Havenhurst: A study in bad story telling

Horror didn't start off as one of my favorite genre's of movies. It still isn't, really, but my appreciation for it has grown ever since I started getting cuddles from my wife while watching them. I'm not as big a fan as she is of getting scared at something, which usually isn't a problem since most horror movies aren't very scary.

Let me first note that I'm not saying I don't like horror, I'm just saying I like it less than super-hero movies. There have been horror movies I've really, really liked, some that had me guessing the whole way through, some that genuinly creeped me the hell out and those were fun and I enjoyed them.

Havenhurst was not such a movie.

Katie and I watched Havenhurst this weekend, because the blurb on Netflix made it look like a haunted building movie, which I'm always up for. Love hauntings, love the supernatural, gonna work it into a book someday. Havenhurst looked interesting, had some good actors in it and, somehow, was decently rated.

Now, I'm going to spoil the crap out of it because I don't want any of you to feel like you need to watch it. Continue reading…


I’m scared and I don’t know why you aren’t

“Trump's a political outsider.”

“Trump speaks his mind.”

“He's going to get the corruption out of Washington.”

“We don't want another four years of the same politics in Washington.”

“It's time we sent a message to Washington that they can't just ignore us.”

I've heard the arguments. I understand them. Congress' approval rating is lower than Ebola's (wish I was joking) and the “fly over states” feel justifiably like our concerns aren't important to the policy makers in Washington. Concerns that have been stoked and enflamed by a pompous, posturing, shit lord with corn-silk hair … I'm sorry … President-Elect Trump.

Continue reading…


Frigidaire taught me to hate again.

This is a story that I’ve been waiting to tell for months now. I like telling stories! Normally, it’s fun, and it comes from a place that is lousy with giant robots, magic, and just so many swords. So many swords. This story though, it comes from a place soaked in blood and mind numbing fury.  I wish it were something that actually mattered, in the long term, but it’s usually the inconsequential things that cause the most anger. You are never closer to actually murdering someone than when some prick cuts you off traffic, or when some dick cuts in front of you in line at the grocery store and then pays for his twelve pack of Bud Light in nickels. I write from that place of anger.

TL;DR: It took Frigidaire SIX MONTHS to do do anything about our broken freezer and we ended up losing $400 in the deal. Don’t buy Frigidaire. Ever. Don’t do it.

Warning! If you don’t like or approve of profanity, move on. This is not the blog post for you.

I would love to was poetic about this whole life episode for a few thousand words, but it would just be far too “first world problems” the whole time. Instead, I’ll focus on what went wrong, and all the ways that Frigidaire fucked up. It’s still going to be long. But there will be swearing! You all like swearing and rage, right?

Six months ago, my wife and I bought a new chest freezer to put in our new basement. We were pretty excited, since it would mean she’d get to experiment with more frozen meals, and we’d get to try out some other things that we just didn’t have the freezer space for. We chose a Frigidaire, mostly for the brand recognition. I had done a little research but there hadn’t been too many red flags, in fact it seemed they were pretty much on par, compared with their peers, in terms of negative feedback. It made sense. Frigidaire. Cold air! What could go wrong? The freezer was delivered, we filled it up, all was cool. (See what I did there?)

Two weeks later, all the food was ruined. Well over $300 of food, gone. The freezer had failed, thawed, and remained thawed for long enough for bread dough to start to raise. “Well, shit,” I thought, “Guess I’ll have to call Nebraska Furniture Mart.” They told me there was nothing they could do, I had to call Frigidaire, since it was still under manufacturer warranty. I didn’t know it yet, but I’d just been condemned to six months in consumer hell.

I’ll preface what comes next by saying that the customer service reps were always polite, and their computer always knew who I was, letting them pull up my information without me having to continually go into everything again. I don’t really blame them. The organization they belong to, on the other hand, fills me with rage.

Going in, I thought that this would probably be a simple thing. Frigidaire has people to come out and service their products. Unfortunately for me, after failing in such a spectacular way, the freezer had gone back to freezing things, after being unplugged and plugged back in. We took some steps to rule out things like the outlet being bad, something not being set up right…basically any sort of user error. That out of the way, I called into Frigidaire. They were very sorry that I had experienced problems, but didn’t want to send anyone out to take a look at it, since it was working again. I was supposed to watch the thing and see if it happened again. There was nothing they could do about the food though, they didn’t cover food loss.

We weren’t happy about the food loss, but, at the time, I figured it was just the sort of thing you have to expect from time to time. That’s just life, right? And maybe it was just a one time thing. Really, I’d just be happy with a working freezer. We had the small one left over from our last place that would get us by until we knew one way or another.  The customer service rep was polite and courteous and if the freezer actually worked we could deal with the food loss.

We watched the freezer over the next couple weeks, leaving it plugged in, without any food in it. It sat useless in the basement, attempting to prove its worth to us. In the end, it failed another three times, so I called in again. Frigidaire Customer Service (heretofore referred to as the Devil, Satan, Father of Lies) was very sorry to hear about that. They would contact Nebraska Furniture Mart and arrange for a replacement, probably by the end of the week (late in October). “Well, that’s that!” I thought, foolishly, “That wasn’t so bad.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.

One week went by. Then two. We got a letter in the mail requesting the original receipt from Furniture Mart and the serial and model numbers of the freezer. Which is odd, I thought, because they already have both of those, since when I called in the first time I’d registered the freezer with them. Confused, and beginning to become annoyed, I called the Devil up again to see what was going on, since the letter hadn’t really explained anything. Satan told me that Nebraska Furniture Mart wasn’t working with them to replace my freezer, so they’d be buying it back from me. With some small addendums: They wouldn’t be paying for taxes or delivery fees. Well…fuck.

You see, that changes the math just a little fucking bit. We paid $220 for that shitty freezer, and about $22 in taxes and another $50 for the delivery fee.  Add that to the (minimum) $300 of food that the freezer had destroyed and we were now out nearly twice the cost of the original freezer, at $370 some dollars. But wait, it gets better! Not only that, but we were going to have to pay to get a new one delivered, another $50 that The Father of Lies didn’t give a shit about.   A call to Nebraska Furniture Mart excused that cost, but pretty much means we have to buy from them again. Also, there was still nothing they could do, I was stuck with Satan, for all my freezer related servicing needs. A quick reminder that Satan, the Devil, The Father of Lies is Frigidaire Customer Service.

Well, fuck it. I’m stuck. If I want this piece of garbage out of my basement and working freezer in there, I’ve got to go along with what they want.  I sent them the original receipt and the serial and model number, hoping for a quick turn around.

Two weeks pass. We get another letter. They want the serial and model number before they can proceed. “The fuck?” I say, “I sent this to those assholes twice.” Back to the phone for another wonderful conversation with the Devil. Turns out they didn’t just need any old paper with with model and serial number on it, they needed some obscure piece of paper that was either taped onto the outside of the freezer, or the inside, when we’d first gotten it. I have no memory of the paper they described, nor was it with any of the saved paper work.

I’m doing my absolute best now to be patient with the customer service reps. They didn’t ask to have to deal with people who their own company was in the process of giving the run around.  At this point though, I’ve had an unplugged, useless piece of junk in my basement taking up space for months, and I’m sick of their surveys after every call. I’m sick of the wait times, I’m sick of the hoops and I don’t have the fucking piece of paper they just have to have.

They have a solution though. On the back of the freezer is a sticker that has the model and serial number. I can scrape that off, and send it in. Wait? The only mark on this goddamned useless hunk of junk that identifies it as the hunk of useless junk I paid $220 for four months ago. Yes, that sounded like a fucking awesome idea. I wanted another solution. Any solution that didn’t give them the last bit of evidence the machine was the one I paid for.

I called Nebraska Furniture Mart again. No help there. Fantastic. I had another option that had produced results in the past. Social media! I went to the Twitters, and bitched about my problems to their official account, and received a quick reply. We got a dialogue going, the connected me with the account I had in their system and I explained the problem that I was having. I took a picture of the sticker in question and posted it to them.  No. They needed me to physically remove it, and mail the thing in. There was no other way.

I would like to reiterate. They’ve had the original receipt for way more than a month now. They knew the model and serial number when they registered the fucking freezer, which was no problem at the time. I’ve had a non-functional fucking brick in my basement for three to four months now, largely waiting on them, with no communication that wasn’t initiated by me. It doesn’t take a moron to realize when you’re being given the runaround. This is the path open to me, so I took what photographic evidence I could, got the sticker off, also pouring all my hatred for them into that envelope and mailed it off.

Another two weeks go by. We hear nothing from them. I am now slowly simmering in my anger, and just imagining writing this exact blog post. But since we haven’t heard a goddamned thing, haven’t gotten any sort of confirmation or status update I have to once again talk to Satan.

Did they get that fucking sticker they just had to have? Yes? What’s the hold up then? Oh, the turn around to get me a refund is three to four weeks.  When are they going to arrange to have the broke ass freezer picked up and disposed of? Haha…They aren’t.  That fucking huge brick in my basement isn’t going anywhere unless I pay to have it gotten rid of, which, let’s check the price, is at least, another $50.

I like math. Let’s do some fucking MATH! $220 (Freezer) + $50 (Delivery Fee) + $300 (Ruined Food) + $50 (Disposal) – $220 (Refund) = $400. I would like to reiterate that going with Frigidaire straight up cost us $400 that we’re not going to get back for the privilege of having that piece of shit in our basement for six months and so many goddamned hours on the phone. I know. At the beginning of the whole fiasco I was willing to write the food off and call it “Lesson in life” but now? After all this shit? Their broken ass piece of garbage ruined $300 of what it was supposed to keep unruined. That was its only job. So, fuck that and fuck Frigidaire. Fuck them with their broken ass freezer that has been in my basement for six months.

Fine! Fine. It had been two weeks, we only had another couple of weeks till we got the money and we’re done with Frigidaire forever.

We waited another month. Another month. Six total weeks, for them to get us a fucking prepaid credit card, with $220 in it. It only less than four weeks for my computer to get built and shipped to me. I want you guys to think about that. Four weeks gets me a gaming quality PC. It takes Frigidaire six weeks to get me a fucking piece of plastic with some money on it after MONTHS of knowing they were going to have to do that exact thing.

And thus, I’ve come to the end of my story. We have our money back, or at least a fractional portion and the one joy I can take from it is attempting to make sure anyone who reads this doesn’t purchase anything from Frigidaire. Will you listen? Maybe, maybe not. If you buy something from Frigidaire, maybe it’ll work just fine. But then, maybe it won’t and you’ll have to spend the next six months or more of your life dealing with Satan, the Devil, Father of Lies, which, once again, is Frigidaire Customer Service.


My thoughts on Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance (Part 2)

Whew! Big weekend! I went to Osfest, sat on two panels, hosted another one and, oh yeah, Katie and I put a bid on a house that was accepted! **Continuously dances** No, I’m not telling you where, you creepy internet stalkers. I’m watching you. But not, y’know, in a creepy way. (I’m totally watching you in a creepy way.)

Annnnnywaaaay…awkward.  I’ve got more news coming about WordKeeperAlpha but things are probably going to slow down on it for the next couple months, since we’re going to be moving and I’ll have less time for development.  Trust me though, the next update is going to be HUGE and you’re going to love it.  Not only am I (again) revamping Goals, but Projects too, and a fair amount of the backend.  All that is going to lead directly into the social upgrades that I’ve been promising for so long, AND blog integration.  Also, faster performance.  It’s going to be super spiffy.

Completely ignoring the fact that I used the word “spiffy” in a blog post, lets get back to talking about Urban Fantasy vs. Paranormal romance.   Once again, full disclaimer, I personally don’t care much for paranormal romance.  My word on this is not law, I’m not calling you stupid for locing the crap out of it.  This is just my personal taste and things that I’ve noticed while sampling (often unwittingly) novels in the genre.

On the surface, paranormal romance and urban fantasy look exactly like the same genre.  Both usually feature bad ass (or potentially bad ass) main characters, magic, vampires and or werewolves set in a (mostly) modern setting.  I think the key difference (big surprise) is the focus on the romantic aspect.  I know, duh.  But really that’s all that separates them, or seems to be.  And that, is probably what I don’t like about paranormal romance.  The question of “Will they, won’t they” is given more precedence than “Dude, that evil wizard is just one sacrifice away from turning the world’s cows into insane werecow super-predators.”  Or, it will completely leave out the werecow plot (which is just wasting a terrific idea) and focus on the forbidden love between a completely normal woman and a super-hunky but dangerous angel-werewolf hybrid.  I’m sure that the latter story is fascinating to some people, but I really want to see what happens when the werecows start eating raw people burgers.

No, I’m not letting that drop and it will go into one of my books someday.  “Invasion of the Werecows,” New York times #1 best seller!

Another, in my mind, failing that crops up in paranormal romance is the thrice damned romantic triangle.  Seriously…how many times does the beautiful Mary Sue character really have to choose between the mysterious vampire hottie and the brooding werewolf hottie?  Vampire and werewolf are completely interchangeable as well.

Once again, its not that romance in the story is bad, or that I hate all romantic triangles.  I’ve read urban fantasies where both are handled expertly.  Take the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, for instance.  The first few books deal quite a bit with the romantic traingle between Mercy and two different alpha werewolves, which, just typing it makes me a little queasy.  But none of the books focus on that.  Its always a side plot to the main conflict in the book, in some books bigger, in some smaller until eventually it becomes a non-issue.  Mercy’s main problem in those books is often keeping herself or those she cares about alive, something that she has serious problems with.  Mercy is a kick-ass heroine who has a well defined character, a standing in the supernatural that makes her believable and relatable and mundane problems to match her supernatural ones. I just wish she didn’t get the shit kicked out of her so often…but that’s kind of what defines her.  Mercy can take a hit just as well as any of her supernatural friends, sometimes far better.  Their respect is earned, not magically given because Mercy is just so naturally talented.  She’s a bad ass, because she can be half murdered, and think herself out of the situation leaving her friends to wonder just how she survived AGAIN.  Her enemies are fools to mess with her, not because of her power, but because of how many threats she’s not only survived, but dealt with decisively.

Maybe I’m just talking about good writing versus bad writing.  Once again, I’m not well read in the official paranormal romance genre, but I’ve come to associate PN with writing that glosses over important character building to focus on the romance aspect instead of the paranormal aspect.  Is it possible to make the romance the main thrust of the plot and still have it be interesting?  Yeah, probably so, but I think that would take a defter hand than mine.  Also, I’m sure that there’s plenty of people who don’t care and just want Bella and Edward to bone in their awkward, completely not messed up way.  And the people who like that are just fine.  They know what they like.  I know what I like.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop ragging on Twilight though.  You can only expect so much acceptance and tolerance from me.

 


I got a reply from Representative Brad Ashford

Recently, I poked all the state representatives and senators about upcoming Net Neutrality legistlation that the telecoms have snuck into next year’s, must pass, funding bill.  And Ashford send me a response.  I know, it’s a form letter, but the return address seemed legit.  He may never actually read my thoughts on his response, but that doesn’t mean you lovely people can’t!  Here’s his response:

Dear Seth,

Thank you for contacting my office regarding net neutrality. I appreciate your interest in issues affecting our country and state.

The internet was built to be an equal distribution system. Net neutrality is an effort to solidify the internet as a neutral vehicle for data transfer, as in sending and receiving emails, streaming video, conducting commerce, etc. Concerns have been raised about network providers placing restrictions or discriminatory practices on their networks for different content.

I support an open internet, and oppose blocking, throttling, or the creation of “fast lanes.” We need to foster an open and transparent broadband infrastructure for all Nebraskans, which can grow our economy, and enhance our lives. However, we must be careful not to burden businesses with excessive regulation as this may stunt their vital investment in telecommunication infrastructure.

Again, thank you for sharing your concerns with me. As always, I am open to learning more from you and I appreciate you taking the time to express your views. You may find more useful resources for keeping up with my work by visiting my website https://ashford.house.gov/. I am honored to represent you in Congress.

Sincerely,

Brad Ashford
Member of Congress

And here is what I have to say in response to the honorable Representative:

Representative Ashford,

The telecom industry seems to be remarkably unconcerned with “investing in telecommunication infrastructure” so I don’t really see how regulating them so they are less able to take advantage of their near monopoly will do any harm.  Where I live, right in the middle of downtown Omaha, I have exactly one choice if I want high speed internet, advertised to me with the term “up to 100mbps” and I am luck most days to receive 20 mbps.  In fact, I don’t think I have, even once in two years as their customer seen 100mbps, even when I was paying for 150.  That’s it. I choose Cox, or I don’t get high speed internet.

Combine that with Time Warner and Comcast bringing lawsuits against cities that wish to build their own fiber network that provide reliable gigabit speeds for the same price I’m paying for 20 mbps because its “anti-competitive” and I have remarkably little concern for how these multi-billion dollar industries are burdened by regulation.  I’m a web developer, so my livelihood is closely related to the well being of the internet.  Not only do I develop web sites for the University of Nebraska, but I also am trying to get a web page of my own off the ground.  Seeing the telecom industry actively avoiding investing in infrastructure, and then attempting to keep others from doing so all while saying they should be protected from regulation so they can invest in infrastructure is infuriating.

We know the amount of money that the telecoms spend in Washington every year, and we see bills like this one keep coming up, with protections and considerations for the telecoms, but not for anyone else.  It may not be you, Representative, but its the system and I’m tired of it.  The massive profits of corporations like Time Warner and Comcast do not need your protection, we your constituents do.  We don’t need to avoid regulating the telecoms, we need to place incentives to drive competition.  I need two more (minimum) options to get high-speed internet where I live.  That, and only that, will encourage Cox, Time Warner and the other service providers to bring new technology like fiber to Nebraska at an affordable price…or at least get them to stop lying to me about the service they provide for the ridiculous price they charge me for it.  Don’t keep the telecoms in mind when you’re voting, keep me in mind, because you’re representing me, not the telecoms.

-Seth Swanson

Like I said…he’ll probably never read a word of it.  But just maybe he will, and maybe … Nah.  It’ll be ignored because, really, do I have millions of dollars and thus any influence at all?  Nope.  Oh well, on with the day.