Friday, June 27, 2003

Just Because: Yeah, it's orange. Blue is far too common in weblogs, so I'm orange now. Summer = Warm = Sun = Orange.

Don't worry. If you don't like it I can change it back in a flash.
Scribbling For Fun and No Profit: First, in case you weren't paying attention, Apple Pie is on sale at Amazon for $9.98. You should buy a copy. Two or three maybe, they make excellent gifts.

I still don’t have a specific release date for Business As Usual, but I will be very surprised if it isn't available for Christmas.

Sounds great, eh? Wouldn’t it be cool to be a writer? Well, before you follow that path you should read this article, which will give you a good idea what to expect. Not that I regret it, but it's nice to see a realistic description rather than be told if you write a perfect query letter you're on your way to riches.

Did I mention that Apple Pie is on sale at Amazon for $9.98?
Calling B.S.: Michael Fumento has spent many, many years debunking popular health myths – Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, Erin Brockovich, etc. He has argued that SARS is primarily a matter of hysteria and the Atkins diet is little more than modern day snake oil. Contrary to most of what you read in the press his opinions are researched and documented.

One other advantage he has over most health journalists is that he writes in a passionate, confrontational style that makes for lively reading. It also generates a great deal of Hate Mail which is an out and out riot. Here's a sample from the latest hate mail page.

Subject: Low Carb Friends

Mr. Fumento,

It's really too bad that you are so uneducated about the Atkins diet. Just last week, Primetime Live did a study on 6 overweight people doing 6 different kinds of diets and guess what???? The Atkins diet resulted in more weight loss than any of the others. As a matter of fact, several of the others said they felt they were starving and losing squat. Several research instituations (sic) are doing and have done studies on the Atkins diet versus other so-called healthy diets and found the same. I don't have all the technical information but am sure that even if I did, it would be wasted on you. And really, why bother, there are plenty of other low-carbers sending you all the pertinent info as we speak, through this same email address.

Btw, the reason obesity have steadily crept higher and higher during the last twenty years or so certainly isn't because of the Atkins diet. It's because the rising amounts of refined sugars and grains that the "low-fat" craze started, not to mention the upside down food pyramid. Ask any farmer and he will tell you the best way to get his livestock to gain weight is through an increase in carbohydrates, specifically corn and grain. And amazingly, the formula for hog grain, matches nicely to the food pyramid ratio.

But anyways (sic), say what you want, I've been low-carbing for three years and maintaining for two and nothing you say can take that away from me or MILLIONS of others who are living their life skinnier, healthier, and longer.

Enjoy your spaghetti you putz

[omitted] Wilburn

Dear Mr. Wilburn:

Prime-Time Live? Funny, I've never heard of that medical journal. Where is it published and how does it pick referees for peer review? I'm also impressed by the fact that its Atkins cohort comprised a grand total of one (1) person. That sure beats the heck out of that recent JAMA review that I mentioned surveying 107 articles comprising 3,268 participants that found "insufficient evidence to conclude that lower-carbohydrate content is independently associated with greater weight loss compared with higher-carbohydrate content." And those "several institutions" you've named; none of them have published their findings. But again, I can see how you would find that more impressive than those 107 studies. In any case, I discussed those findings at great length in earlier articles. Too bad the only thing you seem to know how to read is what's posted at that Atkins propaganda site, "low-carb friends."

I think that if I "asked any farmer" he would tell me that corn is a grain and he wouldn't think much of you for not knowing either that or that the feed grains that farmers use are employed not because they are high in carbohydrates but because they are high in fats and protein. The main ones in this country are corn and soybeans. Does it strike you as coincidence that two of the most popular cooking oils come from those two grains?

As I discussed at length in one of those articles you neglected to read, Americans are growing fatter for one simple reason: They are eating more of everything. More fat, more carbohydrates, and more protein. But certainly you'd think that 15 million successful Atkins dieters would have an impact on the obesity epidemic, wouldn't you? But they haven't. Why? Because while 15 million people may have started it, virtually nobody has been able to stick to it. Your "millions" figure is sheer fabrication.

Finally, I do eat spaghetti and absolutely anything else I want. I just eat it in moderate proportions and I exercise. Finally, if I'm a putz, I'm one that's in excellent shape as shown in pictures posted to my website. And my data are strong enough that I don't feel the need to hurl epithets instead of responding with numbers. Or is being so sour, like being constipated, a result of the Atkins diet?

Michael Fumento

Chortle. There's plenty more. The articles are sharp, the mail is fun. Spend some time there.
Anyone for Some Bowling?: I have to apologize to Miss Kate for being too late to tell her about the Second Annual Big Lebowskifest. The Big Lebowski is one of Kate's favorite movies of all time, and she'll be heartbroken that she missed it. It occurred on July 19th in Louisville and featured such events as "Recovery Brunch with the Dude." Sadly, I had to miss it being at Canyon Ranch and all (still working on an essay). Maybe next year.
Phone Follies: A public service announcement. It's been all over everywhere, so you probably have seen that there is a national opt-out list for folks who want to stop annoying unsolicited calls from telemarketers. There is still three months before the telemarketers must comply but after that, big fines will arise for violations – theoretically. There are quite a few loopholes so only time will tell if it will be helpful.

The other phone news is that in many areas, and hopefully nationwide in time, we have cell phone number portability – meaning if you change wireless provider, say from Verizon to Cingular, you can keep your phone number. Nice. Choices are good and not having to change your number if you can find a better deal makes going all cellular more appealing. If I could get in gear to get cable modem service installed I might just do it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Tanned, Rested and Ready: Greetings all! I have finally returned after spending the last week-ish at the Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson Arizona. A remarkable place - more details will follow.

For now, just be aware that Amazon has placed Apple Pie on sale for $9.98 (which is about what I would price it at if I had any say in the price). No idea how long the sale will last, get 'em while they're hot.

Back in a couple of days with new material after I decompress.

Friday, June 13, 2003

My Outhouse is Your Outhouse: This whole Outhouse Springs water thing (scroll down a few posts) has turned out to be a scam. Both The Legendary KK and The Always Delightful Chrissy have passed along quotes. From KK:

...To gain ''exposure,'' a six-pack of Outhouse Springs was sent to the local media late last week. For effect, toilet paper was used as part of the packaging. The press release accompanying it said the Atlanta company promoting the drink wanted to remain anonymous. Adams Outdoor, of Atlanta, with an office in Bethlehem, had no comment on Monday. But the same campaign hit the South in early May, with the Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., later admitting ''the media, including this very newspaper, ate it up, and Adams got its marketing coup. It can now use that information to demonstrate the power of billboards.

And from a email forwarded from Chrissy:

By now you have probably have seen the billboards promoting Outhouse Springs Water. This is a campaign from Adams Outdoor to get people talking so they can go to your clients and tell them how great billboards work.(not) They are doing it all over the state using unsold inventory.(this is why you are seeing so many)

So the mystery, such as it was, is solved. As far as a the scam goes - it was pretty clever. Just stupid enough to work. Now, with all the publicity, they should really market the water as a novelty gift. Might be more lucrative than selling billboard space.

OK, that's it. Two weeks of Real Life. Starting now. This time I mean it.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Site Weirdness Update: I had to make some adjustments but paragraphs should break properly now. The explanation is complicted and I'm not sure I like the answer, but it'll have to do for the moment.

Now, I really do have deal with real life for a couple weeks. This time for sure.

Later, gator.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Status Alert: The good news - I think all systems are go for A Pleasure Doing Business With You, which I still may rename Business As Usual because it's easier to handle. My hope is that it will be available by Christmas. It'll be a great stocking stuffer. More as things develop.

The bad news - I'll be on hiatus again for a while; probably the next couple of weeks. In the mean time, you can take a look at my latest contribution to Blogcritics, A Music Buying Paradise, Relatively Speaking.
Site Weirdness: First off, there is some weirdness going on with the site rendering. Suddenly, there are no lines in between paragraphs. I have not changed anything on the site that I know of to cause this. I am baffled. It seems to still work in Opera or Mozilla, but doesn't in Internet Explorer. This is truly deeply freaky to me. For example, there should be a blank line between this sentence and the next.

For some reason there isn't - for me anyway, I don't know if you are experiencing the same thing. If anyone has ideas I will be eternally grateful for the assist. Until I get it sorted out, please bear with me.
Outhouse in Lansing: I believe the editors of Men's Journal magazine (to which I am a long time subscriber) need to step away from the crack pipe. They have released their annual list of the 50 best places in the country to live (not available on-line). Boulder, CO is number 1, which seems reasonable, but there is only one city in Michigan in the top 50, and that city is Lansing.

What? I'm sure Lansing is a fine town, but there are at least 50 better cities in Michigan to pick. Lansing was chosen because of "football weekends and state government." I repeat: What? First off, I'm sure the MSU football games are a lot of fun and all, but football weekends in Ann Arbor at the Big House are legendary. And, State government? So that means you got an extra helping of bureaucrats wandering around.

Lansing is most recently notable for being the target market of Outhouse Springs a new bottled water with a truly disgusting name. You can read some background here (If that site doesn't work you can read Google's cache of the page.)

That’s the message media organizations received last week along with a six pack of bottled water labeled "Outhouse Springs." The offering heralded a billboard-only campaign launched in Lansing for the anonymously produced water that touts itself as "Truly Tasteless."

The press release, from an equally anonymous marketing agency (only the address, which is in Atlanta, was on the release) says the company that makes Outhouse Springs is "utilizing an outdoor media campaign with edgy imagery and sharp taglines" to draw consumers to what is describes as a ‘tasteless’ product.

"While this type of campaign is not new, it is the first time that an area like Lansing, with its traditional values and conservative nature, has been selected as a launch site for such an unusual product."

In other words, if Outhouse Springs can fly in dull old Lansing, it can make it anywhere.

Please don't write to give me grief for dissing Lansing. I'm not. I just pointing out that Men's Journal's selection of "dull old" Lansing as one of the top 50 places to live in the US and, implicitly, the best place to live in Michigan, is evidence that they are hitting the crack pipe with alarming regularity.

I'm just saying...
No Fear of Commitment Here: This is a remarkable story. It seems this Army Colonel, stationed in Iraq, managed to propose to 50 women over the past couple of years, many accepted despite never seeing him. Some went on to plan weddings. The scam didn't last.

The matter began to unravel after a television station in Washington, KNDU-TV, showed a segment in April about a woman in Pasco, Wash., who was engaged to Colonel Saleh and awaiting his return from overseas. That story was posted on the MSNBC Web site. Soon, other women who thought they were Colonel Saleh's fiancée called KNDU. According to these women, Colonel Saleh was a two-timer of massive proportions. They now derisively refer to him as "Kassanova."


"We are not a group of stupid, naïve women," [one of the victims] said. "We are bright, intellectual, professional women. I can't tell you how much he wooed us with his words. He made us feel like goddesses, fairy princesses, Cinderellas. We had all found our Superman, our knight in shining armor."

I bet there's a bunch of expatriated Nigerian businessmen who love to get the email addresses of these women.
You'll Never Take Me Alive: Hunter S. Thompson, Godfather of Gonzo, describes his first encounter with the feds.

My first face-to-face confrontation with the FBI occurred when I was nine years old. Two grim-looking Agents came to our house and terrified my parents by saying that I was a "prime suspect'' in the case of a Federal Mailbox being turned over in the path of a speeding bus. It was a Federal Offense, they said, and carried a five-year prison sentence.

"Oh no!" wailed my mother. "Not in prison! That's insane! He's only a child. How could he have known?"

"The warning is clearly printed on the Mailbox," said the agent in the gray suit. "He's old enough to read."

"Not necessarily," my father said sharply. "How do you know he's not blind, or a moron?"

"Are you a moron, son?" the agent asked me. "Are you blind? Were you just pretending to read that newspaper when we came in?" He pointed to the Louisville Courier-Journal on the couch.

"That was only the sports section," I told him. "I can't read the other stuff."

"See?" said my father. "I told you he was a moron."

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Since When Is It Saturday, Already?: I'm not entirely clear on why it's been so long since my last update. I believe I may have slipped into a time warp or something. More farm fresh, quality content coming soon - I promise.

If you get a chance, you should start watching the HBO series, The Wire. It is a terrific police drama, set in the gritty areas of Baltimore. Completely cynical, but completely humanistic. The characters are almost uniformly ineloquent, yet you come to know them thoroughly. Fabulous drama. I hesitate to recommend it because, as I write this, we are one episode into the second season and even at this early stage it may be difficult to catch up.

I'm looking forward to adding it to my next HBO Original Programming review, along with the superb, just finished season of Six Feet Under.
Busted...More or Less: A fascinating 3-part story (part 1, part 2, part 3) of Russian hackers, whose modus operandii was to compromise the security of a US firm, then blackmail them under threat of releasing sensitive information. They were convinced that being in Russia, the FBI couldn't touch them. They we're wrong, but it was not accomplished without a struggle. This would make a great documentary.
I Could Tell You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You: First rule of being Ronald McDonald - NEVER talk about being Ronald McDonald.

So protective is McDonald's of the character's mystique that men who play Ronald are never to admit that they do. Ronalds in costume aren't to say who they are in civilian life. That rather annoyed Craig A. Oatten, a police chief in Michigan, when a Ronald, in full red-and-yellow regalia, got into a fender bender near Saginaw a few years ago. Asked several times, the Ronald steadfastly refused to give his name for the police report.


One former Ronald is a vegetarian who has since joined forces with animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to chide the chain. "I feel badly about what I've done with young people," says Geoffrey Giuliano, who played Ronald in Canada in the early 1980s. "I was the happy face on something that was horrendous."

Poor tortured soul. Another victim of the corporate injustice.
Science For Dummies: Scientific American presents their award winners for best science links. I haven't been through them all, but Cancerquest is absolutely the best layman's explanation of cancer I have ever seen, and I think I could expend some of my scientific curiosity at The Virtual Body.
Zero Down and Low Monthly Payments: This article in the Detroit Free Press speaks for itself.

In Iraq, no set of wheels is held in higher regard than the large, mostly white Toyota Land Cruiser sport-utility vehicles long favored by government officials, intelligence agents and VIPs from Basra to Kirkuk.

Locals call the vehicles "Monicas," as in Lewinsky, after the former White House intern.

Personally, I would have suggested a large, white Hummer.