Thursday, December 25, 2008

Good news and bad news

We all know the order we like to hear it in...

Bad news is that I will not be around much the next two weeks. The good news is that I won't be around much because I'll be in Mexico!!!

The other good news is that I got my Flip Mino HD so I'll be able to document the vacation properly. It arrived earlier today, just in the nick of time as we leave at 6 am Christmas Day (which I guess is actually in just a few hours). I took a good video of Paco, and then took a bunch of stupid ones.

Like this one I took of myself, ala Myspace self-portrait shot.

I've gotta admit that I'm being pretty cheesy this year. I mean, the trip to Mexico is cool, the new Flip is cool, but this is what I think counts as the true Christmas Miracle this year.

Feliz Navidad and see you in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I *heart* haircuts

So I finally broke down and got my hair cut. I haven't seen my hairdresser since June. It got to the point where I was wearing a ponytail every day, which is a major pain in the ass and heat waster during the winter, so I finally broke down and went in.

If there's one thing that can make you feel like a million bucks in a hearbeat, it's a good haircut. Check it out:


(note that I said it was a good haircut, not a good picture, but it does the job)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Can't do nothing write

I hate to publicly announce these things for fear I'll jinx it, but I'm studying to take the GMAT. Why is this relevant, you ask? Because, through my studies, I've realized that I have no idea how to write or speak English.

This sucks. Now I find myself second guessing everything I say... er, write... er type. So if you've written to Paco Collars in the past few days and have noticed my e-mails seem as bland as oatmeal, well you can blame the GMAT. Singlehandedly the test prep has turned me from confident wordsmith to watch-my-mouth-Sally.

It's like that day in Jr, High when I thought I was so cool because Kate and I were wearing matching outfits: teal Sonoma County Fair shirts and white shorts (bet you can't guess where this is going). During lunch a girl I barely knew came up to me.

"Hey, did you just have art class?"

"No, I'm not in art," I replied, and a bit like a braggart since I kind of fancied myself an accomplished artist at the time... I could draw horses better than anyone I knew.

"Oh. Because you have a little, um, red on the back of your shorts."

The problem is that I was too embarrassed to tell any of my friends I had started my period a few months earlier. And I never brought any back-up protection because I was so afraid someone would discover a big old pad in my bag and, therefore, find out I'd started my period. So I kept my mouth shut and suffered the rest of the day in utter embarrassment, never going to the nurse or asking a pal for a tampon, slinking around and hoping no one looked at me or noticed that the sweater around my waist was developing a little red stain as well.

Occasionally you experience something in life that removes every shred of self-confidence you have, and that's what I'm suffering write now. I mean *right* now. Damn.

Oh well. I've got a new little toy coming soon that should take my mind off of my inability to grasp the English language. And it's finally an excuse to use this pic:

Pyramid Paco

This was only taken four years ago but it seems like a snapshot from the wild, wild west.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Copy Cats

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but when people are imitating your designs and selling them as their own, well that just sucks.

Yesterday Juliene sent me an e-mail.

"Found this while I was messing around on Etsy. They aren't exact copies, but they're similar. Just thought you'd like to keep your eye on them."

Juliene is a little bit our self-appointed watchdog, since she's constantly shopping online, is deeply involved with dogs, and is protective over Paco Collars like a cougar over her cubs (not that she's old, like a cougar). It puts her in a unique position to scout for imitators.

I click on the link not expecting much. Most of the time it's nothing. I mean, there are only a handful of design elements out there, most leather supplies in the US come from the same supplier, so there is occasionally something that kind of looks like our stuff because it uses the same decoration. Usually it's different enough to not be a threat. I mean, unless you have the $2,000 deposit to create a die and your own series of custom conchos, you're kind of stuck using what's out there. Since that's the case, it's not company policy to jump all over every Joe Schmoe who uses a Celtic Heart on one of their collars. It's not what you use, it's how you use it.

The page opens. Up comes pics of many different collars, I see the usual array of conchos that everyone likes to use, but then I see it: our collar. It's exactly our collar but in a different color. And it's not even a case where they're using the same decoration. It's a copy of our Simple Two-Tone collar, which has no decorations. Woah.

This happened once before. Many years back we had a customer order a custom dog collar for her dog. We worked with her, designed a collar for her dog, everyone was happy. About 6 months later I received a weird e-mail telling me to watch out for this particular customer and it contained a link. I clicked on the link and up came a thread from a forum where the customer was bragging about how she created a custom collar company.

(paraphrasing here)

"I recently purchased a custom leather collar for my dog as was disappointed at how much it cost so I decided to create my own *affordable* custom collar company," she touted. And on came the pictures of the collars she created. I scrolled through, yawning ("crap, crap, crap"), until I came across... drum roll please... an exact copy of the collar we designed her dog! Yeah, she was making, and selling, the exact collar we designed for her dog. And bragging about it.

At this point my stomach turned. It kind of felt like being dumped, but different. It was like dating someone you weren't really into, you were planning on breaking up with them but, before you could, they cheated on you with someone super hot just to beat you to the punch and rub your face in it. It's a small part heartbreak, a huge part disgust, with a sprinkle of losing all trust in the rest of humanity.

And so began my education in intellectual property.

I won't bore you with all the details, but I cannot emphasize how important it is for artists to protect themselves. The majority of people are not creative, so it's much easier for them to take something that's been done and try and own it. I did a lot of research, sent the former customer a cease and desist letter, and she pulled the design. Easy peasy.

But then it happened again about a year later. Knowing that she probably wasn't going to roll over easily, and that this was starting to look like a habit rather than a mistake, this time I pulled out the big guns. I put out my feelers and found an intellectual property lawyer within a few degrees of me. Turns out his wife wanted some leather goods for their dog and baby so we traded some legal consultation for product. We sent another cease and desist letter. As predicted, she did not want to roll over, but our case was pretty strong so she eventually conceded.

To me there is just something so wrong about copying designs, but I realize to some extent I'm in the minority. I mean, give me $50 and any parking lot in Oakland and I can buy you a faux Louis Vuitton handbag from a someone's trunk. Designers keep Oscar dresses under wraps but imitations pop up within 24 hours after the event. It's not a new concept, but when a company is as small as Paco Collars, any imitation could take away market share, which means taking money from our pockets, which means people don't get paid, and when you mess with my people I get pissed.

It's fortuitous that this new site pops up as we're in the midst of collaborating with the same intellectual property lawyer on building our body of work. See, Paul wants to go to law school so this is his practice. And how perfect that he gets a real life opportunity to stretch his fledgling legal legs?

So I want to thank this newest copy cat for giving us the opportunity to expand our legal knowledge even further. Wording on their website-under-construction alludes to the fact that they're placing themselves to be in direct competition with us (and there are parts where they actually lift and use our exact wording) so claiming spontaneous generation is not a viable argument.

I thank them for allowing Paul this opportunity to break his legal cherry. And all I have to say is, "Watch out guys, you're going down." Pissing off Ana Poe is one thing, but you've got folks that are way more mad about it than me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Call in Gay to Work" Day

Well, since I was too sick to go into work yesterday I cannot afford to celebrate Day Without a Gay today, but Darth Vader will be my stand-in:


I mean, tell me that's not pretty gay! And can you imagine the Death Star as one big disco ball? Hello!?!

*Hopes they call her to write Episode 7*

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Face of Death(ly ill)

the face of death(ly ill)

It finally happened. I got sick. I know it's payback. As all of my friends fell around me I couldn't help but think, "That's because they're weak," or, "Sucker, I never get sick." But karma tallied up all those negative thoughts and threw them back at me with a vengeance.

Yesterday was the worst, but I had to go to work in order to meet a few deadlines. Even with the heater 6" from me I was shivering and my head was so cloudy I kept hitting my hand with the mallet. At one point I had to lay down and take a nap. Somehow I made it home (four layers of clothing deep and the heater full blast), where I promptly crashed on the couch, where I've been ever since.

Fortunately I'm doing much better today. I think I broke my fever last night as I woke up from a tormented sleep all sweaty and gross, and Aaron's been taking good care of me. I'm working from home today which is good since there are a ton of computer projects I need to get done. I've been so focused on constructing product lately that I've been letting little things like, oh, updating the website go unchecked. But today I am forced to tackle these things.

Behold, my executive suite for the day (or, as I like to call it, "the nest")

my nest

My assistant, Paco, is taking his calls from under the grey blanket.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


It's official, going to the salon is "out" and doing your beauty routine from home is "in."

Well, at least that's what I like to tell myself. I haven't gotten a haircut since June, which is also the last time I got my hair colored. I know my roots are incredibly long, but I delude myself in to thinking it looks good. And when my bangs finally got so long they began to impair my vision, I did not break down and visit my favorite hairdresser... instead I cut them myself.

homestyle bangs

I also gave Aaron a haircut the same day so he could save on the $50 salon visit. Sure he's been wearing a hat ever since, but I like to believe that's weather induced rather than shame over his "homestyle".

But perhaps my biggest beauty sacrifice due to the recession has been my nails. Now, I've never been a girly girl. Growing up I would ridicule the color pink, dolls, and flowers choosing instead to collect Transformers, play in the dirt, and wear pants. As I've matured I've learned to own my girliness instead of running from it. I actually own skirts now, enjoy soap operas, and wear my hair in something other than a bowl cut. Still, it was as big a shock to me as anyone else when I started getting my nails done...

It all started innocently enough. Last fall I walked into the
nail salon around the corner from my house. My goal was to enlist the nail artists into airbrushing designs onto our collars, thus saving us painting time in-house. They quickly turned down the offer but I still insisted on watching an airbrush demonstration so I could see the tricks of the trade.

"If you want airbrush you have to buy nails," they said.

Surely they must be mistaken. I already had nails. My nice, short, bitten-to-the-quick nails surrounded by hang-nailed cuticles. I insisted they could use my natural canvas.

"No, airbrush no stay. You have to buy acrylic nails, then we do airbrush." They wouldn't budge.

I emphasized that I worked with my hands and, therefore, could not function with fake nails, but after much back-and-forth we compromised with them promising to cut my nails as short as possible. In exchange, I chose the tackiest airbrush design I could think of. Behold:

tropical nails

For additional tackiness, I even got a naked lady on the thumbs

naked lady basking under palm tree

I swore I would take them off within a day or two, but everyone at Paco Collars insisted I keep them, pointing out the fact that I'd used company money (it *was* research) and therefore my nails were really company property and had to stay. At first I fought it, but I was outnumbered.

I struggled through learning to live with the nails. I had to learn to re-type, use tools in constructing dog collars, and found these new, plastic nails were actually impossible to bite, thus thwarting my life-long nervous habit. I cursed them every chance I got, but then something magical happened: they grew on me. Literally. It had been two weeks and my nail beds were beginning to show so I had to make a choice, get them removed or get a filled in and redone. I chose the latter, and thus began my new nail obsession.

Every 2-3 weeks I'd go to a new salon, get a fill, and test drive their designs. I went to many shops in the East Bay and the San Francisco, a different one every week, actually, but the best one was still the first. I learned that airbrushing nails is a dying art and so is, apparently, updating your nail shop signage. The result is that you go into a shop because of the prominent "Airbrush Design" sign only to learn they stopped the service many years back and then you're stuck getting a paintbrush design, oh well.

For a while I kept diligent track of my nails and mental notes on the shop, convinced I would start a nail blog. But I never got around to it and also failed to document some of the best designs. Here are some, though not the best.

These are the "tuxedo nails" I got for BADRAP's "Tuff Love", a black tie event:

tuxedo nails

Carolyn really like these because they looked like eyelashes. Dango thought they were boring. My opinion falls somewhere in between the two and more towards indifference.

eyelash nails

These ones were pretty '80's and you can measure my poverty at the time by how grown out they are. I took this picture at the gynecologist's office.

waiting for the gyno

On the recommendation of a Office Depot clerk, I went to New York nails up Mission Street. Yes, they were by far the cheapest airbrush nails I got, but the reason is because the designs/colors are limited and the staff very inexperienced. The result is that they cut my cuticles and left me with a design that looks more like it should be on a My Little Pony's butt rather than your fingers. I went to visit Aaron afterward and complained it looked like I'd gotten "My First Nails".

chip clip

When we moved to the cottage this summer I realized I could not justify spending the money on bi or even tri-weekly visits, so I went in to the shop around the corner and had the acrylics removed. It was the most painful thing in my life, and I later found out the guy did it all wrong and actually damaged my nails quite a bit in the process. The end result is that my nails had the appearance of having "tree rings" from every acrylic fill and it has taken me until now to grow them all the way out. Even so, my one thumb nail still has one ring left to grow out, but it's getting there.

Now my nail routine is much more reasonable. I bought a few bottles of cool polish and every Monday night I sit down, watch Gossip Girl, and do my nails. Sure, it's not as extravagant, but neither is overt consumerism. Here's my version of nails done homestyle

marking holes --

Sure, they're not as fun, but definitely more economical.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Interior Decoratin' 101

So we moved into this cottage in July and proceeded to re-decorate like mad. It was just like one of those home improvement shows where every weekend was filled with ripping up floors, bringing the beige walls up to white, adding color, scouring Craigslist and junkyards, and spending more time in Ikea than I'm willing to admit. As the way of large projects normally goes, we got the place up to a certain level and then stopped, convinced the last few details could be knocked out easily in no time.

Fast forward a few months and those little details still remained unattended to, but the pressure of hosting Thanksgiving here was the fire under the pants we needed to finally get things done. I knocked out some curtains, Aaron wired the outside lights to a dimmer, and then we worked on the pretty things.

First, our centerpiece


The original idea was to get a piñata but none looked very good. A mad dash to every mexi-mart on 24th Street quickly lead us to favor a fuzzy ceramic sculpture, and I fought hard for the bull (you should see his balls). He's actually a piggy bank, but the thought of breaking him open for a few cents makes me sad, so I may just tape his hole shut (or stuff his balls in there).

Then came the big project: what to do with our silver wall. The way our house is laid out we have a slanted ceiling that leads up to one gigantic wall in the living room. We wanted it to be spectacular, so we chose to paint it silver with the idea that, at some point, we'd overlay a design of some sort. The design has morphed and changed over time, but with the deadline drawing near we had to pick something. So here it is:

thanksgiving wall mural

And here it is with the rest of our living room:

living roon wall mural

If you notice, the hunter and dog are actually me and Paco

ana poe and paco silhouette

Ze birds

cluster close up

Aaron installing (a misleading picture since I actually did most of the installation)

aaron installing

Aaron has a laser cutter at his shop so we found images (and posed, when necessary), traced the outlines in CorelDraw, got the paper, and voila! Cool wall mural for $16. And that's this lesson from Interior Decoratin' 101.