Keywords In Book Titles I Will Not Read

There are some keywords in book titles that just drive me away without any further reading. If these words appear in a title, subtitle or blurb, I WILL walk away. Also, the genre is in there, too. I only read Science Fiction, military history and occasionally non-fiction. Genres that I will not read include Fantasy and the newest contender, FanFic (Fan Fiction). UGH.

Magic
Sorcerer
Crystal
Mage
Dragon

(Note: I had to remove ‘Knight‘ because, Jack Campbell)

The picture on the book will also keep the book from being read. Some of those images are:

Witches/Mages/long flowing robes
Horses/unicorns/dragons
Castles
Glowing crystals/balls

(Note: I had to remove ‘sword‘ because, Michael R. Hicks)

This list is fluid and will change with time. But it’s a start…

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“Entry Level” Science Fiction

There’s an article I read today on IO9.com that, after reading, kind of got me thinking about my own reading. Since I had only read or seen movies of a very few of the titles mentioned in the article, I was wondering just what KIND of reader I am. I know I’ve read very damn few of those titles and it seemed to me that they were NOT talking to me. And the point of the article was ‘Entry Level Sci-Fi’. I’ve been reading Sci-Fi for decades and it seemed to me that I was getting defensive about not being knowledgeable about most of the titles in that article.

I know I’m a Sci-Fi reader. I read damn few other genres. I read military history a bit and a rare non-fiction book every now and again, but my day-to-day reading is almost totally Sci-Fi. Saying that, what I’m wondering is do the ‘learned’ readers/authors out there consider me an UNSOPHISTICATED reader? A low-class reader, possibly. Not that I care – I don’t. But I would, just for my own edification, like to know where I stand. Good or bad not an issue.

I ask this because I read a LOT of ‘Space Opera’ Sci-Fi. It’s not what I myself consider ‘Literary Sci-Fi’. What exactly do I consider ‘Literary Sci-Fi’? MY definition of it is more toward the Sci-Fi that Ursula K. Le Guin writes. In my view, her work is very smart and political. It’s a tad dense for me. (I’m nowhere near as smart as people might hopefully imagine me to be.) I don’t read for learning or ‘expanding my horizons’ or perceptions. I read to be entertained, very simply. I’m not sophisticated nor do I want to be. I don’t WANT to have to ‘think’ my way through a book. Take me by the hand (or eye as the case may be) and lead through the story. I’ll believe damn near everything you tell me and be happy in it. Unless I’m not, in which case I won’t read your stuff again. Pretty simple.

So all the authors listed in that article for the most part are what I call ‘Literary Sci-Fi authors’. The ones I have read, such as Arthur C. Clark, Orson Scott Card, John Scalzi and Mike Resnick, write (wrote) a very approachable, very entertaining book, therefore their inclusion in the article. But, OH MY GAWD, the other authors ‘appear’ to me to be a bit too ‘fussy’, if you can grok my point here. They’re writing literature that just happens to have a Sci-Fi angle. I don’t don’t know how to articulate the point any better.

So I picture myself as ‘non-fussy’ and ‘simplistic’. I really don’t know how I am pictured by others. But I’m curious. And THAT is why I ask..

I’m going to point a few ‘Indie Authors’ and close friends whose opinions I value to this post and see what they say.. I’m VERY curious as to their point of view. I think this discussion is neither over or short-lived.. I hope it goes on for a while. I’m interested in the ‘demographics’ of this topic.

:-)

MDF

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I Wrote An Email Today…

… to Boundless Technologies. You see, I punched one of their terminals off my desk at work and it survived. So I HAD to tell them about it. I’m silly that way… Here’s the Email:

As a Telco employee for 35+ years, I’ve been using so-called ‘dumb’ terminals for quite a while.

Yesterday, after a particularly unnerving day, I had occasion to punch an ADDS 4000/260 off of my desk and onto the floor – roughly and with great prejudice, damaging some knuckles in the process.

I am here to tell you that that machine not only survived, but it works as if NOTHING had happened!

AWE. SOME.

So, even with my advanced years and complete lack of common sense, your equipment is some of the most rugged and dependable I have worked with.

I have promised the terminal that actions such as mine are not tolerated and will never happen again. It will remain safe and sound until it retires itself.

This is my promise.

In all seriousness, THANK YOU for building such robust and rugged equipment.

Regards,

Mike Fisher

So there you have it. I was wrong. Mea Culpa. But I made it funny. I hope. -blush-

For those of you that are interested, here’s the spec sheet on the terminal in question:

TERMINAL

OMG! They ANSWERED! Here’s their response:

Michael
Thank you for the kudos! If you saw what they go through to get to our customers, you would know that that was just a love tap it experienced from you. So I guess a replacement terminal is out of the question? LOL. Thank you for the laugh.

Brenda Fultz
Sales Manager, Z-AXIS, Inc
1916 St Rte 96
Phelps, NY 14532
P: 315-548-6114

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DirecTV’s Final Response!

And, of course, I get blown off. Expected, but not satisfying.

===================================================

Subject
—————————————————————
Spam: Spam: Cost Increases…

Discussion Thread
—————————————————————
Response By Email (David C (ID U5621)) (01/09/2014 07:32 AM)
Dear Mike Fisher,

Thanks for writing. My name is David and I am a Resolution Specialist for DIRECTV and your email has been forwarded to me for review. I understand your concerns regarding the increased cost of your DIRECTV services and your request to receive the Pac-12 Network. I’m also very sorry to hear that you have not been satisfied with our customer service, equipment, and programming services. I assure you that we appreciate and value your business with us and we certainly don’t want to lose you as our customer.

In response to your concern, it’s never an easy decision to raise prices, but we believe that it is necessary due to the increasing costs we pay to carry the channels you see. This year, the programming costs we pay to the owners of the channels we carry will increase by about 8 percent but we have adjusted the prices our customers pay by an average of 3.7 percent – less than half of that amount. We empathize with customers in this economy and we are doing our best to control costs. Despite the price increase DIRECTV service continues to be an outstanding value. While our prices are changing, we have continued to invest in new programming and innovative services in order to provide you the best possible entertainment experience. We assure you that we will continue to invest in the
quality of your viewing experience by bringing you more new features and more new programming. Please visit us at www.DIRECTV.com/2014pricing for further details.

Regarding your request to receive the Pac-12 Network, the Pacific 12 Conference created its own sports channel in August 2012 but sold off its most popular games to other networks already available to all DIRECTV customers. Even though it is unwilling to invest its best games into its own channel, the conference has still established a high price for Pac-12 Networks and refuses to compromise. If Pac-12 really wants to offer unprecedented access, it will simply free students, alumnae and all of the other most loyal supporters to get all of these games they deserve. DIRECTV has always been willing to add Pac-12 Network for these same fans and their families who want it as long as we’re not forcing everyone else to pay for it too. Pac-12 schools have a tradition of terrific competition
and fair play, so we can’t understand why the conference won’t allow anyone to simply choose. For more information, please visit us at www.DIRECTVPromise.com.

Mike Fisher, we understand that this is an important topic for you and appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Therefore I have forwarded your comments regarding this experience to DIRECTV Management for review. While this will not have an immediate impact, it will provide us with critical information when reviewing our processes and taking the necessary steps to make them more effective. Rest assured your voice is being heard and many of the changes we make are a direct result of the comments and suggestions we receive from our customers.

Thanks again for writing, Mike Fisher. I appreciate the opportunity to personally address your concerns regarding the increased cost of your DIRECTV services and your request to receive the Pac-12 Network.

Sincerely,

David C (ID U5621)
DIRECTV Resolution Specialist

=============================================

And there we have it, I suppose. The same old, same old.

MDF

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DirecTV RESPONDS! And Labels My Email ‘SPAM’

An Email was waiting for me when I got home from work today:

============================================================

Subject
—————————————————————
Spam: Spam: Cost Increases…

Discussion Thread
—————————————————————
Response By Email (Marcelo C. – 100139003) (01/08/2014 11:16 AM)
Dear Mr. Fisher,

Thank you for writing.

My name is Marc, Customer Service Representative at the DIRECTV Email Department. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to respond to your email today.

I understand that you have multiple concerns about your service. I would like to help resolve these issues immediately, so I have forwarded your email to a highly trained specialist for special handling.

We respect your time and want to assure you that we are working diligently to get back to you as soon as we can. While this may take some time our specialists generally respond within 24 hours

Mr. Fisher, we appreciate your choice of DIRECTV as your service provider and we hope to continue serving you for more years to come.

Sincerely,

Marc C.
Employee ID 100139003
DIRECTV Customer Service
===========================================================

So I await the ‘highly trained specialist’ that is giving my complaints ‘special handling’ … Let’s watch.

MDF

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A Letter to DirecTV’s Ellen Filipiak, Senior Vice President of Customer Care

Ellen’s letter to me, in part:
===============================================
Dear MICHAEL,

We’d like to thank you for your loyalty and we truly appreciate your
business. We’re excited about the New Year and our ongoing
commitment to deliver additional value to your DIRECTV(R) service as we
launch more HD channels, introduce new technologies and continue to
bring you award-winning service. DIRECTV works continuously to deliver maximum
choice and value that’s indicative of our reputation as the must-have premium
video service.

We are writing to let you know about an upcoming price increase for
2014. This is a letter we never like to write because, if it were up to us,
our choice would be never to increase your bill.

Each year television networks continue to increase the programming fees
they charge DIRECTV for the right to broadcast their movies, shows and
sporting events to you. As a result, DIRECTV must adjust the price of our
programming packages so we can continue to deliver these channels. In 2014, the
programming fees we pay to the owners of these television channels will increase
about 8%, but DIRECTV is adjusting the average prices you pay by only 3.7% – less than
half of that amount.

Rising programming costs affect all TV providers, not just DIRECTV. But,
because we work hard to keep these costs under control, we have held our
price increases on average below others in the TV industry. New prices take
effect February 6, 2014, and will appear on billing statements issued on or after that
date. For more details, visit directv.com/billinfo2014.

===============================================

Thank you for contacting me, Ellen.

I understand cost increases and that those same cost increases must be passed on to the customer. However, what I DON’T understand is the crappy service that never seems to be fixed:

1) Off shored and barely comprehensible customer service representatives.

2) DVRs that need constant and irritating reboots just to maintain functionality.

3) A COMPLETE and utterly ridiculous move away from TiVo, and when it was brought back, the software and usability was so completely crippled, I, as a TiVo FAN, was so disgusted I ignored the offering.

4) A total lack of concern for customers in the Western United States in that we could NOT get the Pac-12 Network due to your ridiculous spat over the ‘cost of the network’? Really? So ALL your competitors COULD afford the network (Charter? REALLY? Wave, Warner, etc.) and the ‘Best and Richest’ Satellite Provider couldn’t or wouldn’t? Grow up.

5) Simple-minded ‘Surveys’ that asked about the dropping of NFL Sunday Ticket. Even a high school aged person could see through that idiotic ‘survey’ to see the bottom line:

A) Would you leave DirecTV if DirecTV eliminated NFL Sunday Ticket? (YES)
B) The rest of the ‘survey’ was easily dismissed and forgotten.

In short, Ellen, I’m a disgruntled customer that’s truly getting tired of your ‘issues’ and leaning further and further toward quitting DirecTV.

Keep at it, and you might yet succeed in driving your remaining customers away.

In COMPLETE sincerity,

Mike Fisher

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2013 Was The Year Of The Indie Author

Here is a (partial) list of the (mostly) Indie Authors I read this year:

Steve Umstead
Neal Asher
Jonathon Fletcher
Michael K. Rose
Michael G. Thomas
Kevin McLaughlin
Jason Gurley
Erik Wecks
David Weber
Stephen Ames Berry
Michael R. Hicks
Philip Rowe
Ed Benjamin
Ryk Brown
Hugh Howey
Jim Graham
Joshua Dalzelle
Edward W. Robertson
Peter Cawdron
Jason Andrew Bond
Dawson C. Walton
T.R. Harris
Paul Phipps
Nathan Lowell
Doug Rickaway
Zack Umstead
B. V. Larson
Graham Sharp Paul
Mike Shepherd
Ian Douglas
Evan Currie
John Scalzi
Jack Campbell
William Hertling
Andy Weir
Marshall S. Thomas
David Simpson
Steven L. Kent
Keith Edwards

I have become friends, I hope, with a few of them (Steve, Michael, Michael, Jason, Erik to name a few) and have written or Tweeted to a LOT of the others. ALL of them that I’ve read I enjoyed their books. It’s been a crazy, crazy year and next year only looks to get crazier in the Indie book business. More on that in a later post.

In the meantime, GO BUY AND READ THESE PEOPLE – THEY ARE ALL AMAZING.

Regards,

MDF

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The Clock Saga Continues

After we left our clock to be restored by the folks at Covenant Clock Restoration, I bought two books that were hailed in the clock collecting world as ‘The Bibles’ of the clocks we have. You can see them here:

Sessions Clocks: Sessions Clocks

New Haven Clocks: New Haven Clocks

Notice they’re written by the same guy, namely Tran Duy Ly. Just Google that guy. EVERYBODY thinks he’s the cats pajamas.

So, I buy his books and guess what? My two clocks aren’t in the books. Rats. So, being the pushy type I am, I write the guy an Email and ask him why that would be. He responds (quickly!) and asks me to send him some pictures. So I do. And his response, regarding the Sessions clock, is this:

Hello Mike,

After looking at your photos I can tell you that your clock is a late model which explains why it is not shown in the book. They did not always get all of the late models in their catalog. You do however, have a very nice example of your clock. The label is in very good condition which is a big bonus. Make sure you take very good care of the clock and be sure the label does not get damaged. It proves you have an original clock and not a “grandpa” clock (doctored up) which is very important for resale value.

If you don’t mind, take some nice pictures of the complete clock and send them to me so I can include them in the future when I do an updated price guide.

Tran Duy Ly

So, according to the clock guru, I don’t have an older clock, more of a later model. Maybe the ’50′s as opposed to ’20′s. Oh, well, it’s still a beautiful clock and I love it all the same. I can’t wait to see it after the restoration!

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The Antique Clock

When we visited family in January up in Washington, I bought a mantle clock at a junk shop in Quilcene, Wa.

The clock was missing pieces and the finish was pretty trashed.

Turns out I FINALLY hit a good buy.

I was curious as to what it would take to get that bad boy running. Not make it PERFECT – make it run. We took it to a place in Hillsboro called Covenant Clock Restoration. Not a really fancy place, when we finally found it. In fact, it looked like any small, mom and pop watch repair store. It didn’t even SAY ‘Covenant’ anywhere on the building…

We set the clock on the counter and they guy across the counter actually LIT UP! He looks at me and says, “Where did you get this?” I told him I spent $20 bucks on it on a flyer at a junk shop. He said, “You’ve got yourself a VERY NICE CLOCK. Almost RARE.”

Of course I then lit up as I finally got something worth having. HUGE SMILE.

The clock is a Sessions Model 799, circa 1910 (1900-1920). Pre-Art Deco for sure.

This is much like the one we got. The face is a little different, but the shape, color and insides are almost identical.

http://www.greenfieldstore.com/clocks/sessions975.html

The price for a TOTAL RESTORATION is $575, which we jumped on. It will look like the day it was made.

For your money you get:

A COMPLETE disassembly of the clock. Down to the last (tiny) nut and bolt. Cleaning and reassembly. Complete refinish of the wood exterior. Adjust all springs, gongs and a speed check/adjust.

Finally, we get a photo album of the ENTIRE PROCESS, with both before and after pictures of each part and process.

$575 + $22 purchase price = a clock worth $800 to $1000 on the secondary market.

Nice!

When we go pick it up (10-12 weeks), we’ve also been invited to bring in our other clock that doesn’t work (the one that’s been in my family since the ’40s (allegedly) for them to look at. Since it’s already been ‘repaired’ by someone, they think it’ll just need a cleaning and oiling (No charge) while we wait.

DOUBLE NICE!

This guy also told us it probably came out here via somebodies old Model T or train. He said there were still covered wagons making the trip, but I’m kinda leery on that one. He also gave us the history of clocks (the Church, of course) and what all the chimes mean, etc. A VERY INTERESTING MAN.

So, there you go. Interesting, huh?

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An Open Letter To PayPal

Yesterday, PayPal suspended my account because I had “Reached My Spending Limit”. I was confused, as I was spending MY money, not PayPal’s. It seems after you’ve used PayPal to pay for $10,000 worth of stuff, they then require you to “Verify Your Account” by, of two choices, giving them your personal checking account info, including checking account number and the routing info! I shit you not. Well, as most of you would guess, I’m not sitting still for this one. I’m NOT giving them my checking account info. Nor am I going to apply for a PayPal credit card. So here is an Email from PayPal Frank explaining what they’ll do for me after I barked at them on Twitter:

On 11/14/2012 3:02 PM, askpaypal@paypal.com wrote:
>
> Dear Michael Fisher,
>
> Thank you for contacting @AskPayPal via Twitter. If you did not initiate this contact, please let us know immediately by replying to this email.
>
> I appreciate the opportunity to assist you via twitter today. I understand you are concerned about the unverified sending limit on your PayPal account and the requirements to become Verified with PayPal. I’m glad you contacted us for assistance.
>
> First, I want to let you know that a temporary override has been enabled to lift the sending limit on your PayPal account so that you can send any payments that need to be sent at this time. After 24 hours, the override will expire and the account will need to become Verified to continue sending payments.
>
> There are a few different options for becoming Verified with PayPal. One option is to add and confirm a bank account. Another option is to apply and be approved for a PayPal Extras MasterCard. Yet another option is to apply and use Bill Me Later for a transaction on your PayPal account.
>
> Becoming Verified with PayPal is a requirement for some features including lifting the lifetime sending limit on a PayPal account. Typically this limit is set to $10,000 USD. Becoming Verified with PayPal let’s other PayPal community members and sellers know that PayPal has received information to Verify your identity. A bank is one of the options because we piggy back off the fact that almost all banks complete identity verification when you open an account. They may collect information like your date of birth and Social Security Number. With a credit or debit card, there’s no way for PayPal to know what level of identity verification has been completed. It can be very easy to obtain a debit card or gift card without any identity verification required at all. For this reason, verification is permitted with a bank account or by obtaining a credit account with PayPal which automatically initiates our own identity verification process. It is not required to use our credit products. The only requirement is to have an active one linked with the PayPal account.
>
> I know some customers may use a separate bank account just for online purchases if they do not feel comfortable linking their personal bank account to PayPal. PayPal was created to protect customer information so no matter what option you choose, your information is safe.
>
> I hope this email was helpful to clarify the verification process. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any further questions or concerns. I’m happy to help!
>
> Sincerely,
>
> Frank
>
> PayPal Twitter Support
>
> PayPal, an eBay Company
>
> Copyright © 1999-2012 PayPal. All rights reserved.

And MY RESPONSE:

Frank,

Thanks for the response. It was the WRONG response, but a response, nonetheless.

Frank, let me tell you my point of view on this. It’s simple, really.

I created my PayPal account and LINKED it to my Capitol One credit card. When I applied for the Capitol One credit card, Capitol One verified me up one side and down the other. Capitol One verified my name, address, Social Security Number, Employment and length thereof, previous addresses, home and cell phone numbers AND CREDIT CHECK. Capitol One seemingly liked what they saw as they have allowed me the pleasure of using their credit card for years now. Not only that, but I have a ridiculous credit limit of $30,000. Imagine that – they have never met me, yet they’ll fork over 30 LARGE if I ask it. That tells me that I am a great guy and a very good credit risk. AND they give me travel miles. I’ve flown to places for FREE, I’ve done so much business with them. Nice!

I recently bought a Chevrolet Tahoe. When the credit guy at the dealership ran my SSN, he walked back out and said he’s rarely seen a credit score that high; he said I could go out to the lot and pick TWO cars to buy. He was joking, of course, but he was making a point – I’m a trustworthy guy and a very good credit risk.

I have a PayPal account. Over the years, I’ve spent, what? TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS through PayPal and PayPal have NEVER ONCE had an issue getting the money owed it. NOT ONCE. Now, however, I’m confronted with a specious and arbitrary ‘Spending Limit’. Am I not trustworthy? Have I misled PayPal in ANY regard as to my trustworthiness? Have I ever caused PayPal to not receive the funds due it? NO.

Now PayPal wants my personal checking account info. PayPal says that will ‘verify’ my identity. I guess $10,000 and years of quietly and happily using PayPal weren’t enough. NOW PayPal wants the info to my checking account. My checking account, UNLIKE MY CREDIT CARD, is not fraud-protected. THAT’S WHY I USE A CREDIT CARD AS A DEBIT CARD WILL NOT BE FRAUD PROTECTED. So, in the not unlikely instance that PayPal’s servers are hacked and my checking account info ends up on some IRC hackers channel, that money is GONE. Tough noogies. Unlike my checking/debit account, my credit card IS FRAUD PROTECTED. I won’t lose a DIME. And neither would PayPal. “But our servers are hacker-proof and encrypted!”, says PayPal. Really? Ask all the myriad companys that have has their systems hacked and customer information lost. As I choose to limit my exposure to theft, I have one credit card. And so does PayPal – My Capitol One Credit Card. PAYPAL HAS USED IT FOR YEARS WITHOUT COMPLAINT. Until now.

I don’t want a PayPal credit card. One is enough and I’m very happy with it. And so was PayPal.

I don’t want another checking account. Aint nobody got time for that. The one I do have works just fine.

In fact, PayPal is the ONLY company to insist on linking to my personal checking account. And while PayPal says that I can have a PayPal Credit Card as another method of ‘verification’, that just sounds like out-and-out extortion, don’t you think? GIVE US YOUR CHECKING ACCOUNT INFO OR SIGN UP FOR A PAYPAL CREDIT CARD – EITHER/OR. UNTIL SUCH TIME, YOU CANNOT USE PAYPAL AGAIN.

Oh, REALLY? Think again.

Here’s MY ultimatum: Remove the ‘spending limit’ on my PayPal account and we go on as we have for years, quite happily, OR PAYPAL LOSES ME AS A CUSTOMER.

I know one customer isn’t going to impact PayPal, but a guy has to do what a guy has to do. And I’m SURE I’m not the only one out there that feels this way.

Regards,

Mike Fisher

[UPDATE: 11/15/2012] PayPal Frank has PERMANENTLY lifted the ‘Sending Limit’ on my account! We are, as before, able to use PayPal WITHOUT ‘linking’ to my checking account! All’s well that ends well.]

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