Josh's Blog

The calling

Been really missing home lately. I’ve found myself reliving old times…simple affairs, walking outside to the crisp, dry autumn air in Denton. DIY [projects, gardening, jamming with my mates. Eastside, the Denton square, busking, hanging with my neighbor John, my dogs, firepits, camping, my rock polishing. My family, going to Houston and stopping at Buccees somewhere in between. Seeing my Mom and step Dad, my Father, sisters, Aunts, geez…everyone and everything.

I don’t want to leave England until it is either unavoidable, or on my own terms. Those terms dictate that I reach a comfortable position to stay, and still feel the relentless call back. That is when I will know for sure, it is the right path.

A Higher Call by Adam Makos

I finished this book over the weekend and I must say I am sad that it ended. A nonfiction recount of two airmen flying warbirds for opposing countries in WW2, who met over the skies of Germany on December 20th, 1943. One pilot, Franz Stigler, a Luftwaffe Ace with the call of family-torn vengeance under his wings, decided at the last minute to turn his fully-armed BF-109 into a protective escort for a badly crippled American B17, flying it safely beyond the German iron curtain and out to sea, thereby saving the lives of its pilot and remaining crew. The book also provides an fascinating glimpse into what it was like to be an aviator from both sides of the war. Look for a in-depth review of this very much recommended novel by Adam Makos shortly.

Nefarious Happenings at Intuit (w audio)

Click Hear for audio version

It doesn’t really matter, but for what its worth I would like to share with you, good reader, a recent experience I had with the customer service team at Intuit. I have a 2016 version of QuickBooks Pro that I decided to implement back into my day to day. The copy was purchased off Newegg back in 2016 as a full version digital download. As such it came with all of the necessary license numbers and so forth. However, after installing and successfully moving past the ‘yes I bought this’ security bits, the program asked me for a validation code which could only be obtained by calling Intuit’s (QuickBooks parent company) customer service number.

The phone number ended up being a generic customer service line that referred me the QuickBooks ‘contact us’ area within the application. Ugh! So, I went there (fortunately Quickbooks allowed me access to that portion of the app without the code) and I was able to get into a chat session with a likely third party – and Im willing to bet – commission based – customer service agent. I explained the issue, and that I just needed the validation code to get back to using my 5 year old, but $300 dollar application.

Should be easy peasy stuff here.

The woman on the other end said that with a little updating, Id be back on my feet in no time. Yes! I thought! (ignoring the obvious next question as to if there would be any additional cost). So after looking up my account online, and validating that I did in fact purchase this software, the woman told me that the discounted rate to bring QuickBooks up to the current version would only be $199. That’s what it would take for me to be able to use my version of QuickBooks, and that’s when our chummy relationship came apart like a wet soda cracker.

I argued that this was a full version purchase, and despite the fact that its 5 years old I have a right to be able to use it. Just give me the freaking code already. But the woman refused…or said she couldn’t get it (refused). Claiming that the license the software came with was only good for three years. There was nothing more she could do, the only way to move forward would involve my wallet. So I told her no thanks, I’ll be checking out the six-month free trial of their competitor’s software instead*.

She hardly cared.

Still trying to nail that commission though, the woman then asked me if I had heard of QuickBooks online? I told her there is no way Im going to use a subscription service from a company that stoops this low. And that is how the conversation ended.

So that was that.

Only it wasnt…

After searching the internet for ways to crack – or break into – my legitimately purchased version of QuickBooks, I stumbled upon a thread (ironically on the QuickBooks support page) from someone who had had the same problem, with the same 2016 version of QuickBooks that I have. Apparently his laptop was stolen and he had to re-install Quickbooks onto his new computer. Like me, he was unable to get past the validation code screen, and he complained the referred phone number did not provide the solution. Astonishingly, his QuickBooks agent stated that she would ensure he would receive the code ASAP, and the issue was then marked resolved.

On top of that…this thread was dated 2020. So like mine, this man’s license was also beyond the three year license limitations that my agent claimed was impossible to circumvent.

So I decided to initiate another chat session with another agent, and aligned my backstory along the lines of that poor chap who’s laptop had been stolen. I told the agent that I had to reinstall QuickBooks and needed the validation code so that I could access my company files. Amazingly, this new agent told me no worries and after a few futile attempts to upsell and upgrade my software, finally awarded me those elusive six validating numbers. I typed them in and ‘voilah!’ the old 2016 QuickBooks sprung to life, eagerly ready to capture some financial transactions.

So there ya have it. My first agent was a liar and a cheat. OR, Intuit is encouraging its agents push you toward another purchase (at all cost), OR nobody cares, and it really just boils down to who you talk to, and what story you give. In any case, this is why Intuit has made my wall of shame.


  • Available at the Sage website (sadly six month offer has now ended)

Applied Pareto for Bands

Back in 2016 I was at the tail end of obtaining a post-baccalaureate certification in accounting. In one of my classes, my instructor taught us about the pareto 80/20 rule (along with Benford’s analysis) as a useful means to chart outcomes.

The 80/20 rule goes something like this; for most measurable outcomes, (be it retail sales, wealth distribution, song hits in an album, world religions, spices in a dish you love, etc.) you will find that about 80 percent of a result is driven by about 20 percent of the causes.

So back to retail sales, if you look at your quarterly sales figures you will likely find that about 80 percent of your sales can be traced back to only 20 percent of your products. So, if you find out what those 20 percent of stock are, you will learn most certainly what to keep on your shelves, and can also consider what to do with the other 80 percent. be it replacing, discounting, or whatever.

It is a fascinating phenomenon with much more depth behind it than my little example. You can find out more about it here, https://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/.

So back in February of 2016, my new band Copper Root had played a few shows and decided to launch a YouTube and Facebook page to feature footage, music samples, and news, and other what-have-ya’s. Almost immediately we began accumulating several ‘likes’ from an invisible fanbase. This excited some of the other members of the band, but having learned the good ol 80/20 rule, I put a little damper the those fires to bring us a little bit closer to what was really going on.

The ‘how good is my band really doing’ approximation test:
Take all of your fb and YouTube views
Subtract EVERYTHING but the number of “likes”
Example: 1000 views and 50 likes
1000-950 = 50
(it takes 1 second and one brain cell to hit a like button. If they aint hittin the “like” button… your video/music is probably just in the way of something they are actually wanting to see/hear)
Next, if you can, count up all of the “likes” that are friends & family of all the members of the band.
Subtract those too. (graciously of course, friends and family are what make the world go round, but we are seeking the number of impartial that don’t always have your back)
Example:
Likes = 50 – 38 friends & family
= 12 impartial fans
You now have an idea as to your unbiased fan base.
Take that number and divide it by the total number of views.
You now have a fan per # of views ratio.
Example: 12/1000 = .012 impartial
For every 1000 views on fb and YT, ~1 percent constitutes an actual fan engagement.
*Note: if your friends and family really like your videos, and play them a lot…the ratio is even lower.
Test this result with the number of new faces at a local venue where only your band is performing. (playing at restaurants don’t count, the audience is already there to eat)
Subtract 80 percent of that number for casual walk ins. If there is a loud cheer at the end, and people are throwing clothing for in-betweens at you …….add back 15 to 20 percent. And tell them to check you out on fb and YT. But DO NOT ask them to like you page. (See if they do it of their own accord)

Original fb post

Lost in the Forest

I had to take a minute this morning to reflect on the fact that I got lost in an English forest yesterday. It wasn’t for long, but still, for about fifteen or twenty minutes I was definitively without direction.

Circled area is where I lost my way after 4 mile walk/jog

Dracoola….

Celebrated four days of no smoke or drink last night by heading to the Village square with smoke and drink. Jammed some tunes and had a nice time despite some frosty weather.

Met a Romanian fellar named Andrew. “Im from the place where Dracula was from” he said, with a heavy emphasis on the “u” in Dracula, Like ‘Drag-EW-lah’.

Really nice guy. Liked the Texas jams that were emanating from my phone.

That is the one and only time Ill ever run into that chap however, as he was enjoying his last beer in England that night before hitching a ride with a friend the following morning for a move back to Romania.

From what I gathered – his accent was tough to follow at times – he moved to the UK about two or three years ago after spending a decade in Italy.

Here, he worked at a restaurant called Wagamama1 at the Gatwick airport2. I think he said he was moving due to work drying up. He was excited to see his family, and looking forward to the beautiful country drive through Western Europe.

1 Wagamama is supposed to be a really nice noodle restaurant
2 located South of London

 

 

 

An outing with Sam & Village Square

Met a bloke named Sam at the park a few weeks back. Turkish fella with 4 kids, problems with the wife, but a sharp eye on fitness and wealth. We met Tuesday for a boys night out. A native of the area he filled me in on some of the good places to grab a kabob and showed me some interesting sites. One of which was the largest street market in England – a mile long strip located near Walthamstow Central – that at the time was closed and half full of the day’s rubbish blowing around the street.

We then went to the Walthamstow village square, which is one of my favorite places to hang out at. The square was mostly empty at the time save for two fellas casually bullshitting at a bench near ours. We ended up striking up a conversation with them. One of them was Italian, the other was some smartass from Venezuela I think. Not a smart ass in a provocative kinda way, just one of them folks that doesnt get basic social decorums. One of those folks that you half respect and half dislike for their lack of thought-to-speech filtration.

Sam is 42 years old, and ripped like a godamned Roman statue. How do I know? He was all too happy to show me pictures from his workout session that morning. I had already suspected he was in good shape during our meetups at the park, but its cold ’round these parts so ye really cant tell to what degree. Hell even I look pretty stacked with my coat on. Anyways, the dude is movie star material.

Actually on that note, Sam used to be in a boy band back in the 90s. Travelled up and down the UK doing concerts and festivals. Knew one of the Spice girls as well. Told me about all the crazy times he had back in the day.

Sam doesn’t really drink, only eats during the last 8 hours of the day, and works out 5 days a week. He’s inspired me actually. I really didn’t think you could have a washboard stomach in your 40s. You sure can. I will never have one because I like beer too much – but it is a nice reminder that one can still look like a spartan at this age.

Train

Keira dropped me off at the train station at about 5:20 this morning. My ticket showed the train to London departing at 6:30AM. Turned out the farkin station doesnt even open until 7AM. So I was stuck outside the station in downtown Glasgow with all of my luggage. One of the station employees felt sorry for me and let me in to the station even though weren’t to open for another hour. Super cool.

It was a long wait, and holy chit was it cold in the station. But I managed to get everything lined out. That guy who helped me was an awesome fella. There was also a station attendant named Emma, who also assisted me greatly with getting everything squared away with the train admin.

Last day in Glasgow

Glasgow is my new favorite town in the UK. Although it was in full shutdown the entire time I was here, it still managed to charm me smitten. I am hoping to come back at some point and give it another go. Although the shutdown literally started as I was on the train to get here, I really lucked out with just about everything else.

My flatmates were extremely nice, quiet, and we all got along very well. One of them – the landlord – named Keira, picked me up from the train station and just happened to have a vehicle that was just large enough to stow two massive suitcases, a guitar, a large backpack, and me. Somewhere toward the end of her twenties, Keira is a beautiful young lady, a devout Christian, a workaholic, who loves the show ‘Friends’, and loves her cat even more.

My other roommate’s name was Kris. A Northern Irishman who has lived in Scotland for half his life, and long enough to sound like a proper Scot. Kris is the polar opposite of Keira in man ways. He loves Death Metal and grind core, he drinks like a sailor on a Friday night (we really hit it off there), and he cusses like one too. But he is also a very mindful and respectful fella, smart too, and he belts his words out when he speaks. Good guy.

Friday we had a little champagne to celebrate the good times we had together, and I gave a toast, thanking them for the hospitality. Saturday Kris made me haggis with mashed potatoes. Im glad I tried it, but Im not sure I ever will again. “Whats in it” I asked, “Oats and Awful”. Oats and what? Awful, like all the awful bits of the animal. Right.

My last day in Glasgow was supposed in involve one last walk around the town, the botanical gardens, etc… But Kris and I spent all night on Friday listening to jams, bullshittin’, playing poker, and more, all while cracking beers. When the beers gave out we moves onto wine, and then liquor. It was fun at the time, but the resulting hangover got up at around 1pm on Saturday, and I still had to pack and clean the room. So no grand departing voyage. I did go to Morrisons grocery store later that evening to pick up some ‘square’ sausage for Graeme.

Oh wait, one other reason I couldn’t go out is that I had some voiceover work to tend to. Must always nurture the income stream.

Horsin’ Around

Went with the roomie today to a ranch in Alexandria, Scotland. It was about a 45 minute drive Northwest of Glasgow, past a neat towering natural fixture called Dumbarton rock. It was biting cold when we got there but fortunately there were no clouds in the sky nd eventually the sunlight offered some relief. We had a variety chores to help out with, including cleaning horse stalls, making bedding out of straw, preparing meal nets1, walking the horses, assessing possible health issues (limping), feeding them, and giving them treats.

Out contact was a wonderful woman named Jane, who owned two of the seven or so horses out there. One horse was named Flicka, a beautiful mature, black and white, giant, female that looked similar to a Clydesdale with her long-haired hooves. The other was named Aladdin, a younger brown and white Arabian horse with much more electricity flowing through his veins.

Jane is a hard working single mother that really knows her way around a ranch, and aint afraid to get dirty. The same can be said for my roomie eira, who has been helping Jane at the ranch for several years.

The ranch itself was fairly small, but stood in front of a background of rolling hills, and the small town of Alexandria in the distance. Another woman was there, much older, I think her name was Sharon, who was incredibly knowledgeable, and helped Jane diagnose a potential leg issue with Aladdin, as he walked with a bit of a limp at times.

After spending a few hours helping out, Keira and I headed up a road which led up a sizeable hill so that I could take a few photos. It was a hard hike at times, with the pitch of the road increasing much farther than setting ten on treadmill, but when we finally mde it up to the top the views were auite worth the trouble. There was also a small creek running down the hill. I climbed down to a pebbly part of it, and took three big gulps of water from it. It was really nice, and no I was not downhill from the ranch!