Barrett Manor

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

Oh. Dear.

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Found this while going through an old recipe book:


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12/3/2016 5:06:28 PM
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Defending Our Freedom

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

Amid all the memes and the prayers and the outright lies about 9/11, one veteran dared say something that didn't follow the "sacred" rules. And Facebook shat on him for it.

Jim Wright is a navy veteran of 25 years. He owns firearms. He is a certified instructor in use of same. Until recently, he lived in the wilds of Alaska, working in his wood shop, herding cats, and keeping a popular web site called Stonekettle Station.

Oh, and he's a liberal, which seems to have pissed of a hell of a lot of people to the point that his essay on 9/11 was removed from Facebook. Facebook's reason is that it violated community standards.

Wait a minute. Facebook allows people to post conspiracy theories, question the president's birth, call for the assassination of our leaders and presidential candidates. And yet, when these same people who vehemently stand up for their rights to post this utter bullshit get offended by a veteran who pisses on their "freedom" parade, they make sure the post gets taken down. Hypocritical, much?

Wright's post went viral on Facebook, and the site has been busy swatting down all copies of it they can find. And yet, the very people he offended still get to go around calling him all sorts of nasty names and crowing because they got his post taken down.

I don't have to agree with what Wright says to defend his right to say it. He spent 25  years putting his life on the line so I could have the freedom to share my own opinion. Why the hell can't he have his? Is he supposed to toe some imaginary "freedom" line because he once wore a uniform of our armed services? 

Just because I can, I'm posting the link again. Go read it. It may offend the hell out of you, and that's your right. But the next time you complain that liberals are stomping your rights to free speech in the ground, remember that it was conservatives who got this guy's post taken down on Facebook - because they were offended. 

Facebook is a private entity, and we agree to its terms of service when we sign up. I didn't sign up for mob rule. I use Facebook to connect with people, and an now reconsidering whether or not it's good for my business to be associated with a company that allows hate speech to be spread on a daily basis while removing posts of people who attack those who spread hate speech. 

Go take a look at the article. I'm deliberately not posting an excerpt because Wright's words have been ripped off and used without attribution or payment. Some have twisted his words to mean something else. You need to read the source and decide for yourself. Yep, I'm deliberately driving traffic to his site.

Agree or disagree if you wish. But don't get your tighty whities in a wad because he dares to speak an opinion that goes against the grain. Drown it out with your pictures of eagles, your memes without root in truth, your petty name-calling. Just don't try to boot his posts from Facebook while you get to post your own opinion. Someone may very well try to drown yours out next.

Update: Jim Wright reports on Facebook that his post has been restored.

(I'm leaving comments open, but my house, my rules. Same goes on Facebook.)

Filed under: Facebook   Freedom of Speech   Stonekettle Station      
9/12/2016 7:58:30 AM
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Stop It.

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I woke up this morning to the devastating news of shots fired at a protest last night, killing four Dallas Police officers and one DART officer.

Predictably, the race baiting started - from both sides - even before the ink was dry on the newspapers. (Pardon the outdated metaphor, but it beats the inflammatory one that sprung to mind at first.)

Stop it. 

Let the officers do their job. As of now the one suspect killed apparently talked of killing officers. Three more are in custody and aren't cooperating.

Absent lack of evidence, we speculate.

Stop it.

Because of the nature of the protest, fingers are pointed in various directions. Black Lives Matter. White cops. The president. The KKK.

Stop It.

I've said this before in the aftermath of tragic shootings, and I'm going to say it again. Let the police investigate. Allow them to gather evidence, to interview suspects. Most of all, allow them to grieve for their fallen fellow officers. 

Relatives of the officers and other victims could very well be your neighbors, your co-workers, people in your congregation. Students at your school. Instead of engaging in useless speculation, offer some comfort. Pray with them, if that's your (and their) inclination. Offer to bring some food. Do what people do when they've lost someone close under other, less incendiary circumstances. 

Yes, I'm angry. I'm hurting. But it does no good for me to vent my anger in the wrong direction. There will be a time for that. For now, let's vent our anger towards doing something good. 

We are better than this.

Let's start it.

Filed under: News            
7/8/2016 9:22:39 AM
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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! 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
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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.

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
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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?


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
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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
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Don't worry...

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

I'll explain later.
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5/24/2016 12:07:56 AM
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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:

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. 

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
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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
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