Saturday, November 2, 2013

Google Domain Registration Payment Failure / Invalid Request

If you have a domain name through blogger, you've probably gotten the following e-mail by now:

Hello,

Our records indicate that the payment for registering your domain demystifyspanish.com was unsuccessful.
Payment failures happen for a variety of reasons (such as insufficient funds or an expired card). You can update your payment information to resolve the issue.
Please log in to your account and update your payment information. If you take no action, your domain will not be renewed on March 9, 2014.
 
Log In
 
Sincerely,
The Google Apps Team

Of course, clicking on the provided link takes you to an error page that says "Invalid Request." How do you update you payment options of you can't log in to your account? Here's how you fix it:

Put the following URL in your browser: https://admin.google.com/DOMAIN.com/ForgotAdminAccountInfo . Replace DOMAIN with your own personal domain.  You also need to replace .com with .net (or .org etc). This will take you to a Captcha screen. After typing in the captcha, Google will send an e-mail to you with reset instruction. Follow the link and fill in the information. You will need to update your payment options.

You can also probably fix this, though I have not tried it, by logging into your domain's primary e-mail account at bloggeradmin@DOMAIN.com (or .net, .org, etc.).





Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Libertarian Lessons of South Park

I'm in the middle of writing a book about libertarianism in South Park: The Libertarian Lessons of South Park. Excerpt:



Before we begin analyzing the libertarian lessons of South Park, we must first define what a libertarian is. Conservatives believe that libertarians are pot-smoking hippies. Liberals believe that libertarians are either anarchists or corporate tycoons who only care about money. Neither one of these definitions is true. We can define libertarianism with the following two definitions:

1. A libertarian is someone who opposes the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. (This is the pledge you take when you become a member of the Libertarian Party.)

2. A libertarian is fiscally responsible and socially tolerant. Some say that libertarians are half-Democrat and half-Republican.

You may notice that I’m spelling libertarian with a miniscule “l”. I have to make a distinction between libertarians and Libertarians. A Libertarian is a member of the Libertarian Party. A libertarian is someone who believes in libertarianism, but not necessarily a member of the Libertarian Party. For example, Gary Johnson was a Republican governor of New Mexico, but his policies were very libertarian. He didn’t become a Libertarian until he ran for president in 2012.
Another reason that I’m writing libertarian with a miniscule “l” is that I want to compare libertarians to liberals and conservatives, not Libertarians to Democrats and Republicans.
We also need to define what a liberal is and what a conservative is. A libertarian is fiscally responsible and socially tolerant. A liberal is fiscally irresponsible and socially tolerant. A conservative is fiscally responsible and socially intolerant. Although in recent years, conservatives have become neo-conservatives. Neo-conservatives, or neo-cons, are fiscally irresponsible and socially intolerant, the worst of both worlds.
We can also define libertarian with a quote from Andre Marrou, the Libertarian candidate in 1992:

“Liberals want the government to be your Mommy. Conservatives want government to be your Daddy. Libertarians want it to treat you like an adult.”

I believe this quote sums up the differences among liberals, conservatives, and libertarians perfectly. Conservatives want to protect you from external enemies like your father would. Liberals want to protect you from yourself like your mother would. Libertarians don’t want to be your parents or your nanny.


Liberals & Conservatives & Libertarians, Oh My!


I believe that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have influenced, whether it was their intention or not, a generation of young people to be more libertarian with their show South Park. They sum up their political beliefs with the following statement:
“I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals.”
If this book works the way I intend, liberals and conservatives who read it will be libertarians when they finish it. I will use certain episodes as a point of departure to discuss certain issues. In some cases, I will use my experience in France to drive the point further. I will cite some prominent libertarians, but in many cases I don’t cite anything. As you read, you will notice that I spend more time trying to convince liberals to be fiscally responsible than I do trying to convince conservatives of being socially intolerant. That is because I believe that fiscal responsibility can be taught more easily than social tolerance. Social intolerance is often motivated by deep religious beliefs, and it is virtually impossible to change one’s religious beliefs.
For example, Rick Santorum is very conservative, and I don’t think anyone can convince him to be socially tolerant. In fact, Santorum recently said that the Republicans are losing elections because they’re not anti-gay enough. I’m more optimistic of influencing those who don’t feel very strongly about the liberal-conservative dichotomy.
My job in France gave me so much time off that I was able to contemplate the role of government in our lives. And I was able to come to many conclusions, which I discuss in this book, without having read anything about libertarianism beforehand. I used to be liberal, but then I realized that I was a libertarian all along. I just didn’t know it.
Each chapter from Chapter Two to Chapter Sixteen is named after an episode from South Park. The chapters begin with a description of the episode, in case you haven’t seen it. If you’re an avid South Park fan, you won’t need to read these of course. Some descriptions are longer or shorter than others. The subsequent subsections contain a libertarian lesson from that episode. The episode is used as a point of departure, and there are a few subsections that don’t pertain directly to the episode, but rather to the lesson in it. You will notice that a few chapters have more lessons than others. For example, Chapter Two contains many lessons discussed that could easily be discussed in other episodes. While many of the libertarian lessons of South Park are often repeated in multiple episodes, each lesson will be discussed only once, but they may be mentioned a few more times.



Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Writing Negative Reviews if You're An Author

I just ordered new copies of Aaron Shepard's books, Aiming at Amazon and POD for Profit. (Well, actually I just ordered them for the first time. I've still been referring to the old 1st edition.) I read through them, one piece of advice really caught my eye. On page 156 in Aiming at Amazon, Shepard says you shouldn't invite negative review by giving them yourself.

This made me think about all the customer reviews I've written. I don't like to write negative reviews of books. If I don't like it, I simply won't say anything about it on Amazon. That doesn't mean I can't say something about it on my blog. I can think of at least two exceptions to this rule:

1. You might be an author now, but you may have written negative reviews long before your first book's publication date.

2. The book you're criticizing was written to help you as an author/publisher and failed to do so.

Before I explain what I mean in number 2, let me tell you that I first tried to publish with a self-publishing company called Outskirts Press. I purchased a book called Sell Your Book on Amazon, which was written by Brent Sampson, the CEO of Outskirts Press. I figured that a marketing book written by the head of Outskirts would be a great way of learning how improve my own book sales. So I tried nearly everything in the book to promote one of my earlier books. The results were horrible. Despite hours upon hours of employing Sampson's advice for several weeks, my book sales were still dismal.

In response, I wrote a very critical and negative review of Sell Your Book on Amazon. You can view it here in my blog or here on Amazon. It's been the number one Spotlight review for that particular book since 2008.

If you're going to write a book about Amazon marketing for authors, be prepared to receive feedback from those authors. And if your book doesn't deliver on its promise, don't be surprised when you get a negative review.

So, I am now an author, but I had absolutely no problem writing a negative review of Sampson's book. His book was intended to help authors, but it ended up costing me a lot of time and money.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Criticism of Kindle Formatting Affects Sales

 I wrote the following e-mail to Amazon regarding the affect of Kindle reviews on paperback sales.

Hello,

I want to suggest a new way of averaging the customer reviews on Amazon. This specifically deals with Kindle and paperback editions. I like that reviews written for one edition will show up on the other edition. I have my books in the Kindle program, as well as in paperback. When someone writes a positive or negative review of the content of a Kindle edition, it carries over to the paperback edition.

What I don't like is how negative reviews that specifically criticize the formatting of a Kindle also carry over to the paperback edition. This causes the customer review average to go down across the board. One of my book's average is lower than it should be because the reviewer is criticizing the formatting, not the content.

So, I would like to suggest that there be two sets of ratings. One rating can be for content, and the other can be for the Kindle formatting. Many reviewers are writing reviews where they give only one or two stars because of the poor formatting, while at the same time they like the content of the book. They are really just trying to warn others to stay away from the Kindle edition.

Brandon Simpson

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Site for Spanish Lovers

I have written many posts on this blog, some about Spanish and other languages, and others about publishing and finance. I've decided that the two should be separate. Small Town Press will contain blog posts that deal with writing, publishing, and financial topics. My new site Demystifying Spanish will contain information and blog posts about the Spanish language and my books on Spanish. I may continue to write posts about new books that I will have published on this blog.

So, if you're a hispanophile, like me, check out my new site. It's still under construction.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Debtonomics: How I Am Paying of my Debts, One Debt at a Time



In December 2009 I received a phone call from a credit card company. I didn't want to answer the phone, because I knew why they were calling. I was maxed out on that particular card, and I couldn't afford to make the minimum payment that month. That phone call, however, spurred me into action. I decided that I was done being a slave to the never-ending debt cycle that so many Americans had found themselves in. I decided that I was going to pay my down my debts, once and for all.

Before I go into the strategies I used, let me tell you know what and and whom I owed. I had three credit cards.
  • One Capital One Visa/$1500 limit = Maxed out
  • One Capital One MasterCard/$1500 limit = Maxed out
  • One CitiCard MasterCard/$3600 limit = Not maxed out (I think I owed $2000+ at the time)
  • One Car Payment/$200 per month = I think I had 14 or 15 payments left
  • One Student Loan//$112 per month = I borrowed a total of $10,000 for all four years of college
I had graduated from college during the 2007-2008 financial crisis, so job prospects were not very good. I had to stay at my job at KFC, where I was earning $8 per hour. (I know that's not much, but it was decent pay considering the area and the dismal economy). The first time I decided to pay off credit card debt, it was because I owed $800. I know that's very little, but it seemed huge to me at the time. I was able to take out a bank loan to pay it off at once. The loan officer was very nice at trusted me with the loan, even though I did not "meet any of the qualifications for a loan."

As time went by, I slipped back into my habits of spending money I didn't have. This time I had two credit cards. I eventually ended up getting a loan for $2,000 to pay these off. However, I had to use my card to pay for much needed car repairs. So transferring the debt from the credit card to a bank loan was done to pay a lower interest rate.

Now let's get back to my debt-repayment story. The phone call got my ass in gear. I didn't want to take out another loan. So I tried something different: I stopped charging and I spent less. That was the most important step into pay off debt. If you're bleeding from a small scratch, you don't want to take a butcher knife to it and make it bigger, do you? So anyone with a debt problem who is reading this now, I urge you to stop charging. If you stop incurring new debt now, while simultaneously making the required payments, you will eventually get out of debt. But this will take longer, and you will pay more in the long run.

As I see it, there are three main ways of paying off debt:
  1. Spend less
  2. Earn more
  3. Spend less & Earn more
Number 3 is fastest way, but for most people, number 1 will work. How can you spend less? I used to eat out almost everyday. This is fine if you can afford, but I really couldn't afford. I can't count the number of times I charged my meals to one of my credit cards. That was one thing I sacrificed. However, when I did eat out, I would order water instead of soda. I also tried to eat during lunch time at restaurants where lunch prices were cheaper than dinner prices. If I decided against eating out a particular day, I would take the money that I would've spent and used it pay down debt. For example, eating lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant would cost nearly $10 after paying and leaving a tip. If I decided not to eat there, I would go online, log into my credit card account, and make a $10 payment. It doesn't like much, but if you do this 2-3 times a week, you will be amazed at how fast you can pay off your debt. Think about all the times you just spent $10-20 eating out.  Imagine how much debt you can pay off by throwing that money there instead of eating out. This is just one example of something I did. You should look at your expenses and decide if there is something that you can do without, at least temporarily.

The second way of paying off debt is to earn more. I know this isn't practical for everyone, but for those of you who can, get a second stream of income. This can be a part-time job in addition to your day job. You can sell some of your used books and DVDs on ebay or Amazon. I sold many of my DVDs. The best thing to sell are box sets of DVDs. For example, I sold seasons 1-6 of King of the Hill for nearly $100. I also sold seasons 1-7 of Smallville for nearly $100. After all my DVDs were sold, I ended up with nearly $600 of additional income that I used to pay off debt.

The third way will generate the most money you need to pay off debt. However, in a way Number 3 is Number 2 in disguise. If you have a second job to earn more money to pay off your debt, you will have less time to spend it anyway.

Now that we have discussed where you can get the money to pay off debt, we need to explore debt-repayment strategies. There are two popular methods: the debt-snowball method and the debt-avalanche method. I prefer the debt-avalanche method, but most debtors will find the debt-snowball method easier.
  • Debt-snowball method: Look at your debts. Organize them in lowest interest rate to highest interest rate. Make the required minimum payments on all of them except the one with the lowest interest rate. Throw every single extra penny you have at the debt with the lowest interest. Once that one is paid off, move on to the next debt on your list. Repeat until every debt is paid off.
  • Debt-avalanche method: Look at your debts. Organize them in highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. Make the required minimum payments on all of them except the one with the highest interest rate. Throw every single extra penny you have at the debt with the highest interest. Once that one is paid off, move on to the next debt on your list. Repeat until every debt is paid off.
I prefer the debt-avalanche method because it saves you more money over the long run. It makes more sense to pay off a credit card debt with a 29% interest rate before paying off my student loan that has a 6.8% interest rate. This method is for financially disciplined people. Most people who get into debt are not financially disciplined. That's why the snowball method works better for them. The avalanche method rewards you financially, whereas the snowball method rewards you psychologically. With the avalanche method, it will take longer to pay off that first debt. With the snowball method, it will take much less time to pay off that first debt. The sense of accomplishment will keep you going if you use the snowball method.

Come this Friday, I will make my last payment to my credit card company. I still owe $500 on one card. After that, I only to worry about my student loans and my new car payment. My current plan is to keep my day job and let my book royalties pay off the remaining debt.

What should you do after your debt is paid off? From January to June 2010, I paid off $3,000 worth of credit card debt. It made me realize a more valuable and important lesson: the value of saving. That could've been $3,000 in a savings account. I have not yet started a savings plan, but I can still utilize the strategies for debt repayment for a savings plan. Once I begin this plan, I will post the results here in this blog.

Something to enjoy:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review of "Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Spanish"



Not for Absolute Beginners!


Let me first say that this book does a good job on its intended purpose. When you flip to page v (the preface), the author clearly states that this book is not intended to be the primary teaching source or that it will introduce concepts.

There's nothing wrong with that, but the title of the book is "Practice Makes Perfect: Basic Spanish." I bought it with the impression that it would introduce beginning Spanish concepts. I wanted to use this book with students or homeschooled kids who needed a good place to start. When I saw this book listed on Amazon, I was excited to see that a book for beginners had been published. But this book is not for beginners. If the title had been Basic Spanish Review, I probably wouldn't have bought it, or I might have bought it if I needed additional materials for a Spanish class.

This book is best used for maybe Spanish I in high school or Spanish 101 in college. The exercises are useful in that respect. But if you want a book that is for absolute beginners, get a copy of Getting Started with Spanish. It is one of the best, if not the best, book for absolute beginners of Spanish.