Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thoughts about the Survey.

I promised yesterday to write something about the issues I have with the survey.

I'm running late on my prep for the Nadelkunst fair, though, and I have to leave tomorrow to set up the stall - which means I have to pack today. So, as much as it would have delighted me to write a special post about the survey questions just for you, with a lot of lovely, lovely snark and links and weird references, I'm out of time for that, and the thing is too important for me to put it on hold until somewhen next week.

So you're not getting a blog post written specifically about this. Instead, I'll share with you the letter I wrote about the survey questions, sent off to the contact address listed with the survey (at least they had that!). I really hope that it will get read, and that it might do a little bit to help improve the situation.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am one of the small business owners that has been hit by the changes in EU VAT law, and with the proposed extensions of these changes to all goods and services, I am very much afraid for the future of my business. I am running a tiny business with very specialised goods and services, and some of them used to be digital. I was also planning to do more digital content in the future, but these plans have been put on hold due to the VAT rules change.

The very specialised nature of my business, however, means that I am very reliant on getting customers from outside of Germany, which count for up to 60% of my turnover in the online shop. The size of my business means that I cannot invest in expensive shop software, legal counselling, an IT specialist or a tax assistant, and this effectively makes it impossible for me to sell digital content under the new rules. Similar problems would occur with an extension of the new rules to any goods and services, and would probably force me to shut it down entirely.

Hence I was very happy to hear about your survey for the open public consultation. After looking at the survey, however, I am even more concerned. Many of the questions you pose are hard to understand or unclear in their intent; the whole survey is written in a way and in a language that makes it necessary to already be very well informed about the VAT changes, both extant and planned. If the questionnaire were really intended to take in public opinion, the language alone would make that about impossible. The questionnaire gets even less inviting to be filled by the fact that there is no information on whether any of the fields are compulsory or not, and then asking for a name and contact data.

The questionnaire is also not stating anything about how the data will be used, by whom and for how long it will be stored, and whether it will be treated as confidential. If you were running a shop in Germany, this would be enough to serve you a notice for insufficient information about data security and privacy (incurring costs, of course, of at least a few hundred Euro).

There are even more issues in regard to the individual questions or wordings.

This already starts with the introductory texts.
"In parallel, a Mini One Stop Shop has been implemented to reduce the costs and administrative burdens for businesses concerned."

This sounds like the new legislation were entirely introduced to reduce burdens that were already extant for a long while. This, however, is not true. In many cases, the new system and the MOSS have not reduced the costs and burdens, but added to them considerably, even driving single entrepreneurs out of business entirely.

"The open public consultation will seek the views of business, the public and representative organisations [...]"
As stated above, it is a wonderful thing that everybody, including the public, is invited to have their say here. However, the explanations and the survey both are not accessible enough for the public - they are hard enough to understand even for educated people who are already familiar with the new rules for digital VAT.

Qu. 2 & 3 - Why are you asking for a name and email address? Is there any need for this? What will you do with this information? How will it be stored, where, and for how long? Every business has to inform their customers about how their personal data will be handled, and any such information is missing completely here.

Additionally, since you will be asking questions about how the changes have been handled by businesses, this is not conducive to getting straight, honest answers, since one might risk being lined up for an audit or being fined for non-compliance.

Qu. 4: If you are asking after the head office, shouldn't that be a BO question? Or should it be place of residence?

Qu. 5: There is no possibility to later change one's mind?

Qu. 11: Shouldn't that be a BO question? I also find unclear what you want to know here.

Qu. 12&13: You are asking about supplies not reported under MOSS. What about the extra burden added by registering and using MOSS? What about the burdens of extra work to try and comply with the new rules, only to spend many hours to file VAT to another EU country of under 1 €?

(By the way, the German wording implies that the question only asks after the calculation of the VAT of the other country, not the calculation and actual administration/payment to said country.)

Qu. 14 and other "please rate the difficulty" - the term "representing the most difficult" sounds like I am supposed to rate the individual answers from 1 to 5 in a hierarchy - which is technically not even possible in case all of them, including "other" applies, since there are 6 answers here. Or did you mean "scale of 1-5 with 1 representing not very difficult and 5 extremely difficult"?

Qu. 21: This is where having to state a name and email (or feeling that one has to, since there is no explanation on whether it's a can or must) will probably skew results. I also have a hard time understanding why "You also supply goods" would be a reason not to use the MOSS - as far as I understood, if I'd be selling digital goods and non-digital ones I would have to register for MOSS for the digital ones even while well underneath a threshold for registration in another country with my goods turnover. Or is that wrong?

Qu. 25: Does this question ask for my agreement with the objective to minimise burdens (including, or especially including, the burdens that have newly been added by the VAT rules in effect since January 2015)? Or for my agreement with the changes in VAT rules that are planned for the future, which might, according to the text in the intro, also be seen as "minimising burdens" even though it adds complications for small businesses?

Qu. 26: Are you asking for whether I would want all businesses to charge the same VAT rate throughout Europe? Or the same VAT rate when selling to one specific country? Or for my agreement that whatever the rule, there should be no exemption at all? What about an excemption not based on the price of one single small consignment, but based on the turnover of the company that is selling?

Qu. 27: If I answer with "I agree" to this question, it could be equally interpreted as my agreement to: a) the MOSS needs to be improved; b) the current Digital VAT rules need to be expanded to physical goods, c) a single registration and payment mechanism has to be set up so that registration when exceeding the turnover limits for VAT registration in another country can happen at the MOSS.

Qu. 28: It is difficult enough to find out, in some cases, what VAT to apply under domestic rules. How is it supposed to be technically possible to tax according to the customer's country? Most of the companies do not have their own law department that could spend a lot of time looking into this. There is not even an official reference list stating all the different tax percentages of VAT on the EU website (the list that is there is full of disclaimers that it may be wrong, or not up-to-date, and thus cannot be used as a legal basis for taxing). Am I supposed to learn Hungarian to find out what has to be taxed at which level in case some Hungarian customer orders a 5 € item from me? How is shop software going to handle the fact that an ebook in one country might not use the reduced tax level, but the higher one, and maybe super-reduced in a third country?

Qu. 29: This question is hard to answer without more context. It sounds as if the current rules would allow every single country in the EU that one has sold something to, no matter how small, would be entitled to do an audit. Now, apart from hoping I'd never have to deal with an audit in, say, French (which I can understand a little, and speak a little, but far removed from anything suitable to do Legalese with) - how is that supposed to function? How can a French auditor deal with my all-German book-keeping documents? Or do the rules mean that I will have to do multilingual book-keeping from now on? And will somebody from France come over to me in Germany to do the audit? Or am I supposed to ship copies of all my documents to France? Or go to France myself? Who will pay the expenses for this? What about the data security when my documents are sent somewhere out of the country? Whose rules about customer data confidentiality would then apply? German rules? French rules? An entirely different third set of rules?

Qu. 30: Again - how is this supposed to be enforced? If the EU hasn't managed to even tell their own citizens and businesses in time, and clearly enough, about the changes in VAT rules (see awareness level estimates in the full report available at, how are you going to communicate to the myriad of kitchen-table entrepreneurs and microbusinesses in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South America, ... that they are now supposed to follow different, much more complicated rules and pay taxes to a multitude of different countries within the EU? The results, should it be possible to actually tell them about it to raise levels of awareness to somewhere of, say, 50%, will either be that a) these microbusinesses will ignore the new rules or b) stop selling to customers within the EU. Already businesses in the US have stopped providing services such as software updates to EU customers - even to EU businesses because making a distinction there would be too much of a paperwork/shop software change burden.

Qu. 31/32: This is unclear on whether the threshold would apply to a certain amount per parcel/consignment/sale, per turnover of a business, or per sales made in a specific country. (Well, Qu. 32 makes it clear it probably does not mean amount per sale.) It's impossible to properly answer a question on the appropriate level of a threshold without knowing what the threshold will be based on!

Qu. 33: Does "easier management for tax administrations" mean easier management of tax issues for businesses, or are you actually asking businesses and members of the public whether they think a threshold would make internal administration in the tax departments of the individual member states easier?

Qu. 34: How is "uncertainty on whether a business will exceed the annual threshold" a risk of cross-border thresholds? Whenever there is a threshold, there's always a risk that if a business does well, it might be crossed. However, usually this is considered a good thing as it means business growth. This question sounds as if what lies beyond that threshold is so hard to handle and so difficult to navigate that a business would be happy to curtail its own growth just to keep beneath it. Which is, in fact, a very fitting description of the actual situation for digital micro-businesses right now, only that there is no threshold below which they could still prosper.

Qu. 35: Again, two questions rolled into one. Do I agree that any threshold needs to be harmonised? Do I agree that any threshold should apply to both goods and services? Also: any threshold in connection with VAT? Or also any internal threshold in connection with commerce and business within a member state? How about the thresholds for complete VAT exemption for supermicrobusinesses like it exists in Germany? What about differences in the size and annual turnover from member state to member state, are these going to be taken into account, or is every country now supposed to work the same way, instantly?

Qu. 36: Thank you for including an open text box in the survey so that survey takers can tell you what they actually think. This is, for me, the only thing redeeming the whole survey, and I do hope that you will get a lot of input through this text box.

I was very excited to hear about a survey that would allow micro-business owners like myself and my customers to chime in and help find a better way for the VAT issue in the EU. I do realise that VAT is an important income for every single state, and that the EU wishes to spread the earnings fairly. But this survey has questions that can be interpreted in many different ways, and you might thus get answers that were the actual opposite of what the person filling out the questionnaire actually wanted to say.

So now I am very deeply concerned about this survey. As so many of the questions are so unclear or so open to interpretation, it does not matter what the actual opinion and actual answers of those filling out the survey are – the survey can serve as a carte blanche for any end result desired.

I still hope that there will be instant action to relieve the incredible burden on microbusinesses that are caused by the new EU VAT rules, and that there will be no extension on physical goods and non-digital services until there are workable solutions and sensible thresholds for the EU VAT. I still hope that there is a future for my business – but the way this survey is built up and worded has dampened my hopes considerably.


Katrin Kania

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Please help me save my business.

I'm sorry if the title shocked you - but I am really afraid of the future for my business at the moment. Not because I don't love what I do anymore, or am running out of ideas, or projects, quite the opposite. It's because of the planned changes in the EU legislation regarding taxation for businesses.

If you've been reading along for a while, or have read yesterday's blog post, you will know about the changes in the EU VAT for digital goods, and the mess it brought along. (If you have no clue what I'm talking about now, go back to yesterday's post to have VAT and EU VAT explained, or go straight to the EU VAT Action Group's info page. Or TL;DR: We sellers have to cope with a mess of new rules to sell outside our home country since January 2015, and these rules are literally impossible to comply with.)

So. I can tell you, by now, that I have been losing sales on the Pirate Robert hat because I'm offering it as a printed pattern and not as a pdf file. A lot of knitters are annoyed that they're not able to just download it. I can understand this, even though (obviously) I'm not thrilled about it.

It gets worse, though - much worse. An extension to all goods and services is on the slate for 2016. All goods and services. So if you'd like to buy a spindle in the US? May well happen that the seller refuses to sell to you, because of the VAT paperwork that would entail. Things like this are already happening - sellers are blocking anyone from the EU and refuse to sell to them. (Even EU businesses though there are different rules for this, and they could sell to them no problem.)

This extension might mean the end of my business, too. I have built up what I am doing, and developed the products I am selling, for eleven years now. My business is not making a lot of money, but it's enough to let me keep flying, and that's all I ask for.

Serenity by BKSmith
A lot of the sales I make are in other EU countries, so this legislation would hit me really hard, right in the face. I could probably cope with that. I'm not sure I could cope with the additional anxiety, though. Running a business as a single entrepreneur always means a lot of bureaucracy, and always means you can slip up and mess something up, or not be aware of a change only to find out a year or two later you have not complied because you freaking did not know about it. You are only a single person, after all, and you want to spend most of your time and energy on developing and promoting your business, and not jumping red tape.

Now, I'm a person who worries about stuff, especially about getting stuff wrong. Every year around tax time, I have a few weeks of feeling ultra stressed, having to file about six individual report thingies, which all have to be correct. Every time I put something new up in the shop I triple-check to make sure it includes the correct VAT. Every time I find out about a change of rules and regs, I spend a few hours making sure I'm compliant, and several more days to weeks feeling stressed about the fact I might have missed something. And there are really stupid changes, too - such as having to label the button for "buy now" something different (equivalent to "yes, I do agree I will have to pay for the order if I press this"). There's newsletters you can get to try and keep up to date, and every single instance of these letters begins with some news on how you can be served notice for this typo or that wording or that attempt to explain how your shop works to your customers. (Very, very helpful. Thank you so much. Not.)

So. I am wishing very, very hard for this plan of extension to all goods to go away, and since that was never enough in this world, I'm also doing what I can. I have written to Members of the EU Parliament, and politicians here, and donated to the EU VAT Action Group, and tried to spread the word. But the more people that do things to make the EU realise we need help, and we need it now, the better.

And here's where I ask you to please help.  The EU Commission is running a survey with a long title about the EU VAT. The aim of this survey is said to see how the current system is working, more or less.

The survey is a very, very good thing, because it means there is awareness of our problem (our meaning small businesses like mine).

Unfortunately, it is also all written in Legalese, and I find it complicated to understand in both English and German. Some of the questions are highly confusing, in some cases even misleading, or open to interpretation. In short, the whole survey feels very weird to me. (I'll do a separate post about that, probably tomorrow.) In several of the questions you are asked whether you agree to blah and chatter, and it is impossible to discern whether your "I agree" would mean you agree to blah, or to chatter, or to both of them, or to the general idea behind both blah and chatter - so your answer would be open to interpretation. Also, Legalese. Never good in a survey that's supposed to be inclusive...

Still, the fact that we have this survey is a very, very good thing. It looks daunting, but it is actually rather easy to work with.

The survey does not have any field that is compulsory. You do not have to fill out or answer anything (which includes the fields for your name and email addy at the top) in that survey. So please don't be scared off by all the legalese, or the length of it.

If you would like to help my business, and countless others like it, you can do so easily with help of that survey.

Click the link to open up the survey (it opens in a new window).
Ignore all questions that you don't understand, or don't feel comfortable answering. Just leave them blank.
It would be nice if you could answer questions 1, 4, and 15 to help those evaluate the survey get an idea of where you are from, and for statistics about how many people are affected by the new rules, especially as customers.

Now for the important bit. Go down to the box. If you have taken the time to read the survey and you found any of the questions were hard to understand, or if you felt any of the questions was skewed, or open to interpretation, or uncomfortable - tell them so in the box.
If you only heard about the EU VAT rules today in my blog, tell them you only learned about it today even though it's been active for nine months.
If the new legislation has impacted you in any way whatsoever, tell them so in the box. In any way. This could mean a business not selling pdf patterns to you anymore (I have switched to print, for instance), geo-blocking you, or having to cope with lots and lots of clicks in checkout. If you feel concerned about all your customer data being kept for 10 years (one of the new rules), tell them so.
If you feel there has been way too little education about the new rules to businesses, customers, or both, tell them so.

If you agree that it will be desastrous for micro-businesses that are suffering already to wait for several more YEARS until the legislation is amended and a threshold is introduced, tell them so. Small businesses need a cross-border digital sales threshold, below which domestic VAT rules will apply, and a 'soft landing' threshold above that, for the next phase of business growth.

If you feel concerned about a huge impact on your abilities to buy things from smaller vendors from out of your country when this goes into effect for all goods and services (and I think you should be concerned about that), please tell them so! (Personally, to me, this would be the most important thing in the survey that you could do.)

Please help me save my business, and help save countless others (most of which are probably not even aware of the trouble coming up). Fill out the survey. Spread the word. Link posts about the EU VAT. Tweet about it. Tell your facebook friends. Tell your real friends. Tell any politician you might know. Feel free to comment here, too, if you have any questions or would just like to vent about these quixotic laws that completely ignore the reality of small traders. The more this is spoken about, the more voices that are raised, the better. We small traders need your help, and we need it now, before the brown stuff really, really hits the fan.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Here is where I explain VAT.

If you've been reading along for a while, you will have read about the EU VAT on my blog. If you have no clue what I'm talking about now, let me give you the TL;DR version of the whole thing.

When a business sells something to a customer, the amount paid includes a certain tax that we'll call the VAT (for Value Added Tax. The German word for it is Mehrwertsteuer*, and every EU country has their own term for it, but it functions just the same everywhere). The business then sends that tax money on to the state, who grins and takes it. You must pay VAT if your business is over a certain threshold of turnover (that is the money taken in and spent added up - so if you spend 20 € and get 20 €, your turnover is 40 €. Your winnings, however, is zero, so high turnover does not necessarily mean you're getting rich.); the threshold varies from country to country.

VAT is everywhere and it's on everything you buy, every day, everywhere. It thus shouldn't surprise you that the income from VAT makes for a huge chunk of the income that any EU country gets.** This tax is thus very important to any EU country. Accordingly, they feel rather strongly about their money, and they will afford you little slack for transgressions.

How much VAT is charged, however, and which rates apply to what kinds of goods, differs from country to country and is not always straightforward, or easy to understand. For instance, when I sell a book, I have to charge 7% VAT instead of 19%, because books have the reduced German VAT. When I get paid my royalty fees from my publishing house, however, they are charged at 19% VAT even though all that money is coming from selling books charged at 7% VAT!

Are you still with me? (I hope so!) Here's where it gets interesting. Each member state of the EU has this system, with their own issues and confusions about what gets charged what, and they all have different rates of VAT - as many as five rates in a single country, and 75 rates altogether in the 28 countries. There's a list online (German version here), so if you like numbers or would like to see how complicated the framework of all this is, go take a look. I'll wait here. Make sure you scroll down to at least page four to get an impression. Heck, just scroll through the whole thing once, you don't even need to read it to see how frazzled this all is.

Here's where it gets interesting. The rates. When you live in a country that charges high VAT, your customer effectively pays more money to you, so your prices have to be higher than they would need to be in a low-VAT country. That is the reason Amazon has its business centre in Luxembourg - lowest rate in the EU.

Essentially, the big players go where they don't pay as much VAT, helping them outprice the competition. This has two effects: firstly, the competition, especially local and small businesses, can't match that pricing and suffer, or have to fold. Secondly, the low-VAT state gets a lot of VAT money even though most of the goods are shipped out of the country.

Remember how I said that VAT is not where countries have a relaxed attitude?

So. There's money to be had, and the EU Commission realised that there might be some skew to the system. Enter a plan to make it all different. What if the business has to pay the VAT to the country they ship the goods to? Wouldn't that be fairer all around? The company pays VAT according to where they make their turnover, and the corresponding country gets the money. The customer does not notice any changes and always pays the same VAT rates at their home country rules (which few customers probably ever thought about, or care about).

Sounds good? Well. That's what the EU Commission thought, and they wrote a new law, and that would start with applying the new system (pay VAT based on the buyer's country) to digital goods and services - mp3s, ebooks, software, games, anything that is digital and downloaded via the 'Net. This rule came into force in January 2015.

Since then, countless small businesses have closed down, and many more startup plans have been laid into a shallow grave. Why? The rules are in effect for everyone, from the first penny or cent of turnover you have.

If I would sell a 1€ knitting pattern on pdf to one person in the UK in 2015, I'd be forced to register for VAT in the UK, do the VAT accounting (probably four times, once for every quarter of the year) and send the money over (which includes paying for any bank charges for currency conversion). For one single euro. Can you believe that? There's a threshold under which you have to pay no VAT in most countries for a reason, but there is no threshold at all for the new EU VAT. There's a thing called the Mini One-Stop Shop for small businesses where you can register once for all the EU countries, and which is supposed to make things easier, but it's not making it much easier, and it's not working really reliably yet. (This legislation is in effect since January, by the way. It's not working reliably yet, about 9 months in. That's enough time to make a human baby.)

So many businesses folded because they could not invest the time and money to make sure they can work with the new system, or they did not want to face this wall of bureaucracy that can bite you in the ass, hard, if you mess up. (That thing about no slack being cut.)

Now, for those who did not want to throw in the towel yet, the rules are so hard to follow that even the Big Players have huge trouble implementing it, and they have teams of software people and accounting people and law people. Small, single entrepreneurs? This regulation adds so much paperwork, consumes so much time, and costs so much money that trying to comply can make a business fold. (You can find out more about the impact, and the problems, here.)

Oh, and by the way, this is in effect world-wide. So if an US company (not in the EU) sells me a knitting pattern download, they have to charge me 19% VAT and send that VAT over to good ol' Germany, who will grin and take it.

That's not all, though. An extension to all goods and services is on the slate for 2016. All goods and services. So if you'd like to buy a spindle in the US? May well happen that the seller refuses to sell to you, because of the VAT paperwork that would entail. Things like this are already happening - sellers are blocking anyone from the EU and refuse to sell to them. (Even EU businesses though there are different rules for this, and they could sell to them no problem.)

This is, as you will hopefully agree, a Bad Thing - for many, many businesses as small as my own, or also quite a bit larger. It's impossible to comply with the legislation as it stands at the moment - but there's been a lot of complaints, and the EU commission is finally aware of the issues, and willing to do something against it, so there is still hope that this mess may be resolved.

And you can help - though in the interest of not boring you to tears with an insanely long blog post that nobody ever wants to read to the end, I'll tell you how tomorrow...

*Which lends itself wonderfully to being called "Märchensteuer", literally "fairy tale tax". The one little bit of humour this whole mess affords me is thinking "fairy tale tax" every time I say or write MwSt, or VAT. Also helps hoping for a fairy-tale-like happy ending.

** I had a phone call on Friday about this topic, and I think I remember being told "the biggest", but I don't want to misquote.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Gold Embroidery Book is here!

It just arrived this morning, and oh, it is pretty! I'm very happy with it, and I can finally stop worrying. (I never stop worrying about a print product until it is in my hands, and I can be sure the printing went okay. Glitches can happen, after all.)

Also, since I have been gently prodded, I have already put it up in the shop.

So now it's time for me to pack up the complimentary copies due to the museums and institutions, and for the German National Library (which keeps a copy of all the things published in Germany).

If you want to be sent a copy too, you can order it in my shop - or come and see me at the Nadelkunst on October 2-4 and buy it there.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Experimentelle Archäologie, the contents.

Are you familiar with the conference proceedings of the EXAR? That society started out as "Experimentelle Archäologie in Deutschland" and later proceeded to be "in Europa". The papers published in their yearly proceedings are mostly in German, but if you do read German, there's some very, very interesting pieces among them.

I've recently hunted for some specific papers and found that while the individual tables of contents of each volume are on the EXAR website, there's no overview. So I made up a pdf for the first batch (when the proceedings still had "in Deutschland" in their name) and a second one, with all the contents in one file.

Here they are: Inhalt "Experimentelle Archäologie in Deutschland Bilanz 1990-2002" and Inhalt "Experimentelle Archäologie in Europa Bilanz 2002-2014". Enjoy!

(By the way, I have a stack of these books twice. If you are interested, I'd be happy to sell them - just let me know which ones you're interested in!)

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


The book is at the printer, and I hope there will be no more shenanigans. I shall wear any typo left in there, and any US spelling, and any glitch in line lineup - I'm fed up with doing corrections on it, and I'm also rather unhappy with how communication with the printer worked out. I will think thrice about using that service again.

Well, anyway, in case you like numbers, here's a rundown of a few numbers related to the gold embroidery book...

Days before today I wanted to have this dealt with and over: 2.
Number of pages in the final version: 56.
Number of different fonts: 1. (Thanks Thorsten!)
Percent the amount of pages has gone up from first estimate:  80%.
Percent the costs for making have gone up since my first calculations: 100%.
Days delayed due to post issues: 1.
People hijacked, cajoled or otherwise finagled into helping in some way: at least 16.
Number of phone calls undertaken due to the book: 5. (I strongly prefer emails...)
Number of times checked for errors, including typographical errors: at least 7.
Photos taken for the project: about 650.
Days I woke up way too early because of the book: about 10.

In case you wonder about the insane amount of photos taken, it went like this:
a) Make a list of steps that need to be photographed.
b) Set up equipment.
c) Do the embroidery for the steps required, holding a remote control thingie in one hand and peering through the camera viewer while stitching. (Optional: Realise that there are some movements that are hard to do when holding a remote control as well as the embroidery frame and a needle and the gold thread.)
d) Press the button on the remote control.
e) Slightly change angles of the piece that's being worked and press the remote control button again.
f) Repeat e) several times.
g) Look at photos. (Delete lots of them again.)

One of the many photos that did not make it into the book. See the remote control thingie sticking out of my right hand? The button is under my ring finger.
h) Realise there should be another one, or a different one of that step, to make things clearer.
i) Repeat c)-g).
j) If necessary, repeat h) and i).

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Scarf.

I promised to tell you more about this scarf, right?

A while ago (these things all take their sweet time), Margit mentioned that she'd like to put out a scarf knitting kit using her wool. She wanted a pattern with lengthwise stripes, and I offered to design a pattern for this.

So this is the result of our joint venture:

A colourful scarf, easy to knit, looking the same on both sides. A fringe to add some playfulness, too. We're both very happy with how our tests have turned out, and to have it finished in time for the Nadelkunst. Actually, as I'm blogging this, Margit is sitting down and putting together the skeins for these scarves - each pack will have three skeins of 50 g wool, in different colours, plus the instructions in either German or English. The wool is a very nice and soft, yet sturdy yarn, from a German company and hand-dyed with natural dyes by Margit.

I'm looking forward to having the sets here next week, and I'm thrilled that I will be taking them to Weikersheim!

Monday, 21 September 2015

This blogpost has been eaten.

This blogpost has been eaten by the book - completely and entirely. You get a picture, instead, which was not even taken by me - but it's related to things that will also happen within the next few days.

I will have less greedy time-munching books on my table tomorrow. I promise. (Most of all, I promise that to myself and the most patient husband of them all.)

Friday, 18 September 2015

I'm all covered!

Yesterday was spent (partly) at the library, checking up things in books. Today is putting the last few pictures in (they will arrive today), then final layouting and related edits, and then our trusty little printer gets to churn out the whole thing once for a very last check-up. (Oh, and showing it off to my family over the weekend.)

Also, there is a cover. It's blue, and gold, and beautiful, and it looks like this:

Also: Thank Goodness it's Friday. I can use a bit of weekend!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sometimes, the Internet explodes. In a good way.

Sometimes, the Internet explodes. As in "it goes ka-boom like a clock" - or wait, was that a bomb?

You might know by now what I'm hinting at. If not, let me get you up to speed: a 14-year-old kid was taken in handcuffs from his school in the US because he brought a clock to school and someone thought that was suspicious, and it could be related to a bomb. (Go here for Dallas Morning News about the thing, and the updates.)

Obviously, when you're trying to show one of your teachers what you can do, you don't expect to be taken away from school to be interrogated and then suspended for a few days. I remember bringing things I made to school, showing them to my teachers, and receiving praise and encouragement - just what I had hoped for.

The kid in question, however, is named "Ahmed Mohamed" and has a brown skin, and it's unfortunately statistically evident that there's a strong imbalance in how white and non-white folks are treated.

However, in this case, the Internet took notice. And exploded. Just like a clock would. (Right? Clocks explode all the time, don't they?) There's a trending hashtag on Twitter, #IStandWithAhmed, pics of people bringing clocks to work, and Ahmed has received offers from all kinds of places - scholarships, internships, sponsorings, invitations to visit (including the White House, which is kind of awesome), and lots and lots of other ways of support.

This, folks, is what the Internet is for. For exploding about social injustice, and human stupidity, and giving support where it is needed - in words, in kind, in acts, in money. It won't work all the time - nothing like this happens without there being a pinch of luck to have it mentioned in the right way at the right place and time - but it still gives me hope.

It's just one individual case, sure, and similar things have probably happened lots and lots of time and gone by unnoticed. However, Ahmed's clock kerfuffle has set an example, and it has made obvious that there is an imbalance in how people are treated.

We all have a socio-cultural background, and this always, always, always includes prejudice. We are all humans, and we all have a fear of the "other". That is normal, and natural, and deeply, deeply human. However, we can try to be aware of our prejudices and struggle to give fair chances, making the world a place with less fear and less misunderstandings and less stupidity - in short, a better place for all of us to live in. The only way to battle prejudice is to be aware that oneself will have it, be aware of when it rears its ugly head, stare it in the face and consciously go against it. Go look at things again. Go meet with the people in question. Go and try to be open.

So... I hope that Ahmed's case will help raise awareness in all of us that we might just be prejudiced without having it noticed before, and that we should think twice before suspecting someone of planning evil deeds. I also hope that this thing will calm down in a timely manner to a sane remainder of ongoing support for Ahmed, leaving him and his family to lead normal(-ish) lives again. Which includes having something like a normal-ish childhood for Ahmed, and the slack that is needed to mess up things sometimes and make stupid decisions and, in short, be delightfully teenaged.

The lives of Ahmed and his family will have changed through this, though instead of leaving Ahmed with a stigma as a juvenile offender, he now has fame - a much more positive change in a life, with much more potential.

Ahmed, may you live well and prosper, invent many things and help make the world a better place. You certainly have the opportunity to do great things with your life now - enjoy them, but please don't get stressed out, or feel like you have to be perfect now. You are fourteen. You will mess up things. You will fail in things. Go do it, it's your life, you are entitled to make mistakes. Make them, and make them your own, and grow from them and learn.

Oh, and thanks for blowing up the Internet with your clock.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Books eat time. All the time.

Here I am, well into the final bits of work on the embroidery book - tweaking, resizing, colour correcting and inserting pictures. Tomorrow will be a library day, where I will read and look up the final few books to give further reading suggestions for all the interesting stuff. (Or at least some of it.)

After that, the only things remaining is taking care of the cover layout (where I'll be getting some input from a friend), doing one printout of the whole shebang to check for any bad things that have crept in, do a final proofread to fix typos, and get a general impression on how nice my layout is. Fortunately there's a lovely book I got one day from a friend:

Grafik für Nicht-Grafiker
(That's "Graphic design for non-graphic designers", and it's a really wonderfully helpful book, and it's out of print, but you can get the ebook.)

 There's instructions for lots of stuff in there, including on how to set up the type area for a book. So I looked at that part again, did some thinking, and then did some drawing on a piece of paper. It happens to be a printout of the text (with no layout yet). Fun! And this is how the result of my having fun looked:
As much as I love computers, for some tasks you just can't beat a pencil, a ruler, and a piece of paper.

 Then the only thing left is to finish the front matter (German bookpeople call that the "Titelei" - which sounds very nice in a weird way, I think).

If things all go according to plan, I will send it to the printer on Monday... so only a few more days for me to spend in the thrall of the book. I'll be very happy when I can turn to other things again!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

An encore to yesterday's ornament.

I posted yesterday about a small gold ornament embroidered on fabric, and the post received this comment:

Looking at your ornament, I realized that because I had seen that particular technique only separate from the fabric ground, and because I was thinking about it as structurally similar to macrame and rope knotting techniques, it had never occurred to me that it might have been created using the ground fabric to help create and maintain the shape, rather than being created "in air" and then attached to a ground fabric by sewing. I'd been making them (and teaching people to make them) by using pins on a board with the wire wound in pairs on bobbins, as if I were making a sort of bobbin lace. I'll have to experiment with this approach. I'm curious: given that some of the surviving pieces using this technique are quite long, what would your approach be to dealing with the lengths of wire needed, if they need to be loose in order be able to "sew" them through the fabric as you create the knots?

Well. This does need more than just a few words in reply, so I'm making it a blogpost.

Firstly, and most importantly, this is a special form of gold thread embroidery and not a wire ornament, so if you are thinking "knots in wire", you have the wrong material in mind.

Let me show you - here's the ornament again:

And here's the thing in closeup.

Gold thread is a pain to photograph - but it's so pretty when it works!
You can clearly see that it's not a wire, but a spun gold thread - a thin, narrow strip of gilt silver wound around a silk core. You can also see how the threads go through the fabric at the corners; start and end of the ornament are in the lower right part of the picture.

Hopefully you can also see that it is a real knot, not a braid or bobbin-lace-like crossover between a braid and a weave.

I thus have no clue on how you would be able to do this particular knot in wire, over pins, with the wire wound on bobbins, as there's not only crossovers - it is basically real knotwork that is stitched through the fabric at the corners, and the gold thread goes through loops.

I can tell you how I do it, though: I snip off a piece of gold thread in the length needed (that took about 16-17 cm), fold it in half and tie an overhand knot into the very end. (I feel very badass when I do this. Knots! In gold thread! It's the fastest way to really anchor the gold, though, and it doesn't take up a lot of material, so it's an efficient thing to do, but it still feels like a badass move.)
Then I take a (rather thick) needle and a piece of (thin) linen thread. The linen thread goes through the gold thread loop, then both ends of the linen thread are threaded through the needle's eye.

Now I have the gold thread secured to the needle, with enough slack via the linen helper thread to comfortably do the stitching. Pulling the gold thread through using the linen loop needs some care, but it works really well that way, and it's a rather quick way of making the ornament. After the last knot of the work is done, I just pull the end to the back of the fabric, pull out the linen thread, and that's it.

I don't think this approach would work with wire, though; spun gold thread is a lot more pliable than solid metal, even if it's fine solid metal that has been nicely softened.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Oh the many things.

I spent a good part of the weekend working on the instructions (they're coming along) and shooting even more photos of even more steps. More and more ideas on what would be nice to add are creeping in, and it's a little sad to smash them down, but the thing has already grown a lot from my first estimate (around 30 pages) to now (probably 44-48 pages, and hopefully not more).

I couldn't resist to put this in, though:

It's a tiny gold thread ornament, modeled after an archaeological find from a bishop's grave dating to the 12th century, in approximate original size. A small enough extra to squeeze in!

In other news regarding the process, cover design is on its way (I'm getting a little help from a dear friend with this), and I have feedback from several lovely proofreaders already, with more to come soon.

Final word on the pictures of original pieces is still out, though, so I'll keep my fingers crossed that I will get permission and won't have to do without the pictures showing close-ups, either because I'm denied permission or because I'd have to pay too high a fee.

And after the weekend work, I'm now a little tired and worn out, so I'm rather happy that there are some errands to run this afternoon, plus a little more embroidery to work in preparation for the last photographs, and that I might just take it a bit easy for the rest of the day.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Thank Goodness It's Friday.

This was a busy week, and today was sort of weird and hectic* with a health checkup and a friend visiting and mail to get out and oh my goodness am I looking forward to some cake now, and some quiet time, and the start into the weekend. The embroidery instructions are almost done, and now it's time to get some feedback on them (shoot me an email if you'd be interested in proofreading/testreading, though I'd need to get it back soon). A few more pics need to be taken, and then there's the layouting to be done, but I will take care of all that next week.

Friday Flower!
For the rest of today, my plan is to have coffee, and eat cake, and relax and do nothing. Nothing. At all. Now doesn't that sound nice?

*Weird and hectic includes this blog going up way later than planned, due to me not getting around at first and then blogger acting up. I have prevailed, though. Arrrr!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Product development craziness.

It feels like Friday today, and while I'm happy that it actually isn't tomorrow yet (as that gives me a day more to do stuff), I also think that I'd totally be due a Friday today, and a nice weekend.

I've fallen into the gold embroidery instructions thingie, or to put it differently, it has eaten All. The. Time. Product development is two words that sound rather innocuous, but oh, the things that hide behind them. Things you have planned, or are working on and developing, have a tendency to... well, grow. Or suddenly present you with utterly unexpected problems, costing lots of brain power and occasionally some nights of sleep. I've hinted on it on Monday, but here's the long version:

I want the fleur de lis embroidery kit to be as accessible to beginner (gold) embroiderers as it possibly can be, and that includes good, detailed instructions with lots of photos so you will really know what to do, and how it might look. We do have a decent printer, and that's why I can print the one-page or two-page instructions for the spinning kits and for the distaffs at home, but printing multi-page things such as these instructions is an entirely different beast.

So I was planning on writing the instructions and then having them done up by a printer, in some form of a booklet (which is much nicer than individual sheets with their tendency to separate and land in entirely different parts of the room. Or world, if you're like me). So far, so good - but I don't know if the kit will fly or not, so I'd better not plan for insane numbers of it. Especially as it means investing in things that I do not usually have in stock and that are not easily, if at all, saleable on their own. So I've planned to do a single, smallish batch of kits and see how it goes. If it goes very well, I'll do another batch. If it builds a little nest on my shelves never to leave again because it's so nice and comfy where I store my non-sellable ideas... well, I'll be out some money and a lot of time, but I'll live.

Here's the thing, however. The lower your number of copies to be printed, the higher the cost per item. For the low number of embroidery kits that I will make for this first batch, and with the need to provide instructions in two languages (German and English)... well, let's say printing prices for these would be through the roof, and would definitely leave me with a number of copies in the language less sought after.

The solution? Make a single version of the booklet containing both languages. This does lower the printing costs per copy somewhat, but it's still rather expensive.

So at some point last week, towards the end of it if you want to know it all in detail, it occurred to me that I could do a general instructions booklet, suitable for sale separately from the kit, stick that into the kit and provide an additional single sheet with the kit-relevant additional information.

This, I still think, is a very nice solution to the conundrum of print prices and guessing how many copies in each language will be needed. It has a catch, though: General instructions are much more work and need much more writing than specific ones. They also need more pictures, and different ones, including those that need permission to be published.

Thanks to very nice people all around who answered questions and are looking into pictures, though, it looks like I might be able to pull this off in time. I've taken oodles of photos yesterday, stitched, read, looked up terms (textile terminology is always a pain in the neck), stitched more, translated, and done picture processing. The German text is almost done, the English version is halfway there, and I'm about halfway through the piccie issues as well.

One of the many pictures taken yesterday - supplies for gold embroidery and the embrodery kit prototype.

Now I'm hoping the remaining issues will clear up in time - and then there's only (hah!) layout and pre-print checks to be done. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


Time again to clear out some of those open tabs and pelt you with links!

Here's a comic explaining how the desperate situation in Syria developed.

PhD Scholar blogs about finding answers to questions she didn't have through research - oh, how I know that effect!

Viveka Hansen writes about Nordic Iron Age clothing and dyes on her blog TEXTILIS.

If you are interested in textile conservation, check out the online workbook "Clothes tell Stories", intended to make aware of conservation issues and help with choices in museums and collections where there's no access to a professional conservator to help.

Andrea Phillips has a lovely and thoughtful post about Equal-Opportunity Objectification.

And one last women-/gender-related link: Doug posts about a conference session regarding professional women in archaeology, with links. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


You know about that thing about shoes that women are supposed to have? As in buy a lot of them? Happily this is not the only thing that defines gender, or I'd be very, very male indeed. (My shoes have to fit, and they have to be practical. And preferably last a long time so I don't have to go shoe shopping again soon.)

There's one shoe-ish exception to my usual "meh" stance, though - and these are medieval shoes. For reenactment or living history, shoes are one of the tricky bits. Modern shoes don't cut the mustard at all, as they are constructed absolutely differently, and the materials aren't right either. Going barefoot is of course an alternative (though we don't know how common walking barefoot for grownups would have been, and I've also read interpretations of shoe finds that hint towards shoes having been very, very common) but not a very viable one for every modern person in every weather.

Which means shoes are one of the checklist items when trying to gauge the overall quality of a Living History performer or group.

Years ago, in the course of trying out lots of different techniques, I actually made a pair of medieval turn-shoes myself. It took a fair amount of time and I did have fun doing it. The resulting shoes were useable, but far from good quality in regards to the fit (and also in regards to the materials, which were sort-of-suitable leathers I had lying around at that time). It did make me appreciate proper shoe-making work, however, and wish for shoes that fit properly.

Fortunately I have a friend who makes medieval shoes for a living. I've worn a pair of nice, low-cut shoes that Stefan made for a few years now, and am still deliciously happy with how they look. However, they are not very warm, and they do not fit over warm socks, so now I have a pair to change into when it gets colder:

They fit over warm socks, and this type of shoe is one that runs for a rather long time. They also have that lovely smell of new leather shoes, and the neat stitches that I love so much in Stefan's work.

Now I'm looking forward to cooler evenings on events!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Monday! Things! Hugo! Embroidery! Coffee!

This will, more (more embroidery) or less (shoes will come tomorrow - they deserve their own spot)
, be the blogpost I intended to do on Friday... so here goes:

After my long Hugo ramblings, I did some more reading, and I'm obviously notthe only one trying to see the kerfuffle as the basis for a new awareness of the Hugo, and maybe dragging it into the Century of the Fruitbat (or whatever we have, currently). Ken Marable has made a blog to collect recommendations for things you consider nomination-worthy for the Hugo, for all categories, and open for everyone - or, as the blog itself puts it, "The Non-Slate: Just Fans Talking about What They Love". Go read his post about the blog and moving forward - I think it's a wonderful idea, and I'll make sure to visit the site.

In embroidery kit news, I've hit a snag - I have planned and put together the materials for a first batch of embroidery kits, and intended to make nice, colourfully illustrated instructions to show precisely what to do and how to do it. However, the kit will come at a price, as there's a lot of work involved in preparing the materials, and there's quite a bit of material cost as well. Making an appropriately small print run for a batch of instruction booklets would sort of still be possible, but rather in-efficient, and would add unneccessary costs. So after figuring this out, I'm now planning to make a general how-to booklet with instructions that will be part of the kit or available separately, plus an extra sheet of kit-specific information.

Work in progress. I've come a lot further since, though!
Unfortunately, the kit was on a deadline before, as I want to get it ready for the Nadelkunst. With the original plan, that deadline was sort of not too bad... but with the change of plans, the writing project has now grown considerably. Which means I'm now trying to get it all put together in time. Frantic typing, emailing, picture searching and embroidering ensues. Wish me luck. (Also, I am having lots of coffee and chocolate. Always helps.)

Friday, 4 September 2015

Windows Privacy Issues.

I was planning to post about something else today (new shoes! more Hugo thoughts! progress in the embroidery!), but my morning reading of semi-random internet stuff has left me frantically de-installing some Windows updates.

If you're using Windows and value your privacy, this concerns you. As you might have noticed, Win10 is being rolled out and offered for free for a while (where "while" might mean at least several months). I have completely ignored that up to now, as I'm happy with my Win7 and not planning to move from it unless absolutely necessary... so I've also missed the privacy concerns with Win10. Apparently, once you install the new OS, you allow Microsoft to look at or download (upload-to-cloud) almost all your data, and even pass it on. All. Your. Data. (More about Win10 privacy. And even more.) 

The agreements to this very broad, very inclusive data-sharing is included in the End User Licence Agreement. The EULA. You know, that long, long text of semi-legalese gibberish that almost nobody anywhere reads... so once you install Win10, you agree that MS may have All Your Data.

But. But! Similar tools to pull your data have also been rolled out, quietly, as updates to Win7 and Win8. If you have automatic updates enabled, or have manually installed them, your computer is allowed to share your data on Microsoft's terms.

There was no warning or easily accessible information about what the updates would do... so I did install them. I do value my privacy, and data security, so I would never have agreed to this had I been aware, and frankly, I'm really pissed at MS about this.

Really, Microsoft? Really? I am looking sternly at you. That is not good behaviour. Even a kitty can tell.

Fortunately, lovely tech-savvy people on the Internet have posted instructions on how to uninstall the updates that are passing on your data from Win7 and Win8. Which is what I am doing right now. Care to join me?

Oh, and please pass this information around to your friends, colleagues, enemies, whomever - data security and a right to privacy is for everyone. And Microsoft should not get away with this!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Things on the "deal with today" list.

It's already September - I have a hard time believing that. But I'd better, since my calendar is adamant about this.

Which means there are barely four weeks left to prepare the things for the Nadelkunst in Weikersheim... I have to make new spindle whorls (which need enough time to dry, and then they have to be fired), and I also have to sit down to do some embroidery today. The pictures for the instructions are all done, apart from the title picture with the finished fleur-de-lis embroidery... so it's high time to finish that off.

Here's the slightly-advanced state of the piece at the moment:

So - on today's agenda: finish at least one side of the thing, and get some of the missing writing for the instructions done. Time flies like an arrow (fruit flies like a banana)...

(There's also two other things in the works for the Nadelkunst, both of them involving natural dyes, and one of them involving knitting. No pics yet, though... we're still working on it!)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The World is not Black and White. Hugo-related ramblings.

I've been to one WorldCon, the one in London, and I'm planning to go to Finland in 2017. (Yarn stall! Yay!) So when I received that membership, and with it the Voter's Packet, it was the first time I ever got involved with the Hugo Awards. I read some of the stuff and voted on the things I'd read - mostly the short stories and novelettes.

Then, this year, there was the Great Puppy Hugo Kerfuffle. If that has passed you by, a quick search will drop half the Internets on you, all with an opinion (or sometimes an Opinion, or even AN OPINION) and sometimes taking sides for the Puppies or the Non-Puppies (which are also referred to as the Social Justice Warriors, or SJWs, sometimes) and sometimes decidedly not taking sides. There's more to read about that than you probably want to read. (You could read this, for a sum-up. Or this, and make sure to read the linked stuff too.)

So why am I taking this up here, now, since the Hugos are over and both sides either say they've won, or lost, or whatever they think they did? (Puppies either wanted to take over the Hugos or destroy them, they're not very clear on that matter. Either way, they did have an impact on the award ballots.) Because I've read books by one of the instigators of the Puppy thing, Larry Correia.

I wouldn't have bought the books on their own, but somehow his Grimnoir series ended up on our e-reader. (Yes, we succumbed to the lure of electronic paper. Yes, it's nice. Yes, for some things I'll still prefer books printed on paper. But e-reading has its merits, too.) I think that the books were part of a Humble Bundle we bought a while back, so that's how we came by them.

Knowing about the kerfuffle, I was a bit unsure on whether to read the books... but hey, giving them a peek does not hurt, right? Well. I gave them a chance, and I ended up reading all three volumes, and definitely enjoying them. There's humour of the kind I appreciate, there's lots of intrigue and there's things to puzzle out (in some cases a good while before the characters do, which made me feel smug); there's lots and lots of action, there's magic that is half-explained and half-mystical.

There's also diversity in the cast - important men and important women driving the story. There's a bit of love, and a bit of bro-mance, there's a German and there's a black guy and there's a Portuguese guy. There's also a fat man. The writing is solid and, in my opinion, suits the action-driven story. There's also lots and lots of guns, and caliber mentions, and violence with blood and brains spattering, so it's not for the squeamish.

The basic story is Good vs. Evil, with the evil side being taken by the Japanese, and their Chairman at the front, at least in the first of the three books. (I won't talk about the rest here, as it may be spoilery.) It's not all black-and-white, though - there's some folks doing bad things to achieve a "good" goal, too.

So. Knowing what I knew about the author's campaign against the Hugo, and the Puppies slate, and the things said against him, or implied against him, or actually, mostly, the things he wrote that everyone from the Other Side (TM) thinks about him though they're not actually true... I was really pleasantly surprised. (Now that I'm writing this, I think that I read most of the accusations allegedly done against Correia in his own writing, where he stated them and then vehemently said that he, of course, was none of that. In a way and tone that very much made me think that there was probably a bit of truth to them.)

I did enjoy the books, but knowing about all the personal and sorta-political background story, it felt a little weird to do so, as the Puppy Thing really irked me. I cannot completely part the writing from the author. That may be a good thing for a person: I've supported artists because I like the person for their personal qualities or their way of seeing and approaching life, though do not much care for their actual art, for example. But of course it can also mean that I won't support someone because of their political or general stance on things, and, more importantly, because of the actions they take in this field.

Without the Hugo Kerfuffle, I would choose the Grimnoir books as an Xmas or birthday present for some friends of mine who I'm sure would enjoy them. But... the world is not black and white, and I will not buy these books on their own, because of the Hugo Kerfuffle and the actions the author has taken.

Yes, the Hugo Awards are a special and weird critter, and the voting process may be flawed. Awards are different, though, and all of them are a flawed and weird critter in some way. (I think of them a bit like recommendations from friends. There are some books I will not read if certain of my friends praise them, and there are some awards that make me very suspicious and usually mean I won't want to read the book.) However, just being nominated for the Hugo (which Correia was!) has proven to boost careers, or so I'm told. Not winning the Hugo, obviously, sucks more than getting the rocket, but being nominated once may also mean being nominated again. And not getting the rocket but being nominated should not suck at all, but be a reason for joy.

Larry Correia, to me, sounds very, very bitter about the Hugos and how they are allegedly given to people on political correctness basis instead of on good writing, so they're totally biased. Well.

I can get being bitter about being close, and then losing out. (Hell, it happened to me, years ago, with a stipend, and I'm still slightly bitter about it.) What I've read from Correia in blog posts and comments and so on, though, sounds a bit like bitterness is, or has become, the basic flavour of life for him. (I've met a few people who had bitterness as their basic flavour, and these were not happy people no matter how successful or wealthy they were relative to others. They also have a familiar tendency to over-interpret real or perceived slights against them, and to see conspiracies against them almost everywhere. Makes them hard to be around.)

But there's a difference between being bitter and trying to destroy a thing. Even if that thing may look crooked, or weird, or biased. There's also the basic fact that every award is biased - because choices are biased. We, as people, as voters, are biased. Everyone has a personal story that will come in. Nominating someone for an award, and voting for an award, or any other benefit means that you wish that person success - whether it's for reasons political, personal, or for the quality of their work, you're wishing them success and trying to help them get that success.

In 2014, when I voted, I was utterly happy that J. Chu got a Hugo for the Water that Falls on You from Nowhere story - I love that story (and I think the water element is sufficiently weird, and definitely necessary to the story, for it to qualify as speculative fiction), and I loved that he got recognition for his work. (Just in case you're interested in my personal taste, there were two short stories I didn't like at all: Selkie stories are for Losers, and If you were a dinosaur, my love.)

Those who are trying to destroy an award like that, making it possible for someone previously little known to persuade a writing career? I'm not wishing them success in a way that would mean I'd vote for them in the future, even if their writing were utterly brilliant. I'm fine if they are bestselling authors, and I don't begrudge them being well-paid pro writers at all, but I'll not vote for them for an award. Because that's my personal choice, and I'm allowed to make that choice, just as everyone else voting is allowed to make the choice they deem best. I hope (well, I think all those who honour the Hugo hope) that quality of writing will be a very important factor in this, but it's not the only factor. Quality of work is never the only factor in any process of choosing some person over another person.

Maybe the voters of the Hugo back then did not wish so much success to somebody pro-gun. Maybe it was just that there was more wishes of success to someone else perceived as less visible straightaway - there's no way to tell. What I can say, at the end of these long ramblings, though: If the crowd making up the (regular, pre-puppy Incident) voters for the Hugo (who pay for that privilege, by the way, so there's already a very specific selection process right at the start) are inclined to vote for the less-visible, less-recognised writers who do works of quality - I'm all fine with that.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Stuff going on.

I feel like I'm a little (or a lot) behind today - which might be due to a moment of realising what all needs to be done, and the additional realisation that not all things can actually be done right now (even if they're small or smallish things), due to a number of different and diverse reasons.

It didn't help that I've been sidetracked by some necessary software updating, and trying to find what is cluttering my hard disc in the computer, and generally being somehow butterfly-minded today. (As in fluttering from one thought to another.)

So... an appropriately non-related scatterbrainy picture for you.

This guy has hopefully found the way out of the conservatory by now. The flight patterns of this beautiful beast while trying to find a way out, though, reminded me too much of my brain pattern today...

(Oh, and just in case you want to know what was, or is, on the list of things to do today: Answer emails, take care of some PR stuff for the Beast, work on the Textileforum programme planning (which is almost finalised) and answer more emails...)