State of the moment: Review

I have one more Final to go (having realized that I don’t have to wait until the due date to turn things in), and am feeling that familiar lack of knowing what to do, which happens at the end of every semester. This is from the lack of pressure of layers of classes issuing assignments which automatically go to the top of my priorities list and then get sorted by due date. I have one more night to worry about, and that’s it. On top of it, I am more than annoyed with that one class, and am waiting for it to be over.

Of course, most often — the end of the semester is filled with anticipating the next semester. I’ve got the official part of that tucked away, already. What is more important and a bit more bothersome, is translating my skills and passions into a workable plan for employment, including the eventual goal of becoming financially self-sustaining.

Today I’ve been reading over some of the materials put out by my alma mater as to what job titles to search, and where to search for them. When I heard to, “be prepared to move,” for a good job, they weren’t kidding. There are jobs out there which are interesting, and may fit my personality well, and pay well enough so that I can live a comfortable life. I just can’t bet on being able to stay, here, exactly, and do them — unless I’m working remotely.

As it turns out, that may not necessarily be a bad thing? The cost of living — and particularly, the cost of housing — is extremely high, here. Not to mention that in the near future, a lot of these areas will have to deal with a rising water table and rising tides. I have been thinking of relocating to the Pacific Northwest, particularly to Washington or Canada…though it’s just an idea, right now.

We’re going to have continued climate upsets, no matter where I live. I know that Oregon and Washington have continued to receive precipitation recently, as well as extreme Northern California (say, near Eureka, which is near the Oregon border). Where I’m at, it has been raining recently, but we’re still in the middle of a drought. It seems like we’ve almost always been in a drought in my lifetime — when it hasn’t been flooding. Like we’ve almost always been in a recession, though I don’t even know how that’s possible.

I did just see an article pop up about how we, “may,” be in the middle of a mass extinction event. No, “are.” “Are,” is the term. We’ve known about it for a while, now. There are books about it (e.g. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, ©2014, Elizabeth Kolbert), that were published years ago. It has just hit other species first before humans on the whole have noticed it.

But yeah, not to get into the whole Anthropocene angle…it’s just that I’m realizing how fragile all of this actually is, and how…I know I should plan on being self-sufficient, but in reality…ugh. When I was 23, I didn’t think I’d make it past 30. I’m nearing 40 now, and wondering how I’m going to make this work, once my parents aren’t here to help. I can see myself working for maybe 30, 40 more years, but to be honest, I can’t bet on making it that long, and I don’t know what is going to happen once I hit, “retirement,” age (given that “retirement” is an artificial construction). It makes more sense to live with my mind in the present, rather than the future. I’ve lived with my mind in the future, for most of my life.

I’m thinking the Pandemic has a lot to do with my current mindset (not to mention the general dysfunction in the world right now, though a lot of that just coexists with [or aids and abets] the Pandemic, rather than being driven by it). I’ve found it causes less worry for me when I let go of ideas of rebirth…that is, beings have been living and dying on this planet, including in cataclysmic mass extinctions, for eons. They didn’t have Buddhism or Christianity to cause them to suffer more than necessary at the idea of death — or a continued attempted existence in an inescapable Venusian hell.

The polar ice is our safety buffer. What I know is that it’s absorbing excess energy by melting. I’m not an ecologist, but I don’t think it’s going to get better after the ice sheets are gone.

But hey, I guess if we did find life on other planets, at least we would know that someone else out there has a chance. No, I wouldn’t be as excited about people from here going and terraforming another planet. That’s a different thing. As a species, we’re dysfunctional; and when we ruin the next planet, if we survive, chances are we’ll just go looking for another. We haven’t learned on the whole yet that we dispose of the Earth and its life, at our peril.

I don’t want to get into it. But, maybe I eventually will. Maybe it’s best if I eventually do.

I mean…I did train for Fiction, after all…


So, I’ve got 10 days until Xmas. One of the gifts has been created and delivered. One. Because Finals always happen too close to Xmas. The gift in question needed to be delivered on or before the 24th, so I can say I met that deadline. I am getting really kind of tired of making jewelry out of flag colors or uniform colors or other group-affinity colors. It seems like these are almost never designed by people with advanced aesthetic senses. I really don’t get it, but then I am not really a person who values group affinity; I just happen to be in groups, once in a while.

Anyhow…there’s that. I don’t think anything special is happening for Xmas, which is kind of a relief. But I still have a limited time to complete the rest of my presents (if they’re going to be on time — they may not be). What’s annoying is that I don’t even have a job right now. Yes, I have been in classes, and they have been taking up the vast majority of my time. Did I need them?

They did show me, for one thing, that I’m overperforming at a Community College level…except for the one class where the instructor says we should all be getting 100% on the tests because, “he makes it so easy.” That’s the one I’m having trouble in, and it’s mainly a personality conflict. Dude makes too many assumptions (based on his generation and culture), and because of those assumptions, the class doesn’t work with my reality.


In other arenas…I’ve been learning about the quality of various mail-order glass beads. I may have to start returning some of these things, in the future. Most of them are very good. Then there are the others.

There are some curiosities which popped up with comparing incoming glass beads to glass beads I already had…seeing differences in the vividness of colors among sources, seeing differences in luster and depth of color (and what’s just coated), etc. I’ve found out that 3x5mm is a really great size for a rondelle (in my current design aesthetic), but there are good, clear, sparkly fire-polished rondelles, which were obviously made by people who cared about what they were doing. Then there are, “just want to throw them out,” fire-polished rondelles. I’ve learned that if the photo looks like the beads are dull, the beads probably are dull: it’s not an artifact of the camera. Yes, people actually do attempt to sell dull beads, and in many cases, I would believe, they succeed. Once, at least.

In my case, I might be able to tell which rondelles are which, by the package size (the good ones were all on strands of 100 beads each) — although I wouldn’t bet on it.

Something that came up with the gift I made, also drew my attention: not all “4mm” fire-polished beads are actually the same size. There are at least two different styles of cut for the 4mm fire-polished round beads, that is, which correspond with different stringing lengths and different weights: the squarer ones are bigger and heavier and look more lustrous, while the more diamond-shaped ones are smaller and lighter, with sharper facets. I don’t really know why this is, at this point; I just know that it is, and that it affects what you can use them for (if precise calibration is an issue).

I suspect that Starman and Preciosa are the brands I’m comparing, though generally Starman seems to mark their strands with their logo (and most of these didn’t have Starman tags on them, so far as I can recall). To further confuse the issue, some online bead sellers will mix up the two different cuts in the same request, for the same color…they aren’t the same thing!

Then there is the unpredictable quality of metallic coatings on glass beads…which have been a perennial problem for me. This is the reason I try not to buy Capri Gold, “California Gold Rush”, or Sliperit glass bead finishes, even though they usually look very pretty. Their durability is just suspect.

Most recently, I got 100 beads with a “Flax” coating, which…rubs off. I’m probably never going to use these beads, because no one deserves metallic gold powder rubbing off on their fingertips, let alone whatever else is in there.

The thing is, I’ve ordered Flax-finished beads before, even Flax beads of the same size (2mm); and have not had this issue. I’m thinking that the difference has to do with the skill (and conscientiousness) of the people making these things. The lower-quality finish also coincided with lower surface quality (some of the beads appear pitted, almost etched), and inconsistent drilling, with the beads leaning to the left and right of the strand before I removed them.

To make things more complicated, this set of beads was sold by a vendor who also supplies quality beads — not only Toho and Miyuki, but also some really nice little 2mm fire-polished rounds. Majorly affecting this, I think, is the fact that 2mm fire-polished rounds are basically hard to come by from the start, so finding quality 2mm fire-polished rounds out of the limited pool of all 2mm fire-polished rounds, must be especially difficult.

In any case, this causes me to wonder if, say, the Capri Gold, California Gold Rush (CGR), and Sliperit beads I’ve had before just were not made conscientiously? Could it be possible to create durable beads using these finishes — and I just happened to be unlucky at the time, and get merchandise which should not have passed inspection (although I believe the specific beads I’m thinking of were CGR SuperDuos)? Twenty to thirty minutes of handling should not result in the coating being wiped off.

I don’t know. I’ve seen otherwise reputable bead retailers selling all three of these finishes, and I am not entirely certain who is buying these things, or if they’re actually usable. I pretty much try things out until I can tell if they’re durable or not (there are some finishes that look metallic, which are in my experience, durable — but I question if they are actually structurally closer to Iris colors and further from Galvanized), but that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that I won’t get a wonky bunch just by virtue of statistics.

That’s…not to even mention the colors which have an extra tube of coating coming out of the hole on one side — on all the beads. I thought I knew what I was going to make my in-law, until I realized…hey, I’m not giving these out. I’ve seen this before.

What’s annoying is that they cost way more than they should have.

Apologies for my lack of pictures. I’m just really low-energy, right now. It’s possible I could fortify this entry in the future with some photos, but right now…I need to get on studying for that last Final.

Pre-planning

This is going to be another off-topic post. Right now I have a week before classes end, but I need to check in with myself before going all-in with study. I just have not been keeping up with myself over the last couple of months. I have been keeping up with assignments, but that’s different.

There is a lot that has happened. Some of it is already logged here in previous posts, so I’ll try to avoid repeating it: although I do need to make a “Business Plan” or at least a “Site Plan” for SpectralBeads. I would have gone into it for my eCommerce class, but if I’m not planning on monetizing this in the short term, it doesn’t seem to really be a business (but rather a potential content-based portfolio).

I have a number of ideas for the site, though they might be best fleshed out using Pages instead of blog posts. That’s going to require some thought as regards site structure and topical organization, in turn. I’ve realized that I repeat myself a lot, and a good deal of that happens because I have a set number of experiences, and have not had time — at least over the last semester — to make a lot of new ones which are on-topic.

Of course, there is the fact that this entire semester had to do with money matters…and it kind of takes the wind out of a person’s sails to learn that living is so expensive that one won’t be able to have a good quality of life if one tries to survive solely off of one’s art. There’s also the fact that I’ve realized I am very much not a, “people person,” and that this severely limits my employment possibilities. At least so, if I want to be able to have a pleasant (for me) job. It seems that what is pleasant to me, must be isolating, to social people. I’m trying to get out of the sector of LIS which has to deal intensely with the public…because I don’t think it’s healthy for me to try to force myself to like people.

There’s more I could say on that, but let’s just say that I don’t like having my boundaries violated in a consistent pattern among many people I don’t know. If I knew them, I could amend the situation. But what are you supposed to do when it’s widespread, and you see each person, what, for two minutes a time at random intervals? (I have issues with the way people alter how they treat me because of assumptions they draw from my appearance. Because of these, I shouldn’t be working with the public, where all they know about me is my appearance.)

I met with a career counselor who is guiding me toward work in Information Organization…which appears relatively “natural” if I look at what I’ve been spending time doing, other than classes. (In reality, it’s likely not natural, but trained.) I am supposed to be looking at job descriptions to see what appeals and doesn’t, regardless of where those jobs are located. I also have a couple of new work-related contacts whom I might message, though there’s always the question of what to say.

I’m also drawn to think about who I am outside of a beading information resource (although I haven’t really offered my skills as such, other than in the backposts of this blog, and in the site pages I already have developed). Though I do look at that, and see, “information resource,” which at one point I intended to do as a career, while, “beading,” as a topic, modifies it. My career counselor has pointed me in this direction, as I’m likely one of the few people in the beading world with LIS skills. For me, that means I’m skilled at research and at writing…and that I also have the benefit of a paying job path.

After classes are over, I’ve got to get together my notes as to what I can do to help the beading and crafting communities, which don’t involve directly selling jewelry. I have a lot of notes…it’s just, they’re scattered. Some of them are in this semester’s course materials; some are in my career counseling files, some are in my work journal, and some are in my creativity journal.

Anyhow. I’ve got four Finals to deal with, and one assignment, due in less than a week’s time. I’m organized enough so that I know what needs to be knocked out, first…and tomorrow seems like a good time to start. Right now, I should rest.

Celebrations

Well hello there! After writing last night, I didn’t expect to have a change of heart! I’m pretty sure the rest of the world doesn’t celebrate this, but today was Thanksgiving in the US. Essentially…we saw a couple of people today whom we haven’t seen in person for two years, and got together over food. It was really…really good.

I gave a bracelet to one person, who was very happy with it. It was interesting: I know I was thinking of her when I made it…I also went and reserved the colors to make a new one. What I realized when I gave it to her is that it actually was of salable quality, and beautiful…and that even if I could not make a full living off of my beadwork, I could (and probably should) be making some return off of it. I mean, it’s a skill, and something I know a lot about, am interested in, and like to do. If I’m not looking at being compensated for my time (which one could say I’m otherwise wasting anyway, outside of school), but rather just trying to make up what I lost in purchases, as well…there is a heavy argument for selling!

It’s also granted that I got full marks for the Business Plan I turned in, in which I was trying to puzzle out just what I would have to do if I wanted to make a living off of this, in this area. It’s amazingly obvious that if I bead, I will not be able to make a living off of my work…unless I charge more than I have been thinking about charging, or hire extra help. I do not think that I could make a full living even if I worked as hard as I could for as long as I could: I still would have to run the business, which takes time. Even so, I’m missing out on a lot by not selling, just because I know I have to also gain another form of income.

I don’t want to have to hire people for piecework labor (people skills are not my forte, and I can see workers becoming bored), and raising prices may price out the people I want to be able to afford my work. If I raised my prices, I would also need to sweeten my value proposition: charge more, for more; or, as was suggested tonight, accept donations, or (this is my possibly not so great idea) use a sliding scale.

In order to make a living without having to either raise prices or hire labor, I will have to split my time between the beadwork and another job…the latter of which, I have yet to acquire. But I can work on this, now: what says I have to get a paying job first, when I could be self-employed, first?

Wow. OK. That’s a revolution…

The major issue I am trying to envision right now, is how much of my time (in hours per day or per week) I devote to beadwork…and how much time to the job search (and then, to the job itself). We have decided over here that the situation with COVID is as good as it’s going to get, which is why we invited over chosen family today. Which reminds me that I should probably seriously get some rest, soon. I know I stayed up until 3 AM this morning, but I should at least try to keep my immunity up.

So I’ve worked out what I would need to do to make this a sustainable full-time business, and I know what’s demanded of me if I keep the hobby but don’t charge anyone anything for gaining from my skills (which I’m beginning to see as a tactic used when you’re otherwise gainfully employed). There is a lot of middle ground here, though. Aside from time division, the primary issue I can see is the question of how much more than nothing, I will be able to commit to earning (or attempting to earn). The two questions are related. D says it’s different if I do it because I love it, and make some extra money on the side, than it is if I use it as part of my survival income.

There’s also the possibility of just getting a job that I love (or at least, don’t hate), as versus trying to find a job within a certain field. M says that I would do well as a file clerk, if I don’t want to deal with people…

So, I’m looking at selling, again: but as a hobbyist, not a businessperson, and not yet through my own website. So far as I can tell, it seems that they pretty much follow the same routes, except that hobbyists cannot deduct business losses on Federal income tax — but I’m not sure, and maybe should consult an attorney. The full cost and risk of going into business outside of an online marketplace, IRL selling, or B2B trade, is not something I want to take on at the moment. However, there are easier options. Even if I get kicked off of one of these sites, there are other sites; and there is also the realistic possibility of selling in-person, or of partnering with a seller.

I seem to keep realizing that my beading could draw a return, towards the end of the year — when it’s too late to build up stock for the holiday buying rush. M says not to worry about this.

It just makes me happy to make people happy. And with that, I should probably brush my teeth and get some rest. It’s been…a grounding two days. Later today (it’s now after midnight here), I should probably get back to my schoolwork…

Business vs Art

Well, I found out what was bothering the tendon in my finger. It wasn’t typing. It was, rather, all the note-taking I’ve had to do for three classes. When I first began online learning (years ago), I was a bit shocked that I had to resort to analog recording methods outside of the computer. It doesn’t shock me anymore, but it is annoying to have to take notes in an area which was obviously not made to accommodate both writing by hand, and a computer. I would need a wrap-around station for that, and — to be honest, that’s going to be one expensive desk!

I wouldn’t have known, except I noticed a small pain resulting from holding a pen too tightly. That, in turn, is probably linked to tension…from the most annoying of my classes, where dude has too much information on the PowerPoint and won’t let go of the PowerPoint files themselves. That class has a sizable pile of notes. I started to change my grip tonight, then got distracted by something I no longer remember, and here I am, now. It’s easy to forget that classes are still ongoing: I can get ahead, but for no longer than a week (excepting the Business Plan which I was alerted to, far in advance).

D’awww.

In any case, I’m hoping that the next few weeks won’t be too bad. Even if they are, though…I’m probably not going to fail. If I do fail, it doesn’t impact my GPA. The thing I’m worried about is getting sick over the holidays — it doesn’t have to be COVID, it could just be a cold — but I’m almost done with this school …stuff. And no, I don’t really want to get sick now, after all the effort I’ve put into it.

There’s still the factor that this is going to go on my academic record, which has unknown consequences if I, for example, were to start a third round of study to begin a second Master’s or a PhD…which in turn, would only be useful if I intended to become a lifelong academic and write and/or teach for the rest of my life. That’s not to say anything about the ease or lack of ease in gaining tenure (particularly, the second: I’ve heard of faculty living out of their cars, though I can’t remember from what source, at the moment)…or what I sense may become an ongoing battle for the ability to educate our youth.

But that, then, gets back into Sociology, which has been quite saddening as a discipline, in my experience. It’s not great for a person who has a preexisting inclination to cause themselves suffering, because then you have to expose yourself to all the …stuff 🙂 which is meant to dehumanize and disempower you. That, then, means that the battle to maintain a sense of one’s own humanity also becomes personal, in addition to being outward. I’ve had at least one Professor who failed at that task. It isn’t pretty.

Well, seeing anybody’s soul getting destroyed, isn’t pretty.

I have considered schooling to be my actual job for most of my existence this time around (I was able to do this in lieu of getting a paying job; education has always been important, here), so looking at it that way, it makes sense why I would be concerned about bad grades. To be real about it, though: these classes were for me, and no one else. And in practicality, am I really going to directly apply any of what I learned, save from my Entrepreneurship class? Seriously. If I start working at a bead shop and need to take care of inventory, that’s one thing, but how likely is that to happen in the near future?

Working as a scribe would be a more likely candidate as a job description, though to do that, I really don’t actually need Business education — except to know which exact information is important to record. I suppose that…actually would, come in handy.

It almost slipped my mind, the reason I came here to write, tonight. I’m actually feeling oddly happy at realizing what was going on in wanting to bead for money. The issue is that I look at my beadwork as an art. I didn’t realize I was looking at it as an art until realizing that there are reasons I am not at this point a Silversmith or Goldsmith. If I was doing this for the money, I would have gone into one of these fields; although it probably isn’t a big secret that becoming a Bench Jeweler doesn’t really pay that well, especially when you look at all the hazards and the precision needed to do the job.

My most apparent reason for working with beads is my relationship with color: this is an aspect with which metalwork really can’t compete well. To use color in metalwork, you have to rely on patina, enamels, or anodization. Enamels are quite interesting, but they’re also fairly hazardous; one of my friends who used to work by a stained glass shop said that glassworkers tended to get sick. I can believe it: the materials used to color glass aren’t necessarily good things for biological systems to be exposed to. Plus, stained-glass workers are often scribing and breaking glass, meaning there are small fragments which are getting around.

I’ve had my own concerns with my beads, though I hope that having the glass in solid and not powder form, is safer. I also try to ream out any beads that I need to, under running water. Just gotta say, as though you need the reminder: do not get the motor wet!

When I see glass beads being sold in craft stores, they often note that they are not for use by those under the age of 14…I believe that this is for developmental reasons. I was using them at the age of 11 or 12, but then, I also got hit with depression at 14, and have had ongoing hormonal issues. This isn’t to say that the (cheap, 1990’s) beads caused it, but to give a view of the facts in reality. I know there is something that happened that I didn’t emerge from unscathed. I don’t know exactly what it is; I don’t even know if it’s particularly my problem, as versus everyone else’s, but my life is not, “normal.”

Anyway, I could go on with that thread for a while. I’ll stop there, and remind myself to look back into the book, Toxic Archipelago (by Brett L. Walker, © 2010 University of Washington Press). I believe I got rid of the one with the political ranting that referenced it, and which I may be remembering, now. I read something to do with endocrine disruptions from industrial toxins released into the environment…not sure which of the books it was.

The types of alloys available (e.g. shakudo) limit the types of patinas possible, though certainly there are options for coloring metal using oxidation, whether that’s a fire patina (think of the colors that develop on the bottom of a copper pot) or using an option like liver of sulfur. Anodization — the third of these — is actually also very interesting; I wouldn’t be surprised if I experimented with it later in life, but I know that this requires…machines, which probably aren’t cheap. I have been so sure that they would not be cheap, that I haven’t bothered to look them up. As I look at it now, an anodization kit doesn’t seem too bad (in relation to all the other studio gear that I’ve seen).

Another aspect of this is ecological: I have gravitated towards working with glass in the hope that it is somehow less harmful to the environment than mining. I do not have the data on this, however, so I can’t be at all sure that it is. What I do know is that I have never seen a reference to mining where I was completely certain that the environment was not being degraded. Much of the allure of stones seems to be metaphysical in nature; having been around for a while, and having some stones myself, I can see the point; but I also feel that I would not want to sell stones based on their unproven, supposedly magical capabilities. That’s not to say that something we call “magic” doesn’t exist; that is to say, think about it. If you use a stone with intention, that’s on you, but willing suspense of disbelief is maybe not how you want to enter into financial transactions?

The third thing relates to creativity: there are just many more creative options in glass at this point, than are usually found in semiprecious or precious stones. There are exceptions: I’m thinking of a lapidarist or stonecutter who really does awesome work — carvings — in gem-quality material, but I am not at all confident in my ability to find him again, at the moment. His stuff just pops up on Instagram, once in a while.

But yes, I’ve been working with glass beads for…years. Over 25 years, at this point. I’m familiar with the basic materials…I love working with colored beads. That’s why I keep doing it. And of course I would have a dream of being able to do it all the time for money, enough to survive on; but there’s a difference between a business and an art. I think every artist would dream of being able to do art all the time, and somehow still be able to pay their bills and stay alive. The economic systems that we live under now, though, tend to make this very difficult.

Now that I think of it, maybe this is one of the reasons why so many artists, historically, have been Socialists. I don’t intend to look this up right now, but I recall it from my classes in Art History, particularly around the late 19th – early 20th century. There are also other cultures that have not operated with our current social setup which have valued artists, more. Hmm. Maybe I’d want to look into this, out of curiosity? I could set it up as a project for myself. 🙂 And, I suppose I could limit my search to artists who were contemporary to, or followed, Marx & Engels.

Why did I not think of that, before?

Anyway…it seems to me at this point, that the goal of Business is to survive. To build wealth. The goal of Art is something different. I want to say, “to live,” but that’s kind of cheesy — even though it may be true.

The thing about having…thought this out the point that I know I should not bet on making a living off of it, is that it frees me from doing desperately fast, repetitive, piecework labor. I can actually do what I want to do, even if it’s something I’ve never done before and which I’m not sure will work out; because my living is not riding on it. This is the benefit of being a hobbyist rather than a business owner. I actually get to choose what I want to do, in my spare time — instead of having no spare time.

I haven’t worked out just how long I would need to work, if I wanted to actually live off of my beading. The thing is…I have a sense that it’s so long that I don’t need to figure it out. The selling prices can be tweaked, and in a mathematical model, I might even get a response that I’d need to work for more hours a day than there are in a day. And that would be OK, because it wouldn’t be real.

Maybe I’ll do that, after these classes are done with…

Routine Log #4: Heading up to the finish

I’ve wanted to get back to this blog for a while, though the times I’ve had available to write (and not constantly be on myself about how I should be working) would mostly have been in the wee hours of the morning. I know that’s not unusual (for me), but I had gotten really out of my Circadian rhythm, and was not looking forward to only being able to fall asleep after 2 or 3 AM. It can take me hours to write one of these posts, though I generally don’t notice that much, when I’m in a flow state.

I officially have less than a month left of classes. My hands are feeling it. Particularly, one of the fingers of my right hand has been a bit out of sorts, over the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure if it’s because of too much smartphone use, too much writing with that hand, too much typing, too much unscrewing jars and pen caps, or what. But because of that, I had been trying to rest it. I’m not entirely sure what caused it, so I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to stop doing (other than lifting electronics, which seems to trigger aching).

Because I do so much with my hands, I’m pretty sure that I should make it a priority to work it less, until the ache goes away. It’s not a severe pain, or a constant one (yet), so I have some wiggle room.

Reading back over this blog, I can see the precursors to this post relatively clearly: much more clearly, than I did at the time of writing them. For one of my classes, I had to create a Business Plan, which — well, this is really not a high-level class — it didn’t have to be elaborate. I’ve had to write at least one Business Plan in the deep past, and it was essentially for the same hypothetical company. What I find, through being in Business courses, is that my Business Plan is really not all that awesome. 🙂 This is likely because I’m prioritizing doing what I want to do, as versus what will make money. There is a difference.

Long story short: I’ve had to cut back on any hope of making a living working with beads, due to a number of present and future factors. The main one of these is that I don’t want to run a sweatshop. Hiring on extra help to do what I will not have time to do, greatly boosts productivity and profits…but it isn’t fair to the workers, and the system is a fragile thing to begin with. I don’t want to manage other people, and I certainly don’t want to be the manager who doesn’t pay enough.

The other end of this is that I don’t want to gouge people for work that takes hours to make (and more to design), but is inexpensive as regards materials. Neither do I want to drive myself into debt or bankruptcy because I don’t want to charge a fair price for my time. What I’m dealing with is the quandary of producing labor-intensive products in a Service- (and increasingly Information-) based society. There are places on the planet where the main mode of income generation is in manufacturing. I don’t live within one, and there’s no way I can compete in this market on the basis of price (and still live here).

On top of that, I’ve learned over time that people don’t necessarily know or care about the skill required to create beadwork. It doesn’t help that finding excellent examples of skilled work, takes some digging.

I am not entirely certain, but I am disconcerted that it may be riskier and cost more (both out-of-pocket and in time lost) for me to attempt to monetize my beadwork habit online, than it will to do what I can already see myself doing — which is keeping up the blog, developing content, and sharing where I’m at on my journey in Jewelry Design. (For instance, I’ve thought of going back to that tour of off-loom beadweaving techniques that I mentioned before classes began.) These aren’t useless pursuits: they keep me writing, and they help me develop skills in desktop publishing and blogging, as well as giving purpose to my continued beadwork. They’re certainly better ways for me to spend my time than television or video games…which tend not to hold my interest anyway, but that’s an aside.

So what am I thinking of doing?

I’ve heard that I may be a very good fit for Cataloging Librarianship…which gives me a lot to study, after these classes are over! I’ll want to look at increasing my knowledge of the field as well as acquiring another language. As always, I’ve been torn between español (Spanish — because it’s more in demand, I have prior training, and it’s therefore easier) and 日本語 (Japanese language — because I have personal use for it).

I just recently learned that the kanji I kept seeing but not connecting with a known word, 大丈夫, is daijoubu. I also learned that Google Translate doesn’t understand this word unless the “u” is included after “jo” to make an “o” held for two beats, or “jō”. So “daijoubu desu ka?” (“are you OK?”) is spelled alright, as is “daijōbu desu ka?” (like anyone knows what a diacritic “macron” is) but “daijobu desu ka?” may not be. At least, Google Translate can’t understand it because it isn’t an exact match to what it expects.

I need to find a better easy Japanese-English dictionary source…not to mention, a Japanese-language word processor. I mean, seriously, it should be possible to look up a kanji by either an on or kun reading…

Anyway, given that this site may morph into a personal blog plus extra information on books (or issues raised in books), possibly language acquisition, libraries, and beadwork (depending on where my focus is at any one time…which is a perennial problem that I don’t even know how to solve), instead of a Business or eCommerce blog focused on sales; (at least if things keep going the way they are), hey: maybe trying to disentangle my life from my work, won’t be so bad. I should note that I’m thinking of applying Creative Commons licenses to some stuff that I’m planning to put up here (eventually), which allows me some degree of flexibility, at least…

Dang, girl.

Yes, I know I should be studying for my Business classes. I’m not. Will this bite me? I don’t know. Chances are unlikely: I’m taking all my classes, Pass/No Pass. The biggest thing that will be bruised is my ego. Taking a long view…maybe it actually is a better use of my time to write out my thoughts, right now, than it is to keep trying to overperform in the short term.

Unless, that is, I want Job References from any of my current teachers, which will all be far more recent than my latest employment history. I have about a month and a half left of classes, which — for one thing, is mind-boggling. I can’t believe so much time has passed: three months! But maybe it just seems short, because I haven’t been logging it. I’ve been going from project to project. Particularly, the last two weeks have been really rough for me, and I’m sure this is because I’m putting in a lot more effort than necessary. I’m going by the idea that you get out of school, what you put into school. Even if you’re just taking little Community College classes, when you’ve done much more in your time. And even if a D still counts as a Pass (which I’m amazed at).

At the beginning of this week, I turned in a 35-page paper(!). Sure, only 24 of those were actual writing (not Bibliography or Title Page or Table of Contents), and sure, it was double-spaced, which is standard. And it wasn’t perfect. But I worked my butt off for four days in a row, researching and writing this thing, and doing little else. Of course, I had done research prior, as well — but definitely no more than two weeks’ worth. Then we had a Test the other night — same class. And we’re supposed to be constantly working on a financial project, which I’m not doing very well at keeping up with, but it’s flexible. Same class. And, right, I was supposed to read a book chapter to prepare for lecture on the same night of the test. (It didn’t get done.) Same class.

NOBODY probably got all of that done, except people with no other responsibilities…and maybe, no other classes. No, I’m not asking that teacher for a Job Reference. And yes, I have noticed that I don’t like trying to comprehend (or worse, work out) complex math. I probably don’t actually want to be an Accountant or Bookkeeper, that is. There’s a magic to quantitative reasoning, but …still. Math and logic are difficult. The question I have is whether they are difficult, even for people who are good at them, at least with a recent Math history like mine? Am I alone, or in good company?

My other classes mostly take into account the fact that people have lives — and multiple other classes, although two of those classes allow no late work, period. Which means that I have one other class that can flex.

You see where I’m at.

The thing is, I seem to be overperforming on pretty much everything (except Math). Many assignments only require a 100-to-250-word response, and I’m going way over that. Regularly.

Right now…I’m thinking about why it was that I wanted to take these classes, which clarifies my goals; what is really important, in light of those goals; and hence, which activities are of most value at this time. There are some questions I can’t really work on at this point in my life: like how much money I’ll need to put away for retirement. I don’t even know how much money it would take to keep me alive now, if I were not living with other people! How am I supposed to forecast my living expenses in 30 years? Especially in an economy like today’s?

I don’t mean by that, some generic idea referring to whatever romanticized current zeitgeist we’ll see, looking wistfully back on this, from the future; I mean today’s economy, with vast income inequality meaning generally low wages for most people; high unemployment; a housing price bubble; rapid short-term inflation; supply chain bottlenecks; COVID lockdowns; repeated economic stimulus checks — and there’s more. There is nothing “normal” about today. How can I predict anything about 30 years into the future, when I can’t predict what my life will be like, three months from now?

At least I know enough to know that I can’t know. That’s something.

In any case…I’ve been working on assembling the information necessary to have, if I want to open a small business. The thing is, this would essentially be a microbusiness, employing fewer than five people. I would not be able to charge a living wage, at least if I’m looking at an hourly pay rate for myself (though that’s not how you pay yourself in a microbusiness, I know).

I’m looking at the overhead: hiring legal counsel, hiring a bookkeeper or accountant, hiring IT help, hiring a photographer (or buying a good digital camera and taking some classes), purchasing insurance, getting a Business bank account, getting a P.O. Box, getting a DBA, getting a Seller’s Permit and FEIN, buying Web hosting, transferring existing data or purchasing a new domain, subscribing to and learning to use image-editing and desktop-publishing software, getting trademark protection, getting the necessary tax and legal forms, possibly getting an extra computer to process payments as versus surf the Web, etc…this is stuff you do when you think you’re actually going to experience financial gain.

Like, ACTUALLY. Not like, “I’m one person paying myself $12/hour; $0, when I’m not directly working on something to be sold.”

The easy way to start, is to sell in-person only, and/or go through Etsy. That’s the easy way. Or through Amazon Handmade, or through ArtFire, or through BigCartel, or through eBay (although eBay won’t let you mention you sell online elsewhere). Though even going through a marketplace like one of these requires some of the steps, above. The rest of this…?

It’s like, dang girl, I just wanted to sell some earrings.

And I just wanted to sell some earrings because no one can afford my necklaces but rich people.

In short…this is looking like it will cost me more money than I’ll be able to earn. If I just want to share my craft, that’s something else, isn’t it? None of this. None of this legal and tax and liability-ridden garbage clogging up the lines of communication. None of this secrecy about where I get my materials from and how much they cost. Sure, I won’t have access to the wholesale markets. It’s not a big deal if I’m not making a lot. And I can make it on my own schedule. And I can make it for my friends, and give it to my friends, and I don’t have to worry if they meet my own high quality standards, as I would with something I’d give in trade.

I just need to get an actual job.

Like maybe working as a writer? For a related local organization?

The wind whispers, “Yesssss…”

Decisions…in which there is no right decision

It hasn’t been a secret that I haven’t been able to update this blog as often as I’d like, due to the fact that I’m in classes. I’m also actively dealing with what I want to do with the rest of my life as regards a career path which is worth my time. Part of one of my classes is a Business Plan — in which I’m focusing on creating or furthering or focusing my Internet presence as regards what I do with beads, and with the online beading community. I’ll get to that below; however, let me get some stuff out of the way, first.

The job interview I had a few weeks ago, wasn’t really anything to worry about. I was afraid I would get the post and then have to commute back and forth, in exchange for payment which could actually sustain me. However, the post was a typical Community Librarian job; with a community that I know very little about. If I had known these things beforehand, I wouldn’t have applied for it. That’s not to disparage Community Librarians; it is to say that it’s not the type of job I’m looking for — or constitutionally suited, to. I’ve worked in Public Libraries for ten years; it’s rather apparent at this point in my life that I should have moved on, a long time ago.

The trouble of technology, and its (ab)uses within capitalism

Earlier tonight on 60 Minutes, there was a story on, “deep fakes,” or in other words, digital Face/Off. What I’ve been dealing with over the last 48 hours deeply and intensely deals with the progress of technology, and the dangers of that progress when people aren’t aware of its possibilities, or of how they may be manipulated by it. The other thing I’ve been dealing with is the question of what has been called, “surveillance capitalism,” and the tradeoff of personal information for online services. Beyond that, it’s about the monetization of data linked to people (even if “sanitized” to be non-personally identifying) which can then be used to manipulate those people in the interest of making money off of them.

The point is, a business doesn’t have to know a person’s name or address or phone number, to be able to understand them in ways that would shock said person. Aggregated data is still data; if you’re in a cohort of people like yourself, this can work to your benefit (if you’re into finding more of what people who match your profile tend to appreciate); it can also lead into a hellhole where all you see are other people reflecting and escalating your own negative traits, possibly baselessly. Sound familiar?

Very simply, this is a current-events problem, not a dystopian future problem. It’s also something important to consider, when considering going into business, online. We have been considering the ethical problem of Behavioral Targeting: tracking an individual online in order gain information about them which can help target a, “conversion,” or sale.

There is the point that when you’re a business, you don’t want to throw away your advertising dollars by showing your ads to people who are unlikely to want your merchandise. However, Behavioral Targeting raises concerns about the privacy of your customers, and how much businesses or intermediaries should be able to know about any one of us. At this point, we’re led to ask how we can reassure customers that we’re being responsible custodians of their data.

At this point, I question whether that can be done without opting-out of obviously exploitative platforms…which I’m sure would not like to be characterized as such. There is also the question of what exists outside of those platforms, what we can build outside of them, and if we can avoid being dependent on them.

The threshold of media literacy

I’m finding that I’m in a relatively privileged position to have gone through ethical training as regards Library and Information Science — and I can use these skills in ways other than being, “a Librarian.” In addition to being able to see things from an Economic or Business perspective, I also have some clue about the impact of the very same policies on society. For instance, I find that there is very likely a desperate need right now not only for literacy in reading and writing, but also — maybe more intensely — a need for media literacy; that is, an understanding by the polity as to how organizations can manipulate them through the juxtaposition of different media: words, sound, still image, and video or moving image, not to mention the endorsement of their “friends” (i.e. the business leverage of their emotional relationships). How does someone get training in this? Media Studies? Studies of the propaganda that led up the Holocaust?

Beyond that, specifically in my case: do I want to teach this? I can see why it’s important, but do I want that job? It’s going to be intense.

It entails teaching people to understand why they feel what they feel when they’re presented with a media presentation — precisely naming these things and seeing what constitutes them; understanding the composition of these presentations and how they may be edited to produce such an effect (at least in their target audiences); asking why a company would or could arrange these things intentionally to produce such an effect; and whether the person in question is inclined to accept said message after understanding that they can be and very well may have been manipulated to meet that message.

Contemplation of a (relevant) future in Academia?

Of course, I’m not an expert in Media Studies. I started out with very good English reading literacy, and have been through multiple rounds of training in Visual Art criticism and image production. I also have training in teaching Information Literacy, and at one time considered working in Graphic Arts. I have just enough knowledge to be able to see where there is a yawning gap in what is being taught, as versus what we are being exposed to — inundated with — on a daily basis.

I’ve become more sensitive to this as I’ve begun to interact with Social Media more, and have noticed algorithms alter the path they take through the ocean of content, depending on how long I look at something, how many times I replay it, how similar other content is to it, what people with similar profiles like, etc. It’s actually kind of creepy, even though the content (at this point, at least) is often light.

The other day I was deep in exploring my own inclinations towards work, as suggested by a Career Advisor. Right now I am looking at a number of paths as possible methods of earning a primary income. One of the biggest things I realized is that I fairly strongly do not want to work with the general public. Another thing I’ve realized is that if I do teach, I will probably want to work within a four-year College or University (if not assisting students at Master’s level work or higher), due to the demonstrated commitment level of many students at Community Colleges. I’ve been told this relates to the low (nearly nonexistent) barrier of entry.

Of course, at this point, these are students who are not used to online learning, and were forced into it by the Pandemic. Maybe there would be a better turnout if classes were in person; I’m not sure.

What I have seen is an extreme difference in the quality of work and responses over the same platform; once, in my Master’s program, and now, in Community College. It has been a shock. I could be an online instructor, but I’m not sure I’d be able to handle teaching in person. They are widely different methods, and not all students (or teachers) who perform well in-person, fare well online.

I suppose the benefit of teaching online is that you can do it from anywhere you have a high-speed Internet connection. The thought of teaching online is just something that has come to my mind tonight, however.

At this point, now that I’ve begun to read more prevalently in English language, I’m not as pressed to learn Japanese language. I also know that I do not want to teach Japanese language. There are actually good and interesting books in English, after all; though it can’t be denied that the English-language body of works, has its own cultural milieu, and in some respects is fairly woefully out-of-touch.

Now that I think about it, media literacy also comes into play in identity politics and in stereotyping. Diving into how people are represented, as versus how those people could alternately be imagined, could be very interesting! This strikes at the intersection of politics, technology, and culture. I might want to explore this, more.

Not to mention, write about it, which could possibly lead to becoming a Professor — depending on what I can dig up through research and reading (and possibly my own media exposure), plus my skill in both sensing and expressing my views.

Working out a Business Plan, and brainstorming this site’s future

As regards this site, which will be used as secondary income, if income at all; obviously, right now, it’s focused around beadwork. I’m hoping to expand this in coming days, in order to be more of a resource to the online beadworking community. I’ve outlined this in the Business Plan I consolidated, to some extent, earlier today. I’m not to the point of announcing it here, yet, but it’s a relatively exciting new angle on how I could assist others in their own self-decoration and self-expression, aside from my doing massive amounts of necessarily underpriced, poorly-scalable, piecework labor. Content development, Jewelry Design, and Publishing utilize my skills (plus my desires and drives) more efficiently, while saving visitors money. Selling materials in pre-bundled kits can also save visitors a lot of money (for instance, to save on multiple Shipping charges, and helping them to avoid having too many excess beads left over).

The nice thing about brainstorming like this is that you’re given free reign to dream about what you could or would do, if it were possible. You get to try and think out how you would get your tasks done without breaking yourself, economically. Of course, at this stage, it is mostly intellectual work, supported by my own calculations of how much I could earn by actually making and selling finished jewelry. The latter is how I know not to depend on funds from selling finished jewelry (I don’t want to price out my primary markets); but instead, support others in their own pursuit of creating jewelry. I hope to use this site as a collection of resources.

I got the idea for this when considering the potential cross-fertilization of the many crafts that I have seen, from tatting to wirework, from bead embroidery to beadweaving, to beaded crochet, bead knitting, and beaded micro-macrame. Rather necessarily, there are some things that I would only sell ready-made, as — for example — I can’t guarantee that drill holes in the freshwater pearls I do have, will all be of the proper orientation to successfully work in a pattern I’ve devised. Nor do I know if I’ll be able to precisely replace them. They would be, of necessity, limited runs.

It’s very apparent to me that there are things that I excel in, and things that I dabble in. I can design jewelry; I can’t design clothes. I can, however, take patterns for clothing which others have designed, support their design efforts, and accept their help in creating my own custom fashion. I’m finding that, contrary to what may be predicted, I have a tendency to “follow” and “like” things that are on the fringes of my knowledge, not altogether things at which I already have a great deal of skill.

That’s probably a good thing, yeah?

Mood. Cut-crystal alternatives.

You know, I really dislike having to express disagreeable opinions. However, sometimes it’s warranted. Or understandable, at least. Right now, what I’m thinking of is Swarovski’s exit from selling beads to the general craft community. Because of the way this has been accomplished, there seems to be a general feeling of upset or ill will. With Swarovski exiting the craft community supposedly to improve its own “exclusive” brand image, that’s…that’s unfortunate.

I can’t be positive of customer morale: at this point, I am not a bead retailer, and so I haven’t had the opportunity to actually speak with beaders on a large scale about this. The most I’ve gotten is what I’ve read on bead stores’ pages, and have observed within the online beading community — and from Swarovski.

However, it shows the extent to which some of us have depended on certain companies. What happens to all the designers who made and distributed patterns specifically to be worked up with Swarovski-cut beads? What happens to the bead stores which made most of their income by selling Swarovski-branded products? This doesn’t even get into all the beaders who now have to find alternatives to the brand.

In a sense, maybe this is a good thing for the bead ecosystem: if so many of us were so highly dependent on one company, maybe it actually is of wide-ranging economic benefit, for us to find other products. So that, you know; what happened, can’t happen again.

To be sure, there are still ways to obtain Swarovski products, but you have to sign up and be approved, first, and you’re subject to contractual obligations — but that’s only if you’re looking for factory packs. Swarovski is exercising more control over who they sell to, though at some sites it does look as though a general consumer (not a business) can actually still buy some of the goods. Read on.

Last night, I was writing to myself about how to increase value in what I make, by using higher-quality components. I’ve seen a lot of people do this by using crystal beads and components (such as loose stones and items like mounted chatons). I would refer to these as “lead-crystal” beads and components; however, Swarovski eliminated lead from their formulations, quite a while (years) ago. Right now, however, we are left with several options as regards the preservation (or introduction) of sparkle.

For new makers: please note that all crystal beads I have known have a tendency to cut normal beading thread. Because of this, strong polyethylene threads, such as FireLine or WildFire, are recommended.

In this, I actually went and — well, at the moment, I believe I’m sitting next to the totality of crystal beads I own. I did an in-depth survey on what I have, today, which is easier to do by sight than by looking through my records. I’m also looking back at that buying rush that began late last year, on Swarovski beads and components. What I have amounts to little more than an in-depth sampler pack, of items which may no longer be produced. That is pretty sad, because a lot of these beads are very pretty.

I’m given to wonder what, exactly, the value of these are; if I cannot design items and then sell the patterns, knowing that others will be able to reproduce my forms. It’s rare that I have more than a small quantity of each color/finish/size combination, as well, so it’s not like I can produce a lot of jewelry from them without frequently changing my colorways. Those of you who are heavily into beading, know that frequent changes of colorway often equate to buying small amounts of various required beads — and that can get expensive. Not to mention that Swarovski crystal, at core, is expensive.

What I can do is practice designing and producing small amounts of jewelry, much of which will likely go to my own trial collections. I paid full tax on these, meaning that I can use them without selling them to myself, first (or whatever it is you do when you want to wear jewelry you made on a tax-deferred purchase, for which Federal, State, and Local governments want their share of sales and income tax). At least that’s skill gained, you know? Even if it’s skill that has a “practice” label on it.

As a note, I haven’t been compensated by any of the vendors I’m about to name, nor have I been presently (as of October 4, 2021) compensated by Swarovski or any other crystal producer which I have mentioned, or will mention, in this article.


Alternatives to Swarovski

As a note, in the below I have predominantly been looking for the presence of crystal rounds, bicones, and fancy stones. There are five vendors I’m about to name which trade in crystal beads — and not all of them are Austrian crystal. Many of the same outlets which stock Swarovski beads did, at least, stock other items from the same manufacturer (such as Swarovski faux pearls), but as these have not figured heavily into my own work (even Swarovski faux pearls were not all the time great), I’ve only looked for the cut crystals.

Preciosa is the most prevalent competitor to Swarovski on the current market, at least in the United States. Before Swarovski started limiting their output, Preciosa was still available, and at a much lower price-point to Swarovski. Where I did not see Preciosa attempting to compete was in the variety and quality of cuts that I found in Swarovski, and in the color range and differing specialty and hybrid finishes that Swarovski offered which were hard to find, otherwise.

In my experience, Preciosa has had a slight less bit of color saturation (a.k.a. intensity) than Swarovski, and just a hair less of a bright polish or fire — I can’t at this point be sure which, or even if it’s both. For example, for bicone beads, Preciosa doesn’t use Swarovski’s Xilion cut; the latter of which seems to be designed to reflect as much fire, or internal flash, as possible. If you’re okay with slightly less sparkle, Preciosa may be a good bet.

Both Preciosa and some Swarovski (the latter of which, under the name “Crystal Passions”) can be found at Fire Mountain Gems & Beads, as well as an option to buy Swarovski wholesale. Fire Mountain also stocks Celestial Crystal, though it cautions that cutting can be irregular on Celestial Crystal. A note about Fire Mountain: they actually carry more than what would be apparent from the drop-down menus. They also carry, for example, Celestial Crystal Fancy Stones, although Celestial Crystal has no option for this if you’re searching only via the menus.

You can also find Preciosa at Shipwreck Beads. For a time they did have, “Brand Redacted Crystal Beads,” which appear to have at one time been Swarovski; however, they are nearly out. In addition, Eureka Crystal Beads still stocks Preciosa and Swarovski, although as regards the latter, they are now limited to current stock on hand.

As of September 2021, I’ve read, Swarovski stopped supplying regular (unauthorized) bead retailers. Fire Mountain is the only one of these I can be positive, actually still is an authorized Swarovski retailer, for now.

As for other producers, the next one I’ll note is Potomac Crystal, made (I believe in China, at this point, but am not positive if that’s so for the entire line) for the company, Potomac Beads. To find these without using my link, navigate to “Potomac Exclusives” in the header bar and look under the menu, there.

There is a review of Chinese crystal (unknown vendor, unknown brand) versus Swarovski fancy stones on YouTube, though I’m not sure I found the correct file (the concept of alternatives to Swarovski has come up repeatedly, over years. You’ll notice that the date on Bronzepony Beaded Jewelry‘s upload is from over two years ago). I am not certain of the state of this at present, but Chinese crystal stones (like Potomac’s crystal stones), at least in my experience, have tended to be thinner than Swarovski. There’s also the issue that I am uncertain as to whether Swarovski fancy stones (also sometimes called, “Embellishments”) are the same depth now as they were before.

Aura Crystals has a brand they’ve named “TRUE CRYSTAL” (all caps as in source). I’ll leave it up to you as to what you think these are, though they seem to have a cut paralleling Xilion, for the bicones.

Eureka Crystal Beads is the last of these sellers I’ve found today, which I know to have a good reputation. As stated above, they are selling Preciosa and Swarovski, plus a lot of Krakovski Crystal loose fancy stones (and some chaton montees, at last note), and Chinese crystal from multiple sources, meaning that their exact size and cut may vary. At this moment, I believe the variation is due to differing manufacturers, not necessarily differing cuts from the same manufacturer, but I can’t be certain. If you’re wondering why, review the note above on Celestial Crystal beads. If you really want to know, I’d ask them. Maybe they’ll even write a blog post about it.

There are a number of other sites I’ve found in conducting searches for crystal beads, but as I cannot vouch for them at all (some I have just heard of, today — even though they may obviously state they’ve been around for over two decades), I am opting not to list them. With the current rush on Swarovski due to limited supply, shady dealings may be more likely than usual.

Also, be aware that just because I have reviewed a site, that does not necessarily mean I have or have not ordered from them, or can endorse them.

Reading, again? This is more fun than I remembered

I almost wrote here last night, then thought better of it. There is just a lot going on that is fairly personal, and at this stage in my life, I’m appreciating what privacy I have taken the effort to preserve. What I will say is that having applied to a Librarian job — where, you know, I’ve actually trained for it — opens a field that I had closed off to myself. I’ve started reading again, that is, though I find some advantage in not precisely disclosing just what.

There is a basic right in American libraries that applies to privacy of reading history…and I can say, at this point, I know why that rule is in place. Not only as a Librarian, but as a reader as well. Of course, this was eroded in some form by the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, as referenced in this notice by the San Francisco Public Library. I’m not certain just how frequently libraries tell their patrons the latter, however. Granted, there are still a large number of patrons who do wish for us to keep records of their reading, for their convenience. In my experience, in order to protect our patrons from surveillance, American libraries just don’t do this any more than we have to.

With the expansion of electronic texts, particularly as I’ve read that there are supply-chain difficulties worldwide right now as regards printed books (among other things)…it’s very obvious, to me at least, that there may arise an issue here with the attempt to track usage of digital texts. This would not be to the long-term benefit of established publishing houses, however, who are already facing a high degree of competition from the Internet. It may not even be to the benefit of booksellers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, both of whom have their own proprietary eReaders. Surveillance is known (or at least assumed or suspected) to induce a, “chilling effect,” where people do not seek the information they need, because of the threat of potential repercussions.

Less reading means fewer buyers, and fewer buyers means there is even less money in books, than there is now. Publishers don’t want that. I might venture to say that Publishing in general; also, Libraries in specific; thrive on differing opinion and argument and perspective, from all the books I’ve read over the years. Censorship is not something we really want; however, currently, I’m reading about tolerance of intolerance leading to the elimination of tolerance by the intolerant (this is a Karl Popper theory known as the “Paradox of Tolerance” — look it up; I’m not going to link to Wikipedia here).

I haven’t made up my mind as to whether I accept this idea, yet. I have, however, been reading about how sometimes individuals attempt to dismantle democracy by working from inside the system. It is, then, not of use — and maybe outright dangerous — to pretend that democracy is flawless or correct, or in its correctness, everlasting. There are vulnerabilities, and by making decisions that enabled and assisted authoritarian rulers-to-be, many democratic societies have become authoritarian.

The chilling effect particularly applies where it comes to readers who read things that people who vie for power do not want them to read; where knowledge and free thought threaten them. And, of course, those things happen to be some of the most relevant and applicable (and sometimes, engaging) books with regard to current events. There are things that have been highly relevant that I’ve gone through with the rest of the U.S., that I haven’t written about, due to the current political climate. Well, that, and the taboo of expressing anything political at all. Legitimate politics: the actual working out of compromise among multiple parties who intend to coexist, that does seem like it can happen. Then, there are those who just want power to control others, or subjugate others, for whatever reason.

Tensions have basically been getting worse — in my view — over at least the last 20 years. Even prior to then, we had hatemongerers on television, which influenced the children I was around; which meant I had to deal with hate from them in school, as it was politically — and socially — supported. In my high school, there were only two teachers who would speak out in support of students who were being sexually harassed for their supposed sexual orientation.

If I were to think back, my earliest memories of this pattern relate to the San Francisco Bay Area gay mens’ community being decimated by HIV/AIDS, and the government refusing to do anything about it or help in any way, via appeal to religion. I was very young at the time. There was a lot of shame back then; but that, for me, set the stage for anti-gay sentiment within society as I was growing up. That, in turn, was exacerbated by televangelists when I was in high school.

The anti-gay sentiment didn’t just affect gay people. It affected anyone who was thought to be gay, or who was said to be gay, which led to an attitude of compulsory heterosexuality among my peers, and paranoia over whose same-sex friendships were too close. There have been calmer periods, but when it seems politicians endorse hate and violence, the hate and violence come out, along with feelings of entitlement, impunity, and righteousness.

Hate speech is one step up from basic biased thought, as relates to the Anti-Defamation League’s “Pyramid of Hate.” Unfortunately, it appears we have escalated to the point where, on this model, we are currently at “Bias-Motivated Violence,” one step down from “Genocide” — which is as high as the model can go.

There is a question as to whether to engage and to live your life fully, here, or to allow yourself to be made into something for the benefit of someone else.

A side note:

As regards digital privacy, I haven’t wanted to get into Chrome 94’s new feature which automatically opts one in to giving out information which indicates one is or is not paying attention to their computer (but I’m doing it anyway). This is called Idle Detection. Ironically, you can Google “chrome 94 idle detection” (no quotes) and figure it out from there, including how to disable it by using a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) which is fairly difficult to find on one’s own (it’s given at the above link).

Of course, there is currently a zero-day exploit as regards Chrome, which you’re apparently safe from if you’ve updated to Chrome version 94.0.4606.61 or above (there is no, “above,” as of this writing). Unfortunately, Idle Detection comes with this very version. My advice? If you’re using Chrome, update immediately and also immediately (if you wish), turn off Idle Detection. From what I can tell, you may also likely need to go to the Google Play Store if on Android and update Chrome from there; but to the best of my knowledge, a version 94 release for Android is not yet live. I’m going to try and avoid opening Chrome on mobile until I can get an update…

Anyhow…I am finding that I may not have been as ill-placed as I thought I was, when I specialized in Digital Services for my Master’s. It’s just the messiness of dealing with those few people who are hostile and threatening, that is an issue for me. I heard recently that we’re watching the collapse of Western civilization: people don’t know how to treat each other. This was also stated in one of the books I’m reading: social norms (such as not considering one’s fellow citizens as enemies) have been lost. I broached the topic with family, and they were in agreement.

Particularly over the last 18 months…although I do find that I prefer paper books (they don’t run out of battery, and I know they aren’t looking back at me), digital ones are a lifesaver. Probably not literally, but it’s fairly apparent that I don’t have to worry about other peoples’ germs on a tablet (unless, of course, I get the tablet dirty). This is something I was thinking of, even before I went through Library School.

If I do become a Librarian within the next year, I know I’m going to have to be able to help people using digital devices that I have never used before. It’s going to be tough, but maybe I’ll have the skills to navigate that, when I come to it. Usually, patrons are fairly forgiving when they know you’re earnestly trying to help them. Libraries. All types, eh?

P.S. I also meant to update and mention that I realized the other night that, “Anglo-American Cataloging Rules,” likely was meant to include the U.K. and Canada in addition to the United States. There is an alternate translation of “Anglo-American” to mean an American of English descent. I had never been certain of which definition was meant, but I do see from various readings centered around Publishing, that “Anglo-American” is an accepted term to include North America and Britain in the same phrase. I’m not sure about Australia, New Zealand, India, etc., but this realization did put my heart at ease, a bit.

In which I catch up on what’s actually happening

This is going to be an off-topic post, just to let you know.

I’ve spent the majority of my waking hours for the past week or so, dealing both with the effects of the Flu vaccine — or, no, wait: I’m dealing with the Flu vaccine while asleep — and keeping up on all of my Business assignments in the meantime, along with applying for Library jobs. Job applications are the reason I’m having to work so hard on my courses, now.

I wasn’t sure I wanted the main position I applied for, but it could be life-changing if I get it; and I saw it the day before submissions closed. I had nothing better to do, so I applied…and it took all afternoon. I could have read my way through a chapter, or started in on a project, in that time. On the upshot, the hours I spent on the applications got me to think about what I actually did in the course of my last two positions. It was a lot, let me say that; and I have a lot to work from, in subsequent applications.

I’ve gotten to the point of thinking that maybe it was just my last work environment which was toxic, not the entire field I trained within…though of course, that would be hard to calculate, having mostly only worked in said environment. I need to stop trying to endure screwed-up working conditions as a test of my skills. It’s, seriously, damaging and unhealthy. According to everyone I talked to, I shouldn’t have had to endure what I did; and my experience there did cause me to consider leaving the field.

Of course, it would have helped if I had known that the person I went to for help with certain interactions, was not my direct Supervisor. That fact didn’t come up, for years.

It’s not like this is Primary School and we all have to, “get along,” because we’re forced to be together and no one assumes any of the kids have major issues. We’re adults. No one is forced to be there. Sometimes relocation, or a longer commute, is a better option than staying in a toxic environment. Sometimes being unemployed is a better option than working in a toxic environment, but you know how bad it has to be to get to that point?

The major thing I’m going to have to do, if I get this specific new job? Well, I’m going to have to refresh a lot of knowledge, let’s say that. It’s been almost exactly a year and a half since lockdown began: that’s 18 months off of the Reference Desk. If I get the job, I expect there will be a lot of phone calls, as well…which are never the easiest things to deal with, but likely preferable to in-person Reference Interviews (which carry the risk of getting sick).

And, yeah — maybe I should try looking around their catalog from home first, before anyone has the chance to get back to me.

Back to my courses: last meeting, one of my Professors surprise-assigned several chapters out of the textbook to be done before the next meeting (in a week), on top of incorporating material from those chapters into the project, also due next meeting. When…we aren’t even supposed to get into those chapters for weeks, according to the Syllabus.

I didn’t say anything because it’s plausible deniability, if I didn’t hear it. Of course, it’s also plausible deniability if he forgets he said and wrote it, as well (he has directly contradicted himself before). I wouldn’t be so casual about this class, but it’s pretty clear that the circumstances of my situation are way outside the scope of the Prof’s imagination. I’m not going to get into what he said that makes me think this, but…

What was I saying about feeling alienated within my classes, again? I mentioned that, right?

I knew that if I brought this up, however, it could turn into a meltdown that would make me angry every time I tried to engage with the material (or the Professor) again, so I let him go off and alienate a bunch of the class, instead of risking my own comfort. Battle not picked, I guess.

Anyway, the last two nights and days have been full of reading, as the studious part of myself can claim that the project I’m supposed to be doing may be much easier and better-understood if I actually read the chapters (even though I’m not all the way pushing myself to get them done). It also takes away a large burden of work from four weeks later in the semester, which should come in handy when my short course eventually starts.

So right now: well, I’m taking a break to write this, as I’ve been doing classwork all day long (with breaks for meals). This has been the pattern. I just need to be sure not to assign myself the completion of more than one or two major assignments, for any one day. At least, not until I can complete building immunity to this Flu shot.

Aside from this…there has been a lot going on around me, but it’s family-related.

As regards my beadwork, I’m getting a better sense of how what I have read (from Nolo Press) fits into the larger scheme of things. As things stand now…I don’t expect my schoolwork to yield #1 priority until the end of this year. By the beginning of next year, I’ve thought I would either have a job or be looking for a job, and seeking to gain some monetary return from selling online…if that still seems like a good idea.

The thing is, I basically know at this point that this will be minor income (over the long run), if not a loss; and so…I do wonder if it is actually worth selling (as selling means I have to keep a quantity of materials, meaning I have to outlay funds). The time I use planning and creating jewelry could become a time sink, more profitably, more usefully, used to study: to read and to learn other languages. Both of the latter help me in a dream of becoming a published author and a translator, as well as supporting a main job as a Librarian. Not to mention that selling anything at all becomes a liability risk, even if it should be a small one. Then there is the time that I know I will need to spend in Professional Development, should I gain a job and ongoing career, as a Librarian. If I am not hired by the end of Fall semester, I may opt for one or two of these courses of learning.

The question for me at this point, is whether the entire beading enterprise: where I spend a lot of my own money for the hope of breaking even or a small gain, while also risking my own assets via the threat of litigation, is worth it in the long run. As I’m looking at it — and as I am in this Financial Planning class — I don’t think it is. There is the possibility of hiring on workers…but when you’re looking at furthering a career that you’ve worked hard to get this far within, and this in exchange for a livable salary with benefits and retirement — as versus working in a cottage industry for (largely, short-term) money, which cannot financially sustain you in the places you want to live, the first choice looks a lot more viable than the second. The first can finance the second. That doesn’t mean to stop making jewelry; that means not to do it in the hope of substantive financial return (i.e. making a living by doing it) over a long period of time. (Making “some money” at it may be as much as I can expect, and breaking even won’t happen for a while.)

It also means to look realistically into distributing patterns if I find I actually want to help others with my skill, and get some practice with Web Publishing (and Jewelry Design) at the same time. If I self-publish a pattern book, I can even publish my patterns first to the Web, and later as a printed collection (Publishing houses often don’t want to publish material which has first been set free on the Web; there are exceptions).

There are a lot of ways I can employ my skill sets…jewelry production does not maximize them, by any means. But maybe it’s good experience to have, even if I don’t end up following through with it as I initially imagined.

And again, I’m glad I took the time to write this out. I’m also glad I’m in these Business classes. Even though classes in general can be tiring, I’m learning a lot; and it is possible that my Financial Management class did just save me a good deal of pain.