Monday, June 28, 2010

Living in a Fishbowl III

This last week I learned another hazard of living in a fishbowl. One of my relatives pointed out that they could read about my life despite the fact that they were not actually a part of my life. Basically, they implied that I was being rude by writing about my life while refusing to confirm to their standards of conduct.

Now, given a year ago that this person declared that they did not want to hear about my business, my writing, my college experiences, my religion, and my involvement in Golden Dawn, I realized that this recent comment basically is going to give me a single very bad choice.

Either I can quit blogging about my life and quit using Facebook and Twitter, or I can make it hard for this person to easily see what I am up to. (I will never be able to make my life invisible from them---unless I am willing to go back to flipping burgers and completely give up writing and the internet---but I can do the magician's force and make sure that they have to google it and don't automatically see it in their updates [aka defriend them on Facebook].)

The reason why I am thinking about this today is simply because I so want to talk about what I did yesterday. Unfortunately, it is deep in the 99% of my life that this relative never wants to hear about ever again. So I am now standing here with a skull and asking the Shakespearean question "To defriend or not to defriend, that is the question."

And no, I am not going to drop out of university, give up my religion and Order involvements, and cease to be a writer just to please them. I refuse to spend the rest of my life flipping burgers just because they do not like my lifestyle.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thought about my dad

I thought about blogging about my dad today; after all, it is father's day. But considering how much misconception and memory loss is involved in this situation (something that I was not conscious of before last year), I have decided to wait until July 12 to blog about him, and I am going to be doing it on my Golden Dawn (magical and occult) blog instead.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unbelievable commericals

There are some commericals that are more unbelievable than others. On my local TV station, they keep showing this commerical for a Chase credit card that has a cash back program. It has these two brothers trying to charge everything before the other can, so that they can get the cash back reward. Unless these two are paying off their entire balance every month, the three percent cash back would not even put a dent in the amount of charging these two are doing.

Of course, the commerical that I find the most unbelievable was one that the Colorado Lottery did a couple of years ago, in conjunction with Powerball. In the commerical, there were a couple of security guards. And a great big table covered with cash, a million dollars plus. The commerical was supposely the unscripted reaction of real people when they saw how big the Powerball prize was.

The reason I found it unbelievable was that the security guards were too lightly armed to actually be guarding a million dollars. If it was real money, I don't care what neighborhood you are in, a few calls would be made and someone would be trying to help themselves to the cash. I am a happy little cynic, ain't I?

Now there are some unbelievable commericals that I do like. The recent Lipton Green Tea with the singing fish makes me laugh out loud. I also like the Dish Network Free HD commericals with the unkempt astronauts---it reminds me of Homeboys in Space.

"What do the instructions say?" "Look, he has an allen wench. Let me ask you this: Do you have any tools?" Hey...wait a second. Are you making fun of me? C'mon admit to it; you had a friend ask you this at some point in your life. Though in my case, the question includes the implication that maybe I have not opened the instructions, and perhaps should not be trusted with anything more complicated than a hammer.

The winner of the "Mixed Feelings" reward for unbelievable people in commericals might be the current Radio Shack Dadtopia (Father's Day) campaign. Is anyone's dad really this dorky? I don't remember my father being anything like these dads, but one cannot trust my memory of him as one of my sisters reminded me awhile back. I hope that he wasn't this dorky. It does not help my case for him not being dorky that he owned one of those complicated Radio Shack (Texas Instruments) calculators. At least, he did not get it from the bottom of a ceral box.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Urgent FBI Winning Alert or Mocking the Spam

It is now time to play another round of Mocking the Spam.

Today, I recieved two emails, supposely from the FBI informing me that I had money owed to me. First off, I was under the impression that the FBI just seized funds and did not actually inform people about the loot. And second off, doesn't the FBI have an official government email address? Third, wouldn't they hotlink the FBI website, rather than print out the web address?

The first one says that I won eight hundred thousand for a Lottery Company outside of the United States. Hmmm, won't that be a problem for the CIA? And exactly what is an "Intelligence Monitoring Network System"? Is that Bubba and his dog perhaps? Didn't I see them outside of 7-11 yesterday?

Oh, it is my email address that has won. What exactly is an "Online Balloting System"? Does not sound like it has anything to do with a lottery...sounds more like the system where you elect politicans who have never done any actual campaigning (can I get elected to public office without paying my own entry fee and campaigning by sitting on my ever-widening ass?). After all, I am winning lotteries without paying tickets, and inheriting money from relatives that actually liked me (unlike my real relatives who are both poor and hateful).

And exactly who is the "Anti-Terrorist and Monetory Crimes Division"? Yes, they spelled it "monetory"; I could have swore that word was spelled differently. I wonder what over-priced spell checker the FBI uses (and is it the same company that sells toliet seats to the air force?).

Hmmm, do I look like a moron? An idiot? A fool? "We have verified the entire transaction to be Safe and 100% risk free, due to the fact that the funds have been deposited at the Bank of America." Shouldn't the Bank of America be talking to me instead? Oh, yeah, that is right...I keep getting emails from them about my account being suspended for security reasons. And if you think dealing with American banks is risk free, then you have not opened up a newspaper for, oh like the last hundred years or so.

Ahh, here is the catch: I am supposed to pay a "Deposit Fee's (Fee's paid by the company for the deposit into an American Bank)"---exactly how is this my problem? Shouldn't the company in question actually pay for this? Also I am supposed to pay a "Cashier's Check Conversion Fee (Fee for converting the Wire Transfer into a Certified Cashier's Check)"---again, exactly how is this my problem? And finally, I am supposed to pay a "Shipping Fee's (This is the charge to shipping the Cashier's Check to your home address"---ok, priority mail and insurance can be brought at the Post Office, and I have paid for postage due items at the Post Office before.

Grand total for all this: $350.

At this point, all my friends are laughing out loud because they know that I am currently working hard to earn two hundred dollars, so that I can pay for the advance registeration fee at the University. Even if this was real, I would not be able to get this much money together.

Alas, the funds have already been deposited despite the fact that all these fees should have came out of the prize money itself. You never seen the Colorado Lottery ask for money to process a prize. Oh yeah, this is right---they already collected their money when you brought your ticket. And the IRS is always there to get their cut. Seems to me that these overseas companies are in desperate need of proper management.

I am not sure who Peter Walter is, but he is not getting a Money Gram sent from Western Union from me. In fact, I would like him to show up at the bank in person. I am quite sure that if the Bank of America has eight hundred thousand dollars in their vault with my name on it that they will be more than happy to open up a checking account for me, right johnny on the spot. After all, they are a bank---they will want me to keep the money there.

And is there actually a Robert Mueller (the Third as other emails proclaim him)? Why is a FBI agent, especially a Special Agent, using an AOL email address?

Oh, here is some sweetner---"If you do not recieve your winning prize of $800,000.00 we shall be responsible for the loss and this shall invite a penalty of $3,000 will be made PAYABLE ONLY to you (The Winner)." Yeah, I trust the FBI to actually pay a your dreams.

And why is it that you need my full contact information, including my name and occuption? Thoughout this email, I have been addressed as the "Beneficiary" and "The Winner"---could it be that you have no clue who I am? (For the record, I am Morgan the Mighty, He Who Opens Many Cat Food Cans.)

Onto the next email...this one is from Robert Mueller of the "Counter-terrorism Division and Cyber Crime Division." Exactly how many divisions does Robert Mueller report to?

"Records show that you are among one of the individuals and organizations who are yet to receive their overdue payment from overseas which includes those of Lottery/Gambling, Contract and Inheritance. Through our Fraud Monitory Unit we have also noticed that over the past you have been transacting with some imposters and fraudsters who have been impersonating the likes of Prof. Soludo of the Central Bank Of Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Aziza, Anderson, Wallace Fred, none officials of Oceanic Bank, Zenith Banks, Kelvin Young of HSBC, Smith Williams, Daniel Wilson, Ibrahim Sule, Dr. Philip Morgan, Dr. Usman Shamsuddeen and some imposters claiming to be The Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Gee, that is a laundry list of scoundrels. But I have not been "transacting" with them. Unless you count mocking their emails as "transacting." And exactly what is a "none official"?

Who are the "Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICCC)?" Or the "Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC)"? Are they real? Or are you just making up governement agencies?

 Ahh, some golden advice: "We hereby advise you to stop communication with any one not referred to you by us." And such good news: "We have negotiated with the Federal Ministry of Finance that your payment totaling $5.3 (Five million and three hundred thousand us dollars) will be released to you via a custom pin based ATM card with a maximum withdrawal limit of $3,000 (Three thousand us dollars) a day which is powered by Visa Card and can be used anywhere in the world were you see a Visa Card Logo on the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)."

That almost sounded like a Citi VISA commerical.

And they promise that they have "perfected everything" and 100% risk free as "its our duty to protect the world." Wait a second...isn't the FBI supposed to be concerned with America, and leave the rest of the world to the duty of someone else (CIA, Interpol, etc.)? Gee, what is next? Protecting the citizens of Alpha Prime?

And what effect are you trying to go for in the following sentence? "This is as a result of the mandate from US Government to make sure all debts owed to citizens of American which includes Inheritance, Contract, Gambling/Lottery etc are been cleared for the betterment of the current economic status of the nation and its citizens as he has always believed Our Time for Change has come because Change can happen." Is anyone else waving an American flag at this point? Or is it only me?

And how much is the delivery of this sweet ATM card going to cost me? Just $260 paid to the ATM Card Center.

More names, probably fake people (one can hope). Another request for my name...gee, one would think that the FBI would have a file cabinet full of records with my name on them by now. And then we learn that Robert S. Mueller is the Director of the FBI. Cool, he got promoted.

The final line of this email is "Help stop cyber crime." Does that include my constant mocking of my spam emails?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Helium front page

I recieved an email saying that I was on the Helium front page today. The article is my biography of Randy Jackson. I don't see it on the front page. I wonder if the system emailed me a day late. (And no, I was not paying much attention to the front page yesterday---I was too busy with my god-daughter and other assorted tasks.)

Neil Gaiman Eight Good Writing Practices

Neil Gaiman: 8 Good Writing Practices

1. Write.

2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

3. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

7. Laugh at your own jokes.

8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

From an article in The Guardian, which ended up in Gotham Writer's Workshop GothamGram

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why needing money is good for writers

Yesterday, I had one of those small panic attacks that all self-employed freelancers have (writers, artists, etc.)---I checked the balance on my bank account. After seeing how low the balance was, I revised my priority list for the work that I am planning on doing next week.

(There is not much that I can do differently this week. My wife has the priority marker for this week; next week, she is out of town and I can hack out some stuff without too much fear of being interrupted.)

In economic theory, there are certain things that while unpleasant when they happen to you are still considered ultimately good for the economy, such as unemployment. I try to look at my low bank balance in the same light. It is not neccessarily easy to do, but I try.

The low bank balances of freelancers drive us to find more business, more paying customers, and actually crank out work. A lot of people believe that being a freelancer means that you get to do work that you want to do, and can ignore the work that you dislike doing. Only doing the type of work that you feel like doing is a good way to ensure that you are not going to have a roof over your head for long.

Being a freelancer, or at least a successful one, involves finding the willpower to do the work that you find unpleasant. In my case, and I imagine most successful freelancers, that low bank balance is the carrot on the end of the stick. After all, I like having a roof over my head and food on the table.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One of the disadvantages of prescheduling blog posts

Today when I did my rounds of checking email accounts, online earning reports, and blog numbers, I realized that one of my blogs posted a prescheduled post overnight. Looking at it, I went "D'oh!"

It turns out that it wasn't really a blog post; it was just the notes to a blog post that I planned on doing in the future. The reason that it slipped though the cracks is that the blog that it was for is one that is near the bottom of my pile---call it one of my forgotten blogs.

I created the blog to keep my occasional political rant off of this blog (which should be about writing and business) and my occult/Wicca/eoteric Golden Dawn blog. Likewise, I also have a blog devoted to nerd stuff (aka science fiction).

The reason I started to jot down ideas and use the preschedule function was that 1) I always have more ideas than writing time, and 2) you hear bloggers complain all the time about suffering from writer's block. Not that the latter is a big concern of mine. I am not sure if I am special, therefore I have not ran into the writer's block problem, or whether it is simply that I stockpile ideas. Or it could just be the former prevents the latter from happening.

I do not think that anyone actually read the posting. It was late last night. And I am sure that I did not pick up any traffic from it on Facebook.

And I rapidly fleshed it out this morning. It was me musing about whether or not attractive people actually use the dating services, such as LiveLinks and Quest.

But it was a valuable reminder that I need to keep on top of my prescheduled posts, especially the ones that are just notes for future postings. It is also a reminder that if I suddenly die that a lot of cryptic posts are going to periodically appear on my blogs.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Quote of the day: Freelancing and panic

Being a freelance writer is interesting and not really a good thing for people who don’t enjoy a permanent sense of panic.---John Scalzi

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Family myth time---There can be only one

Between reading Seth's blog today (Surely not everyone), and David Shenk's book (The Genius in All of Us) yesterday, I am reminded of one of my family myths that drive me crazy. There is an unspoken belief in my family that only one person can have any particular talent or skill.

I wasn't particularly conscious of this rule while I was growing up. I did not stop and think about the implications of "Oh, XYZ is the artist in the family." Nor did I notice that only their artwork got praised and everyone else's artwork was generally ignored, if not picked to death for not being as good as XYZ. Heaven forbid if it was actually better.

As an adult, and a member of Golden Dawn who has fought to get people to recognize that all members can bring something to the table, I have examined the effects that this particular family rule had on me; I have also kicked around the effects that similar rules might have imposed on other people.

I suspect that sometimes when I fail to follow up on a good idea that it is because I am not the person that the family rule says should be pursuing that goal. I suspect that part of the toxicity I recieved from my sisters is based on the fact that I am ignoring the fact that I am NOT the writer in the family. And I really should not be thinking about picking up an ink pen and drawing either. And let's not mention going to college and running a business.

What is my role in the family? Oh, I am the criminal black sheep of the family. Not that I have ever served a day of jail time, the statement probably still stands "Oh sooner or later, [Morgan] is going to end up in jail. It is only a matter of time before he does something stupid and gets caught."

Outside of some petty shoplifting as a kid, some minor damage to private property, and a couple of druken fights (ironically only in one of them was I personally drunk), I am fairly innocent. Another family member has screwed up worse, but it does not matter---I am supposed to be the criminal in the family, not them.

I am NOT the writer, the artist, the business person in the family, or even a decent human being. Or at least, that is what the family myth and rule says. It is just too bad that I am running out of patience and refuse to humor this idea any more, isn't it? After all, I would be such a better human being if I just accepted my place in the universe, and let others do what they are best at.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spent the night reading, err, I mean researching

So after only getting one article done today (it is still today until I go to bed), a mere 707 words done, how did I spend my evening? Yep, that is right---reading an internet comic strip.

Originally, I started to browse the internet, looking at writers' blogs and tweets. Then I ended up following the links to Alone in a Crowd. So I ended up reading all the strips to present. Warning: there is some adult content (mainly talking about sex and the adult movie industry).

Was it all goofing off? Well, maybe not. I am still kicking around doing the occasional strip of my own (Loki's Wisdom). If I decide to do that, then tonight was getting to know something about the online comic world...something that I have not seriously looked at before. So I am going to call tonight's reading research, much like I called tweeting during the commerical breaks of Hell's Kitchen practice (hey, I could have to tweet a news event someday---hey it could happen).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Finding babies for a living

Ok, I will admit that I have my slow days. An email just went into my junk mail folder with the title of "finding babies for a living." (Yes, it was all lower case.) And I couldn't figure out what it might be I opened it.

Yes, that is right; it was about training to be an ultrasound technician.

Can I blame this brain fart on the fact that I just wrote a review about the service at the local KFC Taco Bell location?

Now my wife is showing me spam

As if I don't already seen enourgh spam ads on the internet, my wife is now getting involved. She saw an ad through Weather Bug about a kit that teaches people to make money by posting links on the internet. "Gee, I think that you can do this."

Yes, I could provided that I wanted to waste some time and money. Time because as the ad said (paraphrase), "The income cited is no promise that you will make a dime. These income figures represent the best earnings gained from this system, and do not represent the average user."

Money because I know how the spam works. The initial course is merely to hook you in. And yes, the course was cheap; it is like selling crack; they make their money by selling people additional information. I bet the only people actually making money with these systems are those who are selling the additional information at a hundred bucks a pop. And if you are desperate enourgh to earn money on the internet, you act just like a drug addict and hand them some of the little money you have left.

And personally, I do not want to be a spam pusher or spam dealer. Besides "posting links" sounds a lot like black hat SEO, doesn't it? I said no to the spam ad.