. Then I spent several years as a poor unemployed college student living off of student loans. Now, I am a self-employed writer...and so far, I have seen little evidence that there are tables laden with food any place in this particular profession.

And I am good at ignoring hunger. For instance, it wasn't until seven hours into my day today that I realized that I hadn't eaten anything yet. Unless, you count the one can of soda I had. And my wife tells me that the can of soda doesn't count.

But enough about that problem...this post is supposed to about my own personal brand of negative self-talk.

My own personal brand of negative self-talk comes in the form of "I am too stupid to figure that one out" (IQ is the upper five percent of the population); "No one would be interested in reading that" ("It is a box of clowns!!! Everyone run for your lives!!!"); "The only proper type of writing that one should practice is the literary kind" ("Gee, I have made over three hundred and fifty dollars on a three thousand word erotic short story that took me less than ten hours to finish and self-publish").

My negative self-talk kept me in burger flipping jobs that I loathed, made me positive that I was going to fail college (ended up with two bachelor degrees), and make me have anxiety attacks about the fact that my business is going to fail and that my cats will starve (please note that my cats have no food issues other than the one where they skraff down a dish of their favorite food real fast, and then proceed to barf everywhere because their tummy is upset).

So what is your negative self-talk? What has it prevented you from doing? And can you send me a doughnut?