Archive for category Commentary

“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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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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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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California vs. Arizona

California:

The Arnold is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A
coyote jumps out, bites the Governor and attacks his dog.

1. The Arnold starts to intervene but reflects upon the movie “Bambi” and
then realizes he should stop; the coyote is only doing what is natural.

2. He calls animal control. Animal Control captures coyote and bills the
State $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.

3. He calls a veterinarian. The vet collects the dead dog and bills the
State $200 testing it for diseases.

4. The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for
diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.

5. The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game
conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is free of dangerous animals.

6. The Arnold spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a “coyote
awareness” program for residents of the area.

7. The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat
rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.

8. The Governor’s security agent is fired for not stopping the attack
somehow and for letting the Governor attempt to intervene.

9. Additional cost to State of California: $75,000 to hire and train a new
security agent with additional special training with regards to the nature
of coyotes.

10. PETA protests the coyote’s relocation and files suit against the State.

Arizona:

The Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona is jogging with her dog along a nature
trail. A coyote jumps out and attacks her dog.

1. She shoots the coyote with her State-issued pistol and keeps
jogging. The Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.

2. The buzzards eat the dead coyote.

And that’s why California is broke.

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So, you get your political talking points from a cartoon, eh?

Here’s the cartoon that got me thinking: CLICK ME

I guess the point was that religion is bad; Atheism is good.

First, let me point out that this is typical of anybody wanting to make a point about THEIR beliefs being better than another person beliefs. They compare apples and oranges and completely bury you in statistics and rankings. They could just as well have said Norway is better than California because they get more snow. Hell, go all out and say that the USA is the most evil country in the world because we have more rednecks than Norway. Yep, we ARE evil!

But more to the point, it is easy to spout your stats as fact. Very easy. So, that being said, I went and checked a few of the ‘facts’ in this ‘cartoon’ out. It’s not as cut and dry as they would have you believe.

Point #1. Atheism. The cartoon suggests 70% of Norway identifies as Atheist. The closest I could find was that Norway ranks #4 world-wide as a percentage of population (Zuckerman, 2005). No biggy, I’m atheist and really don’t care if anybody else is.

Point #2. Number 1 in Global Peace Index. True. (www.visionofhumanity.org)

Point #3. Second Highest GDP per capita. Well, the CIA Fact Book ranks Norway as #5 as of 2009. Close, but no cigar.

Point #4. Unemployment rate below 2%. False. The same CIA Fact Book ranks Norway #23, with an unemployment rate of 3.2%. I didn’t make the claim, the cartoon author did.

Point #5. Average Hourly wages ‘among the world’s highest’. I’ll give them a ‘True’ on this one. The one source I looked at rated them #1.

Point #6. Ranked first in the world in life expectancy at birth, literacy, education and standard of living. Okay, true on this one if you use the United Nations Human Development Index. However, I looked at the CIA Fact Book and saw Norway as #23 in Life Expectancy at birth. In literacy, Norway came in tied for 21st. But, here the facts are a little misleading as the PERCENTAGE of literacy was 99%. The TOP 46 countries ALL came in at 99% or higher. Standard of living. #1 again, according to the UN’s HDI.

MY point? Comparing all of these rankings to be attributed to Norway’s high Atheism rate? A non-sequitur. We might as easily said Norway is so high in these areas because they don’t speak Chinese. Or maybe they don’t have a lot of cows. Maybe it’s because Norway’s population is similar to Alabama’s. WHATEVER.

I’m just getting more and more worn out on these ‘Progressives’ beating the Anti-Religious drum to prove their points. I have some VERY spiritual people in my family that wouldn’t hurt a fly AND are as opposed to ‘Right-wing’ politics as anybody. The two are NOT inclusive!

Get a life, people. At least argue your points rationally, instead of through a cartoon.

,

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Is Your Browser Too Old For The MODERN Internet?

Some people are STILL using Internet Explorer 6. It is possibly the worst example of software out there. It has more holes than a beer can near a Redneck campground. It allows more viruses to infect people’s computers than actually installing them yourself. And it’s programmed horribly. If you still use IE6, you should be caned.

Here’s an example of how terrible it is. If you use IE6, click the link. If you don’t, thank you for being modern enough to update every now and then.

BROWSER TEST FILE

Enjoy!

MDF

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A Letter To Macmillan Part Deux

Amazon has caved to Macmillan’s demands to RAISE E-book prices to consumers. So, what’s the bottom line? Macmillan makes oodles of money from books, whether they are E-book or paper. Amazon gets 30% of each book sold. You and I get to pay whatever Macmillan wants for each E-book. Why all the screaming?

Before this row, Amazon PAID MACMILLAN FULL WHOLESALE PRICE PER BOOK. Amazon sold it to you and me AT A LOSS TO AMAZON, NOT Macmillan. Macmillan objected because ‘..it cheapened it’s books..’ WTF? Macmillan makes every penny it wanted to, Amazon lost money per book but made up for it other purchases book buyers made while at Amazon and you and I got E-books for less than we would have paid for the paper version. A Win-Win in my ‘book’, yes? Evidently not. Macmillan bent Amazon over to ram home the fact that the 800-lb. gorilla of publishing wanted TOTAL CONTROL. And Macmillan isn’t the only publisher squirming … There will be more, too. As far as I can see, three publishers are bitching: Hachette, Macmillan and HarperCollins. And now Rupert Murdock’s getting into the act.

So, you and I lose and a big, fat corporation wins. Again. Still.

My shout out to those publishers fighting Amazon? Watch what happens next. You modern-day buggy whip manufacturers days are numbered.

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A Letter To Macmillan

[In response to this news article]

I am a huge customer of Amazon. As such, I buy four to five books a month from them. I have found no other retailer with the breadth and depth of their offerings, certainly not a ‘brick and mortar’ bookseller.

I find your policy of not selling your books at Amazon to be sadly short-sighted and a bit disingenuous.

[EDIT – I was grossly mistaken on this part. AMAZON pulled Macmillan’s books off of AMAZON’S shelves, not vice-versa. My apologies to all on that one]

I’m no genius, but I suspect your profit margin was the limiting factor, not the pablum spouted by your CEO. Customer service certainly wasn’t a factor as you’ve removed the largest bookseller in the world from access to your books. Ask any author out there and they’ll tell you that publishers are basically hoarding the profits from the authors due to their ‘long tail’ of people, all getting their bite from the revenue the books bring in. By the time the author gets paid, there’s not much left.

So, bottom line, I aint buying it. I’m sure I’ll be dismissed as a crank by you, but the reality of the situation is this – I’m not buying Macmillan books because Amazon doesn’t sell them.

Corporations need to start focusing on people like me, the little guy, in your spats with each other. Get over yourselves and give us access to your books at a price people like me can afford.

Mike Fisher

If every Amazon customer did this, ESPECIALLY Kindle users, I betcha we’d get some fast responses and actions from the publishers.

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