The virtue of Prime…

After getting my notice of another Amazon Prime subscription price increase, I’m realizing that I either need to start using it for more than watching 10 episodes of The Grand Tour a year or get rid of it. I signed up way back when Prime’s major benefit was two day shipping on books. Although it offers many more features now, I find I’m barely using it for any of them. With many of items I’ve bought from Amazon recently not making the 2-day shipping window and/or being damaged to some degree in packing or transit, it’s starting to feel like less of a bargain overall – especially when Amazon has opted to push it over the $100 price point.

I’m well aware that arguing over the value of $21 per year increase is patently ridiculous on its face, but there’s just something about that three-digit bill that really sets me wondering just what the hell I’m paying for and if it’s actually worth it. In all likelihood I’ll just go along letting apathy and inertia carry it along, but don’t let that in any way be confused with my willingness to bitch and complain every year when that $120 bill shows up in my list of financial transactions… because I still want my dented and damaged crap showing up in two (or three or four) days.

I supposed that’s what Amazon has been counting on all along.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. “Work days.” Pretending that the day before and after Thanksgiving are “work days” is ridiculous. Sure, the lights are on and there may be a skeleton staff in the building, but no one is doing shit. Even if those who were in the office wanted to do something, the chance of them being able to find another person interest in and able to deal with that issue falls somewhere between slim and none. But year after year we continue the monumentally expensive farce of maintaining the illusion that these massive office complexes are “open for business” because it’s better optics than admitting that yeah, we’re going to go ahead and take a knee for three days. Illusion trumps reality every time.

2. Recycling. I like the environment and believe that recycling is a net good overall situation. That said, though, if you want people to recycle you’ve got to make it easy. To those of us who don’t spend our lives pondering the subtle differences, plastic is plastic. If you have to hire someone to yell at people when they drop the “wrong” kind of plastic at the tip, your process is not easy enough. I try to recycle because it’s the right thing to do, but honest to God if you don’t go back to “single stream” meaning an actual single stream I’ll just start paying the extra $5 on my monthly trip to the dump and you can bury it all.

3. Sales. I love Amazon… most of the time. When it comes time for their big sales, though, I can’t quite shake the feeling that what they’re really doing is just knocking a few percent off stuff they’re trying to clear out of the warehouse. That’s well and good, of course. It’s a sales model that’s been around as long as retail… but just because a random piece of junk is now 20% off doesn’t fill me with a burning desire to acquire a piece of junk that I wouldn’t otherwise want to own.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The internet as everlasting know it all. I got a book recommendation from a friend earlier this week. I’m always looking for interesting reading materials so I saved the name and filed it away for my next visit to Amazon. The next morning of course, the book electro-magically shows up in my Facebook news feed as a “recommended buy from Amazon” ad. This is just all basically confirmation that the internet is a damned creepy place, even when you’re not getting catfished.

2. Picking your friends. Once again, the tide of “if you vote for Candidate X, just unfriend me” is upon us. Let the record show that I don’t determine my friendships based solely on an individual’s politics, orientation, gender, ethnicity, or any other single factor. Funny thing is, I don’t think of my friends as a group of one-dimensional elements so much as I do the sum of their parts. That means I can both enjoy their company and disagree with them on political philosophy all at the same time. Maybe it’s just me. With that said, the chances of me changing my mind on most of the issues I find important are slim to none. I will continue to post occasionally about those issues, but certainly not to the exclusion of all other aspects of life. Come to think of it, if my politics are the only reason you’re hanging on to me, maybe it’s best to just let go after all. There just can’t be much value added to friendships based on just one slim sliver of what makes a person who they are.

3. Rain. Seriously. I know I put down sod and the fact that I’ve had a good soaking rain fall on it 5 out of the last 7 days is like mana from heaven, but we’ve reached the point where I’d dearly love to see maybe an hour or two of actual sunshine. Preferably not when I’m buried in the back corner of a concrete building where exterior weather conditions are well-nigh unknowable. I know it’s a big ask – one the forecast says could be out of reach for the next week at least. I’m happy as a clam not to have to drag hoses all over the yard, but a few minutes of sun on top of my dome would more than make up for half an hour of watering duty on the afternoon of nature’s choice.

Stockpiled…

Thanks to Amazon, my Kindle is now happily stocked with what could well be months of reading material – ranging from the Battle of Jutland to the reign of Richard III to fiction of a decidedly pulp variety. It makes me happier than it probably should.

I’ll admit that I was a holdout during the formative years of the e-reader, but I’ve come to appreciate it all the more as time goes by. While I miss the more frequent binge visits to the book store, there’s something deeply satisfying about having the preponderance of whatever you may want to read available at the stroke of a few keys.

I suppose I have to grudgingly admit that the pre-Cyber Monday sales from Amazon where good for something after all. I’ve heard it said that you can’t buy happiness, but as long as you can buy books, I’m not at all sure that’s true.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Outlook has exceeded its storage capacity. I got an email from Outlook this morning at the office, roundly chastising me for vastly exceeding my network storage limit and effectively forcing me to dump easily tens (and possibly hundreds) of thousands of emails from the neat and orderly file structure I’ve had since the dawn of time into giant “pots” of email segregated by year. Sure, yes I know there are automatic ways to find all sorts of files, but nothing makes me (professionally) happier than seeing a neatly organized rhyme and reason for how my files and documents are arranged. I want to know how to get to things without needing to ask the machine to find it for me. It’s a personality quirk. Still, at a time in history when electronic storage is cheap and easy, running out of network storage is just stupid, bad, and wrong. Google might be mining my every message for content, but at least those pricks have never imposed a unilateral ex post facto storage cap on me. After all, you just never know when that email thread from February 2007 is going to suddenly become important. Based on my observation, the future largely a rehash of something we tried five or ten years ago… and when it comes around again, I like to be able to reference the documentation showing why it’s as bad an idea now as it was then. Forewarned is forearmed.

2. Pay walls. I’m a reasonably informed person. I try to draw my information from a variety of sources both national and international and representing multiple ends of the political spectrum. I think it’s important not to rely too much on any one news outlet, although I clearly have a few favorites. Regardless of whether you’re a favorite or not, I’m not going to pay for access to news content online. Not. Going. To. Happen. With a million other competing news sites and blogs, I don’t have any reason to pay for the news – for the same reason I wouldn’t pay for a newspaper when I was an undergrad. Aside from not wanting to pay just to read the one article a month I might be interested in, the same or similar content is available somewhere. In college it meant stopping by the local coffee shop or McDonald’s that always had plenty of copies of the paper laying around. Online it means clicking over to a news aggregator or running a quick key word search. It’s cute that news providers are desperate to hang on to the 19th century subscription model of distribution, but I’m not convinced it has a place in the 21st century. There are plenty of other, likely more lucrative, ways to get at the consumer’s wallet… if you’re just a little bit innovative in the approach.

3. George Foreman. A George Foreman grill was one of the first kitchen appliances I received after graduating college and striking out on my own. That original grill is long gone, but I’ve always had one stashed in a cabinet and used it at least once a week if not more often. Then I moved a month ago. The only thing I lost as part of the move was the Foreman’s drip tray. One single, solitary piece of plastic gone while moving the entire house. I have no idea how something like that would get lost in transit, but it did. I’ve been using assorted substitutes for the last few weeks. None of them have been particularly good at filling the role. I assumed jumping on Amazon and ordering a replacement would be cheap and easy. As generally happens when I assume, I was dead wrong. Not only where they not cheap, but they weren’t in stock. Anywhere… unless you wanted to order one “used, but clean” from eBay. Uhhh… no. Thanks. That’s ok for books, but not something that’s going to live in my food prep area. So instead of a $.37 piece of plastic, Amazon is sending me a new $49.99 grill tomorrow. It feels a little like swatting flies with a cruise missile.

A piece of work…

Without the kind of fanfare that accompanies something like an Apple Watch or iPhone, Amazon rolled out its latest and greatest e-ink reader today. It’s been my experience that people who spend a lot of their time reading are not necessarily the wild, loud, in your face types. That the Voyage showed up lacking in heraldry and great celebration feels almost fitting for the demographic it’s intended to serve.

I haven’t had any hands on experience yet, but the reviews I’ve read tout is as a best in class e-reader. That’s not exactly a surprise considering it predecessors were mostly best in class devices themselves when they arrived. I should go on the record saying that I like my current Kindle Paperwhite. It’s not a tablet. It doesn’t even pretend to be. Its mission in life is to replicate the look of a real paper reading experience as close as possible using an electronic medium. It took me some time to get with the program, but once I did I haven’t looked back. I couldn’t tell you the last paper book I purchased for myself. Having all the books at my fingertips is simply too great a temptation to resist.

If the iPhone is the Swiss army knife of consumer electronic communications, surely Kindle is the Ka-Bar equivalent – a single fixed blade designed to do exactly one thing and to do it with savage precision. I have no doubt that the new Voyage lives up to Amazon’s well deserved reputation building the kings of the e-reader universe.

I’d have my order in already if it weren’t for one pesky detail – the $199 entry-level price point ($219 if you don’t want built in advertisements). At that price, I’m going to have to sit the upgrade out for the time being. Although Voyage is technically superior in nearly every respect to my nearly two year old first generation Paperwhite that old model is still an incredibly reliable device that’s delivering rock solid performance every day. As much as I want to I can’t find a good enough reason to put it out to pasture yet – not even with a $40 Amazon gift card thrown into the mix.

When I’m willing to hang on to two year old tech because it’s still that good, you can best believe it’s a piece of work. In the best possible way.

Roadmap…

So, we’ve got the cover, we’ve got the narrative, and we’ve got the sales blurb. That means it’s time to race over to Amazon and get this thing published, right? Well, the answer there is more of a “sort of” than a yes or no. I’m not ready to pull the trigger today, but as always I have a roadmap laid out in my head of what I think the way ahead looks like for Retribution.

Sometime between tonight and Friday I’m going to load it onto my Kindle and read the thing from cover to cover one last time. I’ve discovered through a lot of trial and error that just because you think you followed all the formatting rules for e-readers, there’s a pretty good chance that you screwed something up. Unfortunately that mostly shows once you have things loaded onto the actual device itself. Yet another of the minor pitfalls and annoyances of self publishing that in the end will be worth the trouble. Fixing those will be the main event for this weekend.

Sunday, if all goes according to plan, is going to be the great day of reckoning. That’s when I’ll sit down in the morning and start uploading the final product to the retailers. I’m going to work primarily through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but also fall in on Smashwords to get access to their own storefront as well as take advantage of their “special relationship” with Apple’s iBooks. By the time everyone’s long weekend is ending, Retribution: Chasing Heart’s and Minds should be going live. That’s the roadmap, anyway. How close that comes to reality remains to be seen.