Friday, October 30, 2009

The Truth Lies in the Advertising

A couple weeks back I read about many people lamenting the new FTC rules regarding disclosure on blogs. For those in the publishing industry, this may have a big impact on book reviewers who have received a free copy of a book, agents promoting their clients' works, etc.

Today I saw a great example of why this rule is needed, although I agree that it was implemented on too broad a manner.

It started with this news article. The article itself has nothing to do with this blog post, other than the fact that it's a starting point. When I got to the end of it I read "Acai Berry Side Effects: In Our Shocking Special Report We Investigate Acai Berry" and I clicked on the link, curious. I'll sum it up, but you should really read the whole thing yourself. And then make sure you read the end of this post.

The Investigative Special Report starts like this:
"Bloggers around the country are raving about the weight loss benefits of Acai. We put their claims to the test in our Exclusive Report"

I thought it would be interesting to read the report. Maybe someone actually did some sort of reputable test. I read on, eager to see what it said. It said this:

we here at the station are a little skeptical and aren't sure that we've seen any real proof that these pills work for weight loss. So we decided to put these products to the test. What better way to find out the truth than to conduct our own study? To get started, I volunteered to be the guinea pig."

The article then goes into full infomercial mode. And wouldn't you know it, the intrepid writer actually "Lost 25lbs in 4 Weeks, No Special Diet, No Intense Exercise"

Then there were comments at the bottom. Guess what? Each commentor was a) excited to try it, b) able to talk about success from a family member that tried it, or c) promoting their own success story, often involving feeling GREAT in just minutes. I would have loved to leave comment of my own, but wouldn't you know it, the comments were closed.

And then I read the fine print, which I will post for your here, but in a larger font and with emphasis added...


It is important to note that this site and the stories depicted above is to be used as an illustrative example of what some individuals have achieved with this/these products. This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this blog, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story.

This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What were the pilots really doing?

You may have heard tale of a Northwest Airlines flight that missed its destination airport by 150 miles. Today the news said the pilots were lost and using their laptops, presumably either for blogging and/or for Google Maps. That's what I'd be doing. Or checking to see if sold parachutes (albeit too late, and knowing me I'd cheap out and get a used one).

Laptops. Lost. That's what the pilots say, anyways. Clearly a not-so-clever ruse. I don't believe it for a second.

And I would bet the creative people reading this blog may be able to venture guesses as to what they were really doing that caused them to miss the airport...

If you have a theory, please share it with us in the comments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This is so bad...

Yesterday was warm, we had the back door open. My son went to it and stuck his head out.

"Oh, no. This is so bad," he said. "I still hear the bus sound."

Curious, I walked to the door and stuck my head out. "Do you hear it?" he asked me.

"You mean that whoop-whoop-whoop?"

"Yes," he said.

"That's the alarm on the neighbor's house" I told him. He had gone over a few minutes before to play with his friend, but came back and said nobody was home. "When you went over to see if Jalen could play did you open the door?" I asked.

He nodded. "It was an accident. I was knocking and it came open a little bit and I closed it."

"Never open the door to someone's house if they aren't home. You can ring and knock but never open the door," I said as I walked to the mud room to put my shoes on. He followed me, tears starting to well up in his eyes.

"I am in so much trouble. I'm going to get arrested," he said, putting on his shoes.

"No, I think I can explain what happened to the police and they won't arrest you."

"Are you sure?" he sounded doubtful.

"I hope so," I said. He shuddered. I laughed and tussled his hair. "Come one, you'll be fine."

We walked through the garage, and when we got to the driveway I saw the Sheriff's car parked across the street. It was empty. We crossed our yard to the next-door neighbor's house. They were coming down the street in their car and waved to us, and they pulled into the driveway just as we walked onto it...and just as a Deputy Sheriff came out from their garage, holstering his firearm.

Tears were rolling down my son's cheeks as the Deputy walked over and my neighbor got out of her car.

"I can explain this," I said to both of them. "My son came over to see if the kids could play, and he opened the door by accident."

"Do you live nearby?" the Deputy asked.

"Right next door," I said, pointing to my house.

The Deputy had has pad and pencil ready. "What's your name?" he asked my son, who replied with a very feeble "Max."

"What's your last name, Max?" he asked. Max was crying, looking down at the ground. "Max, look at me," the Deputy said. Max looked up. "You're not in any trouble, okay?" Max nodded.

"Tell him your last name," I said.

It took a couple tries before he said it clearly. "Max, you want to be a police officer, this is just part of their job. They have to ask questions and write down what happened. You're not going to get arrested," I said. He had stopped crying but was still upset. I let him go in the backyard with his friend (who had just gotten home with his mother and younger brother).

Max went into our garage to get his soccer ball. My wife was in there, about to leave for a friend's house for the evening. She spotted the cruiser parked on the street.

"Oh Max, look! A police car. Did you get to talk to them?" she asked. Max nodded quietly and got his soccer ball. That's odd, she thought. He's usually really excited to see a police car. She had been upstairs getting ready and knew nothing the situation.

My wife was looking for me to tell me she was leaving, and she heard me laughing with our neighbor and came over, and we explained what happened. The Deputy went to his car and wrote up an incident report and gave it to my neighbor. No harm done. They get three false alarms per year before they get charged for them. Max's emotional scars healed quickly, and I think he learned an important lesson about forced entry. Plus our neighbors learned an important lesson about making sure the doors are all locked.

They also know that the money invested in the security system was well-spent.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pictures of My Crown

This is a wide view of one of the corners. It doesn't look bad from a distance. A darkened distance is the recommended viewing setting.

A closer-up look reveals some slight imperfections. I don't think blogger will show this in full resolution, which also works to my advantage.

The place where to pieces meet in the middle of a long run (as opposed to a corner) is called a scarf joint. This one didn't come out that bad. I probably could have sanded it down smoother, but why do that when you have satin paint that works so well to mask such imperfections?

The scarf joint below is the worst one. Coincidentally, it was also the first one. If you look at the bottom edge, you can see that the two pieces of molding are way out of alignment. The use of caulk and paint to create a straight line below the molding helps provide the illusion of a straight edge for the entire piece.

Now I'm off to take my chainsaw into the woods behind my house to cut up some downed tress for firewood. I sincerely hope my next post will not be written with prosthetic hands and/or fingers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Crown King

I recently finished a home improvement project: I installed crown molding in our dining room.

Before I go on, let me tell you a little about my infatuation with "do it yourself" projects. I have no delusions of grandeur regarding my ability to take on complex tasks. I always overlook something important, and without fail the tasks take longer than expected. For some reason this does not stop me (although it should).

When my wife and I first moved in together I mentioned to my mom that I was installing curtain rods.

"Oh, you should get your Dad or your brother to help you," she advised me. Bah. Curtain rods are simple, any buffoon can manage a drill.

Then I learned what those little plastic drywall anchors are for...after I decided I didn't need them and the curtain rods fell down. Then I re-drilled (I strategically placed the mounting brackets so the rod and the curtains would cover the old holes). I used the plastic drywall anchors this time. I did not use a stud finder. Turns out you really don't need those things when your drilling/screwing into a stud. Lesson learned (mostly).

Next was the deck on the back of our old house. I didn't go into this one blind, I purchased plans off the Internet and solicited the help of my uncle, cousin, and brother-in-law, all of whom had more building experience than I did. They also had better tools. The weekend project went by without injury, and we actually finished framing it. I guess a deck with an octagonal raised dining platform is an ambitious first-deck project. Who knew? A month later I finally finished it.

And then there was the six month finish-the-basement project. That was a massive undertaking, and I ended up subbing out the drywall and the drop ceiling. That's not included in the six months. That's just the time it took me to frame it.

For the crown molding project, I used both the Internet and a book for guidance. This is my method of take-no-prisoners planning. The consensus was "4 hours to install crown molding in a room." The consensus was wrong.

After six hours I had successfully nailed up four relatively crooked pieces of crown molding. The next evening I nailed up the molding on the other half of the room.

I surveyed my handiwork. Looked like shit, I must say; but that didn't worry me. I had spackle, caulk, and wood filler on my side. Turns out wood filler can be pretty messy and difficult to work with. It also does amazing things to the top two layers of skin on your hands and fingers (NOTE: "does amazing things to" in this context can also be read as "dissolves").

When I was done with the spackle, caulk, and woodfiller (which I sanded down to a not-quite-imperceptible smoothness), it still looked like shit. But I wasn't worried, I knew the paint would cover most if it.

"What kind of paint do you want, semi-gloss or satin?" the guy at Home Depot asked me. This was my fourth trip there that week. He was well aware of my endeavors.

"Which kind will hide imperfections in carpentry?" I asked.

"The satin."

"I'll take it."

I taped off and painted. I was amazed at how well the paint and caulk created straight lines above and below the crooked pieces of molding. The satin paint did an admirable job of covering the less severe blemishes. As for the more severe can hardly see them in the dark.

Which brings me to my next project: install a dimmer switch in the dining room.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inoculated- A Short Story

By Rick Daley

The scientist slaved away in his laboratory, fueled as much by his ego as his will to survive. He teetered on the cusp of a breakthrough. He knew how to isolate the virus; he just lacked the tools to do it efficiently.

He peered into his microscope. He watched the red blood cells change as the infection took root. He couldn’t see the virus itself without a more powerful instrument, so he relied on observation of its effects to guide his work. The lens did a good enough job. It ought to. It took him three months to grind it. Three months he needed back. Three months that were forever past.

He lived for the future. The present carried little meaning. Day and night were naught in his subterranean world, an impromptu lab set up in the remains of a military bunker hewn deep in the bedrock. He slept often, but never for long. He tried to keep alert while he worked but the isolation acted as a sedative, enveloping his senses and veiling the rest of the world. The world he wanted so desperately to save.

The ground above him bathed in light, but soon the sun would set for months and if he didn’t finish before then all hope would be lost. The virus would have to be delivered to the hosts immediately. He could not preserve it through the long darkness, and he didn’t have the resources to repeat his work.

Success could not avoid him forever, and when his tenacity finally culminated in a pure form of the virus, highly contagious and transmittable through the air, he packed up his gear and stepped into the October sunlight, taking in the waning remains of a continuous day that began in January.

As he set out on his journey south he passed a herd of caribou. He thanked them, for it was in their blood that he first found the virus. If he succeeded – and he did not come all this way to fail – then all humanity would owe its future to the caribou.

He trekked on for days, staying ever vigilant as he traveled in the darkness, relying on the security of the sunlight to rest. Hundreds of miles passed beneath his feet before he reached the breeding pens, located in the central building of a large farm compound. He worked to stay hidden, which was easier than he expected because they weren’t looking for him here. They had no idea what he was about to do; that he had the power to destroy them forever.

The livestock paddocks were fully enclosed. Inside, a colony of hosts for his virus. Incubators and carriers with a natural immunity, the livestock in this pen were special, used for breeding. The mature offspring were shipped worldwide where they were interbred with local livestock.

The virus would spread quickly, and when it did their entire food supply would be poisoned, and every last drop of human blood would be forever protected from than fangs of the vampires.

He looked up at the sun. Four hours before it would sink beneath the horizon. Four hours before they would awaken. If he failed, they would be humanity’s final hours.

He snuck around to a service entrance. Unlocked. They never expected intruders; the vampires had no natural enemies other than the light of the sun. Their order rivaled that of a hive of insects, working to keep their society fed with a steady stream of human blood. They lived with a ruthless efficiency but after years of having no threat to their power they had let down their guard. And it would be their undoing.

He worked his way deeper into the compound and voices echoed through the ductwork. Soft murmurs, primitive vocalizations devoid of true language. Is humanity even worth saving at this point? He wondered as he turned the corner and came upon hundreds of naked humans in a large room empty of any furnishings save the rows of commodes along one wall.

They stared at him, their young faces dumbfounded. They did not make any noise; rather, a hush fell over them as they struggled to make sense of this apparition – a bearded man, something that some of them had not seen since their early childhood, and many had never seen at all. Vampire skin did not produce facial hair, and they kept the human livestock shaved from head to toe.

As a rule, no human was allowed to live past the age of twenty. The oldest of the livestock in the room would have been six years old at the uprising. How quickly the power shifted; mere weeks from the time of the Reveal, when the vampires came together in the moonlight for all the world to see, to the time when they drained the last adult human of her blood. The vampires used their superior strength to wrest control of the planet from its human leaders and establish their own rule of law.

He moved into the center of the crowd, an old glass perfume bottle in hand, and he pointed it at the mouths of the people he passed. Their jaws opened without question, and into each he sprayed one pump of the viral agent. He continued until his spray was all gone, and he left undetected, stealing away into the final hour of daylight.

He reached the woods as darkness fell and he took shelter in a shallow cave. His job finished, he risked a night’s sleep, no longer concerned about his fate if found. Any vampire that tasted his blood would regret it.

Dawn broke and the morning light found its way to his eyes, teasing them open with its promise of warmth and safety. He crawled out of the cave and stood and stretched and breathed deep the fresh air. Today it tasted different, as if his pride and hope were carried on the breeze, nourishing a soul exhausted from years of trials fraught with much more error than success.

The whole farm is infected by now. The vampires won’t know it because they don’t eat the breeding stock. How long until the first vampire dies? He thought. It was the same thought that ran through his mind every day for the past four years, since the day he discovered the virus that the caribou carried. The half-strand of DNA that could kill a vampire within hours but did no harm to a human host.

Not long, I bet. There has to be a shipment of the older stock going out to breed soon. Whoever they are herded with, they will all be infected within days. All they need to do is breathe the same air. When the vampires dine on the infected stock, they will feel the pain of death.

How long until they figure out the cause? He wondered. Another oft-repeated question that seemed as old as the hills in which he hid, with an answer as familiar as the itch beneath his beard. Probably never. I just saved the human race, and nobody will ever know it.

To him, that mattered. As a scientist before the rise of the vampires he coveted the recognition of his peers and sought after the top prizes awarded in his field. And now, when he finally completed a work worthy of worldwide renown, he feared that news of his deeds would fall into a soundless void, never to resonate in the intellect of those that benefitted the most from it.

The disease spread faster than he anticipated. He failed to account for the frequency at which the vampires dined, and the way several of them would gorge themselves on the same human, one at the neck, one at each wrist, and one at the inside of each leg, draining the femoral arteries. For each human host, five vampires would die.

Across the earth the vampires became infected. The virus imbued their unfeeling flesh with a pain so intense it drove them into the fiery light of the sun in a suicidal frenzy. Unable to resist the temptation to feed, the vampires found extinction in the new human blood.

At first the human livestock remained in their pens, domesticated cattle that were born into slavery and had little to no sense of freedom. Eventually they emerged into a dangerous new world, learning how to eat and drink without being fed and watered. He did his best to help them and guide them, to give them back the gift of language. He impregnated as many females as he could, hoping that seed would empower a new generation to rise up and reclaim the reigns of the earth.

But is it any use at all? They are so many, and me only one, he thought. Still he tried. He accepted their fate, and with it, his own.

His people looked on him as a God, come to them one day as a ray from the sun to free them from slavery and bring them forth into the light. They erected for him a great stone monument, and carved for him an effigy in rock, part man and part animal, for the animals gave him the power to set them free. Those that made the statue did not know what his caribou looked like, so they chose instead a local animal that had earned their respect for its power and majesty.

When death finally claimed him, he surrendered to it openly, satisfied at last with his life and what he had done.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Little Humor...

I have to post something. I have a couple long stories to tell, but not enough time to write them, so for today I'm just posting one of my favorite jokes. I'll try to make it as clean as possible...

The judge pounded his gavel. "Order in the court," he called. "Mickey Mouse, I have reviewed your case and I will not grant you a divorce. This court has found Minnie Mouse to be mentally competent."

"Your honor, I didn't say she was crazy," Mickey pleaded. "I said she was f*&%ing Goofy!"