Why I Made a Hunger Strike Against the Fiscal Cliff

On January 1, 2013 because there was no resolution, I started a hunger strike against government inaction on the fiscal cliff.  Since then I have come to believe Americans need radical change in the structure of our government.

Hunger Strike Against the Fiscal Cliff 2013

Initial Motivation for the Hunger Strike: While the livelihood of Americans was being threatened, the two political parties have been more interested in political posturing than public service. I will stopped eating until the cliff was averted and urged other Americans to do the same. It was a short hunger strike as can be seen below:

Update: 1:00pm January 1st.
The Senate passed a bill, but still fasting as no agreement yet in House.

Update: 12:15 am January 2nd.
House passed a bill too; hunger strike ended as of now.


Lawrence Lessig recently wrote a book (Republic, Lost) in which he points to campaign fund raising as the primary cause for the ineffectiveness (and subtle moral corruption) of the two political parties. He is pessimistic about a solution.

I propose a reversion to  a system of multiple parties. Clearly the two party system is no longer working. Two parties are not enshrined in the Constitution. Instead an array of election laws gives us two dominant parties. We should do away with every law that favors the two parties and allow open elections with as many parties as may appear.

  • The format of ballots in the voting booth should be party neutral.
  • Public funding should be available to parties other than Democrats and Republicans.
  • Getting on listed on the ballot in each state should be easier.
  • The national conventions of the top 8 parties should get equal air time.

What we need is a true shake up of the money influenced political parties we have seen lose sight of the national interest for their own.

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What to Wear when we Flop Over the Fiscal Cliff?

It is not fashion’s way to take a back seat to politics. But it does always want to come along for the ride. So as we approach the end of the year and the edge of the cliff, the inevitable sartorial question is “what to wear?” The answer may depend on your political color. First, let’s clear up the date. The day we go over is January 1st, 2012. Mark your calendar and prepare your wardrobe.Backstepping Off the Fiscal Cliff

Something Dramatic – You are a person who sees politics as opportunity. Today congress is screwing up; the president is an idiot, you say. You want to make it plain. Wear clothes with flare. Put a scarf around your neck or a pocket square in your jacket or shirt. Put on shoes that alert and alarm. Add hairspray to poof up your head.

Something Desperate – Things have gotten bad, really bad. The government can hardly stand without crutches. Layoffs are starting and they will avalanche. Businesses that are left will flee the country. You are out for survival. Wear your survival best. A canteen – or flask – to quench your thirst. Reversible jacket. Polar fleece long johns. Ski cap. Winter boots. Warm gloves at the ready. It is going to be a long, hard winter and you’d better at least make a good start.

Something Indecent – Money comes and money goes, but indecency stays forever. Yes, it does. OK, it is time to stick-it-to politics. Look what government is doing to personal freedom in San Francisco. People just can’t walk around outside nude any more. Let alone wear sneakers and jeans to a fancy dinner. Since indecent could mean something different every place you go, try these suggestions. A quiet day at home? Wear what the delivery man would not want to see, including: go naked if necessary. Going to a post New Years’ brunch with friends? Search your closet for something that will appall them. If they are Republicans, how about a Che Guevera cap?

Something Blase – OK, fiscal cliff, shmishcal fliff, you just don’t care. It is grid lock politics as usual and if anyone expected different, they are naïve. On top of that just about everyone knows deep down that it is all about show and drama. Really the impact is completely discounted. Even Warren Buffet, a man notoriously famous for decisive moves – NOT – said he would not sell a single share. Just dress like you normally do and even tone it down a little.Dress to Jump Off Fiscal Cliff

Something Moody – Why can’t they just work it out! Is that so hard? No! Today you should not match your clothes. Show your displeasure with some jarring contrasts of colors and styles. A Victorian blouse with sleek modern slacks. A conservative suit with 1970′s platform shoes.

Something Revealing – You want to use this political impasse to tell something about yourself. It could be that, Fuck It All, you have great biceps. Or perhaps you want to show that you are actually gay. While, the country is unable to function properly there is no better time to distract. Wear something that explains who your are and why you like to be that way.

Something Alluring – When people are upset, it is a great time to comfort them. And when money is about to be taxed, often rich people are upset. Put on something sexy and go where the rich commiserate on New Years’ day. Perhaps it is a high priced restaurant with a popular bar. Or check if there’s a sale on at the local Ferrari dealer or Tiffany’s. Then move in to comfort.

Something Staid – You’ve made your bundle already and tucked it away in Swiss bonds and gold bars. Sure it sucks to see taxes go up and employment go down, but you are a trooper. Stiff upper lip, you’ll waddle through. Wear something showing you are unruffled. It is a tough time indeed, but you are unflappable. Men, try a grey pin stripe suit and polished shoes or go causal with a Lacoste shirt and loafers. For women a simple, traditional black dress and Chanel bag would be perfectly adequate.

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Post Office Storm Recovery Efforts Are Weak

It has been three weeks since the storm of Oct 30th, 2012 yet the only post office in Greenpoint, Brooklyn has remained closed. Every other store in the area reopened quickly after super storm Sandy hit. Fortunately the area did not lose electricity, even though there was some flooding.

The post office does not seem to care about the inconvenience it causes by not making an effort to reopen. They won’t sell stamps or do any window service. They have no working machines. If you call the main post office number, they say the local post office is open as usual. But of course it is not.

The reason has something to do with the basement’s having been flooded on Oct 30th from the hurricane. Apparently they lost internet equipment, but not electricity or phones. So while they will accept prestamped packages and deliver mail, they won’t do anything else.

This post office in the past usually had long lines and variable service (depending on which clerk you got), but now they have gone to a whole new level of indifference. In a way it is shocking and is the most noticeable remaining after effect of the storm in this area.

What would I suggest? Fix the internet, how can it be so hard? Bring in automated stamp selling machines. Park a stamp selling truck outside.

For That Way Hat things are back to business as usual. We buy our postage online. All four of our warehouses had no flood damage. We are fortunate.

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Darn it! I Wished I’d Worn a Hat Today

There are lots of great reasons to wear a hat — and unfortunately one is to protect your hair from a drop of an unknown liquid falling from the 53rd St E train Manhattan subway station staircase ceiling.

As I walked yesterday on 53rd from Fifth Ave to Madison on the way to enter the subway, I saw two men sitting on the sidewalk washing their feet. No kidding. And the water snaked down the side walk toward the curb. I was careful not to step on this thin stream of water, while at the same time wondering they were a couple of homeless guys where had bought a big bottle of water just attempting to stay clean in a city with few public sanitary facilities. I would be reminded of that trickle of water a few minutes later.

Over across Madison I took the escalator and then a staircase deep down into the subway, happy enough, but hatless. As I walked down the second flight of steps, splat a fat drop of liquid, wetted my hair. It got me right near the center. Bullseye! I took out a napkin from my pocket — I really do try to be prepared — to wipe what I hoped was fresh rain water or condensation or something not too noxious. But how could I know.

Then I realized the irony of my position. I sell hats, but was not wearing one. My hair would not be host to an known liquid if only I had been wearing one of my favorites. Truthfully it has been a while that I have been living dangerously. In Greenpoint I stroll over sidewalks that are covered with droppings from pigeons that roost in the store canopies. I try to step in the places where there is less white residue, hoping to avoid the possible pigeon action. So far I have dodged the pigeons, yet the subway still got me.

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How to Choose Bridal Accessories – the Headpiece, Veil & Tiara: Advice from a Master Milliner

To find out what headpieces a bride should wear, we sent ace reporter Cindi Pearce to interview extraordinary milliner Ellen Christine. Here is what Cindi found out . . . .

1st Point: Big Gown / Small Headpiece
Brides sometimes forget that they are, perhaps for the first time ever, donning a formal gown, which can swallow them up if their bridal ensemble is not proportionate. Ellen explained that the headpiece “provides balance to all that skirt.” A full on gown with a little headpiece on the head doesn’t work because the bride looks bottom heavy and not balanced.

2nd Point: Change it Up
Ellen recommends that brides wear “transformers”, which means that there are several elements to the headpiece that can be removed. Detachable Veil - Bride “Wear something during that ceremony that can be changed for the reception. The elements that are integrated into the design can come off.”

On David Tutera’s bridal show, My Fair Wedding, Ellen created a “transformer” by presenting the bride with a lace cap combined with a short veil and fascinator (a small trimmed artistic hair accessory ). Then at the reception, the bride wore only the fascinator without the lace cap and veil.

  • Here’s a Tip in case it’s a Windy Day:
  • Keep the headpiece in place with a looped braid passementerie sewn underneath for bobby pins to go through. A comb and a band that goes around the head would also work as a finish to keep the headpiece in place.

3rd Point: Veiling as Trim
Ellen Christine suggests wedding fascinators may have a cage veil, which is, technically speaking, French veiling. “It is veiling, not netting.” Veil on Side of Head “I recommend a smidgeon of French veiling in the headpiece, even to the bride who won’t wear a veil, so that the headpiece is part of the ritual and tradition of wedding ceremonies. The veil does not have to come over the face.”

4th Point: Imagination Rules
Ellen pointed out that buying a bridal headpiece online works because, a bridal headpiece will fit everyone. Yet to make an outstanding headpiece requires imagination, creativity and an the ability to think outside the box, she explained. The hat (design) comes out of the brain. She would not produce the basic: crown/ brim /flower hat for everyone.

Presently, Ellen Christine is working on a floral bridal coronet featuring beads and petals. “We make all the flowers ourselves and get to incorporate a lot of different elements (into the design.) It looks like a floral collage.” She so much enjoys hat making that what she is working on is often her favorite at the moment. Ellen also loves working with brides. “Contrary to popular opinion, the bridezilla does not exist for me.”
Cindi notes that it is “a glorious time for hat connoisseurs to access the coveted, hand constructed designs of the ingenious and imaginative milliner Ellen Christine.“ Vanity Fair magazine just stated that the hat is the ”most coveted accessory for Fall” (p. 168, Sept 2012)

5th Point: Bridal Trends Change
The current trend in bridal headpieces is swinging back to the traditional veil after passing through the nothing-on-the-head stage, the fascinator with little flowers and feathers phase and the bird cage veil stage. As noted above, Ellen Christine suggests a transformation option: a traditional veil that can be removed after the ceremony with a French bird cage veil, which can be left on for the reception. Wearing a tiara was once very popular and some brides still opt for them.

Ellen Christine predicts beads are strong this year. She does hand-beading at her studio: “We love beading! It gives an element of distinctive couture to a headpiece. . . . We do a feather and flower combination that complements but doesn’t mimic the (bridal) bouquet. Above all you do not want matchy-match. That’s so 1963.”

6th Point: Which Comes First? The Bridal Gown or The Headpiece? Answer: The Shape of the Gown.

Ellen’s non-bridal customers generally choose their headwear first and then their outfit. However, with brides, she recommends that the woman try on various bridal gowns in different silhouettes. “When the bride has made a decision on the silhouette, although she may not have picked her dress yet, then she can concentrate on picking out a headpiece. The bride needs imagination, and to know what her face can take, know how she is going to wear her hair and what accessories she will be wearing.”
When the headpiece is chosen, Ellen said this is a special moment. “As soon as you put the veil on the bride’s head it’s THE moment because she knows she’s going to get married.” And tears are often shed.

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How to Sell on Amazon: Does a Small Apparel Business Stand a Chance?

Last year That Way Hat listed some of its hats on amazon.com The process has not been easy at all, and we thought we would give a little advice to other apparel companies. We will break it down for you.

On Amazon apparel companies require special approval (as do automotive, jewelry, shoes, and luggage, among others.). And unlike with books, you can’t sell used clothing or jewelry on amazon. There may be a waiting period from when you apply to when you get reviewed. It may be long; previously amazon had banned all new apparel sellers, then later started letting them in again.

Update: for Possible Exemptions, Scan for New Section Below

It ain't as simple as it looks for small businesses - amazon & GS1

amazon.com and GS1 - See You at the Top of the Staircase

Unlike on ebay or etsy, anything that you sell on Amazon needs to have a GTIN code. That means a UPC code number or it’s international sister, an EAN code for foreign companies. They are both sold by GS1.org, a monopoly.

In case you don’t know, the UPC code is the number on the bar code attached to all those supermarket products that are scanned in at checkout. The codes are also on clothing labels. There are two ways manage this. Either find the product you want to sell already listed in amazon and sell a copy of it, or make a new listing of the product by yourself.

If you want to sell gap jeans for instance, you will surely find the exact product you have already set up. So you just copy it. But if you want to sell your own product or something not now already in amazon, you need to set the product up before selling it. To sell, you won’t actually need the printed UPC labels, just the numbers. If the product was manufactured by someone else, ask them for the UPC code. They may already have it. Also ask them for their own internal product code. You will need it too.

However if you made the product yourself or if the manufacturer has no UPC code, you will need to get one. More on this in a moment. First a word on fees.

Selling apparel on Amazon means that you will have to pay a monthly fee of $39.99. You will need to be approved and once approved, to keep your approval, you need to keep paying the fee. Therefore you need to sell enough each month to justify the $39.99 fee. That most likely means have many products. . . . or a few very hot ones. Of course you also have to pay a fee of 15% for each sale you make. But you will build that fee into the price. Now back to UPC’s.

NOTE: If you are selling other people’s products, get the bar codes from them. You don’t need to buy them yourself. And skip to the bottom of this section.

You can get a UPC code in two ways. You could either pay a high price per item to “lease” a UPC code from some professional companies that specialize in this, or you could go direct to the source: GS1.org. (I recommend this way). Since in apparel you will need to pay the “professional” $39.99 per month fee to amazon, you probably really need to get a lot of products out there.

If you want to try leasing, there are many companies that will charge you an one time or annual fee for your code. You can find them in google by searching for “buy bar codes”. I think there is risk that these companies will stop paying their renewal fees or that you will lose some brand identity if you expand your products, since the company name on the UPC code is theirs, not yours.

On amazon you will need a separate UPC code for every different color of each item you are selling. And for every size as well. So if you sell a hat in large and medium sizes and a choice of orange or pink, you will need 4 UPC codes. If you add a small size, you will need 6 UPC codes.

Gs1 offers you limited choices on how many bar codes to buy. 100, 1000 or 10,000. Oh, yeah, 100,000 too.

The fees charged by GS1 have changed in the past few years. For any company with revenues of $1 to $249,000 the rates are:

Quantity of Bar Codes

Initial Charge


Future Years Annual Charges

If the company’s starting revenue is $250,000 – $499,999, the initial price of 100 bar codes goes up to $1,575, but all the other prices stay the same.

Even if you are planning to slowly scale up the quantity of your products over several years, you might think about buying 1000. The extra 900 will cost another $815, and will also cost another $342 per year. But if you buy 100 and later decide to buy more, you won’t get any credit for your first 100 and will have to start all over by paying the initial charge again for whatever additional quantity you want. You would need to receive a second GS1 Company Prefix for your new codes; they won’t let you use the same one again, though you can keep the old one too. (I forewarned you so you are less alarmed in the future).

One thing that is quite clear is that GS1′s prices strongly favor large companies at the expense of smaller ones.

We have now reached one of the “Catch 22” moments in this process. Amazon will ask you about your UPC codes before they approve you. But you probably only want the UPC codes to get onto amazon. I am not sure what advice to give you here. You could try bluffing amazon. We had the UPC codes first, so didn’t have to.

  • Obstacle alert: Amazon wants to to already have an independent website of your own with a shopping cart before applying for approval in the apparel category.


After reading a helpful comment below — and after a due amount of procrastination — we asked Amazon by email if we could get an exemption from the UPC requirement for certain hat makers. Below is our question and their encouraging answer:


Hi – on our own website we are selling many hats from American (and some foreign) milliners who hand make their often expensive hats. They sell them in boutiques, high end department stores or directly to their individual customers.
But these milliners do not have UPC codes. Is it possible for us to list these hats on amazon? Do we need to get approval for each hat separately?


Greetings Geoffrey,

Thank you for contacting us at Amazon.com Seller support. It is my pleasure to assist you.

I have read your query and understand that you would like to list hats from American (and some foreign) milliners and do not have an UPC. We appreciate your interest in adding variety to our catalog.

Yes, you can sell these hats on Amazon.com. In this case you could request an UPC Exemption under clothing and accessories category.

When you have UPC Exemption in clothing and accessories category, it is provided in general for the whole category. Any type of hat/clothing and accessories product and any quantity of them can be listed after approval. Therefore, there is no need to get approval for each hat separately.

You can request an exemption by clicking the “Request approval” button on the UPC Exemption Help page for your desired category and filling out the form. Please allow 7 business days for your request to be processed.


In the form, please be sure to include:

-Program Information and Company & Contact Information.

-In the “Company Description” box, a list of products you are interested in offering with the specific product brands and the total number of SKUs affected.

-The reason you are requesting the UPC exemption.

Your request will be passed on to Category Management for their review. You will receive a response via e-mail shortly afterwards regarding the category approval.

Hope this information helps.

Kindly write back to us if you have further concerns regarding this. We are available 24*7 and would be more than glad to help you.

The form that is linked above has — in addition to more general questions — a few questions about your relationship to the brand you want to sell. They ask:

Are You the Brand Authority? Choices are: 1. Yes, I am the manufacturer, 2. Yes, I have a private label brand, 3. Yes, I make a unique or custom product, 4. No

Do you have a Trademark?

Do you have branded packaging?

How do you uniquely identify your products for this brand?


The next thing to think about is photos. Amazon asked us to send them ALL the photos that we would use, for all of our products, as part of the approval process. They want photos with only a solid white background and without any objects except what is being sold. The apparel is allowed to be on a model, as long as the apparel takes up most of the photo area. The size of the photo must be at least 1001 pixels on its shorter side. But it could be bigger. It can be up to 3000 pixels. If it is over 2560 pixels, then the magnifying feature works.


Lastly you will need to fill out a complex spreadsheet with many, many confusing columns. This spreadsheet is used to upload the products to amazon’s database. The spreadsheet needs to be sent to them in tab delimited format which can be done with Microsoft excel or with the free open office calc by saving as text csv.

To fill out the spreadsheet you put in all the descriptive items about products, each product on its own row. Each description in its own column. You also need to know the category the product will be listed in on amazon. One of the more tricky parts is if you have several colors of the same product. If you do, each color needs to have its own UPC code. Each size may also need its own UPC code. Then you create one row that is the “parent”. There is a column for variations and you would write Color or ColorSize, if it varies by both. (Amazon has limited colors and if your doesn’t match their terms, you need to write your color(s) and theirs: like natural in one column and beige in another, or purple & green and multicolor, so their computers will understand). Each of your variations will go on a new row, so you will have a separate row for each color and size. If you have two colors and two sizes, there will be 5 rows altogether including the parent row.

You will also need to upload all the pictures (preferably to your own server or photo host) and include the links in the spreadsheet. The pictures should be named with the UPC code and a dot and MAIN.jpg for the main photo. You could also use FRNT.jpg , BACK.jpg , RGHT.jpg , LEFT.jpg , BOTT.jpg and possibly others, for additional photos.

Here a link to an example of a csv format spreadsheet we successfully used to list hats on amazon (right click to save as, then open after download. You will need to open as tab delimited). Amazon also has a clunky online interface that allows you to make changes to your products descriptions and in stock amounts, but you would not want to use it for new listings.

UPDATE: October, 2013
Amazon is no longer supporting CSV file uploads for inventory. Hard to believe! They want the files saved as TAB delimited text files. While this is similar, it is not the same as CSV because CSV includes some formating code you don’t see.

If you have Microsoft Excel, there is no problem, you can easily save as TAB delimited. However if you use free Open Office “Calc” software, then you have trouble. You may need to buy Excel just for this feature (at least $99). Searching for solutions on how to save as TAB delimited, you will find few alternatives. If you don’t want to buy Excel, one option called Delimit, may help, but it doesn’t allow you to add rows or columns to a file.


Once you list and sell something, amazon will ask you to ship within two days, but you can change the settings to say that you need more time. They have their own shipping service, however unless you are shipping large quantities of the same small items, you should ship yourself. We ship hats – they are big and would be much too expensive to store at amazon.

Does small business stand a chance? Maybe – but if you have lots and lots of products you are better off. Amazon has no listing fees, just the $40 monthly fee and the cost of the UPC’s if you are the manufacturer. If a small business could list 500 or 1000 products, they will probably do better than if they have only 50. But amazon does offer a good additional channel for sales exposure if you can overcome the technical listing hurdles.

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Google Can’t Get You Lucky Anymore: It is Search Result Impotent

Unfortunately Google search results no longer cut it, they don’t provide the information they once did. Why? [Unless you keep your search setting to show only 10 per page -- the default -- then] they repeat the same urls over and over right down the page from result 1 to result 30.

Below are some searches from today. (Here in NYC we like to look for hats.) The problem is that google is returning the same domains over and over. It shuts out all but its top results and ads:


folding straw hat


34 in a row results from alibaba.com (after 3 ads)
Then a link to images, one link to youtube.com and
14 straight results from aliexpress.com

OK. You are thinking – folding straw hat? Probably no one in the world sells it or talks about it, except alibaba. So lets try something with a wider appeal. Google’s key word tool shows 60,500 local and 110,000 global searches for this term: sun hats.


sun hats


18 straight results from coolibar.com (after 3 ads)
Then a link to images, and 9 straight results from amazon.com

[EDIT: To make it real simple to recreate, here is the url from the google search (make sure you set the search to return 100 results on one page): https://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&q=sun+hats&oq=sun+hats ]

Perhaps there’s something tricky about sun hats? Let’s try


womens sun hats


17 straight results from amazon.com (after 3 ads)
Then 8 straight results from coolibar.com

OK, enough of hats. Try something else. Something mainstream. Sunday News (with 49,500 local searches and 135,000 global).


Sunday News


5 in a row from lancasteronline.com then
3 in a row from foxnews.com then
4 in a row from stuff.co.nz

In the headline, we said you can’t get lucky anymore from google. But perhaps the reality is you can only “get lucky”. Because the diversity in search results is gone.

EDIT — I found that if I change my settings from displaying 100 search results to displaying only 10 per page, the duplication goes away. When set at more than 10 results, the results may all be grouped all together with the first occurrence of each domain. Perhaps that is Google’s way of insisting that we refresh their ads after every 10 results.

Thanks for the feedback here (and on hackernews )

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Jewelry Directory (New) – Free Listings for Jewelry Designers, Makers and Suppliers

We are launching a new free directory of jewelry designers, jewelry makers and suppliers. It will be online. Free to list. Free to search. Free for everyone.

Each free listing will include a picture of your jewelry and information about your business, how to reach you and find your website.

And No B.S. about getting reciprocal links or approval fees, etc. We give you one and don’t ask for one back.

We are in the process of creating the directory. If you would like to be notified of when it launches — you can be among the first to try it. The listing will be permanent without expiration; you can edit or delete it at any time.

The advantages of including yourself in the directory are these:

  • You get to show off a picture of your work and a description of your company.
  • You get a free permanent link to your website from your page in our directory.
  • You get more customers, website visitors.
  • If you are in early you will benefit from our early advertising of the new directory.

Other jewelry directories cost you money – ours is free. Why are we doing this? We want to create a community of jewelry makers like we are doing for hat makers.

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Directory of Stores that Sell Hats – Free Pre-Launch Sign up Form

After the success of the Hat Makers’ Directory, we are making a new free directory of Hat Stores with physical locations. The new directory for any store that carries hats will include a map of the store’s location. There will be changes to Hat Makers Directory too so that Hat Makers will be able to show in their own listing which stores sell their hats. Then people who want to buy a particular hat maker’s hat can go to the store to try one on. The sign up below is for any store that wants to be included.

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Why Wholesale Your Hats?

Wholesaling hats was one of the many topics the four interlocutors of the Hat Meetup discussed yesterday over drinks and snacks at the first meeting of the NYC Hat Makers Meet Retailers. Other topics were more personal about what we are doing and how we got there.

The four of us enjoyed the chance for an intimate chat about our passion (millinery). The location, Pranna, turned out better than expected with a comfortable side nook in an elegant room and reasonable prices . . . as long as you followed the happy hour menu like a falcon hawk whose hood is lifted watches a sparrow. We will look forward to the next meeting on Tuesday, April 10th at 7:00pm.

Come join us!

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