Barrett Manor

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

Here Comes The Snow Again...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

The snow has started to fall at the Manor. The forecast calls for 1-3 inches. We'll see what we get...

Filed under: Weather            
2/27/2015 10:52:28 AM
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Taking My Time Back, Step One

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

If I had anything approaching a resolution for this year, it was to try to carve out more free time. My definition of a weekend seems to be "catching up on stuff people dump in my lap at the last minute." I push myself to get things finished, and then I get to work on Monday cranky and with no rest. To channel Winston Churchill, this is something up with which I shall no longer put. 

Well, this is something I've brought on myself, and I have to take the initiative and put my foot down like Bronzino's cupid crushing a comedy troupe logo.

So it starts now. If you owe me something, I need it by Friday morning. Conversely, if I owe you something, let me know ASAP so I can get it done. Chances are I've forgotten about it or I'm waiting on someone else to get me something so I can finish my thing for you. In either case, ping me and I'll let you know.

Yes, I know there are weekend meetings and previously set deadlines that must be made. That's different. What I'm talking about is getting stuff dumped on me at the last minute. As the old cliche goes, lack of planning on your part will no longer constitute an emergency on my part.

The weekend starts as soon as Paul walks in the door, or I drop everything at 5ish to start dinner. 

This is going to be hard. I'll probably twitch all weekend knowing something isn't getting done, but it's a start on carving out more time for family. And for me.

Filed under: Life            
2/26/2015 9:54:58 AM
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ConDFW Report

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Better late than never, I suppose. I spent most of last week trying to fight off the crud, and just wasn't up to writing.

This year I was a vendor as well as a program participant at ConDFW. Thursday night I checked in...and managed one of my patent pending klutzy moves, meaning I spent the weekend limping around and with a wrist in brace for most of the time. 

Friday's alternate history panel was fun, even though I had an asthma attack. Then we went down for dinner. One thing this hotel needs is some lower-priced food options in the evening.$46 before tip for two people (no alcohol) is kinda high. They did have a reasonably priced food station going during the day, and I did take advantage of it. But I really wasn't keen on leaving to go find food because the half the freeway interchange was shut down for construction. Not ConDFW's fault, but the last thing I wanted to do after a long day was to fight construction traffic.

Saturday Lorretta Morgan and I tag-teamed the Wearable Electronics panel. It went over well, and I was pleased with the response. I think the tag-team format worked well. While one of us talked, the other was passing stuff around or prepping the next part of the presentation. It kept things moving nicely. 

Sunday was the fascinator demo. I was really looking forward to that, and only a couple of people attended, which was disappointing. I hope they learned something. The Mad Hatters panel later in the day was better attended.

Sadly, the dealer room was dead. I did do well in the art show this year, but I didn't sell enough to cover my dealer table fees. My table partner got the viral stomach crud that was going around and had to back out Saturday and Sunday, which meant there were times the table was unattended. I'll give it one more year and see if it improves. When a con moves hotels attendance is generally off the first year. 

I spent last week doing a whole lot of nothing, and it was good. Well, it would have been better if I hadn't been fighting off the crud, but I can't have everything. 

Above all, it was great to see old friends, and I do hope to be back next year!

Filed under: Life            
2/23/2015 10:46:05 AM
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My ConDFW Schedule

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Forgot to post this. Pardon the typos, but I made one of my patent-pending klutzy moves last night, and I'm still waiting on the sodium naproxen to kick in. 

In addition to the programming, I'll have stuff in the Art Show, and I'll also have a table in the Dealers Room. Please stop by and say hi, and if you want to buy stuff, I won't stop you. ;-)

Friday 3 PM, Programming 2 (Madison): For Want of a Nail
Alternate history geeks talk ... you know, alternate history. 
With: Lou Antonelli (M0), Melanie Fletcher, Rie Sheridan Rose.

Saturday 11 AM in the Art Show: Demystifying Wearable Electronics
Lorretta Morgan and I will talk about how to enhance your costumes - or every day wear - with wearable electronics. We'll also show you where to find parts. Bring along your own projects to show or get troubleshooting help.
(Update: I'm told Steve Liptak will be joining us. I'm sure he'll have some awesome stuff to share.)

Sunday 11 AM in the Art Show: Easy Fascinator Fabrication
I'll be showing how to make a buckram base fascinator using items you can find at the craft store. No ordering expensive supplies or hat blocks!

Sunday 2 PM, Programming 3 (Hamilton): Screenplays for Dummies
What it says on the tin.
With: David L. Gray (M), Dan Bernardo, Teresa Patterson, Mary Gearhart-Gray

Sunday, 3 PM in the Art Show: The REAL Mad Hatters
Yes, it's the return of the mad hatters. We'll show you some hats we've made and discuss construction, sourcing, and so on. (Maybe I'll bring the Infamous Three Ferret Hat!)
With: Peggy Dee Haslbauer, Steve Liptak, Dan Bernadro, Lorretta Morgan.

See you this weekend!

Filed under: Conventions            
2/13/2015 9:27:19 AM
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To The Copypasta Brigade

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

This is mostly directed at people who comment at a certain web site, and who will probably never see this, but I have to get it off my chest:

Are you one of those people who copy bits from articles you find on other web sites and "forget" to mention the source? It matters not if you're liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between. Please consider the following:

You read that piece (or at least part of it) on a web site somewhere and thought enough of it to copy part (or all) of it and paste it into the comment section of a news site to bolster your position. The author of that article is flattered that you thought that much of their writing, but would appreciate it if you were to give them a little credit.

You thought that piece touched a nerve (right or wrong) with you, tickled your fancy, or simply provided a factoid you needed to make your point. Please give the author the compliment of linking back to the original article. 

But..but.. someone will complain that I quoted Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow and see it as proof of my lack of intellectual stature! Well, that's their problem. 

Here's what you're doing when you link back to the source:

* Yes, you're giving credit to the author. It's okay if you agree with them, but please consider that author spent time crafting those words (hopefully) checking their facts, and ensuring the grammar and spelling was correct. (And yes, editors may have been involved on the latter front, as well.) 

* It gives you credibility. Stuff that gets copied and pasted over and over tends to take on a life of its own. Some people "improve" upon the writing, or change the facts to fit their agenda. Before you know it, an article on toenail fungus can morph into a screed on back hair. (I'm trying to stay apolitical. Give me a break.)  A lot of people - whether or not they disagree with you - like to find the source of that factoid so they can be better informed. I've lost track of the times I've gone down an Internet rabbit hole trying to find the source of some screed that's been copied and pasted - and morphed- many times over the course of a year. And you know what? It makes you look bad because you just copied and pasted it. What if you hate toenail fungus but love back hair and the screed you copied and pasted in favor of back hair was originally an ode to toenail fungus? Well, maybe no one will see your embarrassed blushing through your back hair.

* When you give credit to an author, you're supporting them. Maybe you don't have the money to subscribe to the web site of your choice, but you're supporting the author and the web site by showing your source.

* You don't look like a complete idiot because someone with half an ounce of sense and enough brains to use Google checked up on you. 

* Because plagiarism is bad. When you take someone's words and try to pass them off as your own, that's theft. And you know what? People can tell. They see they off the cuff remarks you make in the comment threads, and then suddenly you post something in a completely different style. If you don't think someone isn't going to check up on you, think again. 

Be honest. Be yourself. Give credit where it's due. 

Thank you for listening. And if you find this useful and want to share, please give me credit. ;-)

Tags: Life  Writing

Filed under: Life   Writing         
2/3/2015 7:47:33 PM
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Monday Mumblings Gets To Work

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Well, before I get off my tail and get to work, I have a couple of things to get off my mind.

If you don't have your 1099s by now (if you're owed one or more), you should be getting them in the mail this week.

Please check those 1099s carefully against your checks. 

If your publisher (or contract employer) sends a check at the end of December, that's taxable income for the previous year, even if the check didn't arrive until after you paid your quarterly taxes.

That happened to me once. Fortunately, it was a small check, so it didn't cause problems. There was certainly no malice involved, either. The check had been lost in the mail and there were several postmarks on the envelope marking its journey across the country and back to my P.O. box - a 45 minute drive away from the company that issued the check!

I mention this because I've heard tales of places sending large checks dated before the end of the year, but mailed weeks later. I'm no lawyer or accountant, but if that happened to me, I'd be talking to the IRS and doing everything I could to avoid a penalty.

If that happens to you, please seek advice.

No I've got stuff to do.

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2/2/2015 11:25:44 AM
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Speaking Of Credit Lines...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Why yes, I was just blogging away about businesses and how some credit was a good thing to have when the mail arrived. I got a check!

Not so fast.

It looked like a check. It was on security paper and everything. Except there was no bank name or account number. 

Oh, I knew before I even opened the envelope that the so-called check was a fake. It looks like a check, but the first obvious clue is there is no bank name or account number printed on the face. I bet they tell all the girls they're worth $58,000.

The innertubes are full of complaints about this company. I won't say it's a scam, but it does seem to be one of those deals where the customer had better understand every jot and tittle of that fine print before they even consider signing on the bottom line. 

Here are some tips from the FTC. I'll just say that the copy on the letter that was enclosed with the check filled in several of their bingo squares. 

So thanks, lender, but no thanks.  

Filed under: Life            
1/15/2015 11:34:57 PM
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Tax Day

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

It's January 15, so therefore I must be getting tax payments out the door.


For once, all the calculations are finished, and I just have to transfer them to the state sales tax paperwork (not due for a few days yet, but as long as I'm at it...) and cut a check to the IRS for quarterly taxes.

I take taxes seriously, which is why I've been so flummoxed over some anonymous poster (not saying where I saw this) that tax liens are a business plan. You read that right. The idea is to hold onto the cash and invest it because the interest will far outweigh what you owe the tax man.Well, I don't know about where the troll lives, but if my property taxes are six months overdue, I get hit with a 33% in interest and penalties. Granted, the interest is only 6%, but it's the penalties that make you sit up and take notice and say, "maybe I ought to pay that sucker or make some kind of payment agreement." 

I don't even want to think about what would happen if I owed the IRS.

(Standard disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer or an accountant, and I don't play one on TV. But I do know not to mess with the tax man.)

Which is why I can't understand the idea of a keeping a tax lien on my company as a solid business plan. Investments are a risky business, and the higher the potential return, the higher the risk. What would get me over 33% in six months? 

Also, a tax lien would get on my credit report, making it difficult for me to get credit should I need it. A line of credit is a good thing, even if you never use it. Emergencies happen. What if one of my clients doesn't pay up and I have bills due? I'm a sole proprietor, but what if I had employees? I can't not pay them because a client didn't pay up. I'd be in a whole heap o' trouble. 

Tell me again how this is a good thing for my business?

As a contractor and an author, here's the other side of the proverbial coin: People like me like to get paid, just like people working for da man like to get their paychecks on time. If a business I'm contracting to or a publisher that owes me royalties goes under, I and my fellow contractors/authors are at the bottom of the pile. Our debts are unsecured, and the court will think about sending us a pittance when the other, secured debts are discharged. Maybe a group of unsecured creditors with clout and good lawyers can negotiate a reduced payment. The tax man is right up there with the secured creditors because he has a lien on property or other assets. I know this because a company I was contracting to filed for bankruptcy and I was owed for a couple of invoices. It was a long and nasty mess, but it could have been worse.

One thing the anonymous poster had right (sort of) is that liens are sometimes part of doing business. Or maybe I should say the threat of liens. If you've bought a house or financed a car or capital equipment for your business, you probably agreed that the lender can place a lien on the property you secured for the loan if you don't pay up. Of course, if you make your payments on time, it can help your credit rating.  If you don't, it hurts your credit rating. it's that simple. 

Again, I'm not a lawyer or an accountant. And if you have reason to show that having a tax lien on your property is a good business plan, then please show me your credentials and tell me exactly how that works. I'm open to novel ways of keeping my money, just not illegal or terribly risky ones.

And now, I'd better go finish my taxes so I can get them off in the mail.

Filed under: Life   Business         
1/15/2015 9:53:36 AM
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35 Years Ago Today...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Paul and I said "I do." 

I still don't know how he puts up with me. And I'm amazed to wake up beside him each morning because I'm the one who snores and steals the covers (mostly). It's been more my sickness and his health, and he's always been there.

So Happy Anniversary, Paul. I love you more and more every day.

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1/12/2015 2:40:16 PM
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It's Friday. Have A Cat.

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Midnight has been spending a great deal of the day asleep on top of the desk. She's laying on several anti-static cloths we spread out in front of the printer.

Lately she's been in a "pet me" mood, and even moreso since Paul has been working at home for a couple of days. If she's not in his lap, then she's pacing back and forth along the long side of the big "L"-shaped desk here in the home office, begging for attention. For a time she found a great home on top of the materials I was trying to retype into a database. Hey,  that was fun. 

But now she's shagged out after a long bout of begging for attention, I have no doubt she'll stir again when we decamp to the kitchen (which we will do Real Soon Now), for there lay the bags of Treats.

And yeah, I'm going to have to wash those cloths. But cat hair is the perfect accessory for touch screens, especially if shed from from Geek Kitty. That's what she thinks.

Have a good weekend, and stay warm!

Tags: Pictures   Cats

Filed under: Pictures   Cats         
1/9/2015 6:04:47 PM
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6/26/2015  - 6/28/2015