Chris's Collected Wisdom

Last Update 17-JUL-2012

This is my collection of very, very minor yet valuable bits of wisdom.

Nothing that will change your life -- "Get your college degree!" is excellent advice, but my telling you so isn't likely to change if you do or don't.  "Careful taking apart anything with lots of springs and small parts in it" is something people only learn by experience.  :)  You may not ever learn you can't achieve anything you can't visualize, despite anything I might write.

This is mostly a collection of things I have found or learned from others in my life's journey, not all my wisdom.  And -- yes -- certainly one of the most random collections you'll ever see.

Don't miss the separate article Chris's advice on Cats!

I recently went back and marked a number of articles with the following so as to keep those that are hard fact pure from those that have just a tad of opinion in them.

The list has grown long enough that at least an index down into it is needed.  Click on the section you want to jump to.
BTW, I'm having a hard time deciding where to put some things that fit in more than one category, so do look around.
  • Consumerism in the USA
  • Money, Math, and Scams
  • Telephones in the USA
  • Automobiles & Transportation
  • Housing
  • Health and Medicine
  • Computers & ISP's in the USA
  • Technology
  • Work
  • Life
  • Learn Pig Latin
  • I'm From the Government and I'm Here to Help You!
  • A Final Note
  • Back to the Main Page

    Consumerism in the USA

    Truth in Advertising

    Anything in quotes in an ad, like:
    "Centerville's Largest Dealership"
    is considered a slogan or puffery and does not need to be true -- and likely isn't.

    Always keep this in mind when reading ads -- if they say Your Satisfaction Guaranteed without quotes, it will be.  If they use quotes, it may or it may not be.  Just translate "  "  in your mind into B S.

    Beef vs. Pork

    Any food product marked Beef can only contain what you and I consider to be beef -- skeletal muscles from cows.

    Any product marked Pork and Beef or Beef and Pork can contain any part of the pig and any part of the cow -- from lips to tails.

    Why They Don't Call it Kraft Cheese and Macaroni

    Federal law requires that the list of ingredients on a box be in the order of what there is the most of to the least of.  It also requires the product title on the box to be the same way.  That's why it must be "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese", because there is more macaroni than cheese.

    Sometimes they do a bit of trickery -- Like "Swanson Gravy and Sliced Beef."  More gravy than beef.   This restriction doesn't apply to what they say in commercials -- in the commercial the housewife held up the box and called it "Swanson Sliced Beef and Gravy."

    One more trick.  Let's say you had a product that was 30% fruit and 50% sugar.  The ingredients list would be "Sugar, Fruit".  Don't use plain old sugar -- make it 1/2 Sugar 1/2 Corn Sweetener.  Now you can call it "Fruit, Corn Sweetener, Sugar."

    Why Am I Paying $1 a Minute for Long Distance When I Just Wanted a Suntan?

    There are legal agreements to change your long distance carrier actually hid in things you innocently sign, never intending to change your long distance.  Sign up for two free weeks at a sun-tan parlor and in the agreement's fine print you change your long distance carrier to Joe's Long Distance.  Fill out a contest entry blank, and suddenly you've been with a $1 a minute long distance carrier with a month's charges before you notice.

    These are hid everywhere -- that TV ad for the "free cell phone" in the fine print at the bottom.  "Checks" you get in the mail that switch your long distance carrier when you cash them.  Everywhere.


    One, your local phone company may have a way for you to "lock" your long distance carrier so that only you can change it, and then in writing.  Excellent idea for all.

    Two, read everything you sign.  Yes, I know, you really can't read the Hertz Rental Agreement.  (Hertz intentionally makes it too long to read, then makes you sign a statement that you read it.  Nice guys....)  You'll have to trust Hertz, or don't rent a car.  But anything you sign from anyone who is not a large corporation with some amount of public trust -- read every word of it.

    Three, don't give out your home phone number to businesses -- period.  If they insist, give your work number, how will they know?  And if they do, just make something up.  If they don't have your number, they can't change your service, nor can they sell it to tele-marketers.

    Let's All Get Hydrated!

    (I was going to put this in the health section, but it really has little to do with health when you get down to it.)

    Everything on TV today is "hydrating" -- hydrating your skin is the most popular.  Well, if you hydrate something, it means you added water to it -- got it wet.  A shower is an inexpensive way to hydrate your skin.  Want to hydrate your body?  Have a drink of water.

    Another related scam -- you know that age defying lotion that contained "an ingredient found in younger skin"?  It's water.

    Yes, Everything is Always On Sale!

    Don't fall for any of these phony "50% Off" gold or diamond sales.  It is against the law to always have something "on sale", so they skirt the law by doubling the prices for one week a year.  53 weeks a year, they are "on sale at 50% off!"

    Some of them are now being force to put some fine print BS at the bottom saying that there weren't necessarily any ever sold at the "retail" price.

    Another related scam -- you know that age defying lotion that contained "an ingredient found in younger skin"?  It's water.

    Lay Off The Sauce! 

    The food industry has always tried to sell us as much water as they possibly (or legally) can.  The Federal Government has caused this to get pretty nasty, becaaue when they set a "maximum" for the amount of water that can be added to something, it immediately becomes the "standard" amount added by everyone.  The meat industry (for example) will tell you they don't add anymore than is needed for processing -- yeah right, we've all "drained" a package of hot dogs when we first open it.

    Sometimes the feds do try and put a curb on it, but the public is still too gullible.  For example, you can't buy ham anymore.  Think you can?  Read closely next time you are at the deli, everything is now "Water Added Ham", not legal to call it "Ham."  And there are all sorts of scams like "pasta baking sauce", which is tomato sauce mixed with water.

    But the worst offence these days is everything is "with sauce."  No, not water -- it's sauce!  For example, just go down the row of Hot Pockets in the freezer case; see if any of them don't have any "sauce."  Look closely, it's always in tiny print -- nothing to brag about!  See that "Ham & Cheese" -- nope, it's "Ham and Cheese and sauce."  "Eggs, Bacon, & Cheese and sauce."  Everything has sauce.

    Now, it's not the economics of buying water that bugs me -- it's the results.  I’ll suggest a better word than sauce - gruel!  Ham & Cheese Gruel!  Everything has become a thick, somewhat lumpy paste.  The package shows all this nice sliced ham with nice melted cheese -- but cut one open and it's orange gruel with ham lumps.  Yuck.

    Food of the Clods

    I'd like to think most food I eat is organic in origin, but the term "organically grown" has come to have a special meaning these days.  It does have some facts behind it, but also more mythology than the Greek Gods.

    According to the major producers and councils that certify organic growers, "organically grown" really only means one thing -- no "chemicals" used.  No pesticides, no hormones, no antibiotics, and no chemical fertilizers.  And that's all it means.  Note the following, which is backed up by any reputable grower or organization:

    So what's the point then?  The point is supposed to be organic growing leaves the Earth a bit healthier, is less damaging to the ecosystem.  The growers and organizations will tell you this.  But is even that true?  They take up many, many more acres to grow the same food, streams still get polluted with fertilizer run-off (from the manure).  Did you know that organic growing is often so inefficient that if all the farming in the USA switched over, we wouldn't be able to feed everyone?

    Fit Not To Be Tried

    A new scam product is out called Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash, a fresh vegetable wash.  The product isn't so much a scam as the TV ad is.  It is intentionally designed to make you think what isn't true, yet not be lying legally.

    They show some vegetables soaking in it, then this nasty yellow-brown looking wash water and tell us it removes 99% more "pesticide and wax residue" then washing with plain water.  The key here is "pesticide and wax residue" because just about all the food you buy today has no detectable levels of pesticide.  Yes, it is waxed and, yes, FIT will get that wax off.  But the wax is harmless.  The commercial is ever so carefully worded to give you the impression that all that brown rinse water is loaded with pesticide, but it's really only wax.  They might as well say it removes 99% more "Plutonium, pesticide, and wax residue."

    They also claim it is made from "100% natural sources", new meaningless scam expression, see below.

    A Serious Limitation on Transitions® Brand Lenses

    You've seen he ads on TV about the lenses that are clear inside, automatically darken when you go out.  They really do work, and if you're into sports, or camping, or the beach, etc., they are great.  But if you're like me and you thought they'd be great for when you're driving your car, be sure and read this from their web site:

            Q: How do Transitions® Lenses work?

            A: Transitions Lenses lighten and darken based on UV
            conditions and temperature. In high UV (outdoors, sunny), they
            darken. In low UV (indoors, in a car), they lighten. Please note
            that car windshields and windows block out most of the UV rays
            the lenses need to darken. For that reason we recommend
            keeping a pair of sunglasses handy in the car for your driving
            comfort. In colder temperatures, Transitions Lenses will activate
            to a darker tint. Conversely, in extremely hot conditions, they
            will be a lighter tint.

    Digital Cable TV -- 400 Channels -- 40 Programs 

    My neighborhood just switched over to digital cable with "400" channels.  And, of course, even though they can't raise their rates legally, they can charge more for all this "new" stuff.  I'm afraid I've got some bad news for any of you looking forward to this as I was.

    First off, a whole lot of those new channels are pay-per-view or music (no picture).

    But the biggest problem is more channels, but just the same stuff.  Now 60 pay-per-view channels, but still juts 6 movies with staggered starting times.  Yes, easier to catch one when you want, but not quite the promise of 60 PPV channels.

    The "7 HBO's" isn't really 7 HBO's either, same thing with Showtime and all the rest.  Some channels are the same just time shifted.  The rest seem to play the same movies over and over again, day after day.  You start looking through the 7 HBO's, the 5 Showtime's and that whole section fopr something to watch, and it's all the same stuff that was on yesterday. last week, last month.  If HBO or Showtime produced the film (and owns it) they will likely play it every day till the end of time on some channel.

    I'm sure the same thing is true via satellite TV, and there they sign you up for a year, so be very careful. 

    I have a real problem with anyone who just plain old lies to me.  If you have to "invent" false statistics (Handgun Control does) then you must have a pretty weak case to start with.  Even if the ends might justify the means.  Doesn't matter if it's the Red Cross fibbing about donations use -- or the cable TV industry lying about cable theft.

    You know the commercials for I'm talking about.  Some guy has been selling "illegal cable boxes" and he's going to be prosecuted under that "tough new law the state just passed."  So he's going to turn in all his customers?

    First off, there are no "illegal cable boxes."  Stealing cable TV is a crime -- but just buying, owning, or selling an "illegal" box is not illegal.  Even using it to receive services you have paid for is not a crime.  The only crime is if you used one to get programming you haven't paid for.  So there isn't any guy charged with selling illegal boxes.  And if there was, and he sold one to you, and he told them -- you wouldn't have committed any crime, about all that would happen is they might ask you about it.  If you weren't doing anything illegal with it, that would be it.  And there is no new law in your state.

    When you add their site feature to anonymously turn in your neighbors, it becomes a truly nasty site.  My suggestion -- turn in everyone you hate as a cable thief. :)   Many times.  At least once a week.

    (BTW, I have digital cable, and there is no way to "steal" it I'm aware of, so don't jump to any conclusions.)

    Back to Index

    Money, Math, and Scams

    The "All Stocks Ending In K" Stock Fund 

    You've probably seen an advertisement on TV for some stock fund that managed to yield 138% since it started two or three years ago, made money even despite the bad market -- wow!  Must have a really smart, really insightful person managing it, huh?

    Then again, that isn't the same fund that same investment company was pushing last year -- is it?  Last year they were bragging about their Blue Chip or some such fund that had made 138% to date that year.  This year it lost 70% of its value -- but never mind that, look at this new fund!

    What they do is they come up with fund after fund after fund at the same company.  If they really could predict what was going to happen they would likely just have one, maybe two.  But instead they come up with funds with every possible angle.  This one will make money if hi-tech stocks go up, this one will make money if they fall.  This one makes money if oil prices rise, this one makes money if they fall.  This one invests in Telecommunications, this one sells them short.  This one just invests in companies that use chocolate.  This one is only stocks that rhyme with the word "egg."  Whatever.

    Then each year they look over all their funds, find one that has somehow managed to make money and they tout it like they have a clue as to how to invest your money.

    Me?  I was making a mere 3% with my IRA sitting at some bank.  About three years ago Strong Funds was touting their "Blue Chip 100" fund -- gee, I could have been getting like 20-30% per year!  So I moved it.  You won't hear them talking about that fund on TV anymore -- and I would be far ahead now if I had just got the money in hundred's and kept them under my bed.

    TV Scams - UPDATED 

    This is just a collection of some current scams on US television:

    Cell Phone Antenna Boosters:  That cute little foil/plastic thing that you stick under the battery on your cell phone to "boost" reception is a complete fraud.  The TV "demonstrations" in the elevator and tunnel are completely phony.  This unit has no scientific basis to work.  Next time you're at Staples and you see them for sale, ask the Manager why he is trying to defraud you?

    Just for Fools Hair Dye:  Gee, those guys look like they are only about 20 or 30 when they lose their gray hair!  That's because they are about 20 or 30 years old, their hair sprayed gray.  Have you had a close look at the "before" images?  They look like some kid in a high school play trying to play an old man.  Trust me, when you are really old enough to turn gray, it will look good on you.

    Crap Lights: You know, those little round battery powered lights you get 6 of for the price of 4?  The TV ad shows a few genuine good uses, like getting up at night, or a dark closet or cupboard -- anyplace where you need light for a few seconds now and then.  But they also show a few nonsense uses, like along a walkway outside, or down a flight of stairs.  These are battery powered (batteries not included, of course) and won't last more than a few hours.  "Honey, I'll be right back, I need to put 24 new batteries in the lights along the walkway out front!"

    Crap Lights Plus:  Or you can get them for free! (free, as in $6.95) if you join some buyer's club $6 per month membership fee charged a year in advance to your credit card.

    The 10% Off Coupon Scam

    This is another scam I never noticed before.  Some store, let's say Joe's Mufflers, gives you a 10% off coupon.  It may be in the back of the yellow pages, they may mail it to you somehow.  Sounds like a deal, huh?  How can you not get a good deal?  Walk in off the street without that coupon, you'd pay 10% more, right?

    Well, when you get to the store you'll see they have a "sale" on (for the past two years), 15% off on everything!   Wow, even luckier!  The guy quotes you some price to do the work, tells you that is with the 15% discount.  No need for your 10% coupon, you got an even better deal, right?

    Or did you?  The bottom line, you walked in, the guy gave you a price, and you had the work done at that price -- didn't you?  Really think you "saved" anything?  Think about it...

    A Free Gift For Just Reading This Website! 

    Yes, you've won!  You've been selected for my "offer."  Yes, there is a brand new Color TV waiting here for you, no charge, just for visiting this site!  Just send shipping and handling of $2,999 to the address below, and you can claim your free TV!

    The latest TV scam trend (pioneered by those scumbags at IGIA) is to offer you "free" bonuses with some other crap they have sold you -- you can even keep them free, as our gift, even if you return the primary piece of junk for a refund.

    The scam is the bonuses are worth less than the S&H you have to pay for them.  $6.95 S&H for that two dollar piece of crap "sports watch."  More shipping than that cheapo bath robe is worth.  Sort of like getting your weight guessed at the fair for a dollar and getting a fifty-cent toy if they miss.

    One more thing -- anything you should "ask about" is going to cost more money -- like "ask about how you can get a free can!"

    Digital Cable TV "Descrambler" Rip-Offs

    Some of you may have bought (or been tempted to) some sort of gadget to watch pay cable channels per free (illegally), a so-called "descrambler" -- shame on you!  Well, now that digital cable is here -- you can't.  Yes, they are for sale, see the ad I got below.  But they are 100.0000% guarnteed to be ripoffs.  First off, if the public key encryption system they used can be cracked, you'll hear about it long before the technology hits decoder boxes.  Second, the ad has the #1 warning sign of a rip-off -- COD only, and not by the US Mail.  No credit cards, money order only.  If you offered to mail them cash they'd say no becuase you could call the USPS Postal Inspectors.  But this way they are clean, and you'll never see your money again.
    With our NEW GLOBAL 2600 Cable Converter/Decoder!
    Get all your favorite premium channels like HBO, Spice, Cinemax, ESPN PayPer View Etc...
    Never miss another T.V show again!
    The GLOBAL 2600 works on 99% of all cable system coast to coast!
    You will never have to rent or buy another cable box again!
    100% Bulletproof!  Meaning it will never get deprogrammed!
    Comes with remote and patch cable cords and has all the great features
    any cable box would ever have including, Parent Control, Fine Tuning
    Sleep Timer on the remote etc...
    Takes less then five minuets to install replacing your existing box, anyone can do it.
    We are so sure that you will love our product that it comes
    Also comes with a 3 Year Warranty on Parts and Labor!
    Quantity Discounts are available so please ask.
    Now On Sale Now For A Limited $339.00.
    Includes FedEx 2-Day COD delivery!
    Call 1-888-699-0081 to speak to a sales rep. today!

    Collect Some State Quarters?

    While any coin, especially uncirculated, can be valuable some day, they all aren't worth putting aside.  However, don't believe everything the coin collectors tell you.  Remember when they said saving the Susan B. Anthony dollars was a waste of money?  You'd be amazed at how much some years and mints are now worth.

    The US Mint totally underestimated how popular the State Quarters would be the first year, with allmost all of them disappearing from circulation.  They jacked up the mintages for the next year.

    So what does this mean?  One thing for sure -- don't bother saving any of the states after the first four -- there are plenty of those to go around.

    But how about the first four states?  They are pretty rare, almost not seen in circulation anymore.  So on the plus side, that makes them valuable to collect.  On the minus side -- about 3 Billion are being held by collectors, many in large numbers hoping to sell them someday.  My personal opinion -- it couldn't hurt to save these first four states if you find them, but don't go nuts -- OK?

    Meaningless Phrases

    Advertisers these days have worked with lawyers to find things they can say about their products that sound like good qualities but actually have no meaning.  They are meant to deceive, make you think they are saying something they aren't.

    I remember it seemed to start with some product claiming they were using "creamery butter."  They fully expected you to think they said "creamy butter", but they didn't.  "Creamy butter" has an FDA definition and grade behind it -- a "creamery" is a place where butter is made, so "creamery butter" is just any butter made in a creamery.

    Most just stick to pure B.S. like "the natural goodness of ..."  What exactly is "goodness" when applied to a prepared food product?  What would be "unnatural goodness?"  And do you get the impression they are using so-called "all natural ingredients?"  They call things "wholesome", say things like "real mouthwash ingredients", call a lotion "age defying", and on and on.  Somehow Baking Soda has become a "natural ingredient", like it somehow found in nature, not made in a chemical processing plant as it is.

    Sometimes they'll just use a word they hope you don't know, like "faux."  That is pronounced "foe" and you'll be offered "faux pearls" and the like.  It means "fake."  Also be wary of anyone using "ersatz, specious, spurious, sophistical", or "placebo."

    The latest scam was developed for a product called Fit, claiming it is made from "ingredients from natural sources."  They are hoping you think they are saying "all natural ingredients", but they aren't.  At their web site they show the usual brew of chemicals found in a detergent product, like Oleic Acid, Glycerol, Ethyl Alcohol, Potassium Hydrate, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Citric Acid.  What, you've never grown Oleic Acid n your garden?  How about Potassium Hydrate?  Don't sound like Natural Ingredients to you?  No, they claim "from natural sources" and go on to show how all the above are made from corn, minerals, etc.  This is to distinguish from things made from non-natural sources like... like... well, flying saucer debris?

    When you hear these you will know they are intentionally trying to deceive you -- be wary!  Don't believe anything they say!

    Didn't Even Know You Were Being Educated, Did You?

    When you give money to a charity, you want to know what they are going to do with it.  How much of it will reach the people in need, etc., and how much will go to pay the charity's executives, how much to pay for yet more fund raising?  You can (by law) get a copy of their financial report which will tell you this.  I just got one from the American Heart Association for 1999.  It said they only spent 13.6% of donations in fund raising -- not too bad, huh?

    But there is a fly in the ointment.  The back of the envelope says "Heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases are America's #1 killer."  There is similar information on the back of the letter asking for a donation.  Caring of them, huh?  Well, what is really going on with these notices is "Public Health Education" on which they spent 24.4% of donations -- and they are charging part of the cost of sending the letter to you asking for money as "Public Health Education".  So how much of that 24.4% is really part of the fundraising?  Who really knows?  And this means they really spent between 13.6% to 38% of donations on raising yet more money.

    I don't mean to pick on just the AHA here -- even 38% would be low compared to some organizations, and they all do it.

    Another note on charitable donations.  There is a difference between someone giving your donation to the charity they are representing, and giving them the "proceeds" when you buy something.  The charity may only get one cent of every dollar you spend.

    The Stock Market and Investing 

    With computers and the Internet, more and more people are investing in stocks.  Let me give two very basic yet essential facts.
    One, yes you can make money investing in stocks.  But when you trade stocks you always lose money.

    All the TV commercials talk about is trade, trade, trade.  Cheap trades, fast trades, easy trades, make 25 trades and get one free!  But when you make an equity trade on a stock and the fee was only $8 -- you just lost $8.  The only way you make money is to invest in a good stock and hold on to it for a while.  If a professional stock broker traded your account as many times as many people do these days, he be accused of "churning" your account for commissions and would lose his job.  Make some good choices, invest -- and leave it alone.   And if you really have the kid's college money in an investment scheme that requires you get paged every few hours and quickly sell or buy or you might lose out -- shame on you!

    Second fact -- for each buyer there is a seller, for each seller there is a buyer.  For each person that thinks a stock will go up, there is someone else just as sure it will go down.

    UPDATE June 2002:  Well, now that everyone lost their money trading, the commercials about cheap trading fees are gone.  Now it's "research!"  Everyone has all this "research" you can access on line, all the secrets of the universe laid out, the good stocks singled out from the bad ones.  Nope, I'm not trading based on my dog's birthdate anymore, now I got's me research!  Or the commercials are "Remember when we told you you didn't need an expensive advisor, just trade all by yourself?  Well, if you ever get any money again -- now we are sure you do need our advisors!  And get this -- we don't pay them a commission to push worthless stocks anymore!  What more can you ask!?!"

    My advice stays the same -- stick with Vegas.

    Proper Nutrition for the Dead

    A scam that gets larger all the time is vitamins and "nourishment" for things that are dead.  Those shampoo and conditioner commercials, for example, that want to give your hair Vitamin E.  Your hair is dead.  No digestive processes going on, as dead as your fingernails.  Your hair doesn't eat anything, has no nutritional needs.  But people seem to go for this crap hook, line, and sinker.  Or how about some hand lotion that not only "hydrates" your skin, but has "essential vitamins" in it?  Again, that outer layer of skin that your are treating is quite dead, sloughing off as you read this.  It has no use for any vitamins either.

    The extreme case of this nonsense comes from a company called Xymol who makes a product with all sorts of fruit ingredients that feeds and nourishes - the paint on your car.  Yes, it's car wax.  Smells just delicious, I will admit.  And there is none more expensive.  Yes, you can almost hear "num-num-num-num-num" as your paint eats it up.  What a crock.   What's next, a "hydrating" spray for your car?

    Why are Slot Machines Like Bad Air Traffic Controllers?

    Lots of near misses!  All the mechanical slot machines are gone from Vegas, they all have a little microcomputer inside them.  The microcomputer can stop any of the wheels anywhere it wants.  The Casino programs how often it should pay out each prize, and it does that.  They also program the computer to show a near miss, something that doesn't pay anything but is only one click away from some big jackpot.  They program these "near misses" to come up a lot, a whole lot -- sometimes 20,000 times as often as they would if everything was truly random.  You see the near-miss, see how you "just missed it!",  and try again.

    Same thing with Video Poker machines -- you'll get a lot of 10 of Hearts, Jack of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, King of Hearts!! -- 4 of Diamonds.  So close, weren't you, almost a Royal Flush!!  Try again!

    America's Funniest Faked Home Videos

    Sorry to pop another illusion, right after you finding out Championship Wrestling is "fake."  But I have to tell you, 98% of the videos on those Home Video shows are faked.  Just take a closer look, don't "suspend your disbelief" like movies ask you to, this is supposed to be real.  "My husband was on a ladder cleaning out the gutters, I was video taping, and..."  -- Wait a minute!  How many of you videotape cleaning out the gutters?  Just happened to be videotaping when he fell into the birdbath.  Yeah, sure.

    Watch that one where the slot car hits the guy right in his Benny Hill.  He even looks down to see if he's on his mark before they start the car.  And that little girl who throws milk in her face when she is surprised by her sister and a parrot?  She won $10,000.  She is singing, then stops.  She picks up the milk, takes a tiny sip -- must have been thirsty!  Then she puts it down, and starts singing again, this time hand firm on the milk.  Why?  A setup.

    Yes, some are real.  I'm sure every pants-falling-down-at-the-wedding tape is real.  But keep your eyes open the next time you hear "Mom was mopping the kitchen and I was videotaping her ....."

    Up to 50% and More!

    I shouldn't have to even write about this, but people continue to read phrases like the above and think they mean anything, anything at all.  So, the above would be true if it was full price, 10% off, 50% off, 90 % off, anything -- right?

    Even funnier is just plain old Up to 50% Off!  So if it was 60% off, then it would be false advertising -- but 5% off would be fair.  No discounts promised, just no chance anything might be over 50%.

    Champion Homes is running some TV add where they will "pay your electric bill for up to one year!"  Such a deal?  Well, send me $5 and I'll pay your electric bill for up to ten years!  (Well, at least for a few minutes.)


    Don't believe too many of the statistics you hear, especially if they are percentages.  The people who develop statistics can pretty much get them to come out any way they want them to by ever so subtly changing how they are done.

    A quick example -- let's say something was 5, and now its 10.  10 what?  It doesn't matter.  Now:

    It was 5, it increased by 5, so that is a 100% increase.

    It was 5, now is 10, so it is 200% of what it was.

    It is 10, 5 of that is the increase, so 50% of the current  value represents an increase.

    So, how much did it change?  50%?  100%?  200%?  I don't  know, what do you want to say or prove?

    Public Opinion Polls 

    In the good old days of TV news, back when they would even put "Commentary" across the bottom of the screen when someone gave opinions vs. facts, they did polls differently.  The TV news was really into honesty back then, and they would always show the exact public opinion poll question they asked.

    These days they never do.   They will call up 2500 people and ask each "Do you think the government should do everything to stop school violence?"  Then they will say on the air "87% of those polled said they favor tougher gun control laws."  So don't believe any polls anymore.

    Always Insure Two Cars

    I insured my car I drove every day, and a second car worth about $200 just for fire and theft, it just sat in my yard.  I keep it for sentimental reasons -- and because it cost $13 every 6 months to insure it.  I then got a $48 multicar discount on my other car's insurance, putting me $70 a year ahead.

    This is perfectly legal and proper -- lying to your Insurance Co. as to which car you primarily drive is not, and I wouldn't advise it.

    Direct Deposit and Debits 

    Don't use direct deposit!  If all goes well it can be just fine, a real time saver.  When things go wrong, you had better be prepared to go without that paycheck for a day or two, perhaps longer.

    Having that piece of paper handed to you, then you handing it to the bank creates an important troubleshooting tool when things go wrong.  Don't get your check on payday?  Shout and scream "Where's my check!" and you'll have it within an hour.  Deposit the check but it doesn't show on your balance -- bring your deposit receipt to the bank and you'll be credited within the hour.  Have direct deposit and it doesn't show up in your account -- your bank will assure you they didn't get an electronic check from your company.  Your company will insist they did send it, the bank must have lost it. Good luck!

    Oh, but that never, ever happens!  Never in the history of banking has a direct deposit ever gone wrong!  Really?  Then, for the history books, for the first time in the history of banking:  The direct deposits from Gem City Engineering in Dayton, Ohio, USA  failed to show up at 5th 3rd Bank, also in Dayton, on September 15, 1998.  Even after a careful investigation, the problem reoccurred on the next payday 15 days later.  (This was predicted by Chris many years ago.)  Note that GCE, being a well above average company at that time, did immediately write the employee a replacement check.  But don't count on your company being as caring as GCE was.

    Direct debit of your checking account to pay a fixed payment each month is a good idea.  Examples would be your mortgage or car payment.  Just be certain to record these payments in your check register.  And do make sure it is a payment you'll always have the balance for.  If it is a payment you might have to slip a few days now and then till you get paid, don't set up automatic payments.

    Direct debit of your checking account to pay a variable bill -- such as your phone bill -- is a very bad idea.  Some hacker charges $2,000 of (900) number calls to your phone, the phone company withdraws $2,000 from your checking account, and all your checks bounce.  Don't do it!

    "Just 3 easy payments of $269.95 plus shipping and handling for my No Down Payment Real Estate Tycoon Tapes"

    You've seen the endless info-mercials for these get-rich-quick real estate schemes.  Just as soon as one con man gets sent off to prison, another pops up.  Some even use the same scripts for their TV ads, just cross out the jail bird's name and write theirs in.

    Let me cut away the hype, the group psychology, the $10,000-in-dental-work smiles, the contagious enthusiasm, the paid actors and actresses claiming to have made money with "The Plan." Here, for free, is exactly what all these plans have you do.  Send me the $69.95 if you'd like.

    First the "make money on distressed property" scam:

    1. Find someone who is desperate to sell their property.  They've had the property for sale for months and months, the bank is about to foreclose, they just can't sell it.
    2. Buy the property from them at a low, low under-value price.
    3. Turn around and sell it at full price!
    Gee, what could be simpler!  And look at all them money you'll make!  Oh, yes -- how do you sell that property that the owner just about went crazy trying to sell?  Maybe that answer is in the deluxe tapes for $1995.00?  It won't be in the plan you get.

    Then, the second major scam, no down payment.  There are two techniques you'll be given here:

    Go to a bank with the "$100,000" property you have a contract to buy for $50,000 and get the bank to give you a $100,000 mortgage on it.  They give you a check for $100,000 less your $20,000 down payment = $80,000.  You give the property owner his $50,000 and pocket $30,000 right on the spot! (You've seen them show you these checks on TV)
    Gee, what's wrong with that?  Well, the bank is going to insist they see the sales contract, and they will quickly find out the true value of the property -- $50,000.  That is a very accurate appraisal of its value as that is what you are paying for it.  No bank will be stupid enough to give you $100,000.  How would they get it back if you default?
    The second no down payment scheme is even stupider.  You remember that distressed seller that was so desperate to sell, needed the money so badly?  Well, you just ask him for owner financing, ask him to pull the money he desperately needs right out of his ass and not take a penny from you up front in the deal.
    Yeah right.

    Believe me, these guys would not be on TV doing info-mercials with with the juicer salesman, the Fat Magnet pills, the magic car wax guy, and all the other con men if they really knew how to make money on real estate.  You'd never hear about them as they slowly bought up your whole town.

    We Want Your Invention!

    So, you've got a great idea about an invention or product, and you want to get rich?  Good luck.  First off, contrary to what you may think, an "idea" itself has very limited value.  There are thousands and thousands of new invention and new product ideas running around.  The idea takes some skill -- but picking the right ones to invest in is the hard part.  And all the real risk is taken by the person who spends money to develop it.  So, even if you have a wonderful invention, don't expect half the profits or anything close to that.

    Then, adding injury to insult, are all the "We want your inventions!" firms advertising on TV.  They don't really want your invention -- they want you to pay them for their services.  They'll charge you for patent searches, they'll charge you for filing for a patent (likely a almost worthless design patent, not a patent of the invention).  They'll charge you to promote your invention (if someone calls them, they will likely remember it if asked).  They'll charge you to promote it at a trade show (a page on your invention will be somewhere in a three ring binder at their booth.)   And -- trust me -- if they ever ran across a truly awesome idea, they'll swipe it from you when you blink.

    Much of the above also applies to most of these "open call" model auditions.  Oh yes, you're a natural model!  Do you have a photo book?  No?  You have to have one, we can sell you one.  And there is a fee for us to send you sheet around to get you work.....

    And of course, everyone who takes an art test is always an artist that will benefit from buying their art course.

    Hail Stone Size Guide

    I've noticed watching videos of hailstorms on Real TV and other shows that the size of the hailstones is given needs to be translated to match the video.  Here is my guide:
    Size in Description Heard on TV  Actual size of Hailstones 
    "Marble sized hail" Pea size
    "Golf ball sized hail" Marble size
    "Baseball sized hail" Golf Ball size
    "Grapefruit sized hail" One Baseball size, rest Golf Ball

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    Telephones in the USA

    Can You Get A Virus Over The Phone?

    Just about everyone with a computer is worried about getting one of the so-called computer viruses.  Computers aren't all that smart and tend to do whatever they are told to do.  No sense of judgement or caution, no lack of trust, they just do it.  So someone sends a program hidden in an email, a set of instructions for your computer -- and they trick it into running them.

    But now someone has kids turning four  -- and they let them answer the phone.  Just like having a maid or a secretary to answer the phone!  The same people that don't let their kids near the Internet where they might get "molested", don't let their kid talk to strangers in public -- but anyone who calls, no problem.

    And kids are a bit like a computer -- they have a lot of trust and innocence, very little judgment.  My favorite call to friends who let their kids answer the phone:

    Me: "Hi Jimmy, this Santa Claus calling all the way from the North Pole!
    Jimmy: "Wow!"
    Me: "Have you been a good boy!"
    Jimmy: "Yes Santa!"
    Me: "I need your help Jimmy.  Your Christmas list is in your Mommy's purse -- do you know where your Mommy's purse is?"
    Jimmy: "Yes."
    Me: "Can you get Mommy's purse and put it on the font steps of your house for me?  Then I can read it when I fly by tonight!"
    Jimmy: "OK Santa!"

    Free Emergency Cell Phones

    If you dial 911 on a cell phone, the phone company has to process the call no matter if you have a contract with them or not -- even if you don't have a valid cell phone contract with anyone.  This is required by Federal law.

    So, say you want a cell phone just for emergencies, perhaps for your car.  Just buy any old used cell phone from someone, perhaps a garage sale.  Lots of people have an older, clunker phone they don't use that is just right for your car.  Get a 12V adapter cord for it so you don't worry about keeping it charged up.

    And then don't buy a service contract, don't sign up for cell phone service.  If you need help, just dial 911.  Three caveats -- you can only use it for true emergencies, they can't call you back, and I have told you the law -- your results may vary.

    Quite a few people want a cell phone for just emergencies and sign up for one of these special low-monthly-fee high-rate packages, like $6.95 a month $1.50 per minute, no charge for 911.  This is not the best idea for two reasons.  One, why not just do it for free as I explained above?  Two, people that think they would have no other use for the phone are like people that, at one time, said they would have no use for a Microwave Oven, have no need for a color monitor on their computer.  They quickly find lots of uses for their phone, not much fun at $1.50 a minute!

    I've Got Your Number....

    When you call someone at an 800 or 888 number in North America they get the number you are calling from -- no matter what.  Doesn't matter if you have a private listing or not, if you have caller ID or not, if you are blocking caller ID or not, nothing else matters -- they get your number.

    The number can be right on a computer screen in front of them.  They can also be collected on their computer and the list sold.  A list of phone numbers of people who called for the Medifraud Plus policy information, or bought the Ginsu Snake Knives, etc., is a valuable marketable commodity.  It is were most of the lists come from that get you unwanted sales calls.

    Long Distance Carriers

    First advice is a no-brainer -- don't pay anyone's standard rates, join a plan that fits your usage.

    Secondly, be certain to always look to see if there is a monthly fee or a monthly minimum for each plan.  9.5¢ per minute is not necessarily a better deal than 10¢ a minute if there is a $4.95 a month fee with the 9.5¢.

    (6/2001: The rest of this section had become dated, and is under revision.  If you want a quick suggestion, try IDT at, 5 cents per minute, 6 second billing, $3.95 per month, beats anything AT&T has by a mile).

    10 10, 10 10, 10 10, 10 10, 10 10, Ad Naseum

    They sure advertise those ten-ten long distance services to death, don't they?  That's how they keep the rates such a bargain -- they keep their cost way low by spending a billion dollars a year in TV advertising.  Yeah, right.

    Gee, only 99 cents for a 20 minute call!  That's only 5 cents a minute.  Of course, if you only talk 10 minutes, it's a dime a minute.  20 cents a minute if you talk 5.  99 cents a minute if you get their answering machine.

    Next time someone on TV starts ten-tening you, just replace their words with "Hi, remember me?  I used to be a star, but haven't had any new work in years.  But I'm still not quite obscure enough for an Old Navy commercial, so I'll trade the last tiny bit of the credibility I might have with you by getting you to use this lame-o ten-ten service I'm hawking."

    20,000 Minutes a Month!  25 Hours a Day! 

    1/1/2002:  The long distance and cell phone "bargain" business has become a numbers game.  The cell phone vendors have gone to offering thousands and thousands of minutes per month for a few dollars -- just not too many of them the so-called "anytime minutes."  3,000 minutes per month, 102 anytime.  If that works for you, fine -- but there are far better deals out there.  I get 2,000 minutes per month. 1,000 of which are anytime from Verizon.  Shop around.

    Long distance is becoming all "monthly fee plus x cents per minute."  The monthly fee is higher if you want to be sent a bill, lower or zero if you let them just bill your credit card every month.  There are all sorts of very bad deals from companies like AT&T.

    My current (1/1/2002) pick --   A clear winner.  There best plan --  NO monthly fee, only 4.5 cents per minute, billed in 6 second increments.  Yes, you only call for two minutes one month, you pay 9 cents (plus tax).  Only use 20 seconds -- you pay 2 cents for the month.  The icing on the cake -- pick your five favorite states and only pay 4 cents per minute!  You can even see all the calls you make listed at their website.

    So, why pay Sprint $25.00 in advance for 500 minutes -- that's 5 cents per minute?

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    Automobiles & Transportation

    The Dog Ritual, “What’s Diss?”, and Other Modern Law Enforcement Tools 

    The Supreme Court Justices, who have no actual interaction with the real world and the police, have slowly, innocently, but surely disassembled your right to be free from unreasonable searches.  Through a series of decisions they have made it possible for any police officer to search your person anytime they want to, and your car if you are driving one.  Just watch shows like COPS and you’ll see all of this being proudly displayed by the police.

    Step 1, The Pretense:  First the officer comes up with some reason to pull you over and stop you.  You were “weaving.”  You signaled a turn only 100 feet from the intersection – state law requires 300 feet.  You were following to close, or you were using the left-hand lane of the Interstate and not passing anyone.  Whatever sounds good.

    Step 2, The Pat Down:  Officers are not allowed to search your person without probable cause, without some reason to suspect you probably – not might, but probably have committed some crime.  HOWEVER, if an officer is fearful that you might want to hurt or kill him, he is allowed to “pat you down” for “weapons.”  No, they cannot pat down anyone they please, they must be afraid for their life.  But they can always decide they are afraid, so they can decide to pat down anyone they please.

    Step 3, “What’s Diss?”:  Now as the officer pats you down, every time he feels anything in your pockets he asks “What’s Diss?”  Doesn’t matter if it feels like a weapon or not, supposedly what he is patting for.   You don’t have to tell him – but then he’ll reach into your pocket to pull it out just to make sure it isn’t a weapon.  If it feels like a soft lump, he’ll say it feels like a bag of drugs – amazing sense of touch, huh?  If it feels like a wad of paper, he’ll pull it out to see if it is “drug money.”  If it is cash he’ll keep it as “drug money” and they will use it for “local drug law enforcement”, like buying a microwave oven for their break room.

    Step 4, The Dog Ritual:  Then he’ll ask you if it’s OK if he searches your vehicle.  Why in the world would that be OK with anyone, innocent or guilty?  What possible benefit is there to you to have someone rummage through all your stuff on a fishing trip to see if they can find anything to arrest you for?

    But if you say no, then they make you wait around for a long while, then they perform the Dog Ritual.  The Supreme Court has held that if they run any dog once around your car in a circle they can search it.  The dog handler just has to say in a loud voice “he hit on it” and they are all set.   Some states are considering using stuffed dogs to save costs.

    I saw a COPS show one night where the dog went around the car once, no hits.  The two officers went aside and he told the handler the suspect was shoving something under the seat.  The dog goes back, still has no interest, but the handler jerks his leash and says “He hit under the seat!”  They reach under the seat – and pull out -- a handgun.  Yes, one of those dogs trained to sniff out handguns.  Ah, but they were bad guys!  Yes -- but you don't see every illegal search on COPS, just the ones that look good.

    And, of course, any cash they find is theirs.

    Bottom line -- can you say "Pirate?"

    Underhanded Undercoating

    New car dealers have several ways they make money when they sell you a car.  Sometimes the profit they make on the sale of the car is a minor part of the profit.

    They will make money if you finance the car through them, just keep your eyes open there and know what is a good rate.

    They also make money if they sell you an extended warranty.  These are normally bad deals with the length of the typical standard warranty.  I bought one once on a car the first year they built it and when the factory warranty was only a year.  It turned out to be the biggest bargain I ever got, about $4,000 in repairs for $500.  But the common wisdom is they are a waste of money.

    The biggest profit margin is on a "pack" they will try to sell you of Undercoating, Paint Protection, and Seatcover Protection.  These are always a rip-off.  The real cost of the whole "package" is about $30.  They will try to sell it for $100, $200, $300, whatever they can get.  It will already be done to any car on their lot and the $300 added to the price.  You will get the hard sell of your life.  If is isn't done, don't do it.  If they already did it, don't pay for it, tell them you know they are talking about $30 and they can eat the $30 if they want your business.  Walk off the lot.  A few years back I grilled a friend to not give in.  He bought his car and he bought the package.  I asked him why and he said "Well, when you make an investment like this, it just makes sense to protect it", no doubt a direct quote from the salesman.

    And while we are on the subject, undercoating is not rustproofing.  Its only claim is sound deadening.  So, should I get rustproofing from Ziebart or the like?  Don't waste any money here.  If you wash your car regularly, especially in the winter if they salt the roads where you live, and you'll have no problems.  My 1989 Ford probe doesn't have the first speck of rust on it, and it is uncontaminated by undercoating or rustproofing.  Cars are well made these days and just don't need it.  I also have a 1981 K-Car that has rust all over it -- rings of rust starting at each hole Ziebart drilled in it when they "rustproofed" it.

    Your Hood Torn Open at No Extra Charge

    Those automobile alarm systems that just honk the horn and flash then lights, or try to make alarm noises through a little speaker are worthless.  As a matter of fact, they have a negative worth -- they add no theft protection, yet might encourage someone to pry open your hood and rip out your horn wiring.  The honking horn and flashing lights will do nothing to stop a theft, nothing.  You've seen one going off -- did you call the Cops?  Do anything at all?  What makes you think anyone else cares?  And put one on your car and just enjoy the endless trips running outside at home or work every time some squirrel sets it off.

    An alarm system that sends a signal to your pocket pager might be of some value, but you'll have to be fast to get  to the car before it is gone.  I saw one that filled the passenger compartment with smoke -- that might work.   These LOJACK systems are excellent.  Some systems that dial the police on your cell phone and report themselves stolen are of value.

    I've always wanted to try one with a 500W electronic siren mounted under the driver's seat, not under the hood.  Think they'd ignore it then?

    Sport and Utility Vehicle Limitaions and Cautions (Rewrtitten)

    The SUV commercials show their vehicles spinning around in the mud, jumping canyons, leaping over boulders, all rough-n-tough.  They always have fine print asking you not try this with your vehicle.  This is excellent advice, as most of the vehicles in those commercials are all scrap afterwards.  They have destroyed suspensions, bent frames, and major damage.  This is because the TV commercial is just a dream to sell you, has nothing to do with the real world.

    You aren't going to do all those things -- why would you buying a vehicle that tries to claim it can?  All engineering in this world is a compromise, often a complex one.  Thicker steel is safer, but makes a car weigh more, etc., etc.  A true SUV has many compromises that a person should fully understand before buying one, and always keep in mind when using them.

    They Are Big -- And Either Heavy or Flimsy -- Often Both

    A typical SUV is much larger than a car.  In the early days of SUV's this was just a lot more steel.  This is still true with "real" SUV's such as 7,000 lb. Hummers, real Range Rovers, etc.  The downside is they are heavy, have big engines that eat fuel, slow acceleration, and are harder to stop with the brakes.  The lack of good acceleration for pulling out into traffic and the longer stopping distances make them less safe than a car.

    Look at the gross weight of a typical recent "new style" SUV (restyled minivan).  They weigh just a bit more than a full size car.   So how do they make it so big with the same amount of steel?  Picture a balloon blown up fully with air -- that's your car.  Now put 4 or 5 more puffs into it.  Careful, it might break!  That's an SUV.  They aren't cars, so they don't have to meet any Federal standards on roof strength if they roll over, door strength if you get hit, or bumper strength if you back into something.  As long as the roof keeps the sun off you, it's fine.  Maybe you've seen the tests on TV.  Back some SUV's into a post at 5 MPH -- an accident many cars would just shrug off -- and you might have $3000 in damages as the whole flimsy contraption collapses, the imitation bumpers crumple like aluminum foil.

    They Are Not As Safe In Crashes

    In US Government crash tests and Insurance Institue tests almost all the SUV's got terrible marks, always much worse than those a car of the same size got.  They are not these steel fortresses, not armored tanks, are not "rugged."  If you are in an accident where you hit a tree, run into a wall, roll over, etc. you are much more likely to injure yourself and family in an SUV.

    A possible exception is two makers (Lexus and Mercades) who use an automobile-style unibody instead of a truck-like frame the rest of the SUV's use.  These were comparable in safety to a car, but still no tank.  The unibody lets the whole vehicle crumple upon collision and protects the occupants -- the repair costs get astronomical.  And you really can't or perhaps shouldn't put a Class 3 hitch on one, there is no frame -- they really aren't a truck, just a big car.

    They Aren't All That Great in Snow

    An SUV is not unstoppable by snow.  They won't go too many places a front  wheel drive car with snow tires or snow tires and chains can't.  The higher ground clearance helps (a compromise, see following), but that's just a few more inches.  The big knobby tires help, but they aren't that much better than good snow tires (and also are a compromise, see following).  Four-wheel drive helps, but the tires with most of the weight on them are really the only ones that need to be driven.  Yes, they will beat your RWD Mustang GT hands down in the snow, but they aren't that much better in snow than a typical FWD car with good snow tires.

    A new growth industry -- fixing SUV transmissions in the wintertime.  People just can't believe they can't just drive off into any snow -- they get stuck, and spin the wheels till the transmission pukes.

    The Handling Of An SUV Is Always Much Worse Than That Of A Car.

    They take a longer distance to stop than a car due to weight and tires not optimized for pavement.  In snow or ice they still take longer to stop than a car, a surprise to many owners.

    They are so top-heavy due to how tall they are and the extra ground clearance  They can't take turns as fast as a car -- If pushed to the limits, they are far more likely to roll than a car due to their high center of gravity.  A lot of people buy them and drive them still thinking they are driving a car -- and get hurt or hurt someone.  Cars sometimes skid sideways if pushed over the limit, but an SUV will more than likely roll.

    Remember that SUV commercial where one kid is in an SUV on a bridge, and he is sitting up high enough to see over the guardrails, tells Mom he can see the boats below?  In the next lane is a poor kid in just a car, can't see over the guard rails, can't see the boats (his Mom doesn't love him).  Well, if something happened like ice on the road, or they get sideswiped and both hit that guardrail, the kid in the SUV is going to get a real good view of the boats below as the SUV hops over the guard rail and plunges into the river.  Those guard rails were not put there for the sole purpose of depriving people of a view.  Many safety barriers that will easily stop cars will not stop SUV's.  You're on your own.

    The Tires Are Bad News

    The tires for a typical SUV are compromised to be useful off road.  They typically have a very coarse tread, some are "knobby", and the coarse tread is noisy.   This is so the tread doesn't fill with mud, and it helps in snow -- just like regular snow tires.  But other than that they are poorly suited for street and highway use, which is where 99.99% of people will use them.

    The more space in the tire's foot print tread that the grooves take, the less rubber there is on the road, the less traction a tire has.  This is why you see no tread grooves at all on Indy racecars.  The reason passenger tires have grooves is to provide a path for rain water to escape.  If the streets never got wet, you wouldn't need them.  All notions of "aggressive" tread patterns that somehow "grip" the road are sales ploys, tread has nothing to do with dry grip beyond reducing it.  So the huge tread patterns on SUV tires are bad news when it comes to dry street use.

    Lastly, this style of tire has very thick rubber surrounding the belts and core.   The belts and carcass tend to be thicker too, often twice the plys.  This makes it much harder for the tire to dissipate heat and keep cool.  Many have Federal Temperature Ratings of "C", the worst -- I wouldn't put "C" tires on a lawnmower.  Heavily load an SUV, drive it at high speeds, in hot weather, and let the tire pressure get a bit low -- and you'll fully test the tires.  If they aren't perfect they will come apart at high speed like all these Firestone tires have recently ("C" rating).  I'll never even come close to stressing the "A" Temperature rating of the passenger car tires on my car.


    Compared to a car, a typical SUV:

    Those commercials that show Mom and the baby driving all warm and snug in the SUV on the country road in the rain try their very best to imply they are safer than in a car.  But they can't come out and say that because it just isn't true -- they are far less safe than in a car.  And this is not just my opinion.  If you must buy an SUV -- I hope you know what you're doing, the risks you are exposing you and your family to.

    Synthetic Motor Oils

    Unless you always trade every two years, using synthetic oil (such as Mobil 1) in your car is one of the best investments you can make.  Not only does it provide superior lubrication, it will pay for itself in reduced friction and more MPG, will crank on the coldest days, and builds up little carbon all over your intake valve stems like regular oil will.

    Synthetic "blend" oils are a very poor idea.  The crappy performance of normal oil at almost the price of pure synthetic -- such a deal!  Carbon all over the intake valves and the resultant rough idle.  Stay away from blends.

    Never Fly an Airplane with an Odd Number of Engines

    Before I start, do know that air travel is the safest way for getting from point A to point B that you will find.  If you got on an airplane at random each and every morning, it would be on average 26,000 years till you were in an accident -- and the odds are you'd survive it.   Here is a little tip to make it even safer yet.

    Jet Planes use Jet Turbine Engines.  These have these huge fans spinning around at very high speed.  If a part fails or breaks the fans fly apart and sling their blades outward.  Jet engines are not perfect  and this sort of failure is expected to happen to a certain number of engines each year.  For this reason, engines have containers that attempt to contain the results of such a failure or explosion.

    Unfortunately, also expected are a certain number of failures that are not contained and fan blades and other parts do fly out the sides of the engine.  This is never a good thing, but it is hoped the flying debris will not damage anything or anyone.  This is a rare happening -- but it does happen and will continue to.

    So, let's look at a two-engine jet plane.  The engines are likely hanging under each wing on a pylon.  If the engine has a failure, explodes, catches on fire, eats a bird, etc., there is still danger.  But the location on the pylon spaced off from the plane gives some nice safety distance.  BTW, that is one reason why it is hanging on a pylon.  There are even special pins that are meant to break and release the engine before it shakes the plane apart.

    A three-engine jet has a third engine -- mounted in the tail of the aircraft!!  Right in the tail itself, right next to the essential tail, rudder, and elevators.  Typically every hydraulic system on a plane (they have extras for safety) also run right next to this engine, and must to service the tail control surfaces. If this engine fails or catches on fire -- the tail of the plane is on fire!  If an uncontained explosion occurs, it might rip apart the whole tail!  It might damage all three hydraulic systems.  Not only might -- this is exactly what happened on Flight 232 that crash landed, pinwheeling  in Sioux City, Iowa in July, 1989.   There is only one place on the whole aircraft that is stupider to put an engine -- right between the two pilots in the cockpit!  (I think they are working on it.)

    So, avoid planes with odd numbers of engines:

    1 -- no backup in case it fails, avoid!
    2 -- good.
    3 -- one in the tail, avoid!
    4 -- the best.
    For flights over the ocean I would always try to fly on a four engine jet -- two engine planes can fly on one, but it is more like limping -- the remaining engine now has 200% of the original work to be done.  One out on a 4 engine is almost not a bother, each remaining engine doing 133% duty.

    One exception for 4 engines -- they should be out on pylons under the wings, isolated from each other and the plane, not stuck all together up against the plane like a Concord.

    The 777 claims to have special engines that allow safe flight on a two engine plane even over the ocean.  Then again, I don't think anyone claims their engines will fail a lot.

    A related fact about those commuter turboprop planes, like a Shorts 360.  Ever notice that the nice, evenly spaced windows have a window missing about a third of the way back?  Just "solid" metal where a window could have been.  Ever wonder why?  Well, I'll give you a clue to figure this out by yourself -- the missing window is right next to that big propellor spinning those big, heavy, sharp metal blades around.  Think that's a good place to sit, window or not?

    Your Life Hanging By a Wire

    Some people don't realize that most commercial aircraft like 737's and 747's have control systems that aren't much different that the one on the Wright Brother's first airplane.  The pilot's "stick", rudder pedals, etc. are connected to the rudder, elevators, etc. with long steel cables.  These run from the pilot's controls under the floor of the aircraft, go around pulleys and attach to the aircraft's control surfaces.  They have added to them the equivalent of "power steering" in the form of hydraulic assists to help the pilot apply the forces needed -- but when the pilot pulls back on the stick he is really pulling on the end of a long steel cable running back to the control surfaces.  Now this is really a very good, very safe system.  There are typically three separate hydraulic assist systems in case one or more fails (four on 747's).  Unless every one of those systems fail (it has happened) everything is fine.

    Since about 1988 there are new "state of the art" commercial jets being produced that use "fly by wire."  This was previously used only in military jets but has finally wandered into commercial aircraft.  In a fly-by-wire jet, when the pilot pulls back on the stick or joystick (or whatever control they give him) that puts a signal into a computer asking it to move the control surfaces.  If the computer agrees it's a good idea, it sends an electronic signal down a wire to an electronically controlled actuator to move the control surface.  Why isn't this a very good idea?  First off, two reasons:

    As serious as these two problems seem, they haven't turned out to be big problems. (yet?)  In any case, they are true risks not to be ignored.

    The real problems that have arisen and killed people have been much more subtle.  They have involved the interface between the pilot and the the software running the plane:

    The worst of all saved for last -- sometimes there will actually be a disagreement between the pilot and the software -- and the software will always win.  On an non-fly-by-wire plane there are all sorts of warning devices that alert the pilot, warn the pilot, even tell him what to do -- like a computer voice that says "Pull up!!  Pull up!!  Pull up!!"  But it is still the pilot who decides what to do or not to do.  On a fly-by-wire plane, if the software thinks something is a bad idea, it just won't do it.

    Below is a video from 26-JUN-1988 of an Airbus A.320-111, the first commercial fly-by-wire airplane.  The newly delivered 2-day old A320 was to perform a  flight demonstration on behalf of the Mulhouse Flying Club at the Mulhouse-Habsheim airport.  There have been a lot of opinions of exactly what happened, I'll give you my reading.  The plane came in as if for a landing and then the pilot tried to pull up and not land, which had been the plan.  But the software in the plane disagreed, it wanted to land.  So it flew off into the trees and crashed.  Listen how long it takes for the jet engines to spool up.


    Here is a recent (July 2012) television report on the crash.  (I saw the Smithsonian Channel Air Disasters version, which is this Air Crash Investigation show redone with an American voiced narrator.)   It seems rather truthful and turns up some amazing details.  In the end they gloss the whole bit over by saying how many A320's have been sold, everything is safe, everyone go back to sleep.  But watch for the missing four seconds.  The switched black boxes (really).


    My opinion on the cause of this crash does not agree with the official "findings."  They finally jailed the poor pilot, said he was showing off and went too far.  Just remember that the crash was investigated by the French Government -- who just happens to own half of the manufacturer, Airbus Industries.  And the lead investigator was an employee of Air France, the airline.   Also owned by the government who owns half of Airbus.  Hmmm.....  Couldn't have been anything wrong with the plane, huh?

    Three more items.

    1. Airbus claims it has redesigned the software and pilot interface (that didn't have any problems) to make it better.  So we should all feel safe now, this new software from them won't kill anyone like the old did.
    2. Airbus is the only plane maker that still uses Kapton wire insulation, despite the fires and deaths that have caused all other makers to eliminate it.
    3. These opinions come from me, and I am by profession a Control Systems Engineer.  I have been writing software for 30 years, been doing control systems and user interfaces for 15 -- and you won't ever see me on an Airbus.  I'd rather walk (or swim).
    Here is some film of the orignial Airbus Engineers in France:


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    Alarm Systems 

    First let's talk about burglar alarms, the one's that sound a siren and call the police when you are away and someone breaks in.  They are just about worthless.  The typical burglar will be in and out in 90 seconds, long before the police arrive.  Some people think they will be out that quick, alarm sounding or not.  Some people think the alarm encourages him to get out in 90 seconds.  If you believe it does, then at least don't waste money on it dialing the Police or being monitored for this reason.

    All you really need is a switch on all outside doors, and a mat under the carpet in the hallway by the Master Bedroom.  A Motion Detector in that same hallway might be a better option, but mats have worked for years.  He will likely come in through a door -- ask your friends who have been burgled, see if he used a door.  If he does use a window he'll quickly find the Master Bedroom to search and will step on your mat.

    Next let's talk about intruder alarms.  This is an alarm that goes off, sounds a siren and perhaps calls the police when you are home and someone tries to break in.  This can be a very valuable thing to have.  If you're sound asleep and someone forces your back door, you need to know about it.

    Intruder alarms consist entirely of perimeter alarm devices -- doors, windows, etc.  They can't use any mats under the carpet or any area detectors you'd set off while in the house.  Again, switches on each outside door are a must.  You might want to do a few windows if they worry you -- windows on the back side of the house or hid behind bushes.  It's often a good idea to put switches on basement windows.

    It couldn't hurt for the intruder alarm to call the police automatically, or when you press a panic button -- but you will have to deal with false alarms.  A good intruder will have cut your phone line, so this may be of little use.  The most important things are for the alarm to make a lot of noise, turn on all the house lights if it can and -- important -- have a system that tells you exactly what set off the alarm.  This last item is so important.  You need to know where the threat is.  And if you start getting false alarms, you need to find the bad switch.

    Last, fire alarms.  Obviously you need to have at least smoke detectors in your house.  New homes typically require they all be hooked together and all sound if any sound. If you are having a monitored burglar or intruder alarm system installed, you might as well see what hooking up all the smoke detectors to it will cost.  If they aren't all already interconnected it could be a lot of money.  And before you do, make sure you are going to like how you must handle false alarms.  You know, the smoke from broiling in the Kitchen sets it off, you have to go wave air at the G.D. thing or pull its battery.  Ask what you will need to do to stop the Fire Dept. from coming?  If the alarm company first calls to confirm -- what if your son's on the Internet with the phone tied up?  And can you shut them up if they are powered by the alarm system?  I prefer plain old smoke detectors.  They go off, you get the hell out of the house, call the Fire Dept. from across the street.  The house of an invalid or someone else who can't leave in a hurry -- I'd hook them up and add a medical emergency button by their bed.

    Hardwired systems have wires run from each switch and sensor to the main panel.  This requires a lot of labor and drilling of holes in your house.  This does result in a more reliable system than wireless systems, but not necessarily by a lot.

    Wireless systems install very quickly and use radio to talk back to the main panel.  Each sensor has a battery in it that much be changed.  A good wireless system monitors the sensors.  It asks each sensor every few minutes if it is OK, its battery OK.  This is the only type of wireless system to buy -- don't by a unmonitored system, and don't confuse this sensor "monitoring" with the whole system monitored by the alarm company.  People who put in hardwired systems will tell you wireless systems are totally unreliable.  They aren't., but the hardwired system is the premium.

    Don't get ripped off!  There are three different ways (I've seen) that alarm companies do business:

    Leaking Toilets

    Get that leaking toilet fixed!!  It's amazing how much water even a slightly leaking toilet can consume.  Often they leak the cost of having them fixed each and every month.

    They are easy to fix -- good information can be had at The Toilet Repairs Page  and Toiletology 101.

    Just one more word of advice -- when a toilet "leaks" and water constantly runs through it, one of two things can be wrong (sometimes both).  Either the valve that lets water out of the tank is leaking, or the valve letting water in is leaking.  Don't fix the wrong valve!  The best clue -- let the toilet sit for an hour or two.  If the water is not up to the level of the overflow pipe and running into it, the outlet (or flush) valve is leaking.  A drop of food coloring into the tank is a good test too -- if the bowl colors, the outlet (or flush) valve is leaking.  For the best advice on fixing a leaker, see this Toiletology lesson.

    Cooling Your House with a Roaring Fire in the Fireplace

    OK, let's set the story straight, once and for all.  A roaring fire in an open fireplace (without "doors") may not be the most efficient way of burning wood -- but it does not cool your whole house off, does not lose more heat than it generates.  Abe Lincoln would have found the idea rather funny I think, but these days with fireplace door salesmen roaming the airways, with everyone trying to politically out-correct each other, otherwise smart people will buy into this yarn.
    You should not use your fireplace, because scientists now believe
    that, contrary to popular opinion, fireplaces actually remove
    heat from houses.  Really, that's what scientists believe.  In
    fact many scientists actually use their fireplaces to cool their
    houses in the summer.  If you visit a scientist's house on a
    sultry August day, you'll find a cheerful fire roaring on the
    hearth and the scientist sitting nearby, remarking on how cool he
    is and drinking heavily.
       -- Dave Barry, "Postpetroleum Guzzler"
     Yes, fireplaces do draw a lot of air from the room.  But the air in a typical house is completely exchanged with outside air at least every half-hour -- building codes for commercial buildings require the air be completely exchanged every 3-5 minutes!  So don't think you had the warm air trapped for the whole night.

    Try to observe for yourself what happens when you have a fire and use a little logic.  For example, when I have a fire in the living room fireplace (without doors), the house is warm and the furnace tends to not run all.  What is the only thing you can conclude from that?

    On a related subject -- yes, you could seal your house up so that the air exchanged only every few hours.  People have done this -- and have become very sick.  Indoor air pollution can be quite serious.  Cooking fumes, plasticizers coming off of furniture and carpet, germs coughed out by people, all trapped in a house is bad news.  A tip -- try to minimize all the heat loss by conduction you can by insulating walls, buying better insulated windows, etc.  This type of heat loss is 100% waste.  But don't go nuts trying to seal off every crack and hole any air might flow through.  Let the house breathe so you can breathe too.  (BTW, air is very cheap to heat, very low mass.)

    High Efficiency Furnaces

    When your furnace breaks down it doesn't hurt to shop for a high efficiency model as a replacement.  But don't get carried away, do the math.  And if you plan to replace an old but functional furnace with a newer high efficiency model to "save money", be certain to do the math!

    I once owned a furnace just as old as me, installed in the 50's.  It worked fine.  Any furnace salesman would foam at the mouth about how much more efficient a new furnace would be.  But let's look at the math.

    My old furnace is likely 70% efficient.  New models approach 100%.  So, the new 100% efficient furnace will save me 30% of my gas costs.  Well, I pay about $200 a month for 3 cold months, about $100 a month for 3 cool months, for a total gas cost of $900 a year.  This means I would save $270 a year in gas. Even if money could be had interest free, it would take 18 years to pay back a $5000 furnace investment.  If you invested that $5000 in stocks that paid 10% per year instead of that furnace, you'd get back almost double the amount back each year on your investment.  Do the math!

    Let's Turn Off the A/C and Open the Windows for a While -- NOT

    When you turn on your A/C system in your house or apartment you are asking it to do two things -- one, cool down and take all the excess humidity out of the air.  Two, cool down and take all the excess humidity out of the furniture, floors, walls, your possessions, etc.  Cooling down the air is very easy, your system has enough capacity to do that in 5 or 10 minutes.  But cooling down the whole house, removing all the excess moisture can take hours and hours of the A/C running at full blast.

    Once it gets caught up and gets the whole house cooled down and dehumidified, the A/C goes back to just removing whatever heat leaks into the house.  Then someone decides it's sort of a nice day outside, hot and humid but not terribly so  - and they bet they can save $1, maybe even $2 by turning off the A/C for a while and opening the windows.  The outdoors has plenty of heat and humidity to spare, so the house quickly becomes warmed up and humidity soaked.  Then they close back up, turn the poor A/C back on, and it runs full blast to cool the whole damn house down again.  The $1-2 savings becomes a $5 expense.

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    Health and Medicine for People and Pets

    Whitening with Something Yellow 

    Have you seen the TV ads for the teeth whiting crap that brag that, while others use Hydrogen Peroxide, they use Hydrogen Carbamide?  Do you know what Carbamide is?  It's another name for Urea!  Do you know what Urea is?

                         Main Entry: urea
                         Pronunciation: yu-'rE-&
                         Function: noun
                         Etymology: New Latin, from French urée, from urine
                         Date: 1806
                         : a soluble weakly basic nitrogenous compound CO(NH2)2 that is the
                         chief solid component of mammalian urine

    Do you really want to soak your teeth in this??

    How I Cured My Headaches From Hell

    Before I start, know that it would be unwise and illegal for me to give you any medical advice.  If you need advice ask your Doctor, and if you want to try what I have done and detail below, ask your Doctor first.  However, it is legal for me to tell you my story, and what my doctor told me -- this legal breakthrough is the brainstorm of TV advertisers who now run all those "My doctor said..." commercials.

    I had these killer headaches.  Who knows where they really came from -- sinus, TMJ problems, tension ... who cares.  They were almost more than I could stand and had gone on for years.  For a while Tylenol with Codeine would work, but would leave me dopey and unable to work, or even talk with friends.

    Then they got so bad the Codeine didn't help or only took the edge off, and I found myself in emergency waiting rooms, holding my head and rocking, hoping the pain would end before I had to kill myself.

    So one day I tried some Aleve, a non-prescription strength Naproxen Sodium.  The real reason I tried it is my favorite color is blue, and I liked how the pills looked.  (How's that for science?).  The headache wasn't full blast yet, so I took two of the 220 mg tablets -- and my headache went away, went away completely!  Another day I waited till the headache was full blast, a bad idea -- always treat a headache before it gets bad.  So it was full blast, I took two Aleve and it got better.  I took one more (not allowed by the instructions on the bottle) and the headache was gone!  GONE!

    I told my Doctor about all this and asked him if I was in danger taking three tablets?  He pointed out a number of things.  One, at 270 pounds, I had a much larger blood volume than a typical person, and it might take 3 to have the same serum level in me as 2 did with a smaller person.  Second, we knew my liver was in good shape -- the over-the-counter dosage is designed to not kill someone who didn't realize their liver wasn't doing well.  Last, the prescription dosage is much larger that the Aleve dosage.   He told me to go ahead and take 3-- take 4 if I need to.  Take two more every 6-8 hours if I need to.

    I did some research about what happens if you take too much, and how much is too much.  I'll copy what I found below.  I have inserted next to each drug amount how many Aleve 220 mg tablets it is equivalent to:

    Overdose: Symptoms and Treatment: Significant overdose may be characterized by drowsiness, heartburn, indigestion, nausea or vomiting. No evidence of toxicity or late sequel have been reported 5 to 15 months after ingestion for 3 to 7 days of doses up to 3,000 mg of naproxen (17 tablets). One patient ingested a single dose of 25 g naproxen (113 tablets!) and experienced mild nausea and indigestion. It is not known what dose of the drug would be life threatening. The oral LD50 of the drug is 543 mg/kg in rats, 1 234 mg/kg in mice, 4,110 mg/kg in hamsters and greater than 1,000 mg/kg in dogs. (Based on the hamster number, I would have to take about 2500 tablets for a lethal dose for me).
    So if you have headaches that leave you helpless, try some Aleve.  Talk with your Doctor about what would be safe dosages and usage for you.

    The Second Golden Age of Patent Medicine

    The 19th Century was the golden age of Patent Medicines.  You've seem some of these old patent medicines haven't you, "Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound", tonics and exliirs that would cure any disease?  Click here for some interesting information about them here.

    Many of the patent medicines contained alcohol (many of them were almost entirely alcoholic) and narcotics (such as morphine, cocaine and opium). These products certainly made the patient feel better for a time, but ran quite a bit short of their claims of being wonder cures for diseases ranging from the common cold to tuberculosis. The federal legislations of the early 20th century, both in the U.S. and Canada, in which manufacturers could not make false promises about their products, and had to list the ingredients in their bottles and pill boxes, served to bring about the near death of the entire industry. Some products did, however, continue to be sold well into the 1950s and beyond.

    Some of them are still available today, but in greatly altered form.  Ever try "French Wine of Coca", a cure for "nervous disorders, disturbances of internal plumbing, and impotency?"  John Pemberton took out the alcohol and the cocaine, left in the caffeine, added sugar, citric acid and water -- and Coca Cola was born!   Ever try "Dr. Miles' Compound Extract of Tomato?"  Today it's sold as Tomato Ketchup.

    So "Swift's Syphilitic Specific", "Mother Graves Worm Exterminator", and "Keeley's Gold Cure for the Tobacco Habit" are all gone.  You can't sell medicine in the USA without FDA approval anymore. But a loophole has been found of late, and the second Golden Age is upon us!  (More of a Golden Shower.)  There are exemptions for "dietary supplements" that are being used in a whole new way.   Basically there are four rules.

    So they made up a new noun, "herbals", and everyone is selling a quack cure for anything they think they can get away with.  The commercials are ever so carefully worded.  No, they won't say it treats arthritis -- but they will say it lubricates your joints or improves flexibility.  Won't cure any memory problems, but will make your memory better.  Won't cure depression, but it will make you happier or calmer.  Everyone's jumped on the bandwagon, even previous reputable companies like One A Day now have their herbals.

    So, either do $20,000,000 worth of testing and wait years for FDA approval, and then get it only if you prove it works -- or claim anything you want without proof, don't spend a dime on testing -- just certify you picked it off the ground somewhere, squeezed it out of some lizards liver.

    New Advil Sprained Ankle Formula

    Have you seen all these new ads for Advil Migraine Headache Formulation, Tylenol for Arthritis, etc.?  "The first pain reliver FDA approved for the treatment of Migraine headaches", etc.?   Well this may surprise you -- they are the exact same formulas as in their regular versions, not a single difference in formula, dose per tablet, anything - except for the special instructions on the box.  That's why the FDA gives them approval to advertise as they do, the box.

    So the smartest thing to do is just avoid them.  Or, if you must, buy one bottle with the "special" instructions and refill it with the regular tablets.

    Why do they cost more?  To pay for the special TV ads, of course!  And because they figure you'll buy anything.

    New Puppy Chow for Larger, Short Eared, Long-Haired Puppies

    There is a new "puppy chow" for large-breed puppies -- you wouldn't want to feed it regular puppy chow, would you?  What's next, a special formula just for large-breed, long-hair, male puppies?

    Well, I'll tell you something all the pet food manufacturers will admit if you just ask them -- regular dog food is just fine for puppies, puppies do not get any benefit from special food formulations for them.

    So why do they all sell it?  Because you want to buy it.  And if they don't sell it, you'll buy from someone who does.

    Same thing for kittens, BTW.

    Would You Like Green Eggs and Ham?

    Have you ever seen a hard boiled egg with a green yolk?  Or had green tinged egg in a fast food breakfast sandwich?  Every wondered why?  Was it safe to eat?  I wondered until I read the following in All About Shell Eggs by the USDA:

                             A green ring on a hard cooked yolk is a result of
                             overcooking, and is caused by sulfur and iron
                             compounds in the egg reacting on the yolk's surface.
                             The green color can also be caused by a high amount of
                             iron in the cooking water. Scrambled eggs cooked at
                             too high a temperature or held on a steam table too long
                             can also develop a greenish cast. The green color is
                             safe to consume.

    New Ache Flakes -- the Breakfast Cereal with Two Aspirin's in Every Bowl

    I don't know about you, but I am really tired of the Total brand breakfast Cereal advertisements.  You know, the ones -- "You'd have to eat 40 bowls of Corn Flakes to get the iron in one bowl of Total!"  That's because they are basically grinding up a vitamin pill and sprinkling it over the cereal.  They don't use "healthier" ingredients, don't use materials that have more vitamins -- they just toss in a vitamin pill.

    Is that what you really want?  And do you want to be locked down to their cereal and their vitamin list?  And look at the extra cost of Total.

    How about your favorite cereal and a vitamin pill that fits your needs?

    How About Some Juice, It's Sooooooo Healthy!

    There is really very little difference between sugar water and fruit juice.  Take a vitamin pill with the sugar water, there is no difference.  Oh no, it can't be, juice is soooooo healthy, nothing like the "white death" refined sugar!  Just where do you think refined sugar comes from, nuclear reactors?  Most of it is the juice of a cane plant or the juice of a sugar beet, dried and cleaned up a bit.

    Fruit itself can be healthy in moderation, it has fiber and lots of other things going for it.  But the juice is just sugar water.

    A lot of parents feed their newborn juice, juice, juice!  Why give the baby water to drink when it can drink oh-so-healtful juice?  Parents even create serious health problems feeding all this sugar water to the poor kid.  Many Pediatricians recommend no juice for any baby under 3 years old -- and after that, in moderation.


    If you have any choice in the matter, stay away from HMO's!  If you must use one, try to put some cash aside to seek real, profit insensitive genuine medical care from a Doctor outside your HMO now and them.  (And for God's sake, try to keep socialist fools like Hillary Clinton from putting us all into a government run HMO!!)

    I have been giving this advice for many years, and in the past I would have cited a lot of cases here.  But with each passing year the public's awareness of how bad HMO's can be, so I won't list examples here.

    Just keep three things in mind:

    I will give a personal story.  My Dad, who belonged to an HMO in the US, went several times complaining of trouble breathing and fatigue.  They didn't run any tests, just told him he was fine.  He went on to a trip to Europe and collapsed at a Hotel in Germany.  A doctor there found it obvious he was dying of congestive heart failure.  If he hadn't gone to Europe, I'll bet he would have died to help the HMO profits.

    One more recent personal story.  Employers (like mine recently) will decide to try to get everyone into an HMO to keep their costs down.  They will think we can all get the same level of medical care at a substantially lower cost just by using an HMO.  (I guess they think HMO's have a money tree to pay for part of the costs.)  Anyway, they will give you a "choice" of the HMO or some PPO that is pure crap, 40% co-pay and huge deductibles.  If they haven't yet, make clear to your company that you'll walk out the door if forced into an HMO, let them before it gets too far along to stop.


    Preferred Provider Organizations are a whole different story.  If you can find such a plan in your area that most or almost all the local doctors take (especially yours) it can be an excellent deal.  You still have full choice, and not only are the Insurance Co.'s costs cut, so is your co-payment.

    Make sure it is a plan so you can go off of their preferred provider list when you really want to.  Usually some penalty is involved, like a 30% co-pay for off-plan vs. 15% if on-plan.

    I once had a blood test that the initial bill was $80.  On my old insurance my co-pay of 20% would have been $16.   My PPP's contract with the lab cut the testing bill to $19, and with my 15% on-plan co-payment was only $2.85.

    Generic Drugs in the USA

    They are supposed to be 100% identical, equal, aren't they?  And the FDA in the US will tell you there are no records of any problems with them, ever.  They lie.  Take generics if you must -- but keep a close eye on them, and be the first to complain if they don't seem to be working exactly as promised.

    I used to take a drug called Parafon Forte, green tablets.  Then the generic comes out, same drugs inside, but a different green dye.  A green dye that gives 5% of people (including me) severe diarrhea.

    I once got a bottle of a generic version of Keflex antibiotic from a McMedical place.  The bottle stank when opened, the pills smelled very awful, and when I took them my stomach got very sick and I belched the same stench.  And the drug didn't seem to be working.  So, I bought some real Keflex and stopped getting sick and belching and got better.  I sent the nasty Keflex to the FDA.  They wrote back they had just sent it back to the Manufacturer.  I wrote 6 months later to ask what the conclusion was, and they had no records of me or the Keflex, case closed.

    New! Fat Free Pepsi!

    You thought Pepsi already was fat free?  It is.  How about New! Sugar Free Crisco Shortening!  You didn't think Crisco had any sugar in it?  It didn't and doesn't.  Just a little satire to make a point.

    If food tastes good 99% of the time it will be because of the fat and/or the sugar in it.  If a company has a product that is mainly sugar, they'll take the tiny bit of fat out it had and call it Fat Free!  A manufacturer of a very fatty food will take out any sugar they add, if any, and call it Sugar Free!

    Just look at the calories of what you eat. Some people go for fat free diets and ignore sugars.  Some people avoid the "white death" refined sugar and ignore fats.  Just look at the calories.

    Portion Control

    Ever wonder how Weight Watchers can sell "low calorie" chocolate fudge brownies and such?

    Well, I've got a deal for you -- how about a burger with 100% of the taste of a Big Mac with only half the calories?  It's a Big Mac cut in half.

    Don't confuse smaller portions for lowered calories.  And beware sauces or anywhere else they can sneak some more water in.

    Vitamin Supplements

    A few very specific Vitamins have been proven beneficial to take supplements of -- Vitamin E, for example.  All it takes is the smallest dose, just the RDA on top of the vitamins in the food you eat is plenty -- buy the smallest dose you can find, not the largest.

    If some is good, more must be better just doesn't always work.  Try it with salt on your french fries some time. :)  If you take more than your body needs of water soluble vitamins, such as C, you'll just pee away the extra amount.  Take much too much of a fat soluble vitamin like E -- you could poison yourself and die.

    A true conversation with a vitamin-aholic I once knew:

    Me: "Why do you take all those Vitamin C tablets?"

    Him: "Doctors have done research and it shows we need Vitamin C to be healthy."

    Me: "But those Doctors say you only need a small amount, the RDA each day."

    Him: "Oh, those Doctors don't know anything!"

    This is what a lot of people, from vitamin users to crystal healers like to do -- I call it hanging a left with science.  They follow science as the gospel right up to a point, then hang a left and head out into fantasy land.

    Yummy Creme Filling!

    So, just what is that "white cream" that you get in a Twinkie, King Dong, etc.?  You might not want to read this, so I'll give you the chance to skip to the next topic right now.

    Well, it's a takeoff on butter cream cake icing.  Those of you who might have made this from scratch know it is just a mixture of butter and powdered sugar, plus vanilla or whatever flavor you want.

    White creme is a mixture of some oil or fat (sorry, no butter) with sugar or some other sweetener.  They also add some water (cheaper) and perhaps some gum to thicken it, finally whipped up with air (cheaper yet).  And what fat do they use -- look at the ingredients list.  It will have some list of oils and fats that it claims to use one or more of.  The list starts out nice -- like soybean oil -- and ends up with Lard.  Anyone want to guess which they generally use?

    So, what is white creme?  Normally, whipped up lard and sugar.

    Why the Un-Cola Will Never Be the #1 Soft Drink

    7 Up sure tries hard to be the #1 soft drink, don't they?  So does Sprite, Ginger Ale, and all the others. But the top sellers are always Pepsi, Coca Cola, Surge, Mountain Dew, and a few others.  Why?  Because they are drugged beverages!

    They are drinks to which a drug has been intentionally added -- Caffeine.  A mood altering, mind altering drug.  Now don't get me wrong -- there are few drugs safer than Caffeine, few drugs with as few side effects.  I mean, the FDA let's these soda companies put it products sold to 2-year old's, don't they?  And getting people to drink something just by caffeine content is nothing new -- coffee and tea have been hits for centuries.

    The original Coca Cola was a patent medicine that had two main ingredients:

        Cocca leaves for Cocaine
        Cola nuts for Caffeine

    The Cocaine made you happy, and the Caffeine kept you awake, gave you "energy."  Yes, they eventually had to take the Cocaine out (poor guys) but the Caffeine is still there.

    Next time you're drinking a cola (or coffee or even tea), think of all the people each day, all the children each day that are drugged by it.  I wonder if "Just say no" was ever meant for colas?

    The Budweiser Low Cholesterol Diet

    "Yes, the American heart Association says drinking 6 Budweisers each day (as part of a low fat, low cholesterol diet and exercise program) can substantially lower your body's cholesterol level!  Budweiser has made a contribution to the American Heart Society for the use of their name."

    You've all heard these commercials.  Let's face it -- eating a cardboard box as part of a low fat, low cholesterol diet and exercise program will lower your cholesterol, with no help from the box.

    This is just the a fundraising method many health associations are using, selling off their endorsements.  Just figure out who they are and avoid believing anything they say, sort of like "Motor Trend's Car of the Year."  (If you count the pages of paid ads in their magazine from each maker for the past year, you'll know who is getting this year's award.)

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    Computers & ISP's in the USA

    Use The Same E-Mail Address For Life!  (or at least a few years)

    There are all these places offering you a "free" e-mail address for "life."  WebMail, HotMail, Yahoo Mail, on and on.  Sounds good, huh?  Why pay for what can be had for free?  And just keep instead of, then, etc., etc. each time you change ISP's?

    First off, it's only sort of free.  You have to look at their ads when you get your mail.  They put an ad on the bottom of every e-mail you send, which looks ever so cheap to me.  And there tend to be low limits on how much mail your mailbox can hold, and for how long.

    And it's not really forever.  Only as long as they are in business, and as long as they don't buy out, get bought, or merge with another service.  Netscape's WebMail just merged with someone, and told me I couldn't use my user name anymore, they'd given it to someone else.  And I had better tell my friends, because after a few months he would get mail sent to my old name.  Cool, huh?

    And then their is the quality level you can demand when you aren't paying anything.  Check out what Hotmail just did:

    Hotmail Clients Getting Steamed
    4:20 p.m. Jun. 15, 2000 PDT

    After having no email for 10 days, Hotmail users have discovered another reason to be annoyed.

    Hotmail accounts for some of the 330,000 people who have been shut out of the system started working by Wednesday morning, but a number of customers were dismayed that all of their data, including addresses and saved messages, were erased.

    How to really get one good address for life?  Get your own web site.  I'll be just as long as I keep the bills paid.

    Joe's Computers and Lawnmower Repair 

    If you are going to buy a used or ancient computer at a bargain (under $500) price, buy it where ever you can find it.  If you are going to buy an expensive, state-of-the-art computer, don'tbuy it from some local guy who "builds" computers.  Would you buy a car from some local mechanic who buys whatever engine is cheap that week, mates it to whatever transmission is a best buy, fits them into the body of your choice?  Don't pay someone to stitch up a Frankenstien of a computer for you either.  There was a time when people like this could give the big manufacturers a run for their money.  These days, with outfits like Dell buying millions of hard drives a year, the local guy's system is only cheaper because it's cheap.

    The very best place to buy is mail-order from one of the very big makers, like Dell, Compaq, Gateway, Micron, etc.  They have prices that are hard to beat, and you will be getting the very newest technology at its lowest cost.  Each day, week after week, items like disk drives just get cheaper and cheaper, bigger and bigger.  When you buy from Dell and their volume you will take full advantage of this week's pricing and technology.  Buying even a name brand system from a local store will likely give you a system built 2-6 months ago - and that is a long time in the computer business.

    If you're looking for the best deal, the most for your money, then last year's top of the line system is likely your best choice.  Go to places like,, etc., and look for the cheapest name brand system "on closeout" that meets your basic needs.  These can often be had for 1/2 to 1/3 the price of this year's systems, and will do just about anything they can.  The downside -- they'll be obsolete a year sooner as time passes.

    But what about all those mail-order places in the back of Computer Shopper Magazine -- those places who's names change every few months, all are either in California or on 42nd Street in New York?  They are even cheaper than Dell.  Avoid them like the plague!!!  You will spend the next 6 months of your life calling about missing components, shipping failed systems back and forth.  Trust me, avoid them.

    Picking an ISP

    What is an ISP?  That is an Internet Service Provider.  It is who you are paying (or ripping off :) for the access to the Internet you are now using.  Picking an ISP involves four basic considerations:
    1. What is the cost?
    2. Will you get a connection or a busy signal when you call?
    3. Do they do anything unusual that makes using the Internet more difficult?
    4. Does belonging to a particular ISP tell other people anything?
    What is the cost?  This is fairly straightforward.  You usually have a choice of paying a little bit (like $9.95) for a few hours a month, more (like $19.95) for a ton of hours (say 150 or so) per month, or a bit more (like $21.00) for truly unlimited hours.  Some services change the $19.95 for "unlimited" hours, but actually limit your hours by giving you a busy signal most of the the time.

    Connection or busy signal?  There are a whole lot of services that just getting through to  is quite a challenge.  They put in some phone numbers and then just sell and sell more subscriptions until people get pissed off and leave.  This is quite typical of some "local" or hometown, small ISP's.  (Some -- some are excellent) They have 15 lines, they get full, don't have the money to pop for 15 more, so they ride out the storm.  This is as opposed to big time outfits that have 100,000 phone numbers coast-to-coast -- your town gets busy, they pop for 10 more lines.  (FYI, I have been with ATT Worldnet for many years now, can't think of the last busy signal I got.)

    Do they make it difficult?  Some services like AOL try to make things "easy" by using only their own software, not Netscape or Internet Explorer.  However, their own software typically stinks-on-ice, has problems with many websites, has trouble exchanging mail with users outside their own service.  Other ISP's provide free copies of standard software.

    Web TV tries to let you look at the Internet on a TV screen.  Yes, you can see special versions of screens they supply.  But the TV screen has no where the needed resolution to surf the web with.

    Does belonging to a particular ISP tell other people anything?  This may sound silly, but it is pretty easy to sum up another's expertise and general intelligence level by the service they use.  What I'm about to tell you is not Politically Correct, has a tad of humor in it -- but it is real, so don't get mad at me, don't kill the messenger.  If a particularly dumb post is found on a board, it is likely to have come from a Web TV user.  They are considered to be the lowest form of life on the Internet.  Next come AOL'ers.  Sort of "the great unwashed" as a friend would say.  Some very smart capable uses -- mainly people that were dumb enough to join AOL -  they "saw it on TV!"  (Click here for some examples)  Then come the rest of the users, still a very mixed lot.

    Bottom line?  Don't sign any long term contract.  Month by month or forget it.  Try that local ISP for only $14.95 a month.  If it doesn't work out, switch over to a big outfit with capital to invest -- I like ATT Worldnet.  Avoid AOL, it is a very bumpy ride.  Avoid WEB TV at all costs.

    Be Different!  Be a Non-Conformist!  Take a Bite from the Apple! 

    I sincerely hate being part of the crowd, conforming to what everyone else does.  I love being radical.  My advice is to be radical with your hair, fashion, perhaps the food you eat, the movies you like, etc. -- but not in the computer you buy.

    Trust me -- computers are one place where conformity is divine.  Don't buy into any of those Apple ads that dare you to be different, buy an Apple!   Why they even come in all sorts of colors!  Wow, that's what I'm picking out a computer for -- what color the case is!  Now they have a commercial with a computer mouse running around making sounds like a car "burning rubber", "Born to be Wild" playing.  They say all their computers now come with an optical mouse!  Wow ... I guess -- is that good or bad?   What did they used to come with?  Have you ever used a mouse that you couldn't move quickly?  Just note as a general rule -- when an advertiser stops talking about their product and it's benefits and superiority's, starts some emotional appeal hogwash (be daring!), they likely don't have a lot to really offer.

    Please trust me on this one -- or make room on the shelf next to your 8-track tapes and Beta video tape deck for your Apple when the shine wears off, when you so tire of every program you want to buy doesn't run on your Apple.

    On the other hand, just about every Apple owner will not agree with me at all.  They tend to be very happy with their systems.  And I will admit that what they do, they do well. The question is how many different things they can do vs. a PC.  90% of the software on this planet is written for the IBM PC.  Perhaps Apple owners just don't know what they are missing?  But, like I said, very few of them are unhappy or regret buying an Apple, something to keep in mind.

    Who Is General Failure, and Why Is He Reading My Hard Drive?

    Some parts of your computer are completely electronic, no moving parts and will likely last forever (or at least till the next atomic war).  Other parts wear out because they have things that move -- your printer, your keyboard, floppy disk drive, and your hard drive for example.

    Some day you will get a message from you computer about your hard drive.  In the old days this was "GENERAL FAILURE READING HARD DRIVE."  This meant your hard drive was dead and would never be heard from again.  Now it's one thing to have the printer or keyboard fail and need replacement.  But when your hard drive fails you will lose all the information on it -- everything.  (You can send it off to a specialist and he'll recover most or some of the information for about $500-2000 if you are desperate.)  This is serious.  All the e-mail and friends addresses gone.  All the letters you wrote gone.  Any book you were writing, any art you created -- gone.

    What to do?  I could easily write a chapter on the subject, so perhaps the best answer is to seek expert help.  I'll give at least a few idea to start you out.

    The very best idea is to get a Tape Drive (or Zip Drive or R/W CD Drive) for your computer big enough to hold your whole hard drive on a tape or two.  Buy lots and lots of tapes, back up the drive at least -- I don't know, how many days work can you stand to lose?  Keep some of the old tapes forever.  For example, if you back up every night, keep each Friday's tape forever.  Nothing is dumber than spending good money on a tape drive and getting cheap with the tapes.

    At a minimum make floppy disk  copies of anything you can't stand to lose.  If you are working on a book, copy it to floppy every time you stop for the day.  If you keep your finances on the computer with Quicken or the like, back up the data files to floppy after each and every use.

    People that only use their computer to surf the web have it a bit easier, but can still lose quite a bit.  Printing out everyone's e-mail address and printing out copies of letters you can't bear to lose might be enough.

    Get expert advise, get your defenses in place before you meet the General.


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    The Pollution of the Digital Revolution -- or Why MP3's and DVD's Suck

    When the digital revolution began with the introduction of the audio Compact Disk it was a great thing.  It reproduced the music exactly as it was recorded with every detail, every nuance, true perfection.  And it played exactly the same every time, no wear, no pops or skips.  It was and continues to be a great invention.

    But to record all the details of a song, say 4 minutes long, took about 40 MB of storage.  Even with today's technology that is a big file to be moving around, to try to send down a phone line to a modem or to send over the Internet.  And if a movie was digitized in the same way a CD is, it would take about 144 Gigabytes of storage to hold a two hour movie.  That's enough to fill up about 200 CD's.  Engineers wanted to cut down all this storage so that a song took a few megabytes instead of 40 MB, a move only took 5 GB instead of 144 GB so it would fit on a DVD.  They also wanted to take images on websites and cut the amount of storage they used down by a factor of ten or twenty so that they would download more quickly.

    And these inventors looked out over the world and looked at people and observed two things:

    1. In general, people really don't know when they are being served the best or just crap
    2. If they haven't ever seen, heard, or tasted the real thing, they would accept the lamest substitutes imaginable
    A personal story along these lines.  I once worked at a company that had its own cafeteria.  About once a month they would bring in this most beautiful roast round of beef, medium rare, which I would enjoy.  I noticed that none of the younger employees were ordering it.  I asked why, they told me "It's raw!"  I told them medium rare is how good roast beef is served.  They said "But that's not how it is at Arby's!"  Oh my God, all they ever had eaten called Roast Beef was "Arby's Loaf" (as they call it), a bunch of slaughterhouse floor droppings baked as a loaf and sliced thin enough to be edible.  They didn't know what real roast beef was, didn't care.

    So the digital engineers came up with a whole new idea -- "lossy compression."  Compression had been around for a long time, a good example is a ZIP file.  Take a 10 MB file, run PKZIP or WINZIP, wind up with a compressed ZIP file only 3 MB long.  Then unZIP it and you wind up with the exact same 10 MB file you started with -- exactly the same.  But lossy compression is a bit different.  Take a digital version of a movie, picture, or song, and make it 10 - 20 times or more smaller by lossy compression.  Uncompress it and you get back not the original, but something pretty close with a bit thrown out here and there.  People will hardly notice, and if they've never seen the real movie, never heard the real song, never seen the original image they might not even know any better.

    Here are three pictures of a rock, each one compressed just a bit more with a lossy compressor, in this case JPEG which is how you make a JPG or JPEG image:

    14K Bytes: 7K Bytes:  4K Bytes:

    The first one looks pretty good, doesn't it?  The second is starting to look bad -- but would you notice it if I didn't show you the first one?  The third really looks like crap -- but would you even notice it if it was the background to a movie on DVD for just a second with dinosaurs running around in front of it?

    So that is (unfortunately) how they can fit a whole movie on that little DVD, how you can get a whole song in a 3 MB MP3 file.  If you like DVD's, think MP3 files sound "good enough" -- I'll see you at Arby's.

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    Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

    A rule that you must never, ever violate, not even once.  If using e-mail at work or on anyone's else's e-mail system, never, ever write anything that you wouldn't want posted on every bulletin board in the company.  No matter how nice your employer seems, they will not hesitate to read all the e-mail you have ever sent or read, deleted or not.  The courts say this is legal when they own the system the messages are stored on.  Don't learn this the hard way like I did. Never.  Not only will they read them, they will interpret them however they wish, and likely won't give you the opportunity to explain or defend yourself.

    And you really ought to have the same rule for any e-mail used anywhere.  No one can legally intercept it and read it, but it happens.  And the recipient could always do whatever they wish with it.

    Encryption schemes can help this, but be sure they are really covering all the danger areas.  For example, let's say you and a friend get some Verisign Digital ID's to send encrypted mail back and forth.  From your house to his, pretty secure.  But at work?  First off, Outlook is more than happy to use your decryption key for anyone who runs your computer, no password required.  Netscape asks for a password -- but let's say your boss sees the encrypted mail and tells you to decrypt or clean out your desk?

    Your very best bet is to use a Web based e-mail service such as HotMail or Yahoo Mail, etc.  When the messages are kept on equipment not owned by the company, the company legally and physically no longer has carte blanche access to them.  If they were to intercept a message as you read it over the Internet they would likely be guilty of violating the Federal Wiretapping statutes.  But you can even eliminate that risk by reading your mail from an encrypted or secure server (https://).  Read it, don't save a local copy, and it should be safe and private from your company's prying eyes.


    Superbaby Is Born!

    So, someone you know just had their first baby, and they are just saturated with all these parental feelings and thoughts.  Their baby is the most beautiful baby ever born, the most intelligent too.  They will be doing stuff like:

    Try to give them some understanding.  The feelings that bond a parent to a child are very strong, or about the third night of a 3 AM wakeup the kid would be gone.  Humor your friend, don’t ask for a demonstration of their 2 year old that is fluent in six languages, look through the photos quickly, and run like hell.  They will get over it very quickly when the baby becomes a teenager.

    Work & Play 

    Some of the better advice you might ever get.  Don't get romantically involved with anyone you work with.  Seems like a positively wonderful idea -- maybe the only opportunity that seems to present itself.  Then things go sour and there the two of you are, no place to hide, no way to forget and move on.  Trust me, it's never worth the risk.


    Are you driving a Butt-Mobile (ala Dennis Miller)?  How can you tell?

    Simple.  Just measure from the rear edge of a rear wheel opening, directly behind the center of the wheel, back to the rear bumper:

    If you measure 18" or less -- sorry, you do drive a Butt-Mobile!  6" or less?  Have you no shame!  :)

    Those Cute Little Pit Bulls! 

    Pit Bull dogs are really nice dogs, so maligned by everyone -- NOT!  They are vicious, mentally defective, inbred  killers -- I'd rather let my kids play with Jeffrey Dahmer.

    Oh, but Pit Bulls don't attack anymore than any other dogs.  They show just the tapes of Pit Bulls attacking to make then look bad.  Really?  Have you ever seen a single tape of any other breed of dog attacking a child?  A single tape of other than a Pit Bull?  German Shepherds trained as police dogs or guard dogs attacking a grown man perhaps -- but the police dog is usually 100% under the control of a trainer, attacking upon command.  I've seen a German Shepherd attack a man it was certain was injuring one of the children it was "assigned" to protect.  But I've never seen anything other that a Pit Bull playing with a child one moment, then trying to tear off the child's face a few seconds later.  Nothing but Pit Bulls.

    So, One, don't buy one.  There are now cures for male erectile dysfunction like Viagra, you don't need a Pit Bull or a sports car to compensate -- get yourself fixed.

    Two, don't let your kids anywhere near one.  If a neighbor is brainless enough to have one, make it a strict rule for everyone in your family to steer clear of their house at all times.  And make it clear to that neighbor that he had best keep the dog on his property, that if it injures anyone in your family you will pay him a personal visit.

    Last, if you every find a Pit Bull in your yard, go inside, get your shotgun, come out, and kill it on the spot.  Don't worry about any city regulations -- if a Pit Bull is on your property, you are at serious risk -- shoot it!!  If you don't own a gun, stay inside, call the police.  Follow through on your complaint, make the owner keep his dog locked up.  And you might want to buy a gun in case he doesn't.  You'll never feel more helpless in your entire life than to see a Pit Bull with your child's head in its mouth, and not a thing you can do.

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    Learn Pig Latin!

    Most words in Pig Latin end in "ay." Use the rules below to translate normal English
    into Pig Latin.

    1. If a word starts with a constant and a vowel, put the last letter of the word at the
    beginning of the word and add "ay."

    Example: happy = Yhapp + ay = Yhappay

    2. If a word starts with two constants move the two constants to the end of the word and
    add "ay."

    Example: child = ildch+ay= ildchay

    3. If a word starts with a vowel add the word "way" at the end of the word.

    Example: Awesome = Awesome +way = Awesomeway

    Putting It All Together

    The sentence "Pig Latin is hard to speak." is written below in Pig Latin:

    Gpiay Nlatiay isway dharay otay eakspay.

    Notice how "Gpiay" is actually "Pig." Because the last character of pig is moved to the
    front, with "ay" added to the end, it makes Pig Latin very hard to read.

    I'm From The Government and I'm Here to Help You! 

    The Police Are Your Freinds! 

    The police can be your friends.  They can help if you call them with a problem.  They help keep drunk drivers off the road.  They do many things that are fundamental to a safe and secure world.

    But there may be times when they definitely are not your friends.   There may be times when they contact you just for the purpose of seeing if you are involved in some crime they are investigating.  There might even be times when they stop you or contact you for the sole purpose of sniffing around to see if they can find some offense to charge you with.

    So if you contact a police officer, there is no reason not to be friendly and fairly open with him or her.  They likely sincerely want to help you.  But when a police offer stops you or contacts you, they likely have nothing good in mind for you.   I’m not an attorney, but I can pass on some advice my attorney gave me.  This won’t be every detail of what to do or not do – but I do want to drive home a few simple principals.

    You don’t have to talk to anyone; you don’t even have to identify yourself if you aren’t driving a vehicle.  If an officer accosts you and it appears he/she is going to sniff around and ask questions hoping you incriminate yourself – walk away.  Don’t say another word -- just walk away.  Don’t even stop walking when they first approach you.  Ignore them, they have nothing but harm planned for you.

    They can detain you.  This is one of the most misunderstood statuses, and they like the fact.  Detaining you simply means you cannot leave, you are not free to walk or drive away.  These days this pretty much has to be by a direct command to stop and stay there.

    Police love to trick people into thinking they are detained when they are, in fact, free to leave.  This is because once you are detained, they must read you your rights.  They’d much prefer to not do that, so they’d prefer you think you can’t leave while you are really free to walk away.  Walk away!  If you cannot leave, if you are being detained, let them say so.

    They cannot force you to go anywhere just because you are detained!  Detained means to stop you where they find you.  They can certainly ask if you’d go somewhere with them – and you can be a fool and go with them – “Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly.”  But they must arrest you (and have reason to do so) before they can order you around.

    So if accosted by an officer, leave.  If he tells you that you must stop, ask if you are under arrest – if they say no, you are being detained.  Don’t go anywhere with them, stay right where you are.  Don’t answer any questions, don't even say your name.  Just keep asking if you are free to go.  Keep track of the time, say the time out loud.  There are limits on how long you can be detained.

    They can arrest you, take you into their custody.  The usual advice applies here – don’t say a word, ask to speak to your attorney.  Here is a good way of saying this that doesn’t make you sound guilty: “I have a good defense for these charges, but I would like to discuss it with my attorney first before answering your questions.”

    Once you ask, they must stop asking you questions.  Never, ever believe it will “all be over faster” if you talk with them.  NEVER sit down and allow yourself to be questioned without your attorney present.  NEVER.  And if you somehow break that rule, NEVER EVER allow yourself to be questioned without a video & audio recording being made.  You’d be amazed what the interrogator might later remember you saying.  I've seen this first-hand as a juror.

    One Last Note

    One last note -- if you're ever writing things for your webpage, trying to decide what you want to tell the world, what you want to hide, how daring you want to be -- just remember one thing.  In these days of the World Wide Web reaching out to everyone, it is likely your Mother will read your web page some day.  (Hi Mom!).

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