Read It: The First Phone Call From Heaven

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The First Phone Call From Heaven

Mitch Albom

In Coldwater, Michigan, seven people have claimed to be receiving phone calls from their departed loved ones giving them reassuring messages about the the after life and giving them words of encouragement to go on living their lives. It is penned to be one of the greatest miracles that has happened in their town or perhaps the world. Is it real or is it a hoax? While everyone in town believes to have witnessed a rare miracle in town, Sully Harding, a grieving husband fresh out from jail for a crime he did not commit, thinks so otherwise. He believes that these miracles are just a fraud played by someone in town and tries to prove to his son (and more to himself) that miracles are not true and these phone calls from heaven are just man-made.

  1. The book has an interesting premise. Just like any other novel by Mitch Albom, it stirs one’s curiosity and touches one’s faith on bigger things that wait us in the after life. Mostly, it is an easy read to inspire you about the value of life and keeping faith.
  2. More than just an inspirational story. This time, the author introduces a character,Sully Harding, who is not a firm believer, someone who defies the cult and tries to prove that there is no such thing as a miracle. I think Sully is an interesting character because he embodies people who are ‘to see it to believe’ types.
  3. It would have been a better story if it were not for the multiple POVs (point of view) from the different characters. The shifting of POVs was too much that at times it gets confusing which thoughts I was reading about. There were no cues when the POV is about to shift and you get surprised that the setting has now shifted to another character’s environment. You will only realize this when the character’s name is mentioned.
  4. There were seven phone call receivers, and out of seven, only three were developed throughout the story (Jack, Katherine and Tess) with a few snippets about Elias and Doreen. The others? Their names were only mentioned but no background story at all. If the story were to revolve around the phone call receivers, it would have been great to be consistent with it. Why concentrate on three? You have others as well. I looks to me that they were neglected. Unimportant in the development of the story.
  5. The story was dragging. The supposed progress of events doesn’t take you up, it stops and remains on a plateau. It was disappointing how the climax became anticlimactic (at least to me). There was just too much nothingness going on and you just wanted everything to end.
  6. The only saving grace I believe was how Sully uncovered everything. I was actually rooting that he prove nothing of his hunch only to discover otherwise.

Read It: Thirteen Reasons Why

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Thirteen Reasons Why

Jay Asher

Clay Jensen returned from school one afternoon to find a mysterious package for him without a return address. He opens it and finds cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who committed suicide earlier in the month.

On those tapes, Hannah explains that the receiver of the tapes were connected to the reasons why she decided to end her life. And if the receiver listens through it all, he will know why and how he is connected in her demise.

My sister recommended that I read this book. I found its premise interesting. Recording a tape of what was supposed to be your suicide letter and sending it out to people who affected your decision was  exciting and scary at the same time but as it turns out, I may have set my expectations too high. I feel disappointed.

To stay true to the title, I also made my list of 13 reasons why the book was good or bad:

  1. The plot was good and exciting. Having to find out the reason behind a suicide through listening in a series of cassette tapes is something unique now that we live in the digital age. Cassette tapes are now obsolete and mentioning it excites us who listened to our favorite bands’ albums recorded in these little things.
  2. It is not everyday you read a kind of story detailing the events that lead to one’s decision to end her life. The idea is new (at least to me) and tickles one’s curiosity.
  3. I liked Clay Jensen. He sounded very sincere about the way he felt about Hannah. He also felt very troubled why he was included in the list of people why she committed suicide. I felt sorry for him because he liked Hannah despite all the negative things he heard about her and lost her even before he had the chance to confess.
  4. There are a lot of drama going on in highschool. It’s when you start to find yourself. School is not always about the good stuff. You encounter a lot of people with personalities and perspectives very different from you. You don’t have to hang with the people you think you don’t get along well with but you have to find the time to look for people who complements your personality well which I think Hannah failed to do.
  5. After reading through it all, I found the reasons why Hannah Baker committed suicide shallow. I didn’t really grasp the reason why. Yes, she was the new kid in school so she felt left out and experienced bullying  in a subtle form. If you ask me, there are far more worse bullying cases than what she had experienced.
  6. If you think about it, she was like trying to take revenge on the people who have hurt her feelings by blaming them for her death. But the thing is, she never stepped up against them, she let them push her around. If she did not like what they were doing or if she believes that these people have hurt her, she should have told them and maybe then people will treat her differently.
  7. I think it was unfair to put Mr. Porter on the list. He was their guidance councilor and was just trying to help Hannah out. The thing is, he does not know what she was depressed about. She gave him very little details but did not disclose it all and then walked out on him even before they even got started addressing her issues. So, how was he supposed to help her then?
  8. I hate Hannah. She was putting the blame on other people. She did not really try to look for solutions to her problems. She did not address them, she just let everything ruin her life.
  9. In the end, she was this girl who has severe trust issues. When she transferred to a new neighborhood, it seems like she was running away from her past life and trying to start on a new slate but things went out of hand. Maybe there are more reasons why she felt depressed and more unsettling events that happened than what she experienced in her new school.
  10. I think Hannah was very selfish. She was always thinking about herself how others are trying to ruin her life. She was very pessimistic about everything. She does not seem to see the good in others but dwell on the negative things she observes on other people.
  11. Hannah kept pointing out the cause and effect of other people’s actions against her. This is true for everyone of us. There will be cause and effects in every little thing we do to ourselves and to the people around us. I think this is one fact in the story which will remind us to be wary of our actions. We do not know the state of other people’s mind and we have to be sensitive of our actions and words.
  12. The book glamorizes suicide. Although the author tries to point that what we do to others have effects on their perceptions,feelings,whatever, it does not change the fact that Hannah Baker took her life. Hannah talks about why she took her life because someone wronged her gives an impression or an idea to already troubled kids that they can take revenge on people who hurt them by killing themselves and let the wrong doers live with guilt for the rest of their lives instead of facing their problems and asking for help.
  13. Suicide is not the quickest answer to your problems. It should never be the go-to option. Ever.

Read It: The Kafka Society

 

The Kafka Society

The Kafka Society

Ron Felber

Publisher:  Barricade Books

Publication Date:  May 2014

Price:  $16.95/ trade paperback original

ISBN:  978-1569805107

After all the ruckus on Jack Madson’s life, he starts a new life as a private investigator to try make up for every wrong he has done in the past. But after a night out, he finds himself in bed with Amber Starr, a stripper, and no memory of what happened the night before. As he was trying to start his day, he finds an unidentifiable human head in the trunk of his car and now, he is considered as a suspect. He tries to uncover the supposed murder but then an old friend, Tom Dougherty, now a head in FBi asks for his help to try shake off Havana Spice, a porn queen, who is blackmailing him after an affair. Thinking of helping an old friend, Jack now also pursues Havana to try stop her from blackmailing Tom. That’s when it hits Jack, that this is no ordinary murders, blackmail and whatnot. Everything is a tangled web of mischief done by the Kafka Society and it is up to him to try expose everything before it is too late.

I found the book exciting since I’m the type to read more to uncover more when mystery is involved in the plot. I generally enjoyed the book and would recommend this to those who love reading urban thrillers.

  1. I like the fact that Jack here is still presented as imperfect as how he was on The Man of Indeterminate Value. Yes, he is trying to live a new life away from everything he once had but that did not change his persona from who he was before. You can still see Jack as Jack and not as Jack the new man which is what I mostly read on other works about main characters turning over a new leaf.
  2. Reading this made me think about friendship. That you never really know who your friends are deep inside despite the fact that you have known them for a long time which is scary.
  3. The plot was very engaging. There was always a lead which makes you think again and again that he’s got it only to find out that things just got more complicated but you read anyway.
  4. The only down side of the book were the first and last chapters. I guess the author was trying to do the same style he did with the previous book which was Jack retelling the story of what had happened in the past how many days. I think that was unnecessary for this book since you almost forget the fact that Jack was just retelling the story only to be pulled back on the last chapter when he finished recounting the story to his lawyer. Tom was shot, Jeremiah survived, and he was released from prison – I think that would be enough for a good ending. Well, just my opinion though.

Thank you very much to Ms. Felicia for suggesting this book.

The Interior Designer’s Guide to Pricing, Estimating and Budgeting

The Interior Designer's Guide to Pricing, Estimating, and Budgeting

The Interior Designer’s Guide to Pricing, Estimating and Budgeting

Theo Stephan Williams

I find this book very interesting to read especially for budding designers trying to start up their own office. It provides practical tips on rate computation and how to handle difficulties within the office and client-related misunderstandings like an experienced professional. Although the book proves helpful, I don’t think  this fully applies for interior designers here in the Philippines. We have different standard rates and local mentality when it comes to designing is not as receptive compared to other countries.

Thinking about the local design industry, I’m sharing the following pointers and my two cents’ worth which I think can prove useful.

3 Reasons Your Business Can Fail

  1. You don’t have enough sales - This is true for all firms. An office or a business can fail miserably when it fails to generate enough sales and income. Although this may not prove as much for freelance designers who don’t maintain an office.
  2. You are not charging enough for your services - I think most designers are guilty about this one. Let’s face it, most of us really don’t charge enough for our services because:
    1. We are afraid of not getting enough projects and we’d rather have a project with minimal profit than no profit at all.
    2. Most clients are either friends, relatives or some friend of a friend or some friend of a relative or some distant relative, you get the point. When clients talk about connections and who knows who, they become very upfront asking for a big slash in the buck and you can’t do anything about it but nod in agreement without actually thinking how much work you’re supposed to do.
  3. You are mismanaging budgets - One project or business fails when one does not know how to handle money very well.

Rates and Fees

Interior designers follow standard rates which are provided by the governing organization. Although rates are standardized, most designers don’t follow it but rather use it as a guideline to compute which bracket they think their project belongs to and work their rate from there. Most of the time, the extent of work to be done for the project, how much time it will take you to deliver and how much the project is actually worth (objectively) determines how much you can price your rate so it is always best to think of all the aspects of a project first before actually dropping the bomb on the client.

Some strong points to consider:

  • No one formula is perfect for every project
  • Pricing for a project is determined by your flexibility and knowledge of different approaches to pricing
  • Don’t make the mistake of starting out too cheap to get the work
  • Never tell clients they are your first customer but a slightly lower ‘introductory rate’ may be implemented until you have achieved a few successes
  • Always ask for the budget and determine whether or not you can make it work
  • If the budget is not shared, make sure not to sell yourself short
  • In the long run, clients will respect you more if your rates are objective and if you feel good enough about them to quote as being your own.
  • Make sure that you are not too hasty to lower your rates
  • Never apologize for your increase in rates, simply justify them factually
  • Charging different rates for different clients is not unethical
  • Think about what’s in it for your firm when establishing rates for different clients
  • Work now get paid later – NOT

More importantly, show them that you’re worth it and try to reinvent yourself everytime you get the opportunity. Keep things fresh and unique.

Client’s Budget

It is imperative for us to ask if the client has a budget in mind because it will aid in the consideration of design and materials we will deliver for a project. But if you think the budget is too small:

  • Learn how to say ‘no thank you’. If you want to show that you are serious about your rates and services and that you place high value for the quality of work to be delivered
  • Another option is to say yes because the project offers you a great potential to show your versatility as a designer.
  • If you say yes to a budget you think is not high enough, set parameters with your client upfront. Discuss with the client the extent of your services and how the budget may affect the design or else that you may look for alternatives.

Other things to include on meetings: Set-up a payment plan with your client that you feel comfortable with.

Estimates

An estimate acts as blueprint for a successful project so you have to make sure to provide your client with a detailed and itemized estimate. It has to be as simple and easy to understand as possible and always try to sit down with your client and review each item on the list. This way, they will know where their budget is going. They will definitely ask questions and may try to eliminate items on the list so be sure that you are ready to justify the given prices and why it is necessary in the design. Explaining everything usually wins a client’s trust because they will feel that you have nothing to hide from them and have the best intentions.

  • A  signed estimate actually doubles as a legal contract and requires you client to pay for your services and/or products outlined within.
  • Find a format that caters to your own organizational style and always cover all the relevant details.
  • Always discuss the project process with your clients. They should know how you work and give them a schedule when they are due to expect a call, update or meeting. Make them feel more involved in the project other than  just signing approval sheets.

There are additional variables usually overlooked by designers when it comes to pricing and estimates:

  1. Time needed for researching about the project
  2. Postage, freight and delivery costs – Delivery cost for each vendor/supplier varies so make sure you know the standard cost of delivery fee from their warehouse to the project site.
  3. Client meeting time – Always keep in mind that meetings with clients should be computed as billable hours so make sure that you think ahead how often you should meet with the client and how long a meeting could last.
  4. Mobile phone charges – We live in a time where we are reachable 24/7 anywhere we are and since text messaging or calling are adamant in the profession, make sure you include this when considering your estimates.
  5. Travel expenses – We cannot help but go travelling in our line of work whether going to the project site or sourcing for materials on stores wherever. Travel expenses is a must so make sure to take in mind to include this when preparing your estimate.
  6. Design Revision Allowances – If you are notorious for changing your mind and coming up with new ideas after the estimate has been approved, include this in your estimate and explain to your client the creative process behind this. Since I think most clients will raise a brow on this additional allowance, I suggest you can peg this one as a refundable fee when unused.

Budgeting

As designers, we are also given an opportunity to control the budget allocation of a project. We are responsible in managing the cash flow of the entire project. We have to be responsible in handling budgets and always keep in mind that we have to take double care because we are spending money that is not ours, this is money entrusted to us so spend it wisely.

  • Be cost-conscious – Always tabulate and account for all expenditures of a project everytime you spend it. This way, you always have an update of the latest expenses and be able to submit an expense report to a client if there will be a need.
  • Never use a budget given for ProjectX to ProjectY – A lot of designers repeateadly do this very big mistake. Using a budget for a project for another is a big taboo. If you ran out of spending budget for a project, be honest and discuss with your client the situation. Never assume that you can continue working on a project using money from another with the thought that ClientX will pay you in X days. Never assume.

Other Things I Consider Important

  • Forms are important – Have a template form for everything. All transactions should be detailed on print. This way, it will be easier to trace errors and have a signed proof that these transactions were approved. Putting everything on paper shows your client, vendors and contractors that you mean business and that make sure everything is recorded and done according to agreement.
  • Always review you proposals/letters/estimates/forms before sending them out.
  • Develop a system that works for you – Try to develop a system of how you go about a project, from proposals to actual implementation, and stick to it.
  • Never design a job without a schedule or deadline – You willl not be able to accomplish anything when you don’t set deadlines for yourself.
  • Get help when you need to – Do what you know best and ask people who specialize in tasks that you do not know.
  • Don’t forget you contractors, suppliers and vendors – Pay your bills within the terms noted on invoices, send them a letter of appreciation for exceptional services, refer them to other clients and treat them with respect. This way, you become their important client and you can somehow make sure that they will always give you their best services. It is important that you also build partnerships with them.
  • Be good to yourself and your staff – Give them incentives for great project outputs, delivering quality tasks before a deadline and other small things you see they do great in. It makes them more motivated to better their work and keep it up.

Why we charge what we do

We charge what we do as interior designers because we are the experts. Being experts requires us to look at ourselves as much more than artists of visual communication.

We look at the big picture. We don’t just design for the sake of aesthetic appeal,  we design in careful consideration with the client’s needs, wants and budget with proper knowledge of how to build it and why it is what it is.

 

Measuring and Drawing Plans On-site Using Apps

It has always been a tiring work for architects and designers to take actual measurements on site. You have to draw and measure each wall and orifice including heights and whatnots. As glamorous as ‘designing’ sounds, it was never a piece of cake and we may need all the aid we can get even if it includes throwing in our smart phone or tablet along the ride.

RoomScan

RoomScan is a free app for ioS users. It requires iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. RoomScan can generate floor plans by tapping your phone on every wall. It’s as easy as walking around the room. It’s a good way to make a basic outline of the room although I don’t think it can include openings such as doors and windows.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Karfy4Q9VZA

MagicPlan

MagicPlan on the other hand is a free app for Android 4.+ users. It measures and draws rooms using the camera on your handheld device. You take photos of the room and denote the corners which serves as markers for the app to calculate the distances and actual layout. You can edit the plan to add doors and windows or rotate it according to the correct  position. As much as the app is free, you have to register using your email address and it sends you a watermarked pdf file unless you pay the present fee then you can also get the plan in DXF format which you can load directly on CAD or SKP.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMv82x96oK8

It is very exciting to know that these helpful apps are available on the market although I’m still trying to look for more helpful apps I can share on next posts. Although these are a big help in lessening the burden of having to draw and measure, measurements are still not 100% accurate but close enough to use as basis.

Have you tried these apps on your phone/tablet? Let me know what you think about them or if you have any other useful plan measuring apps to suggest. :)

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