There is no talent

ur speaker 2 day

Years ago, we made fun of  Grabow, the beautifully named speakers bureau that can fill your event with Vegasy hell on tap. The comment thread is good.

There’s now an unused blog and some tags, but everything is still as it was, down to the HTML-resized headshots. Hootie is now available, as are Angela Davis, and Sheryl Roush, the “Sparkle-Tude(TM)” Expert.

Carol Channing remains.

The best pages on the site are now the blank ones, found while browsing categories. There is no talent here. Horseman, pass on.

PURCHASE MY AMATEURISH CRAP RIGHT THIS INSTANT

I have had a Zazzle Store for quite a while and never really promoted it, but I have a total of TWO products.

1. The “Bob is Love” U.S. postal stamps, in a variety of denominations, featuring a touching and artistical black & white photo of Mr. Bob Trout, my best friend and an icon of the greater Newport-Mesa area:

 

2. The tiresome “nerd freedom” Software is Speech shirt, featuring said slogan on the front and what I am pretty sure is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America in binary on the back. You see, it’s cool because it’s nerdy and also because you can stand up for an abstract idea of freedom without any risk simply by purchasing an inexpensive consumer item:

The back of the shirt

 

Go buy lots of both now.

Something is afoot at the gas station.

The gas station routine has not changed in years. I put in my card, enter my zip code, choose my fuel, and pump. When I’m done I put the spout back in its bracket and the machine asks me if I want a receipt. I say yes, it spits out the receipt, and I leave. Sometimes I remember to close the gas cap again.

About half the gas stations changed recently. The machine now asks the receipt question before I can pump. At the end, it gratuitously announces that ‘THE OPERATION COMPLETED SUCCESSFULLY” and out comes the receipt.

Can you see what’s wrong with this?

If I don’t make the receipt decision until the end, I’m looking right at the gallons and dollars when the receipt pops out, and without conscious decision I compare them. By the time it hands out the receipt the numbers are all done, and it doesn’t know until then that I requested paper proof of its honesty.

But now the machine knows from the beginning whether I’ve asked for a receipt. If I say no, the computer can cheat me and give me less gallons or charge me more, knowing that I’ll have nothing to immediately compare with and no paper later when small differences in my credit card show up or the car runs out of gas sooner than expected.

Considering the heavy presence of organized crime in gasoline fraud around here (particularly in PIN thefts from debit-only stations), one has to wonder, doesn’t one?

Dear Consumer Reports: an Open Letter

I have trusted Consumer Reports since I was a child for product ratings. Your policy of no advertising and no commercial use has been admirable and useful, and I’ve always been happy to pay for the service.

Now your website has a shopping section. The explanatory paragraph says that it’s intended to provide a safe, unbiased environment for shopping, and that you’ve surveyed us customers and found just the right places to shop. It also says that it’s “powered by” Pricegrabber.com.

So this means that you’ve cut a deal with Pricegrabber to send your members to their service. Pricegrabber is not a charity and anyone in the business knows how these things work. You have taken your very valuable membership as a commodity and rented us to an outside commercial service.

Your noncommercial use policy says: ” We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®, ConsumerReports.org®, and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants.”

What are the terms of your deal with Pricegrabber, exactly? What exactly are the criteria by which you or Pricegrabber choose vendors and products for the shopping site?

Consumer Reports is not BizRate.com. Neither are you AAA, or any of the other “organizations” that sell your membership to affiliates.

How much money will it cost you to dump this shopping nonsense, and when will you do it?

There’s no way to maintain the fiction that you’re following a noncommercial use policy at the same time that you’re selling your customers to a generic Internet shopping portal.

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Note: This was also sent via their website as a Letter to the Editor

Summer Book Roundup from Fringehead House Publishing

We’re as pleased as punch and just as excited to share this summer’s new releases with all of you. As always we remain eclectic yet focused, with a concentration on a wide variety of accessible yet cerebral titles. Please visit our booth, #35B in Kentia Hall. Justin Celine, our VP of marketing, is the one in the hilarious mad scientist outfit!

Now to the releases. We are excited to present:

NONFICTION:

Chived: Hard Times and Stale Tastes in the Dried Spice Business. Basil, Oregano, fines herbes: every day we open a bottle of dry leaves and add flavor to life. But what’s it like where these little jars are filled? Chef and freelance journalist Katie Montaigne spent a year in the rough-and-tumble world of professional spices. Her stories may shock, surprise, and even humble you. You’ll never look at poultry spice the same way again.

Pillows and Predators: A Year in a Quality Inn Off I-10 Somewhere. Notary and freelance journalist Justin Svevo walked out of his comfortable life to manage a mid-range travelers’ motel for a year and came back with this powerful yet nuanced picture of an industry on the brink. From rough towels to midnight pot deals, no detail escapes his questing eye. Nominated for the National One Small Topic Book Award.

Will There Ever Be a Flag Day? When mom and freelance journalist Katie Firbank learned her youngest daughter had sunburn, she didn’t back down. This is a powerful and surprisingly accessible story of science, sun, health care, and one mother who wouldn’t stop until the real story — and the real cure — was revealed. Soon to be a Lifetime Channel Movie of the Week. Book club study guide available.

Rebar: The Stuff of Empire Ignored and even mocked, the strong yet flexible stands of this ubiquitous material hold up most of Western Civilization. Construction supervisor and freelance journalist Justin Bulgakov tracks the hidden history from the story of Hans Rebar’s first discovery through the Rebar Treaty of 1938, and finally to the Presidential Medal for Structural Items. You’ll never look at an urban construction site the same way again.

Nothing Over $20: A Long Year in a Tollbooth. When dental hygienist and freelance journalist Katie Calvino walked into a tollbooth in 2008, she had no idea of the journey that lay ahead. Greasy cash, angry drivers, and the dark secret behind America’s $500 billion toll road industry frame this gripping story of one writer’s passage from boredom and fear into a new strength born from knowledge. Forward by Malcolm Gladwell.

Go Fish! The Card Game that Gave Us World War — And Hope. Families and friends gather every day to play this simple card game. But does anyone know why? Sales associate and freelance journalist Justin Faulkner spent a year tracing the game’s history from its dark Nazi past in Munich to its life-changing energy in modern-day Turkey.

Pulling Iron: A Year on the Tugboat ‘Marie Rouge 223-B’ New York Times reporter and freelance journalist Katie Mishima walked out of a divorce and family tragedy onto the deck of an ocean-going tugboat in Long Beach, California. This is a story of huge ships, smaller ships that tow huge ships, grease, gumption, and finally redemption. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon. Book group study guide available.

These Pants are Made for Walking: The Sansabelt Way To Grow Any Business Justin Sansa, freelance journalist and son of legendary pants CEO Victor Sansa, teams up with his father in this hard-hitting, hard-nosed story of the man who didn’t need a belt to win. From the early days of Rubr-Shorts to the peak of 1979’s Stretchin’ film appearances, the whole story — and we mean really the whole story — of the Sansabelt phenomenon is here.

FICTION:

Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Young Sanjay DeSantis is only 10 when his abusive father mails him to a fruit processing plant in Camarillo, California. The world of a fatherless child, seen through a strawberry glaze, shines its luminous light over Sanjay’s molecular journeys through time. A thunderous achievement by first novelist Katie Lysenko.

Street Spirit. The Kepler sisters, hosts of three competing television talk shows, frame this sweeping narrative of the mid 1990s in suburban America. This second novel from rising superstar Justin Mulholland will resonate with anyone who knew the chain bookstores and college rock of those years, and will be a touchstone for that magic moment in 100 years — or more.

No Parking On The Dance Floor. Neil Heliopolis, a brilliant and deeply troubled college freshman in 1983, chooses to spend the entire year in his dorm room. His tiny paragraphs on Post-It notes are the building blocks of this extraordinary first novel from facilities manager and freelance journalist Katie Merck. Forward by Malcolm Gladwell.

Crocodile Rock. When failed graduate student Esi Jones receives a carved stone in the mail, he’s confused at first by its intricate hieroglyphics and images. As he delves deeper, he is drawn into an ancient and deadly conspiracy that brings together the Pyramids of Giza, Big Oil, and the United Methodist Church. This page-turning thriller goes from hymnal to gusher and finally to a shocking denouement that nobody — not even Cheops himself — could have predicted. Another instant classic from Justin DuPont.

Right Round Like A Record. The short, chaotic career of Israeli disco impresario Luis Kent is brought to life in this series of five linked stories by Booker Prize winner Katie Lister. Once again her empathetic ear for the dialogue of failure and her extensive drug experience illuminate this rocket-speed narrative of long club nights, using short club sentences. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Owen Wilson.

Once again, please stop by and say hello. Justin, Katie, Katie, Katie, and Justin will all be there and we have some great “swag” to hand out!

Super Sunday’s Unnameable One

American English is a relaxed, anything-goes affair. Swear all you want, or make up words, or mangle the grammar and it’s fine. There are still a few words and phrases that stop the music and make all the cowboys turn around, like the n-bomb or the c-word, but the sharp corners on those are being worn down too. Euphemisms for death and other bodily functions persist but without serious effect; saying “gravedigger” instead of “funeral director” is an eccentricity and not an abomination.

But there are forbidden words and phrases, just forbidden not to all. Important temple priests, once ordained, must not use these without permission and sacrifice, on pain of severe punishment.

Two of these are “The Superbowl” and “The Olympics.”

Ordinary people are allowed to say “The Olympics are less exciting this year!” or “Come to my Superbowl party.”

However, those who sell, or promote, or even report professionally are forbidden to use these phrases unless they’ve given an expensive sacrifice to the appropriate temple. If a bar has a Superbowl Super Happy Hour, or a snack company suggests a Superbowl Dip Bowl, or a newspaper has a special Olympic Games section, an inquisition of attorneys arrives and begins punishment.

This is why confusing advertisements appear saying things like “Get ready for the Big Game with Triscuits!” or “FOX Sports is your Summer Games coverage HQ!” Brahmin who utter these things without having sacrificed and cleansed are struck down by God’s hands in the form of intellectual property lawyers.

News media are stuck in a theological No Man’s Land where they tussle with the priests. They say “we’re reporting on events! We’re atheists, and you can’t judge us for the holy words!” The guardians of the temple disagree, and blood is shed.

So, a happy Super Sunday to all! Enjoy the gladiators, the entertainments, and the snacks. But spare a thought for those for whom this is holy, and for those persecuted for penetrating a hermetic sanctuary forbidden only to them. Without them, all our commercial pleasures would fade into the shadows to join the lost power of profanity and euphemism.

Mike and the Bank of America.

Mike and the Bank of America

Mike is a frequent visitor to the Corner. He lives in his van. He has had—and is—a long, strange trip. He goes to swap meets a lot and shows up with some very colorful women he’s met, especially at the San Diego one. He drinks half & half and smokes a lot, and has probably done whichever drug you’re thinking of. Today, Mike got a few things at the Vons and decided to make them into a sandwich and eat them on the strip of grass next to his van.

Bank of America is one of the world’s largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small- and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 57 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 5,900 retail banking offices and approximately 18,000 ATMs and award-winning online banking with 29 million active users. Bank of America is among the world’s leading wealth management companies and is a global leader in corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 4 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations in more than 40 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange

Car loan, or why we hate bankers

I bought a Ford Fiesta from Robins Ford in Costa Mesa on Friday, July 30. It’s a great car. The price was good. The salesman was helpful and intelligent and didn’t do car salesman B.S.

I had a preapproved loan from my credit union for 6.1%.

The finance guy worked me a bit for upselling on warranties and insurance products, but wasn’t very pushy. He then wanted to get the loan business. He told me he could get me 6% or better. He was going to work on this over the weekend.

On Saturday he called me and said “I got you 6%.”

A couple of weeks passed. I got a number of loan rejection letters in the mail from various banks. I got no approvals. I called him and asked if there was something I needed to sign additionally, and he said no, they would mail me.

A couple more weeks passed. I called him asking what loan I had, and when I should get the mail. I got voicemail and the call was not returned. Repeat twice.

I called Ford Motor Credit. They had no loan for my car or anything in my name.

I received mail from Chase Bank announcing that my loan had been approved and they’d given me a lower rate because I qualified for same. My rate: 8.39%.

I called Robins Ford and was told that my credit guy no longer worked there. I talked to a new guy. He was polite and professional. He said “look at your contract; whatever is on there is your rate.” He agreed that the whole thing was upsetting. He also said that it was possible to get the credit union to loan me at a lower rate and pay off this worse loan immediately, which was a good thought.

My contract (here’s the part that’s my fault) said 10%. Credit manager guy had literally waved his hand over this as if it was a formality, or some kind of placeholder. Burned.

I applied to the credit union for a loan to repay this one; it was declined due to excessive debt. Doh.

Meanwhile, it was time for me to make my first payment. I already had a Chase account paid by bank transfer, so I set this up for the auto loan also. The system rejected my information at first. I assumed I had made a typo, and tried again. Another failure. Looking carefully at my bank’s site, I saw that they now had a separate transfer number for electronic payments of this kind. I re-entered my bank info and now it was accepted. I paid the current bill and set up automated payments.

On the 22nd of September I got a late payment phone call from Chase. Looking at my account online, I saw that it said the following: next payment due date: 9/13. last payment made: 9/13. Account late. Amount due: my monthly plus a processing charge and a returned check charge.

I called Chase and a comedy ensued. The rep was very pleasant and professional. Together, we took a journey through madness and finance. It was clear that I had paid on the 13th, that the transaction was bollixed, and that a week later the computer decided that the transaction had not gone through and they were considering it a bad check. There was no late fee yet. I mentioned twice that this was during the time when Chase had an exceptionally bad I.T. disaster involving their loan systems, but he was silent about this.

I made my one-time payment with the rep on the phone, and he said he would get the bounced check charge remove.

Today, I looked at my Chase account. The account was now listed as overdue with a late charge. The last payment still said the 13th. And my new payment was listed as “in process.”

The bankers have mentioned recently that their feeling are hurt, that they feel bruises, that they are being unfairly vilified by the media and public servants. Why do we attack their large salaries? Why do we resent their guaranteed bonuses? Why are we insisting that the regulators regulate instead of sipping the bankers’ Scotch? Why do we fly into tantrums when their bold, risk-taking, disruptive innovations in finance blow up and kick shrapnel in our faces?

IT’S BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE DEAL WITH THEM IS A DRUG DEAL GONE SOUR AND WE GET OUR ASSES GRIFTED BUT GOOD, AND THE PEOPLE IN CHARGE OF THE GRIFT ARE WEIGHTLESS UNTOUCHABLE ARISTOCRATS WHO LIVE ON PLANET VEUVE-CLICQUOT AND WILL NEVER, EVER BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR CRIMES OR EVEN STOPPED FROM CONTINUING THEM.

But it’s a snappy little car.

Dear Lazyweb: WIC and nutrition stores

I know that WIC is the federal program for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infant nutrition. I see their offices in poor neighborhoods in Los Angeles. And I also know that women receiving that aid get EBT cards or checks that have to be spent on very specific items.

Next door to almost every WIC office I see a store with a name like “Mommy’s Nutrition” or “Baby and Mom Nutrition.” It’s obvious that these places exist to immediately capture the business from WIC.

Are these places predatory? I did come across a reference to “WIC Only Stores” being predatory and the government putting in fair price rules to deter that, but that was in 2006 and the stores are still everywhere.

I know some of you work professionally with poverty issues. What’s the scoop?