Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Congratulations on Finding a New Way to Fail!

 I have two new things to share today:
     1.  I want to make greeting cards that make it okay to fail, such as "Congratulations on finding a new way to fail!" (it points out that at least you accomplished something) or "At least you tried" (paired with the appropriate picture, it's a snarky take on the inspirational posters that hang in the hallways of middle schools).
     2.  I'm building a website.  That's right!  Soon, you'll be able to visit!

A small fact:  New thing 2 inspired new thing 1.

It turns out that building a website is hard!  I'm using a web host that includes a really nice site building program, but before I use it, I have to make sure that I'm going to be able to accept payment in my fancy new shop.  I have a Google Checkout account since I hate PayPal, but GC is not integrated with any of the eCommerce tools that are integrated with my web host.  Now I'm trying to set up a custom integration, and I have grave doubts about my ability to pull it off.  There are all of these files and programs and databases and html and sql and php4 and I don't know what any of it means.  I think I'm following the instructions perfectly, and then nothing happens.  Or a bunch of error messages start flashing across the screen.  In either case, I'm not able to use Google Checkout with my online shop.  This is the end of day 2 of my efforts and my faith in my ability to figure this out is waning.  There is a reason I majored in psychology instead of computer science.

If I can figure this piece out, I think the new website will be amazing.  It will allow us more freedom creatively and from a business standpoint, so I'm not giving up yet.  But if I do fail, at least I'll have a card to cheer me up! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #30

I know it's sad, but two Fridays have gone by without my naming a hero and villain of the week.  I'm sorry about that, but I am bringing it back just in time to read while all of my East Coasters are preparing for Hurricane Irene. 

Hero of the Week:  Parties
Last week I went to my first slumber party in a long time.  It was so much fun!  We ate tacos and chocolate lava cake, and we played Mall Madness.  That's right--Mall Madness, the board game the late 1980s.  We all had a super fabulous time!  Tomorrow I'm going to a tea party, and I have a new hat for the occasion.  I'm having such a good time, I think there should be a party every weekend.  Sure, I might run out of occasions, but I'm pretty creative.  For example, I could throw a party for a full moon.  It would be space themed, obviously, and everyone would dress like they lived on a different planet.  I would want Mars because red it kinda my color.  Anyway, for all of the fun I've had and the vast potential for future good times, parties are my hero of the week.

Villain of the Week:  George
Hurricane Irene has pretty much taken over the news this week (except for Tuesday when the earthquake was a pretty big deal).  I don't blame Irene; she's just following the example of treacherous storms before her.  Hurricane George became the first named storm to hit the US in 1947.  Consequently, I blame George.  Not just the hurricane, mind you, but George in general.  Throughout history, Georges have been disappointing, distracting, or destructive.  Don't believe me?  Take a look these Georges:
     George Lazenby, "the forgotten Bond" starred as James Bond in one movie before Sean Connery reprised the role. (Disappointing)
     George Willig scaled the World Trade Center and was arrested for trespassing.  (Distracting)
     George Armstrong Custer was responsible for the mistreatment and death of many Native Americans during the Indian Wars.  (Destructive)
Curious George get a pass because he's adorable.

That's all for  this week.  I hope everyone has a fun and safe weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It Only Looks Like I've Given Up on Life

I'm not going to lie--the last couple of months have not been the best.  Various setbacks and business disappointments combined with the pressure of a new job have felt overwhelming at times.  I tried to take some time to rest and regroup last week, and the result was less than pretty.

I spent a large portion of my down time fast asleep, and the rest of the time looking like I just woke up.  One day, I ventured out to CVS frizzy-haired and make-up free.  I was there to buy extra-large bandages for the gaping flesh wound I received from a pair of rather fabulous platform stilettos, but I felt myself drawn to the "as seen on tv" aisle.  There, between the pain-free hair remover and the perfect pasta cooker, was a display of Pajamajeans.  In case you are unfamiliar with the product and/or are terrible at drawing logical conclusions, Pajamajeans are pants that feel like pajamas and are supposed to look like jeans.  I was first introduced to them by my friends merciless mockery of anyone that would deign to wear them.  And yet, a strange longing to wear the oft-maligned garment stirred inside me.  

An internal battle raged:  Am I really the kind of person who thinks that putting on a pair of jeans is too much effort when leaving the house?  Am I going to refuse to try something because my friends laugh at it?  Am I really going to pay $40 for glorified yoga pants?  Well, I have a coupon, so they won't be quite that much.  What should I do?!?  As I searched my soul for the answers to these questions, I surreptitiously circled the aisle.  Apparently, I was not as surreptitious as I would have liked because I started getting some odd looks from my fellow shoppers.

Finally, I made a decision.  To heck with my pride, I was buying the Pajamajeans!  I reached for a box and realized that my size was two boxes back.  As I tried to extract my target, several boxes from above started to tumble.  I tried to reach up to steady them, but my efforts were hampered by a shopping basket.  Then I tried to gently place the basket on the floor to free my hands, but I couldn't reach down without letting what amounted to the entire Pajamajeans display crumble around me.  I had to simply drop the basket, which made a rather dismal thunk! and ensured that everyone in the vicinity turned to watch my struggle.  Hurridly, I tried to wedge the box into my basket, and it nearly didn't fit.

I scurried up the checkout line with my head down, trying to cover my face with my frizzy hair.  Naturally, the line was longer than I'd ever seen it.  When it was finally my turn, the basket handles got stuck on the Pajamajeans box and it took me nearly 30 seconds to wrestle it free.  Then it was time to pay, and I thought my humiliation was nearly over.  Unfortunatley, I was wrong.  I handed the cashier a coupon for 25% off that I had printed from the in-store kiosk.  The cupon didn't have a barcode, so she had to call for a manager over the speaker.  Meanwhile, my Pajamajeans were standing proudly on the checkout counter, inviting all patrons behind me to see that not only was I buying fake jeans, but I was too cheap to pay full price.  When the manager finally arrived at the scene, she was also unable to appropriately apply the coupon.   I continued to stand there, ashamed, as the manager and her underling continued to fuss with the coupon and cash register for the next 10 minutes.  By the time they were done,  I was completely mortified.  At least I ended up with about 75% off my total!

When I finally got my Pajamajeans home, they were so comfy that I almost decided that they looked like regular jeans.  In fact, I went to the grocery store in them!  I'm sure it was probably just a delusion precipitated by extreme comfort.  My darling friend has assured me that, yes, they are ugly, and even tagged my "ugly pajamajeans" in a picture on Facebook.  However, despite all appearances, I have not totally given up on life.  I'm still trying to find a way to make my business work, and I may even wear a dress a put on make-up at some point in the future.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

I am frustrated.  JA Greetings's recent brush with identity theft has rendered our original (albeit fairly unsuccessful) business plan unworkable, which means that we basically have to start from scratch with a plan that doesn't revolve around e-commerce.  Luckily, I have a few days off of work later this week to work on this problem.  It's still disheartening to have to start all over.  To make myself feel better, I'm going to focus on some positive beginnings.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of great fortune must be in want of a wife."  --  Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice.

"Once upon a time in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle."  -- Beauty and the Beast

"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since."  --  F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

"Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York."  --  Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."  --  J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"Once when I was six I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle, called True Stories.  --  Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

"Except for the Marabar Caves--and they are twenty miles off--the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary."  --  E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

"Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage."  --  Jane Austin, Persuasion 

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."  --  Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I know that all of these beginnings, unassuming as they may seem, are an essential part to classic stories that have helped to shape my worldview.  So I am going to take encouragement from my favorite authors and assume that this new beginning for JA Greetings is the start of something very very good indeed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Conversation with Jamie: One Year Ago

Today is a very important day to me.  It was one year ago today that I said goodbye to my friends and co-workers, left my job, and moved out of Charlottesville.  The point of all the upheaval, of course, was to start JA Greetings with Ashley.  It was a difficult decision to leave, but I also had a lot of expectations about how things would turn out.  I wish I could go back in time and talk to myself about realistic expectations.  Here is how that would go:

J.Now:  So, Jamie.  It's your last day in Charlottesville.  How are you feeling?
J.Then:  I'm feeling okay.  It's sad to be leaving, but I'm really excited to get to work on my business.
J.Now:  Oh, yes.  You're "business."  (snide chuckle)  Can you tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how much paperwork that is going involve?
J.Then:  Ummmmm......some?
J.Now:  Ha!  Try, like, a LOT! 
J.Then:  Well, okay, but I can handle it.
J.Now:  Okay, sweetie.  Sure you can. 
J.Then:  Don't call me "sweetie" in that tone of voice!  It's condescending.
J.Now:  Fine.  Sorry.  I just think you're being a little naive.  I mean, sure you've got pluck or whatever, but do you really have any idea what you're doing?
J.Then:  Dude, for serious, your tone is insulting.  And, I have lots of ideas!  I'm smart and innovative and fairly organized, and I have very supportive family and friends.  I'm going to be fine.
J.Now:  I'm glad you have so much faith.  Tell me, do you have a work schedule figured out?  How are you going to stay on track.
J.Then:  I do have a schedule in mind. I'll spend the morning doing administrative work and writing, then I'll meet with Ashley, and then I'll work on embellishing cards and designing jewelry.
J.Now:  That sounds like a very reasonable and responsible plan.  How long do you think that will last?
J.Then:  I think I'll be able to manage it for a while.  Of course, I'll have to adjust it as business picks up or if I get a part-time job.
J.Now:  I'm glad you mentioned the part-time job.  What would you say if I told you that it would be at least nine months before you found a part-time job you could stand?
J.Then:  I'd say at least I have more time to devote to my growing business!
J.Now:  Yeah, you're also not to see much growth in your business.
J.Then:  What do you mean by "not much?"
J.Now:  I mean only friends and family are buying them. 
J.Then:  Oh.  Why?  Are they bad or something?
J.Now:  Nope, they're pretty awesome.  Check this out! 
J.Then:  That is awesome!  So why aren't people buying them?
J.Now:  Who knows?  Market saturation, lack of advertising, bad taste?  Beats me!
J.Then:  Huh.  So what exactly am I doing to fix that?
J.Now:  That is an excellent question!  But rather than answering it, I'm going to ask you this question:  How do you feel about airplanes?
J.Then:  Well, I like to travel, so I guess I'm a fan.
J.Now:  That's good.  Hold onto that feeling.  Just don't focus so much on the actual travel aspect.  That takes money, yo.

Yeah, that's probably how it would go.  Despite J.Now's tone, it really has been a great year.  Thank you so much to everyone who sheltered, clothed, fed, or otherwise supported me and JA Greetings.  I don't know what I would do without you're purchases, tax advise, great ideas, and unending patience.  I love you all!

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #29

It's Friday again if you can believe it (and even if you can't).  For those of you who don't work in aviation and/or own your own business, this is the start of the weekend.  I don't actually get weekends, per say, but I still acknowledge Fridays by naming a hero and villain of the week.  This weeks picks feature melodrama and things you have to sign for.

Hero of the Week:  Taylor Swift
I know that Taylor is my no means universally liked or respected, but her popularity is undeniable.  I myself was not a fan when I first heard the song "Love Story" and became convinced that she had never read either Romeo and Juliet or The Scarlet Letter (Seriously, does anyone in the music/entertainment industry realize that Romeo and Juliet die at the end of the play?  It's kind of a tragedy, y'all.).  And yet, I can't help but love the catchy melodies, the Everygirl quality of the lyrics, and unapologetic wallowing in every single exaggerated emotion that her music encompasses.  There are few things that can cheer me up like bellowing a Taylor Swift song at the top of my lungs.  It's pure girly catharsis, and I've needed it this week.

Villain of the Week:  "Non-drowsy" cold medicine
I've had a little touch of late-summer cold this week, and it's made me a bit foggy headed.  Of course, I want to be at my best when I go into work.  I took some cold medicine that was supposed to be non-drowsy, but I think it just made me more out-of-it.  I barely made it through my shift at work drinking tons of coffee, but I was still drowsy when it came time to drive home.  A sense of self-preservation led me to stop at Sheetz for a cappocino and a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and the combination of sugar, caffeine and chewyness did keep me awake.  However, I am offended by the false advertising.  And how did the cold medicine people know that I worked near a Sheetz where I could stock up on supplies?  It's almost like they don't care!

Thus concludes the recitation of the zenith and nadir of my week.  I wish you all a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Online Shopping Security: Opinions of an Amateur Psychologist

As I mentioned in last week's Heroes and Villains post, my PayPal account has been hacked twice.  The whole experience has caused me to think a lot about identity theft, and it turns out I'm not a fan.  It's not like I ever thought it was a good thing, but it's existence was largely irrelevant to me except for my Dad's job (he works for a company that tries to prevent it) and the funny commercials that used to be on showing the body builder talking about the cute clothes he bought online in the voice of a high school girl.  Now, however, it's not so funny.

As incredibly annoying as it is to have someone pretend to be me and spend well over a thousand dollars that I don't have, it is even more annoying to have to show photo ID, utility bills, and a contract signing over my first-born child to get my money back.  It's apparently way easier to steal an identity than actually use the one you were born with. Yet even after I jumped through all of the hoops to get the first identity theft issue resolved, it happened again.  As you can imagine, I was outraged!  I'm sure the technologically-minded among us would offer an explanation about malicious hacking software of something, but I don't really care about that.  I'm interested in stopping it. 

I think there should be a system in place that acknowledges identity is more than a password and a handful of meaningless security questions.  I propose this:  that anytime someone makes a purchase online, he or she must take a personality test.  It doesn't have to be a full Myers-Briggs Type Indicator every time, but at least 7 questions which change with every transaction.  As long as the personality type matches the main profile with at least 98% accuracy and a correct password is entered, then the transaction will be approved.  I think this would drastically cut down on the number of fraudulent charges.  And even if someone did manage to hack into my account, at least I could feel like he understands me.