We Dared to Dream

Yesterday, we dared to dream
Hoped to mark our spot in history
Engraved our name in time
Yesterday, we came out strong
A shock really did look on

It’s been more than a century
Players have come and gone
I even went to school with one
Yesterday, we dared to dream
And what a long wait it’s been

The Tigers’ shone yesterday
Just like that other rhyme
Burning brightly under London skies
And 10 minutes after kick off
It looked as if we may pull it off

In the end it wasn’t to be
But the Tigers marked
Their place in history
Written indelibly
We dared to dream!

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Am I Insane?

More or less anything I have ever done I have found a way to be successful with. Ok, successful doesn’t mean in my lexicon gaining notoriety or fame. It just means successful. I am adaptable and I can learn new things. But this selling books lark seems to be the biggest challenge I have ever met. I’m a poor seller it seems.

I had hoped for The Last Observer. It is fast-paced, exciting, magical and if you know what to look for, its full of real magic. It has quantum physics, parallel universes, an evil magician, a demon by the name of the Lord of the Elements. It has some love interest, a tad of violence. It’s a pretty good little story and many of the reviewers seem to to agree. And yet….it has failed to sell with disappointing take up and in recent weeks, it seems to have finally died. Its not expensive, available in many formats from many different outlets. I have wrote about it probably even pestered people about it. But nothing has really worked. I got reviews from friends but more importantly from reviewers I do not know who wrote honest reviews. One or two readers wrote reviews. I even got the reviewer from hell who trashed it, trashed me, trashed the publisher and trashed all of us wanna be writers which at least shows the reviews are genuine. It has a great foreword by Anthony Peake and had three great reviews to push it on its way.

Frankly, I’m stumped. I think you need some kind of lucky break to sell books.

None of my non-professional books has really sold. Inner Journeys – my first book – has racked up the biggest number. My poetry books sell a handful each if that.

Do I then keep trying or just give up? I don’t like giving up and I always think that success is just around the corner. I have never knowingly gambled but my obsession with books begins to look like it has gamble all over it.

So against all of that, I actually have a new book of poetry about to come out and I am working slowly – very slowly – on another novel.

Am I insane?

It appears so.

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The Five Characteristics of Rich People

I was just over on Linkedin where some business/wealth magazine had posted an article with the above title. Their five characteristics were the ones that you would expect… communication, blah blah blah blah….

In my life I have met my fair share of rich people. I don’t mean wealthy and I do mean rich – in excess of $10 million minimum. They did all share a set of characteristics but it wasn’t the ones I just read about. The first characteristic was to be honest greed. They coveted money and they would do almost anything to get it and absolutely anything to keep it once they had it. One man I know whose child played on a ice hockey team with my son would routinely call me up and ask if I would be renting a car for the weekend tournament in Denver or wherever it was? I always said Yes and yes again when he asked if he and his son could share it with us. After about 4 of these trips I began to realize what he really meant was would you give me a free weekend when it comes to a rental car please chump? He was worth many millions of USD this man and he was a devout christian but it never once entered his head to pay half the car rental with me….. Another very wealthy person I know has no friends. None. You see he is paranoid that anyone he meets is after his money and he feels that no one can be trusted… poor guy.

I think another trait of very wealthy people is utter selfishness. They don’t give money to charity unless their tax accountant tells them it will help and they display characteristics like those above. They out for one person and only one person and that is themselves. They would sell their grandmother and rent out their wives to make more money. Ego is usually another characteristic. They are rich, they did it from nothing. They are the special gifted and talented one. Everything they touch turns to gold and they have that Midas touch. My fourth characteristic would be tirelessness. When it comes to getting more money they work ceaselessly and tirelessly to do so and they expect others to work with the same work ethic to make them money too – employees are worked and worked hard. Finally, the other characteristic is a good tax accountant. Someone who can make sure they don’t pay any taxes on all that dosh or, if they do, its not very much.

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I can’t think of a single rich person I have ever met that didn’t display these traits frankly. Even the heiress I met when a student as she was a lecturer at a college and involved in a similar field wore the same dress day in day out, drove an old beat up car, spent nothing but was constantly seeking her next dime….

I’m not anti rich people by the way. I’d love to have 5-6 million myself so I could relax and take some time for myself. I just do think that the way we try to emulate their super characteristics is ridiculous. Usually these so called characteristics are a myth and the real reason they got rich is because they used people, stole ideas and got lucky. Bill Gates didn’t think of windows, Richard Branson screwed his best friend over crying as he did so…. I do really think these people sell their soul for material wealth and power. They don’t write a contract with the Devil (usually anyway) but they do lose sight of their inner treasures and are deceived by material things. They sell themselves down the river….

Let’s stop trying to emulate these people. Putin is such a person – he is worth billions all stolen from the people that elected? him. Berlusconi, the just ousted Ukraine President, Gaddafi and on and on…. Richard Branson, Bill Gates and so on aren’t people to emulate but people to feel sorry for and to avoid like the plague quite honestly.

Just my view….

Moments

A little reminiscing
Passing of a life
Not even thrilling
It’s been a long ride
Dancing through time
Losing my pride

Where did it go
Where did they go
All of those people
All of those places
Those ups and those oh so downs
Times and time, sand grains falling
Moments of glory and moments of hell
Moments when you knew that you’d done well

Listening to second hand Bolan
A Child of his revolution
Just like that Jean Jeanie
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean
Houston, I heard you calling
Or am I confusing you with the Clash?
All that trans Energy wasted
Never did make my splash

Where did it go
What did I really do
All of those faces
All of those names
The heights and the valleys
The passing of my life’s graces
Moments of glory and moments of hell
Moments when I knew I didn’t do so well

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Customer Service East of the Rhine….

I love living in the Czech Republic I really do. It is beautiful, relatively inexpensive (outside of Prague), full of very nice people and has great beer and food. One thing it lacks however is an understanding of what customer service is.

When you live somewhere like the Czech Republic you really do begin to yearn for the American customer service experience. I say American because to be honest, British customer service isn’t all that great either…. but, its not this bad!

Let me give you a small example. In an earlier post, I mentioned a bill for natural gas. The company in question is RWE, a major German energy company. You would think then that customer service would be high on the agenda of a company supplying energy to customers right?

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For the last 4 months, our apartment in Brno has been empty. Apart from a couple of nights when we have stayed there in sleeping bags, the heating is set to minimum. What this means is that it only comes on at close to freezing temperatures. Now, I would say that this winter that may have occurred for a month or so – not much more as it has been a remarkably warm winter – today March 12th, it is 14C! So, you can imagine my shock and consternation when I got a bill for three-months for more than $500 equivalent right?

The first thing I did was call RWE. There was an English language option that dumped you into voicemail. I left 2 or 3 voicemails over the last few days and no one has yet called me back. I also sent an email to the email address provided asking how could this be?

After 2-days I got a short email back saying that we should check the meter reading ourselves and that we could also, for a fee, have the meter’s accuracy checked. Super! How? Well, it didn’t say. So I replied. I asked a few additional questions such as what tariff are we on? How long is the contract? Could it be possible that the gas is also being used by someone else in our building? Would RWE be able to offer us some efficiency advice? Two days later, I got the reply….

1. We are on a standard tariff. If you want a different one, visit the RWE shop in Prague and deal with them,
2. RWE is not a gas service company so if you want to check if others are using the gas you should look in the phone book and call someone,
3. No, RWE does not offer any advice on energy efficiency.

By the way, at no point was I given any phone number or contact person so … I wrote back saying, please call me.

I got a call surprisingly quickly.

She asked me what I needed. I explained the issue. So what do you want, she asked. I would like someone to check the meter and by the way, the hall always has a gas smell, says I. Oh, you should contact our emergency service, in fact, I will put you through…… she was gone!

Emergency services answer…. Do you speak English, says I? No. OK, here is the address in Brno…… Wait, he says (in English), this is Prague, we don’t cover Brno. You need to call them. click!

I don’t know what to say……… but where is the customer service in any of this? RWE plainly could care less.

Luckily, there are other providers here and I am looking up their numbers now.

Sometimes Everything Just Goes Tits Up….

This last few weeks has been pretty interesting. Its not so much that we have a had a run of bad luck but that things just appear to be testing and frustrating us.

First off, we have a had a string of unexpected bills. First we got a fine for having no car insurance last year for a few days – it just arrived in the mail saying we notice you had no car insurance and here is your fine, signed the Czech Government. They are correct actually as the car was leased and insurance included and I forgot to get new insurance when the lease ran out (and no one wrote from said insurance company saying would you like to keep your insurance going)…

Next, we got a gas bill from RWE for our unoccupied apartment in Brno. Its not been a cold winter by any standards and yes, the heating is on but set at minimum just to keep anything from freezing. My expectation of the bill was that it would be negligible but let’s just say it initially looked like I had expected until I counted the zeroes and saw an extra one included. Now this is daylight robbery and I am trying to get RWE o talk to me but emails and voicemails have so far elicited no response whatsoever.

As if unexpected bills (and that is just two out of several) where not enough, the IRS inexplicably denied my daughter a TIN (Tax ID). This after the embassy denied her a social security number. Now this makes my blood boil as it simply means that I cannot get a tax deduction for my own daughter! Of course, the only way to move this forward is to call the 800 number rumoured to connect to the IRS, wait hours while listening to dreary music and an infuriating voice telling me my call will be answered in the order it was received….

Funnily enough, I need to call the IRS anyway because out of the blue and without any explanation I got a tax refund check from them two weeks ago. Ahhh, I hear you say, a change in fortune? Maybe…. maybe…. but neither my accountant nor I can figure out why I got a refund as according to our calculations I owed them! It’s just more aggravation.

There has been quite a lot more aggro from destiny this last week or so including my fight with a TOMTOM upgrade for the car in which I ended up losing everything on the disk and had to purchase a new map! That was 4 hours not well spent…

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I don’t quite know what is going on but at the moment is does feel as if I am forcing my way through jelly to get anywhere and my limited financial resources are being overly strained…

Is there some astrological event going on I am not aware of or what?

Finding an Audience

How do you find an audience? Some people manage it. Others don’t. Is it luck? I don’t think it is necessarily talent – although my perceptions of talent my not be your view. I have blogged and written pretty much twice or more a week on this and other blogs since about 2004 or around 10-years. I don’t have much of an audience. My books don’t sell well. I have failed to find an audience. The hint though on how to build an audience was always right there. My single blog post about sex in the Czech Republic still gets more traffic than all my other writings put together. Is that a sad indictment of me or just a sad indictment full stop? Maybe I should give up? When I first started blogging there were many millions fewer blogs less than there are today so it has become much more competitive hasn’t it. The same goes with books… it is hugely competitive.

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Which really brings you to a couple of questions. The first is why do I bother? You know I don’t really know but I don’t think I could stop writing articles about life and the world as I see it even if I wanted to. A few people read the articles. You never know, I may still find an audience. More importantly, I probably enjoy talking to myself and better I do it this way than in public where people might believe me to be a nutter. The second is why haven’t I found an audience? Well, in some ways I have. On the energy and commodities side, my writings do sell and are somewhat in demand. I am recognized as an expert and I make a reasonable living talking, writing about and discussing the energy and commodities industry. Its a niche and its quiet small but I have an audience and I have a voice. As for my view on what’s right and wrong with the world – well, maybe I’m old fashioned and out of step. I still believe in manners, politeness and decorum. My poetry may sometimes be good and rarely if ever better than that but everyone writes poetry and poetry doesn’t sell – not anymore. As for writing about the esoteric – well, if you take it seriously as opposed to sensationalizing it into something its not, its also a very small niche. If the truth be told, its a whole group of related niches that are all very small.

On the other hand, maybe I am simply kidding myself. Maybe my blinkers simply don’t let me see that no one is really interested in what I think – about anything. Everyone is so full of themselves they have no interest in anyone else. Maybe I am just the same pushing myself relentlessly to a bunch of others who are pushing themselves and on and on. If so, then plainly, I have yet to identify my audience because there are consumers out there – masses of them. People who take what is put in front of them and consume it. So how do I get my stuff in front of them? Are we back to blogging about sex again I wonder……