Category Archives: work

Review: Serif WebPlus

I’m a big fan of Serif software – I’ve been using their PagePlus DTP program since v2 – which came out sometime in the mid-90s. Since then I’ve also added two other Serif programs, Photoplus and Drawplus. I’m happy with the performance of all three and use them all the time; I do the entire Elfin Diary in PagePlus, for example. But until now, I’ve never bothered with their web design program, WebPlus. That’s because I’m entirely self-taught in web design and consequently learned to code in Notepad and other text editors and never had any need for a WYSIWYG editor like WebPlus. Continue reading

Wurk….

These last three weeks have been incredibly busy. First, the first batch of Elfin Diaries arrived from the printer at least three weeks earlier than I’d expected, while I was still trying to unravel the structural mess that is the Astrological Association website and before I’d got the Elfin Diaries site sorted with new e-commerce software and a new design.
Then, I went down with a tooth abscess. The previous bouts of tooth pain I’d had before mild compared to this time. After a weekend of increasing pain I was was in a bad way by Monday, desperate enough to see a dentist. Came home with painkillers, antibiotics and instructions to return next month for extractions, fillings and drillings. Oh well. Was ill for a couple more days, occupying the sofa for much of the time. But now fully recovered.
Anyway, managed to get the diaries website up and running in record time, sent out hundreds of newsletters and am now busy dealing with orders. And still trying to sort out the AA site…
Sigh. So I’d best get on with it.

Clouds and Other Beasties…

Clouds over Yorkshire

Clouds over Yorkshire

So we went to a weekend camp in Yorkshire. Not the usual Oakleaf one, a smaller invitation-only camp. I had a better time than I thought I would. The weather was better than it might have been, only a few heavy showers for a day and half, quite a lot of sunshine the rest of the time. And I got to see some old faces and have a natter or three.
On the Sunday, we took an impromptu trip to Thirsk – we’d originally gone to Bedale to treat ourselves to a Chinese takeaway, found the place wouldn’t be open for another half-hour and said “OK, how are we going to pass the time?” And I decided I’d like to see the town where I’d lived for four years back in the late 70s/early 80s (and where we’d met…)
So off we went. And when we got there, I actually couldn’t recognise the place; the town centre seemed so much bigger – surely the street hadn’t been anything like that wide? And the layout was totally unfamiliar. There were a few buildings that I remembered – the library seemed to have been turned into a dance studio, the old Ritz cinema was tattier but still a cinema, the vet’s surgery (where my daughter had once taken a poorly hamster) was now the James Herriott Visitor Attraction, the laundrette where I’d taken my washing every Sunday morning was now a clothes shop…
We decided to go and look at the house where I had lived, on a council estate that had been on the edge of the town. Once I’d spotted the vets surgery- oops, the Visitor Attraction, I knew where I was; the road leading to the council estate was first left at the top of the street. Except that when we got to the top of the street, what had been a big open green space with the council estate tucked behind it, simply wasn’t there any more. Instead, there was just houses – lots of them. We drove hopefully down a side-road and got lost in the maze of little streets and cul-de-sacs. There was no sign of the older houses that I remembered. We were hungry; once we got back onto the main road, we decided to give up the search and go find a Chinese (we found the the Hung Moey in the Market Place; it has a decent vegetarian menu and serves enormous portions).
Well, they say you can’t ever go back. They may be right.
This morning I fired up Google Earth, found my old house and was able to take a good look at it on Street View. The little front garden is now concreted over – goodbye to the buddleia that I’d planted by the door – and the council has finally got around to properly fencing in the back garden so that local kids can no longer take a shortcut across what had once been my veg patch. But otherwise it looked pretty much the same on the outside; though no doubt the purple hallway and rainbow-coloured bedrooms have been redecorated with inoffensive flowered wallpaper…

Managed to get the 2013 Elfin Diary finished at last and zipped off to the printers. I feel quite proud of myself for having done nearly all nearly all of it myself; only the Chinese astrology article was by somebody else. Now I have to get on with the Astrological Association site; after that, the new design for the Elfin Diaries site, then marketing and selling the 2013 Diary; inbetween all that updating the badly neglected Oakleaf Circle site…
So I’m going to be very busy. Just as I’ve developed terrible toothache….

Just Had A Bit of Fun…

….with a spammer. Got this one this morning (URL munged so they don’t get any google goodness):

Hi,

I’ll take this opportunity to introduce myself, my name is Eddie Brown,
very nice to meet you. I’m SEO expert working at iSEO Traffic.

I came across diary.astrologicalassociation.com while making a research for one of
my partners and I have few interesting suggestions for you
like increasing your traffic & improving your rankings.
I would love to tell you more about my ideas.

If you are interested I will be happy to send the additional information
and all the details needed to make it happen.

Thanks a bunch,

Eddie Brown
somespammyspammer.com

So, I wrote back:

Dear Eddie,

Thank you for taking such an interest in my site diary.astrologicalassociation.com. It is heartening to see that people across the world are taking an interest in British astrology meetings. Regretfully though, I doubt that I need your SEO expertise, as I am quite happy with the page hits we are already getting (especially from people such as yourself!)

But, on going to your site somespammyspammer.com, I noticed that the copy is badly written and has a number of glaring grammatical faults. As you must surely know, bad writing and poor use of English are amongst the features that drive potential customers away from a site. It looks unprofessional and gives a poor impression of your company’s competence. So I am taking this opportunity to offer you my copy-editing and copy-writing services. I can work in both UK and US English and my rates are reasonable. Please do not hesitate to contact me for details.

Yours,

Val Dobson

:D

Well, at least that’s cheered me up.

ETA: Got a reply back a few hours later:

Hi
thanks for responding

What I am actually speaking about is making an article exchange between us, I’ll send you my article that will be about ~300-~400 words for you to place as a fresh page in your site.
In return, you’ll send me your article (at any length that you’d like) and I’ll publish your article in the site I’ve promise you on. Inside my article I’d like to have 3 links and of course that I’ll return the same to you.

I think this will be excellent diversity links for both our websites and I’m really looking forward making this exchange with you.

We are offering our services for FREE!
Waiting for your reply
Eddie

Sigh. In his first email, he’d included a link to his LinkedIn profile; according to that he’s American, living in Boston (and with a High School and college education which clearly failed him in the area of English).
It appears to be true that some Americans simply don’t get British humour. Play the game, dammit!

Still Here….

It’s been three months since I last posted here, and even that was a bit of an effort. Well, I’ll try to post more often.
I’m still busy; not only trying to get the 2013 Elfin Diary finished in time but also struggling to tidy up the Astrological Association website – I’ve been appointed the webmaster. And not succeeding too well at either task….

I’ve had eyesight problems, a side-effect of of a new anti-inflammatory painkiller I started in February. It worked marvellously and I felt healthier and more energetic than I’d done in years; but after the first month my eyes started blurring and drying up, to the point eventually where I couldn’t look at a computor screen, or read, or even watch TV for long. So the painkillers had to go and I’m back with my aches and pains and stiffness and tiredness and permanent general urghness.

I’ve been posting quite a lot on Facebook*; being able to post interesting links and short snippets seems to suit me better than writing lengthy blog posts these days. Also, it’s good for keeping up with family and (real) friends. But every now and then, I chafe at the length restrictions of FB posts and think that I should maybe use my blog instead. Something else that makes me feel I should post less on FB is that there are a small but annoying number of people on my friends list who post either endless pictures of unicorns and fairies and glurgy sayings (I’m sick of being told I need to dance in the bloody rain!) or lunatic US political rants, or inane witterings about their cute pet dogs. A good interesting discussion is much more to my liking.

*I don’t use my real name on FB, so if you want to friend me there, email me; however, if I don’t know you in real life, I probably won’t accept your friend request. Especially if I think you’re the type who likes to post endless unicorn pics and glurgy sayings, lunatic rants, or inane witterings about your cuddly pets. If you think you’re not that type, then give it a go!

Wowzer….

Wow – haven’t posted anything here for nearly two months. Best get writing then.
Like I said before, the month before Xmas was madness here, with Elfin Diary orders coming in all the time. Now the rush is over, I can sit back and analyse the mistakes. The print bill was more than I anticipated – that was my error, I hadn’t clarified things. Not a big problem – I’ve covered all my costs and even made a small profit, but I’m going to have to raise prices. Having been thrown into the deep end and knowing nothing about pricing, I simply used the same prices that Caro had been using for at least three or four years.
Of course, I have to be careful with raising prices, especially in these times – put them up too much and people won’t be able to afford them, keep them low and I’ll be left out of pocket. So, at the moment, it’s a bit of a guessing game.
Another mistake I made was to think I could sell all the Diaries myself. It now turns out that Caro had supplied shops all over the country – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told “I’ve always bought my Diary in XYZ shop, but they don’t have any this year”. But of course, without her list of shops I had no idea. This time, it will be different; I’m compiling a list of New Age shops and will be leafleting them all come August.
A smaller mistake was not noting the date of posting on each order form; a number of Diaries went AWOL in the post and weakly telling people “Er, I’m sure I posted it sometime last week…” isn’t good business. So a cheap date-stamper will be on this year’s shopping list.
Finally, this year the 2013 Diaries will be ready for sale in September! (Won’t they, John? :D)

It’s a lovely sunny day out right now but I daren’t go out walking. My ankle has been bothering me for weeks – Doc G says it’s probably a strained ligament, and he’s probably right (it started when I bought a new pair of boots) but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better; everytime I stop taking my daily dose of paracetamol the aching and twinging comes back. So I’m pretty much stuck indoors for the time being. Luckily the weather has been pretty awful most days. Good job, I suppose, as I have to get the 2013 D finished before May.

So, best to stop procrastinating, and get on with it!

A Break in the Madness…

I’ve spent the whole week packing and dispatching Elfin Diaries – over 200 orders. Still got 90-odd orders to fullfill, but these are all hardbacked diaries and desk diaries, and I’m waiting for more deliveries. That wont arrive before the weekend, so I’m taking advantage of the calm to catch up on office work; there is piles of filing to be done, followed by the monthly accounting.
It’s been a mad and exhausting week – I had some stress problems, with my left ankle copying my left knee in swelling and complaining. But after that I decided to pace myself, stop flapping and panicking, stay calm. And I think I’m getting on top of this work thing now. The headaches are almost gone as well – looks like Doc G was right when he said they were stress-related.
It would be nice to have some more orders in, though. And I have to think about next year – will I put up prices, will I increase the print run, how will I advertise, get a proper list of shops together…. etc etc…. I’m in business now, got to think ahead.

Waiting…

Well, got rid of all the first consignment of Elfin Diaries and still got hundreds of orders to fulfill. Another consignment should arrive any minute now. I’ve tidied up my desk, got all the labels and printer ready, got the order lists printed out.
So now I’m sat here just tapping my fingers.

I’ve decided to give up web design work. I never had many orders for it, never found it easy and spent all my time boning up on the latest techniques (there seemed to be new ones coming along every week). I reckon that publishing and distributing the Elfin Diary is going to be pretty much a full-time job for several months of the year at least. So I’m simplifying my (online) life, unsubbing from forums and email lists; I won’t have the time to read them all even if I was still professionally interested.
But all the work ought to be worthwhile; I’ve done the figures and the Diaries, while not making me a fortune, should be a decent little earner. After years and years of scrimping and doing without, I can’t wait to have a little spare cash.

Posting, posting…

Too busy posting stuff to post stuff on here!

Getting the Elfin  Diaries out!

Getting the Elfin Diaries out!


The first batch of Elfin Diaries finally arrived at Elfin HQ last Wednesday, and I’ve been busy packing them up and dispatching them. Being able to print the postage online is a great time-saver – I can simply print out the labels and hand the packages to the postie, instead of trekking off to the village with them.
That’s providing I manage to catch the postie on his way around the houses. This morning, I turned my back for just a minute and he was here and gone! The car is in for some minor repairs, so I had to load up the shopping trolley and practice my trekking.
Still got loads of orders to fulfill, but I’m having to wait for more Diaries to be delivered, sometime next week. Oh well…..

New Start…..

…Yes, I’m not posting here much lately, am I? That’s because the Elfin Diary is really taking off now – orders are coming in daily and I haven’t even had the first batch of Diaries delivered yet. If sales continue at this rate, I’m on target for breaking even; in fact, I could quite possibly make a profit!
It’s keeping me very busy – for the first time in my life, I’m running a business all by myself. I’m having to talk to suppliers and shops, engage with customers, keep accounts and records, keep a very close eye on finances and constantly stay ahead of deadlines. It’s both frightening and exciting.
Strangely, I’m not feeling at all stressed (apart from those odd moments lying awake at 4am when I wonder what the hell I’ve got myself into…) Having something to do every day, a purpose and goals, seems to have cured a lot of the generalised ennui that’s been dogging me for years. I’ve even stopped the betablockers that I’ve been taking for years. It’s now been a fortnight and I haven’t had a tachycardia attack yet. Plus I’m sleeping a whole lot better and not constantly battling tiredness. I’ll not throw the pills away; they could come in useful for stressful times.

As I said, I’m busy – too busy for doing quite a lot of things that I used to do. So I’ve decided to give up the web design work. I’ve never had a lot of web work coming in and I’m not all that good at it anyway. So I’m retiring my web design portfolio pages on here. I won’t necessarily turn work away, but I will be putting the Elfin Diary work first. That’s going to pay rather better, I think.