Additional Changes to Find-A-Grave

Noticed a few new things on Find-A-Grave recently. When I went to the site a few days,  I had to change my password as it didn’t meet the 8 character minimum. In the past, they allowed you to have a shorter password.

Next, they added age after the person’s death date. Don’t know if it automatically calculates it based on actual birth and death dates when both are entered or if it assumes an age if only the birth year is entered with. a full death date for the individual.

They now show marriage year if it was added to the memorial when linked to a spouse (m. 1959 – for example). On the plus side, if a person was married more than once and the marriage years have been added when linking, then it will show the marriage year for each spouse.

In addition, the siblings and half siblings are listed separately. In the past, a half-sibling was denoted by ** and a full sibling by *. Now the full siblings are listed first under Siblings and half siblings are listed below under Half Siblings.

You can see some of the other changes I mentioned at and I have posted several other updates on changes to Find-A-Grave.

Another new change is the addition of a Classic theme. Initially, they only offered two color schemes: Dark and Light – Light tended to be easier on the eyes for many people. If you are logged into Find-A-Grave, you can click on this link to access the three color scheme choices. In the preview images, Light and Classic look exactly the same. I switched to Classic from Light to see if I can tell the difference and I don’t see any. It may be subtle enough that I am missing the distinction.

You can now set a photo as the cover photo (the one people see when they are doing a search) easier than it used to be. The downside is they encourage using a personal photo as the default cover photo. Considering how many people accidentally added a personal photo using the headstone photo, it’s not always easy to tell if a person has a headstone photo in those instances. On the plus side, it’s easier to switch the type of photo in case you accidentally add the photo under the wrong category.

A last item is the ability to change the flower when you are adding a flower or token to a memorial. In the past, you would have to either hit the Back arrow or not save the flower/token. Now, you can click on edit flower if you notice you aren’t using the flower or token you thought you chose. This appears to only work before you add the flower or token.

There have been some changes to the flower/token section of the site. For example, how you move a flower within your scrapbook has changed. In the past, you typed in a number to move it up or down from its current place in your scrapbook. Now, you can drag and drop it in a new spot. This is a mixed blessing since it’s not easy to move an item more than a few rows up or down. I am not seeing duplicates (in cases where you accidentally added the same item two or more times – don’t know if they fixed it or I just not seeing them), other than the Forget-Me-Nots that represent an item that was deleted by either an admin or the original member who added it.

One change I don’t like is removing the satellite view from the cemetery map screen. This came in handy if I was trying to figure out if I had the right cemetery. It is sometimes easier to compare a satellite view of the cemetery.

Also, removing the search cemeteries by county, specifically the option where you could choose a county (Beta Mapper) and it would show you a map of each cemetery that had GPS coordinates – here’s the old site as an example: – in this case, it’s Broome County, New York, but you can switch it to different states and counties. I found it on the Sents site (scroll down to Beta Mapper – you have to change the www. to old. to get it to work if you use the Sents site Beta Mapper link.

Another bad change is when you search by location. The default seems to be city or county for the first field unless you specifically type out the city, county, and start typing state. This is a pain when there are numerous listings for the city or county name as it only shows a few of the possible choices. It’s why some managers incorrectly list the birth or death location.

I routinely use BillionGravesU.S. GenWeb Tombstone Project, GenealogyTrails,, the various sites (note: the link is to the Alabama Gravestones partner sites – not all states have a version at this time, but around 40 are listed in the link with one of those links being limited to the state’s Civil War veterans), and a handful of other graving websites. While there is a decent amount of duplication between the different graving sites, each often has a fair number of names that are only on one of the sites. It’s my desire to figure out where a great-grandfather  is buried; so far, he’s not on any graving website and I regularly check them using first name or initial and last name. He was born 1849, but I haven’t come across a death certificate, obituary, or family story as to where or when he died. He was alive in the 1900 census. On Ancestry, other people’s trees have him dying 1900 – 1910 in Arkansas, Texas, or Canada. He’s not the only missing relative I can’t find a grave location, but he’s my current project. Some are more recent burials (mid-2000s or newer).

Posted in, BillionGraves, Find-A-Grave | Leave a comment

Boost Dealz Update

I mentioned this is another blog post, but I will probably be dropping Boost Mobile as my back-up cell phone plan. Paying $10/billing cycle (base plan is $35/billing cycle, minus $5 for auto-pay and up to $20 credit earned through Boost Dealz app) for unlimited talk and text and 3 GB LTE data (with unlimited slower data) at a cost of 20 – 30 hours/billing cycle with occasional 40 hours to earn the $20 credit was something I was willing to put up with. However, spending 40 hours to earn a single 500 point survey credit just isn’t worth it to me. After another 2 hours (42 hours total), I managed to snag 2 completed 500 point surveys, but that’s 14 hours/completed survey. As an update, I was able to eventually earn $18.29 (18,290 points) before the last billing cycle ended, but almost half of those points were earned before the downgrade went into effect. Also, I easily spent well over 100 hours earning the points. I did have one day where I completed 6 surveys after the downgrade, but many days I didn’t complete any surveys or spent 4 – 8+ hours before I was able to complete one. That’s a lot more time than I am willing to spend for so little reward and considering how many hours it took to earn the last $10, it wasn’t worth it. I did it mainly to see how long it would take to reach as many points as I could. My hope was the rewards program would improve to where I could earn enough points without a huge time commitment. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be the case. If I thought Boost Mobile would address the issue, I would stay with them. However, after several talks with them, their attitude came across as customers are stuck with the new system. What they forget is the availability of cheaper cell plan options from their competition and at least CellNUVO has a much better rewards program right now; don’t know about Cricket’s reward program as they keep changing it. I went ahead and spent the $11 and change to cover the next billing cycle. They have temporarily doubled the videos from 5 to 10 points until the end of March, but they dropped the number of videos available to view down to a handful/day. Not enough videos to make a huge dent in your bill even if you manage to see every video for the entire billing cycle.

This applies to any company, but Boost Mobile should take a suggestion on how they should have handled this scenario before they implemented this huge downgrade. Alienating existing customers who are benefiting from a rewards program that was working great isn’t a good customer service strategy for any company. Especially when you gut the rewards program as much as Boost Mobile did with Boost Dealz.

First thing a company should do is to research if other companies have done a major downgrade and what were the results? This is easy enough as CellNUVO made a similar downgrade to its rewards system a while back. It lost many customers and most of the remaining customers didn’t bother watching the ads or doing other reward things that would generate revenue for CellNUVO. The company could have ignored the results. Instead, they chose to realize they made a mistake and figure out ways to fix it before they went out of business or suffered worse losses. End result – points were raised and they made a way to let you use the points on any of several other cell phone providers to pay for service. Not only that, but you can potentially earn full credit so you have no out of pocket cost except for the time spent earning the points.

Next, if your company is going to significantly reduce reward points, make up for it by offering more point-earning opportunities. For example, Boost Dealz cut videos by 2/3 (15 credits down to 5 points; temporarily back up to 10 points through the end of March 2018) and substantially reduced the number of videos available. What they should have done is triple the number of videos available to earn points. In theory, I could meet the point reduction by earning the 3,000 bonus points (150 points/day with a maximum of 3,000 points if you do it 20 days during the 30-day billing cycle) for watching videos AND watching 140 or so videos/day. That works out to about an hour/day which is preferable to spending an equal amount of time trying to complete surveys and regularly not being able to find one that I can finish. The problem here is simple – before the downgrade in points, you needed to watch around 38 videos/day to reach the $20 credit if you only did videos and the daily bonus. Unfortunately, I rarely saw that many videos available on a regular basis. After the change-over, they appeared to reduce the number of videos by a large amount so watching 140 videos isn’t an option. If I get 5 to 7 videos/day, that’s a great day compared to getting 2 to 3 times as many before the change.

For the Surprise Me surveys, downgrading from 295 credits to 200 points, Boost Mobile should have doubled the number of these surveys. They were almost as rare as hen’s teeth before the change-over and appear to have almost disappeared for me after the downgrade.

Moving onto the I Want to Choose Surveys, they downgraded them from 925 credits to 500 points. They are about the same amount of surveys, but I went from taking 20 – 40 surveys/day and completing 1 or 2 out of that number to taking days to complete one and easily going through 80 – 100 or more surveys to get one completion. I spent 40 hours over an intermediate period and only achieved one completed survey. In another 2 hours, I was able to complete 2 surveys, but that appears to be a fluke instead of an actual improvement. I finally managed to get 6 completed in one day, but it took a lot of time to reach that accomplishment. It doesn’t help that many of these surveys take 10, 20, 30, or even 59 minutes to complete and a lot of them either hang when you go to submit (so no points earned) or give a late disqualification.

Before the recent lowering of points this last billing cycle, I had achieved over 8,000 credits/points. After the change, I had managed to only gain around 2,000 points, bringing my total for 22 days to 10,775 points, out of 20,000 points needed to maximize the $20 credit. Eventually, I was able to get 18,290 points by the last day, but it took way too much time for so little reward.

One thing most cell phone companies doesn’t get: customer loyalty is worth holding onto, and there are too many competing cell phone companies out there willing to undercut your price or offer something your company doesn’t. Another point most cell phone companies haven’t figured out is the need to call a plan what it is. Calling a 30 day plan a monthly plan is only begging for the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to hit them with huge fines since 30 days is not a monthly plan.  If you are going to offer a 30-day billing cycle, call it a 30-day billing cycle. May take a bit more server space for the extra letters, but it saves you getting a nasty notice from the FTC for advertising a monthly plan that isn’t a monthly plan. In a worse case scenario for a 31 day month, you could get hit with a bill on the 1st and a second bill on the 31st.

Update March 17, 2018: Another positive addition recently was the addition of earning points by adding apps. You have to be careful as some of the apps have warnings about malware – always read the reviews by people who have installed the app before installing it. The points for adding an app generally require you open the app after installing it and the malware ones frequently won’t let you open them. Once you get the points, you can always uninstall the app. Without this option, I probably wouldn’t have earned as many points this billing cycle as I earned after the change last month. So far, I am averaging close to 1,000 points/day thanks to this addition. Without it, I would be hard-pressed to hit 500 points every other day.

To add to the customer loyalty comment above, it’s cheaper for a company to keep you as a regular customer than it is to recruit a non-customer to being a customer. Yet, very few companies reward existing  customers. I can easily get a huge selection of free or reduced price phones for being a new customer with most cell phone companies out there. Many will also offer me a better deal than I can get as an existing customer.  Some companies do get it. For example, BillionGraves regularly offers sale prices to their free members. A while back, they added a great incentive. as long as you renew without a lapse, the sale price will be your renewal price.

Addit: including the #BoostMobile and @BoostMobile tags in case people are looking for one or the other.





Posted in Boost Mobile, Cell Phones, CellNUVO, TracFone, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New DNA Company DNAFeed

Update March 17, 2018: The information in this blog post is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, medical advice. If you need medical advice, please consult a medical professional who works in the field that best addresses your medical concerns. The company plans on adding some additional functions for those who upload, but it sounds very minimal compared to what they used to offer. For multiple kits, you would need to delete the existing kit or use a different e-mail to create a new account. My suggestion to DNAFeed is to offer the old functionality and understand some people will be prone to mis-interpretation and that applies regardless of any genetic counseling that tries to gets them to understand this problem. I see it on 23andMe forums and Facebook groups all the time. Also, until such time as DNA science improves to the point of coming a lot closer to 100%, I don’t trust the predictions for/against any medical condition, being a carrier/not a carrier of a condition, or medicine interactions. Right now, too many experts rely on too few markers to indicate your risk for any condition or medicine interaction. So far, Schizophrenia with around 250 markers is probably one of the few conditions that’s anywhere close to hitting the mark. However, how many of those 200+ markers will turn out later to not be a factor in getting schizophrenia and how many more new markers will be found that are a factor? Also, DNA results are a snapshot in time. Specifically, the time you provided the DNA. Your DNA changes over time so markers that are currently safe for you may later get turned into unsafe through changes in your DNA. If you aren’t a smoker and don’t work in a lung unhealthy environment, you may not have any DNA markers for lung cancer when you tested. Later, you become a heavy smoker and start working in a lung unhealthy environment, then your DNA probably has enough changes to significantly raise your risks of lung cancer.

There’s a new DNA company that you can upload your DNA raw data results to: DNAFeed (they alternate between using DNAFeed and DNAfeed on their site). You need to unzip your raw data  and upload the txt file. Don’t delete your zipped file after you unzip it as many other sites require you to upload the zipped file, not the unzipped file. They accept pretty much any DNA results (FamilyTree DNA, Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage) as long as they are in a txt file format. They are looking at making it where you can upload your zipped file, but at this point, it’s not an option. People have posted on their Facebook page asking for additional information and I will update this blog post as it becomes available. I am curious if you can upload more than 1 DNA result. In my case, I want to upload my Ancestry DNA, FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA), possibly Genes4Good, among others. Worst case scenario would be to create separate accounts for each company using different e-mail addresses. If you take the talking with a licensed genetic counselor route, you can upload your zipped file. I haven’t taken this route so I am not sure how it works.

Below are the top research findings related to your DNA
All the information provided by DNAfeed is for educational and research purposes only. The information does not diagnose any disease or health condition. Most tests and research do not cover all variants related to a condition. In general, it’s advised to confirm any significant finding by an independent clinically validated test. Also, keep in mind that non-genetic factors such as environmental, lifestyle, and family history can play a large role in identifying the risk for any trait or disease. You should share or discuss any data with a healthcare provider before making any medical or reproductive decisions.
 Here’s what I get after the upload finishes:
 – – – –
It appears that you may exhibit an abnormal sensitivity or response to 74 different drugs.
Chat with a genetic counselor to understand:
  • The list of drugs that apply.
  • How my response may be affected.
  • If I should follow up with a more comprehensive, clinical-grade test.
  • What I can share with my doctor.
It appears that you may be a carrier and/or at a higher risk for 3 conditions.
Chat with a genetic counselor to understand:
  • The list of conditions.
  • Whether these findings are significant and what it means for me or my family.
  • Related questions for an upcoming or current pregnancy.
  • If I should follow-up/confirm the results with another test and how to order it.
  • How can I talk to my doctor about it.
It appears that you may have an increased risk for 5 conditions.
Chat with a genetic counselor to understand:
  • The list of conditions or diseases.
  • Whether these findings are significant and what it means for me or my family.
  • What I can do in terms of diet or lifestyle to minimize risks.
  • If I should follow-up/confirm the results with another test and how to order it.
  • How this may impact my family.

– – – –

I am not seeing a lot on the company, but your basic results (as shown above) are free although without more detail, I don’t see a reason to waste time or bandwidth on such limited results. I checked every place on my account to get more information and I am not seeing anything, other than if I spend the money to use one of their counselors. It costs $99 to chat with a licensed genetic counselor.

Update #2: I have tested with 23andMe (v3 chip with health results before they gutted the results later) and have uploaded to Promethease and a couple of other health-related sites so I am very familiar with the limitations of DNA results. I have done plenty of independent research on the limits of current DNA testing and noticed how often the researchers wrongly assume a handful of markers are the only ones associated with a rare condition.

Added the standard “this is not medical advice disclaimer” at the top of this post.

Posted in 23andMe, AncestryDNA, DNAFeed, FamilyTree DNA, MyHeritage DNA, Promethease | Leave a comment

Customer Loyalty and What Companies Don’t Get About It

As I am in the process of writing a response to Boost Mobile’s recent major downgrade in its Boost Dealz app, I was struck by the lack of customer loyalty on the part of companies. They expect us to be loyal to them, but do nothing to encourage our loyalty. If anything, they often do things to discourage customer loyalty. Why should a new customer get a better deal than an existing customer? It costs a lot more to gain me as a new customer than it does to keep me as an existing customer, and that’s true if you don’t offer me a better deal as a new customer. I used to be a Boost Mobile customer several years ago, but they did enough things to discourage me remaining a loyal customer so I left them. I only came back to them last year after the Boost Dealz app made it worthwhile to get inexpensive unlimited talk (as cheap as $10/billing cycle if you max out the $20 credit and go with auto-pay for the $35 plan which includes unlimited talk and text and 3 GB LTE with unlimited slower data after the 3 GB runs out).

A handful of companies are willing to reward customer loyalty. For example, one company offers several new paid customer sales/year, but with a twist. As long as you keep renewing, you keep the sale price. For example, the company offers a sale price of $29.95 (regular price $59.95/year). If you go with the sale price, the company agrees to make that your renewal price as long as you renew. Sadly, that’s more the exception than the rule as most companies would only honor the $29.95 for the first year and then charge you the $59.95 once the original term expired.

I had a disagreement with a small DNA company and the Customer Support person responded, but she also forwarded the e-mail to a third person. He responded, but he left out he was the CEO of the company; I thought I was talking to either her boss or a mid-level manager. We exchanged several e-mails and he never let on who he was. I found out when I researched the company. His solution was to offer me to beta test the Android and PC versions of their company’s app and refund my money at that time as part of being a beta tester. A larger company would have been unlikely to have the CEO or any upper manager personally respond, much less offer me a beta test solution. Since that time, I was able to get a friend who has a compatible iPhone to view my results and send me screenshots.

There is plenty of research on how much it costs a company to lose customers although much of the research doesn’t take into account the additional downside when you lose a customer to a competing company. With cell phone companies, you can often see the benefit when Company A loses X number of customers and those customers are picked up by Company B or by Companies B, C, and D.

Getting back to DNA testing, 23andMe had a solid lead for a number of years, but Ancestry was able to take the lead because it made changes to some things and 23andMe was slow to respond. Also, 23andMe made the unwise decision to ignore repeated requests from the FDA that led to other problems.

I remember when Google Plus first came out, some friends dumped Facebook, pointing to how Facebook had overtaken MySpace as to why Google Plus would overtake Facebook. I pointed out the key difference and why I believed Google Plus wouldn’t overtake Facebook. MySpace was number one, but it didn’t take the threat of Facebook seriously when the company showed up. Facebook has done a good job of responding to potential rivals by addressing a threat as serious. It’s why Facebook is still number one and Google Plus never made it anywhere near the credible threat it could have been. Does that mean Facebook will stay number one? For a while, yes. However, at some point, one of its rivals will figure out a way to take the number one spot.

Microsoft – I remember when Internet Explorer (IE) accounted for 95% of the browser market. Microsoft went the same route as MySpace and assumed they would always be number one. They continually ignored requests for improvements made by many who used IE. Initially, they didn’t have much competition, but Google Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox changed the equation. The two groups listened to what customers wanted and provided many things that Microsoft wouldn’t add to IE. It’s weird because Microsoft had no problem adding a bunch of features to its Office products (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access) requested by a small number of users. I am typing this blog post using Firefox and I frequently use Chrome as Google wants me to use it for certain functionalities. I rarely use Microsoft Edge to browse the Internet. Imagine if Microsoft had chosen to listen to its customers, they could still be number 1 in the browser category. Instead, they tend to be much lower in the ratings depending on who you use to do the rankings and how the rankings are done.

Likewise, Apple used to be number 1 in the cell phone market.  They wrongly assumed ignoring customer requests and requiring customers to buy new devices instead of allowing upgrades would let them stay number 1. Want more memory on an Android device? You can usually buy a new memory card if you haven’t maxed out your phone’s memory. Cost varies, but usually less than buying  a new phone. Want more memory on an iPhone? Buy a new phone as Apple believes they know better than the customer. Is it any wonder that Android went from a blip on the radar to being number 1 in phones?

In my examples, I am not saying the companies that supplanted the other companies always do the right thing, but they recognized the competition wasn’t listening to  customers and took a chance.

If you want to stand out as a start-up company, look at what your competition isn’t doing and figure out an affordable way to offer the product or service to their customers. If you really want to stand out, treat customer loyalty as something that is hard to get, easy to lose, but important to the long-term survival of your company. Don’t take customer loyalty for granted or it will come back to haunt you. For those with cell phone service, how long have you stayed with your present provider? This doesn’t apply in some areas if they are pretty much the only affordable game in town, but in most decent sized population centers, you can find the major companies (T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, TracFone) and various MVNOs that use one or more of the major companies’ networks.

I have used TracFone for several years now. I wasn’t a fan of it in the beginning, but it has grown on me. Some of its major positives involve its PAYGO (Pay As You Go) option. K its PAYGO system, you get X amount of talk, text, and data depending on how much you spend. In my case, I had a triple phone and as long as I purchased triple cards, I gained the tripling. With my most recent phone upgrade, I bought it more for the extra talk/text/data (TTD) than I did for the phone. The new phone was an improvement over my old phone, but the extra TTD was only slightly more expensive than what I paid in nine months for a lot less TTD ($54 for 540 TTD under my previous buying pattern compared to $60 for 4,500 TTD). I purchased Boost Mobile as an alternative back-up, but wasn’t sure if I would keep it. That’s one of the main reasons I didn’t dump TracFone. With my current TTD balances, I could easily last through my April 2020 expiration date. I expect to renew before April 2020, but I like the option of delaying it if necessary.

After the latest downgrade in points Boost Mobile instituted last month, I will probably be dropping them as the rewards program took a major hit that made it very unattractive to earn enough points in a reasonable amount of time.  I am looking at other options since I like having a reasonably priced back-up or main phone. With Boost Mobile, it became my main phone line because it had unlimited minutes and I could often get the price down to $10 per billing cycle using the rewards system. CellNUVO offers a rewards program, and it has some positives that Boost Mobile didn’t have. For example, CellNUVO lets you enough points to fully pay for your monthly service. Boost Mobile only allows a maximum of $20 credit earned during a billing cycle. A while back CellNUVO made a similar blunder to what Boost Mobile is doing. They cut the points available by a large factor. However, they either lost enough customers or enough revenue that CellNUVO decided to improve the rewards program. Here’s hoping Boost Mobile takes a hint, but I don’t think they will do it timely. CellNUVO allows you to earn as many points as you are willing to spend the time to earn. I need to work on a CellNUVO post as it has enough big changes to its system over the last year.

My suggestion to Boost Mobile and other companies is take customer loyalty seriously. Realize why it is important to your bottom line to take it seriously and recognize what happens when you ignore it. Because if you don’t, a current or future competitor will take customer loyalty seriously and cut into your market share in a significant way.

Posted in 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Blog Specific, Boost Mobile, Cell Phones, CellNUVO, DNA, Jeff Snavely AncestryDNA Tool, TracFone | 1 Comment

Facebook Group Change – Answer Questions to Join

This change to some Facebook groups has been around for a while. In the past, you sent a request to join a Facebook group and you were either approved or denied. Now, many groups require you to answer one or more questions before they approve your join request.

Sounds simple enough on the surface, but what most admins don’t understand is what type of questions to ask. Many groups ask questions that can easily be found by using your favorite search engine (DuckDuckGo – an, Yahoo!, Bing, Google, etc.).  If you are trying to block spammers, trolls, and similar types from joining your group, it’s best to ask open ended questions that are geared towards potential group members. One of the undesirable types may be able to figure out how to answer, but it tends to take more time and trouble than the average spammer, hacker, or troll is willing to waste.

In a couple of recent personal examples, I had to use my favorite search engine to find the answers because I didn’t recall the dates listed in the questions. In these cases, I was familiar with the group’s focus (science fiction), but didn’t remember enough details so I had to look the information up.

I admin several Facebook groups, but haven’t implemented questions for any of them yet. I usually do two things that weed out spammers and hackers if I am not familiar with the person wanting to join the group. First, I wait a few days after the initial request before I do anything else. Most of the time, the spammers and hackers have been removed by Facebook within a few days. For any remaining requests, I look at the person’s profile. That’s a big clue as spammers and hackers tend to use certain specific types of profiles and profile photos as well as often being relatively new to Facebook (three months or less and often less than a month). If their profile is public enough, I also look at the types of groups they belong to. This can be more or less helpful as some of the creative ones tend to spread their group memberships over a wide enough field to make it harder to determine if they are legitimate requests.

On a side note, my least favorite friend requests are those who hack or spoof deceased friends as a way to convince me I should accept the friend request. So far, two attempts were made by spammers or hackers pretending to be my deceased friends.




Posted in Facebook, Social Media | Leave a comment

Some Places to Find Free eBooks

There are plenty of places to find free eBooks. You can start at Amazon, Barnes and Noble (B&N), Google Play (yes, it has an eBook section), Apple iBooks, and Kobo. It can be challenging to find specific free eBooks as each site sets its own rules and doesn’t always make it easy to figure out where the free eBooks can be found. Another source of free eBooks are various websites and e-mail listservs you can sign up to be notified and the e-mails you receive can range from daily to weekly – plus your e-mail provider may decide to put them in your Spam folder so always check there before deleting without checking. Lastly, one unlikely source are self-published authors. Some of them offer free eBooks as an incentive to people willing to be Advanced Readers or beta readers. In some cases, you will get  a mix of free and discounted eBooks so you have to watch out for prices. In addition, some of the offers are free, but only if you are a KU subscriber. Less likely for free, but more likely for discounted eBooks, the various publishers frequently offer e-mail sign-ups as well.

It’s important to understand that when an eBook goes on sale for free, it is often time limited. There are exceptions as some authors make an eBook permafree. Typically, it’s the first book in a series which is a lure to get you interested enough with the free eBook to purchase later volumes in the series. Other writers are dead-set against ever offering a free eBook. Another option is when the seller (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.) offer an eBook for free.  If you pay for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU), then many books are temporarily free as long as you maintain your paid access. For those with KU, I recommend buying the free eBooks when they are available so you don’t later lose access if you no longer pay for KU access.

The below list is not comprehensive and if you are aware of sites or listservs that offer free eBook deals, please let me know and I will check them out.

Depending on where you sign up for e-mail listings of free eBooks as to how often you get them and whether or not you can choose which genres you want to receive notices.

As an additional note, some of the lists offer multiple choices (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play books, PDF downloads). I used to only go with the Kindle option if the e-mail had one or more of the others as options. Now, I go with all of the ones they offer. For example, I grabbed Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play versions of several free eBooks in the last hour. The advantage to grabbing them from all sites is you can leave reviews on the sites and if a company no longer offers a book on its site, you still have access on another site.

For those not familiar, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo all offer apps so you don’t need a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo reader if you don’t already have one. Simply go to Amazon, B&N, or Kobo and download the app. The companies generally have Android apps, iOS apps, and computer apps if you have a PC or laptop. I usually save my Amazon Kindle free items to Amazon’s Cloud Reader and then download them temporarily to my Android phone or laptop if I want to read them offline. In some cases, you have to download the file (.mobi for Kindle, epub for Nook, Kobo, etc., PDF if available). Best to put the file in a general folder or a specific folder. For example, I put all of my .mobi files in a Kindle folder.

The biggest thing to watch out for is checking price before you hit the purchase button. I received an e-mail and one of the items was no longer free on Amazon by the time I clicked on it. Also, with Amazon, make sure you use the Buy option instead of the Read for Free option which is a KU option. They will encourage you to sign up for KU if you click on it and aren’t a KU subscriber.

With Amazon, I have acquired over 800 free eBooks in the last few years. My best year was 2013 where I was just a tad under 300 free eBooks. For 2018, I am already over 200 eBooks and will most likely hit 250 soon. Will I read all of these books? At some point, I expect that I will.

Do I add every free eBook offered? No, I am not into certain genres or authors. For those, I might get a self-published author’s book, especially if they are starting out. If I liked it, even though I am not a fan of the genre, I would leave a review of it.

Here are some of the places I find free eBooks and I will update it as I find new sites or e-mail lists – some of the links allow you to sign up for one or more authors e-mail lists:

Bookbub: – includes sale prices and some free eBooks

Book Funnel: – has an app for Google Play or Kindle in addition to being able to sign up for promotions. Can’t find how I signed up, but typically one or more of the various groups I belong to sends me a download link for Book Funnel – the link varies, but starts with followed by a direct link to the eBook. Don’t sign up as an author on the main Book Funnel page unless you are an author. Can’t remember if it’s Book Funnel, but one of the sites has a restriction of one download/link so if you share the link before you download it, the first person to download gets it.

Fussy Librarian: – two e-mail lists – one for bargain eBooks and the other for mostly free eBooks.

Just Kindle Books: – only Kindle books, mix of free and sale price items.

LitRing: (LitRing has free eBooks as well as contests and other things to check out.

My Book Cave: – mix of free and bargain prices

OTOH Books: – has four options to sign up for.

Robin Reads: – combination of free and sale prices.

Smashwords: – mix of free and bargain items





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Ways To Turn Off A Wargamer

This free item showed up at the right time. You can find the file at – it’s Pay What You Want with a suggested price of $0.00 as of the date of this blog post (March 2, 2018). You can pay more than $0.00 if you want to. One of the advantages of WarGame Vault and its sister sites is the ability to pay more or less than what the Pay What You Want suggested price. You can always go back and pay more if you decide the item was worth more than what you initially paid for it.

From the above link, here are the five (5) tips they talk about. I haven’t heard the file yet so I won’t comment on what’s in the MP3 file. I will add some other tips that don’t appear to be covered based on the below tips.

5 Tips to Turn OFF a Would Be Wargamer

  • Be Unwelcoming
  • Make the game as complex as possible
  • Turn the would be wargamer into an OBSERVER
  • Use ugly models/terrain
  • Show up unprepared

Below are some of my tips and I gave my impression of what I thought the audio file would talk about after my tips.

Tip #6: Don’t try and guilt a person into playing a game they don’t want to play.

I have a friend who has admitted to using this tactic to get family and friends to play.  FYI, if a friend admits to doing something like this to other people, don’t be surprised if they do the same thing to you. The old axiom about “A friend who gossips to you will gossip about you” comes to mind. Some of the more devious friends would deny ever trying this tactic on you even if you had video and witnesses as proof they tried to use guilt. The more shameless would brag about doing it to you.

Using guilt is a good way to lose friends and turn them off whatever you are wanting them to play. Guilt only works if you let somebody guilt you into doing something. Better to look for a new friend than continue with a friend who thinks guilting is okay. I have dumped friends for trying to guilt me into playing their favorite game of the moment.  And no doubt, I will probably have to do this in the future as I don’t appreciate somebody who plays the guilt card. If they were honest with themselves, they would realize any number of reasons why playing the guilt card is a bad idea. Sadly, many of the guilters think using guilt is okay. You can also lose family by playing the guilt card. I have a friend who will probably play the guilt card one time too many on his wife and children and find himself out in the cold as they shut him out of their lives.

It’s also a matter of not respecting the person’s request and that can lead to a host of other problems.

Tip #7: Don’t start games you never finish.

This is true for wargames, Role-Playing Games (RPGs), card games, board games, etc.  Seen plenty of people do this one. It’s one thing to postpone a game occasionally for personal reasons or something unexpected coming up, but if not finishing games becomes the norm, don’t be surprised if you have trouble getting other people willing to play any games that you suggest.

Tip #8 (corollary to Tip #6): Don’t try to force somebody to play a game or system they don’t like or aren’t in the mood to play right now.

Sounds easy enough to avoid, but some people want to play a specific game or type of game and refuse to let your no mean no. I consider it a corollary of Tip #6 above because the person will frequently resort to playing the guilt card in an effort to get you to play.

Tip #9 Set reasonable time frames for the game and for games with turns, set reasonable time limits / turn.

This tip should be based on the average game time needed to play the game  and the number of players involved. If you have 6 players, the time limit needs to be shorter than if you have 2 or 3 players. I ran across this one in a game where the person was one of 7 players and somebody thought 30 seconds for a player to declare their action for the turn was too short. At 30 seconds/player in a 7-person game, that’s potentially 350 seconds (almost 6 minutes)/turn. In the case of this game, all the person had to do was say something like I’m attacking position X or I’m holding my ground and doing nothing. Granted, some actions will be cancelled if another player does something that negates the action, but the person has plenty of time to come up with alternatives while they are waiting for their turn.

If you have a player or players who can’t make up their mind in a reasonable amount of time, either play games using a timer (kitchen timers or stop watch apps are a good way to go).

Tip #10: Life isn’t fair so why should game systems be set up to be fair?

Note: this tip is geared towards games based on historical events or wars as opposed to wargames that aren’t based on historical scenarios. In general, even non-historical game settings often create an unfair situation due to terrain or other factors that give one side or the other an advantage.

This will most likely generate the most feedback as many people think games should be fair. If I am playing a World War II game that starts after Russia and Germany or the U.S. and Japan are at war, most of those games should end with Germany and Japan losing. Nerfing a system to allow a country an unrealistic chance to win doesn’t do anything other than convince a bunch of people that country X or leader Y could have won. It gives a false sense of accomplishment when you start a 1944 game as Germany and Japan and win. When I was younger, gaming conventions often had tournaments where the players had to play each side and who won was determined by a combination of the played game results. I have played games where I had overwhelming superiority and I lost because the dice weren’t on my side that day. I had other games where I took chances that most players either hadn’t considered or had discounted and they worked. In some of those games, the cost was high for me in the short-run, but in the long-run, it paid off. You can learn more by losing a game than you may learn by winning. I had

A sub-group of players only want to play specific countries or leaders. In some cases, it’s because their choice has advantages over the other choices. In other cases, it’s a case of somebody liking a specific country or leader. I have friends who would play Napoleonic France no matter what battle, scenario, etc. was chosen or how bad the deck was stacked against France.

Tip #11: Avoid playing games with sore losers and sore winners.

Seen a few games where the loser or winner fell into this category. Read a debate in a Facebook group on the issue. A sore winner can be as bad, if not worse, than a sore loser. I play games for one reason – to have fun. I don’t keep track, but believe I have lost more games than I won. Playing games should be about having fun as one of the major components. If you are playing a game because somebody guilted you into it, you aren’t going to have fun. I play some games because the other players want to and I don’t fair they only play games I want to play. If it reaches a point where I am regularly playing games I don’t like, it’s time for me to re-think my gaming relationship with the group.

Tip #12: Avoid playing games with cheaters

I watched a game of Diplomacy many years ago where somebody was cheating. In Diplomacy, everybody writes down their movements before anybody moves to avoid the cheating issue. In this case, he wasn’t following the movement orders he wrote. He was doing movements that helped him out. When he took a break, the players looked at his orders and realized he was cheating. Instead of calling him out, they eventually let the game die an early death. They also refused to play in games where he was a player.

Had they been playing Liars’ Poker or a similar game where cheating is not only expected, it’s part of the rules, his cheating wouldn’t have been an issue.

My take on the five tips in the above link:

Tip #1: Be Unwelcoming – this should be self-explanatory, but some veteran wargamers aren’t welcoming to potential new wargamers. This applies to other types of gamers as well. Part of this can bleed over to Tips #2 and #3. In wargames I participate in, I would let new players use some of my units to

Tip #2: Make the game as complex as possible – some games are pretty complex, but most wargames have simpler versions or introductory scenarios that help new players learn the rules as they play.

Tip #3: Turn the would-be wargamer into an observer – seen this a lot. Instead of helping a new wargamer learn the rules, they are treated like observers or are told what to do without explaining the reason(s) for doing it.

Tip #4: Use ugly models/terrain – okay this one is something you may not be able to do much about. Some players want or expect Mona Lisa style terrain and units and are disappointed because your terrain and units aren’t to that standard. Personally, I have played in games where the terrain was flat boards or unpainted 3-D stuff and the units were unpainted or poorly painted. For me, that wasn’t a deal breaker.

Tip #5: Show up unprepared – this is another one that can go either way. With some wargames, the people who show up make up the scenario on the fly (i.e., they make it up on the spot).



Posted in Board Games, Card Games, Gaming, RPGs, Wargaming | 1 Comment