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Monday, August 1, 2016

Unhoard Your Life

One of our most of basic instincts is to acquire things in life.

We get a job. 
We get clothes. 
We get money. 
We get material things. 
Then we get a place to put them into. 
We get more money.
Rinse and repeat.
We store the things we had already acquired.
We fill up our existence.
We run out of space.

Then what? 

We die.
Someone else has to deal with all of the things we acquired.
Some get tossed. 
Some get passed down.
Some get put into a box in some other space.

The cycle continues.

I am as guilty as anyone else in this life. 

I have an attic with stuff from years ago that I will never use again.  I have a foot locker containing things from my grade school years.   I have cases containing cassette tapes from my youth, and even from the days when I still had a car that could play a cassette tape.  I haven’t thrown them out.   I can’t play them on anything, but I can’t part with them.   I have stuff in my garage.  Broken bits and bobs that don’t belong to anything that works, but I haven’t thrown them away because, eventually I will fix them or find a use for them.   

No, I won’t.

I’m just as bad on a digital scale.   I have disks, drives, and files dating back to the Apple IIc era of technology.  I “try” to keep all the footage of gameplay I record for my YouTube channel as if I can reuse that footage for something else.  Multiple three or four terabyte drives sitting on a shelf.    I put quotes around the word try because, on occasion, the drives fail and I basically have a paperweight that lights up but does nothing else.

Look at video games, today.  You start out with nothing and then you have to acquire resources.   You get rewarded for getting things.  If you're like me, you hold onto things because even though you have no idea what they do, at some point, you may need them.  By the middle of the game, you are frantically looking to store things in your inventory or find uses for them because you have no more room.   Video games have mirrored my hoarding life or enhanced.  I'm not sure which.

Is it genetic?  Is it an illness?  Is it just laziness?

Well, the first thing you have to understand is that I am the child of a baby boomer, that ever aging generation that lived through the Great Depression and World War II.  They had to scrimp and save everything because there just wasn’t any money or materials during those times.  Everything was precious either from a KTLO (Keep The Lights On) perspective or because of the war effort.  My parents have a house full of things from the 60s through today and I do not relish the day I, along with my siblings, will have to go through it all.

The second thing you have to understand may also explain something about yourself if you find you have the same issue.   I tend to resonate from mnemonic devices.  I associate a time and place to listening to a song or a visual reference.  I can remember a memory from a smell or listening to a sound.  For me, the tactile response to seeing something from my past brings me back to that place better than just having to remember it.    Maybe it’s fear of aging.  Maybe it’s fear of mental deficiency in my later years. 

Maybe I am just lazy.

But I am getting better.  In fact, I have done a lot of junk dumping.   When I first moved into my house, I could actually park a car in the garage.  Then, slowly, over the next 12 years, things got shoved into every space in that garage until you could only walk a small path from the door to the back, after moving a garbage can or two.  Along one wall were cardboard boxes, just tossed on top of each other.  I planned to use those for building fires in my wood burner or fire pit outside.   Well, I quit using the basement because the cats basically took over the downstairs (i.e. destroyed) and the place needs redone, so no more fires and no renovating until they are gone.    The other side of the garage was basically things that just got shoved there.   After a horrible set of rainstorms this summer, the garage flooded and the place reeked of wetness and mildew.   So, shit got tossed.   All of the cardboard boxes were broken down and consolidated into one giant box.  Three weeks’ worth of garbage collection took care of all the bags that were filled.  Now, while I still can’t get a car in there, I can move freely about and it’s more organized and I should have no problems in the event of another flood as there is ample space for water to reach the drains if need be.  Not, that I want that to happen, but nature sometimes dictates these things, not you.

My daughter’s room was another sore point.   Now, I am totally ashamed in how this played out but it happened and I can’t change that. 
When she was born, we had her nursery all done up and just adorable.  As far as renovations go, I was quite pleased with myself for being able to do what I had done.  I hate painting and I suck at these kinds of room things, but it really worked out, well.  But, she didn’t stay a baby or toddler very long.  That tends to happen with humans, they grow up.   Yet, we still kept all the things; toys, clothes, furniture.  It all stayed in that room and soon, you couldn’t find anything.  You couldn’t walk.  You couldn’t sleep.  At the age of six and even seven, my daughter still slept on the mattress that came from her crib.   The crib itself became a day bed, but the mattress and frame remained in the same shape, basically, as the day she came home from the hospital, minus the front railing.  And you could not walk in her room without stepping on something.  You could not open the door all the way.   It was horrible and I didn’t have to sleep in there, so it didn’t get fixed for a long time. 

But, it got fixed. 

The crib was dismantled and stored in the attic.  A new bed was bought and all of her childhood things, like toys or clothes were thrown out, packed away, donated, or repurposed.  It was now the bedroom of a bright young girl who has room to move and grow and it’s not done, but it’s headed in the right direction.

The attic is another sore point but it’s on the list.  My room is just the same but it’s somewhat better than it was three years ago.   The rest of the house is slowly making a comeback and it’s hard and it takes time.   It also took something else.   It took someone else.

You see, my whole world crashed and burned in 2012.   I haven’t talked much about it or about anything else, really, because like this blog, my life became neglected.    

My marriage ended.

But that’s not what caused everything to go to hell in that house.   That’s what changed it all.  

Now, it’s not what happened during my divorce that’s important.  My ex-wife and I are still friends.  We live five minutes from each other.  We are still parents.  For the sake of our daughter, we swallowed any feelings of animosity or anything we had for each other and made it easier on her.   But, the things that didn’t get easy were undoing all the damage that had been done to our lives, by ourselves.  I still live in the house and it still has so many things from our life together in it.  So, it’s hard for us to un-hoard our lives because of all the moving parts.    Ashamedly, for a year, my daughter had to share a bed with me every weekend because her room was unlivable and maybe it was depression that was keeping me from getting my ass in gear to fix it, but it got fixed because someone, other than me, stepped in and helped.

That’s the key to un-hoarding.   You need someone who isn’t going to be a ‘yes’ man or woman.  You need someone to make you make a decision and then question that decision.  It also helps because you don’t get caught up in the trips down memory lane when half of the work is being done by someone who can keep things out of your hands.   There were times I stopped to reminisce over a onesie or a toy.   But, the fact that someone else is there helping you makes you feel more productive and… somewhat guilty that they have to help with all this work. 

You need a support system that isn’t going to say, “Aww, I know how you feel.  We’ll just keep a few things.”

No.  Kick it in the ass.  You’ll feel better.  

Remember, your kid isn’t going to be a baby again.  Someone else can use it or it can be discarded, properly.  Get rid of it.  
You’re never going to suddenly reconstruct that teapot that shattered into 15 pieces.  I don’t care how much Super Glue you use.   Get rid of it.

And then buy that person dinner or drinks or help them back.  It’s easier to throw something out when it’s not your stuff.  Just like it’s easier to move someone when it’s not your stuff.

Take back your life so someone else doesn’t have to when you’re gone.

If you live to be a grand old age, you should probably pare down to just the essentials.

Acquire memories.  Acquire friends.  Get rid of all those things you cannot use. 

Un-hoard your life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How CafePress' Admin Bot Shops Charge You Blindly

   Please stop creating these admin shops and listing products that are not added by me, the account owner.  You are putting products out for sale in the marketplace that are not configured for the best use of my designs.  The latest sale that came from one was black lettering on black apparel.   

   Yes, I see a royalty from that sale, however, I did not approve of that design for that type of apparel, nor does this shop fall inside my payment setting for a premium shop.   In addition to paying my yearly fee, I also would be responsible for a fee attached to this sale because the default setting for that shop is to only pay royalties on items sold (10%).   You are essentially selling my designs and charging me a fee for something I did not approve as the designer.  I have had to close several of these admin shops or make them private in order to stop this from affecting my sales. 

   I have stuck with CafePress since 2009 even though nearly every other Print on Demand site offers the same benefits with no fees.   You’ve stripped us the same royalties for marketplace sales as shop sales, halved our royalties for 3rd party and fan portal sales.    I have been loyal to this site because of the benefit of the exposure and that scale is being tipped towards the negative ever more with these frustrations. 

   Please consider changing this practice as I am sure that while I am simply a small time designer and one voice among millions of designers who use CafePress, shopkeepers like me are how CafePress got its start and has grown.    While I don’t expect anything to come from this request, I must make it as it has been far too long for me to sit idly by and not voice my frustration.

Thank you,
 Not the most eloquent of messages, but one that needed to be sent for a long time.   Yes, it's almost passive aggressive in tone.  "If you don't stop being corporate bad guys, well, then, I'll just shake my fist and yell really loud with no ramifications."  Quite frankly, if I struck any kind of nerve and CafePress just decided to say, "So long, we're closing your account because of x" I would be kind of happy.   I have sort of let my shop languish because it just generates a minimal amount of monthly income that I am willing to accept for hardly any work, while I focus my attention to more robust, up to date, and shops that don't charge me a fee like TeePublic or Redbubble.

  In fact, it's been a long slow hospice for my CafePress shop since they changed the rules to only give designers a flat 10% royalty on sales from the marketplace, whereas previously it was whatever royalty you decided.  And actually, that should read "up to 10%" because they nail you for sales that come through fan portals and 3rd party sales like Amazon.  Shop sales prices can't compete with Marketplace prices and no one in their right mind will pay more for something just because the designer gets a higher cut.  

  The latest trend is for CafePress to add these Admin shops to your account and pre-populate a handful of categories with select items and select designs under the guise of "We're trying out things that you may want to be aware of".  Nothing you actually have any hand in when it happens.  They do it and unless you constantly bird dog your account, you don't find out that something is wrong until you get a weird royalty email stating that you made a sale on a no name item.  You check the sales report and see that it came from the Marketplace, featuring a design that you already offer in your regular store and already pay a monthly/yearly fee to operate.  Then, on top of only getting 10% of the royalty, because these admin shops are default settings, you pay a 10% fee on your royalty for every item sold up to $10 a month.  So, $60 in shop fees, plus up to $120 a year for these bot shops they set up on your behalf.  

  The argument here is kind of moot because I continue to do business with them, but that's only because the fees have been about 3% of my sales.  It's an easy revenue stream that doesn't require a lot of work other than to guard every penny by shutting down these stupid bot sites.  Still, I should stand up to this kind of behavior, closing my shop and walking away.   Unfortunately, there are millions of designers using CafePress, losing me would hurt only me every month, when I don't see a paltry line item on my PayPal account from CafePress.

UPDATE 2/8/16CafePress did respond in kind.... but I already knew this would be there response, if any.

Thank you for contacting CafePress. To Opt Out of marketplace listing, go to the shop management page and click on your shop settings. at the bottom you will see a check box marked Opt Out of the Marketplace. Your designs will then be removed from the marketplace.
If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.

Please use this code in any further communication.
Best Regards,
Well, I did those steps and lo and behold, today, a new order for an item in that Admin shop, which has been marked as opting out of the Marketplace.  Look at the quality of their product with my design.  It doesn't fit the product.  This is what happens when their bot stores add my designs to their products...  This is horrible quality product that goes to the customer and has my name associated with it.  AND I GET CHARGED A FEE FOR THE SALE?!?!?!

I've removed all products from the Admin shop, but they'll be back.  In a few months time, there will be more crap in there that I will have to remove, again.

UPDATE 2/9/16:  Now, they're just trolling me.

Thank you for your response.  I am happy to assist you today.
I am sorry to hear of your frustrations.  At this time I would like to suggest closing your Admin shop.  In order to do so, go to "Shop", click "Admin_CP7374716".  This will bring you to your "Manage Your Shop" page.  

On the right hand side of the screen you can click "Close this Shop".  This will close this shop all together.  You then would not have to opt out of the marketplace.  

When opting out of the marketplace, it takes away the option of customers finding any of your items on our website at all, unless they have your shop HTML.

I hope this information is helpful.
 OK, so I have done these steps before.   Within days, the Admin bot shops reappear.  So, I asked a stupid question of them.
If I close this shop, will another one be added in the future?  (Included screenshot with email that shows only one shop now exists)  I have closed it and should not see any more of these Admin shops appear in my account.

Thank you
Of course, I fully expect there to be a new wonderfully awful bot shop in my account within a few days.   This is how they responded to my message...
Hello, I will be happy to assist you with this matter. I apologize that you are having issues with the admin shops. Unfortunately, another admin shop will produce its self. You can opt it out of the marketplace and mark it as private. This way the items can not be sold in the marketplace and will not be found on search engines. I also recommend removing any products from the admin shops as well. This will only need to be done once and no additional admin shops will be added in the future.  
To mark you shop as Private follow these steps:

  1. Log into your CaféPress account.
  2. Click on the Shop ID of the shop you wish to edit.
  3. Click “Edit Shop Profile”.
  4. Towards the bottom of this page will be your Preferences. Check the Private box and Market place Opt out.  Click on “Save Changes”.
Are you kidding me?  We're back to opting out.  Yet, clearly, the opting out still allowed items to be bought through the Marketplace.  


UPDATE: 2/22/16
  Yep, they're trolling.  The steps above outline how I am to mark the shop private and opt out of the marketplace... which I had done.   Then, yesterday, another shirt was sold out of that shop.  The products just happened to appear. 

  Well, one other option presents itself.  There is a 500 section or folder limit on shops.  If I add 500 blank sections, I can force them to stop adding them.

  Shouldn't be this hard.

UPDATE: 2/24/16
  So, apparently, Cafepress' rule about maximum number of sections allowed on your shop is a lie.   I tried to do an end run around the bot shops by adding 500 folders or sections, maxing out the allotted number.  The hope was that it would stop them from adding their own, which clearly are still selling products, even though I've removed that shop from the marketplace and opted out of search engine indexing.

 Well, today, there were 503 sections in the bot shop, which means that they refuse to be stopped.  I removed the products from the newly created sections.  However, these new sections are automatic and not done by some lackey in their offices.

UPDATE: 3/28/16

I sent a new message to CafePress because it has been over a month since I opted out of the marketplace with this bot shop and still orders get generated in sections that they add above and beyond their supposed 500 section limit.   I can't be bothered to go in every day and remove products from new sections.  This shouldn't be what a shopkeeper has to do.

It has been over a month since I opted out of the marketplace with this store.  And yet, orders keep getting placed from the Marketplace.  See Attached.   Also, your limit of 500 sections does not seem to apply to this admin bot shop as there are 522 sections in the shop itself.
So, what gives?  I get a lot of apologies and understanding of frustrations, yet no indication of anything to actually fix this issue other than I have to manually go into newly generated sections over the 500 limit and remove all products, but as you can see from the attached, unless I go in every day, continually and remove products, orders get placed.
Fix this.  Stop adding items, sections, orders, whatever!

UPDATE: 4/4/16

Now, this is a new one.  Logging in today, expecting to delete more products from the Admin shop, I found a new wrinkle in the mess.   Someone removed the exclusions from my Admin shop, opting it back into the marketplace and making it public.  They also removed all of the sections that were there.  Lastly, there was a strange product in my shopping cart.  Seriously, something is loco here.
Here was their response:

Thanks for your reply. I am sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused you. We do not reset any shops unless the owner advises us. The sections and products in your store we also did not get rid of. No, changes are made to your store from us. Looking into what's going on with the Admin shops, you can close them at anytime. 
If there is anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
Your ticket code is [redacted]. Please use this code in any further communication.
Best Regards,
Their explanation of how they wouldn't have done such things is ridiculous as is their advice on how to handle this as even if I close that shop, in a week, another one will open.

Now, why would I undo all the work I've been doing to stop these sales from happening?   I emptied the cart, reapplied all the same exclusions, and changed my password.   Even still, there's some residual cookie thing going on because even though it shows empty, I still get a one item in my cart icon on each page.   You can see that all the sections are gone from the picture above, to here. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Gamer Tags

I am 40.
I am a father.
I am a son.
I am a nerd.
I am a gamer.
I am not a gamer.

Do I play COD or WoW or know what the difference is between a Hunter and a Promethean Knight is?  Can I perform a 360 no scope?  No.   But so what?  You don’t get to give me a tag of gamer or not.   That is not for you to decide.  Now, I would never call myself a soldier because I’ve never been in the armed forces or trained in the military.  That is an entirely different thing. The reason you don’t get to call me a gamer, or not a gamer, is because you aren’t the governing body of video games.  You are not a part of some hierarchy of video game admins that decide who or what defines me as a player of video games.  You are a gamer or you are not a gamer, by your own definition.

Let’s face it, video games have been around a lot longer than some of you who consider yourself to be MLG.  And, by using that term alone I sound like an old man, I know.  But I also know that video games are older than I am, which makes whatever you think of my gaming ability to be irrelevant.  You have no idea what being a gamer or not being a gamer is.   You’ve never stood in an arcade, with your quarter sitting on the rim of the bezel, waiting for your turn as some geek stands there, their eyes darting back and forth as they move left, right, down, and up to avoid pixelated enemies, knowing that there is no save point or continue.  One quarter.  One shot.  

Now, you may also wish to contend that the games of old, back in the days of the arcade, were simplistic.   All it took was memorization of some pattern or repetitive moments to be good.  Sure, go ahead and keep believing that.  I dare you to even try to keep up with someone like Billy Mitchell.  

Video games have come a long way.   From text adventures to monochromatic 2D sprites to isometric RPGs to millions of polygons per second rendering on the screen, we’ve seen games that have told stories of searching an underground kingdom to saving a princess in another castle to surviving the night in a haunted pizza restaurant and sometimes, it’s not even a game by traditional standards, but an unfolding tale of lost loves from car accidents or cancer.   We simulate everything from amusement parks to prisons to farms.  We blast aliens and fruit.  We build vehicles contraptions and even other video games.

Playing one specific type of game does not make someone a “gamer”.   It’s an understanding of many disciplines and it doesn’t mean you have to be any good.   You don’t have to compete in tournaments or carry your own custom controller and gear.  You can sit in a cafĂ© and play across a network connection with someone next door or across the world. 

And when someone else says they are a gamer or not a gamer.  If someone plays video games they can consider themselves whatever they want to be.   They can be old, young, male, female, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish.   The fact that they play, that they care, gives them the right to call themselves whatever they want.

This idea that you have to be a male with a Gamerscore over 20,000 to be a “gamer” is ridiculous.  Who cares?  I don’t have a Gamerscore.   My daughter plays video games.  She records videos.  She’s under the age of 10.   She can be a gamer if she so chooses to be called one.   This shaming and violently attacking others for playing games is a ridiculous practice that needs to stop, yesterday.  Are there problems in the world of gaming in way of gender exclusion and objectifying of a gender?  You betcha.   I remember the Nude Raider mod for Tomb Raider, Strip Poker on the Commodore 64.  Come on, we need to grow up.  We need to start acting like human beings.  

Gaming is an outlet for expression and creativity and we should embrace anyone that wants to be a part of that.  We should nurture the desire to figure out what makes games work.  We should engage in a community that doesn’t hate someone because they don’t know how to play a particular game, but helps them learn so they can enjoy the same thing we do.   When you tell someone that you play video games or that you like video games what is their reaction?  Do they roll their eyes or do they continue a conversation, invested in your attachment to the activity?  Maybe if they understood it like you do, had your passion, they would be more open to accept that you like to play video games and don’t brush it off as something juvenile or a waste of time.   With that in mind, why would ever try to dissuade someone from joining your ranks as a person who appreciates and partakes in the playing of video games?  We need more people in this club.  We need help from all walks of life.   We can’t make this idea exclusive to who we feel is deemed worthy to wear the tag of Gamer or whatever is an appropriate title. 

Not a gamer
Human Being

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