Monday, December 8, 2014

Reflections: My Life With The Internet

A writer's work is never done. Sometimes even when it is done, you have to go back and do it again. With seven days to go, I am now down to just under 200 articles left to migrate. I've started to wonder if I really want to continue to go through the trouble.

There have been changes at Helium prior to this very big one, including shifting everything over to a new site (that was fun), re-categorizing of existing articles, title changes... in the shift away from first person, some pieces were shuffled around to the prose section under the heading "Beyond Prose."

Prior to this, those opinion oriented pieces were a quick means of boosting your score as you could submit an article to a title that had several articles already and quickly rise to the top 25%. Now that none of that matters anymore, reflective pieces such as "How I see Myself in the Mirror," and "How I Relax: My Favorite Hobbies," just seem irrelevant.

There is one title though I think that is more interesting to me today than it was when I cranked it out November of 2009. It's a reflection on using the internet, though when it was migrated to the new site some genius put it under memoirs. When I think back on my first experiences with the internet and compare those to how I use it today, it seems they are light years apart.

Technology has become such a huge part of our everyday lives that it is almost invasive. It crosses over into just about everything we do and we are now a planet of gadget junkies wirelessly connected at all times. I'm happy to say that nine years post K I have now reached a point where I can feel comfortable shutting my phones down at night.

My relationship with the internet has changed significantly just in the short time between now and when I first submitted the article shared below. Just a few short decades ago, this was all the stuff of science fiction, and now it's increasingly becoming the norm. As much as I resisted both Facebook and Twitter, social media marketing has become a huge part of my regular routine, and what on earth would I do without Pinterest?

Memoirs How I use the Internet

At the time I first ventured onto the internet I didn't know very much about it let alone the potential of what it could be used for. I had seen journalists in movies and on television accessing some kind of massive computer library of information and I assumed the internet functioned much like that.
When I first discovered the internet I did not have access to it at my home, or even my own internet ready computer, for that matter. I think I first learned about it through a friend whose husband did some kind of work. They had internet service in their home and she was always on it, usually visiting the chat rooms. It was an outlet for her because at the time she was a stay at home mom.
A short time later I started out using the internet at my mother's house and in the beginning I would visit chat rooms and occasionally look up information. There was not nearly the amount of online resources then as there are today, but it was new and fun and because I had my own screen name on my mom's AOL account I was able to receive email.
Once I started to learn how to navigate around the Internet Super Highway I also learned how to download and save documents for future reference. The best thing about it was that when you wanted to do research you could do it at any hour of the day, unlike visiting the local library. Back then it was all via dial up service using your home telephone.
When I was able to start accessing the internet from home I would spend hours on it looking up all sorts of information on how to do things. At times I would not have the budget to go out and buy books and the internet was a valuable twenty-four hour resource for learning new information from a variety of sources I would not have been able to access otherwise.
Over the years I have gotten away from visiting the chat rooms. I ventured into the sphere of online dating briefly without success and I delved into some of the early social networking sites. I visited online game rooms and did a little shopping. During the time I didn't have a car being able to shop online made a huge difference in my ability to get the things that I needed.
At one point time I spent a lot of time on email reward programs like My Points and Bonus Mail (which are now merged into one program) as well as a couple of programs that no longer exist like Freeride. Those programs made a significant impact in my getting to go out during periods when I wasn't working via the gift cards and movie passes I earned.
Today a lot of things have changed. Now I mainly use the internet for email correspondence and I still spend quite a lot of time researching information. I occasionally play games and do a little shopping and I am the organizer for a meetup group. Recently I have been spending more and more time with passive income writing sites and I am trying to carve out some time to develop my blogs. I check my email multiple times per day and just I can not imagine my life without the internet.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gifts and Giving: Great ideas for Creating an Artist Gift Basket

Some people are easy to shop for; some people are difficult to shop for. Sometimes, it's not so much that people are difficult to shop for, but that you want to give them something that will hold some sort of significance and be of particular use to them.

That third instance is what I am addressing today with the article below. When it's the thought that counts and you really want it to count for the gift recipient, you want to choose your gift based on that person's personality, likes, dislikes, or hobbies.

In the instance where someone has taken what most consider to be a hobby and developed it into a
vocation, choosing a gift related to that thing can be both thoughtful and useful. Hence the former Helium Craft channel article below, originally published in June of 2012.

Gift Basket Items for Artists 

Artists are always in need of new art supplies, which is why gift baskets are a perfect idea when faced with choosing a present for one. Very few artists are actually able to earn a living solely from their art and therefore are often on a budget. Receiving a special basket of hand-picked goodies to help them make more art will always be appreciated.
When selecting items to go into the gift basket, consider what kind of artist the recipient is. What does their art look like? What kinds of mediums does he or she work with? Someone who is a painter working with oils will have very different art supply needs from someone who makes prints, assemblage, or collages.
Emerging artists are perhaps the easiest to shop for, particularly students, as they are still experimenting with different types of media to create art. Students can use everything from pencils to sketch books and supplies purchased for them need not be expensive. A gift basket for a student artist could also contain inspiration items such as interesting objects or postcards of images by other artists.
Established artists and those who are schooled, particularly painters, will have very specific preferences when it comes to art supplies. They are also likely to have a substantial collection of art books. This doesn’t mean that a gift basket won’t still be a good idea for them; it just means you have to be more selective about what you put in it.
Artists who are also teachers may work in different kinds of mediums since they are regularly inspired to create their own art while working with their students. Fiber artists are another easy group since they are likely to work with everything from sewing thread to kitchen twine as well as different types of fabrics.
When choosing items for painters it is good to know which painting medium they work in. Some artists paint with oils exclusively while others work with water color, gouash, or acrylic. Those who create “Outsider” and other kinds of art on materials other than canvas may even use house paint in their work.
Gift basket items for painters can include, paints, brushes, brush cleaner, paint thinner, palette knives, unlined journals, charcoal, gesso, an assortment of drawing pencils, small canvases, small frames, framing point driver and/or points, eye screws, and picture hanging wire.
Mixed media artists can turn just about any object into an art supply. Even those working exclusively on canvas may incorporate paper, fabric, needlework, puzzle pieces, bits or wood or metal, or even plastic into their work. Artists who work in assemblage or with “found” objects can benefit from a gift basket containing everything from old jewelry to small toys.
Ideas for what to put in an artist gift basket should be based on how well you know the artist and the kind of art he or she makes or would like to make at some time in the future. Choose wisely and carefully, and your gift will be appreciated long after the supplies have been used.

Gifts and Giving: Building an Emergency Gift Supply

Have you ever found yourself in need of a gift at the last minute and no time in which to go out and get one? This can present quite a quandary, and in some instances it might even prove rather stressful. That is, unless you are one of those people who plans ahead so as to be prepared for just such a moment.

Gift giving should be just as fun and stress free as gift receiving. Read on for a way to make gift giving easier and stress free, even in last minute situations. Continuing with the gift and giving theme, this article was originally published on Helium in January 2011.

Build and Emergency Gift Stash

When an occasion comes up at the last minute, it can be very handy to have an emergency supply of gifts already on hand. Building up a gift stash is a very easy thing to do. All it takes is a little planning and a place to organize and store your stash.
First you’ll need an empty drawer, storage bin or foot locker in which to keep your emergency gift supply. Next, think about the different kinds of occasions for which you generally need gifts, especially last minute gifts, and the types of items you typically purchase.
Quite often seasonal items will go on sale or be reduced drastically during store clearances. Whenever you’re out shopping or even just browsing, be sure and check to see if your favorite retailer has any good deals on items you can use to build your emergency gift stash. After major holidays is an opportune time to score bargains on gift items.
Winter scarves, hats, gloves, and fleece items can all be put away for next year’s gift-giving. Picture frames, photo albums, handkerchiefs, ladies’ scarves, candles and votives, boxed stationery, pen sets, writing journals, and glassware are all useful items that have no season and can be presented as gifts year-round for a variety of different types of occasions.
Dish and tea towels are great to have on hand for last-minute housewarming gifts. Bottle openers, wine openers and other kitchen gadgets that often go missing are handy to include in gift packages as well. Table linens and other household items such as guest towels are things a hostess can never have too many of.
Discount stores are a good source of items for an emergency gift supply. Quite often, they sell the same items as the major retailers at significantly lower prices, and just like in the department stores, these items will be rotated regularly and leftovers put on clearance.
Books are another great item to have in your gift stash. Coffee table books, how-to and reference books make great gifts for adults, and coloring books go along with kids. Many book stores have bargain bins where they regularly reduce books for clearance. Office supply stores are a good source for finding desk accessories and items for professionals on sale for your gift stash.
When putting together a stash of emergency gift items, it is also a good idea to have a stash of gift-wrapping supplies as well. This is easily accomplished by visiting dollar stores and catching end-of-season sales at other retailers.
A little planning and a lot of browsing are all that is required to build an emergency gift stash. By checking clearance racks and bins often, you can quickly amass a supply of gifts suitable for every occasion without breaking the bank.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Etiquette: What to do With Unwanted Gifts

It's that time of year again, the season of giving. Unfortunately, not all gifts given during this period will be useful items that are wanted by the recipients. In some instances this will be no big deal, and the gifts will be received with grace and a smile, but in some instances it will lead to major disappointment, and possibly even a negative response.

For still others, the folk in between the "Nice, just not my taste" and the "What am I supposed to do with this" crowds, unwanted gift items bring yet another knick-knack to add to the already overflowing clutter. After all, who really needs yet another coffee mug?

I published several gift theme articles to Helium over the years, and as I am still migrating, expect a recurring theme through the next few posts :-) This one is from November 2009, and looks at what you should do about unwanted gifts.

What to do with Unwanted Holiday Gifts

Everyone loves getting gifts.  It’s a great feeling to receive something special that was chosen just for you.  It’s not so great though when you receive a gift that turns out to be something you can’t actually use or worse, something you really don’t want.
During the holidays in particular we give and receive a multitude of gifts that range from small tokens to big ticket items.  With all this exchange among friends, associates, coworkers and family members it is inevitable you will receive something that makes you feel that even the thought didn’t count.  When this happens it is still important to accept the gift graciously and not embarrass or hurt the feelings of the person who has given you the gift.
After all, not everyone is good at choosing just the right gift for the right person.  Likewise, not everyone has an unlimited holiday gift giving budget.  Even though you may receive something you don’t want or feel you don’t have a need for the person giving the gift may have put effort into choosing it and may even have been excited about giving it to you. 
When you receive a clothing item as a holiday gift that is not your taste and you know that the person who gave you the item will expect to see you wearing it, you can either say the article is not the right size or doesn’t really match anything you own or in the case of “special occasion” garments you can say you would probably never get a chance to wear it and ask the person if you can exchange the item for something in a different color or size.  This way the person knows you appreciated the gift and are sorry you can’t use it.
The same holds true for jewelry.  Perhaps you have a coworker who loves big, chunky jewelry but you are more on the conservative side.  Thank her for the item, perhaps wear it to work once and then set it aside. After the holidays have passed, if you have another friend or a sister who likes something in that style pass it on to them and if the coworker asks about the item you can say you loaned it out or gave to someone who really needed it.
In the case of little knick knacks and figurines and things that are not functional that you may see as more clutter for collecting dust in your life, it is still in good taste to thank someone for thinking of you at the holidays, even though you have no use for what they have given you.  Perhaps you know someone else who collects items like the one you were given whom you can pass it along to after the season is over.
If you have received a piece of original art that “doesn’t fit your d├ęcor” or is something you just can not live with, find out who the artist is and see if you can possibly exchange the piece.  If the artist is the person who has given you the gift, unless the piece is completely unseemly try to find a place for it even if only temporarily.  You can always move it later or try to swap it out for something else that you like better.
When it comes to items such as music CDs, DVDs, and books you may not be interested in them when you receive them but after some time after the holidays if you give them a chance you may find these items to be not so bad after all.  If several months have passed and you still don’t have interest in the item you can always donate it or simply give it to someone else.
In those rare instances where you have received a gift that was not thoughtful such as an XXL sweater when you are a size 5 or a tin of fudge when everyone knows you are diabetic or on a diet, accept with grace, try to find a positive comment about the item itself and then give the item away to someone else who can use it.  The holidays are about giving so in that spirit, when you receive something that you absolutely can not use, it is perfectly acceptable to pass it along to someone who can. 
It is never appropriate to react negatively or show anger towards the gift giver.  Before deciding what to do with the unwanted holiday gift take a moment and ask yourself how you would feel if a gift you had given were haphazardly discarded.  A little compassion for the other person’s perspective can go a long way keeping your heart open in the spirit of the season.
Receiving and opening holiday gifts can be just as exciting of an experience in the adult years as it was during childhood and it can be just as disappointing to open a gift and see something you don’t really like or want as it was in your youth.  But even when you are disappointed it is important to keep your composure and thank the person for the gift.