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Archive for June, 2007

Creepy Mutant Tomatoes Week 8 and 9

June 13th, 2007 at 06:55 pm

Have no fear, the tomatoes are still here!

Actually, we're down to one, but boy is this one hearty.

Here were the two remaining tomatoes on Saturday, after 8.5 weeks. As you can see, once has a bad end (that could so be cut off and the rest of the tomato could be used).



For comparison purposes, here is the remaining 8.5 week old tomato hiding in a basket with week old tomatoes from the flea market. Can you tell which is which?



Today at 9 weeks and 1 day, the final creepy mutant tomato is still holding strong. Here he his hiding with the remaining flea market tomatoes, now 1.5 weeks old. Can you find him? Hint: he's not the one on the left!



Here he is in full glory: a tomato I've had in my posession for over 9 weeks, which makes it easily close to two and a half months old. CREEPY!!!

Confession: I am a Design Junkie

June 8th, 2007 at 07:19 am

Hello.

My name is Tina, and I am a Design Junkie. (Hi Tina)

If you don't know what I mean, then read on and it might get a little clearer.

The concept of a junkie can apply to any type of design, really. Do you collect paint chip cards, fabric and wallpaper swatches, and pages from magazines with pictures of great rooms? Then you, my friend, are an Interior Design Junkie (IDJ). If you watch shows like "Pimp My Ride" or "OverHaulin" and get hyped up when the Discovery channel runs a show on future cars, the you are an Automotive Design Junkie (ADJ).

Personally, I'm a Graphic Design Junkie (GDJ). The symptoms:

1. I belong to a website called ColorLovers where people put together color palettes and you can collect them. I have 128 on my 'favorites' list and I want to find ways to use them all. When I look at some of these palettes of color, I can instantly see a business card or website or brochure made out of them. I just need to find a client to go with it.

2. I have over 1300 fonts. This isn't enough. When I have nothing else to do I scour the web looking for more. Got any good ones? Wanna trade (like baseball cards)?

3. I have so many fonts, I use a separate program to organize them. It's called The Font Thing. I can group them together in whatever method makes sense to me, so I have a groups like 'retro', 'futuristic', 'classic', 'funny', 'typewriter', etc. I can temporarily install a font, use it, and then uninstall it to keep things like MS Word from having 1300 fonts in it's list.

4. I have willingly browsed the Flickr set on business card design inspiration.

5. When I get bored and can't find any good fonts, I do weird things like make web 2.0 badges (aka 'violators' aka those star shaped sticker lookin' thingies on websites), glassy orbs and globes, cartoon flowers and people, and logos using Open Source software like the GIMP and Inkscape. Just for fun, you know.

6. I can completely rationalize my desire to spend a couple hundred dollars on a used Wacom digitizer tablet (where you draw with a stylus instead of a mouse). After all, think of the money I'll save on co-pays and wrist braces by NOT developing carpal tunnel...

Edit: Can't believe I forgot # 7!
7. I have visited three online color picking and combining websites within the past month. Two of them are still up in one of my browser windows. Color Jack let's you combine colors and then download the palette in several different formats. Well Styled's picker gives you fewer color combination options but more palette downloading options. VisiBone's ColorLab has been around for years and is still one of the most popular pickers around. You can't download the palette, but it is the only one I've seen that will show you how one color will look like on another when used for text. Too neat...

*Sigh*

So, there you have it. My dirty little secret is out: I am a Graphic Design Junkie.

OK, enough writing. I'm gonna go drool over some pretty colors and download some more fonts!!! Big Grin

Paycheck Update

June 6th, 2007 at 05:52 pm

In case you missed the drama, I found out today that my paycheck from 5/31 bounded. Ugh...

Well, for a bit I thought I was the only one. At lunch, a co-worker called from the office and said someone else's check bounced. By the time I got back from lunch, two more met the fate for a total of four. Bear in mind, we only hand out seven paychecks, so this is over 50%.

Our office manager (who also cuts our payroll, and yes her check bounced too) spent the afternoon on the phone with the CFO in Florida and our overseeing VP in Chicago. See, my current company was bought a year ago by a company based in Chicago who uses a bank from PA and the accounting is overseen by a CFO in Florida. Confused yet?

At any rate, we're expecting new paychecks overnighted for all seven of us, so we should see them tomorrow. Their story? They're in the middle of switching bank accounts and payroll was drawn on the old one... Rolleyes

Perhaps it's just me, but that sounds too much like the "I forgot to sign the check" gambit when someone can't pay their electric bill.

At any rate, I made a call at lunch to my former boss. Yes, the one I'm doing contract work for. He's in the middle of starting a new venture (hence the contract work) and he and his new partner have already expressed interest in luring me away from my current job. My phone call was basically to let them know they could get started with the luring.

See, this company I'm at now was this guy's baby, and was in great shape when he was there. Things started to go downhill fast once it got bought last year, even more so when he left the organization in December/January.

The partner I mentioned? He's another cigar store customer we've known for about 7 years now who has been running his own successful local business since retiring at 50. I know several of his employees (also cigar store customers) and can confirm that this business hasn't once had a financial hiccup thus far. To put it in some kind of weird perspective, he drives a Lamborghini and paid cash for it...

Lessons readers may want to take from my odd-ball day:

1. It pays to keep some cash locally, not just in an online savings account.
Having cash meant I could get gas today with no worries (yeah, I'd been riding the light for a day). I could have used a credit card, but what if they check thing didn't get cleared up for a month and I couldn't pay the bill in full?

2. Apparently it's easy to meet future employers at a cigar store.
OK, not exactly. My family's cigar store is where I 'network' with a lot of people from a lot of different industries, and as a result I can quickly and easily put out feelers when it comes time to look for another job. If I get hired on with Mr. Lambo's company, that will be the third job I've gotten from that store. Not to mention the contract work it helps generate.

Networking isn't the bad word some people seem to think it is. And there's nothing smarmy or unseemly about it, it's simply being friendly and personable, listening to people and getting to know them. You might know it under another name: "fellowship". No matter what you call it, it's getting to know the folks around you, and being there for one another when needed.

Take the cigar store: we've been there for customers during marriages and divorces, births and deaths, illnesses and celebrations. We have a lunch crowd, a Friday afternoon crowd, etc. Customers come in and hang out for a couple of house, and many of them bring their computers and work (they call it the field office!). We even have potlucks once a quarter. People bring in their pets, their kids, and friends and family from out of town.

If we have a customer who has a widget for sale, chances are we'll hear of someone this week looking to buy a widget. Need a plumber, carpenter, electrician, mechanic, police officer, golf pro, realtor, computer guru, or doctor? I know one (or more) of each, and every one of them has had dinner at my house or my parents'.

You probably don't network at a cigar store, but the principle is the same no matter where you do it. Trust me, it's not a dirty word.

My Paycheck Bounced

June 6th, 2007 at 08:06 am

Yes, you read that correctly.

I deposited my paycheck of $1300+ on Thursday 5/31. My bank automatically credits deposits, so the amount was immediately available in my account. I took out my $200 allowance and the weekly $100 for groceries.

On 6/3 my monthly automated savings went through, removing another $817 from checking. Today I was notified that my paycheck was returned for non-sufficient funds and the amount was debited from my account. While I didn't have that full amount in the primary checking, I did have more than enough to cover it between my slush fund savings and (gulp!) my secondary checking account that I use for my side business...

So, here's the good news:

1. Even after temporarily loosing a paycheck I'm not broke.

2. Since I bank with a credit union, I am not faced with a returned check fee.

3. Also, the credit union representative automatically shifted my money around to cover the withdrawal before she even called me, rather than leaving me to take care of it my self.

4. I have $500 worth of courtesey pay on all three of my credit union accounts, so I have access to a total of $1500 should I actually have need of it. This is equal to one month's bills without groceries.

5. DH's bi-weekly contribution to the household account will hit today or tomorrow, so we shouldn't have to miss a beat when it comes to the bills that are automatically drafted from checking.

And the bad news?

MY EFFIN' PAYCHECK BOUNCED IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!

OK, sorry for the caps, but since I can't scream that out loud to the higher ups here I thought I'd at least try to get it out of my system.

Seriously, I bring home 60% of the income for our household. We live and pay debt off my money and save almost all that DH contributes for short, mid, and long term savings. It's a nice system, has worked for months now, and this is so putting a cramp in my fiscal style. GAH!!!

Not to mention the fact that, while a $1300 paycheck seems like an OK chunk of change, it really ought to be NOTHING for a corporation. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS? You've got to be kidding me!!! The word I'm getting right now is that they're expecting a wire transfer today and my bank can resend the check this afternoon. There are so many things wrong with this situation that I cannot even begin to list them...

And scariest of all? I'm supposed to get my next paycheck next Friday the 15th, when there's a distinct possibility I won't yet have the funds from this paycheck. What do you think are the odds that the next check will go through?

Oh, and 80% of my bills are due from the 15th through the end of the month. La la la...

So, here's my plan:

1. I just confirmed that no bills are set to be automatically drafted before DH's paycheck hits. This is good, our next 4 upcoming bills can be paid with no issue.

2. If I have to, I can pull 3k down from the NY savings account.

3. The money for the homeowner's insurance bill is still safe and sound in NY. I will leave it there until this mess is straightened out.

4. I'm making some calls and seriously considering jumping ship. I've already had someone ask if I was ready to come work for them, and I'm about to let them know the answer is 'YES'!

Another point of view: maybe this is a sign I should just focus my energies on my slightly super-secret side business.

Message to the Powers that Be: next I would appreciate a more subtle sign! Bah....

Luv Me Some Flea Market Veggies

June 2nd, 2007 at 11:20 am

Went to the flea market for produce around 1pm. Was back at the house and unloaded before 2pm.

Spent $19.80.

Got the following:

3 purple onions
3 green bell peppers
5 avocados
4 jalapenos
6 ears of corn
2 regular pears
3 weirdo pears (I like trying new foods for cheap!)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of spinach
15 limes
4 (5?) lbs of roma tomatoes

As a result I can now make the following throughout the week just using items I have on hand:
* pico de gallo
* guacamole
* roasted corn
* regular (cold) spinach salad
* wilted spinach salad with bacon dressing (sale bacon in the freezer)
* tacos or nachos (sale ground beef in the freezer)
* glazed baby carrots (carrots on hand)
* Beef or pork stir fry (sale steak and pork roast in the freezer)
* Beef or pork shish kabobs
* Ceviche (sale tilapia in the freezer)
* Grilled tilapia with lime-dill butter
* Pork chops with poached or grilled pears

And if I go to the store and get chicken thighs, cheese, rolls, and tortillas I can make:
* bacon tomato sandwiches
* grilled Southwest chicken
* chicken salad
* quesadillas
* California wrap sandwiches (bacon, avocado, chicken, spinach, ranch dressing)
* Mexican soup (chicken broth, chunked chicken, rice, pico de gallo, and slices of avocado)
* Jamaican jerk chicken with black beans, rice, and corn bread (have all but the chicken)
* Tequila-lime chicken (um, yeah, there's tequila in the freezer too)

Not quite a menu, but it's close!

Great, now I'm hungry....

SSSSB is Starting to Take Off

June 2nd, 2007 at 06:56 am

My slightly super-secret side business is generating some interest, which is great! A lot of it is still from people I know locally, and I'm actually AOK with that. Personally, I think some of the less tech-savvy businesses in the area would prefer to deal with a web host that has a local presence, so I'm happy to stick in that niche.

Here's what I'm looking at for the month of June so far:

1. Working for my former boss
Yes, the one who paid for the lingerie site... Big Grin

Anyways, I've agreed to a 20 hour contract to research OpenSource solutions for a project he's bidding on. Also, flesh out the proposal doc with technical specifications once a possible solution is found. If there's time, throw up an example site for some screen shots. He's not really worked with OS before, only high-dollar propritary stuff like .NET and Lotus Notes, so he brought me in to take a look since the client in question doesn't have a big budget. Sometimes it pays to be a girl who can find things...

Once completed, this has the potential to generate another contract to actually create the site in question, and possibly to secure a web hosting contract with the client. But, I don't want to cout my eggs before they hatch, so I'm only including the current 20 hour contract.

2. Working for my co-worker
This gentleman is already a customer: he has a web hosting account and is quite pleased with his cost savings. YAY! He has his own slightly super secret side business, and has asked me to give him a quote on logo design, business card design, and web site design. My current estimate is 13 hours for all 3 projects.

For what it's worth, this is a perfect example of the fact that being a 'computer person' doesn't mean you can or want to do all things computer. This guy is a Lotus Notes and Domino system admin, and is quite good at what he does. He's been in the computing business for almost 20 years. With all that said, he has never gotten into web work. It's not that he couldn't do it, it's the fact that there's a pretty significant learning curve and it would therefore take him a while to get it done. It makes more sense for him to pay someone else to do it and for him to spend his time working with his clients, making money.

3. Referral from my co-worker
Yup, same guy! One of his clients is in the legal field with no website, still using an AOL email addresss. GAH! If you read The Top 7 Reasons Businesses Need a Website, you know that this is right there on the list. I mean really, who's going to deal with a legal professional with an AOL email address?

This company has been around for over a decade and is well respected in the industry, but the fact remains that it will get harder and harder for them to get new clients if they don't get online soon.

This is still in the proposal stage, so nothing is set in stone yet. It would be the situation where I would build it for the co-worker, he would pay me, and then he would turn around and mark it up a bit to sell to his client. No biggie in my opinion, as I know that he will happily bring future business to me. I'm estimating 10 hours of work for this, since I want to build it in such a fashion that either he or the client could maintain the site themselves.

4. Cambrian House
The link goes to my profile on Cambrian House, the other place I call home online. It's for people who have a nifty idea for a piece of software or a web site, and want to try to get it developed. Also for people who want to work on these types of ideas for a possible payout if things start to generate money. They have all kinds of members, not just tech heads. If you're a marketer, or designer, or just an idea person, you might want to check it out.

Anyways, I've spoken to a few members about possibly hosting their sites. Depending on the needs, I might set it up as free hosting in return for a link to me in the footer and just call it an advertising expense. Some of the others are possibly interested in setting up paid hosting accounts, since I'm offering a pretty unique pricing model by charging a per-unit price for disk space and bandwidth.

Most exciting of all is that what started out as a conversation about hosting a site for a member has turned into the possibility of me being involved in their business as a web master and as the Managing Editor. I'm excited because working in those two capacities would likely earn me a royalty share in the business (well, hopefully!), meaning I would get a cut of the profits when they start coming in. Not to mention the fees for the hosting...

Again, nothing set in stone, but still exciting.

-------------------

So, right now I've got 33 hours of work locked in, and another 10 hours of work as a good possibility. My hourly rate is cheap since I don't really have any overhead, so those work out to be $990-$1290 in billable invoices. Add to that the possibility of some passive income from the web hosting and royalty share, and things are starting to look bright indeed.