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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

James Altucher's 8 Point Shit Hit the Fan Plan

   "All aggression results from a lack of preparation". I truly believe that. Think about it. Think about the last time you were in a fight. Think about the last time you were in an angry slanging match. In every scenario I can think of I could've prepared better to avoid that fight. I like the idea of being prepared. Even to the extent of being a "prepper".

   Anyhow, I was reading James Altucher's plan on what you should do if you lose your job today. I think I can sum it up in 8 points:

1. Compile a list of companies you would be interested in working for. Think out 10 ideas on how you could add value to that company.

2. Make a list of people that you are grateful for. Reach out to them and tell them you thank them for their help in your life (Why? First of all this is going to make you feel better about losing your job. Secondly always remember that most jobs are never advertised. By reaching out you are reopening channels to someone who might be able to help you out).

3. Get a good suit and where it every day even though you are no longer going to the office.

4. Reconnect with absolutely everyone you used to work with and send them some ideas.

5. Slash your expenses.

6. Arrange lunch with some of the people you have reconnected with.

7. Use your free time to write a book.

8. Brainstorm ideas.

I have something to add to James' list. I think all of these things should be done BEFORE you lose your job. Remember - "All aggression results from a lack of preparation".

Thursday, 13 November 2014

One on One

   I am getting more and more convinced that the best job for myself would be something appointment based, where I work one on one with a customer/ patient/ client. I'm thinking about the likes of:

  • GP
  • Dentist
  • Financial Adviser
  • Life Coach
  • Hypnotherapist

   Obviously some of these take more training time than others!

Tim Ferriss' Market Research Step by Step

   I like Ebooks. When the Kindle first came out I was in the "Not for me" camp...... but then I tried it and I realised I was a fool.

   The Kindle is excellent. Very readable screen. Long battery life. Exceptionally user friendly. The Kindle store is fantastic - something for everyone.

   I have not yet produced an ebook of my own (I've done several physical books) but it is only a matter of time before I publish something.

   Earlier today I was browsing through an old Tim Ferriss blog post that I had printed off. Ferriss puts forward some great steps for doing market research within the area of your interest:

* Narrow down to 20 titles that you are interested in emulating.
* Read the "most helpful" 3 or 4 star reviews.
* From these reviews compile a list of what is missing or deficient from the books.
* Download all 20 onto your Kindle and read the highlighted sections.

I keep coming back to Tim Ferriss stuff time after time - brilliant!

How I used my day job to fund my freedom business

   I read this extract within the title article:

"When I was working at my day job, I would often commiserate and complain about how much I loathed it and dreamed of the day when I could finally say goodbye to it for good. Even though I was doing work that I enjoyed, there were many things that frustrated me immensely.

Just to name a few.....

* I didn't like being told what to do (I think all entrepreneurs have some amount of control issues).
* I didn't like being constrained to a schedule not determined by me.
* I didn't particularly enjoy working with some of the people at my job. (Okay some of them I couldn't stand.)

But guess what? Complaining about those things only made me more attached to what I didn't want. <>

I eventually realised that I needed to stop resisting and work with what was supposedly holding me back. I had to turn my adversary into my ally.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

More Book Ideas

   Due to a change in office I've had to downsize my personal book collection. Before doing so I am summing up the writing ideas that each book has given me..........

   Next up is "Adventure Capitalists" (Kogan Page, 1998). This is a compendium of the thoughts on various management and people issues by some of Britain's top managers. People such as Greg Dyke and Ron Dennis bare their souls, admit their mistakes and explain their backgrounds.

   This book looked so dated by the time that I picked it up that I never actually read it. I don't really picture myself as the head of a multinational organisation, I feel more suited to the digital nomad gig, or even just running small businesses from my shed.

   The book did get my brain going with ideas though. What would I like to read?

   Well, whenever I switch on Youtube I search out the latest videos from, for want of a better word, "lifestyle designers". This would probably include a section on each of these guys:

* Tim Ferriss
* James Altucher
* Kevin Rose
* Neil Strauss
* Robert Greene
* Gary Vaynerchuk
* Chris Guillebeau

   The basic outline of the book would consist of bios of these guys plus a few more. What is their outlook in life? what are their habits and routines? When they have time on TV, what do they choose to talk about? What books have they written and what was the World view put forward in them? How have they interacted with the other guys (and they are all guys) in the book.

   I think just answering those questions alone would result in a c 50 page book, which I'm sure would garner interest from the loyal fans of each of these.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Knocking out books ten to the dozen.......

   I recently moved office from a spare bedroom in my house into a caravan in my garden. As I was going to be reducing available space I needed to decide which books I was going to keep and which ones I was going to forward on to Amazon for FBA.

   At the same time I was thinking a lot about Amazon publishing, and specifically how e-books can be produced quickly (by the way have a listen to the recent interview between James Altucher and Steve Scott, the top Kindle author).

   In light of that I decided to keep back books which I thought could be relatively easily replicated. Here are some examples:

Life's Little Instruction Book - this book is simply a list of little titbits along the lines of "669: Be as friendly to the Security Guard as you are to the Chairman of the Company". In order to replicate this all you'd need to do is keep a notepad and write down things which you come across in life. For example, "1: Always keep a roll of Black Insulating Tape in a drawer. It comes in handy and can sometimes be hard to purchase".

Now You Know About Rangers - this is a 156 page paperback from 1994 by Bob Crampsey. I think Bob Crampsey has since passed on but he was a well known name in Scottish Football for many years. In general the book takes the form of questions sent in to Crampsey in his role at the Glasgow Evening Times and answers back from the man himself. For example: "D.D.D Stepps: What was Davie White's Junior Club before he signed for Clyde? He went to Shawfield in 1957 from the Lanarkshire Junior Club Royal Albert". I would start off replicating a book of this ilk by taking a subject you like and turning across to Quora. Write down all the questions you can (there are probably about 500 in the Crampsey book) and then answer them in your own words.

World Famous True Ghost Stories - this a 120 page paperback published by Parragon back in 1994. The imprint is "Magpie" and I can understand why - I don't think there is anything original in here. It is supposedly written by Colin Wilson, and to be fair it does have that quick, snippy Wilson style. I like Colin Wilson's stuff. It often reads like a news report rather than a story. I would put this forward as being the style you should try to copy if you were to do your own ghost story book. If I was to do this I would do a "Ghost Stories of 2014" book and simply spend a day going through Google gathering stories from around the world. You will be surprised how many spooky stories make the papers. There sensational nature means that papers love to carry them as nice easy copy.

Habit Stacking - this one wasn't actually a physical book, but rather an Ebook by Mr. Steve Scott himself. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it although it wasn't exactly what I expected. The first section spelt out why building up a new behaviour pattern through tiny little changes is the best way to go. The second section was basically a list of little things you can do, and the reasons why you should do them. For example, "Take a brisk walk every morning: Walking briskly in the morning gets your circulation going and speeds up your metabolism". I feel that a book like this could be knocked out extremely easily. Once again, just follow the simple formula put forward by Steve Scott - write a few pages around the theory of Mini Habits (read this to get the idea: http://deepexistence.com/take-the-one-push-up-challenge/) and then simply list out all the stupid little things that can be done to improve ones life. To construct this list, once again just turn to your trusty pen and paper. As time goes by just write down anything pertinent which comes into your mind, or something you hear on the TV, radio or in conversation.

Quiz Books - I have One Million and One quiz books in my house and I would say they are the most easy to replicate. Take a subject of interest, let's say Football. Start off with a footballing stat, for example you know that Gareth Bale is the World Record transfer fee. Search for that stat being referred to on Wikipedia. Construct a question around it. Then read the Wikipedia page and click through to anything which catches your eye. You might click on "Tottenham Hotspur". Read that page and construct a relevant question around that. For example, "Who were the first British club to win a European competition?" Click through again and construct another question. Within a couple of hours you will have a pretty beefy Football quiz book and it just needs to be edited into shape. On Quiz Books, as with all my suggestions here, I'd say you should go niche, niche, niche.

Crosswords and Sudoku Books - For Crosswords, I'd start by taking your quiz questions and searching online for a Crossword creator (even the first hit on Google is an adequate start: http://www.puzzle-maker.com/CW/). Sudoku is even easier. If you think about it, a company can't really copyright a Sudoku puzzle, therefore to create your book just take another one and then turn them 90 degrees. Bang - your own Sudoku book in minutes. The same applies to Wordsearch books etc.

Have I Got News for You - published by BBC Books in 1994. My first reaction when reading this was how difficult it can sometimes be to transfer comedy from the screen to the page. I actually wrote about this for my Higher English exam way back in 1996! The book takes the form of the rounds played in HIGNFY, like the Odd one out round and the caption round. I'm finding it hard to think of ways of replicating this sort of thing without using copyrighted photos. In light of this I'd probably recommend you look beyond HIGNFY to its forerunner - The News Quiz on Radio 4. Have a listen to a few episodes, there is bound to be a few kicking about on the net somewhere. It is basically jokes about the week's news all built around the format of a quiz. Write down some of the funnier jokes you hear. After a while you will realise that the jokes are very interchangeable. Has a politician been caught with their pants down? The same will happen again within a year, and you will hear the same jokes trod out with just the butt of the joke changed. By building up a database you will be able to churn out a book very quickly on the back of events OR save your jokes up for an annual review. For example you may do "National Ribbing - 2014 in the News" or "A Comedy Review of the 2016 US Presidential Election". Once again it is simply a case of building up a backlog of material with your trusty pen and paper.

The Revenge Encyclopedia - Published by Paladin Press 1995. Reprinted and recreated many times since. I love books like this. Fundamentally I must have something in me which craves that delicious moment when you wreak revenge on an enemy. I've written previously regarding how I think books such as this (and spin off services) will increase in future years as the emasculation of the Male populace continues seemingly without end. The book takes the form of bullet-points with little ideas for revenge under various headings such as "Superglue", "Careers", "Pets". If you were to study these books you could probably pair all the different methods of revenge down to about 10 or 12 actions. Let me give you a few:

* Write or call a mark's boss/wife/priest/mum with a malicious allegation.
* Vandalise the mark's property in some way.
* Childish things like whoopee cushions, dog dirt in shoes etc.

To tell you the truth, that's basically it! One way you could reproduce a book such as this would be (i) Bring the old fashioned tips up to date. No-one has a CB radio anymore, but most young people will have a Facebook or Twitter account; (ii) Carry out a bit of research. Go onto news websites and try to find articles about revenge. Here are some examples, lifted in 2 minutes from the Daily Mail website:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2735473/I-want-girls-stop-think-share-intimate-images-Woman-ex-published-nude-photos-revenge-porn-site-goes-public-raise-awareness.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2734702/Jealous-wife-kicked-former-workmate-legs-affair-husband-spotted-shopping-Tesco.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2731573/Failed-soldier-hired-hitman-burn-home-girl-dumped-one-night-stand-jailed.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2731074/Teen-gets-11-years-carving-swastika-boy.html

Once you've been through your favourite news site (making sure you use synonyms for "revenge") then my next step would be Twitter. Before you know it, you'll soon have 250 titbits or ideas and I feel this would be enough to flesh out an Ebook. Just add a section at the beginning discussing revenge and then list out your ideas from there.


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Lot's more to come here.













Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Continuing battle with Kwik Fit - the tide turns.........

Hi,

Interesting. It was actually a Kwik Fit I had this problem at. I complained to via the website but was called from the branch to say that having an odd sized tyre would NOT cause undue wear and tear on the juxtaposed tyres.

Could I therefore please be reimbursed for my expense?

Please do not call.

Kind regards,

Ross Taylor.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Proposal to Colin Cloud


Hi,

 

I really enjoyed Colin Cloud’s show at the Edinburgh Festival on Thursday Evening. I have been to see Derren Brown 3 times. Once in London, once in Northampton and once in Edinburgh, and I can honestly say that Colin was equally impressive.

 

I work as a Business Analyst for an English Publishing Company, however I am based in Alva, Clacks. I work Part Time so generally have free time available if required. Given my relative localness to Colin I was wondering if I could offer my help if he ever needed it. Perhaps as a practice person or something along those lines?

 

Kind regards,

 

Ross Taylor.

Interesting post from Amazon to all Kindle Authors today............

Dear KDP Author,
Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.
With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.
Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.
Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.
The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.
Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.
Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.
But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.
And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.
We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.
We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.
Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com
Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com
Please consider including these points:
- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.
Thanks for your support.
The Amazon Books Team

Monday, 4 August 2014

Complaint to Kwik Fit

Good Afternoon,

I visited your Alloa store on the 8th July to have a burst tyre fixed. I paid a total of £73.50 for the work. I wasn't until I was at the National Tyre Centre in Stirling almost a month later that I was informed that the wrong sized tyre was fitted. I had an R55 instead of an R50.

I took the car back to Alloa where they changed the tyre.

This obviously means that I was driving illegally for over one month. My car would have been working inefficiently and the other 3 tyres would've endure more wear and tear than normal.

In light of this I would like to be reimbursed for my £73.50 by cheque. I have included the reference number in the subject line of this email.

Kind regards,

Ross Taylor.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Posh Dog Kennels Business Idea

http://www.clydevalleypetretreat.co.uk/

I'd probably go "big" dog only. Newf, St Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog sort of thing.

You can get a Pet Sitter certificate (whatever that means) on Groupon for £19 at the moment. That gives you credibility.

I'd probably start off by giving out freebies so I could get some testimonials. I'd write specifically to Crufts champions (of any level) so you could describe youself as "as selected by Crufts Winners".

£30 per night per dog.

I reckon you're looking at an initial layout of £2000 to do it right and ongoing costs of c £300 per year for advertising and website fees. If your rig is going to last 10 years you'd need 17 "dog nights" per year to break even, 34 to make it worthwhile.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Email to "The Beechgrove Garden" (BBC Scotland)


Hi,

 

Please consider my project if you are interested. I have decided that what ever the result of the Independence referendum in Scotland in September, I am going to try and declare my own independence here in Alva, at the foot of the Ochil Hills. I am lucky enough to live on a rather substantial plot. Roughly speaking the garden is about 500m2, with my bungalow right in the middle.

 

I believe that by using square foot gardening, Aquaponics and by keeping chickens, I could satisfy at least 25% of my families requirements. I also believe that the land has enough space to ensure that electricity could be generated to such an extent as to meet our needs.

 

Furthermore I think the property could be extended to 5 bedrooms and a granny flat could be built on the land. That would leave enough space for a small B&B operation.

 

If you have ever seen “Sovereign Living” on Youtube then I am thinking along the lines of this.

 

Kind regards,

 

Ross Taylor.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Unbound Publishing - a risk free business model?



 

I love the low-risk profile of this publishing business. Authors upload videos of their ideas. These then are open to donations via crowdfunding. In exchange the funders get lunch with the author or a mention in the acknowledgements or whatever.

 

One there is enough money raised, the book gets printed. The publishers share the profits with the author.

 

So from the Publishers POV:

 

·         Content is free. It is being provided by the author.

·         Production cost is free. It is being paid for via the Crowdfunding.

·         Marketing is going to be cheaper as the nature of the Crowdfund will provide exposure. Every person willing to donate is going to be a raving fan.

 

What do you think?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Kelso Stats

   I'm going to Kelso Races in a couple of weeks so I thought I'd look at some stats to help my selections.

* Of the last 21 races at Kelso, only 2 have been won by a horse with odds of 10/1 or more.
* Both of these occasions were in races with 10 or more runners.
* Favourites have won 6 of the last 21 races. This is roughly 30% and is just about par for British racing.
* Jason Maguire has a good record, winning 6 of 21. Peter Buchanan is next with 3 winners.
* There has been at least one favourite winning at each of the last 3 meetings.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Another Competition Win............

   A couple of weeks ago my with and I spent an evening entering competitions. We entered well over 400 in one night. My theory is that you can expect to win 1% of the comps you enter.
  
   We've had our first winner from that session!


Dear Ruby Redfort fan,

Congratulations! You have won a prize in our Catch Your Death competition at RubyRedfort.com/competition

The prize will be picked at random by our team from a selection of Ruby Redfort goodies, including wristbands and notepads.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Parable of the Pizza Shop

Based on a True Story  

   42nd Street in New York has no less than 37 Pizza Takeaways. Some were big chains and some were what American's would call Mom and Pop operations. Some had been there since the days when Panhandlers would make their grimy way up from the Bowery to search the nearby trash cans for scraps, others had only hung their shingle out the year before. Some were non-descript, whilst others trumpeted facts like they had once been visited by James Caan and Marlon Brando when they had some downtime from filming the famous Wedding Scene in The Godfather. Some made their corporate owners very rich whereas some barely scraped together enough to keep electricity flowing to their sad, old neon signage.

   The store Pedro stood in was definitely in the latter financial bracket. When his father had passed away he had left the store to Pedro, his only child. As a child Pedro had helped his father in the shop. He loved the hustle and bustle. The noise and the smells. They were great days. Times were different now though. Now the shop was not the only kid on the block. The revellers had more choice. Why would they come to his place when there were 36 other Pizza Shops within 2 blocks. Pedro couldn't really blame people for going elsewhere. He probably would have himself. You see Pedro wasn't really cut out for the Pizza business. He had got on really well at High School. Maths came very naturally to him. He stood out as a star pupil, college was a natural progression. He won a Scholarship to Stanford University, way out in California. He took to College life with gusto. At the time he thought there was something very old fashioned, even Old World about the life he had left behind, and the crummy old Pizza shop at the tatty end of 42nd Street.

   Pedro graduated from College and went on to a great career in Silicon Valley. Things don't always go to plan though.

   His start-up specialised in creating timetabling software for Train Companies. The US market was stagnant so Pedro targeted South America, where new lines were still being built at a considerable rate. Brazil was a major customer. The domestic IT Houses just weren't up to scratch. They were unimaginative and lazy. The just wanted to divvy up government contracts between them. They didn't seem to have the desire to go out and win the business themselves. When Pedro's product reached the Brazilian Railway pioneers they were universally impressed. There was a universal take-up. Pedro gave a great product, provided excellent service and was always happy to go the extra mile. Times were good. More and more private rail companies came his way. Eventually some government contracts landed on his desk. This rankled the Brazilian IT Houses. "Why does this Yankee not leave us alone?" they thought. The biggest Brazilian companies got together and hatched a plan. They started to get more and more vociferous with their whining to state officials. The used arguments like "Viva Brazil" and "Keep the jobs in Brazil". They even took out a full page ad in Folha spelling out how much public money was going to an "American" company. Never one to miss a bandwagon, the slick politician Diogo Cardoso took up the mantle. He used his influence so that a "First Refusal" Act passed through the legislature in Brasilia. No government money would pass to a foreign company if a Brazilian company could fulfil the contract.

   Overnight Pedro was finished. The other South American governments followed suit. Within a year Pedro had to file for Chapter 11. His wife, once a goddess in his eyes, quickly turned to a sallow witch when the expensive holidays had dried up. She was long gone - along with half of his savings. In fact, he didn't have much left at all now - other than the Pizza place. His dad, having loved his only son so much, had named it Pedro's Pizzas back in 1978.

   When his father had passed away and left him the shop it had therefore been a bit of a poisoned chalice. Pedro was very grateful for the chance, but on the over hand the odds of success were against him. His place was one small slot on a twisted game of roulette where many of the slots were wide and cavernous.

   Six months passed and Pedro's worst fears were about to be realised. Sales were poor and the bills were mounting up. Pedro wasn't even convinced that his product was any good. He couldn't afford rent on his apartment any more so had to sleep on the floor at the shop. He washed at the Y with the Hobo's. For a good number of weeks the only food Pedro ate was his own stock. Pizza began to taste like sand to him. When a tramp stole his sneakers from the locker at Y he knew he had reached rock bottom.

   There was some glimmer of light still burning in Pedro's mind though. He couldn't take the step off the George Washington Bridge like so many others in his position had did in the past. He reached out to the only person in the World who still knew him as Pedro rather than the shabby guy with the shitty Pizza store: his cousin, Rosscoe.

   Rosscoe had never went to Stanford. He had never went to College. His parents, Pedro's Uncle and Aunt, had died years back. After a few years of inevitable rage against the machine Rosscoe had settled down into an entry level job at the Central Park Zoo. He loved his job. He was a living embodiment of the maxim that if you find a job you love then you'll never work a day in your life.

   When Pedro met with him he wasn't without his own problems though. The Zoo budget was under pressure and some of the animals had to go. People don't understand the heartbreak that "Animal People" feel when there beloved creatures need to be put to sleep. It effected Rosscoe more than others for some reason. He had heard the word "empathy" being used whilst a boss was describing him one day. He was not really sure what that meant.

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   Three years had passed by so quickly. Like toilet roll, life goes faster the closer you get to the end. With the sun shining, Pedro pressed the button for the roof of his convertible to draw back and allow the nourishing rays to hit Pedro's tanned face. He was on his way to the airport with Rosscoe for a well deserved break in the Bahamas. The Pizza shop (the one on 42nd Street - not the sister store off Times Square) was in safe hands. Pedro had found a great manager with a similar outlook on life to himself. Having got the 42nd store flying, Pedro had taken the magic recipe and applied it again. The money was now rolling in. The customers were happy, the staff were happy and Pedro was happy. Rosscoe was happy. Life was good. The only people who weren't happy were the family of Diogo Cardoso. He'd been caught taking bribes. Without the kickbacks and backhanders he no longer had the cash coming in to satisfy his Hulk-like appetite for Coke. With an empty bank account, and a six figure narcotics debt, it only took weeks for the Knights Templar cartel to satisfy their dues in red blood.

   So what had changed? How had Pedro gone from rock bottom to rock star? Pure and simply, Pedro had made a decision. He had decided that he refused to be a fool, dancing on a string held by the Bigshots. Only one man controlled his destiny and that was himself. After all, he resolved, "I am not a Communist". Pedro told Rosscoe of his decision. They sat for an hour thinking of ideas. Then another hour and then another hour. There was no light bulb moment. Their conversation turned from the Pizza business to Rosscoe's troubles at the Zoo. Dexter the Baby Alligator would soon be going and this made Rosscoe sad. Pedro pondered the situation. He found out that rather than being destroyed, the animals could be leased to local individuals or businesses so long as a care bond was paid and animal welfare could be guaranteed.

   "Wouldn't it be cool if we took Dexter to Pedro's and put him in a tank behind the counter?" They both agreed that a gimmick like this would draw in some trade at least in the short term.

   Rosscoe sorted out all the paperwork - he was so happy that a home, even if temporary, could be found for Dex.

   The cousins were right. Trade did pick up. "Are you the crazy guy with the Croc?" People would ask. Somehow Japanese tourists got to hear about it. One time a busload of Japs pulled up right at his front door. They didn't buy much pie but the incident did lead to a small article about Pedro's appearing in the Post.

   As time passed Dex began to outgrow his tank. Pedro didn't want to lose the very small niche that he had found himself in. He had continued sleeping in the store even though business had picked up. By saving on rent he had managed to put aside a few thousand dollars. He put an Ad on Craigslist looking for any aspiring Architects and Builders who were looking to make a name for themselves with an unusual project. After interviewing dozens of timewasters he eventually met a couple of guys who could help him fulfil his plan. And what a plan it was.

   Pedro lowered the floor of the customer side of his place by 20ft. With the blessing of Central Park Zoo he took surplus Alligator fixtures and fittings from their reptile house and used them to kit out the pit. A wide platform was built immediately inside the door of the shop. Another platform was built at the counter. Between the two a rackety-looking rope bridge was constructed. The final amendment was that the sign for Pedro's Pizza was replaced by a gleaming new sign - "World Famous Alligator Pizza". The store reopened after a short closure on the 31st July 2014. 1600 pizzas were sold that day - more than Pedro used to sell in a month.

   When the space at St. Mary's, off Times Square had came up Pedro saw the opportunity to naturally grow his business. That lot had been a Domino's but for some reason those guy insisted on hiring the dumbest, no-mark teenagers you could ever find. Maybe it was because those guys were cheap? How did they expect those guys to ever deliver good service for their customers? Needless to say the store did not thrive.

   Pedro signed a mutually beneficial deal with the Zoo whereby surplus animals were loaned out to him. In exchange a percentage of all his profits went to Animal Welfare charities.

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 The moral of this story is that the Invisible Hand (if not tethered by governmental influence) will always work towards a beneficial outcome for a community. If Pedro's competitors had been more fast-moving or had hired half decent staff then perhaps Alligator Pizza would never have taken off. Pedro realised that he was in control of his own destiny. If he had failed it would've been his fault NOT the fault of any of the other 36 shops on the street.

  

  

Friday, 17 January 2014

Complaining to Harvester

   If you have never heard of them, Harvester are a chain of snidey restaurants in England. Like most chains they suffer by insisting on employing 18 year olds to do an Adult's job, thereby keeping their wage bill at an absolute minimum. This therefore tells you straight away that they are more interested in the bottom line than providing you with any level of service whatsoever.

   My wife insisted on getting grub from there last week. I was duly disappointed. Here is my complaint letter to them:

Hi,

I had a bad experience at this restaurant on Sunday 11th January. I had called in a Takeaway. On arrival at the restaurant, despite leaving a suitable preparation period, I was told I would need to wait for 20mins. This became 30mins. When I returned back to my house I found that some items were missing, and the food was very cold.

   This was an altogether unsatisfactory performance. I would please like to be compensated. The Z number on my receipt was ZA189901-POS-01. Receipt number 16/6492.

Kind regards,

Ross Taylor.

Monday, 13 January 2014

From Forbes Magazine: The Secret Life Of An Online Book Reviewer

The Secret Life Of An Online Book Reviewer




Over the last seven years, Donald Mitchell, a 60-year-old strategy consultant in Boston, has made $20,000 writing book reviews on Amazon.com. He’s so good, and so prolific–with 2,923 reviews to date–that Amazon customers have consistently voted him among the top five reviewers on the site. (The top reviewer, a former librarian from Pennsylvania named Harriet Klausner, has reviewed 12,753 books. Skeptics doubt that she actually exists.)
Mitchell is part of an online subculture that has helped democratize the reviewing process and cemented Amazon’s significance in the publishing world. Oprah Winfrey and the New York Times can elevate an obscure debut novelist to a best seller, but Amazon provides the shortest path between a good review and an actual sale: The two are just a click away.
The publishing world–as well as the top brass at Amazon–understands this connection. In 2004 Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos Jeff Bezos invited top reviewers to a company retreat. Best-selling authors like John Rechy, who wrote City of Night, have been caught pseudonymously giving themselves favorable Amazon reviews. Meanwhile, everyman types like Mitchell have become minor celebrities among book buyers and writers alike.
Mitchell started writing reviews in 1999, when he was about to publish his first book, a business manual called The 2,000 Percent Solution. He reads a book a day and writes a review “whenever it feels like it needs to come out”–usually about five a week. He gravitates toward business books. “But I also like memoirs,” he says. “I read a lot of mystery stories. Also, photography. And art–I’m an art collector. And thrillers, and pop culture. I also review self-help books. I do a lot of books about psychiatry. And children’s books.”
Mitchell tries to write reviews as if he’s talking to someone, and he knows how to please his audience. “In novels, they want to know how much is action versus how much is the thought process,” he says. “I have a mental template that I use.” Something about Mitchell’s prose inspires people to contact him. He receives a handful of e-mails a day, most often from people who want to learn to read faster or start their own businesses. “A lot of people will contact me about advising their children: how they can get into Harvard, what they should do for their careers.” He also hears from women who want to divorce their husbands. “I try to send them information and resources,” he says. “They never explain why they pick me out.” He tries to respond to everyone.
Reviewing has its perks. “People are always inviting me to go on trips with them,” he says. “If I have reviewed a travel book, they’ll invite me to go to that place with them.” He gets frequent dinner offers (which he accepts “occasionally”), and after mentioning in a review that he had never played on the Yale golf course, a reader invited him to play there. He accepted.
Writers regularly court Mitchell. He receives up to 40 books a day and hears directly from the author “80% of the time.” He says that Jamie Lee Curtis sends him notes when he reviews her children’s books, and Jack Canfield–of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame–contacts him before releasing a new book. After he reviewed Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese?, Mitchell says, Johnson called him to discuss his criticism and incorporated his suggestions in later editions.
Mitchell has parlayed his reviews into a profitable enterprise. For authors who write books that Mitchell wouldn’t typically review, he’ll ask them to make a $600 donation to Habitat for Humanity. The donation doesn’t guarantee a favorable review, although Mitchell concedes that he’ll try to make it longer. He originally charged $25 and has since bumped up the price. “I’m probably not charging enough,” he says. “A friend told me I should ask for $2,000.” Mitchell has donated his $20,000 in review earnings to Habitat.
Mitchell’s experience as a reviewer jump-started his career as a writer. When he started looking for a literary agent two years ago, he says he found 14 who were willing to represent him. He has 50 blurbs for his upcoming book, which he publicizes on a separate blog run by Amazon. “I found that people were quite helpful,” Mitchell says. “Many people have offered to review it.”