Category: thoughts


Swap Meet


As a sort of follow-up to my Postcrossing post, today I will be talking about Swap-Bot.

WHEEEE!

I discovered Swap-Bot in 2007, shortly afterward GhostSister and Mother Dearest joined after hearing me talk about it.

Swap-Bot is similar-yet-different from Postcrossing; both sites are free to sign up for, require a physical address, promote contact through the mail, and connect you to people you would normally never meet. The difference is that Swap-Bot is largely moderated by its users – users set up swaps and run groups with surprisingly little intervention from the site’s moderators – and things larger than a postcard are normally swapped.

There are actually two kinds of swaps on Swap-Bot – the registered swaps and forum swaps.

Registered swaps are just like they sound; a user will create a swap through the site and post it in the swap listings, they will choose a sign-up period, how many partners each person will have, what the rules of the swap will be. Like Postcrossing there is a ratings system; when a package is received the recipient rates it on a five point system depending on how closely it followed the swap guidelines. If it was a dog-themed swap and someone sent fish flakes instead of a dog bone, they would get a lower rating. You can also add extras to the swap that go beyond the swap guidelines – sending four items instead of five, for example, or including a profile surprise. If the recipient feels the package was extra-special, they can give you a heart. Each user has a rating, displayed on their profile page, showing how many hearts they have earned and how high their score is. Many swappers will refuse to swap with other swappers who have low scores or no score, since it takes a lot of time and effort to put together a swap package. There are usually a few that are newbie-friendly swaps, they are normally small things like postcards or ATCs rather than large complicated swaps, and there is a forum thread of swappers willing to do one-on-one swaps to help a newbie increase their ratings.   Newbies can only have five swaps at the time, as your ratings increase you are allowed to swap more often.

Decorating the envie (envelope) is a good way to get hearts.

Let’s say I want to start a swap that’s cat-themed. I’d pick the dates people could sign up and the date the packages have to be sent by. I would also specify the theme, (cats)  the minimum number of items or amount to be spent, (typically $5-$10 depending on the swap) how many partners each person would get, if it was international, (some people avoid international swaps because of the high postage) and if there was a minimum rating for those who wanted to join. Anyone who looked at my swap could sign up for it, it would be my responsibility to check each person’s ratings and decide if they should stay in the swap. Once I decide who stays and who is banned, I click on the “Assign Partners” button. The site randomly assigns partners based on who has signed up, you might get someone who lives across town or across the world. I was in an Alien Dotee Doll swap and as it happened, Mother Dearest was in the same swap and got me as one of her partners. You don’t necessarily get the same partners who are sending things to you, in the same swap I had two totally different people that I sent dolls to. I would also be responsible for angeling (sending a replacement swap package)  if the swapper’s partner flakes (doesn’t send anything. ) It would also be my job to babysit the swappers, sending messages to remind them to send out their swap, finding out if something was sent but not received, that sort of thing. If everyone in the swap enjoyed themselves they could rate me, as the swap creator, with a star.

I currently have five stars for swaps I have started and a perfect 5.00 rating after four years of swapping. :pats self on back:

Forum swaps are much less formal and quicker, but they don’t count towards your rating. Forum swaps rely on the honor system and there are threads regarding flakers (bad swappers who never complete swaps.)

Among the different fora at Swap-Bot, there is the One-On-One Trades board. There are three categories – Tags, Trades, and Random Acts of Kindness.

The Trades are an excellent example of a barter economy – I might have ten sheets of vintage sheet music and three people may want to trade chocolate bars, or stickers, or a jar of salsa for them. (Yes, I have traded vintage sheet music for a jar of salsa – homemade salsa verde to be specific. It was delicious.) You simply post that you have X and would like Y, Z, or W – someone who has Y would send you a private message to get your info so you could trade.

Then there are the RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) postings – someone who is feeling generous will post that they have X and the first (or tenth or whatever) person to reply will get it. To use the same sheet music example, I could post that the first five people to post an original limerick will get two sheets. I would expect nothing in return, the receivers are under no obligation to send me anything.  Most people who receive a RAK will hold on to the sender’s info and send them a profile surprise at a later time, or they might do an angel for them if they get flaked in a swap.

In Tags a swapper will post a list of items, either by name (an eraser, a chocolate bar, a cat toy, etc…) or by description if it’s mystery tag (something red, something fluffy, something sharp, etc…) and someone will post claiming the desired item and post their own list. A  person will list several items to trade and someone will claim one (or two, or however many the tag is for) and post their own items. If no one claims any of  the items after a certain time period (usually a few hours or a day) then the original poster will add something else to the original list. They will usually continue adding items until someone claims something. This is called a Pay It Forward – you help the person under you. There are also Pay It Backs, where you post a list of things you would like. Someone agrees to send one of the items to you and then posts a list of their own.

The astute person will have noticed that there is a tremendous opportunity for a less-than-honest individual to commit various types of fraud.  There is nothing to stop a person from setting up a Swap-Bot account, signing up for a handful of swaps or claiming a few tags, and then vanishing without sending anything. That’s why swappers are leery of doing big swaps with newbies. Swap-Bot also encourages regulars to use a non-home address, preferably a P.O. Box, to prevent some crazed person from showing up and chopping you to bits with a fire ax. I have been flaked on a couple of times, posting a message in the fora and the flaker’s profile and/or giving them a zero rating is the most you can do. Surprisingly there are very few trolls in the fora, I guess it’s hard to stir up trouble when people are discussing the best glue to use on collages. For the most part the posters are polite and don’t use any bad language – a nice change from the penis jokes I’m used to seeing on the Internet.

By and large the items swapped are not terribly valuable – it’s not like swappers are trading uncut diamonds and Picasso sketches – and most are crafting supplies of some type. Ephemera, ribbons, fabric – typical crafting things or artist’s supplies. Food is also big – teas and candy especially. I have a large box of teas I have received from all over the world and a jar of candies that are equally exotic.

I have no idea what half of these are, but most are quite tasty.

It’s a barter economy – what’s valuable to one person is common to another. I once received a stack of British magazines in return for a couple of Jiffy Pops – I enjoyed some reading material I would not have had access to otherwise and my partner got something she enjoyed but had not been able to get in her country.

Many of the swaps are for original artwork of some sort, the most popular being dotee dolls, ATCs, inchies, matchboxes, and postcards.

Postcards are pretty self-explanatory – they are handmade postcards.

An ATC is an Artist’s Trading Card – a 3.5 X 2.5 original work of art. An ATC can be a drawing, a painting, a collage, anything. Some are quite beautiful.

Inchies are one-inch squares that, like ATCs, are original works of art done in any media.

Dotee dolls are art dolls, usually oval, that do not have any arms or legs and are anywhere from three to seven inches long with a face, a “tail” that dangles down, and a loop for hanging. Most dotees are heavily embellished, either with beads, paint, lace, or other materials. I’m on the fence as far as dotees go, I’ve gotten some cute ones and some not-so-cute ones.

Some of the dotee dolls I have received. I couldn't find one. The alien in the spaceship is, of course, my favorite. It's the one Mother Dearest made for me.

Matchboxes are boxes of matches, usually the smaller 32 count ones, that have been emptied and decorated before being filled with small objects. Mostly stickers, beads, and scrapbooking supplies, but anything small enough to fit in a matchbox is fair game.

All that stuff fit in the matchbox. It was a "Favorite Color" swap and my partner liked black, gold, and brown.

Forum swaps are usually small, most are things that can be mailed very cheaply. The bulk of the registered swaps are small things, but not as small as a forum swap. A forum swap might be a single fat quarter or one ATC, a registered swap would be four fat quarters and a few notions or three ATCs done in the same theme. Then there are the big swaps, the ones that take several weeks to put together and can contain quite a few items. I don’t do a lot of big swaps, but I do like to do small ones.

A typical batch of outgoing mail. I like to make my own envelopes out of wrapping paper or wallpaper. I think it makes getting mail even more exciting.

I haven’t swapped recently, but I just signed up for a Macro Photograph Postcard swap that looks like fun. I’ll do a post about that later.

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Please Mr. Postman…


Like many people, I love to get mail – as long as it isn’t a bill.

But these days, who sends letters or even postcards? Everything is done via the Internet now.

Well, almost everything.

Let me introduce you to Postcrossing.

Postcrossing is a unique website that anonymously allows you to send and receive postcards from around the world. It’s completely free – just like any other site you have to sign up with a username and email, but you also have to give them your address (it doesn’t have to be your home address, you can use a work address or P. O. Box) so some people might be hesitant to give out that sort of information to total strangers in these days of Internet stalking. You can fill out some profile information – what sort of postcards you like, if you would prefer that they be in envelopes or what have you.

Then comes the fun part.

You click on “Send A Postcard” and you are given a randomly generated address from someone else who is registered with the site. You have no control over who it will be or where they will live – according to the site they have close to two hundred and fifty thousand registered members in almost two hundred countries. Of all the cards I have sent and received none have been from or to the US, so I think it’s set up to purposefully give you addresses from other countries to prevent that whole Internet-stalking thing I mentioned.

I think I have an adequate sample size to state that.

When you receive the address you are given a unique registration number, a combination of your country and a string a numbers (US-123456 or something like that) that you will write on the back of the card you send to that person. You can also include a short note to this random stranger you will never meet, if you like. Once they receive it, they will go on the site and use that code to register the card as received. Once that happens, your name is added to the list to receive cards. Every time a card you have sent out is registered as received, your name goes on the list – you can have up to five cards being sent out at the time. Once one of your sent cards is received, you can send out another.

A selection of cards I have received - from left to right ; Japan, Estonia, Australia

 

There is also a forum section where you can swap cards with other people, usually they will request a certain subject or style and you will message them and swap info. That’s how I got these handmade cards. The clear cat postcard I posted about a couple of days ago was for just such a swap.

 

The blue flowers on the card to the right are actually made of tatted thread and sewn to the card.

 

Postcrossing allows you to pull up a listing of all the cards you have sent and received, how far they have traveled and how long it took them to do so. The fastest I’ve ever received a card was five days, two from Finland and one from the Netherlands. The longest it has ever taken was twenty-seven days, that was from Germany. International postage for a letter or postcard from the US is, I think, ninety-eight cents. Add to that the price of a post card – maybe fifty cents? and you have a relatively inexpensive way to receive mail from around the world.


Once again I would like to share something that happened at work.

I answer the phone with my usual “This is [ghostbank], how can I help you?” and a elderly woman on the other end starts talking before I can get all the words out. She is quite upset; she had been in our branch few weeks earlier to close out all of her accounts and open new ones due to some fraudulent activity on the old accounts, and now a service she had used for years was calling to tell her that they were having trouble processing her order. She was afraid that someone had gotten into her new accounts and she would have to come in and go through the whole process all over again.

After she started winding down, I asked her one question;

“Are they trying to process the transaction through your old account, or the new one?”

There was a long pause.

“I didn’t think to ask. I’d better give them a call. Thank you for your help, dearie.”

Sometimes that’s all you have to do – ask the right question.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, …


 Remember to head over to the Library of the Damned for this week’s installment of the horribly terrible fanfic I’m riffing. It’s two chapters in one!

 

 

At [ghostbank] we have one of those coin-counting gizmos that you pour your change into and it prints out a slip of paper that you can then deposit into your account or trade for cash and livestock.

Okay, maybe not that last bit.

People love this noisy thing and it runs nearly constantly and as such frequently breaks down. It’s an inconvenience but it’s not like our coin-counter is the only one in the whole wide world. Most of the time the problem is fixed by one of the tellers cracking the thing open and removing whatever random bit of trash the person who was using last forgot to take out of their change before dumping it in. The most common culprits are paper clips and pocket lint, but word has filtered through the [ghostbank] grapevine of tellers having to unwind condoms from the inner workings and on more than one occasion bullets have been found lodged in bad places, at least once being set off, destroying the machine and also causing the kind of panic you would imagine a sound like a gunshot making in a financial institution.

Occasionally something will break that can’t be solved by a teller (such as extracting a live round with a pair of forceps) and the machine will be out of service until a tech can come and sacrifice a chicken or whatever it is they do to make it work again. Our machine was down for several days, including a Friday, about a week ago. When the machine is down there is a large sign on it that states this. A woman came in, walked past my desk directly to the change counter.  She ignored the sign and tried to pour her change into the hopper where it is fed into the machine. Luckily we have run into this particular problem before and there was something taped over the opening. The woman sees this and stalks back over to my desk, dropping her heavy jar of change on my desk. I could feel it through my feet.

“The coin thing’s not working!”

“No, ma’am. I’m sorry, but it’s out of service right now. We’re waiting for a technician to come out but it will probably be Monday.”

“What am I supposed to do now?”

“You could go to another one of our branches, there’s one …”

“I don’t want to go nowhere! Get someone to count it.”

At this point, there was a long line for the tellers, several phone lines are ringing, and there were a number of people signed in and waiting; pretty much everyone is doing something, including me.

“We don’t have anyone available to do that right now.”

“Get someone. I know you got people in the back. Take it to the machine in the back.”

“We don’t have another counter in the branch. The one in the lobby is our only one.”

She grabs the jar off my desk, knocking several things off, and storms out muttering about how lazy everyone is and that this is why she never comes to [ghostbank] and that it’s pretty much the worse place in the world. Like Negative Disneyland.

 

Not exactly what I had in mind, Google Image Search.

 

Here’s a news flash, angelface – DON’T. Don’t come back, don’t bank here. just withdraw your account and go somewhere else.  We’re not holding your money hostage, you can take it anywhere you want. Being an insufferable bitch does not make me want to help you out in any way.


Having finally finished rehairing the mane of a small My Little Pony (formerly a McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy) I have been playing around with different styles for my Harley Quinn pony. It is actually perfect for this, since it had a double row of plugs that made putting two different colors relatively easy. I could just use modeling putty to make her jester’s cap, but I wanted to see what a two color mane would look like and if I could style it into something appropriately Harley. The hair in the pictures is very long, but I did it that way so I would have plenty to work with and it can be trimmed easily.

I’d appreciate some feedback on what you guys think.

 

First, the original Harley Quinn;

 

This is her.

 

Basic Braids

The hair I’m using is much thicker and stiffer than what is normally used for Ponies, but that might be a good thing. If I trim the mane into a pair of short braids or ponytails :snerk: they would stick up like the sides of a jester’s cap. I would probably have to add extra plugs to the center to plump them up.

The Leia

The same braids looped around each ear, could also be done with unbraided hair Pretty close to the shape of Harley’s jester’s cap. On a full-sized Pony it wouldn’t look so over-sized.

Slightly different variation of the Leia.

Slightly smaller version of the Leia. Basically the same.

The Leia Twist

Another variation of the Leia, the two ends of the braids are twisted together at the back of the neck.

The back of the Leia Twist.

Twin Twisty Buns

A bit more Harley -esque. Plumped up with a few more plugs of hair in the middle and it would look very similar to a jester’s cap.

A closeup of the Twin Twisty Buns. You can see the double row of plugs a bit clearer.

A side view of the Twin Twisty Buns. You can see the sewing pins I'm using as hairpins.

This one is the front runner so far, if I could get it just right it would look pretty good.

And just for fun …

The Scary

 

After all the work it took me to put each of those tiny plugs in, I am having more fun that a woman my age should have styling the hair of a little vinyl horse. Totally worth it.

Playing ‘Possum


To continue with this weekend’s ‘possum theme, here are some photos of something I found recently at a yard sale.

P7160050-1.JPG

It's a possum!

It’s a plush possum, whom I have started calling Opaul the Opossum. Paul for short.

P7160049.JPG

Hey. Whatcha doing? Me, I'm just hanging around.

I love the wonky ear.

I found Paul at a yard sale for fifty cents and, since I had never seen a stuffed possum before, spent two of my hard-earned quarters. The tail curls over, so of course I tried to hang it over the door. It would stay but not very well, so there are a couple of pieces of pipe cleaner looped over the back legs hidden by Paul’s fur.

I was curious, once I got home and finished wiring a stuffed animal to my door, if there were more stuffed possums out there. So I checked that repository of all things commercial, eBay. I found possums like Paul for sale for anywhere from twenty to thirty dollars, which seems a bit extreme to me. I don’t think I would pay that kind of money for a stuffed animal, no matter what it looked like.

Not even for an Eeyore dressed up as Indiana Jones.

Mostly because they're $16, not $30. That's more reasonable.

 

Something Seems Squirrelly


Let me share with you a short conversation I had recently with someone who came into [ghostbank].

A woman is signing in at my desk and I notice a distinct theme to her jewelry; squirrel earrings, squirrel bracelets, and a squirrel pin.

I get it, you like squirrels.

GhostSister has a thing for squirrels so I commented on the woman’s choice of personal adornment.

“My friends are always giving me squirrel things. I’m a squirrel rehabilitator.”

“Oh, really?”

Apparently “Oh, really?” in Squirrel Talk means “Tell me more about your unusual hobby!”

So I learned about all the baby squirrels Squirrel Lady had been taking care of, since she is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Huh.

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

And apparently it is.

I asked Uncle Google. It seems that when baby squirrels fall out of nests people rescue these animals and raise them. Ideally to be released back into the wild, unless the animal would not survive by themselves.

A quick question to Uncle Google and dozens of sites tailored to squirrel rehabilitation as well as the rehabilitation of other small animals such as bats, lizards, birds, and ‘possums.

‘Possums. People are saving baby ‘possums. There’s even an Opossum Society of America.

The tail wagging gif is a nice touch. Very professional.

While the OSUS has a disclaimer on their site that they do not condone or encourage keeping ‘possums as pets, you have to think that one or two of the members might have a scaly-tailed “cat” running around their house.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find ‘possums cute. I’ll always picture the big smelly rat-things that would show up and eat the cats’ food when we had outdoor cats when I was little.

Not. Cute.

They have creepy looking feet, too. They look like Gollum's hands.

While I commend these wildlife rehabilitators for their dedication, I have to ask myself if it’s really necessary. There are millions of squirrels in the US, probably close to that many ‘possums. They are by no means endangered species. You can legally kill and eat them. They get flattened into unidentifiable smears on a daily basis. Why go to so much trouble?

And I don’t want to hear any of that touchy-feely “All life is sacred” and “We should embrace our animal brethren!” rigmarole. I have pets that I cherish but I also eat meat, I wear some leather (Mostly shoes) I’ve raised birds for their eggs and would have cheerfully killed, prepared,and eaten any one of the birds if I had to. (I wouldn’t mind having a few chickens now, there is nothing like really fresh eggs.)

Okay ... That's pretty cute.

That's pretty cute too.

I guess it’s like people who save cats and dogs. Sure there’s tons of them and more die than can be saved, but for the ones you can save it makes a difference.

Of course, some people are just crazy and will post videos showing you how to massage your possum. No, that’s not a euphemism.

Vampire Halitosis


Author’s Note – Today’s post is a little on the gross side. You might be better off going over to the Library of the Damned and reading today’s fic-riff.

Continue reading

Buh Dah Bump-Bump Bum


While sitting in the drive-thru at McDonald’s, waiting to receive my egg McMuffin (Don’t judge me, I was hungry) I could hear the person behind me ordering oatmeal.

Mmmm ... Oat slime. Now with fruit!

Oatmeal.

At McDonald’s.

A steaming pile of glue-like goodness from a business that is hesitant to reveal the exact amount of meat in their processed food patties. It was early, around eight AM, and already approximately as hot as the surface of the sun. For the two bucks this woman spent on her cup of shame, she could have bought a box of instant oatmeal, which is what McDonald’s uses, and made herself a week’s worth of disgusting breakfasts.A container of the old-fashioned stuff would have made her breakfast sludge for a month or more.

It puzzles me why anyone would want to eat oatmeal that isn’t in a cookie, but it puzzles me even more that someone would go to a restaurant (especially a McDonald’s) and order the stuff when it’s so easy to make at home or anywhere with access to water and a heat source.

She should have gotten the McNuggets!

Combustible Lemons


Today I’m going to share one of my favorite quotes with everyone. It’s from the game Portal 2. In the game as you ascend from the lower levels upward, a series of pre-recorded messages from the company founder, Cave Johnson, play while you navigate the catwalks and testing areas. The lowest, and oldest, levels are much more upbeat as he welcomes war heros, astronauts, and Olympic athletes into the testing programs. A bit higher and the tone changes as he now tells hobos not to use the elevator as a bathroom. In the upper layers, just under the lowest levels of the modern facility, they have had to give up outside test subjects all together and made testing required of all employees. By this point Cave is clearly ill and coughs frequently and asks his secretary to bring him pain pills. It’s from this portion of the game that the following quote comes from. Earlier he had used the old adage ” When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

 

“Alright, I’ve been thinking.When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back!  Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons, what the hell am I supposed to do with these?!? Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s going to burn your house down! With the LEMONS! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that BURNS YOUR HOUSE DOWN!”

 

Cave Johnson is voiced by JK Simmons and he does a wonderful job. You can hear this quote here on YouTube.It’s worth a listen.