Friday, September 28, 2007

It's better to burn out than fade away

Warning: Extreme 80s flashback ahead.

So a few months ago, my mom decided she was done storing the boxes of my stuff in their house. So she sent them all to me. I wrote about that here.

One thing I found in there was my Def Leppard concert T-shirt from the 1989 Hysteria tour. It's actually in great shape, considering its age, because I had to wear a uniform in high school (which didn't allow for concert T-shirts, though I did sneak it in a few times under a sweater) and I didn't take it to college.

It got me thinking about music and how in those days, I wouldn't miss a concert of a band I loved. I have seen a *lot* of live music since then. But lately, I've probably only been to a few shows a year. Which is crazy since I actually have a REAL JOB now and can afford to go to all the rock shows I could possibly want.

That old T-shirt, and one radio commercial for the Def Leppard/Styx/Foreigner concert later, I was sold. I called up my friend Dave, who is up for pretty much any 80s metal concert, and convinced him it would be a good time. (I wasn't very good at convincing TJ, sadly.) So I went to TicketMaster (*spits on ground*) and tried to buy some tickets. Not surprisingly, there were plenty to choose from.

The tickets were a little steep at $62 each, but hey, it's 20 years later, and I have a job. Fine. When I tried to check out and pay for my tickets, TicketMaster (*spits on ground again*) tried to charge me $41 in fees for those two measly tickets. I kid you not - there was a service fee, a venue fee, a print your tickets out fee, and a too bad for you fee.

I just couldn't do it. Could not pay them a fee that was more expensive than two whole tickets for the first concert I ever went to (Poison & David Lee Roth - good times!). So I went to craigslist, and found someone who was trying to get rid of her tickets at the very last minute, and got a screamin deal for $50 each and no fees. Woot woot!

Since this is already a long story, I'll make the rest short. The White River Amphitheater is a nice venue - once you finally get there. It's both far away from Seattle, and has the most poorly planned access I have ever seen. A two-lane road leads up to it. Seriously? You're trying to squeeze thousands of people into a venue for a show that starts at a certain time, and they need to get there on a two-lane road?! Stupid.

So we missed all of Styx and half of Foreigner. Which was kind of a bummer, because Foreigner was much better than I expected, and everyone at the show said Styx had been awesome. But I was there to relive being 14 and see Def Leppard, and I was totally excited about it. On a side note, that 1989 Def Leppard concert was the first time I had seen Queensryche, who I have now seen 7 times.

So it turns out some rock stars should just retire gracefully. Sadly, Joe Elliott, lead singer of Def Leppard, is one of them. I don't care if he's gained weight (I mean, who hasn't?) and lost his mullet. In fact, his hair was gorgeous and he had a haircut *I* want. But I do care that he can't really sing anymore. He hits the lower notes just fine, but when it comes to Def Lep's trademark sound and the higher notes and that typical "sound" of his voice, it's just not there anymore. Too much partying and not enough sleep or vitamins over the years, I guess. You could see him straining on the big screens, and see the rest of the band trying to cover for him with their backing vocals and mad guitar skillz and it was just sad. I was *so* disappointed.

Fortunately, about halfway through the show, it picked up and took off - he seemed to be more warmed up, or something, because the second half of the show was almost as amazing as I remember them from 1989. The guitarists were *un*-freakin-believable. I guess getting older and cleaning up their acts has made them focus on their skills - they were en fuego. And quite honestly, still rock star cute. For that last hour I was that starry-eyed girl having the time of her life at a show. When they ended with "Rock of Ages", it was truly amazing.

And that made me realize that I still love to rock out. So I'm going to try to expand my musical horizons and see more bands live. Maybe even bands that are not 20 years past their prime! To that end, I am going to see two Finnish metal bands in the next couple of months: Nightwish and HIM. Good times.

Monday, September 24, 2007

You know what we mean

As promised, here are some pics of my weekend projects. To prove that I really was busy. Apologies to those whose calls I didn't return :(. You can click on any of the pics to get a closeup look.

Project One: Revamped coral necklace that I got from my mom. The coral part is 37 years old!

Project Two: Antique charm bracelet plus modern charms from etsy. I'm guessing this bracelet's backstory is probably not so happy given that it ended up in a New Hampshire antique shop rather than passed down through the family. But I love it - someone took the time to get their kids' (or grandkids') birthdates engraved on the charms. And the names are so classic 1950s America: Sally, Dick, Susan. I added some cute colorful charms I found on etsy to perk it up.

Project Three: Copper bracelet annealed and hand-forged by Yours Truly. It started out as a 6 inch piece of 6 gauge copper wire, the kind you get at a hardware store. Yes, it looks like a kindergartner's art project. But it's metal. And I used a torch! And got to hammer! On an anvil! Woo hoo!

All these questions

So one of the cool things about having a blog is that you can put on a hit counter to see where and how visitors ended up on your blog. I use Sitemeter, which is free and fabulous.

Many people find their way to my blog via Google searches, and Sitemeter shows you exactly what they searched for. Usually it's song lyrics, so I guess they must be disappointed to get here and realize that I don't tell them who sings the songs I name my posts after.

Occasionally the search terms are hilarious (and random). My favorite for today is "why is my beagle so itchy?". It's almost as if people think Google is The Oracle that will answer any question. I love it.

Why indeed. Poor beagle.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm marking it down to learning

Woot! Just got back from my Jewelry/Metalsmithing I class session at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle.

So cool! We just learned about annealing metal (ie heating it till it glows with an acetylene torch, then dropping it in water to quench it, and putting it in sodium bisulfate to remove the oxides), forging it (hammering!), and filing it.

I made a copper cuff bracelet out of a piece of 6 gauge wire. It's kind of lopsided and imperfect, but I'm pretty darn proud of my first attempt with metal. I'll post a picture sometime this week.

Been a busy but fun weekend. I did a "jewelry extreme makeover" on a coral necklace from my mom, that I plan to keep for myself, made 3 bracelets to sell in my etsy shop, repaired the clasp on another bracelet, and spiffied up a very cool charm bracelet I bought on ebay. Pictures of all projects to follow in a later post - one thing I didn't get to was photography.

I got a request from a family friend for two sets of mother-daughter necklaces. Woo hoo! Now I just need to figure out what to make. Being a techie at heart, it's hard to start a project like this without detailed specs. I guess that's where the arty side of me kicks in, right? I sure hope it does. But I'm just thinking about ideas and have had a few already, so I think it'll be fun.

Everyone, please think happy thoughts for my parents' dog, Mona. She has been diagnosed with lymphoma, poor thing. They've started treatment for it so hopefully she will get better soon. Hugs to her, and to my parents.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

All through the town

Today's post is brought to you by the letter B and the number 545.

Ever since I went to London with my mom in 1996, I've had a fascination with public transportation. I thoroughly enjoyed figuring out how to use the Tube there, and that fascination extended to Seattle when I was in graduate school at UW, where I took the Metro bus every chance I got. When I was working for Deloitte in the Bay Area, I tried to use BART when it made sense, and when I visited Munich, Germany for work at Microsoft, I took the train there as well. (Its hip German name escapes me now - Schnellbahn or something like that.) That worked out fine except the one time when I accidentally boarded the express train to somewhere far away, ie the next city or Switzerland or something. (Which, thankfully, had its last Munich stop at the exact station I needed.) The train ticket-taker was not happy with me that day.

Now that I work in downtown Seattle, I take the bus to work, every day, rain or shine. I've even got once of those fancypants passes that I buy monthly so I'm a real public transit commuter. And I love it. I don't know why. I'm not particularly environmentally conscious, and I do hate getting stuck in traffic, but there's just something about the bus *system* that I like: looking at schedules, figuring out what other options I have, and the occasional time I have to go to a different destination and need to find the bus route for that. Wow, I am such a geek. I like the idea (in theory) that I could get anywhere in Seattle using our bus system.

Mind you, I only love public transportation when it's clean, efficient, and the fellow travelers aren't skeezy or trying to talk to me. Which reminds me of the horrible time that my friend Jennifer and I tried to take the bus in Los Angeles(nobody takes the bus in LA!!) from Pasadena to the shopping mall in Glendale, a mere 15 minute drive, but a bus trip that took 2 hours, I kid you not. That was a bad public transit experience.

Anyway, back to Metro. If you are only an occasional rider, or just unaware of bus-etiquette, here are a couple of tips for you:

1. Do not clip your nails while standing in line waiting to board the bus. That's just disgusting to do that so close to another person. At least stand ATM-distance away while you're conducting personal hygiene tasks.

2. If you see a whole line of people waiting for the bus, and you get to the bus stop after them, get in the back of the line and board the bus when it's your turn. Don't just stand up at the front and take advantage of the nice gentleman who thinks ladies should go first if they're standing there. The rest of the people are waiting in line because we got here before you and the bus is often crowded enough that you're not guaranteed a seat. I understand that you might come from a pushing-shoving kind of culture, but we're not that way here. But as Americans, we're also too non-confrontational to say anything to you. And don't pretend like you didn't notice this happens every day. If you're smart enough to work in the software industry, you're probably smart enough to notice this pattern.

3. If you see the bus at the stop and you're 200 yards away, don't start running and make the bus wait for you. Yes, Metro drivers are really nice and will generally wait, but the other people on the bus don't need to be inconvenienced because you didn't consult the bus schedule. If you're not within 50 feet, just give up and wait for the next one.

3. If the bus is crowded and you have to sit next to someone, try not to be touching them, as much as possible. Most people like their personal space. I don't need your leg touching mine, or your newspaper in my face, unless I ask for it, which leads me to the next point.

4. No, I do not want the other half of the cookie you just ate. No, I don't want to talk about where I work. No, I don't need to hear your loud cell phone conversation in whatever language it is you're speaking. If you must talk on the phone, please, for god's sake, do it quietly. I give you a bit more leeway if you're speaking English because eavesdropping entertains me, and no, I can't believe she wore the blue dress when you said it was your color. The nerve of her!

That's all.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This seems like a job for me

Quick post today because I need to get some sleep. Been fighting off the same cold for about 2 weeks now.

So Anandi's Laboratory has another customer, as of this morning. Awesome! I have set a goal of 1 sale per week. So far so good, right?

I spent a big chunk of the weekend making more jewelry (yay) and cleaning up my accounting spreadsheet. Like a good geek, I want to know exactly how much I should charge for my jewelry, and how much it costs me to make and ship it. So I've been tracking those things pretty closely. Of course, what I've made so far doesn't even *begin* to cover all of the money I've spent on beads thus far. Maybe someday... But I am having *so* much fun, and that's what counts.

Just like any online community, etsy has a lot of tips and tricks and unwritten rules. Due to the vast number of virtual shopkeepers on etsy, people are always talking about ways to "promote" their store.

So I've started the marketing push, just a bit. I've added the link to the store on my outgoing personal email, have added small apps to my blog and my Facebook profile to display my pieces and posted a couple of ads on Craigslist and Windows Live Expo classified ads. We'll see how that turns out.

Any other creative marketing ideas from my smart readers out there?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Got a black magic woman

WOO HOO! I sold my first two pieces on etsy today!! That totally made my day. I was worried that maybe folks just thought my stuff was ugly, and none of my friends would admit it. I guess it still might be ugly, but someone out there likes it. YAY!

And if that weren't enough to make me have a good day, I received delivery of the 475 Czech glass faceted sparkly beads I bought on eBay. A bunch of different colors, and all shiny! Oh, the things I'm gonna make.

I also received the beads Asha brought me all the way from Guatemala - lots of interesting stuff there too, in lots of different colors and textures. I'll be busy this weekend, that's for sure.

So you'd think that was a pretty amazing day, all in all. But wait, there's more!

I got my bonus check from Microsoft. Now, I had expected to get about $50 since I had announced I was leaving before the bonus discussions were finished. In truth, I hadn't expected anything at all, but my manager assured me I was entitled to my bonus since I worked at M$ through the end of the fiscal year. So really, anything would have been great.

I almost fell over when I opened that envelope today. It was a *real* bonus. And that was for working part time. Crazy. So things are good here. How are y'all doing??

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Trouble's on its way

People who know me know that I am a sucker for cute things. Especially cute, furry items, such as the two animals we currently have living in our house.

I want to introduce you to the newest member of our family. He's traveling to us right now. He doesn't have a name yet, so you'll have to help me come up with a good one:

You can see more pictures of him here, and the "rear view" is especially cute:

I know, I shouldn't have spent the money. But he's handmade, and the darn cutest thing I've seen in a long, long time. Besides Spike, of course. Every time I think about him, or see his cute little pictures, it makes me smile. I think that's well worth it.

Vicky, the talented artist who made him, thinks he's a girl. But I don't know. Doesn't he look like a boy bear?

So what's his name going to be?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You can have anything that you desire

Not much time to post since I really need to get some sleep. But I'm so excited!! I launched my etsy store, Anandi's Laboratory, a few days ago and have been adding a few items to it each day.

Check it out, please and let me know what you think!! Special thanks to Leslie for the awesome banner graphic!

Friday, September 07, 2007

She dashed by me in painted-on jeans

Ooh, after my I Love the Internet post a few weeks ago, I never posted an update on the 'hem jeans by mail' scheme.

OMG. Best. Thing. EVER.

My jeans came back looking *perfect*. I don't know how those folks at JeanSolutions do it, but they did this crazy origami-like folding trick so that the original hem is still attached and you can't even see the fold. It's neat, and perfect. Total cost to me was $20, including shipping. Same price, if not cheaper, than my local alterations person, given that I wanted to keep the original hem. Total time, from when I mailed them in, to when they were returned to me was around 10 days, probably because they are in Philly. Woot!

Try it. You'll love it. (Unless they don't send your jeans back. In which case you will hate them, and maybe me. I will take no responsibility for your jeans being lost or stolen. None, you hear me?)

The best is yet to come

Arghh, so I've been sick the past couple of days - sore throat, runny nose. Ick. So I've had a lot of time to hang around at home. Which is nice, except I don't feel like doing much.

Somehow I got it into my head to start thinking about opening up an etsy shop for my jewelry again. I discarded the idea a few months ago because I thought my work wasn't good enough.

But I've seen a lot of what people sell, both on etsy and custom-designed websites that they pay for, and some of it just really isn't that good. Of course, some of it is true art, and light-years away from what I can do. So that makes me completely average, and I can live with that. If someone wants to pay me, so I can buy more beads, and with it, let off some stress, why shouldn't I try it?

So I asked a good friend with artistic inclinations if she could design me a banner and a small graphic for my soon-to-be-born etsy shop. Today I spent some time making a few pieces for the shop. I'd like to "go live" with about 10 pieces for sale.

This weekend I plan to mess around with lighting and my camera to try to get the best pictures I possibly can, and figure out how to make that consistent. Lisa was right on in telling me to use a piece of white foam core board as a backdrop. Now I just need to get the lighting squared away, as well as my camera settings, to get those nice, detailed up-close-and-personal pictures.

One of the other things I need to do is figure out pricing for my pieces. Honestly what I'd like to do is recoup the money for materials, shipping, etc, and make just a little tiny bit so I can feed my bead addiction. Because I have a Caltech degree I can figure out the math for materials and various fees (etsy and Paypal both take a percentage of the sale), but it's the 'markup' I have trouble with. How much extra should I really charge? I guess I'll start with a percentage and see how it goes.

I am in the middle of bidding on multiple EBay auctions for a huge number of semiprecious gemstone beads. I found a seller with gorgeous pieces, so I couldn't resist. Today *was* payday after all! I also found Monsterslayer, an oddly-named, but excellent site for sterling silver beads, wire and chain. Their prices are pretty incredible compared to some of the other places I've looked.

Perhaps being sick and hanging out in bed is dangerous for my wallet! Any thoughts about selling jewelry online?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Diamonds on the soles of her shoes

I promised my mom (Amma) a few weeks ago that I'd post more pictures of my jewelry projects. Here are a couple of recent ones. You can click on any of the pictures to see a bigger version, since some of the details are hard to see.

We just finished Book 7 of Harry Potter. I can't believe it's over. J.K. Rowling tied everything up nicely, but now I'm just really sad there's no more.

But a few weeks ago, I made this necklace out of labradorite (a grey, iridescent stone) and Swarovski crystals, and it seems sort of Harry Potter-ish. Maybe something Luna Lovegood would wear:

My cousin Sangi turned 21 in June, so I made her a birthday necklace of green aventurine beads from India, sterling silver "disco ball" beads, and pearls:

Mom's birthday was in August (TJ's mom = Mom, not to be confused with Amma) so I made her this simple necklace out of 8mm sodalite beads, Czech glass and a silver pendant made by a hill tribe from Thailand:

I found some really gorgeous Czech glass beads on sale at the Ben Franklin craft store near my house, so I wanted to make a long necklace that reminded me of the Caribbean sea. Or maybe Hawaii. I also used the first beads I ever bought, from our trip to Ashland, OR where Dave and Lisa got married. The necklace is intended to be long and free-flowing. The clear faceted squares are diamond quartz and were irresistable to me because they're so sparkly:

Yeah, I know I seem to gravitate towards a blue-green color palette. I need to make more with red-orange-yellow tones. I've got some really nice garnet beads I've been saving until I'm truly inspired.

My next class is on Thursday at beadclub, Wirewrapping 102. I love taking classes because they're:
1. Dedicated project time for me to practice
2. A chance to get step by step instruction on complex techniques, which are quite difficult to pick up from books or the Internet.

The class I'm really, truly, jumping up and down excited about starts at the end of this month - Metalsmithing I at the Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle. It's 8 weeks long, every Sunday for 4 hours, and I'll learn how to solder and use sheet metal, power tools and chemicals. Woo hoo! I can't wait!

I look down into a million houses

Time flies when it's summer in Seattle. I can't believe it's September already. I think our weather is just getting to be predictably nice here. Yes, when you live in Seattle, the weather occupies a larger amount of brain space than if you live anywhere else. It's just that the summer is so incredible here, you don't want it to end.

Because when it does, the gray, dreary, dark days of winter are just around the corner. And those of us without the financial means to afford a winter home in Arizona or a warm and sunny island, must grit our teeth and dream of how nice the next summer will be, to get us through those depressing days.

But I digress. Today was a gorgeous sunny day out, and I spent the entire day inside bending silver wire until my fingers went numb. I took a class at beadclub, a small bead store in the thriving metropolis of Woodinville, about 20 minutes from home.

Today's class was called "A Day of Earrings" and was taught by Irene Huberman, who is an incredible instructor. She's patient, funny, and excellent at breaking down complex designs into simple steps for those of us who haven't quite mastered the whole hand-eye coordination thing.

Her written instructions are some of the best I've ever seen - perfect to use as reference later when I'm racking my brain trying to remember what I learned in class 3 months ago. She draws little pictures of the wire and where your tools are supposed to go at each step. For someone analytical like me, this is perfect.

So today I learned how to make those French wire hooks for earrings, which means I'll never have to buy those again, jump rings (so easy!), a very complicated wire wrapped connector bead called a kouchi bead (a technique from Afghanistan), another decorative connector called the Egyptian coil, and some cool spiral shapes. A lot of stuff in 5 hours! I barely noticed the time going by.

Irene had us practice with copper wire before moving on to the more expensive sterling silver. The neat thing about that is that the copper is actually harder to work with, so when you get to the silver it seems much easier.

Here are my "kouchi-bubblegum" earrings (the bead at the end looks like a piece of ABC gum):

It was a small class, with about 7 students, and as usual I was the youngest one. What is it with beading - is it really such a middle-aged lady hobby? Aren't there young and hip beaders out there?

As always, I came away from the class with a list of supplies I'd like to add to my 'workshop'. So I ordered two new nice pairs of German pliers and some more silver wire in different gauges (thicknesses) to make more earrings.

And speaking of my workshop, I went to IKEA last weekend and bought a simple desk and a small set of drawers for my beading projects. I've set up shop in one of our guest bedrooms so I won't accidentally gouge holes in our dining table or be forced to gather everything up every time we want to actually use the table for dining, or poker.

My fabulous husband made a deal with me: if I went to IKEA by myself he would put together the furniture for me. I did understand TJ's pain. IKEA Seattle on a Sunday is a scary place. But it was a no-brainer for me. I love to shop, and hate the IKEA assembly process. I'm thrilled about my new space. Watch this space for more project pictures!

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