Stately

Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

SoonerCon Wrap-Up

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


SoonerCon celebrated their 25th convention this weekend, and boy, did they pull out the stops! Kudos to the entire committee for another excellent event!

SoonerCon is my con home away from home. FenCon is always my home con, but since I help run it I never get to see much of what's going on. I always come home from OKC doing my Sally Field impression. And this year...wow! So many wonderful people, so many hugs, so many nice things. So, what happened? 

Friday was an up and down day, but the down bits were absolutely no fault of the convention. First, my watch had failed to charge overnight. I was glad I remembered the charging stand, so I did have enough of a charge on it in time for my panel. We got on the road early, to the con early, got set up in the Art Show, and then I realized I was late for a panel. I left the Art Show stuff undone, ran to my room to get stuff for the panel...and realized the panel was an hour later. Kudos to the Art Show staff for being understanding. So the first panel (I was moderating. Eeep!) was "Stump a Whovian." It kind of wandered around a bit, but I think a good time was had by all. Sadly, I missed the Art Show reception as we decided we had better go get some food before it got to be too late. And that was where I didn't choose wisely. We ate off-site, and while the food was good, I was up most of the night. And we'll leave it at that. Then I went to plug in my tablet, and found it wouldn't charge. But of course it had material for a Saturday panel on it.

Saturday I went to the Kaffeeklatche, caught up with a few people, and then sat in a corner nursing half a cup of coffee and a muffin so I could be awake for the hat panel at 10. I coaxed enough power out of the tablet to be able to show the material. The panel was good. The audience had some excellent questions, too. That's one of the things that makes for a really good panel. Next up was "I'm an Oakie from Orion," which was kind of a celebration of fandom in flyover country. That was a topic with potential to go all over the place, and it did. Heard a lot of funny stories there. 

Saturday night was the costume contest and the radio show. This year's offering was "It Came from the North Canadian River," and it seemed to go over well. (Click the link to get to the show.) 

Then we had the FenCon party. Thanks to everyone who attended, and especially to Ellen, Mike, Karen, and Louann for all their work to put it on.

Sunday! Sunday! started out with a panel on Classic Doctor Who. That one kind of went all over the place, too, but it worked. Sometimes it's good when that happens. Then there was the "Story in an Hour" panel. I learned more than I contributed, I fear.

One thing I thought was very cool was that several employees of the hotel and conference center got into the spirit by wearing costumes. 

So a good time was had by all, and now I get to rest. Thanks again to the SoonerCon committee for inviting me and for putting on such a great show.

Filed under: Conventions   SoonerCon         
6/27/2016 2:29:24 PM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




Check Your Meme: Whose Social Security Number?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Today's tired old meme says the president's Social Security number belongs to a guy born in 1890.

fell_for_that_meme.jpg

Of course, Snopes has the scoop, but apparently that's some pointy-haired liberal conspiracy blog. (Maybe I'll debunk that one later.) According to the Social Security Death Index, the number belongs to someone named John Paul Ludwig, born in 1890 and died in 1981. The card was issued in 1951, well before Barack Obama was born. Also, the number is differs by a couple of digits. There are other Social Security number conspiracy theories as well. 


But here's the thing that gets me. Back in 2008 John McCain and Hillary Clinton had the money and the resources to look into every single one of those theories, including the one that Obama is not a natural born citizen. Don't you think that would have been a bombshell that changed the course of the election had one of them been able to provide incontrovertible proof of any of this nonsense? Yeah, but it's more fun to sit in your basement and believe all this crap that floats around on the Internet. 

And with that I'm actually closing the comments on this one because I don't want to mess with the conspiracy theory nuts.

Filed under: Check Your Meme            
6/3/2016 10:21:26 AM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




New Feature: Check Your Meme

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I'm getting so tired of debunking memes on Facebook that I decided it was time to debunk them here so I could just link back to them later. 

Of course, a meme debunker deserves a meme of its own, right?

fell_for_that_meme.jpg

I miss Abby. But that's another post.

The meme going around says something like this: "Obama just gave himself a massive pay raise...forever!" The memes I see also mention that he's increased his pension by some ginormous amount, which varies.

First, the president's salary is set by Congress, and it's been $400,000 a year since January 1, 2001. Salary cannot also be increased or reduced during a president's term in office, and that salary is set by Congress. (Look that one up in your Pocket Constitution.) 

Now, what about pensions? A presidential pension is tied to the annual basic pay of heads of executive branch departments. That would be someone at the level of Cabinet Secretary, who earns around $200K. Except what the president has asked for isn't a pension increase. It's an increase in budget for other expenses under the Former Presidents Act.

You want proof? It's right here, in 2017 Congressional Justification produced by the GSA. (Search for "former president.") Yes, he has an appropriation for a pension and other items. Because duh, he's going to be a former president starting in January of next year. Also, historically the amount appropriated to an outgoing president is higher than what they get in typical years due to the transition. There's also usually a disbursement for the establishment of a Presidential Library. 

In addition to a pension, staff, office (did you know we're paying less for Clinton's New York office than G. W. Bush's Dallas office? I had no clue until I dug through this document), there's security. I absolutely agree that former presidents should have security - even the ones I didn't vote for. There are too many nutcases out there these days. They all deserve protection. 

Also note that, while those funds are budgeted, unused funds go back to the Treasury. When a former president dies, their widow if living) gets a reduced pension and some other benefits, but all those allocated funds that are unspent go back to the Treasury. 

One final note: This is a budget request, and it's not a done deal. 

So no, Obama didn't give himself a massive pension increase.

Check Your Meme!


Filed under: Check Your Meme            
5/24/2016 4:07:55 PM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




Housekeeping!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


After getting slammed by a massive comment spam attack, I decided it was time to go in and rework the underlying code for part of the Journal.

I had to redo the ReCaptcha, and I think you'll like this one better. Instead of retyping words, you can select pictures. The old one was broken beyond repair and had so the comment form had become a spam trap. That should be fixed now. 

I've also gone in and made the text easier to read. 

Plus, I'm working on more content so I can update this on more of a regular basis. We'll see how it goes.



Filed under: Housekeeping            
5/24/2016 2:45:48 PM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




Don't worry...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I'll explain later.
Filed under:             
5/24/2016 12:07:56 AM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 6 | Permalink




My ConDFW Schedule

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I'm going to be a busy lady this weekend. In addition to manning the Steam Cat table in the gallery, I'll be on several programming items:

Friday
4:00pm in The Gallery: The Really Mad Hatters
Yeah, I think I qualify for that one. We'll talk about the process of putting a hat together and building a buckram frame. 

Saturday
11:00am in The Gallery: Tripping the Lights Fantastic
Tim Morgan and I will talk lighting for props and costumes. Bring your own items to show off. Got a problem with your project? We'll help you troubleshoot.

2-4pm in the Con Suite: FenCon tea! Come have a cuppa. Buy discounted memberships. See the Mad Hatter, I mean conchair!

5:00pm in Programming 4 (Jackson): Artemis Guys v Gals
It should be fun. Should I wear a red shirt? I'll be teamed up with Mel White, Linda Donahue, Rachael Acks, Kathy Turski, and Tex Thompson. We'll be up against Michael Ashleigh Finn, Mark Finn, Aaron de Orive, Stephen Patrick, Adrian Simmons, and Stephen Sanders.

6:00pm in Programming 2 (Madison): Choose your Destiny: Researching Alternate History
Pretty much what it says on the tin.
With Shanna Swendson (M), Jeremy Brett, Stina Leicht, and Jeff Dawson. 

Sunday! Sunday!
1:00pm in Programming 3 (Hamilton) Turning Stories into Screenplays
There's a little more to adapting a story for the screen (or audio) than sticking it on a board and driving a nail through it. My fellow compatriots and I will talk about it.
With SMarshall Ryan Marasca, David L. Gray, Mary Gearhart-Gray, Rachael Acks, and Aaron De Orive. I'll be moderating.

3:00pm in Main Programming (Jefferson) Intelligence is Overrated
We're not all as smart as Sherlock Holmes. So how do we get ourselves into that mindset and create all those cunning plans?
With: Seanan McGuire, Paul Black, Stina Leicht, Teresa Patterson. I'll be moderating. 

And don't forget to stop by the Steam Cat table and buy stuff. 

Filed under: Conventions            
2/9/2016 9:43:14 AM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




My Reality Check Bounced

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Well, 2015 was a pretty crappy year for me in terms of income, and 2016 doesn't look to be much better. But hey, should I be pleasantly surprised on that front I won't complain.

I have some goals for this year, and they're modest. One is to earn more money. The other is to increase my writing output. I have to temper that with the fact that I have some commitments for this year that I need to fulfill. I anticipate another busy year filled with stress. But hey, maybe if I have low expectations I don't be so bitterly disappointed.

And speaking of bitter disappointment, I've been seeing more and more stories of readers pissed to the gills when writers don't deliver the next book in a series in whatever time frame those readers expect. Holy crap, people. If you knew what a creative deals with on a day-to-day basis, you might think again. (Here's a piece I wrote a couple of years ago about that.)

Most writers are independent workers. Because we get to set our own hours and have the freedom to accept or turn down contract work, we're not covered by wage and hour rules. That's a two-edged sword. Hey! I can work when I feel like it, and in my bathrobe if I want! On the other hand, no one is obligated to offer me anything approaching a minimum wage for the time I put into a project. Hey! I'm free to negotiate a better rate! On the other hand, for every writer with talent and drive, for every writer who has paid their dues and worked their asses off to produce quality work, there are about a hundred people who think that because they learned to string two words together in school that they can do the same thing. And they're willing to take a pittance to get their names "out there."

The fact is that many - if not most - people writing fiction these days have other streams of income. Maybe they have a day job. Maybe they also freelance ad copy or work their tails off during tax season as an accountant. Some of us are fortunate to have a spouse who has a job with a decent wage and benefits. Maybe that writer is also caring for small children. Or an aging parent. Or a disabled relative. Yes, people with full time jobs are doing those same things, but virtually all have the security of a steady paycheck. 

Writing fiction is not a steady wage. And not every one can be at the top of the sales heap. What would you do if your boss told you that you had to work for three to six months or longer to help develop a new product, then wait until the sales staff went out and sold it before you saw a dime in wages? You'd tell them to take that job and place it where, you say? 

This is what we deal with every day. When you're flipping burgers you get a paycheck. When you're working on a retail floor, putting together cars, fitting pipes, exploring for oil, working for someone else, you get a paycheck. Writing and art are speculative businesses. It takes anywhere from three months to a year for most writers to produce a book length manuscript. Once that manuscript is finished, the author goes back through to check for obvious problems. Then it goes to beta readers. Then the writer produces another draft based on that feedback. Then, and only then, does it go out the door. If that writer isn't under contract for that particular book, then she gets to send it to their agent or submit it to publishers and wait. During that time she can start another book. But it's often several months before an acceptance - if there is one. Hooray! A contract! An advance! Depending on that contract, 1/3 of the advance is probably paid on acceptance, another 1/3 after edits at the publisher are completed, and another 1/3 on publication. 

And check out what authors get for advances at most major houses. That's not a lot to live on. And out of those advances we get to pay taxes, and those of us who have agents pay them a 15% commission. A good agent is worth every penny. But if I get a $10,000 advance (and that may have been paid in installments), I get $7500 if I have an agent, and then I get hit with the double tax whammy. You know that 7.5% you pay for Social Security and Medicare taxes? That's split with your employer. If you're self-employed, you're responsible for the entire 15%. I get to set that aside along with what I anticipate will be income taxes. I get to pay income taxes quarterly. And if that $10K is all I make in a year and I happened to be single, I'd probably get back the income tax portion of what I sent to the IRS. I'd still be on the hook for the employment taxes.

So what does that have to do with the next book in a series? Maybe nothing, but perhaps a lot. It depends on the author and their particular situation. If that series is from a first time author and they only got $10K for the book and they're single, I can pretty much guarantee you they've got a day job or they're off scrambling for other sources of income. 

So what can you do? Well, buy the damn book. Don't get a pirate copy. Encourage them, but don't demand. Extra pressure isn't going to help. If we were all able to produce brilliant copy on demand, you wouldn't be waiting for that next book. Support authors you like. How? Buy their books. Recommend their work to others. 

And speaking of reality checks, it's time for me to finish my yearly taxes. I'd write up a taxes drinking game, but then I'd be too drunk to do the paperwork properly. But that begs the question: Could I write off the booze? Hmmm....

Filed under: Life            
1/13/2016 4:21:32 PM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




Seriously, Folks, It's Free Enterprise

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


This is something I wrote back in 1988. Apart from cleaning up formatting and fixing a couple of typos (we didn't have spell check in those days, and it was possible for copy editors to miss things) here it is in all its gory. I mean, glory:

I can't believe we're passing up on the marketing gimmick of a lifetime. 
It's little wonder that America, the land of the sort of free trade and the 
home of the Pet Rock, has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the globe. Yes, we've got no respect. We seem to be lacking in ingenuity, folks. 

You are no doubt wondering why I have suddenly turned my word processor to a serious topic. The blame falls upon my editor, who insists that I am not doing my part to end world suffering, promote peace, and win a Pulitzer Prize for commentary like some other humor writers have. Therefore, she has assigned me the topic of How to Help the American Economy, and has threatened me with the thumbscrews if I do not write an actual piece of serious journalism.

Regular readers of this space are well aware that I've done my share of serious pieces. Witness the two columns I devoted solving the budget crisis in Texas. Is it my fault that no one took seriously my suggestion that the state charge folks for gawking at traffic accidents? I've also spent a year warning the populace of the imminent invasion of the dreaded Flying Asian Cockroach, and believe me, you haven't heard the last of that one yet. Still, I shall press on.
 
The aforementioned marketing opportunity is slipping away through our fingers faster then we can say "Grand Old Party." Curiously enough, it's another topic I've devoted entire columns to. Dear Readers, we are missing out on our chance to put a husband and wife team in the White House.

For those who are new to this column, here's the idea in brief: Why not take Robert and Elizabeth Dole, two politicians from the heartland of Kansas, and elect them as president and vice president? It really doesn't matter who gets which position. It's the marketing angle we're looking at.

Of course, there are other good things that would come out of such a match-up in Washington. For starters, there would be only one family for the Secret Service to look after. And talk about simplifying affairs of state! The vice president would finally have as much say as the presidential spouse would.

But enough of that. We were talking about the marketing angle, weren't we? If we get a matched pair in the White House, think of all of the things our American entrepreneurs could come up with to capitalize on it.

We could have Bob and Liz salt and pepper shakers. Just the thing for spicing up an All-American breakfast. The same company could also produce the Dole butter dish and knife set, for folks who know which side their bread is buttered on.

Let's not forget those cute ceramic figurines. Collect the whole set. President Elizabeth and vice president Robert. Or the other way around. Or both if they manage to make four terms out of it.

Someone will undoubtedly try to market a pair of gloves, but since the pair will contain only right hands, they'll have to be packaged with a pair of Gerald Ford commemorative gloves.

Of course, we have a major problem in that Robert Dole has dropped out of the race, meaning that unless there is a "draft the Doles" movement this summer at the convention, all of these wonderful ideas would be worth slightly less than the current value of the U.S. dollar. So, in order to make my editor  (and my thumbs) happy, I'll devote the rest of this week's space to a new marketing project.

If we can't compete with imports from the east, the least we can do is try and capitalize on them in some way, and what better import to start with than the dreaded Flying Asian Cockroach? (I told you you hadn't heard the last of this one.) Yes, even as you read this, the cockroaches are making their way across these United States. These large, winged creatures love people and they  love the daylight. Cringe if you must, but think of the possibilities:

A good kiddie toy is in order here, and I suggest the Flying Asian Cockroach Backyard Barbeque and Tactical Assault Team Set. See Mommy and Daddy and Brother and Sister enjoying a nice backyard outing. See the Flying Asian Cockroaches attack the bug light. See the family turn into a crack commando squad, complete with miniature Uzi guns, and wipe out both the bugs and the& neighborhood.

We could tie that into a Saturday morning cartoon series, too. Think of all the toy makers and animators we could put to work on that one. Of course, the program would be educational, teaching the children how to eradicate a pesky life form from this planet. Of course, we couldn't get too educational, lest the little ones get the idea that nerdy cousin Fred belongs in the same category.

See, all it takes is a little American determination and we could get our  economy turned around again. America, land of the free Flying Asian Cockroach model in every box of breakfast cereal and home of the brave columnist who is learning to type with a pair of broken thumbs. Kinda brings tears to your eyes, doesn't it? 

(Author's note: So you made it to the bottom! Yes, this is very dated. And whatever happened to the Flying Asian Cockroach, anyway? They are here. And they have assimilated. Be afraid.)

Filed under: Humor            
1/5/2016 10:00:58 AM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




Politics of the Past

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Yesterday I posted this image to Facebook:


Once upon a time I worked in radio. And I got to cover the 1984 GOP convention. I was also writing a humor column at the time, and I picked up a few odd souvenirs that I thought might make good fodder because, well, why not?

I also picked this guy up:

fritz_busters.png

Both say something about the times. The top button also played music, apparently. 

While I was biding my time waiting on a package I decided to see if I could find the article in question. Dang it, it's not in the electronic archives. But I did find something else from 1988, which seems oddly appropriate. I'll post it in a separate entry.



Filed under: Pictures            
1/5/2016 9:53:32 AM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




Meowy Catmas!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


At last! The 2015 Catmas Card!




Filed under: Cats   Pictures   Catmas      
12/21/2015 3:43:56 PM
C'mon, leave a comment. Make with the clicking, already!
Comments so far: 0 | Permalink




12345678910...Last


Search the Journal:

  

Full RSS Feed
Short RSS Feed
Comments RSS Feed
 
Search Tags:




Events and Appearances: All