Sunday, April 22, 2012

My luck strikes again.

I don't know if this last week has been a good one or a bad one. It's been up and down like a yo-yo.

Everyone at work has jumped on the weight loss bandwagon and are doing this silly "ultimate challenge" in which they're basically betting on who will lose the most weight in 2 months. I find it silly because they'll starve themselves or exercise like mad for the next two months and probably drop weight but they won't keep it off and they'll likely binge and all that unhealthy stuff. What I find amusing is they're saying I'm an inspiration, yet not one has heeded my warnings about guzzling the diet drinks or eating like birds instead of just eating healthy. They're mystified as to why I don't want to join since I'm doing so well. Well, because I'm not under the illusion that I'm going to lose weight each and every week - and there will be times when my weight goes up even though I'm getting thinner because muscle mass weighs more than fat. BUT if you gain any weight you get penalized and have to pay more money. Again, very silly. And everyone wonders why they're soooo tired.

As far as my weight, I've lost another 3 pounds, but it's been a pretty tough week. I was doing really well early on, but the later part of the week brought the period from hell. I actually had to stay home, pretty much in bed with a heating pad alternating between my lower back and lower abdomen to try to fight the cramps. Needless to say my eating habits weren't great for those couple days, I broke down and had a pepsi and McDonalds. Nasty. I was immediately thirsty and guzzled water like there was no tomorrow! Back on track a bit better now. Today is "officially" cheat day, but I'm not doing too badly. I had a couple of pancakes for breakfast, so I did cheat a little but two pancakes aren't terrible. AND they have eggs in them which is about the only way I can bring myself to eat eggs!

That brings me to a question. I want to add a cardio workout to my exercise regimen. There are two problems. Time and body issues. Time in that I can't go to the gym - I really don't have time. It has to be something I can do at home. The other problem? My knee. I can't do anything like step or exercise bike or anything like that that puts pressure on my knee. I've had several reconstructive surgeries and I have been putting off another one so it has to be something very low impact. I'd love to do swimming and when the lake heats up I will probably start that, but the closest pool is a 20 minute drive - time I don't have. I'm thinking of getting an elliptical machine? I don't know if that is a good option? For now I'm walking a fair bit, plus work is very physical, and I'm doing Yoga 3 times a week.

I did manage to find bread I could eat at the grocery store in the frozen organic section. I didn't find most of the other things I was hunting for though. Will have to look again in other places.

My stitching mojo returned this week, and it was welcome! I finished up the first square on Trip Around the World Quilts - though I'm debating redoing the beads because I found a colour I like better. Not sure yet. Then I did some work on Antique Lace Band Sampler. I really am not destined to model stitch this one. I'm on my third restart. The first because I didn't like the floss I'd picked so reselected and decided on Gloriana Ecru. Then I matched up fabric samples I had here - and when the fabric came in, it was two shades lighter than my sample and the floss came in darker than my sample, so there went that idea too. So I finally restarted on 35ct Almond Bar from Weeks, only to find that it ISN'T 35ct. It's 40ct. The beads and ribbon don't fit. I'm NOT dumping them from the design so now I have to find fabric again. I've emailed Weeks in hopes that it might have been a dying error and not shrinkage that is the problem. I'd try the 30ct, but then I won't have enough floss so that idea is out. It kills me because the colour is perfect and after so much switching around, I really have my heart set on chocolate brown fabric. But it has to be 34, 35 or 36 ct AND has be available in a full yard piece. 

And I'm aching to start the models for a Sampling of Seasons, but Valdani is STILL out of stock on S12 Black Bark silk and I need it for all four seasons. Might have to just forget it and go with something else, it's been out of stock for six months now and I can't keep waiting and hoping.

So now I'm working a little on Rhapsody in Red but all this is killing my mojo again, it really is. There is nothing worse than being totally psyched to start something and then everything going wrong. AGAIN.

Going to do some Yoga and clear my head!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Today - a rant of a different kind

So I'm on a diet. Scratch that, it's not a diet in the modern sense of the word, but changing to a healthier way of eating. You'd think eating healthy would be easy, right?

Surprisingly, it's not. You'd be shocked at how hard it really is.

About a month and a half ago I joined the Beyond Diet program. It's about heathy lifestyle choices and eating REAL food. Forget all that diet, low cal, low carb, low fat (and low taste) stuff that's loaded with chemicals. Sure it's quick and easy to toss in the microwave, but it takes me about 20 minutes to make a meal that tastes 100 times better, and is actually GOOD for me. No chemicals. All real, natural ingredients.

There's a short intro video on their website that gives a brief explanation of the program, and actually tells you several different foods to avoid - and even if you DON'T join, following those few tips she gives you WILL help you lose weight and feel better.

That brings me to my rant. I'm beginning to understand why it's so hard for people to lose weight after reading labels and comparing those to the things I should eat and the things my body can't process and put heavy stresses on it. Almost everything in the grocery store from breads to cereals to deli meats to canned fish to peanut butter and even fresh meats contain things they shouldn't. Finding things that are healthy, not loaded with sugar, salt or chemicals is HARD these days. Since when should meat have an ingredients label???? Shouldn't a fresh chicken breast just be a chicken breast? You'd be surprised. Almost every package of meat I looked at in the grocery store also included salt and water. Thank god I work at a butcher shop and don't need to buy meat there. I know exactly where all our beef, pork, poultry and lamb comes from, what it ate before we got it (we slaughter on site, we don't used boxed products) AND that there were no steroids or antibiotics injected into it. The bonus is that it's cheaper anyway - plus I get an employee discount on top of it. ;)

However, that's the only thing that cheaper. I haven't gone to organic veggies, they're too expensive for me to justify. I might eventually, but for now I'm still just buying the normal ones.

All natural anything is expensive. In a lot of cases, you have to do a lot of searching to find it because the grocery store just doesn't carry it. Even stuff that's labeled all natural or healthy choice and stuff like that? When you read the label it's loaded with things like sugar or salt. OR it has a list of chemicals that sound more like an experiment than food.

That's part of the reason I'm taking this step by step.

I've got a long way to go to make the switch to totally healthy, but so far the changes I have made? I've cut way back on sugar by giving up pop, juice and fruit drinks (never was one for energy drinks but I wouldn't be drinking those either). I've given up breads and cereals for the time being until I can find actual healthy versions. I'm drinking tons of water. I've switched to eating 5-6 small meals per day - breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack - so my stomach always has something in it. I'm eating protein with EVERY meal or snack. Well I started this in March and have been gradually making changes since then. I was already losing weight because I ramped up my activity level a few months ago, BUT since making these changes I've lost 15 pounds now in 5 weeks. My energy is better and I feel better. I find I care more about my appearance again and my self confidence is through the roof. In other words I'm starting to feel like me again - the me that disappeared years ago when medications, injuries, surgeries, a very BAD relationship and the resulting depression kicked my butt. But wait, my butt is (from it's heaviest point) 60lbs lighter than it was... so now who's kicking butt??? :D And Jon is happier because I'm happier. He's even starting to try to eat a bit healthier himself because he's realized that maybe that's why he's so tired all the time. :)

I get a cheat day once a week, where I can eat what I want - within reason of course. I should still try to eat my 5-6 smaller meals per day, but if I really want chocolate? I'll have it. Grilled cheese? Yeah, okay. Funny thing is I'm finding that since I cut out all the sugary stuff and have gotten used to unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit, water instead of pop... when I do break down and have something I miss they are SOOOO sweet! I had half a brownie today and the first bite was pure heaven... a serious OMG. But after that I realized just how sweet it really was!

The biggest things I've noticed apart from the weight loss is how much energy I have, the huge decrease in body pain I'm feeling, and that I'm eating a LOT more than I ever did before. I'm rarely hungry unless I get lazy and don't make dinner right away when I get home from work. Oh, and my hair is thicker and shinier than before. And my skin looks better. I'm sleeping better. I FEEL like exercising. I FEEL like doing stuff. I FEEL great, to be honest. And my colitis is SOOOOO much better. To be honest, that was the main reason I started this - I was having far too many flare ups and the prognosis was another round of steroids, which inevitably meant another massive weight gain. So I decided to try this first. I'm very glad I did.

Okay on to other more stitchy matters... I want to again thank everyone who took the time to read my blog posts on infringement. I won't inundate you with details again, just again say thanks. :)

And other stitchy stuff... well I haven't been stitching much. This past month has been such a whirlwind - printing, shipping and re-inventing my whole lifestyle - it's been very hard to concentrate. I have done a little, but I haven't taken any pics lately. I worked on Sleeping Beauty a bit, started the Antique Lace Band Sampler and started Rosewood Manor's Trip Around the World Quilts, but haven't gotten that much done on any I'm afraid. I have however, been doing some designing, and will be starting the model stitching on a new series as soon as one of the colours I need is back in stock from Valdani. :) It's a very colourful seasonal series, which can each be stitched on it's own or all together as one large design. I can't wait to show it off to you as I work on it, in fact I wonder a little if my focus on this design is part of the reason I don't feel like stitching - I want to be stitching this!! :)

Right now, however, I do have the stitching bug. So with that I'm off to stitch a little before bed. :) Happy weekend everyone!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In response

This is in response to a post from Laurylyan on her own blog:

Laurylyan, you make some excellent points, and I personally do agree with much of what you're saying. First let me just say that I do not agree with SOPA/PIPA. While the intentions are good, the methods and means suggested have little hope helping the problem.

The statement in the original post was this: "So yeah, not every person who downloaded it would have bought it, but even if one in a hundred did it still adds up to a massive amount of lost revenue." If you're talking about a small number of people participating, then I might agree with you. We're talking about well into the hundreds of thousands of people in a relatively small industry. So even that 1% is still a large number of lost sales. We'll have to agree to disagree on this point.

The problems with selling online are as massive as the benefits. First, the likelihood and speed of infringement is much faster because the ability to abuse is much easier  - there's no work in forwarding an email or uploading a pdf file as there is with a paper chart. While the costs of printing and shipping are gone, the cost of security measures increases and it is just as, or in some cases, more expensive. And of all those we've tested to date, I've managed to get around the security placed on them in a matter of a few minutes and remove it or find a way to still share the file without compromising anonymity, though the ways I've done it I would rather not discuss publicly.

There was also something I saw mentioned on Martina's Yahoo group about the reselling of digital files. I can't speak to the laws anywhere else, but in the US and Canada, digital files are excluded from first sale doctrine. First sale doctrine being that you can resell an item you have legally purchased. It is limited to tangible items - movies and software on DVD, music on CD, books in print form and in this case, charts in print form. Digital versions of the same - direct downloads of software, mp4, mp3, ebooks and pdf charts are excluded from this unless specific permission is granted by the copyright holder. This is for several reasons, the two I can recall without looking it up being that first, when you purchase in this format you are not purchasing the actual file - that is to say that you don't own it, you are merely purchasing a license to use it. The other main point stressed by the copyright office for this reasoning is that because the responsibility falls to the seller to delete or destroy their original file after a sale is made, there is too much room for abuse. Whether people agree or disagree with this, it is the law here as it currently stands. It is of course up to each designer how they want to deal with it.

The biggest point to note is that those selling in this fashion, digital vs. print are not selling any more than those who don't. The fact is that the designer/distributor/shop model still guarantees the best sales to costs ratio for most of us. Most companies who sell in both methods, retail and wholesale, sell at a higher volume to distributors and shops than individual direct sales. There are only a few who sell higher volumes in pdf format. The reason for this? Because the average stitcher still prefers to go to a shop to buy their supplies. The average stitcher buying their supplies is not a technological wizard and many still resist shopping or buying online. A good example of this is in my own local area, where I live and design and yet almost none of the stitchers in this area had heard of me until the release of March/April's Just Cross Stitch. Why? Because I did most of my sales and communications online and that is just unheard of for people around here. Balk at it if you like, but the bulk of people who purchase are not doing so direct from the designer - yet. Those who do shop online still tend to purchase from an online shop rather than direct, I'm guessing from my own purchasing patterns, that is because they like to order supplies as well, which in a lot of cases can only be purchased from a shop, so it's easier to order it all in one place. While the number of internet shoppers is growing, the old method of distribution is STILL the best way to ensure sales, so we need to maintain the current model while exploring new possibilities. At the current time in the current market, cutting out the middle man is NOT a solution, as it does remain the best sales vehicle for designers.

Some of us have discussed things like centralized secure servers for shops to use for purchasing everything from charts to supplies. The charts they would print themselves, the supplies they would have colour cards on hand for customers to choose from and then the supplies ordered would ship directly to the consumer. It's a great idea that would get shops new items much more quickly and allow them to access a greater range of products than they can currently offer. It's also a good compromise in that it maintains to some degree, the current sales model - a stitcher goes into a shop, picks out a design and materials and buys it (in person or online) - while introducing a less costly way to distribute charts and materials. But it also has a lot of issues that make it difficult to govern. Things like quality control are an excellent example - who is to say that each shop will use high quality materials for all their printing to guarantee that each customer everywhere gets the same quality chart. It also relies on the willingness of designers, dyers and other manufacters to participate. And the biggest, who is going to pay for setting up and implementing this model? 

The reason I've been researching all of this is because I do plan to start offering my charts direct, but I'm trying to find the best and most secure method to do so.

To your comments about different standards - I HAVE lived in those shoes and not so long ago. I went without a lot of things and had to make conscious decisions as to whether to buy groceries or pay for my hydro because I couldn't do both. In one instance my mother bought me supplies to stitch a model as my birthday gift. Thankfully we made it through that period, but I still do go without lots of things to be able to balance what I love and what I earn and am still FAR from well off. We still do without things like cell phones, satellite and cable, dinners out, going out on "dates" in exchange for enjoying our hobbies. But I digress. I have to admit to finding that reasoning a little off - if these are people who can't afford to eat, how can they afford to pay for the internet to download charts? In a lot of these cases, these are NOT the people we're talking about. Many of the people we're talking about are purchasing hand dyed threads and fabric, expensive stitching stands and STILL downloading illegal copies of charts. I see the discussions on these sites all the time about silk threads and linens and the like - so claiming hardship in cases like these is more than a little hypocritical on their part.

As far as products declining in price after a period of time, there are reasons that that isn't as feasible in this industry as it is in others. In some cases, like in technologies, the cost of production goes down after manufacturers find new and more efficient ways of producing, or because the technologies become quickly obsolete and are replaced by newer and faster products. In our case, the cost of production doesn't decrease over time, but increases as the cost of paper, ink and shipping increase. I can see it being feasible as more designers make the transition to or addition of selling online, but with the current model it isn't. When it still costs us just as much or more to produce as it did when it first came out, it won't happen, apart from shops putting older charts on sale to clear out old inventory. I don't disagree with you here, I'm just telling you why you won't see it happen anytime soon.

I completely agree with you about charts going out of print. While I did give reasons that it happens, that is not to say I agree with the practice, just that I understand why. I'm all for designers re-issuing old books and designs that I missed out on the first time around that I would love to buy. As a designer who does my own printing and is working towards making direct online sales an option, it's very easy for someone like me to keep everything always available. However for a really popular designer, it can be difficult to keep up with printing, shipping, shows, model stitching, designing and everything else this entails, so they choose the option of using professional print services. Having just printed several hundred charts in the last week while still trying to work, design and all the other things I do every day, this was not a quick or easy feat, so I can completely understand why a designer would choose to go this route. I have my reasons for doing it my way, they have their reasons for doing it theirs. Here though, is a perfect case for coming up with suggestions or alternatives to designers rather than people just complaining about it. Perhaps suggesting that once a design is no longer popular enough to justify using a print service they simply print on demand themselves or offer it in another format. Some might agree to do it, some may not, that is their decision. If a chart was originally offered as a limited edition, it's highly unlikely this will happen. Sometimes the designer no longer has the files to reproduce the chart again (yes, this does happen). Some may be loathe do it because they can't reproduce at the same quality as the professionally printed version that was originally sold because they don't have the equipment to do it. And some may be happy to do it when and if they can. So like I say, while I won't be retiring charts personally, I can understand their reasons.

Regarding libraries - they don't buy books for the same cost that you or I do, they pay a much larger fee - much like a DVD rental store pays a higher cost for a DVD they will rent out than for one they will sell. I don't know exactly what the cost they pay is, but as I understand it, it's much higher than normal wholesale or retail to include royalties. Also, making the working copy to stitch from is only legal as long as they keep the book in their possession as well - as soon as the book is returned to the library, it is illegal to keep the working copy.

As to the Russian group, I don't know all of the details from either side so I can't and won't comment on it. You would have to speak to the designer in question to find out why they declined, not just the group who wanted their designs.

I completely agree with you on the point of designers limiting charts to one use. It's not a common practice, that I can tell you, and it's just plain silly to expect people to comply.

I'm all for change, believe me. I'm open to new ideas and new methods and means, especially those that make things easier for me. But the plain fact is, as I said earlier, that the current model of selling still outperforms online direct sales to such a huge degree for most designers it is unlikely to change in the very near future. With this scenario you have to maintain a delicate balance. The best and fastest way to grow your business in the current state of the market REMAINS through shops - brick and mortar OR online. While you may agree or disagree with this practice you can't deny that the most popular designers in the world are not the ones selling only independently via the internet, but those whose charts are on store shelves. To keep your charts on store shelves you walk a fine line - if you make the changes to keep up with new sales strategies you run the risk of alienating those shops who have always supported you. If you don't make the changes you run the risk of alienating stitchers who want those alternatives. That is literally the bottom line.