The Problem With Credit Cards

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on November 4, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

I am a cash person. Don’t ask me why, but I much prefer having the hard currency in my pocketbook and being able to count the notes out when it comes to paying the bills. This doesn’t work all the time, I will readily admit, but often enough to keep me happy. There are some things you simply have to pay with a card or, as is also quite normal in Germany, through a bank transfer when you get the bill. What amuses me about credit, debit and other forms of plastic cards when used for payment or anything else – they are also used here as identity cards and as subscription cards for the buses – is how some people, and some companies, are trying to sell them, especially when it comes to the differences between a card with a chip and one with that long strip along the back.

In Europe we use cards with a chip on the front. The old magnetic strip is long since history and, to be honest, no one seems to miss it. The strips were constantly getting rubbed down to bare plastic, rendering the card itself useless.

Photo Source: Helder MiraCreative Commons

What about the new chip cards? If you come to Europe and wish to use a credit card at all – and most Americans do – then you need to apply for a chip card from your bank or credit card company. Not a big thing, they already know the chip cards are better, and many are trying to introduce them in the United States. All the information – and much more – needed can be stored on the chip and it has no drawbacks.

Well, no, that’s not quite true. The saved information on the chip can still be wiped if the card comes into contact with a strong magnetic field. What is even more amusing, and I listened to this being explained to an exasperated passenger on the bus recently, the chip can rust. Even when it is kept safe inside a plastic folder, in a pocketbook, a wallet or jacket, a small drop of sweat, a touch of dampness, and it is ready to be added to the pile of useless metal things no one knows what to do with.

Still, better than the magnetic strip just not quite the final solution for those who wish ease and comfort with instant credit no matter what they do or where they go. Cash,  on the other hand, is always good.

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Burning Through The Books

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on November 2, 2015 in Personal |

Every time I lean back satisfied and close the book I have just finished reading, she seems to be watching me and, with a slight laugh, she shakes her head. It’s not so much her reaction over my satisfaction, when the book is a good one, nor any sign that she finds my reading habits daunting or too much – although she does. More that she is happy to see me happy, even when she doesn’t quite share my passion for the written word.

Not that she doesn’t read, quite the contrary, but she doesn’t read as intensely or as much as I do. She doesn’t lose herself in a book, in the storyline. For her, a book is a simple way to spend some time while the wash-cycle is running, before dinner comes out of the oven, or when there is nothing on the radio. For me, reading is an integral part of life and, when you don’t count those times with good friends and lovers, one of the best things to do when alone amongst others.


Photo Source: Maria Teresa AmbrosiCreative Commons

Today I finished the second of two library books I loaned on Thursday last week. I’m not sure why I went in to the library, I don’t usually; I am more of a purchase-and-keep book person. Even if I don’t set my eyes on the contents of a book ever again – and at my age that is really casting the bait out a long way – there is a certain something about still having it. There is the possibility of reading it again or, rare but not unknown, of finding someone else who wishes to read the work, but can’t get hold of a copy.

The two books I have just finished, by chance but not design, are related to one another even though, on first glance, you’d never have thought so. The first was Ferdinand von Schirach’s Der Fall Collini (English: The Collini Case), the second Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown.

Where von Schirach’s work is strikingly simple, Rushdie’s is packed with detail. Both cover a long period of time, have clear themes of murder and revenge, and take the reader into a different world – von Schirach here in Germany, Rushdie in Kashmir – which they bring alive. Both convince the reader of their authenticity: von Schirach with his light and easy style of writing, of bringing the story across as normal and everyday work for a lawyer, Rushdie with the sheer intensity of his descriptions and characterization. With von Schirach the revelations strike all the harder through the simple manner in which he relates the tale. With Rushdie the revelations are there from the beginning, they merely need to be explained over the years leading up to that final moment and impact the reader through their knowledge, their almost personal connection to the characters.

How to explain this to her though? How to break through this loving smile, the slight shake of her head, and tell her that these books are worth the time spent reading them, in more ways than one, and that they cannot be read here and there without losing some of the magic? But she is happy with her books, and I am happy with mine, and we are happy with the happiness of one another.

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Debt? You’re Doing It All Wrong

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 31, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Don’t you just hate it when things get right on top of you and you don’t know your right from your left hand? There are so many Internet services out there, it is almost impossible to tell one from another

Check Your Spelling!

Screenshot Source: OK.Kinderhook / CookieGrandma60 / Twitter

Even so, most people should know the difference between PayPal and Twitter, you’d think!

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Will Twitter Polls Make Me Internet Famous?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 30, 2015 in Internet |

I’m not sure whether this is going to be the new Social Media craze, we shall have to wait and see, but Google Plus and now Twitter have begun allowing people to add polls to their Timeline. For interaction it is undoubtedly a good thing and, possibly for the social networks too – Google Plus needs new features since it has long been declared dead, and Twitter is desperate to remain alive and increase users – but is there a point to it all?

None of the polls I have seen on Google Plus are serious, most people have simply made fun of the addition, so it is likely to remain a very under-rated feature. For Twitter, though?

Twitter Poll

Screenshot Source: 54Books / Twitter

For some news agencies the new polls could be a wonderful way to gather useful information from their followers. How do people react to the articles which are linked? Is there something which they would like to see more, or less, of? What is missing, at the moment, is the chance for users to add their own answer; the polls appear to be based entirely on what is entered, and that can be very limiting indeed. A chance to add – rather like an Other section on a form which opens up a new user-friendly box to be filled in – would greatly enhance the whole.

Other than that, polls are quite old news. They’ve been on some news sites – such a Yahoo! and BBC – for years. Twitter, though, is an entirely new ballgame, and likely to bring in many new responses.

As to the question from 54Books: if I begin taking selfies will I become an Instagram influencer? No. Sorry, but even Taylor Swift isn’t really an influencer, no matter what anyone says. And selfies? One or two go viral each year, from the billions which are taken and published on the Internet, so the chances of influencing anything are more than remote!

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The Thing With Abdull Karem

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 29, 2015 in Internet |

Anyone using WordPress who checks their logs regularly may well have seen a whole series of attempts to access their server which look something like this:

Screenshot Source: Viktoria Michaelis

For most people – that is, those who keep their security up-to-date – these attempts to hack, using an old and easily available script – are harmless. It is an attempt to place a script into the core of a site so that it can be exploited. A conversation about the attempts is available here, with a few solutions. Banning the IPs being used works, but can be time-consuming as several people using a wide range of IPs appear to be trying this exploit.

The simplest solution, of course, is to have your security – and the version of WordPress you are using – up-to-date at all times. Other than that, the only thing that is likely to be effected is bandwidth.

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The Making Of A Bestseller?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 27, 2015 in Publishing |

Now and then I do a quick check to see what I have in stock and what needs to be replenished, something I am sure everyone in the business of selling things does at least once a year if only to balance their books! And during my small inventory I discovered, to my delight, that I have almost run out of copies of The Light Within: Zen Buddhism and Freemasonry: An Overview by Lemniscate.

For most people this discovery may not even raise an eyebrow, but for a small press, a company which has few of anything, this is a good thing. It means that copies of a title have been selling well. Not that I didn’t know this before, but to see that my stock has gone down so far this year is a pleasure.

The Light Within

Photo Source: Viktoria Michaelis Limited

Tomorrow we will start printing new copies – it would be a disaster to really run out of a title – to meet the demand.

Of course, as a small press, what we call a bestseller does not match up to the major publishers who can sell thousands of copies of a single book in one day. Even so, having to reprint, and this is the second title we are reprinting since we first set out on this course, is a sign of success. Not enough to live from, admittedly, but enough to justify another glass of the good red tonight!

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A Sad Day For Bacon

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 26, 2015 in Internet |

Never have so many Twitter journalists – and others – worked so hard to create a catchall click-through headline. For some of them, and you can check them all out on Twitter if you feel the need, it is more clickbait than anything else. The World Health Organization has issued a warning that processed meats, eaten in larger quantities, could contain cancer-producing or enhancing elements.

This evening I’ve seen everything from people ranting – both meat-eaters and vegetarians – about this through to blatant false headlining. One person even went so far as to claim that eating vegetables would only be good for you – assuming that you went to the extreme of quitting eating meat altogether – by adding tons of fat and salt to make some form of taste.

Is bacon a processed meat? I sincerely hope not, otherwise someone is doing it wrong, and the public is being lied to. The fact that frying foods – and we had this with french fries not so long ago – can produce some elements which are harmful is well-known. So why not bacon too? Why not any form of meat that is fried?


Screenshot Source: CNN / Twitter

The emphasis, however, was on processed meat, where there are additives to make the product taste of something. The same could be said about any form of food which has been processed, no matter how healthy the manufacturer may claim it to be.

The thing is – and I say this as a vegetarian – it all comes down to how much you eat of a particular thing. Too much meat is just as bad for you as too much carrot juice. Everyone needs a balanced diet, whether they are a meat-eater, a vegetarian or vegan. It really is that simple. And anyone who stuffs themselves with anything – from candy and soda right down the food chain to meat and vegetables – is never going to be doing themselves a favor.

Moderation is the answer. Eat what you wish to eat to enjoy it, to live, rather than anything else. Food should be as much of a pleasure as a necessity, no matter what your diet may be.

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Erectile Dysfunction: Solving That Male Problem

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 24, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

I don’t get as many offers for certain male-oriented pills as I used to. At least, not as mails direct to my inbox. There are still one or two which try to worm their way onto this site through the comments section, but they hit the byte-bin faster than a pair of Crocs. Mostly I get offers of new insurance policies, how to improve my chances of being published without having to pay too much and demands for Bitcoin payments. Perhaps the spammers have given up on me, a woman who clearly needs help getting an erection, or perhaps, and this is more likely, they are marketing their products through other means – such as hacking into websites and inserting advertising link code.

Or perhaps there is a brand new service springing up, certainly in Tuscaloosa, which makes such pills and potions obsolete: the last-minute, surrogate lover.

The Sexual Surrogate

Screenshot Source: Craigslist

For an unmentioned fee, this advertiser is prepared to slip into your lover’s nest and take your place at just that moment when all else fails. You, he writes, can do all the preparation work, the kissing and the cuddling, and he will do the appropriate ‘hard’ work for you, before withdrawing – ninja-style no doubt – unnoticed into the background once more, your female partner truly satisfied.

Stunt cock slides in does the dirty work as long and as much as needed by the female.

Clearly this is a business opportunity to bring a service to the world which is much-needed. Why shell out for small blue pills when you can have the real thing waiting behind the drapes? No one is going to notice the difference, and you, as the poor male with erectile dysfunction, can still do all the kissing and cuddling as if nothing was wrong.

Tag! your right back in there…

There is, as far as I can see, only one small drawback – assuming that the illusion works and your female notices no changes – which will probably put most people off:

Sorry no sword fighting.

It could have been such a perfect evening…

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The Ritual Of The Dead

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 23, 2015 in News & Opinion |

There is something about the ritual of remembrance which fascinates, something which pulls people together and makes them whole, regardless of who they are, where they come from or their status in life. At some stage in our lives we all fall for this ritual: birthdays, anniversaries, holy holidays, they are all ritualistic and needed. So when Martin Kettle asserts in The Guardian that such ritualistic remembrances are obsolete and should be done away with, I am torn between two positions. Should we remember, or should we forget?

Admittedly, the Battle of Agincourt between the English and French took place a very long time ago. There is no one alive today who can remember the battle, no one who knows for certain, from a personal point of view, whether a member of their family took part unless they are a member of the aristocracy. The sufferings, the politics, the reasoning behind the battle are not within living memory, they can only be found by consulting one of many history books and trying, impossible though it is, to place the times within a context which can be understood today.

Should such events be wiped out from remembrance, consigned to the books hidden on dusty shelves and only brought out into public view when new information is found, a new study, a new perspective? Should those who remind us of such anniversaries be silenced, effectively, and all memorials to past events cut off after a certain number of years? Martin Kettle appears to believe so, and that despite the fact that such an anniversary – six hundred years – isn’t one which comes up every single year, unlike the memorial celebrations and remembrance services for battle in the twentieth century, which are still within living memory. But since there is no ritual attached to the memory of the Battle of Agincourt, what does Martin Kettle have to say?

Agincourt Memorial

Photo Source: Charles D P MillerCreative Commons

For one thing that there is no memorial to the battle, to the fallen, and that even though the article includes an image of a part of the memorial area – the memorial stone is shown here – and even though there is a very interesting museum which highlights the times and events. Perhaps Martin kettle meant that there is no memorial in England, which may well be true, although I am sure there are enough statues of those aristocrats who fell or were involved in the battle littered around England.

He also writes that English politicians feel compelled to wear a poppy to commemorate the fallen of two world wars, to show their patriotism. Yet this is only one instance of patriotic fervor, as anyone who looks towards the United states can see, with all the pins and badges and questions about why one politician or another isn’t wearing the right pin at a certain time and whether, through this failing, they hate America. Even in the United Kingdom pins are to be seen everywhere – the flag of union, St Andrew’s cross, St George’s cross. The poppy is worn to commemorate, but not just that. The poppy is worn to show that a contribution has been made to the welfare of the families of those who died, not just in the two world wars, but in every war since. The wearing of a poppy is not just related to the start of the twentieth century, but also to the later period; the Falklands’ War, the Gulf Wars are all within living memory and all have their wounded and suffering. Those who do not wish to be seen commemorating war can also purchase a white poppy, and suffer the looks and comments of those who disagree with their personal stance.

Should these ritualistic commemorations be laid to rest? The Battle of Agincourt was six hundred years ago, it can hardly be said that a ritualistic commemoration is taking place on Sunday, exactly the same as the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta was not surrounded by a ritualistic ceremony, simply a commemoration. There are other, far older events which could be pulled into the limelight and questioned.

Why, for example do we still celebrate – every single year – the birth and death of a man who, through the teachings of those who followed and corrupted his ideals, caused so much death and suffering across the entire planet? Everything we know about this man is speculation, stories concocted over two thousand years and, as we all know, bound more in ritualistic celebration than anything else. Isn’t it time, Martin Kettle, that we took a look at the Easter and Christmas celebrations and consigned them to history too? Isn’t it time that we left them to the history books and only brought them out for view when another hundred years has passed?

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Traveling Into The Future

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 21, 2015 in Internet |

Apparently it is Back To The Future Day, which is undoubtedly vying with many other International Day Of Something but will never make it to the heights of May The Fourth Be With You Day, and everyone who is no one is trying to find something to write about. I’m more than happy to add myself to the No One List since I was clearly either Internet Famous or Famous In my Own Lunchtime and that was several hours ago.

There are calls for one shoe manufacturer to release the self-tying shoes from the film. Other people are chatting idly about the hoverboard, and when it will be released. Yet more are jumping on the Ten Things You Didn’t Know bandwagon, and there is even a little humor being shot at Pepsi for their attempt to produce the bottle, or whatever it was, which appeared in one of the films.

Back To The Future

Screenshot Source: Bild / Twitter

Bild Zeitung – a popular German gutter press newspaper filled with scandal and massive headlines hiding little content – asks whether we will soon be able to travel into the future which, as you can imagine, is something everyone is more than interested in. This matches up well with the lists of things from Back To the Future which have become reality.

Traveling into the future is something we can all do and, dare I say it, which we all already do. Every single day, if not every single second. You just need a little patience, and you’ll be there, one day.

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