I’m really, really trying to do at least one update a month, and clearly I’m really, really failing. What’s even worse is I’m currently on vacation, so it’s not like I don’t have time right now.

Anywho, if it wasn’t obvious or if I never mentioned it, I love to read. I have more books than I know what to do with (and I’m actually in the process of giving (literal) boxes of them to friends of ones that I just know I won’t go back to, or I have it in the eBook format. Like stuff you’d find on the NY Times bestselling list; Harry Potter, John Grisham, just shit I don’t need on my bookshelves. I really just want harder-to-find books there (like first editions and ’70s and ’80s movie novelizations; my latest drug). Or novels I will no doubt re-read (like King).

My Kindle has made this possible more than anything else. I know that a lot of readers shit on the Kindle, saying things like, “A Kindle doesn’t have the feel of a real book!” and “You can’t smell the pages of a Kindle!” Well, I call bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I would love more than to own a gigantic house where I would have a gigantic library, but I live in reality and you there is no good reason why I would need a physical copy John Grisham’s The Firm taking up valuable shelf space when I can have a Limited Edition of Joe Lansdale in its place.

One thing that’s been invaluable in building my eBook collection is Calibre, a free piece of software that is not just an amazing tool to organize your collection, but does a slew of other things, including grabbing and modifying metadata, covers, putting your titles in collections (like Jack Reacher #1, Jack Reacher #2, etc.) and much, much, MUCH more. In addition, you can connect to Calibre wirelessly as long as you have it running, and you can transfer books on the fly.

It gets even better. I have this app on my phone that gives me Google Play Store credit for answering little surveys (generally no more than five questions). Granted, it’s not a lot of money, usually between $0.12 and $0.26, but that really adds up. I was sitting on just over $30 in credit today when an email came through offering me $5 off any book purchase in the Play Store. After some Google searching and program downloading, I head to the Play Store and grabbed Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock for basically free.

Now, because everyone has to be fighting, and everyone has to have their proprietary bullshit, you can’t just buy a book from Google and put it on your Kindle. However, if you do the following, you can very easily convert your purchase to read on your Kindle:

  1. Get the DeDRM tools from here, and follow the instructions on adding the plugin to Calibre
  2. Install Adobe Digital Editions and open the book you purchased and it will convert it to epub.
  3. Go back to Calibre and you’ll now be able to convert that epub to a version you can read on your Kindle.

I’m oversimplifying a bit (it took me a little trial and error, but I got it going), but once you got it down, it opens up some more possibilities when it comes to finding deals on eBooks.

Oh, and I recently started using my library card to “check out” eBooks too. I know, right!?! That’s how I read the latest Reacher novel.

I shit you not, sometimes I feel like Henry Bemis in Time Enough at Last.

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I’m not a volunteer. I’m glad there are people out there that do volunteer, but it’s not for me. I’m too lazy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m heartless (I kinda am), but I do my good will in other ways. I donate money to causes I like. I donate my old clothes/books/furniture/etc. to the Salvation Army as opposed to throwing it out. I give to a few causes on Patreon. Now, granted, I’m getting something back either in the form of tax write offs and/or perks (in the case of Patreon), but I would still donate even if I didn’t get the tax benefit.

Recently, my employer has started this thing called Community Service. Well, it’s not really called that. We call it that. Or Volunforce. Basically all employees are now required to “volunteer” at least 25 hours a year for approved or pre-approved charities and events. I have a LOT of problems with this, which will be another blog post eventually, but as I told Joy, my sister, I’m really fortunate to truly love what I do as well as the people I work with, so if I have to do this, so be it. But, yeah, I do take issue with the idea of it. Anyway…

So far this year, I have 7 hours applied to the mandatory 25. This 7 was earned over in two 3.5 hour spurts volunteering for SOME (So Others Might Eat). Basically, I went to this place where they serve food to those less fortunate, not necessarily homeless, and helped out. There are a variety of jobs to do, such as serving food, taking out the trash, washing the dishes, or, what I did both times, serving coffee. It was an interesting experience all around. Once I learned out how to determine who wants coffee or tea (you just watch for the cups to be raised in the air), I was also told that the people getting the coffee or tea were only allowed to have at the most three sugars or three Sweet & Lows. I think this has to do something about addicts just wanting sugar, but I really didn’t care to ask. All I needed were the rules. I will say, though, those folks that want more than three will act like they don’t know that they can’t have more than three when they see a new face (mine).

Having never volunteered for something like this before, I didn’t know what to expect. But even so, some things surprised me. For instance, I was genuinely surprised on how these folks treated one another. Meaning, no food went to waste. I had expected that, for sure, but I figured it would be something along the lines of people taking with them what they didn’t finish, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, whatever food went uneaten was offered up to whoever wanted it. I don’t know why I found that surprising, maybe because I have such a low opinion of people anymore, but it was pretty…I don’t know. Touching, I guess. Here are some people that have far, far less than what I do, but I get this feeling that they are far, far less selfish than me. Don’t get me wrong, I freely admit I will always be selfish, and this wasn’t a life changing experience, but I was humbled a little.

I should also mention the first time I did the Volunforce for SOME, there was a dude that was dressed just like Raiden. It might have even been him, I was too in awe to ask.

The second time I did SOME, a guy called me over. He was standing against a wall, with no one to his right or left. He mumbled something to me.

“What?”

Mumble Mumble Mumble.

“I’m sorry, you have to speak up.”

Abramumble Mumblenight.

“One more time, brother.”

“I said you look like Abracadabra McKnight!”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“I know you don’t know who that is.”

At this point, the gentlemen turned to his right and started talking to the person that wasn’t there.

“I told you he wouldn’t know who you are.”

“No. No goddammit.”

“I know.”

He was getting mad at this person he was having (from my point of view) this one-sided conversation with, so I walked away.

I’m looking forward to my next SOME trip. I’m not going to lie, I do get a good feeling when I help out. But I also leave with some good stories. So win/win all around, I guess.

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Yesterday my buddy Kevin calls me up and asks me if I want to go location scouting with him and his brother for a new story he’s prepping for his anthology feature. I immediately said yes, mainly because it was right down the street from me (literally, like a mile away) and I always have fun hanging out with those guys.

However, even though I did meet up with briefly, something unexpected came up and I had to leave them to their own devices, traversing through the woods and general other riffraff.

Sometime later, I had all but settled in for the evening and was about 20 minutes into the horror film Wrong Turn when my phone rang. It was Kevin, letting me know they had finished up and asking me if I wanted to come over his brother’s house and watch the movie Matinee. I of course said sure, what the hell. I’d never seen the movie, and even if I had, since his brother lives even closer than where they were scouting, it wasn’t like I was driving across town.

“When are you guys going to be there?” I asked.

“Well, we’re going to stop and get pizza first. As soon as we get out of the woods.”

“You aren’t out of the woods yet? It’s dark. Do you have flashlights?”

“We have headlamps.”

“Do you know where you are?”

“Not exactly. I gotta go. We have to figure out how to get out of here.”

I laughed as I hung up. Then I stopped because I was watching Wrong Turn. Then I laughed again at the irony.

Time went by, and just as I was about to call Kevin back to see if I needed to call the National Guard, my phone rang (which was eerie because I was literally-not-figuratively reaching for it to call him when it rang). The two had made it safely out of the woods.

That’s cool My pals didn’t die at the hands of some inbred hillbillies.

And Matinee was pretty good.

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If I could go back and tell past self one thing in regards to purchasing my house, it would have been NO HOA.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for an HOA, but it’s not for me. The irony of course is I’m on the board of my HOA. I figure if I can’t beat them, I might as well see what it’s all about. Plus there are some good people on my board. So if I’m stuck being in an HOA, I might as well participate in what’s going on (or, rather, help decide where my money is being spent).

One of the things our HOA did (before I was on the board) is hired an outside company, HOA Inspection Services, to take on the responsibility of finding the violations in the neighborhood. With 700+ houses, it was way too much for one person, a volunteer no less, to do all of this. So even though I wasn’t on the board when this decision was made, I do think it’s a good idea. But holy shit, what a racket HOA Inspection Services is. I have never, ever, dealt with a company so clueless in how it operates. Either clueless or brilliant, because these guys are running some sort of scam.

But rather than take my word for it, you be the judge. Here is a conversation I had with them via email. It starts with me explaining when my violations will be fixed, and a question regarding one of my violations.

—————————————————————————————————————

Hi! Just wanted to break down the violations and plans:

1. Fading siding: I can paint that at first opportunity, but it is dependent on my duplex neighbor. As my Heat Pump just went out last week, that will cost me quite a bit but I am aware of it. At this time it’s about money I simply don’t have as I can’t afford to paint the entire duplex (which has to be done).

2. Storm Door Hardware – I plan on purchasing a storm door this summer. It will be removed/replaced then.

3. Paint front door/baseboard/shed door – Spring.

4. Paint light post – done.

5. Black residue on stoop/landing – please provide pictures of what you are talking about.

Thanks!

-Stewie

—————————————————————————————————————

Please contact a qualified handyman or contractor on issues that need clarification as they can best identify the issues.

The final compliance date to complete all issues is May 22, 2016.

Any unresolved issues after the said date will be addressed by the HOA board who will make a final determination regarding administrative and/or legal proceedings pursuant to the association’s governing documents. Please note, you will still receive further notices as a reminder until all issues are resolved. Thanks

—————————————————————————————————————

Sorry, no.

You said there is Black residue on the stoop/landing. I don’t see it, I need you to show what you are referring to. I will not pay for a handyman or contractor to point out something that you say is there. That makes no sense at all. Your company is the one that identified the issues, you, not a paid handyman or contractor, would in fact be the one who needs to identify it.

I look forward to your response.

Thank you,

-Stewie

—————————————————————————————————————

Most contractors do free estimates. We cite things that are obvious and apparent. At this point we will let the HOA board decide how to proceed further at the conclusion of the final inspection. Thanks

—————————————————————————————————————

Then if you can’t be bothered to explain what you are citing, I won’t be bothered to fix it.

I’ll assume that it’s no longer an issue at this point since you can’t, in fact, explain what the issue is.

Cheers,

-Stewie

—————————————————————————————————————

Hello Stewie. Another option is if you would like to discuss this issue in detail, the owners of the inspection company has a weekly podcast that is dedicated to discussing all issues related to HOA governance, etc. You would remain anonymous and get to air out your position to the inspection company directly. It would be beneficial to others who have been similarly cited.

Let us know if you would be interested. Thanks

www.HoaTalkTime.com is the podcast if you would like to listen and get an idea.

—————————————————————————————————————

No thank you. I just need to know the issue.

It’s honestly perplexing that you write up a violation and when someone has a question on it, your response is to get a contractor instead of explaining your findings. What kind of business plan makes this acceptable? You noted the problem, but it’s up to the home owner to find a third party to figure out the violations you found? Do you really think that’s best business?

—————————————————————————————————————

Hello.  When we cite issues, we cite issue that are very evident, self-explanatory and obvious.  We also provide a knowledge base with pictures of typical items for clarification like the issue in question:

https://cisresponses.desk.com/customer/en/portal/articles/1176375-dirt-grime-issues

If you are still perplexed about black colored substance that is ingrained in concrete, then we suggest a qualified professional who can point it out. Otherwise again, we will let the HOA board decide if they want to pursue the issue further. Thanks

—————————————————————————————————————

If you can’t point it out, this is a nonissue. The very fact you are telling me to hire someone to come out and find something that you say is there is piss poor customer service. No qualified professional is going to come out for free to point out something a third party claims is a violation.

What kind of business points out a violation without any sort of backing evidence? The burden of proof is on you here, and it’s completely asinine that your only response is “have someone else tell you what the problem is.”

Stop emailing me unless the next email consists of photo evidence of black colored substance on the concrete.

—————————————————————————————————————

Hello. We understand your concern and position. Again, we will let the HOA board make the final determination. This issue will stand as cited. Thanks

—————————————————————————————————————

I see your reading comprehension skills are as lacking as your customer service.

I’ll also be bringing the complete breakdown of what happened here up at the next board meeting. I’m completely unimpressed that your company can’t answer a simple question, instead suggesting the homeowner hire someone to point out a problem you insist is there. I’m actually surprised you didn’t recommend a contractor you know who would give me a good deal, considering how truly shady this whole thing is.

But, don’t sweat it, I have been sharing this experience with everyone I know to see if this is standard procedure to, you know, tell someone they are in violation of something, then absolutely refuse to point out said violation when questioned. Every single response has been utter disbelief on your inability to provide an answer to a question. Your company name is making the rounds! So there’s that!

—————————————————————————————————————

So here it is in a nutshell (or TL;DR):

Here’s a violation.

I don’t see what you are talking about on this part.

Hire a handyman or contractor. They’ll tell you what the problem is.

But you are the one who said there was a problem.

Listen to our podcast.

What? Just tell me the problem.

Take it up with your HOA.

That business plan is either retarded or brilliant. I’m still on the fence. On one hand, they are…just words can’t describe the stupidity of this. On the other, they charged our HOA to basically make up violations. It could go either way.

Oh, and the stoop with all the black stuff:

porch

If you are on an HOA and are looking for a service to something like HOA Inspection Services claims to offer, do not go with them. All you’ll get is a half ass job and a lot of angry home owners. This company sucks.

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I actually wrote this entire post as an email to a friend. Then I dropped the dream part as a comment on another friend’s Facebook page. But since I’m a lazy asshole and haven’t updated in a month, you get to read all of it.

Have you ever seen American Mary? You should if you haven’t. It’s brilliant. I loved it. Anywho, in case you haven’t there’s a character named Beatrice. Here’s Beatrice:

beatrice

There’s a lady that works here. She looks and sounds just like Beatrice, except she’s blonde. Whenever I talk to her, I can’t help but stare. She’s SO NICE. But she’s also blonde Beatrice. It’s so distracting. This means nothing unless you’ve seen the film. So go watch the movie. And note, I’m not knocking this lady. She just looks like the actress. And, like I said, she’s so goddamn nice, it’s distracting.

Second, I had this dream last night. In my dream I was driving along and this car with three attractive young ladies pulled up alongside and were sizing me up and hollering at me because I’m so handsome. I was hollering back of course, as not to be rude and ignore. Unfortunately, the driver wasn’t paying close enough attention to the road and ran off it. The car did a bunch of rolls as cars do, and came to a rest upside down and all buckled. Of course I’m a hero, so I pulled over and went to rescue them. The first girl I pulled out of the car had lost her bottom half. She wasn’t bloody at all though. It was just cut clean off from the belly button down. And she was crying and saying, “Look at me! I’m ugly. No one will love me!”

And, me, trying to make her feel better, I say, “No, you’re still beautiful. People will still love you.” Apparently that was the wrong answer because she started screaming at me.

“THAT’S ALL I’M GOOD FOR? MY LOOKS? I HAVE A BRAIN TOO, YOU KNOW.”

And I was like, “Whoa, hang on, I was just…”

“You were just being a pig!”

Then she called the press. SHE CALLED THE PRESS ON ME. And with this being a dream, of course the press was there instantaneously.

Having no time for this bullshit, I went back to the car and rescued the other two women still trapped inside.  They were cool, they thanked me.

I turned around from the car, and all of these mics were in my face and reporters were shouting questions at me:

“DID YOU SAVE HER JUST BECAUSE SHE’S PRETTY?”

“ARE ALL WOMEN NOTHING MORE THAN PIECES OF FLESH TO YOU?”

“DO YOU THINK SHE COULDN’T GET OUT BY HERSELF NEEDED A MAN?????”

I didn’t say anything, just walked away like the Bruce Banner.

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