I don't watch sports on TV anywhere near as much as I used to, partially because we dropped cable a few years ago (ten percent monthly increases, decreasing channel selection, increasing commercials) and the fact that aerial antennae can only pick up three PBS stations at our house: two from Vermont, one from New Hampshire.
For a while I subscribed to Major League Baseball's service but they begin their monthly charges prior to actual games being played, they exclude any and all post-season games, and they blackout your local teams, even when you don't have one.
I can watch most sporting events through dubious websites with equally inconsistent quality, but for spot watching it's okay. I guess I don't understand why if things are free with over the airwaves broadcast, why can't they be free on the internet? Sure, I could raise a seventy-foot antenna over my house but I don't want to become a hazard to birds, bats, and local aviation. Plus, it wouldn't get rid of the commercials. And despite the fact that a third of an hour-long show is commercials and that just as you get into the story they break for commercial, and then (assuming you've stuck around--which I don't), as soon as the show pulls you back in, they break again, the worst invention of all time has to be those animated monstrosities they show across the bottom of your screen while you're trying to watch a show.
You're in the middle of "The Middle" or some such thing, and a four inch figure strides across your screen from right to left, stops, folds his/her arms, smiles or nods at you knowingly (as if they know what you're really thinking about this crap), and fold their arms looking all cool and stuff as scheduling data for their next episode pops up next to them. Where was I? Oh, yeah, trying to watch the actual show that's supposed to be going on.
Anyway, money has killed pro sports for me. Millionaires playing baseball doesn't thrill me as much as athletes competing in a sport. This includes college football, where major programs bring in millions, most of which stays with the football program and only some of which gets donated to the actual school. The term "student athlete" is a misnomer in the vast, vast majority of cases. No one gave me a special dorm with special tutors and resources when I was in school. I paid my tuition, not a television network.
Netflix is my friend. I watch something when I want to and I rarely finish a show, because when I come back to it Netflix remembers where I was. I may not be able to watch the hit new show that really kind of sucks over on whatever network but I have never failed to discover things that would keep me interested for weeks or months, assuming I wanted to watch that much TV. Which I don't, unless I'm eating dinner. Maybe.
I'm wondering when my kids, who are growing up essentially commercial-free, grow up to be consumers of their own: will they suddenly tolerate one third of an hour show being given up to loud, repetitive and annoying commercial ads? And if they're like me, armed with my remote, don't watch them anyway--I just flick away and sometimes remember to come back, but rarely exactly on time.
At least that's the way I used to do it. Now I have Roku and Amazon Prime on the Roku boxes and whatever internet broadcasts of sports I occasionally spend some time with. If Chevy has a new car, I guess I'll have to catch the announcement on the car radio. Assuming they're quicker than I am to the preset buttons.
Just borrowing the title from John Scalzi, he can have it back now. Here's my question:
What the hell is twerking?
Please take that as a rhetorical question. I don't want to know. No matter what it is, I'm not going to "twerk" or become a "twerker" or engage in "twerking," whatever the hell it is. Why? Because I'm a close-minded four-cornered square? Okay, that's as good an answer as any.
Somebody, somewhere decided to name something "twerking." Just the fact that that's the best they could come up with, and worse, has been validated by the internet entertainment community--an incredible source of time-sucking tabloid trivia--leaves me feel that some part of my life has been irrevocably lost.
I may actually like twerking if I knew what it was. It could help my cardio-vascular system, speed up my metabolism, make me irresistible to women, make me feel warm and fuzzy about myself but--I can't twerk. I won't twerk. I won't watch you if you do it. I have far better things to do with my time. Like subscribe to the National Enquirer or watch reruns of The Real Housewives of Decatur, Georgia.
But you guys have fun out there, twerking the night away. Don't send pictures.
I Googled myself today. No good reason, just did it. I imagine most people have, but it doesn't really seem to occur to me to do it very often. Once every couple of years?
I don't like social media. I don't like my internet activities tracked by dozens of companies to sell what I do to marketing companies. I use Firefox so I can install add-ins that not only block ads but block the ability of companies to track my web activities. I have a possibly vain belief that most people wouldn't join Facebook, etc. if they were fully aware of their behind-the-scenes pervasiveness. I'm not fully aware, either, but enough so that it troubles me significantly. I'd much rather pay twenty bucks a year for a membership but if that were Facebook's model they'd probably have never become Facebook. (And I hate that name.)
So the first entry that comes up in my Google results is for LinkedIn, another social media site. I may have signed up when they first came into existence many years ago, but I don't recall: at that point, there didn't seem to be much value. So why is it the first entry in my results page? My first guess is that LinkedIn pays Google. My second guess is that it isn't me.
When I lived in Florida and worked in IT, someone showed up in Clearwater with a suspiciously similar name, another "Richard Ollerman." At first I suspected identity theft or some such, but it appears that there is actually another person with my name. As time went on, he appeared to move to Tampa, and later possibly even to St. Petersburg. I had lived in Tampa and then in St. Pete. Somewhere along the line he seemed to start going by the name of Rick Ollerman, too.
The rest of the entries on Google return page all pertain to me. At least ten pages came back and I only looked at the first two. Some references I didn't recognize but when I opened them they too were about me. But there were still a few for the other Rick Ollerman, who now lives in the same area I used to and works in the same field I used to.
I know what you're thinking: I got drunk somewhere and embarrassing pictures were taken and now I'm trying to blame the other guy. No. But I do wonder: who gets the worst end of this deal? The other guy doesn't have any Amazon listings in his favor, but I do. That may be his LinkedIn entry and not mine. A few weeks ago an author I haven't personally met was inviting me to his LinkedIn circle but I couldn't even decline the invitation. What did the other me do? I have no idea.
Maybe he'll get drunk and have embarrassing pictures taken; then he can blame me. This is a strange situation. I thought it a bit odd when Harlan Ellison trademarked his own name and it now appears on his books with the circle-r trademark symbol after his name.
Sadly, it's probably too late for me to take over all possible usage of my name, er, our name. I know there are Ollermans in South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, one in Arizona, my parents in Florida, and another guy, with my name, in my old profession, in my old town.
I find this a strange situation and have no idea what, if anything, I should do. I could travel back to St. Pete, rob a bank, and drop my name, but somehow that doesn't seem to be a permanent solution.
I probably don't want to push anything. It may turn out he's better looking than me, and a better writer, and more appealing to my Golden Retrievers.
I don't think I'll be Googling myself again for a while.
One day, years ago, my then-girlfriend now-wife and I went to the beach in Florida. We may have been at Clearwater, but possibly Pass-a-grille, which would be more poetic since the late Day Keene once had a house there and hung out with Gil Brewer, Harry Whittington, Talmage Powell, and others.
Anyway, off I went to get us something to drink and when I came back, two guys were hovering near her with a camera. As I approached they disappeared. "What was that about?" I asked, not sure how to feel.
"They wanted to take my picture."
Okay. "What did you tell them?"
"I told them okay. People have asked me before, you know."
One thing I've learned about girls with nice figures is that they like to show them off. Anyway, some years later a book from a particular publisher arrives in the mail, written by a bestselling author under a pseudonym. The cover was painted by a very talented artist. It featured a girl in a bikini, pushed up on her elbows on her beach towel, big sunglasses, and the shadow of the photographer showing he was standing at the lower right hand corner of her towel.
My wife came home. I said, "Who does this remind you of?"
She looked at it and said: "That's my bikini, my glasses, my towel, my hair, and oh, yeah, that's me." There are a couple of other distinguishing things I won't mention, as well.
And we remembered that time at the beach when I was off getting us drinks....
"What do you think of this?" I ask her. She shrugs. "Well, I think it's cool." It is a fairly prominent book.
So I look up the artist's website, send off an e-mail, saying we are asking for nothing, but relating the story and asking him to confirm. He never responded, and I can understand why. If you're using someone's likeness to profit from, you need a release and some form of compensation to have all your legal bases covered. I used to sign the paper and get a dollar bill in order to appear in commercial skydiving films. All that happened here was a, "Do you mind if I take your picture, miss?"
More years go by. I'm in a bookstore, talking to the owner, see that he has several copies of the book on his shelf and tell him the story. A couple of days later I stop in with my wife. He says, "I know you," and I think he's talking about me but he's looking at her. He went to his shelf, pulled off the copies, and had her sign them with her name and the designation "Cover girl."
Ask her about it today and she says with full confidence, "That's me." Look at her, look at the picture. It's her. The swimsuit and towel are probably long gone but the books remain.
Sadly, my wife has now signed more books than I have. Never underestimate the power of the bikini.
Why do I have to always specify "Arial" as a font twice in Blogger before it actually uses it? Hm.
In light of my recent comments about Amazon's awful book packaging policies, I want to say something nice. Their book packaging still is a random mess of people who just don't seem to care, but they got the pills my dog needs to me days earlier than I thought they would.
Greg Shepard, publisher of Stark House Books, just let me know that the august person of Ed Gorman has posted an excerpt from a recent introduction I wrote for a pair of Peter Rabe books, Kill the Boss Good-by / Mission for Vengeance. Of course, the picture on Ed's blog is for a different set of Rabe books, but those are wonderful, too, and deserve your patronage as well. I can even vouch for the intro in that book, as well. But it's not by me.
So I heard from Amazon in response to the e-mail I sent them from the previous post. They said that since another shipment would likely result in the same sort of damage, they'll "look into it." And they'll refund the cost of that book.
Alright, I get my money back but I can't order a new one because they also said they'd not sell it until they investigated. Great. Then they ask if they've solved my problem. I told them, "No."
Then I sent them this:
"You say that it's likely another replacement would end up the same way, and you're right AS LONG AS YOU KEEP SENDING BOOKS IN PADDED ENVELOPES WITHOUT BACKING THROUGH UPS. Even the UPS driver this morning told me you shouldn't do this.
"You know how to ship books without incurring damage? I can't believe I have to tell you this but the answer is CARDBOARD."
Ironically enough, another paperback arrived today, this time through USPS. It was a "Today's Deal" book. Rather than ship in an unbacked padded envelope and mangled along through UPS, it was shipped shrinkwrapped to a piece of cardboard and packaged in a box. That's as bulletproof as you're going to get.
So the book packaged by the Prime packers, you know, that service that Amazon's best customers pay eighty bucks a year for (I say "best customers" because their stats show Prime members by many more times the stuff as non-Prime members), is shipped like a second-hand charity shop, and the sale book through the regular packers is a beautiful example of overkill that gets my book to me in perfect condition.
Something's wrong with this picture. Since Amazon will likely never change, then it devolves to me. But I'm counting on a grassroots campaign to spring up and deluge those fine folks with complaints to let them know that what they do now is just not good enough.
And the worst thing is I will remain pissed off up to and including the time that I receive my next order, which is a pair of school books for my son.
I will never win because I won't stop playing. Viva, Las Vegas, er, Amazon.
Death to Amazon (or at least a good wake up call) (or a pounding to the head)
This was not meant to be a blog post. This is the text of a complaint I just sent to Amazon. It's not the first of it's kind from me, and it likely won't be the last. Before you say something like, "If you don't like them, don't use them," consider I live in a small town near the Canadian border. The nearest real shopping mall is over a hundred miles away. Without many of the products Amazon offers, my shopping habits would be forced to change. What troubles me is that their core business, their founding pillar, is selling books, and the way that they pay zero attention to the quality with which they are shipped is absurd.
It's better if you're not a Prime member. They've admitted to me they use different packers for Prime orders. These are clearly not the best packers, but probably the quickest. Which is why none of my orders are packaged well, and many end up getting sent back. I can't order a book without sending out a prayer and this is wrong. Their customer service is wonderful right up to the point where they refuse to do anything to fix this problem. This is what I sent them:
"I live in a small town. I order a lot of stuff from Amazon. I send back a lot of stuff to Amazon. I just got a replacement for a book I sent back last week. It is in worse condition than the first shipment. YOU CANNOT SHIP A PAPERBACK BOOK IN A PADDED ENVELOPE WITH NO BACKING THROUGH UPS AND EXPECT IT TO ARRIVE UNBENT AND DAMAGED. EVERYONE in the world knows this but Amazon.
"I even tried to be clever--I ordered a book I wouldn't have ordered now at the same time in the vain hope that both might be shipped together in a box. Didn't happen.
"Your company will be undone because of your bottom of the barrel shipping department. You use inflatable air-packs that you don't inflate. When you do, you just drop them in the box like another item, rendering their effectiveness minimal. You have lost money on the two returns I made last week. One time you told me that if I kept returning a book (The Letters of Saul Bellow) the same damage would still likely occur.
"I get dirty finger smudges on the pages; I get scuff marks on the dust covers from the books sliding around in the box; I get tears, folds, bends, any number of damages that happen due to your unwillingness to pay attention to this. Leaving packaging feedback is worthless. Sending e-mails to you is worthless. If your customer support fell to the level of the quality of your shipping department you'd be out of business in a week.
"As it is, if another company comes along, and I'm sure they will, that does everything for me that Amazon does, I'm gone in a second. And it's not due to your products, your pricing, or your customer service. It's due to one thing, the lowest rung on your service ladder: the people who put the items in the packages.
"I've ordered hundred dollar plus books that come from you with no padding of any sort (yes, they get returned) while twenty bucks worth of books used to come shrinkwrapped to cardboard backing (that was before I was a Prime member; Prime members don't get books shrinkwrapped to cardboard backing. We get uninflated air-packs and padded envelopes sent through UPS.)
"In addition to the two books I returned last week, I got another book that I should have returned: a quarter of the pages are bent and wavy as though your packer spilled water on them. The replacement book I just got now, which is in worse shape than the original, I should send back, too. But I won't.
"You've worn me down. It's not the first time, either. I will put it on the shelf and curse Amazon each time I look at it. WordPerfect went down, Novell went away, other market leaders who thought they were too big to fail have disappeared or shriveled away. Unfortunately it certainly seems as though Amazon is in the queue."
Will they care? Of course not. Should they care? One would hope. In the meantime I'll put another couple of books on the shelf that I don't want there, new books that are of decided Goodwill or garage sale quality. Not how I want to build my library. If Amazon's shipping department is providing you with less than barely adequate service, please consider sending them a quick e-mail. There's a "contact us" link at the bottom of their pages and it's an easy thing to do. Quick, too. Kind of like how they treat the packing of orders for their best customers.
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