Setting up a kickstarter campaign

What is kickstarter?  It’s a US site that lets people put up their projects to ask for crowdsourcing funding.  Say you need $1000 to publish a book (my situation) – people can chip in $15, 35, 50, or more, in exchange for a copy of the book and other bonuses.  Projects can range from books to movies to a product.

I have been thinking about putting together a campaign for the past year, but was thinking of Indiegogo (a similar but less popular site), as up until now, Kickstarter did not allow Canadians to raise funds.  The issue was that Kickstarter used Amazon Marketplace payment system which is only open to US residents with a US SIN Card.  Now, starting in September 2013, Canadians can use Kickstarter, with funds deposited into their bank accounts directly.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  Free money!  When you look at some campaign pages, people have raised over $200K for some projects, which is amazing!  The idea is that people will put their money into projects that they want to see appear in the market.

12 piggy-bank117574 smaller

There is a catch – if you don’t reach the goal you specify (eg. $1000), then you get $0 and the project campaign is considered a failure.  You can launch again, but all previous donations will have to be re-pledged by people.

If you have a great idea and want to set up a campaign, it’s pretty easy if you are willing to put in some blood, sweat and tears.  Also, you do need a thick skin because if you are asking for money, you have to put your face onto video and sincerely tell people what you are doing with the money and why your project is important.

What you need to do:

1. Think of a project

2. Write about why you are doing it, who you are, what you need money for

3. Make a video asking for help

4. Open a kickstarter account

5. Fill in pages of information and pledge information (if people give you money, what do they get in return?)

6. Send finished campaign pages to kickstarter staff, they have to approve the project before it becomes live

7. If it is a go, think about who you are going to beg for support via email, facebook, etc.

8. Wait a month and hope it works; pray for the kindness of strangers

Each step sounds simple, but in reality it is all fairly time consuming!

Trying to figure out how to make a video with sound, editing graphics, writing the script, etc, took me a few weeks. Writing the pages for the campaign took a few days.  I bought a video camera as I wanted better quality videos than webcams or phonecams (I wanted to make sure voice sounds were properly captured). For a professional book cover, I hired a graphic artist company to help me create one.  Prior to kickstarter opening to Canada, I was hunting down Americans to see if I could find a silent partner with a SIN number.

Anyhow, I am in the process of putting together for my non-fiction book, “How to Make a Munchkin” and will see if I can launch a campaign in September then!  Will be bugging you soon!


Freezing your fat away! Sounds awesome!

I was super excited today when I saw an ad which claimed that a service was available to “freeze away your fat and sculpt a body you want with no exercise or surgery”!  Intrigued, I visited the website, which describes a technique called “cool-sculpting.”  According to them, no exercise, needles, surgery or nozzles is required because this breakthrough technology will cool fat cells in certain regions to reduce bulk.  It uses a technique called “cryolipolysis” which freezes fat cells to kill them off and then the body’s natural immune system will gather off the cell remnants, leading to an overall decrease of fat cell content in the body.  During treatment, clients can read or watch tv as a vacuum sucks onto the part of the body they want to treat and the controlled cooling is applied.  It was discovered by doctors at Harvard so it must work!
freezing fat

Is this really safe?  According to a 2009 paper, researchers studied this technology for reducing fat layers and there were pretty good results found in both human and animals when cryoloipolysis was done over a period of two to four months.  In one treatment session, the top fat layer thickness was reduced from 20-80% depending on the individual.  Some side effects seen were skin redness, bruising and temporary numbness lasting for about a week.

Ready for the ‘it’s too good to be true part?’  The same researchers also concluded that this treatment works best with people who don’t have many discrete bulges in the first place.  So this treatment is only for people who aren’t that fat!

According to Elle Magazine, if you are already in good shape (within 15 to 25 percent of your target weight) but have bits of fat you can’t get rid of with diet and exercise, then this procedure if something you can try.  Cryolipolysis is $750 to $2,000 per area while the more invasive liposuction can cost $5,000 to $35,000.

If you want a DIY method, this webpage features instructions on just putting bags of ice on your tummy for a few hours a day instead.

There’s no way out of it folks, looks like diet and exercise is still the best way to lose weight!

The Price of Changing Your Sex

The other day at dinner I commented out of anger due to pain from time of the month that I wanted to be a man.  My male dinner companion quipped, “It’s not too late!  You can do it anytime; there’s lots of surgery options!”  I was a bit taken back by this as usually my Viking just groans and nods whenever I complain like this.  Anyhow, I decided to look into it and see what is involved.

The official term is sex change or gender reassignment surgery when one decides to change their gender.  There are usually 2 reasons for this: 1) babies are born with intersex deformities, so their sex is decided by the parents and surgery is done or 2) people believe that they are physically a different sex mentally and emotionally.  There is also the unofficial reason #3 of people being exploited for the sex business, but all the sites I found were for people who want to do it on their own.  Stats are difficult to come by as many surgeries are done in private clinics. estimates that annually in the US 100-500 people have such surgeries and the number worldwide is estimated to be two to five times larger. outlines a number of steps for either female to male or male to female surgeries required.  Before some of these surgeries, extensive planning is required, such as scheduling multiple doctor appointments; dealing with family, friends, work; insurance; legal documents; taking time for recovery from surgery, etc. offers tons of advice and financial calculator for those serious about change.

Male to Female (MTF) Surgeries

Breast Augmentation
One Stage MTF SRS/GRS – vaginoplasty
Orchiectomy -removal of the testicles
Tracheal Shave – Adam’s apple shaving

Female to Male (FTM) Surgeries
Ring or Simple Metoidioplasty – constructing the penis
Testicle Implants
Top Surgery – Chest reconstructive surgery

Male to Female (MTF)

Other than surgery, according to someone named “Clones Don’t Have 200k Pts” on Yahoo answers who made the transition from man to woman, there are a number of other things needed.  Their transition cost about $80,000 USD:

  • Therapy. Sessions run $100-150/hr.  At least a couple dozen sessions.
  • Facial hair removal. Done with electrolysis, laser or a combination of both. Electrolysis can cost $50-80/hr and between 150-300 hours is required to be hair free.
  • Body hair removal. Many people need laser treatment to help reduce excess body hair still left after starting hormones.
  • Endocrinologist. This doctor evaluates health, prescribes hormones, monitors progress and orders labwork to check hormone levels and liver function. Average cost per visit (with labwork): $500.
  • New Clothes. Cost depends on person’s fashion sense.
  • Legal fees for legal name change. New Birth certificate. New passport. Costs vary.
  • Facial surgery. Facial Feminization Surgery, the most expensive part of transition. Usually $20,000-45,000.
  • Breast augmentation. About $6-8,000.
  • Sex reassignment surgery. Costs vary,  North America ($18,000-20,000) or overseas ($8,000-15,000).

Historically, one of the first recorded surgeries took place in the US in 1962.  For those that aren’t queasy, it is amazing what kind of female organs can be created – medical diagrams and pictures are on this vaginoplasty site.

Female to Male (FTM) states that  female to male reassignment surgery can exceed $50,000 USD while male to female reassignment is $7,000 to $24,000 USD.  I’m guessing that female to male is more expensive due to removal and reconstruction of so many things (taking out uterus, making penis, creating broader torso, etc).  Also, female plastic surgery in general is more common than male plastic surgery, so there is most likely better competitive pricing.  Other items cost relatively the same (therapy, legal changes) and overall estimates I’ve read about online roughly total $80,000 USD as well, same as male to female.  Medical pictures of these surgeries are outlined in a scientific paper published in Seminars in Plastic Surgery journal and surgery recovery time from penis reconstruction is stated to be about 2.5 weeks.  This is only recovery time for one surgery, for multiple surgeries, times for recovery would vary.

And Then?

For the rest of their lives, people who change gender will need to continue taking hormones to counteract their “natural” ones.  In an article published in Archives of sexual behavior, researchers studied 32 male-to-female and 23 female-to-male post surgery and found that female-to-males seem to have better sex lives.  Generally, people’s expectations were met at an emotional and social level, but only 80% reported improvement of their sexuality.

What if you regret surgery?

Apparently it’s possible to go back…just do it all over again!  A British millionaire named Sam Hashimi became Samantha Kane and then became Charles Kane.  Dailymail UK interviewed him and apparently he is happier as a man now.  Granted, going back and forth isn’t very good for the body as there is probably some consequence such as desensitization to certain areas due to nerve damage, etc.  There are a number of other stories of regret online as well in which people become miserable for the rest of their lives as they suffered from bad surgeries or just changed their mind, but couldn’t go backwards for some reason.

Sam Hashimi  Samantha Kane   Charles Kane

Gender is a complicated issue and there are no easy solutions if one feels like they are suppose to be another sex.  For those who actually do take all these steps to fulfill their dream of becoming a man or woman, they are super brave!  Kudos to them!  I hope they find happiness after all these challenging steps.  In the future, would these surgeries become easier?  It’s hard to say, cutting into flesh seems painful regardless.

When I was joking with my Viking that if I get a penis it would be bigger than his, he nodded with raised Spock eyebrows and said, “Of course, dear”.  Hm, I guess this is what he means when he claims that I test/torture him everyday!  Anyhow, I hope you learned something new from this random post!

The Cell Phone Accessories Market Is Worth How Many Billions?!!! Women Spend How Many Trillions?!

Last weekend, my visiting mother-in-law wanted to go to Pacific Mall, the largest Chinese mall in Canada that is open 365 days a year.  It is set up like a Hong Kong shopping mall, with multiple tiny shops, street names such as “Hollywood Ave” and is a chaotic place in general.  I haven’t been there in over a year as it is quite far from where I live.

Anyhow, over the last year, perhaps due to crackdown of police on too many illegal English dvds – the mall has changed from being a giant dvd store to a giant cell phone/tablet case store.  There were over a dozen stores all carrying cases for any phone or tablet you can think of.  The TIFF goddess wanted another leather case for her Iphone and was appalled to see many fake Bottega weave cases.  It took a lot of my own restraint to not break down and buy a Hello Kitty case for my phone, everything looked adorable!  In the end I ordered an “official” Samsung case online as it looked more grownup than the Hello Kitty or Totoro case I had been considering…I have to remember that I’m an old woman, professional, etc…

This got me wondering about how much this market is worth.  Research firm ABI claims that in 2012, the market for cell phone accessories are worth $36 billion USD with $20 billion USD attributed to smart phones.  By 2017, smart phone accessories will grow to $38 billion USD in revenue, both other type of phone accessories will decline to $12 billion USD.  The average smart phone consumer will spend $56.18 USD on accessories for their phone, while other phone owners will spend $28.17 USD.

So are the margins that great for all the thousands of plastic cases hanging around Pacific Mall?  The margins range from 25%-50% according to online retailer  Considering the Samsung case which I bought online for $8 with free shipping from China; at Pacific Mall it was about $25 –  it was most likely worth $4 at wholesale.  More stats are available on this page about mobile phone use and consumers, such as “By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people!”

Meanwhile in my random internet searches, I discovered that as consumers, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined—more than twice as big!   Harvard Business review states that they control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending globally, which could increase to$28 trillion USD in the next five years.  This great article dissects women into different lifestyle categories and concludes that there are many categories for business to lure women, especially in financial services.  Also, in Japan, the men don’t help their wives with chores.  Looking at the categories of women, at moment I believe I’m in the fast tracker category, but of course, it looks like over time things could change.  Just saying…because I’m a pessimist…so we should save our $$ ladies for the rainy days!

Which category are you in, ladies?


Starvings Brains on Our Planet! Alas, Poor Post-Docs!

Dining with former colleagues who work in Neuroscience research tonight made me think about my past dream of becoming a mad scientist and holding the world hostage for wealth.  When I was a child, I had seen too many Nintendo cartoons (Super Mario or Captain N: The Game Master?  Can’t remember…) with “Mother Brain” among other villains and thought that it would be great to become a mad scientist.  After all, they always had the goal of trying to take over the world and had great hair along with super duper technology (except for Mother Brain).


 I did give research a shot, working in labs that studied the plant arabidopsis thaliana (the model plant) and different types of cancers which grew in children.  The work was very interesting, but long and tedious.  The cycle was obvious – you have to do experiments, write the paper, beg for grants for money for more experiments and the circle is infinite.  All my bosses were females that were married w/o children or divorced.  They were tremendously dedicated to their work and experts in specific subjects.  There were no plots to take over the world or become billionaires.  Doing the work to expand mankind’s knowledge was their goal and a very altruistic one.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that affects about 1-2% of the population.  During my time in the labs, I found myself sleeping on the floor of the lab and becoming very upset when experiments didn’t work out.  As my OCD got worse, I decided to not go into research, but to try clinical work instead – which is how I ended up in Nuclear Medicine.  Here’s a video and quiz on OCD to see if you have it too!

Years later, speaking with friends who made it through the PhD programs alive and found post-doc jobs; I was shocked to find out what their salaries were.  They all accepted that low salaries were a way of life and those that wanted more stable income, left research for administration roles.  Speaking to one hospital administrator, she said that the highest paid post doc there made $65,000/year.  As my Viking husband dislikes anecdotal stories, here is some data to prove my point.

In the US, NIH Minimum Funding FY14 & FY13 for people with 7 or more years of research experience maxed out at $54,180 USD.  This was already an increase from 2012’s $39,264 USD.  Typically what happens is that the principal investigator (PI or the boss), applies for grants and a certain amount goes towards salaries for post docs.  If they are nice and smart, they would also get some money from the institute’s foundation or split some other grants to increase a post doc’s salary.  In Canada, the funding agency NSERC grants $40,000 CDN per year for two years for post docs.

Two blogs out there: 27 and a PhD  and Ever On and On are two blogs written by people living their dream in the science community.  They speak frankly about their choices and the reality of doing research in the US/Canada.  Why does this problem exist you ask?  Well, there are so many faculty positions available at the end of the day and many PhDs competing for them.

Not all hope is lost – they are forming union groups and organizations to increase their quality of life and wages.  But if you are a post doc, I suspect you are already looking at this list of the best places to work in the world as listed in a 2013 Scientist article.  When I told my about friend this list, he said that I should help him look for a list of where to get easy faculty positions!  Did a quick search, didn’t find anything to help him…


To add to the madness, you can only be a post doc (with no benefits) for so many years…then you are suppose to get a real job.  Alas, poor post docs!

It's the end of human society – women breadwinners!

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of articles which talk about the positive and negative rise of women in the workforce.  A recent Economist article, “The Natural Order”, mentioned that census bureau data in the US showed that four in ten American children live in household in which their mother is the primary breadwinner.  In typical American fashion, this sparked outrage from everyone’s favorite channel, Fox News and a panel of four distraught men went on about the impact on the poor children and how this is tearing marriages apart.  One of the guests, RedState editor Erick Erickson, stated that this trend is defying biology:

“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology — when you look at the natural world — the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role.”

Fox News blogger Suzanne Venker writes on a similar note to her fellow colleagues in her post, the “War on Men” –  that men don’t want to get married because “women are not women” anymore.  They are angry, bitter creatures who won’t let men take care of them.  The solution of course is: “Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.”

So basically women should let men dominate them in work/life or the end of human society is in sight!

Another perspective is shown in the Globe and Mail’s article “Female breadwinners: Good income, bad outcome?” which talks about men’s problems with females earning more.  Basically as women become more educated and earn more, if they are married to men who are less educated and earn less, the marriage tends to end in divorce due to the frail man-ego.   As well, the  Economist did an article in 2011, The flight from marriage, which had some interesting statistics on women in Asia marrying later and the percentage of them not marrying increasing over the years.  The reasoning behind this shift in Asian society is due to women becoming more educated, wanting a man with higher education than themselves and having a job increases a woman’s autonomy.  She has more options which include not having a husband as she can support herself.

econ marriage asia

The guru that I often listen to is my 98 year old grandmother.  While growing up, she was not allowed to have an education and was put into an arranged marriage at the old maid age of 18.  Throughout my life she often told me that the only way for me to be happy in the future was to obtain a good education and job, so that I can support myself and not depend on men.  Being trapped in a bad marriage is worse off than not being married.  She was way smarter than my grandfather I think, so she was not that happy.  I wonder what choices she would have made if she had options.  Maybe I wouldn’t exist…alas…

These debates will continue until women and men are considered “equal” by general society – but then again, this may never happen due to gender differences.  Often, I have been jealous that my husband has never had monthly menstrual pains or have to imagine the horrors of child birth.  Complaining about this in business class made me seem like a dominant man-woman as my male classmates nodded nervously in agreement.

Another issue in these debates is that there is never a thought to consequences.  So if a women has children and is dependent on her husband, what happens if he dies/divorces her/leaves, etc?  This is a similar issue with pro-life arguments – people want all children to live, but no one wants to take care of them.  Do people practice what they preach?  Usually no!

My alternative solution to all this is to have all future generation of children created in artificial cabbage patch wombs, have robots do housework and parents put on the same schedule for “balance” family time at the end of the day.  Then one day, all the future children go berserk due to some DNA split gone wrong, blow up the planet Earth and the debate ends…hm…we can make a movie from this!