Discontinuing my Amazon Prime Membership

It’s November… What does that mean? Well for me, it means it’s time to renew my Amazon Prime membership. And you know what? I’m not going to do it. I’m dropping out of Amazon Prime, and what’s more I am earnestly going to attempt to stop shopping at Amazon entirely.

I have been contemplating ending my Prime membership anyways. And there are a few reasons for this. Amazon raised their price, and I’ll be honest, my budget could use the extra money so there is that. But really, once I started hearing rumors that Amazon has been contemplating opening a bank and starting their own UPS competitor, I started to realize that Amazon has become the modern day Wal-Mart in many bad ways. You know, for a long time, I thought it was quaint that Amazon was putting the hurt on Wal-Mart after years of Wal-Mart putting the hurt on everyone else… but in a way, even though I will not shop at Wal-Mart, I kind of am rooting for them as the small guy. Weird right? Because truth of the matter is, we need brick and mortar stores, and by saying we need them, what I do not mean is that we need Amazon to open brick and mortar stores (which they are). Moreover, we need more competition, both online, and off.

For the longest time, I was proud of what Amazon had become. One stop shop for everything. After all, this was the company that started online shopping in one sense. They helped bank roll many early websites with referral programs (something that they have stopped doing for smaller websites like mine that don’t get a ton of traffic). I loved them. And I returned that love with my money. I bought most everything from Amazon now, Games, clothes, electronics, food… seriously almost everything. I am becoming too reliant on them and this has, in reality, been terrible for competition at large. Other retailers, both online and off, have a hard time competing with them because they just don’t have the resources to.

Consider Toys ‘R Us… They were the last toy chain out there, I live in a decent sized town and only one toy store remains… an independent retailer that specializes in expensive hipster toys. Or Borders and several other book retailers. Even Barnes and Nobles is struggling in recent years. Best Buy is on its last legs. And no matter what you feel about these individual companies… them closing is NOT good for business, except if you are Amazon.

And so I was looking at the $120 a year program whose real cost was that I buy everything from them instead of diversifying… and I wonder… am I doing the right thing?

And you know… Amazon is actually making it easier on me. One of their bigger features of Prime was that you get a 20% discount on pre-ordering video games. I bit into that hard. And they pulled that away. They also pulled benefits that really didn’t lose them a ton of money like removing ads for Prime members on Twitch. Prime Pantry, which was never great, has gotten worse because it is now a subscription on top of Prime. And the other big thing… their video service… I’ve never been a huge fan of the originals they have offered, and their interface for finding videos has always easily been the worst of every online streaming service hands down. And that thing that got us all hooked originally years ago? You know, free next day shipping on everything? Well first of all, they got rid of paying to ship for the remainder of this year anyway, and even when they go back, free shipping is down to $25 instead of $35. And really the next day was always a meh benefit anyway. Part of the reason ordering everything on Amazon instead of going to say, Best Buy, was OK was because I made the conscious decision that I didn’t need the instant gratification of going into a store and getting it RIGHT NOW. I could wait to save money, and that remains true with waiting an extra day or two for shipping.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little surprised that at the same time that they are raising the price, they are removing features. I am certain that they made up for any perceived losses from the various Prime benefits from having people use them almost solely instead of another store. Prime features were Amazon’s loss leader. But now it seems that Amazon wants to make profit on even the yearly subscription and I am sure they have done studies to prove that if they take stuff away and raise prices, they won’t lose much business so why not.

I think I’m going to blog the next couple of weeks about my disconnect from Amazon. I want to blog about steps I’m taking to cut the cord, alternative stores I’m going to instead of Amazon. I’d like to cut the cord on Amazon Web Services too thanks to Hisan Minhaj (thanks bro), but I don’t think that is a possibility at this point considering that would mean also cutting out the likes of Netflix. Maybe that’s phase 2 or 3…

Microsoft Announces Windows 10

Ugh, too much Microsoft news for my taste. So Microsoft this last week revealed Windows 10 for the first time. I gotta say, between the naming of the X-box One and Windows 10 and the purchase of Minecraft for $2.5, I feel like Microsoft is incredibly bad with numbers and math. For realsies though, Microsoft is skipping Windows 9 because a lot of programs look for “Windows 9*” when determining your operating system thanks to Windows 95 and Windows 98. This created a programming problem with some things that worked fine with the code, but because of the name of Windows 9, would have gotten screwed up. Woulda been nice if they kept to nontraditional naming like XP and Vista a little longer, but oh well.

I have seen someone doing a quick run through of some of the features that they have showed off so far. I have an overall meh towards it. They added multiple desktops where you can basically create save states of what windows you have open and switch between those states on the fly. This was a much needed addition to Windows and am happy to see it. So far that seems like the biggest addition.

You can keep the start screen of Windows 8 if you want, but the reality is that only touch screen users will do so. Otherwise all those tiles now have a place in the start menu which is finally returning. I don’t particularly like this as I feel that it makes the start menu seem really bloated. The weird thing about Windows 7 and 8 is that I really love the Windows 8 start screen, but I don’t love that they got rid of windows and the start menu and the task bar as those things made using Windows on the PC less frustrating. I would love it if the desktop was the start screen of Windows 8, but you still had windows over the top as normal and the start menu and everything. So basically remove the icons of windows 7 and earlier and replace it with the Windows 8 Start Screen. Allow for people to customize it with backgrounds still, it really is a style change (preferably allow people to choose which way they like best).

Honestly, I always kind of liked the idea of desktop widgets from Windows 7, but there really weren’t many widgets worth having and it tended to slow down the system more than it was worth. And in this day and age I also think that icons are in need of a desperate update, and honestly I thought the look of Windows 8 was very attractive.  So I’d be all about making that what I saw all the time. I don’t understand why Microsoft needs to make it a one or the other proposition… Why can’t I have the good thing about Windows 8 and the good things about Windows 7 at the same freaking time? Why do I have to choose which one I am using right now? Microsoft, I continue to be baffled by your more recent moves.

Will I get it? I don’t know. So far Microsoft hasn’t shown a lot. I suppose it depends on whether the gaming community follows. A lot of developers went out and said they would not build games for Windows 8 because it was that appalling to them, will they come back for 10? Is there really anything different from 10 to 7 that requires the purchase? I don’t know the answer to these questions right now so I will watch as more info comes in. Right now I would lean to probably not worth the $100 investment for my old PC to upgrade. Probably worth it for any new PC that I have to get a new operating system for (which I actually am looking at right now).

Thoughts on Blogspot

Recently, I noticed that blogspot/blogger had updated to give users a little more control over their blogs, because of that I decided to give it another shot after years of absence. There are a few advantages to blogspot in particular over hosting yourself or WordPress’ similar service.

First, unlike WordPress, you can actually post your own advertisements on your blog on blogspot which means it is a lot closer to your own hosted blog. You have a potential to actually make money (not that there is real money to be made on blogs anymore). Not only do they allow you to throw in your own ad links, they build in google adsense into it. This makes sense, after all Blogspot is owned by Google so why not? But this is a far cry from WordPress’ strict no advertising policy. Continue reading “Thoughts on Blogspot”

Plated: A Review

One of my favorite kinds of Groupons is the kind that gives you discounts to food. I’ve gotten tons of them over the years and it is this fact that makes me feel that it is too bad that Groupon seems to get less and less restaurants to ante up for them as time goes by. However, a few weeks ago, I did notice one new groupon that didn’t really get advertised much but seems to be rather awesome. And that is Plated. The idea behind Plated is that they get chefs to provide them with fairly easy to cook recipes and then send those recipes to you along with everything you need to cook it. What a great idea! Continue reading “Plated: A Review”

Money Website Update & Tricks

Several months ago I had an entry about other ways of making money. After that post, I kept up on trying to earn extra cash for a good month before giving up. Some of the sites netted me no money after a couple of months of effort. Some offered some money but not enough to warrant the effort. Recently though in an effort to pay for Christmas presents without going broke, I got back into a few of them and learned some tricks as well.

Continue reading “Money Website Update & Tricks”

Obama vs. Romney

I have already voted. I voted last Thursday, thanks to a two week early voting period in Wisconsin. I was very happy about this because my recent move made it so that I had to re-register and I wasn’t particularly fond of doing this in the election day hassle. My point is, I am no longer influenced at all by what is going on the election, my work is done. However, I thought I’d share my opinions on this election.

1) Republicans had a shot with me. When Romney made statements talking about how Obama hasn’t made the change he promised, I’m actually one who perked his ears and agreed. I’ve been very disappointed with Obama considering the promises that he made in 2008. The problem was, that was the extent at which Romney tried to grab me. He was right that Obama didn’t live up to his promise, but he didn’t offer any other options. So Obama got my vote. Instead he ignored the people he was pleading with for a vote and instead tried to appease the Tea Party. I’m sorry, you are really going to make that statement, ignore me and then make statements to appease the whack jobs of the country? No thank you, Mitt.

2) Related to #1… I wish John McCain had run again. I really liked McCain and even said to people that if it wasn’t for Barack Obama, I would have voted for him. Well assuming he didn’t have Sarah Palin as a running mate. I’d assume he wouldn’t make that mistake again. Now that Obama fell out of favor, I really would have. Why don’t parties allow guys to run twice anyway? I know statistically speaking the chances are low if you couldn’t beat the guy the first time. However, when has the last time that this actually happened to allow statistics to count?

3) I think it is ironic that Republicans made a big deal in 2004 about the flip-flopping of John Kerry and don’t seem to mind Mitt Romney doing it. This happens a lot with both parties but it is still weird seeing such blatant hypocrisy. I mean really, Romney makes Kerry look like a stubborn mule about his opinions. Kerry changed his opinions because he was a really intelligent man and actually sat and thought about what he was saying. As far as I can tell, Romney makes opinions dependent on others telling him what his opinion really is. You tell me which is worse, I would I rather it be someone who makes up their own mind but then Republicans don’t seem to like people who think for themselves.

4) Really? Paul Ryan? WTF? This guy, along with Scott Walker, is bringing Wisconsin back to a Joe McCarthy time for representatives and it makes me sad that we elect him somehow. And yet, despite being an utter crack pot AND despite his own guys telling him not to, Romney picks him for VP? Well I guess he made up his own mind on something, but it makes me want to retract my previous statement because if you are this stupid Mitten Romney, I guess I’d rather others just make your decisions for you.

5) There is an appeal in my mind of having the electorate tie and Mitt Romney being president with Joe Biden being Vice President. You get two un-charismatic politicians sticking their foots in their mouths constantly and making themselves and the country looking bad. They’d constantly be at each other’s throats which would make for an interesting 4 years. This really is the premise of a good sitcom and it would be funny to watch. I think it would be terrible for the country as a whole and would probably lead to changes in how ties are broken. Not to worry, the chances of this actually happening are astronomically small even in a close race. My bet is that if one of the electors saw it going to a tie, that they would go faithless just to break the tie.

6) The possibility of another 2000 race where Obama wins the electorate but not the popular vote is there. I don’t think it’s going to happen at all, but it is definitely there. The fact that Romney is making last ditch efforts in Pennsylvania tells you that Romney is looking for other electors to win because he is losing by too much elsewhere. That it could happen twice in 20 years and the country is becoming more polarized every year tells me that we should probably change how the country elects a president. After all, the electorate was created as a means to allow people to get the popular vote because this was before telephone and telegraph, let alone internet. Steve Israel from NY proposed giving the popular vote winner bonus elector votes which I think is a pretty decent idea. I think it needs to be tweaked on how. The two suggestions I have is to either make the point total equal the greatest votes any state has (Currently 55 for California) or have a sliding scale based on margin of victory on popular vote. At the very least I wish more states went the route of Nebraska and Maine and split their votes based on how people in the state voted.

7) Poor Puerto Rico doesn’t get any national coverage on its election this week, but it’s a biggy and could have political repercussions on our political system. Puerto Rico will be voting to become a state or become a more independent country this week. This one has a bigger push to make a decision to either be a state or move independent. They’ve been suffering harshly from the current world recession and this could have a deciding factor in making a change. The vote doesn’t mean they will do one thing or another but both Romney and Obama have declared that they will support whatever decision comes from the vote and try to move it forward. It’s entirely possible that in 2016 or 2020 there will be 51 states in the union and Puerto Rico’s 6 or 7 electoral votes will be a pretty big deal. Nobody really knows at this point just where it’d go but my guess is that it would lean Democrat. Coverage of this vote is so low that I don’t even know how the polls are trending, just days before the vote. Good luck Puerto Rico!

8) The advertising this year is ridiculous and I say that every election, but this year it really was. I live in southern Wisconsin. Which means I am not only in a swing state for the presidency  I’m also in a very close and heated senate race, and I am in range of Paul Ryan trying to get re-elected to congress whilst running for Vice President even though I can’t even vote on Ryan. 1 Do you see the problem here? On average, I get between 4 and 6 campaign commercials in each ad block while watching television. I’d also count that we only get between 8 and 10 ads during each block. Which means more than half of all commercials are for these damn races. I turn on the news I hear about these ass holes. I turn on SNL I hear about them. I open a paper, turn on the internet. I am sick of everyone in this race and I want none of them to win but I feel that I need to vote for the lesser of two evils anyway. And yes, I am sorry to contribute.