Been a long time comin’…

This song has been running through my head all day. I still think, even with all the ridiculousness in the world, a change for the better is occurring. So…there’s that.


DIY project: Loom Band Amigurumi!

One of the nice things of having a hot second of time off before November hits is I get to muck about with side hobbies I haven’t had time to attack. Today I actually got to try out those rainbow loom band thingies. I’ve seen the bracelets, but as I used to love to crochet, I thought I get a wee bit ambitious and create a little stress ball. As Paddy Power Bingo was nice enough to send me a packet of their colours the other day, I made them a cute lucky bingo ball.

SONY DSC

If you’ve never crocheted, you’ll probably be a bit better off than I was at trying to re-orient my hands to bands over a piece of yarn. For anyone who has done amigurumi (Japanese toy making) or had a boyfriend in college who was REALLY into hacky-sacks, these instructions should look pretty familiar. For those of you who have never crocheted before (band or otherwise), no worries. Here is a quick video tutorial to walk you through the following concepts:
Magic Circle (how you start the ball)
Increase (how your ball gets bigger in diameter)
Decrease (how your ball gets smaller)
Cast off (how you finish the piece).

 

For everyone else, hop in!

  1. Create a magic circle with 12 links around when finished. You’ll notice I did my anchor loop with 2 colours – the regular colour, and a drastically different tone. It makes it much easier for you to see the loop you want to keep coming back to, and when you’re done, you carefully snip the differing colour band off.

    SONY DSC SONY DSC

  2. Start your rows of increases, with this pattern: singe crochet, single crochet, increase. Continue till the ball reaches the width you like. This has five rows, graduating colour from white to pink to green.
  3. Have one row of all single crochet.
  4. Start your rows of decreases. Remember, the number of rows of decreases must match the number of rows of increases, otherwise your ball will be somewhat oblong!
  5. When the opening to your ball is looking pretty small, stuff it with stuffing of your choice. Many people use polyfil or cotton fluff, but I actually use bubble wrap, as it’s hypo-allergenic, can get wet without going all soggy, and let’s be honest, we ALL have bubble wrap in the house, no need to hit up the craft store for a second time just to finish a project.

    SONY DSC

  6. I decorated with a lucky 7, but you can actually let your imagination run wild – stitch little arms and legs to yours, glue googly eyes, put a bit of fake fur on the head, whatever you like.

    ppb6

One of my favourite memories with my grandmum was going to the local church festival every August and playing bingo, and I think she’d love a good luck token like this as she played.

Top tips: While your loom pack came with a teeny tiny crochet hook, which I used as I wanted to make sure this could be done without buying any special tools, next time, I’ll use a proper crochet hook – this one killed my hands after awhile!

I will admit, I MUCH prefer the looms to yarn when having to ‘frog’ (rip out mistakes and go back a number of rows) – much easier to do with bands than fibre like alpaca/wool/animal fibre. I had to frog like 3 rows at one point, and I was done and crocheting again in about a minute and a half.

I’ve let the kid go to town playing with it, and haven’t had a break yet, so I’d consider that stress test a win. And the nice thing is, as loom bands are EVERYWHERE, you could buy a packet on a train or car ride, and within an hour have a cute toy for your kid to play with.

Up next, I think I might do themed balls. If I open up the base a bit, do all white with googly eyes, I’d have a cute ghost. Using alternating rows of increases and decreases in all green would make a super cute Christmas tree. And going for an oblong shape with striped rows would make the most adorable Easter eggs, don’t you think? The nice thing about this is if you don’t like the project, you haven’t ruined any fibre – you just snip one band, and unravel the rest.

Thanks again to Paddy Power Bingo – http://bingo.paddypower.com/  – for sending me the bands!


Early Morning.

Been up since 4.40 or so, answering emails, quietly getting house ready for morning routine. Reminds me of when I would study at 3 am when doing cluster feeds with the kid – your body forms a natural shape of kid in one arm, textbook in another. Muscle memory.

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Current #shelfie with #fountainpens and #pencils. Love my workhorses, but I need to get a cleaning/repair kit assembled. If anyone has suggestions for kit items, let me know. #fpgeeks #parkerpens #Lamy #carandache #sheaffer #crosspens #waterman #Staedtler #fountainpenrevolution

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  I have (foolishly?) decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. Last time I did it I was heavily pregnant, here’s hoping this time I’m successful. I know the story I want to tell, I just need to outline like a mo-fo for the next 10 days. That on top of new video project (shhhh, it won’t be out for another 8-12 months!), and the mictrostories over at Dayre is making me a busy little bee.      

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Sketching story pictures to help walk me through the 20 or so theories under one of the 6 subheadings for this exam. Modification of the mansion mind trick in #DerrenBrown book. If this works, I’ll owe him a drink. #mba View on Instagram

 

 

We don’t get our grades back till December 5th, which is terrifying, as if I didn’t do great in Corporate Finance I’ll have to resit the exam in April, and if that happens, I want to get as big a jump on it as possible, So I guess it’s okay that I’m doing NaNoWriMo, as it’s not like I could be doing huge studying anyway.

 

And at some point I’d like to clean this blog up – people keep sending me buttons I should be slapping up here, and then there are PR people’s needs to consider, and blabbity blah blah oh sweet God could there be anything more boring.

 

And finally, my goal for the next six months is to put one item of crap on eBay a day. I’ve got about 5 items fully photographed and described, so that at least covers this week. Fingers crossed for a huge clear out.


Weekend

Weekend was spent tidying up (a losing battle, there is so much paperwork to attend to!), and Sunday was dedicated to the family getting out and about. People tend to think of London as this hard, cold place, but I’ve found it to be really family friendly. We went to King’s Cross station to the Steam Extravaganza – kid did a coal shovelling competition, watched the model trains, rode a mini coal-driven steam engine, listened to storytellers, and checked out the House of Illustration’s workshops! And of course, there were oodles of side fun, like yummy food and Word on the Water, my personal oasis in the form of a floating bookstore.

Word on the Water

Word on the Water

House of Illustration's wallboards, have to take the kid there next week for Paddington Bear exhibit!

House of Illustration’s wallboards, have to take the kid there next week for Paddington Bear exhibit!

 

We finished with some quick conveyor belt sushi at St Pancras, and while the kid was NOT a fan of the sushi rice (too sweet and sticky for him, he much prefers proper fluffy Chinese rice), he loved taking dishes off the belt, and did quite well on the fruit dessert plate.

 

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Obligatory conveyor belt sushi shot.

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It’s so nice not to spend all Saturday in a study cubby, surrounded by notecards and highlighters, but I know I can only give myself this vacation for a week or so – I have to get back into the study grind sooner rather than later. No rest for the wicked, all that.

Oh! And a piece I submitted for a new London monthly mag was very enthusiastically received, so fingers crossed!

 


…and the daddy tomato said, “ketchup”.

So. Yes. Good. Okay.

 

Finals are over. Whew. Unless I completely, utterly bombed my exam, that will be the last ‘sit-down-at-a-desk-and-write-for-three-hours’ test I’ll have, ever. I’m taking the next session off to focus on the kid, and then I have a few electives, and then right into my dissertation sessions. Fun.

Week before the exam I get a Skype from my mom, all ARE YOU UP CAN YOU TALK NOW?!?! Seems my father’s heart decided it was Norma Rae and was like “NOPE. NOT WORKING FOR YOU UNLESS MY DEMANDS ARE MET”. Not fun. Luckily the muscles of his heart are strong, and the ‘pipes’ are clean, so one emergency pacemaker later, he’s on bedrest, but in good spirits.

My husband wondered if I wanted to fly over, and I’m sure school would have allowed for an extension of the exam, but I’ve slept on cots next to the kid’s hospital bed enough times to know while the thought is nice, nothing really helps in that situation. I can’t make his heart beat, I can’t even answer medical questions while my mum rests, as I don’t know his current situation. There’s a point where you’ve been asked if you want a cup of tea for the thousandth time by someone who is trying their hardest to help, but can’t actually do anything, and you find yourself hating them, and yourself, for the impotence of the situation. Because all you want to scream in that moment is, “Can you make this all better? Can you fix him? Can you take his pain away? No? Then SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GET OUT OF MY FACE”. You don’t say that because, well, social contract, but by God you want to.

verso shelfie

In nicer news, I was greeted at the end of my exams by a stack of new Verso Press books, which we have already started devouring. Love them. I know I should go with digital copies of books – this costs trees and shipping costs and blabbity blah blah, but I can’t help it, I love holding a book, turning pages, and my allergies be damned, smelling the old ones. It’s a thing, don’t try to overthink it.

alexander mqueen puma trainers

However, I am dedicating the next six months to a MASSIVE clearout. While I’m pretty ruthless with getting rid of stuff, hubs is awful, and we’ve yet to do a proper sort and donate drive with the kid’s stuff since he was like 2, so that will get attacked asap. The only problem is I have a lot of unique items that I can’t for the life of me remember the season/year for. For instance, these Alexander McQueen/Puma collaborations are gorgeous, but I can’t recall when they are actually from. If you’re a lover of McQ and you know, drop me a line. If you’re a lover of McQ, a size UK 5/EUR 38, and in London, drop me a line and I’ll sell them outright. One less thing to battle in consignment hell/eBay.

I’m also stoked to get time to take the kid on adventures during the week. Now that school is properly back in session, we can hit the museums and stuff without jostling for space. Very excited to hit up a couple of cool exhibits coming down the pike.

Okay, off to battle the office which has been waylaid by papers during revision, then lunch at BrewDog with hubs. Catch you on the flip side, kittens.


#FlashFiction in #London: “Last Call”

shea wong #flashfiction, #microstories, last call

 

“The trick is to give ‘em what they want.”
“Really?”
“S-Sure.”
“…Really?”
He wipes down the bar.
“The real trick…look, I pour a good drink. I listen. I banter. I clean up. I call them a cab. I give them everything they want.”
She sips her drink. “But that’s not the trick, is it?”
He smiles. 
“I should tell them to go home, and sort out their lives. But that’d cost me customers. So I give them what they want, never what they need.”
“…That’s the trick?”

“That’s always the trick.”

 



#microstories #flashfiction


#FlashFiction in #London: “Captured Moments”

shea wong #flashfiction #microstories captured moments

 

There are cultures that believe taking a photo steals a part of your soul. She visited one when she was little. When the camera flashed, they covered themselves, while she made funny faces.

She wondered if there was any truth to it. 

Then she discovered selfies, and projected her image everywhere. 

Yet, she wondered…






One day, while taking a picture, she felt herself float away, back down into something…else.

And now? Now, she has all the time in the world to wonder.

#microstories #flashfiction


I’m Editor’s Pick on Dayre!

Chuffed to bits that I’ve been named one of September’s Editor’s Picks on Dayre. Head over to Dayre.me to sign up, I’m at dayre.me/sheawong if you want to follow the action.

 

Although it’s been tough this past month to create (and will be hellish till October 8th when exams are over), it’s going to be a challenge to focus on studies when I’d rather just take photos and write #microstories. Here are their kind words:

 

editorspick shea wong dayre


Should bloggers be paid for reviews? The #fairpayforbloggers debate. 6

This post might upset people, so here’s a video about making money on the internet. Enjoy.

 

In bloggerland, people are raising the perennial question of being paid for product reviews. “Not Dressed As Lamb” did a  well thought out piece on the subject here, and a follow up here. As I didn’t want to hit her comments section with a wall o’ text, I figured I’d tackle my take on it here.

 

Blogging has been around for 20 years, one of the first being created in 1994, with Steve Gibson being recognized as one of the first professional bloggers…in 1997.  This industry has been around the digital world for a good long time, and while like traditional vs self-publishing, it has gone through a number of iterations, a few truths have remained. The first concerns that good old fashioned chestnut of money.

In the beginning, monetized blogs were exceedingly rare. When I started my very first blog in 2001-02, they were an anomaly. The first non-industry (eg gaming, technology) blog I knew that monetized was Dooce, in around 2004 or so. Dooce then kicked off the decade long trend of Mommybloggers, who were focusing their blogs not on concepts or ideas, but rather a general sense of themselves. Now we have a far more niche-based blogosphere, with specific fashion, DIY, parenting, education, etc, as well as general lifestyle/parenting/’personal’ blogs, as well as app-specific bloggers (Youtube, twitter, Dayre, even Vine-only bloggers!).

 

I told you all of that to tell you this.

 

The problem with paying bloggers what they feel they are worth is (and I mean this with no disrespect to the community as a whole) – what they feel they are worth is not what they are worth to a brand. Brands began cozying up to bloggers for the same reason every ‘new’ technology gets cozied up to, a brand can save money in advertising. If the newest toy for Christmas wants to hit the eyeballs of parents before they go into a store to shop, they wrangle a few parenting bloggers to do a review, run a giveaway, dedicate a hashtag, and hope for good conversion rates. Make no mistake, PR firms see ‘reviews’ as ‘marketing’, as any blogger who has been around the block knows a bad review means review opportunities dry up, which is why I’ve yet to see a truly scathing review in any modern blog, ever.

In short, bloggers are cheaper than other forms of guerrilla marketing. If another medium comes along that can create the same engagement for less cost to the PR firm/company, bloggers will be dropped – it’s that simple.

 

This has nothing to do with what I was talking about, really, but I love this gif.

If PR firms could find a way to sell their crap using only this gif, no one would have a job tomorrow.

 

The problem comes from supply-side economics and total cost for effort. Let’s take Blogger A and Marketer B. Both need to sell Baby Poops-A-Lot. Let’s see what they go through:

Blogger A Marketer B
Get specs from company and product Get specs from company and product
Take pics of kid playing with product Check Big Data for seasonal trends on font, graphics, colour scheme, etc (do focus group if new/innovative product)
PicMonkey/Photoshop/edit pics for content, clarity, aesthetics Get approval on general theme for colours/font/image tone
Write copy Schedule photoshoot for product
Insert SEO anchor text as required by company Send photos to be professionally edited
Set appropriate hashtags Contract copyeditor
Schedule post Do first pass at copy
Set up Rafflecopter if hosting giveaway Get approval for copy
Push to social media and regularly remind readers about giveaway Get digital edits back in at least 4 forms for choices on approval
Get approval for images and copy
Pitch top 3 combos of images/copy to company
If one is accepted, talk to sales about medium being sold in (catalog, newspaper, magazine, digital)
If not accepted, back to raw copy and images for new package presentation
Continue process till accepted by client company
Push to various outlets
Contact BD company to run post-purchase focus group to track engagement

 

The reason 4 hours of work won’t be paid as a half day of work as in a traditional market is that a blogger would have to do a hell of a lot more high quality work to match traditional marketing. And this isn’t to say that high end bloggers don’t have some great skill sets, but that’s not what a lot of companies are particularly looking for – they want niche eyeballs on page while the pros (marketing companies) handle the general public.

 

Say I’m a company who wants to push my product to a specific group. I know that there are a host of bloggers who will happily share my product for what is essentially at-cost. I’m not interested in award-winning copy and photos, I just want basic, decent writing, and non-blurry pictures. If someone asked for money to review the product, I would ask myself “Does this person have enough daily eyeballs on their site for me to take a little more out of my budget to appease them?” If my ROI (return on investment) is high enough for that one blogger, sure, I’ll do it. But if that became ‘industry standard’, and every blogger, from the biggest to the tiniest, all wanted money to review? I’d close my wallet and look around for the next set of potential leads (Instagrammers, Viners, etc). Harsh, but true. I’ve watched it happen live as mommybloggers used to rule the roost, and are now relegated to the sidelines while fashion and beauty Youtubers become celebrities in their own right. Sunrise, sunset.

 

 

Not Dressed As Lamb seems to echo these sentiments, that having a large pool of people who won’t take payment for what pros will charge is damaging the industry as a whole. In her post she shares a comment from someone who states,

“I had an interesting email recently. It regarded bloggers as journalists in their own right… in effect it is what we do. We deliver written pieces to an audience. A journalist would have a set fee for a written piece. Why do bloggers not? It appears we, as bloggers, are a cheap and effective PR solution”. (Emphasis mine)

 

no just no gif shea wong

nope octopus gif drag race shake head no gif

 

My husband works at the BBC, and our friends work both home and abroad in radio, print, and on-camera presenting for news agencies, so I say this with as much kindness as I can: NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.*  Our friends who work at BBC and AJE and CBS and CNBC see most bloggers through the same ‘cheap labor interloper’ lens as the newly professional bloggers now view hobbyists. It is bad enough when someone thinks blogging a lot = being professional, it is a whole other level of hubris to suggest someone who is getting the newest Lego playset to ‘review’ (eg talk about in glowing terms) is on the same level as my friends who have to get malaria shots and a flack jacket just to go to work. NO.**

 

99.9999999999% of bloggers don’t have the training, ethics, standards, and required feedback of journalists. A journalist who gets paid for a piece had to find a story, put themselves often in danger, follow a specific code of ethics to get said story, write the story, have it returned to them full of red ink from an editor, and fix/polish by a hard deadline. When a newspaper, news network, or magazine hires a journalist, they are hiring the years of education, training, contacts, and networks that the journalist has at their disposal. If you asked a respectable journalist to pepper her report from the Ukraine with an anecdote about Daz getting out insurgent blood and how it was the greatest detergent ever, she’d look at you like you were mad. Or, as the darling Harlan Ellison says:

 

And this is okay! No one is asking bloggers to understand what “lede” or “above the fold” is, or to have a black book of back-alley contacts when they need intel, or to be beheaded in a desert somewhere just for telling the story. Bloggers are offered reviews in an effort to create walking, talking billboards for the PR company’s audience, not be Pulitzer prize winning journos. But that’s also why they don’t deserve the same pay.

 

I’m all for equal pay. But that includes equal skill sets, equal timelines, and equal taxes (Everyone is itemizing their costs and payments, doing their quarterly self-employed tax payments, and filing all forms to pay into their national social security/pension schemes as well as unemployment insurance, right? Because that is what self-employed professionals do – they fill out that 1099 in the US, and the Queen gets hers every fiscal quarter in the UK, etc). #fairpayforbloggers needs to include fairly similar quality of work offered compared to the pros.

 

So, how could professional bloggers achieve legitimacy? There could be some sort of oversight body that can guarantee to Company X that the blogger with the seal of approval is trained in the newest methods of SEO, social media steps, copyediting, photography, and of course marketing and networking. Collective bargaining would also need to be enacted so when pro bloggers en masse say they won’t review products for less than price £X, no ‘scabs’ will go behind their backs and undercut them. And then of course would be a consistent, constant, set of standards; hard deadlines, no vacations (The Times don’t take two weeks off every summer, neither can blogs), no social media meltdowns (can you imagine BBC and NPR sniping at each other on twitter all weekend, or calling anyone who criticized their reporting as a ‘hater’?), and in short, being as perfectly polished a brand as the best PR firm out there. If those things happened, then yes, professional bloggers would get equal footing. But the onus is every full time blogger to make that happen, not PR companies.

 

There are a number of pro bloggers out there who I enjoy – Nate Silver immediately comes to mind – and I hope that any blogger out there who wants to be self-employed will take a page from Mr. Silver’s New York Times bestselling book and follow his professional and personal trajectory. I’ve done this for 12 years, and I enjoy it for what it is – a bit of fun. My goal has never been to blog professionally, so other than this being a long standing hobby (as well as marketing and strategy being the focus of my MBA), I don’t have a dog in this particular fight. And hell, while it would shut down GOMI, I’d love to see bloggers achieve such a high internal benchmarking that they could pass for professional writers/photographers/stylists/chefs/etc even if it’s just a hobby for them. But again, the responsibility lies on each individual blogger who wants to make a living from their site to raise their standards to such a level that a PR firm has no choice but to pay their asking price; until that happens, the #fairpayforbloggers debate will raise its head every year or so, with no resolution.

 

 

 

*Edited for clarity on first sentences of paragraph. See, if I had an editor, that would have come back with red ink all over it!

** All this being said, journalism as a whole doesn’t get a free pass from me – I’ve written before at length at how the 24/7 news cycle ruined in-depth, long form journalism, and how many once admirable journos (*cough* Anderson Cooper *cough*) have fallen to the substandard bollocks that is ‘get the scoop regardless of veracity’ variety. Seriously, Cooper, ditch CNN. You are so much better than them. But as this post was about bloggers, not journos per se, I stuck with them. 


#FlashFiction in #London: “Back on the market”

shea wong #microstories #flashfiction back on the market

 

“…So I figured out a long time ago that girls fall for me pretty quick, and I guess I fall fast, too. I date about 5-6 at a time – casual stuff, you know, and they leave their stuff everywhere – I guess it’s like marking your territory? And after a few weeks I’d get bored, but there was this stuff, everywhere, so I started selling it here. Eventually, I had so much stuff to sell, I quit my regular job, and just date, collect, and ship it to market. Oh, the shirt? That’ll be £10.”

 

#microstories #flashfiction