Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Well, That's Awkward

Last year, I bought a long sleeved tee from Teespring, a web site which advertised heavily on Facebook.

Long sleeved tees are valuable because they are so versatile in spring and fall with the ability to push up the sleeves if I get too warm. Plus, under layers, they keep my arms warm and aren't as heavy as a sweater.

This is a Discworld image. That's the Great A'Tuin, the ultimate turtle on which the four elephants holding up the world stand. In the cold of space, there's ice on A'Tuin and the elephants. The Discworld spins around the cone in the center, The Hub, and the seas fall off the sides in long cascading tendrils of water and ice. I could get this image on any color tee I wanted. This is my favorite color.

But, at the end of February, a rather large controversy arose centered around Teespring. I can't find the actual start of it but accusations were made suggesting Teespring ripped off the artists whose designs were on the clothing they sold. Friends who are artists said this was "well known" within the artistic community.

It's a very double-edged sword. You want people to see what you do because the way to make money is to have people buy your stuff. The Internet makes it very easy to reach a world-wide audience you never would have reached before. With that visibility comes those who don't care if you spent 382 hours working on something. They are going to steal your design and slap it on a tee shirt and sell it for $14.

I know this is a huge problem in the comic world. Comic conventions have given space to "artists" who print other people's stuff and sell it as their own. Names are tossed about. Videos of confrontations abound and calls for boycotting certain conventions until they weed out the imposters happen every convention season.

I've purchased things from Teespring before. Witness this tee shirt, one of my favorites.

I have a red shirt with a black cat slogan on it which is not as high quality. I have to admit, I don't know the original artist. Hearing people who have more knowledge than me rail against a web site made me wonder if my purchase ever did anything for the artist. Am I perpetuating a fraud? I adore both shirts. The tee part is comfortable and exceptional quality. I love the designs, obviously, or I wouldn't have purchased them.

Since the conversation at the end of February, I have seen zero advertising on my Facebook feed from Teespring. Reviews are not favorable. When you poke around a bit, supposedly Teespring was created as a means for artists to get their work out to the public, but a lot of people are saying this isn't happening. So I feel guilty.

In reality, I need more tee shirts like I need bubonic plague, regardless of their design. My conscience now won't let me order anything from this company and will force me to see if I can track down a shirt designer unless I'm getting it from some place like Disney. I guess the cautionary take away is that if I want to support artists, I need to start frequenting arts and crafts shows. That probably wouldn't be such a bad idea. It would get me out of the house.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast Tea


Name Dropped

I had to inspect a Seminary on the south side of Chicago. The building was over 100 years old; typical Chicago brick construction. It had always been apartments with warehousing on the lower floors. Old Chicago apartments have a distinctive design. Maybe it's true of all apartment buildings from that era; tiny rooms with small hallways. The seminary has retained quite a bit of the flavor of the building while modernizing it for priests. There is a communal dining area and a chapel with custom glass designs.

The chapel area was, before the seminary bought the building, an artist's studio. But the large space with the 2.5 story ceiling, was too much to keep up so he sold to the building owner and moved north. The priest who took me around to do the inspection said they rent the space to Russian Orthodox and non-denominational congregations for worship. They are pleased it's being used.

During the course of the inspection, the seminarian walking around with me was excited to talk about the next phase of his studies. He was going to Chile in June, for 3 months, but the 2nd week of March, he was going to Greenville, Mississippi, to help the order down there. They have, he said, a strong presence in that area of the country and all the seminarians spend time working there. I looked at him. "Greenville? I know Greenville." He registered surprise as I don't have a Southern accent, couldn't even fake one if I tried. "How do you know Greenville?" Well, the head of the English department where I went to college was a Franciscan sister originally from Greenville. "Wow. Small world," he said.

The priest with us now turns to me and asks, "Who was this sister? That's kind of specific because we're the only order down there. There isn't a convent." "Her name was Sister Thea Bowman. She started at a Sacred Heart school and joined the convent there. When she went to Viterbo for college, she joined the Franciscans, who, as you know, founded Viterbo." The priest stared at me. "You studied under Thea?" I did. She recruited me for the English department and got, then, Viterbo College, to offer me enough scholarship money that 75% of my college experience was paid for. He looked at me.

"I know Thea. Everyone in Sacred Heart knows Thea. Thea is held up as a paragon for activism. You knew her. I am singularly impressed." I have a pencil sketch of her hanging in my living room. She was the most amazing person I think I have ever met. I will never, in my entire life, be half the person she was.

"Madame, I knew you were a very interesting person when we shook hands. I am convinced of it now. I never had the pleasure of meeting Thea. To know she taught you gives me more respect for you."

I didn't know quite how to react to this. I don't know people I could drop into a sentence. One of the guys from the construction company building the hotel for which I needed to do this inspection, was dropping names left and right. "Well, when I got married, I couldn't have some of the Chicago Bears come to my wedding because my wife said they would upstage her." You know some of the Chicago Bears? "Oh yeah, I'm good friends with...", and then he rattles off 5 names from the 1985 Super Bowl team. He knows this person and that person from Chicago politics or Chicago celebrity.

I am always suspect of such people. Do they really know them as in, could they call these people up and ask them to come meet for lunch? Or, is it a way of getting something because we believe in the power of "Six Degrees of Separation" and we want to be associated, however minimally, with someone "famous". There's no reason you couldn't drop any celebrities name into a sentence as being an acquaintance even if the best you know them is from the Access Hollywood TV show. I have no way to prove you don't know them.

Thea sang at my wedding. I have a cassette tape of it and I sometimes think it would be wonderful to extract that part to have. I wouldn't know where to go to get that digitized. I would never have thought to bring up her name in any of the Catholic places I have been. It was a toss-away remark, made by a young man, excited to further his faith which allowed me to say, with much pride, "I knew Thea. I was taught by Thea." I carry her lessons. When I read Shakespeare's comedies with their sexual innuendo, I can hear her voice say, "Well, we're going to jump over those lines because you're Viterbo students and you won't get the joke." Of course that made us read and reread the lines looking for what was funny.

I also feel the priest was impressed with my skills to begin with. Tara and I kind of have that effect. We have been openly dismissed by men who think we can't possibly know what we're doing and then we do it and, um, yeah, about that dismissal. Father John didn't dismiss me. He said what I did was one of the most interesting jobs he'd seen. But the knowledge of having known Thea added a layer of competency. She gave a lot to her students. She still gives. Wish I could call her and tell her.

Beverage: Scottish Breakfast Tea


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sometimes, It Just Works Out

I've been frustrated by the cost of glasses, as you know. I know I have a "large" prescription which necessitates thicker lenses. But "sales" are not "sales" when the only thing on "sale" is the frame and I don't give a rat's patoot about saving 50% on a $75 frame. That's not going to get the cost of glasses down.

So, I get my JCPenney bill yesterday and there is a flyer for 2 pair of glasses for $99 INCLUDING no-line bifocals. "There has to be a catch," thinks I, but I should go see. There was a catch. The selection is limited and, because I work on the computer, no-line bifocals will cause me problems with reading.

Therefore, I have to get progressive lenses. I know what this does. It jacks up the price exponentially. I told the gal that price is the biggest issue in purchasing glasses. If the price isn't good, I won't buy glasses. She understood.

I found a couple pair I liked and we priced them out. Folks, I am getting TWO pair of glasses for $254, including tax. This is $10 LESS than anywhere I'd been able to find for ONE pair, without taxes. I don't want fancy lenses; just give me some which meet my script.

They should be here next week.

I did not have to dip into my Disney fund to get these. I could put the purchase on my JCPenney card. I am still paying off the fridge, which I got during at no-interest for 18 months promotion. The fridge will be paid off in May, way ahead of the 18-month ending. If I take a couple months to pay off the glasses, I'm still way ahead and puts these much, much cheaper than any place I'd found.

An additional benefit is qualifying for the "frequent buyer" program which rewards people with a coupon based on how much they spend. It's been a good year for that, for me. I'll have another coupon to use, thanks to this purchase. I need a fitted sheet to go with the flat sheet I have, but Penneys doesn't have any kind of selection. I'll have to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for something like that.

The other financial shock of the week was a rate increase on my car insurance. I get that my rates would go up when I bought the Malibu. But when I opened the notice I get telling me State Farm would be deducting x amount from my account on the 28th, the rate had gone up $12. This put it over $100 a month. Shocked, I called my agent. He could not give me a reason for the increase. "Well, you did buy a newer car," he stammered. "Rates go up for a time until the car gets beyond a certain age, then they go down." Wha...? This is a 2011 we're discussing here, not a 2016. I don't have any tickets and have not been in an accident. Why is my rate going up? Realizing I wasn't going to get a straight answer, I thanked him and decided I needed to look around.

Now, I equate buying insurance with the same noxiousness of buying a car. I can't help feel that, if the person selling me insurance had better skills, they wouldn't be selling insurance. I know that's not true and if they didn't sell insurance, there would be really smarmy people who would, but I've felt talked down to by agents so my opinion of them is low. This increase forced me out of my comfort zone to check online for rates. My rates had been going up by a dollar or two a month. This put the effective rate increase at 18% since buying the Malibu in July. There is just not a justification for it.

Well, Progressive is always touting their low rates, let's look. I didn't go anywhere else. I'm saving 50% on my car insurance. Between now and September, that's an additional $300 in my pocket; in my Disney savings. It's the exact same coverage. Plus, Progressive is insuring the house. That rate went down $20. "We have an $80,000 replacement guarantee," the agent said. I looked around my house. I don't have $80,000 worth of stuff I'd want replaced, but that's nice to know.

I've been in a private funk since trying to find glasses. It has colored this whole month. How can I make the ends meet when there's always something I have to throw money at to fix? Life has a way of forcing me out of my comfort zone and that is, sometimes, good for me.

JCP is closing 138 stores around the country as the retail industry deals with a massive customer shift in how they shop. I'm one of those who has shifted to doing more online than in brick and mortar stores. The "mall" concept is dying. I enjoy poking around in downtowns with mom and pop stores instead of the mall and I do a lot of shopping online. It's not unexpected that JCP is facing this reality by closing stores.

There is laughter at JCP, too. "Old fogey store", I've heard it called. Well, this old fogey bought a fridge in the perfect size for me and now glasses from JCP. Finding glasses has made my day and my whole month.

Beverage:  British Breakfast Tea


Monday, March 13, 2017

Chocolate Goodness

I've been talking with guild members about our October trip to Walt Disney World. We can make food reservations beginning on April 14th so I'm trying to decide where, exactly, I want to eat and to get people who have expressed an interest, committed to coming to the vacation. All this Disney talk put me in the frame of mind for waffles.

This has been a staple of the family since 1990.

I wasn't sure when the last time was that I'd used this. It was quite dusty on the box top, so it has to have been over a year ago.

The interior was a bit dirty so I scrubbed it before plugging it in. The interior is ostensibly non-stick but I need to remember that, after so many years, the non-stick needs help. I forgot with the first waffle.

This wasn't as bad of a mess as it looks. I unplugged the waffle iron and used a fork to peel everything out of the iron.

This tasted good so I put the debris in a freezer bag and I'll use it on ice cream.

The other issue I had was not knowing how much to actually put in the waffle maker.

One-third cup was too much. One-fourth cup was too little. After dirtying two measuring cups, I settled on a bit shy of a third of a cup. What's always the issue is getting the batter into the ears so you get a full ear.

The ears can, with the right amount of batter, fill in, but it's much cooler to have them be the circle.

There was enough batter to make several waffles. I have no idea how long I have had this recipe.

I also don't remember where I got it. Given the paper, probably from a magazine. Shockingly, I have no pancake/waffle syrup in my house. I'm not sure how that slipped from the grocery list. However, this particular waffle does not benefit from maple syrup. These are best served with whipped cream.

I have enough for two meals, assuming I eat two waffles per meal. So, one lunch this week will be waffles at the office. I hope they are all jealous.

Beverage:  Scottish Breakfast tea