A most horrid crime of thievery…

I’m running a wildlife welfare program, unintentionally. I don’t mind feeding the birds, after all, their seed is relatively cheap. They also throw the seeds they don’t like into the yard, and grass grows. At least, green vegetation that to the neighbors might resemble grass, is growing. That’s close enough for me.

But peppers are expensive. I planted a great number of Thai pepper plants and Jalapenos, because they taste great when cut and used fresh. The Thai peppers go into a concoction I call “Angie’s Glop”, which tastes like an ass-kicking teriyaki glaze, and is great of grilled animal flesh of varying sorts. The Jalapenos, we use on everything from tacos to hamburgers, not to mention in salsa.

Evidently the pepper leaves taste good. Something, over the course of two days, reduced my nice-looking Thai peppers to twigs. I put enough Sevin dust on the plants that my garden looked like it suffered a very late-season snow.

Where have all the leaves gone?

The next day (after a rain), my jalapenos had been attacked, too. Having thought maybe it was insects like tomato horned worms, I decided to spray the entire garden with enough permethrin to kill any living animal in a 25 yard radius. No good. More twigs the next morning. I could only hope that whatever is eating my leaves is off somewhere dying a long, slow, agonizing death, but evidently not, because my plants continue to disappear.

I purchased some Critter-Ridder (made by the wimps at the Hav-a-Heart pest control company) which is essentially pepper dust and oils. I’ve never sprayed a rabbit with pepper spray, but this is supposed to produce the same effect. It’s supposed to discourage them from eating in your garden. I have my doubts, because if they are eating my pepper plants, something tells me the pepper dust might not be that much of a discouragement. I’m looking for something that affects the little bastards more like a shotgun blast to the stomach, but I can’t find “Critter Killer” at Lowe’s.

I thought about unwinding the high voltage wire from a bug zapper and using that as a garden fence, but the risk of catching the yard on fire seems a high price to pay.

It would be fun to watch, though. Next year, I guess I’ll just build a fence.

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What’s in Your Wallet?

Not a damn Capitol One card, that’s for damn sure.

I hate credit cards. Sure, they serve a use. Do you really want to buy that electronic whiz-bang online from flybynight.com, LLC? You COULD enter your debit card number, and hope some computer nerd doesn’t swipe the number and buy a Real Doll. Better to use a credit card, rather than expose your whole bank account.

But I still hate them. What other financial company allows you to put other LOANS down as income. That was what they told us unemployed college students, so we could qualify. “Are you getting student loans? Put that down as income!” Enron took a few lessons from THAT industry.

I had a Capitol One card for years at a decent 9.9% fixed rate. THEN they decided to change it to a variable rate. What? How are they allowed to do this? If you sign up for a variable rate card, fine, but how do you have a fixed rate card, and they change it? Who made THOSE rules? So, they changed mine to a variable rate card. I felt like I was midway through a flight and got bumped from First Class to coach. Not even a thank you very much, just took my champagne and gave me a boot in the ass to the back of the plane.

Then they raised my rate, from 9.9% to 12%. I didn’t miss a payment, I didn’t max it out. Just BAM – we’re changing, tough. Then I got a notice – moving to 15%, without me having done anything wrong. I called to complain, and was told, “Your only option is to close your account”. That was the most sensible thing I had ever heard. Bye!

Belk did the same thing, and jumped from a whopping 18% to 22%. This was between the time when the president signed the CARD act and it actually took effect. What kind of dumbass strategy was that? “Hey banks! We’re going to tighten up on you fleecing your customers, but we’re giving you six months to really f**k them good, before we clamp down!”

I called and asked why Belk was raising my rate. I wish I recorded it, but the answer was so unbelievably insane I never could have considered it. Belk said, and I quote, “We are raising our rates so we can stay competitive in the marketplace”. What the Hell? You DON’T raise your prices to stay competitive. You LOWER them. I’ve never seen a sign outside Bi-Lo saying “Today only: all food is 10% more expensive!” At Wal-Mart, the little happy faces are on the LOWER prices.

Well, Belk – you know what, I want to stay competitive in the marketplace too. So I’m cutting up your card, and from now on I’m shopping somewhere else.

So – I would like to thank the banking industry. Thanks to your shady, underhanded practices, your penchant for screwing the people that provide you with nice buildings and plush offices, my wallet is now a lot thinner. When you don’t have any credit cards, you don’t have to sit on them in your back pocket.

I have an idea though – for the next credit card reform act. Companies that issue credit cards should be required to offer savings accounts with variable interest rates within 3% of their average credit card APR. So – If you are charging non-default customers an average of 14% for their cards – anyone with a savings account should be earning 11%.

That’s an act I can stand behind.

 Capitol One sent me a letter yesterday. “We’ve missed you! Come back today.” They are ready to activate my new card… at up to an affordable 18% APR. Yeah, shove it, Capitol One. Go remain competitive in the marketplace with someone else.

So, What’s in Your Wallet? A driver’s license, work ID, Cheeseburger in Paradise Board Member rewards card, Insurance Card, Library card, and seven dollars. That’s quite enough for me.

I’m Published! Well…. sort of. Maybe not.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time. Its fun to make up stories and spend the effort putting them down. Unfortunately, anyone can do it.  The computer has enabled the monkeys to bang out the works of Shakespeare, but unfortunately they produce a lot of crap along the way. The resulting glut of easily typed literature makes it hard to get someone to publish a book. Most publishing companies want you to have an agent. A lot of agents want you to have been published already, before they will take you on as a client. What?

I’ve written several novel-length books, and after going back and reading them later, determined they need some work. While I am writing, it seems the brain will fill in some details, so I neglect to put them in. Six months later, after the creative brain has forgotten the details, and I’m re-reading the thing, my brain says “Hey it would have been nice if you included…”.

So maybe I’m not one of the good monkeys. Maybe I suck after all, and instead of writing ‘wherefore art thou Romeo?’, I’m  just here to bang on the keys and occasionally fling some poo at management. So I send off my samples and wait for the “You Suck” rejection letters and keep them in a book. Once I have enough to wallpaper the room my computer sits in, I’ll buy the paste. I’m getting close.

Enter: Publish America

A friend at work was touting his book one day, and I asked how he got it published. He mentioned this company, Publish America. He said he sold a few hundred books through them. I thought to myself (after reading a few pages) “Wow – this company sounds good, and I certainly write this well.”

I found them on the internet and read their press, and decided to submit my query letter.

A query – for those of you who don’t know – is generally a paragraph about the author, and a paragraph about the book – much like what you would read on the back of the book on the shelf.

The day after I emailed my query, the company requested sample chapters. I thought I was doing very well, and sent them by email.

Three days later I get The Call; “We want to publish your book”.

Wow! What? From Query letter to “Yes!” in a week? From my experience, it takes weeks just to get people to LOOK at your book. There’s no way someone had time to actually read the sample chapters… but, I was blinded by the promise of seeing my book in print.

So – I sent everything off, got a contract, and returned it with all the miscellany they asked for. I was soon presented with cover art, had to write my own bio and back-of-the-book blurb, and waited. A few weeks later I received my “author’s proof”.

The only copy ever printed...

So – There’s my book. As far as I know, the only copy printed since November of 2010, likely the only copy in existence. I’ll autograph it, if you want to buy it. It’s sort of a chick-lit book written for a certain crowd, the first “targeted audience” I tried writing for. My other books were really just ones I wanted to write – without an audience in mind.

Why is it the only copy sold? Does it suck that bad?

And why do I feel scammed?

This is why: Publish America pushes themselves off as a “real” publishing company. I had the mistaken belief they would print small runs of my book, and try to get them in bookstores. They said I would have to do a lot of legwork, and that my books would be available at a discount to me.

However, I didn’t know that I would be doing ALL the legwork, and that the ONLY way to get a book printed would be to order it myself. Sure, it’s available on Amazon.Com – for the low price of $30. I don’t recall this being a textbook – but I guess that’s how they price books. This is for a softcover book… by an unknown author. Steven King doesn’t get $30 for his new hardcovers.

Every day I get bombarded by e-mails, offing my book to me at lower prices. Order 5, get 5 free. $8.99 each – for the next 12 hours… blah blah blah. They also offer to do lots of stuff for you. They will put your book on display at book shows, convert it to a Kindle e-book, send free copies to movie studios, etc., all for a price, or a book order. Do I really think John Travolta might read my book, if I order 12 copies for myself? Who knows…If I wanted to go into the book distributing business, I would have gone to Harvard.

I told them I really wasn’t happy with the way this whole thing has worked out, and asked them to let my book out of it’s contract. They will – for a price. Until then, for the next 6.5 years, they own it, and all the non-revenue it will generate.

I’ve looked them up since I was “published” – and it seems my opinions are NOT in the minority. There are a great many people who have been suckered into going with this company. I’m sure that some people have sold books. After all, PA wouldn’t make money if books didn’t sell. But if you want to self-publish, there are far easier ways to go about it, and you still own your work. Essentially this is a vanity self-publishing company, wrapped up with a nice website, promises, and sales pitch.

Oh yeah – Mark Abbot is just a pen name, if you were wondering.

If you want to know more about the book, just buy it. Amazon takes Visa… I feel like just putting the text online, but I don’t feel like getting sued for distributing something I wrote, so I better not.

Wierd Sunset

MOst of the time I carry my camera… everywhere. I have it at work, I take it wal-mart, I even take it to the mall. Its bag is small and unobtrusive, and doesnt scream CAMERA BAG! to would-be thieves (I hope). The ONE TIME that I don’t carry the thing, I see this:

love the effect

There were some storm clouds out of view on the horizon keeping the sun from illuminating the sky evenly. As a result there were some awesome colors. By the time I got back to the house, and realized that even if I got the camera my angle was all wrong to get anything else than the above picture, it was too late to get anything better. Sun effects typically last only a minute or so before they change, so I had to be satisfied with this.

Maybe next time.

Back from Atlanta

I learned a few things on my trip. First of all, while the iPad is pretty neat, and you can import pictures and all on it, its Hell to upload them to anything. First of all, my camera takes pictures that are really too large (file size) for it to deal with. I can see them, but I can’t open them in photoshop express to do much with them. I can email them to facebook, but the files are 6mb or more, and 4000+ pixels on a side. Way too damn big. So I have to take a screen shot on the ipad itself, and upload that, which can look sort of crappy.  Oh well, at least there IS a way around it.  Anyhow – my Atlanta trip resulted in some fun pictures.

I was on the 65th floor (out of 73!) and could overlook the CNN building and the Olympic park. I kept trying to find Richard Jewell and his backpack, but I was just too high up. I like Atlanta from 65 floors up. Down at street level it was much less interesting. I could see rooftop pools, Stone Mountain, and what looked like a patch in the awning of the Marriott across the street, roughly shaped like someone who leapt off the roof.

The nighttime lights proved fun to look at. I did my best to photograph stuff, but as I only had my pocket tripod, I really couldn’t get any night shots that truly pleased me. When your tripod includes your camera leaning against the window for support, it can only go downhill from there.

Deep down in the Dirty South in the ATL

So I find myself at the Peachtree Plaza, getting ready to experience the Secure Cities conference. The hotel is rather nice (pictures to follow) and they are feeding us. So – we will have to see how it works.
At least the hotel is nice, and I’m on the 65th floor, which is higher than I’ve ever been in a hotel. We are overlooking the olympic park, which somehow looks like a much smaller complex than I pictured it.

20110510-082202.jpg
I can see the olympic park and stadium from my room, plus the Atlanta Braves stadium. So far we haven’t decided what to do, but I might see a Braves game. There’s an hour to go.
I am a little disappointed in the photo uploads from the iPad. They are too big to play with on Photoshop, so I have to open them and do a screen capture, then upload them, which makes the resolution sort of crappy. I’ll have to play with that later.
There is a glass elevator on the outside of the building, which seems like a good idea until you get above all the surrounding buildings. Then its just scary as hell. The Sundial lounge on the 72nd floor is built in such a way as to give this optical illusion that makes it seem like if you fell off this balcony, instead of dropping 15 feet to the 71st floor, you would fall all the way down. It’s quite unnerving.