July 2009

Who’s There? …IRS…
Irs, who? ….IRS come to audit you!

I have finally decided to purchase an Epson 2880 wide-format printer. No more hemming, hawing, and shopping around for the “best printer”… I’ve realized from reading thousands of customer reviews (literally), blog journals, and direct conversations with artists who print-at-home… that The Perfect Printer is a myth. Every printer has the potential
to break down, get clogged, and waste expensive ink. You can minimize the risks by thoroughly reading the owner’s manual, keeping spare inks on hand, printing regularly, using approved papers, and getting the warranty… but keeping your fingers crossed and
praying to the printing gods is probably the best precaution. Sometimes, sacrifices are required for important jobs to run smoothly…

I’ve been outsourcing my work up until now, to two fabulous printing companies: Canadian based www.Giclee-Factory.com (for archival Giclee prints and canvases), and www.Adoramapix.com, hailing from New York, for my photo prints. I love them both for their quality work and reasonable prices. Each has their drawbacks, however, which has led to my growing desire to print at home (on-demand) and have more control over my creative output, inventory, and turn-around time. It was a tough decision to make; high quality printers like this are not cheap!! I’ve held off until now, but I believe this move towards self-printing will help me drastically with providing a consistant source of fine-art prints, using my coveted pigmented inks and velvety archival papers, without waiting for lengthy delivery times (from the company in Canada) or the excess of inventory that comes with the unpredictable nature of sales.
The cost of the printer itself (and whether or not it decides to behave) will be my only hurdle. I’ve crunched the numbers a hundred times in relation to costs of (expensive) ink + paper VS outsourcing + shipping, and find them comparable. The average quote of high quality prints achievable with one set of inks, according to people I’ve chatted with, will roughly cost me the same as outsourcing. However, I can list regularly, see what sells, and print to order… technically, I could list one image in 50 different locations online, and only print as many as I need to cover sales.
No more stocking up on large inventories!
I’m also excited to experiment with different papers and techniques at leisure, and get immediate results that I can refine. No more waiting for 2 weeks or longer, to see if that new paper I requested looks great with my artwork on it.

Okay, so we’re all on the same page, right? Most artists and photographers agree that printing at home is best… if you can afford to…which leads us to the big question “How?”

Funny story, I suppose, stemming from my procrastinating nature.
I filed my Federal and State taxes this spring like a good citizen, but the Turbo Tax site wouldn’t allow me to e-file, due to an “error” with my daughter’s daycare providers’ tax ID numbers. (The wonderful government of ours gives tax breaks for daycare… after we go into debt all year PAYING for it, LOL)
The three women who watched Mia at various times throughout the year had provided me with their State Tax numbers, all of which were 8 digits long. Turbo Tax swore that
the numbers needed to be NINE digits long (not including the first letter), and therefore refused to file an “incorrect” tax return. Oddly enough, when I applied for my own state sales-tax ID number, it was also only 8 digits long! *sigh*
Ergo, I manually filed through the mail, and requested direct deposit into my checking account.

The Federal return was processed very timely, and I received it before Jacob was born on April 2nd. Very helpful, indeed. The State return was taking awhile longer, and the customer service people replied that they were under-staffed and it might be 8 weeks or longer…
In the meantime, we experienced a whirlwind of “change” in our lives, beginning with Jacob’s birth in early April to our move in late April, and subsequent “moving in” process – dealing with code inspectors, new neighbors, my change in job status, visits from my mom (and other relatives) and a host of things which led to my “forgetting” about my late refund.
As time wore on, I would occasionally wonder about it… assuming they were probably investigating the supposedly invalid daycare tax numbers …and my overactive imagination began wondering if perhaps I would be audited or even arrested for trying to claim fradulent tax deductions for imaginary services. Perhaps the IRS and Maryland State troopers would arrive at my doorstep to haul me off to jail, and I was reluctant to pursue my refund for fear of being “caught”. This was rediculous and irrational, obviously! Most of you would say “Where’s my money?!”, and rightly so, but I have always felt icky when itemizing deductions, as if I’m somehow cheating the government.
Yes, I know the money is MINE, and I paid loads of it last year and deserve to get some refunded back… however, I’m just not the type who goes after every penny and acts as if the world owes me. Or in this case, Uncle Sam. I mean, these taxes are supposed to
help our country fund schools, hospitals, reforms, feed poor people, and reduce the gazillion dollar deficit, right???

Some companies deduct hotels, car rentals, airfare, dinners in Paris, and $80,000 area rugs for their offices… I personally would feel like a criminal for deducting a pencil sharpener as a business expense. LOL Joe has hinted that perhaps my new printer, which is solely for art-business-use could be considered for this year’s deductions… I’ve warned him that this year, I’m taking my taxes to a professional who specializes in sole-proprietorships. I don’t want to screw things up by doing it myself anymore. 😛

So, I blithely rolled along, assuming if everything checked out, I would hear something. And if something was wrong, like – I owed THEM money – I would definitely hear something!
It’s also quite possible that a black hole opened up in Washington D.C. and was slowly sucking everything, including time, into it… like that episode of Stargate SG1. 😀
Naturally, our State Comptroller’s office – located in Baltimore – would be affected to a greater degree than the cities farther from the vortex… it would appear to observers, like us, as if time had frozen for them.

June came. Joe, who has a normally deep well of patience (necessary for living with me), began to quietly “nag” (if nagging can be considered a character trait of his?) that I should “look into” my tax refund, and see what the hold-up is. Perhaps he was also curious to see whether D.C. was still on the map.
So I called a couple times, got the generic answer “It hasn’t been processed yet. We’re extremely busy; we were only half-staffed this year and had more returns to process than in years past… blah, yadda, blah…”
I waited a couple more weeks. Lydia’s birthday falls on the 31st of July (today, as I’m posting this!) and I wanted to buy her presents without sacrificing anything important… we had also discussed the printer and Joe was “on-board” with that idea, fortunately!
He’s always been amazingly supportive of my artistic endeavors, but I’m sure the sales I’ve made so far have helped boost his confidence. LOL

Last week, I contacted them again, and pushed them for a more definitive answer. And boy, did I get one! My return had never even been received by their office! :O
A quick fix: a visit to the local tax office, they e-filed for me – ironically, without any questions regarding the sitters’ tax numbers! Imagine…
My refund came through within a matter of days! Yay!

Therefore, I’m getting my printer. Lydia is getting her presents. Our utility bills will be paid for the next couple months, and life as we know it in this household goes on… unless I get stuck with a faulty printer, bash it against the wall in frustration,
and get sent to a psych hospital for hearing demonic voices ordering me to bomb the Epson factory.
So, I might wind up in jail after all! Unless I open another black hole.


baby infant child and fairy cat

baby infant child and fairy cat

For those of you with free e-mail accounts, like Gmail, which rely heavily on advertising… have you ever noticed that your e-mail providers always seem to choose ads which “relate” to your message or sender?
God-mail? The omniscient Spirit.com?

Not exactly, as a note from Shannon would bring up ads for “Flights to Shannon, starting at $99″…

Some people may believe this is part of the government’s Conspiracy in conjunction with the criminal cesspool (which is the Internet) to rob you of your identity and steal your banking info by hacking into your personal e-mail, and gathering information, while hiding beneath the cloak of innocent seeming advertisements.
Of course, the government already has access to our private records, which we are required to disclose to them before we can get a license to sneeze.

You are absolutely right, however, that someone is watching you online.

You see, big companies pay BIG MONEY for search engines to advertise their products. They pay for relevant “AD WORDS” – either per impression (the ad appears in your results) or per click (when you’re curious enough to click the link). Per click ads are more expensive, of course, because they are more likely to result in sales.

Pertinent ad words, for me, might include “cat” “portrait” “painting” and “art”… and I might have to pay anywhere from 50¢ to $3-$4 per impression depending on the popularity of the word (what my competitors are willing to pay for it).
So you set a daily budget… I might be willing to spend $10 per day (at the rate of 50¢ per impression) to get my message “out there”, and it’s the job of the search engine to troll the vast Internet looking for victims to torture with these “relevant” ads. Anywhere advertisements are allotted space, such as free e-mail accounts and search result pages, the system picks out key ad words (those it feels are most relevant to you) and pops in a few paid ads.

The system is a bit flawed, however, as it cannot tell whether my Shannon was a person, place, or thing. Hence the enticement from a travel agency, offering trips to Shannon for $99.00 (that was money wasted!)
If there are, in fact, human beings sitting in their parent’s basement and reading our private conversations…. it seems like they’re conning the big businesses who pay them for promotion, rather than any nefarious scheme to steal Shannon’s chicken-salad recipe.

Here are a few examples from my own e-mail correspondence proving that some marketing plans are hitting way off base:

A note from Shirley, resulted in this gem:

“If you like Shirley, Try this free spiritual newsletter written via a deep trance channel”

A Facebook reply to Lance’s photo:

“Huge selection, great deals on Lance items…Yahoo.com
(what are Lance items? I clicked… and some slimy dude got paid for my curiosity!)
I discovered “Lances – Cheap Prices – Get the Best Value for Lances”
(cheap Lances turned out to be Lance Armstrong T-shirts)

The name Crystal conjured up:

“Crystal skulls from Caretaker of the Ancient Crystal Skull Synergy”
Eeew. Skulls…
Kinda creepy considering her message mentioned a recent surgery.

The fantasy artist, Jasmine Becket-Griffith, brought up ads for her own website.
You go, girl!

A reply from Beth about my coupon offer – resulted in “Free Grocery Coupons….”, which was to be expected.
But also strangely enough:
“Howard Stern’s New Wife? (Beth Ostrosky) Check her out Here. www.The Frisky.com
and also an ad for “Nipple Rings. www.BodyCandy.com Yummy! 😛

In another Facebook reply notice, someone remarked on a child’s photograph, asking “What Lullaby is she singing?”
The answer: “Baby Born With Two Faces In India”

Andy comments on my portfolio: “cool artwork. Love it” prompted this advice:
“How to Keep a Man in Love… Learn the Secret Psychology to Getting a Man Hooked for Good. from CatchHimandKeepHim.com
Was it his “love” comment? I wonder if that includes “getting a man hooked for good” on my artwork? Keep them coming back for more!

Lily’s comment about my cute kitty photo, had Google begging me to purchase water lilies – great selection of strong bloomers, beautiful varieties (pre-order for August shipping)
But I also received these oddities:
“Don’t Be Like Gollum, Pick your favorite hero: Frodo or Harry Potter?”
and also
“Jump Into The Spirit World – You are One Jump Away from Changing Your Life Forever www.quantumjumping.com

From the mundane:
Jennifer Green’s artwork brought up a slew of environmental ads for Green tea, green cleaners, solar panels, architecture firms specializing in sustainable/green practices…

To the truly nonsensical:

Jay R comments, “Congrats!” equals – Sarah Palin and Cheap Leaf Blowers.

Lesson to Companies purchasing ad words… save your money! Seriously, $100 or $100,000 worth of impressions won’t convince me to “jump into the spirit world” or purchase a crystal skull.

However, I will occasionally get a chuckle at your expense:
My ultimate favorite ad word result from today’s experiment must be the following:

Lesliesosaap is following me now on Twitter… (I have no clue who she is, her profile was blank)
However, according to Gmail, she might deserve a closer look:
“Trust Ur Girl in Ukraine? Two Tests Reveal if U Can Trust Her Put Her to the Test Now… sponsored by www.RussianDatingGuide.com

I groaned… more Russian Brides, right? I have a tendency to attract them all…

But then it gave me this additional tip:
“look up Timothy’s Email address, phone number, address and more”

Is Leslie really Timothy?! Hmmm….. now THAT might be worth clicking on. 🙂