Worst Problem Ever: The Labyrinth of Technology

Imagine yourself in a colossal stadium, with a ceiling that reaches the sky, but in front of you is an endless winding of walls and corners, straight paths, open paths, curvy paths, going on and on. Right when you start to get a grip on which way to go, that’s when a wall appears, it’s a dead-end, and you have to turn back, forced to back-track your steps.

That is today’s opportunist in the labyrinth of technology.

Not everyone acknowledges the problem. Some can afford the lifestyle of buying and upgrading every year; subscribing to this, subscribing to that; paying a little here, paying a little there; then the labyrinth can be walked around, not through. But for those short on cash in an extended measure of time, you see the problem.

There are also ones who confidently smile when you call them “Nerds!”, for they see no trouble in troubleshooting every malfunction a computer has; taking the computer apart when it shuts down and won’t power on; patiently working with the blue-screened-computer which expresses an apology with a giant frowny face; for those people, the problem is a puzzle for them to master. Those proudly known as nerds valiantly organize their 100 passwords in one place, keep backups of every file, and budget in cloud storage, subscriptions, better speakers, newest upgrades, and the best hardware, barely having money for anything else. Which is why I will argue, even they might acknowledge there is a problem in the labyrinth of technology.

Exactly one week after I told my readers and viewers, in a video, to be prepared to lose their technology, my most reliable hard-drive died. I don’t mean the keydrive that broke a while ago, the one that was new and barely used. That one was where our Jabber Worthy files were saved. The hard-drive I’m talking about today was our main network: we had all our files saved there, and I had a shared hard-drive between our two computers, Kat and mine. Not only was that our favorite, most reliable hard-drive, it was the one we’ve had for years, which I guess is part of the problem. It “wore out”. It’s not exactly like a teddy bear, where it keeps being cute even after it wears out…

The sort of good news is, I found out my hard-drive may be fixable within a $300-$800 range, the may be part of my sentence emphasized. But since my money is better spent on new equipment, since everything is older than my hard-drive that crashed, it could be better to count the losses as a lesson learned and pick up the pieces, finding the unorganized backups scattered across the maze of computer storages. We’ll start anew if we have to. Luckily, we are the meticulous (and paranoid?) types, and God is good, so much of the most important files are safe.

At what point does losing your life’s work develop into some form of PTSD…? After we chose career as our top importance, sacrificing a lot for talents and dreams, when can we say that our losses have become our scars?

We are blessed though. Kat got a new laptop last week, replacing her 11-year-old desktop one. The laptop arrived just in time for her to type a new and improved rules of our pirate-themed Jabber Worthy game. It’s so much better… We’re trying! Some say we never give up. They’re probably right.

Luckily, Kat and I printed out the cards to Jabber Worthy years ago and so we still have hard copies of our game and rules, but we will most likely try to give it a fresh look now that our files have been lost two different times. At one point you realize God might be trying to teach you a new thing. I pray for Him to work on our hearts and help us take the windy course to success, not the dead-end course to failure. I guess that’s why we innovate!

Computer (sneak peak Jabberworthy) 2

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Update: Snapmade! We Approve

I’m thrilled to write that Snapmade has exceeded my expectations, and proudly I will say it’s worth giving the site a chance, designers and customers both. Kat and I will try to help their business grow by creating a store, and a line of products.

Originally, I had my concerns that the business wasn’t legit, for several reasons:

  1. Maintenance problems halted me from navigating the website, which is an indication the server is slow, unresponsive, or the coding is wrong.
  2.  The site claimed to accept PayPal payments, but until a purchase is made, from start to finish, I don’t assume anything’s true. I had to make a purchase before promoting my store.
  3. Snapmade’s site has been up and running since 2001 which means they’ve had a lot of time to work out site kinks, yet they still do what amateurs do, like the funky customer reviews (my red flag went up), and broken links which take you to error pages in Chinese. I have no bias against Chinese manufacturers, in fact I love them, but the problems my English-speaking customers may have is worth noticing.
  4. Snapmade has no known credibility. There are only a few people who are Snapmade designers, as can be seen from their website – it’s full of empty pages, upon empty pages, where they simply have no products from a lack of designers.

On the contrary, the simple facts Snapmade had a guest checkout and such cheaper prices “ruffled my feathers” as the saying says. It made me interested enough to give them a chance. Their products are manufactured and shipped from China, so they take two weeks to be delivered to the door after the online purchase is made, which is fast considering the journey.

But now, I can proudly tell you! My trust for them has grown after seeing the jewelry I ordered. Look, aren’t they just gorgeous? The quality of the items, the chain, the pendents, and the design printed:

 

First Product Display July 2017 (IMG_2549, smaller)
The only thing I can see that some customers may not like, is the glossy look the design has when the light shines on it, but indoors it isn’t noticeable. It looks like the above picture.

When my package came, it came about 3 days after my Zazzle order arrived, which is fine. I ordered from Zazzle and from Snapmade the same night, to compare the shipping schedule. Ha, it’s funny, after it arrived I asked Kat, “is it old-fashioned to be OK with a package taking 2 weeks to arrive?” She bluntly said “Yes” and that was the end of that. Ha, ha. Yeah, I’m old-fashioned…. but you have got to give the big wide globe some slack! The little parcel soars and rides across 7000+ miles to get to where I am! It’s not like we have teleportation …yet! Ha, ha.

But it got me thinking. If the owners of Snapmade need anything to succeed, it is designers, which is what I know about them, because as Sannly Huang on Facebook asked me, at the beginning of this year, can I join them (me, a designer) to help their business grow. So… if what they need is designers, why wait? My talents are meant to help, not be hoarded. Let me seize this day and start trying the best I can to help this year be the year Snapmade finds success. If it doesn’t work out, that’s part of being compassionate and helpful; I can move on like I have before. No pain, no gain.

So we have started, but that’s all right now. If you’re interested in seeing it, our shop is titled “ChicAmi” and we only have a few products. So far, the shop looks kind of basic, the design, and a little lacking. However, I promise the charm bracelet is a steal (great quality for low price!), and the rose necklace is a romantic addition to your indoor formal attire. You can see that for yourself (from the pictures)! Plus, the star bracelet makes a good friendship gift. Their prices are affordable, and I get way more royalty than I do on Zazzle for my work, which is the upside for me.

The three products shown above are the only I’ve bought so far; if you want to buy them, too, please head over to the store at this link -http://www.snapmade.com/mystore/ChicAmi – and if you can, use the Microsoft Edge browser, or ask the support chat for help if you have any questions, because the store is a bit sensitive which browser you use. I used Chrome at first and had to ask the friendly customer support why I couldn’t load my order. The chat answered responsively, and was a cheerful service which I recommend.

So… yay! That means Snapmade gets our stamp of approval!!!

Stamp of Approval

 

Deal or Bad Deal

“I have an idea for a music game board. Can you help me make it?” The request came from an award-winning songwriter, and we were aspiring video game creators.  “We’ll split the profit 50/50.” We agreed.  We would turn his idea into a working game.  In turn he would sell the game to schools and libraries- he had a network of educators and songwriters worth a million.

6 years later, unfortunate events sent us into separate ways, leaving us to create our own networks, sell our own games, and make our own way.  But we were ok, because we were confident that we had found a good deal with The Game Crafter.

Now, 4 years beyond our parting, we finally admit to ourselves: a game with a $40 retail value being sold for $70 dollars is not a good deal.  $30 overpriced: some may overlook $10, or maybe even $15 over if the game is impressive enough. But $30 is too much to ask anyone for.  A game with a price tag above $50 needs to have bells and whistles to be worth all the money: ornate and involved, original pieces and amazing little details that The Game Crafter doesn’t offer.

We thought about selling the game at Amazon. We could make use of their warehouses, buy in bulk, and save the high retail price by selling the game directly to keep the prices low.  But for all the work that we put into the game, selling the game at $40 just to get $3.67 doesn’t feel like a very good deal.  Once split between us, that’s just about $1.80 per game that’s sold.  That won’t support Autumn Angel Art as individuals, much less Bookworm Games as a business.  And that doesn’t even count the cost -no matter how low- of using Amazon’s facilities to store our products in their warehouses and take advantage of their “Amazon fulfilled” marketplace sales.

We thought about using Kickstarter, but ultimately we’re story writers and game creators.  We produce entertainment for people to enjoy.  Kickstarter needs more than just a product, it needs exposure and extra attention to draw potential customers to it and it needs incentive that will hook the viewers and make them want to spend their money.  We need financing for advertising and we need other products for the incentives.

We also thought about downsizing to another project to produce on The Game Crafter, to sell it and make some money so that we can invest in another manufacturer.  But after a lot of work, the truth dawned: our downscaled product would face the same challenges as the larger product. (It also discouraged us to find that our ‘downsized’ product would cost more than our original project would have; we had worked VERY hard on making the first game as cheap as we could possibly get it.)

The truth is, if we want to make an impressive game that’s worth it’s cost, we cannot produce it with The Game Crafter.  There is no “shortcut” to selling a good card game.  It seems we’ll have to take the long road: do our research, choose the best game manufacturer, and save the money we need to publish any game that we make.

Zazzle: Forgive but don’t Forget

 

Our new follower on Twitter, @ZacKent96, tweeted a saying I like: “Forgiveness doesn’t mean you excuse the crime. It just means you’re no longer willing to be the victim.” I agree with it, in part, regarding my “job” as Zazzle designer, and believe I should cautiously apply it, if I see Zazzle improves their business.

On January 6th  I wrote the entry Zazzle is Smudgey Business. Not too much has changed on the Zazzle website since then, and I have not added new products, seeing that my attitude continues to be miffed and leery. However, after Kat and I made the difficult decision to lower our prices, by lowering all royalty rates to 5% store-wide, I’ve been watching the status of my catalog to see if the number of sales would grow. They have, actually.

It could be anything from US economy growth, to how Zazzle is shifting, to the choice we made in lowering prices.

I know the daily views my products get have about tripled, ever since the DOW hit the 20 mark, so maybe business is looking more positive this year, and shoppers are ready, with their wallets, to browse and buy.

Not only that. According to Northern Nevada Business Weekly (NNBW), Zazzle is moving their business from California to Nevada this year, not only because manufacturing is a hard business in the state of California, but also because the college, small town appeal of Reno in Nevada attracted the executives. (Read the full report here.) Chances are Zazzle is making a promising shift, too, one that will result in more sales and hopefully lower overall prices, giving designers the ability to either higher their royalty percentage or at least gain more because the number of sales are more.

All in all, Autumn Angel Art has sold 4 products this year without advertising or promoting our products. So that means our sales came from either 3rd party promotion, Zazzle ads, or shoppers browsing the Zazzle marketplace, in other words, not generated by our own efforts. The combined total that customers paid was about $87 (subject to variance due to foreign currency conversion), and our royalty earnings were $4.40. This seems very small and impossible to make a living from. The question that remains is, if a designer labored to create a catalog of 40,000 products, would he/she be able to eventually make a living, or would something go awry? With our AutumnAngelArt store having 432 products and a meager average of 18 sales per year, can we continue to make more products and expect our sales to go up, or is the entire business a gamble?

As a result of such doubt, we shall not place our future in the hands of Zazzle, even though we enjoy creating products. Yes, it’s a very relaxing and enjoyable trade. But even though we forgive we shall not forget, nor shall we allow ourselves to become the victims of fraudulent dealings. I willingly strive for the ability to do-it-myself or else find a better way to advance my trade. In the meantime, mercy is appropriate. Because manufacturers all across the United States have been failing, and the economy is only this year looking up for everyone, it may be that a little grace is all Zazzle needs to succeed, and they will in return show compassion to their designers, rather than getting unfairly rich from artists’ hearts and souls.

 

“Didja’ ever get…

…one of them days?” Any time my good mood can carry through on a bad day, my mind quotes a song from one of my favorites movies growing up: G. I. Blues.  Even now as an adult, sometimes I think back to the movie to help me lighten the jw-keydriveemotions of a bad day.

Last week was full of “them days”. When nothing goes right, from morning to night…. Take last Friday, for instance. We discovered that the work we had done last week had all been lost. The culprit: the keydrive I got Lacy for her birthday.

Our computers always have an ominous foreboding air about them.  Sometimes I threaten to throw the computer out the window because of how fed up I am by it. For years now, they have had problems that slow down our work flow.  We kid that they work against us every chance they get. For instance, there are some days when 12 times a day our painter program bugs up and closes out. If we don’t save often, then we have to start over. At other times the pen for our drawing monitor stops working and we have to leave it plugged in to recharge for days before it starts working again. A few rare instances even results in the dreaded “file is corrupt” error, or at the least, half of the picture fries into a green and blue mess of lines that we simply cannot use.

But this past Friday was a pivotal moment for ‘them days’. It rivaled the time we tried to merge Google+ accounts into one account and lost all of our Youtube videos in the process; or the time my computer was smitten with a virus that locked me out of the computer; or the time we invested time and money into a patent, researching for weeks to fill out all the right forms needed, just to receive a letter back saying that the forms we sent in were out of date and we needed to pay an extra fee to get help from the patent attorneys that they could offer services from.

So, back to Friday, opening the keydrive that all of our Jabber Worthy files are saved to, I was looking for the day’s work to get started on when I suddenly realized that my “Pirates” folder was completely empty.  Upon further investigation I realized that the “Treasure” folder had been emptied as well.  I asked Lacy if she had done anything to the files, and she grew concerned as she told me to check the files she had been working on the day before.  To our horror, the “Crew” folder with all of Lacy’s work was completely inaccessible.  The entire folder was completely ruined, losing all the files that had been saved inside them! When I tried to recopy our older backup files to start anew,  I discovered the problem was deeper than just an empty folder or corrupt file…multiple folders couldn’t be moved because they had been corrupted.

jw-screenshotkeydriveerror

Usually we’re pretty level-headed and can work against the tide, but this setback was a wrench in our gears; we struggled to know how to proceed forward.  Do we give up?  Call it quits? Go back to the other projects we’ve been putting off for Jabber Worthy? Or do we keep trudging forward, slowly, surely, fighting against the computer crashes that keep threatening to ruin our business?  For now we’ll try, try again.  But seriously…

Didja’ Ever?

 

Kaleido Blast! 2.0

Hello again. I told you before that I would be comparing the original Kaleido Blast! game to the new one. Well, I’ve gotten a chance to see the new game, and I must say chap, it’s an improvement to the last one.  Here’s a video that shows off just a few of the changes.

I was watching a friend of mine play the game, and it’s a quite different game than it was before.  It’s got safe zones where you can’t get hit; danger zones in which you must defeat the enemies before they defeat you; the shields are different, and the meteors are new. The rules have been placed into a 3 page booklet, instead of the 8 pages that it had before. I do believe the game has stepped up its… game.  I’ve added a few pictures to help you see the differences.

The game is not only different, it’s difficult too. My friend played it many times in one afternoon, battling the arx and trying to win the game.  Her score… I’m sure you’re curious. She won 1 out of 5 times. So as you can imagine, the game is very hard!

After losing for so many times, she decided to give the Kaleido Ray a try. The rules boast that the game will be easier if you initiate the Kaleido Ray at the beginning of the game.  But my friend, bless her heart, she only won 1 out of 5 times again!  Either luck is not her ally or the odds of winning the game don’t change much, from one difficulty level to the next.

The final game she played, she had one Blu-arx left in row I. It was a final showdown, a dual to the end.  She could either roll a color blast and vanquish the arx, or she could roll a black and white blast and be sent back to hyperspace herself. It was such a close game, so exciting! She rolled a red, a green, a yellow and a purple or two before she rolled a blue; unfortunately the hit was against her own pawn. She lost the game!

WordPress & the Forgotten Ham

For anyone who knows me, they will tell you that I’m a meticulous person. It comes in handy sometimes, it’s not always a bad thing, to look at the details, but it can be annoying for my friends. On any given day, you can find me checking Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIN, Deviantart, and so on, for anything new that I need to read or check. New tweets, follows, likes, etc.

But WordPress truly cuts the cake. It broke the mold. It has a bulky interface that makes it difficult to track everything (follows, likes, comments, and email subscriptions), and now I feel a bit sorry that so many comments have gone unread. There’s nothing I can do except write this post saying sorry and asking for all my commenters to come again to sign the guestbook and comment!

What’s the point of having a guestbook if readers are barred from signing it? That’s exactly what I feel happened with my blog. Very sad!

I’ll explain.

I’ve had my blog since August last year. For 5 months, all comments were going to the spam inbox where they awaited moderation, which means if I do not approve them, each one individually, they automatically get deleted after 30 days. Since I didn’t realize this fact, and I didn’t know I had a spam inbox because I didn’t frequent the WP Admin part of my WordPress account, I just now learned that 112 comments got deleted without me ever seeing them!

Now maybe some of them were spam, although some of them were labeled under ham (the word for messages marked as non-spam). I feel a little horrible inside knowing I got over 100 comments that I was never able to read. Surely it would have made my blog experience less lonely, and it would have helped me be more encouraged to write.

As a result of this lesson, I am going to open up commenting on nearly all my past posts, and I ask for you to please try commenting again if you left a comment before that was never seen. Tell us how we’re doing, we’d love to hear from you. Hugs to all the commenters that posted forgotten ham.

Zazzle is Smudgey Business

I’m going to express my feelings on how I was treated by Zazzle. I’m a loyal designer who works to create, promote, and praise products made by them, but how I feel insulted now has me looking elsewhere for business.

smudeshirt

It starts with Christmas: Kat and I bought Jake, our brother, a shirt as a gift. Zazzle, of course, produced it. You might see from the picture above, that a careless employee let a smudge go unnoticed, or ignored, and put my shirt in the post anyway, without caring that it wasn’t perfect. Since I only paid about 50 cents for the shirt – but because I had earnings accumulated from recent sales that weren’t withdrawn – my guess is they had no motive to redo the shirt in the fact the customer “didn’t pay” for the shirt anyway. Untrue! I earned that money, fair and square! I may not have paid full price, but only because I earned money and decided to use it, which means I paid!

Whether they dissed me or it’s just a mistake, the incident made Christmas less impressive, since it was my only gift for Jake. He unwrapped the gift and saw the smudge. Dad pointed to it, everyone was like, “Oh man” and it became a topic of discussion. Later, Jake said, “I wanna complain…I want a full refund! Or else I’ll sue. A refund for $1000!” (He was probably joking, though Jake’s dry humor is derived from the frankest of honesty.)

If I were a customer and nothing else, maybe it would only be a minor issue. Jake washed his shirt and came back to me, showing it to me: “Almost” he said. (The stain was still there, but had slightly faded…) It’s the principle of the matter, though.

To be honest, lately, Zazzle’s changed course, seeming less interested in being fair. Kat and I talked about it and her statement was, “They think the letter Z with a black circle is going to sell their products; their name is what makes them great. They don’t really care about their designers.” And it’s true for more than just the smudgey shirt – each product is expensive, and though designers are lucky to get even a few pennies from a 5% royalty rate, I have a feeling Zazzle makes a fair share since prices soar above market value, and out of customers’ price range.

Therefore, with stingy royalty and less than quality care, I am this close to saying adios. I am at the point where I feel safer buying my own printer, and printing my own shirts, or else ordering Zazzle products and keeping inventory to sell from my own shop online, checking each product to make sure it’s quality when I send it out, but with that, what’s the point of Zazzle?

Coincidentally, last week a representative of Snapmade wrote on my Facebook page and asked I join snapmade.com, a competing marketplace; a bright face only days after I had qualms with Zazzle, and with my family begging for me to find another way to sell products, I thought, ok let’s check it out!

So far, Snapmade has my interest peaked. Price range is more affordable, respect for designers are higher, and their current Facebook likes is 120,831. Nice start! Also, there’s a “Guest Checkout”, which gives customers the easy choice not to register an account. I’ve even used their customer support and it is helpful. The only problem so far is website downtime, and I have yet to order anything, but I will continue to weigh the options.

In the New Year, nearly 5 years with Zazzle, I may be setting up shop elsewhere. I could keep getting ripped off, ignore my pride and integrity, carry on with pennies in my pocket, or I could listen to Albert Einstein’s advice:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I’m no longer willing to go down a sloppy path towards failure and poverty. In 2017, let’s try something new, shall we?

Professor Marble plays Kaleido Blast!

Hello now.  How may I address you? Friend? Colleague? Chap? Ah yes, that will do nicely, I say.

Hello, my dear chap.  I am Professor Kat I. Marble.  I do enjoy a good game now and again, even when it’s a game of solitaire: Bullseye Mahjong and TriPeaks, Solitaire Scrabble, crosswords and word searches, Spider and Diplomat and Royal Rendezvous.

I always like a game that works my mind and makes me think.  Perhaps that’s why my friend the fox brought me this game: Kaleido Blast!  It’s a solitaire dice game, like Phase 10, D-Day Dice, and Escape: The Curse of the Temple. It’s not LIKE them, per se, but it is fairly similar.  I’ve included a few shots of me, enjoying the game, below.  Watch the slideshow to see how it played out.

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But the thing is, chap, Kaleido Blast! has changed from the version that I played.  From what I’ve heard through the grapevine, there have been a number of changes made to the game. Here’s a breakdown of the alterations:

  • The enemy shapes are different, and the pieces are now plastic.
  • The shields are now asteroids to enhance the space experience.
  • The pawn has changed shapes, and is now plastic as well.
  • Life chips have been added to replace extra pawns.
  • The board- upgraded! Now better quality than it was.
  • The rules have been tweaked.
  • The box has been modified.
  • The storefront has been updated.
  • Website to Bookworm Games, coming soon.
  • The price has risen, but the game is better quality too!

Kaleido Blast! 2.0 will be available very soon. Keep in touch and stay tuned, my friend.

bannerpic

Lines Make a Difference (JW Update)

When Lacy’s not posting on Facebook or writing a blog, she can be found drawing.

Recently, she’s been working on the art for our Jabber Worthy card game; our art was drawn 7 years ago, and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and our art since then. Lacy’s improved her art, so she’s working on updating it. You can watch the video below to see her at work.

At first it seems like she’s just tracing her work, but watch, and you’ll begin to see Pachelbel transform, as Lacy makes corrections to the picture, updating her work.

If you’re eager to see the finished picture of Pachelbel, you’ll have to wait and see him with the other crew members of the Phantom Acoustique, in our card game Jabber Worthy.