Decorative Flower
Her Realm, Personal website and blog of Cole
Dec 17

I haven’t blogged in over a month

At least, here. I’ve been blogging in all the other places though. Oops.

This last month has been measured in broken heartbeats, if I’m honest.

It’s also been measured in doors opened to the UPS and FedEx men. The shopping. I’m having such a good financial month, after the annual frustration with the state. I’ve spent a bit of money, purchased some awesome gifts, and yet I have a bit of money left. I am considering a tattoo. A sugar-skull inspired motif on my left thigh. What do you think?

These last few days have consisted of me binging on TED talks about psychology, sex and technology, among other things. This was inspired, in part, by starting and finishing Best Sex Writing 2012 in a course of hours. I forgot how much I like to be educated!

Goliath and his box under the tree

Goliath and his box under the tree

Much of my time has been spent with my sister, who likes to escape her home and invade mine. Her latest thing is asking for homework help that could easily be done over the phone just so she can come over and play video games. She did “help” me put up my Christmas tree, though. It’s blue and silver this year. I didn’t think about how dark blue lights are in comparison to white ones, however. It’s nearly impossible to take a decenter picture!

I’ll end this with a rant. About “Merry Christmas.” And how a million of my Facebook friends — just kidding, I don’t have that many — have posted about how that’s the correct thing to say. And how it’s stupid to be offended by saying it. And they’ll say it regardless.

Yes, I will smile and say “You, too” to anyone who takes the time to wish me a Merry this or a Happy that, even if I’ve never heard of it. Have a good freakin’ Festivus, y’all. But, seriously. There’s a perfectly easy-to-understand reason why Merry Christmas might offend some people.

And it’s not because you celebrate it. It’s because you celebrate it and you assume everyone else also celebrates it. But they don’t. Some of them celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Yule or something else altogether. Some people celebrate no winter holidays, believe it or not.

Despite the fact that so many people proclaim the separation of church and state, the United States is a Christian nation. Winter break includes Christmas but not typically any of the days of Hanukkah, let alone all eight of them. Easter is another holiday that closes down the government and schools. People who are not Christian understand the significance of these holidays. You probably know little about Hanukkah or any other Jewish holiday.

Your normal isn’t everyone else’s default. It’s dangerous and limiting to think that. It’s wonderful to learn what you don’t know — and then to make that something you do know, however.

If you celebrate Christmas, then I hope it’s a good one. If you don’t, I hope other people do not offend you. Either way, I hope you’re not a dick.


Nov 13

Facebook App’s New Internal Browser Sucks!

Facebook's App Settings for external browser

Facebook’s App Settings for external browser

Over the past several days, I updated Facebook on my phone. One of the biggest changes — yet one that I heard little about beforehand — is that Facebook now opens links in the app rather than in your browser. I suspect the idea behind this is to protect users from malicious files and perhaps even scams. However, it also prevents us from using all the features we expect in a modern browser.

This includes private browsing mode and all the options available with a long-click, such as opening a link in a new tab. Although you can readily share any link back to a Facebook post or even a message, opening a link in the app “browser” doesn’t work with a smartphone’s native sharing menu, so sending via text, Bluetooth or email takes a few more clicks.

Plus, links to the Google Play store and YouTube ignore the default settings in my phone. Thanks, Facebook! You can “Save” things to Facebook, but it would be much nicer to access our favorites, especially if you sync browser data across multiple devices.

Perhaps what frustrates me the most is that you’re not able to browse history. I don’t even use favorites all that much because I use the browser on my phone — and tablet — for casual surfing. This morning, I clicked a link in Facebook, wanted to visit it later and promptly lost it because I didn’t “Save” it and there’s no history or any way to return to pages viewed in the internal browser. Arrgh!

Fortunately, you can disable this “feature,” and it’s not difficult. In your App Settings for Facebook, you’ll see an option to open links in an “External” browser. That is, Safari, Firefox, Chrome or whatever browser you prefer on your smartphone or tablet.

I’d love to remove this feature entirely. I’m sure it’s using up precious space on my phone, and it’s definitely causing lag!


Nov 06

Breaking the (Fashion) Laws

Over the past few years, I’ve expanded my wardrobe. I was once a (black) t-shirts and jeans girl all the way, but I met someone who dressed rather nicely, and this impressed upon me a desire to do the same. So I began to add things to my closet:

  • Sweaters
  • Cardigans
  • Skater skirts
  • Leggings
  • Colors
  • Patterns and stripes
  • Fashion boots
  • Fashion scarves

Now, maybe this sounds silly, but I’ve made a conscious decision to try new styles over the past few years. I’m not really following trends; although, new trends provide me with more opportunities to try new things.

This process hasn’t necessarily been easy, of course. I’m a rather finicky person to begin with, but I feel like there’s something more to be discussed. I am not thin. Call me curvy. Plus sized. Overweight. Fat, even. It’s okay. These are just descriptors that I’m fine with. I am generally proportionate; although, I carry some extra weight in my tummy. I know this.

I also know that there seem to be fashion rules imposed on women who aren’t thin specifically. There’s this idea that a skinny person can wear whatever they want, but a person who’s not-so-skinny has to dress in every way to hide the fact. Therefore, we’re allow — nay, required — to wear certain things, including dark colors and vertical stripes. And the ever-so-present empire waist top!

Plus sized? Let me introduce you to the one color you're allowed to wear!

Plus sized? Let me introduce you to the one color you’re allowed to wear!

And we’d best stay away from horizontal stripes, bold colors, busy patterns, form-fitting clothing and a whole host of other things. Why? Because they’ll made us look wide, at least, wider than all-black outfits consisting solely of vertical stripes. Listen, there’s nothing wrong with emphasizing or de-emphasizing your favorite and least favored body parts. But, and this is a but that’s bigger than my own butt, it’s bullshit to say that someone shouldn’t wear something just because it makes them look “wide.”

I mean..

WHO CARES?

There are worse things. Like getting ebola or whatever the current health scare is at the time that you read this.

What if I fucking like stripes? (I do!) Or patterns? (Not so much). What if I feel great in leggings? (Hallelujah!) or want to show off my ass? (Yes, please). What if my favorite color doesn’t look all that great with my skin tone or makes me look like the blueberry girl from Willy Wonka? (Oops?)

What if I give zero fucks about whether or not my ankles and boobs and hips are balanced? And what if I just want to leave the house in an oversized sweater because I just want to be comfortable and not constrained?

And if I don’t want to wear heels because we have snow for six months during the year or it’s okay to admit that I’m short and curvy? Oh freakin’ well!

Seriously.

It’s a little ridiculous when the “rules” start saying that someone shouldn’t wear something because of their size or shape. And it’s silly for people to police themselves and relegate themselves to a boring wardrobe because of what the media is trying to sell them — which will change with the seasons, by the way!

I am so sick of hearing women tell me how they can’t wear horizontal stripes. I’ve got at least four tops that feature stripes, and you know what? I love them. They’re comfortable. They make me feel good, and that sort of confidence does a lot more than looking a specific way because the magazines or some silly blog tells you to.

Ladies, put on your favorite bra! Wear the hell out of those stripes! Don those fleece leggings that feel like Heaven and strut your stuff.

That is all.


Oct 05

In Which Cole Writes about Minimum Wage, Fast Food and Military Benefits

Every time I see this ridiculous meme floating around on Facebook in the response that we might possibly consider raising the minimum to $15 per hour for fast food workers or, you know, anyone who works hard, I just seethe. Here is it in all its glory:

Okay, rant – For those fast food employees striking for $15 an hour, let’s do some math. At $15 an hour Johnny Fry-Boy would make $31,200 annually. An E1 in the military makes $18,378. An E5 with 8 years of service only makes $35,067 annually. Hmmmmmm….. So you’re telling me, Sally McBurgerflipper, that you deserve as much as those kids getting shot at, deploying for months in hostile environments, and putting their collective asses on the line every day protecting your unskilled butt!

I spent a few years as a military wife, and while the base pay might not compare at first glance with the annual salary that, but there are a lot of perks that are awarded to service members and, by extension, their families. Here’s just a short list of perks I experienced as a military wife. Military.com has a whole list of benefits, too.

military benefits

This list doesn’t included bonuses for signing up, hazard pay during deployments and tons of other perks that I personally didn’t experience or am not familiar with.

What does this mean? That the $18,000 per year made by an E3 in any branch of the military is basically for non-essentials. There will never be a case in which a military member/family living on base will be without a home or utilities. Every public building on base has a phone for public use, which means you may not even need your own phone!

The salary will certainly go to some bills, including a vehicle, gas and insurance (which service members will likely get a discount on as a thanks for service). You’ll pay out of pocket for clothing and household items, which you can purchase on base without sales poker and blackjack online tax, but this comes nowhere near $18,000 per year. You could send your child to private school, waste hundreds on video games â?? Gamestop should consider building stores directly outside base gates! â?? or always purchase a brand-new vehicle.

Am I saying that military members shouldn’t make more than someone who works at McDonalds? Not really. The problem with the type of thinking that has motivated this post is the idea that fast food workers shouldn’t make $15 an hour because that’s the type of pay someone who works harder earns. The â??harderâ? job might be military or factory work or something such as being a doctor, which required years of expensive schooling. These things might all require more diligence or risk or education or experience. I’m not arguing that.

But if you’re only making $15 hourly at a risky or difficult job, you should also be paid more!

You are being fucked over just as much as the person flipping your burgers or delivering your pizzas. You are also suffering at the hands of a system that hasn’t ensured the minimum wage, and by extension, all other wages keep up with the cost of living. You’re just being fucked over a little less, which makes it manageable.

It might suddenly become more obvious if you’re making the same — or even less — as someone whom you deem has an easier job. But you should be fighting along with people who want to raise the minimum wage. It’s the right thing to do as a compassionate human being, and it will only help you in the long run, too.

There’s only one reason to oppose fair wages: because it hurts those who are wealthy and powerful. Those people are wealthy and powerful enough. Chances are, you’re not one of those people if you’re reading this. So stop acting like one of them. You have nothing in common. They will do nothing for you while continuing to take from you. You are better than that.


Sep 13

Blogging Comes with Hard Lessons

No, really. I’ve learned some awesome things about myself and my community and computers and the Internet and the world at large from being an active blogger. I’ve also learned some things that are frustrating, disheartening and just plain shocking. For example.

Pictofigo Frustration

This is pretty much me on a daily basis!

People Don’t Understand the Internet

Every week, I get at least one comment on Reviews by Cole from someone who thinks I am the company. Not just that I am somehow affiliated but that I can send them products or perform an exchange or send them a manual or what-have-you. Now, this just perplexes me. Chances are, they performed a search for a specific product and wound up on my site because the manufacturer doesn’t offer information about the specific product. I understand how people get to my site.

What I don’t understand is how they could possibly think that they are anywhere else than a product review blog where I talk about my personal experiences. My site looks like a blog. It reads like a blog. It quacks like a blog. It’s a blog, folks!

Language Is Important

I don’t just mean representing yourself in a professional way. I mean that almost any time I’ve worked with a company whose representative’s first language wasn’t English, it turned out terrible. My not-politically-correct opinion is that a lot of companies that cheaply manufacture items overseas view bloggers as a quick way to get some links with minimal cost on their end because they’re making crap.

It doesn’t matter if these are quality posts or long-term relationships. It sure as hell doesn’t matter if the product works or not. And sometimes I am not better than them. I don’t say “No” even when every sign indicates this is going to be painful from beginning to end or that it’s just not worth it.

Giveaways Are a Chance to Win

..and even if you’re the winner, you shouldn’t count your chickens before your eggs hatch. I recently posted on Facebook on how I had been contacted by a winner of my DX Mall giveaway. Sadly, this company fell into the last category. They’re a bottom-feeder type, and not only were my communications with them downright painful because of the language barrier, but it took them over a week to consider crediting my winner’s accounts. One winner went back and forth with them before weeks before she was finally told that the site shut down.

That’s all folks. I’m a middle man. There’s nothing I can do short of paying for those prizes out of my own pocket, which I just can’t do. I’ve been using a disclaimed about how I am not responsible for prize fulfillment for some time. Basically, this means I can send off your information to my contact and nag them a couple times, but you’re not actually the winner until the prize is in your hands.

It’s a Numbers Game

This might be the lesson that’s been the most difficult for me to come to terms with. While things like user engagement and comments mean a lot to me, it’s stuff like visits and Facebook “Likes” that turn the heads of PR folks and businesses who consider working with me. I know this isn’t always the case, but unless you don’t have the masses visiting your site, you’re likely going to miss out on opportunities that might otherwise be perfect for you.

Another thing is that someone who takes good (or sometimes numerous!) pictures will get more opportunities than I do because I tend to focus on text. I’ve literally left reviews not knowing what items were or how well they worked. I’ve seen bloggers highlighted on social media and forums because of their great photos that literally did nothing to convince me that the brand or product was worth thinking about twice.

I’ve seen this time and again, and it’s tempting to feel anger, but I know it’s not use it. I’ll keep building and getting better. I’ll be grateful for what I qualify for, and that’s included some awesome stuff. But I won’t be quiet when you write a terrible review because you’re hurting more than just yourself.

Also, when it comes to those giveaways? Another numbers game. Consider the amount of work you’re putting in and how much you really need or want that item because I can guarantee a lot of entrants are wasting their time and effort!

I sound more jaded than I feel on a daily basis in this post, but nothing everything about blogging is pretty.