Archive for October, 2006

Halloween Haunting

Is Halloween a purely secular holiday, a time for grinning jack-o-lanterns, scary costumes, and pillowcases full of candy? Is it really the Christian holy day of All Hallow’s Eve? Or does it have links to the pagan celebration of Samhain, or even more terrifying ties to black occult practices?

My belief is that meaning is not intrinsic to an event or a tool – it’s what you bring to it by intention, belief and action.

My memories of Halloween as a child were happy. Mom had one standard – she would not allow us to choose a costume that was scary or gruesome. “There’s enough horror and fear in the world,” she would insist. It forced us to be creative, and we still had just as much fun. We’d dress up in our Raggedy Ann or hobo or military costume and trek through the neighborhood, seeking out chocolate candy as a preference.

As older teens and adults, we didn’t usually celebrate Halloween. The few times we’d go to a party were great fun, choosing and outfitting ourselves with an alternative persona. The award for best and most creative costume, hands down, goes to my sister’s rendition of a Chia pet – terracotta sweats with lots of plastic greenery pinned on. My friend Kirsten, with her beagle prisoners at the annual doggie daycare party, has a blast dressing up!

As parents, Halloween became an annual major event again. I have boys so didn’t carry on my mom’s restriction on scary costumes – that’s what the boys were most interested in and tended to choose two times out of three. Zachary (the crazy clown), with his friends Mitchell and Alex, above, certainly are not shy. Trick or treating in Anchorage was NOT pleasant for the parents, it was bitter cold and usually snowy, and costumes needed to fit over snow gear, hat and gloves. Jack-o-lanterns would freeze and melt and slump in a few days as well, and the moose would munch them if they could reach them.

One of the most affecting celebrations of the day, though, was when our church introduced us to their All Hallow’s Eve celebration. November 1st is All Saints Day, and October 31, the evening before, is reserved for prayers and remembrances of the saints – and those who may not have been recognized as saints – but who have gone before. The celebration, with candle lighting and silent prayer, was very meaningful coming a couple years after the loss of my dad, who I will always miss.

Funny, dad used to be the one to take me trick-or-treating as a child, holding the flashlight and standing patiently in the street, while mom would come up with the great creative costumes. So my memories of Halloween come full circle.

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 by Jeri
Under: holidays | 1 Comment »

Independent vs. Employee

A friend of mine asked me for information today on working as an independent contractor. She’s considering it, and since I’ve worked as one and use several on projects, she thought I might have some information. The reason? She wants to work on more than one technology platform without getting pigeonholed.

I can’t answer the question of whether the benefit to her career and morale would be worth the risk and change of going independent. That insight is going to come as a result of research, business modeling, and soul searching discussions with her family.

Here are some of the excellent research resources I’ve found on the subject which may help:

Analyzing the decision: About.com’s Technical Job Search article on the pros and cons of working as an independent contractor is a good analysis of the rewards and risks of that approach. She could have more freedom to define her own jobs and growth path, more independence and potentially make a good deal more money. On the flip side, her work relationship would lack security, she wouldn’t have benefits, and she would need to pay her own expenses, overhead and additional taxes. If she is risk tolerant and enjoys change and challenge – it may be a good option.

Getting started: Nolo.com has a good basic FAQ on some of the issues facing contractors – from the pros and cons, to agreements and rates, to taxes. In addition, they have an excellent article on the minimum legal requirements for working as an independent contractor, as well as a good summary discussion of all your options on business formation and ownership.

Contractor vs. Employee (Per the IRS): The whole question of contractor vs. employee is a very sticky one. There are some criteria that the IRS tend to look at that separate an independent contractor from an employee, summarized very effectively on About.com. In a worst case scenario, the IRS could potentially step in and reclassify a contractor as an employee, so this area of her relationship with her customers is important to set up properly.

Contractor rates: The critical question that most potential independent contractors ask is “How much should I charge?” That is always a tough call, and there are two approaches. She could determine what she wants to make, and charge accordingly, as described in this model by nolo.com. The alternative would be benchmark against the market, and decide if she can live with that rate – a good rate analysis resource is available from dice.com. My only recommendation she should never undervalue herself – have the confidence to charge what she’s worth and compete on quality, rather than hoping to win business by discounting her rates.

Final Questions: Does she want to be completely independent, or subcontract to an agency for greater market coverage? If she subcontracts, the agency can market her services and funnel her work, but will take a significant chunk of change off the top of her charging rate for doing so.

Does she want to work at her customer’s location, or part or all of the time out of her home? This is related to the IRS criteria question, and there are significant tax advantages to having her own home-based business.

Taking the step to become an independent contractor is a risk, but my friend is following her passion and gambling on her own skills and discipline, which are considerable. Whether she decides to remain an employee or strike out on her own, I wish her well!

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 by Jeri
Under: work | Comments Off

Ikea Expedition

This morning we loaded up the van and trekked over to Ikea. It’s a bit of a trip from our place – about an hour and a half – but a really fun day of shopping. For those of you that don’t have an Ikea nearby, it’s an inexpensive, huge Scandinavian furniture, kitchen, decor and accessories warehouse store.

We got a couple of practical items – a new highboy dresser for Zach and a couple of DVD storage thingies for our living room.

Dog ButtsFlat Dog

We also found a lot of really fun things. There were little wall hooks that look like dog butts – perfect for car keys in our kitchen. ;) And there was a great flat dog throw pillow that made us smile every time we walked past it, so I grabbed it because you should always have things around you that make you smile!

And the food, one of the best parts of the trip — Swedish meatballs for lunch! Yum! All three of us had a huge lunch with dessert for $20. And, did you know that, in addition to Swedish gummy candy fish, you can also buy Swedish gummy rats? Zach, of course, bought some, and ate them tail first. Blech.

Posted on Monday, October 30th, 2006 by Jeri
Under: seattle | 1 Comment »

End of Boat Season

We went and cleaned up the Hummingbird for the winter today. It’s a sad milestone for end of summer! We’ve really enjoyed getting out on the water and our only regret is not doing it more. There’s something about the sun on the water that lifts my spirits and eases stress like nothing else can.

The Hummingbird is a 24′ Bayliner Express Cruiser with a 175hp motor. She seats six comfortably, and the cabin sleeps two, with sink, single burner stove and a porta potti head. We’ve never gotten adventurous enough to take her out overnight, so that’s a goal for next year.

She is moored at Port of Brownsville Marina. It’s a great little marina about 10 miles south of Poulsbo, with easy land and sea access, very helpful staff and a lot of charm. We checked out the various Poulsbo marinas first – which all had 2-5 year waiting list – and we’re awfully glad we ended up in Brownsville instead.

The Hummingbird is perfectly able to cruise during fall and winter weather because of her all-sides canvas cover, so we may still take her out if we have a pretty weekend from time to time. Until then – we’ll miss boating!

Posted on Sunday, October 29th, 2006 by Jeri
Under: boating | Comments Off

Cards are the Champs!

So after 24 years, the Cardinals won the World Series in a quick 5 games over the Detroit Tigers. As you can see, Panda is thrilled.

Seriously, though, I would imagine all the talk of this team will be how it is one of the worst to have ever won the Series, as they had the worst record ever for a championship team. Whatever. They came together when the needed to and took it to a team that on paper looked to run over them. Once again, that’s why they play the games.

Posted on Sunday, October 29th, 2006 by Bryan
Under: sports | Comments Off