A Twist Of Fate
June, 2008 Entries
As carved by Gutzon Borglum

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(06/30/08 - 11:13 PM)
I'm thinking of writing a religious book for staunch vegetarians. I'm going to call it "Lettuce Prey".

(06/29/08 - 10:05 AM)
It's Sunday. Welcome to today's installment of 'Heath Attemps Good Natured Humor Only To Create A Genetic Abomination!'

A young woman named Candace was strolling through a park on a warm summer's day. In front of her, she was pushing a stroller containing her newborn infant. As she was walking, two thugs rushed from a nearby shrub and snatched the infant.

Having taken what they desired, they began running to their hideout.

Upon safe arrival, and out of breath, one thug looked to the other thug and wheezed, "See! I told you that would be as easy as taking a baby from a Candy!"

(06/28/08 - 11:53 PM)
Today was my wife's birthday. I bought her some new earrings, and we went to lunch. After lunch, we stopped by the Home Depot to pick up some paint for our upcoming three-day weekend painting of our bedroom. As I took the swatch from her, and turned to the paint counter to have the individual working there begin the mixing, the power went out. Then the auxilliary power went out. It was pitch black in the store for about three seconds. One could hear, even if one were not listening too closely, the collective gasp of nearly every female in the store. Also, there was a sound not unlike a hundred mace cannisters being readied. Not that I'd know.

At any rate, the paint counter guy looks at the folks in front of me, whom he was already serving, and says, "Good thing I got yours mixed already! Last time that happened, I couldn't mix paint for three hours because the computers all went funny."

Oh, super!, I thought. I then recalled the last time I was standing here. It was late last fall, when we were still working on my mother's home. I needed the sale-priced, two-gallon container of primer. Problem was, they had to pull a fresh skid. The skids were up high in an aisle, which would not normally have been a problem, were it not for the fact that someone had dropped one smack in the middle of said aisle, where it subsequently broke open. Then, no one was available to clean it up, as they were short handed, so they had elected to close the aisle instead. Are you seeing a pattern in my luck in this department of this store?

After a tense six minutes, the man said that we were in luck - that paint mixing could continue unabated. Still, what are the odds?

Also, my wife requested that I save a baby bird that had errantly flown into my mammal-trap this morning (a.k.a. - my window well). What is their fascination with this place of late?

I rescued the bird, much to the chagrin of the angry and confused parents darting around behind me, making their presence known with a series of unfriendly chirps which probably equated to a lot of avian profanity.

We also bought window well covers. Guess why?

(06/27/08 - 10:18 PM)
Tonight after we had eaten dinner, I made my way into the kitchen and stopped dead in my tracks. In my backyard was something I had never expected to see.

Doh! A deer! A female deer!

It just hung out there for about a minute and a half before loping off into the weeds behind the neighbors fence. The whole time it was in a perfect photo-ready position, my wife was seeking her camera. As she finally began to come back with it, then - and only then - did the deer begin moving. Irony, I know.


(06/26/08 - 11:53 PM)
"Before They Are Hanged" is the second installment in The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie. Like the first book, this one also did not disappoint. And, like Tolkien's bridging work, "The Two Towers", it seemed to finish one stage to set another in a somewhat slower-paced fashion. This minor observation is my only - and probably unjustified - complaint. Otherwise, the work continues to be one of riveting genius.

I don't think I can offer any further glowing praise that I haven't already offered after the first book, other than to say if you enjoy the fantasy genre then you absolutely must read this book. The faint of heart and stomach, however, need not apply. Once more, Abercrombie proves that he can describe anything - including death and torture - in terms that leave nothing to the imagination.

(06/25/08 - 11:27 PM)
See Below.

(06/24/08 - 11:27 PM)
See Above.

(06/23/08 - 11:22 PM)

"I've got a full-time job, and a part-time wife."

- Toby Keith

(06/22/08 - 11:35 PM)
I took the time to watch Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" the other day.

Several things resulted from this watching. The first thing I realized is that had he been president, and not Bush, I probably would have been a whole lot happier about now. And I'm a Republican.

I found myself actually warming to the guy, and wondering, "What if?" about his presidency that never was.

Then, I focused on the topic at hand. For those of you who have been in a cave with your fingers in your ears and your eyes shut, mouthing the words, "This all isn't real!", the film was an award-winning documentary about Global Warming. A very real threat that I believe we are concerning ourselves with all too late. Especially with the speed that China is industrializing, compounded with the speed of the rampant population explosion occuring world-wide.

Global Warming is real. It's not made up, and it will effect you. It IS effecting you. RIGHT NOW. This is especially true to my readers here in the midwest. Rain storms - in both volume and intensity - are exacerbated under conditions of global warming duress. This, I believe, is why we experienced the wettest August on record last year, why we experienced a massive amount of snow this year, and why we are currently experiencing one of the wettest springs on record. The rains focus on certain areas with a high intensity, and ignore others with aplomb. The result is that one area is robbed of moisture as another is inundated.

You can call Gore crazy, but it's hard to argue his facts. The man has a passion for this topic, and were I in his position, I don't think I could blame him. Only someone of his stature, and posessing his level of national exposure is well-equipped to change the minds of tens of thousands of morons, as well as you and I. The problem is, as I have said before, we as a society are too stupid and self absorbed to realize that we're dooming ourselves.

This stems right back to my social ideas that we are procreating individuals whom we cannot, as a society, properly care for. Social programs have been available in the past to offset this imbalance, but the imbalance is now so great we are approaching a situation of the few caring for the many. Eventually the scales will tip to a final imbalance, and at that point I have no idea what we, as a society, will do. This is further compounded by the individuals who are on the fence. Specifically, those individuals who do indeed provide some service to society by working. The problem comes when we realize that just because one is employed, it does not mean that one is employable. What I mean is that, more often than not, positions are no longer filled based on experience or qualifications. Employers are forced to make a difficult decision: To hire a body and hope for the best, or to hold out and wait for the perfect candidate. Speaking for myself, if I as an employer were to hold out for the perfect candidate, I would be a few individuals shy in the business I currently am responsible for. We reason that it is better to have an adequate employee, as opposed to the stellar ones that we wish we had, than to have none at all. Our justification is that we have the ability to control their output via quality control measures to insure that their output, while not perfect, ends up perfect once it reaches the customer. This is unfortunate, but on the whole it works. The upside is that the majority of my employees are pretty damn good at what they do.

The disappointment is that while it works, it is not ideal. Gone are the days when individuals took pride in their jobs. For the most part, a good portion of the blame lies with employers. We live in a day and age when employers rarely are looking out for their employees' best interests. Rarely can one retire from a company after decades of service. Now, one is fortunate is a company remains in business, under the same name and auspices, for a decade.

But some of the blame is symbiotic. Employees and employers need to understand that they require one another to succeed. And it seems as though a messy divorce occured somewhere in the early eighties, and now the parties are not even on speaking terms. And this is a dangerous place to be.

At any rate, I applaud Mr. Gore for his efforts. I believe that, in the end, they will prove futile. But without visionaries, such as himself, we would be further doomed, and sooner. And just because I believe that it's futile, does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that I am correct. Just look at my opinions of eight years ago about Bush. That says it all: I was 100% wrong.

(06/21/08 - 11:47 PM)
My window wells seem to be many things. They're not just a place for light to arrive into my otherwise stygian basement, or a method of allowing airflow into my house, should I elect to do so. Apparently, they're also a hotel for toads (which isn't all that uncommon), a suicide option for mice, and now they're a place where retarded chipmonk's go to die.

I usually take a peek into them to see the wildlife menagerie as I'm mowing. Today was different, because I saw a gaunt, infant, reticulated chipmonk staring back at me, chirping for it's mother. I figured that I'd just give the little blighter a ramp to get out on, so I went to the garage and got a small board.

I returned some time later to find that he had not moved. I was certain that he must have lost both his crash helmet and his short-bus pass at this point. I knew that his only hope was a corpulent human who was affected by his plight - alright, and his cuteness.

So, I went and got a small rake. I flipped it over, and attempted to corner him. Obviously this was foreign to him, as he (predictably) freaked out and began his vain attempt to avoid the interfering implement. Perhaps he was all set on dying at this point. I cannot say.

After ten fruitless minutes of this, something changed. I could have sworn that I heard a small 'ding!', as on this attempt he finally seemed to get the idea that I was almost assuredly not attempting to eat him and proceeded to cautiously climb on the tines of the rake to be airlifted to safety.

He scampered away without a second glance, looking for his frantic mother, no doubt. The mother who I had seen all over my front yard (and in my garage) scampering and chirping for minutes on end.

My name is Heath: I rescue chipmonks. I wonder if I should get a t-shirt or something?

(06/20/08 - 11:48 PM)
Two cows are standing in a field, grazing. One cow looks to the other and asks, "Hey - how about that mad cow disease? Scary, huh?"

The other cow looks at the first and says, "Yeah, but what do I care - I'm a helicopter."

(06/19/08 - 10:02 PM)
I received one of those "Rate your purchase" e-mails from Amazon.com the other day, and I decided that this one could not go unanswered. Specifically, I received a book that was in perfect condition, except that the layered printing was fatally flawed.

So, I gave it a single star, and wrote something akin to, "This product was fatally flawed, and I can't believe that the seller did not notice or mention it." I then went on to say that, no, I would not buy from this seller again, as they had mis-represented their product. I mean, if I could see the flaw two seconds after opening the book, how had they missed it? This was the response I received:

"I want to apologize for the disappointment my mistake caused. I was very upset to read your feedback. In no way would my wife or I ever try to deceive a customer or misrepresent a book. We just don't do that. We have maintained a 100% rating over the last three years and are extremely concerned about providing the best we can. Please read our recent feedbacks and consider the level of service we provide to our book buyers.

I am especially upset that you did not follow Amazon's guidelines that specify before feedback is placed on a sellers public record, because of a problem, and certainly one that financially impacts their business, it is necessary to review the problem with the seller first to determine the true cause of the problem and see what remedy they will provide.

I'm assuming the use of the book you were mentioning was for a recent book signing. We sent a number of books out for that.

I believe I sent you the jacket that features a gargoyle's face surrounded by leaves with the title letters in silver (known as the gargoyle or silver variant, there is also a variant with gold lettering). If the dust jacket printing was so offset it's surprising I missed it. I packed your book and just didn't see it, thats all. If you had contacted me when you first discovered the problem I would have overnighted a replacement to you at no extra cost.

I still want to work to set things right for you. If you like, I can go ahead and order you a replacement, a first printing fine/fine in the silver variant. The dust jacket can be used on the original book. If you like, I can have it sent here for inspection first and to put a dust jacket protector on. You are welcome to keep the original book. There is no extra charge for a replacement.

I will easily admit that I missed what sounds like a very noticeable flaw, but cannot accept being accused of deception. I wish you would reconsider and revise your feedback to reflect the true nature of the cause of the mistake and appraise our response to remedy it. Please let me know if you would like me ship you a replacement book and confirm which variant of the dust jacket you would need."

Sounds like a sincere, passionate plea from a person who had made an honest mistake, right? Here's the problem, though: If you RATE a book, the implication is that you have EXAMINED the book, and therefore reached that particular rating based on your findings. Imagine that you're a land purchasing agent for a company that mines gold. Now imagine that you buy a place called "Bob's Gold Mine" in Colorado. You move all of your equipment out there to beging your digging, only to discover that it's a Strip Club. Whoops! This would be an easy mistake to make if you:

A.) Assumed That The Name Reflected The Item
B.) You Had Not Thoroughly Investigated The Place Before Making An Intuitive Decision About It

What I mean is: If you believe the book to be perfect, just because it's new, then you haven't really examined it, which means that you are in no position to judge it for sale. This - and only this - should be the beginning and the end of the argument. So, yes, I still stick to my statements of misrepresentation because this seller chose to assume condition, rather than truly assessing it. And this happens to me a lot. I once had a seller who admitted to simply recycling a description of a book - including grading and flaws - as a matter of convenience for himself.

So, nice guy that I am, what did I do? I removed the offending rating after receiving this impassioned e-mail. I then wrote back:

"I can't express how impressed I am with your e-mail. Each year, I purchase hundreds of books from dozens of vendors, and I can't tell you how often books are not as described. I have corresponded with several individuals with their pulse on the industry in recent past about this phenomena, and it seems to be more about individuals acquiring forgiveness, rather than asking permission (i.e. - it's easier to ship what one has, and hope for the best, then to be 100% honest about its' condition and not sell it.) I have experienced these sorts of issued from mom and pop operations, all the way up to $1,000+ books from the likes of >Big Sci-Fi Seller's Name Omitted<. And it's rampant.

What I will say, is this: I wrote the feedback while at work. I rarely write feedback, but I was so dissappointed I felt it was warranted. I didn't even know that there were guidelines for feedback (I'm not one to hunt such things down.) Further, I get tired of the cumbersome task of return shipping book after book to vendors whose wares were not as described - especially when I am not fully reimbursed for said shipping costs.

I have removed the negative feedback, as your empassioned letter clearly shows that this was an honest mistake among many others that may be questionable.

I did indeed receive the Gargoyle variant, and would actually like another copy. The reason I elected to keep the copy was (strangely enough) simply so that my wife could begin reading it. She was so excited about getting it, I just didn't want to disappoint her.

I would be happy to rectify this situation however you see fit, in a manner that is the most cost-effective for you.

Further, if you have a mailing list of new arrivals, I would like to be on it. I hope that we may do business in the future, and I hope that future transactions go a bit more smoothly. On the bright side, I truly appreciate individuals who are passionate about what they do, and furthermore understand the value of amazing customer service.

My humble apologies, and I wish you all the best."

There. I extended a whole olive tree - not just a branch. I hope that they learned their lesson, and I looked forward to a prompt response. Guess what never came?

>SIGH< The moral: Stick to your guns on stuff like this. If I have learned nothing from being a manager, I have certainly learned that one cannot change highly-engrained actions in individuals, and that appears to be the problem here.

It's been days now, with still no response. Maybe they'll respond. Maybe not. I still can't help but think that I should have simply left the feedback intact and in place.

(06/18/08 - 11:15 PM)
My cousin Sara is finally getting married. I can't believe that it took her fiancee this long to propose.

(06/17/08 - 10:02 PM)
Joe Abercrombie was a name that I had never heard of, but I had come across more and more. He had recently wrapped up a trilogy called, "The First Law", and I figured I would give it a go. If it was so acclaimed and prominent, then perhaps there was something to this one.

I did my homework, and learned that Gollcanz in London had published the originals in their hardcover form. Of these, there were supposedly roughly 1,000 of each of the three titles printed. The majority of those went to libraries (i.e. - they were made worthless right out of the gate). I further found that a handful of each title had been issued, and had subsequently been signed, lined and dated on the date of publication. These were rarer still. I knew then what I must find.

I chose some unorthodox avenues in my search, and actually found the first book in this condition for $80.00. The beauty was that this was a $400.00 book, but I found a copy mis-categorized on Amazon by a seller who most likely had sat on it since it was actually worth $80.00 due to his miscategorization. The other two books proved far more difficult and had to be brought in from across the pond. In fact, I could only find one available signed, lined and dated copy of book two at the time of my search.

So, the set was complete. I began reading. It started out like most novels: We wonder where we are and we wonder what the climate of the times are. This was put to rest shortly, as the multiple storylines began to unfurl (later, to intertwine). About three chapters in I felt like I was, once more, onto something extremely special. Abercrombie's ability to describe the most mundane things in clear and concise terms is a rare gift.

The story centers around a once great society (called simply 'The Union') in a state of decline. The King is no longer in his right mind, the Inquisition is clearly manipulating the decisions, and there is a massive power struggle within the ranks. To the North and South, once vanquished foes have grown strong during the Union's time of inner turmoil.

In alternating storylines, we follow the tedious existance of Sand dan Glotka, former soldier extrordinaire and devil with the ladies turned broken young man at the hands of enemy torturers. Glotka heads the inquisition in the capitol city of the Union, and is a master of getting what he needs to survive from those around him.

Jezal is a member of the King's army, who is a fencing master but has no clue how the real world around him works.

Logen Ninefingers is a berserker reaching retirement age, whose companions in the North believe him to be dead. He is taken to the fortress of Bayez, a strange figure claiming to be a centuries old mage - the first mage - reaching back to the time when demi-gods roamed the planet.

The story lines go on and on, but somehow nothing feels tacked on. It's rare that I can follow this many characters and this many storylines and not get lost, or at the very least disillusioned. Abercrombie is a master of weaving a deep tale of intrigue, politics, suspense, horror, magic and action. I've never read anything quite like this book, and on the heels of Rothfuss' "The Name Of The Wind" the odds of finding another five-star candidate are nearly impossible.

But, here we are. I can scarcely believe it myself, especially with as stingy as I am with highly-rating a book, but this is one of the single best works that I have ever encountered. I would caution that it is very graphic and is not for the faint of heart, but on the whole it's an amazing and riveting read that won't soon be forgotten. I can't find a single bad thing to say about this work, in hindsight.

(06/16/08 - 8:18 PM)
I finally broke down and ordered one of those 'hands-off' cat litter boxes tonight. It has cassettes of litter, rather than those automated scooper arm things that look like they would shred your cat to ribbons if he or she so much as glanced backward at their dirty deed.

The casettes seemed a little on the expensive side, until I thought about what I was paying for cat litter each month. Then it seemed like a no-brainer. I'll let you know how this goes when it arrives.

(06/15/08 - 11:32 AM)
Greetings blog-o-philes! It is I, Plinky the House Elf! Today, Master Heath has informed me, is Father's Day. As such, Master Heath and Mistress Wanda have each gone to see someone different, which I don't entirely comprehend as I thought they were brother and sister. I only assumed as much, as I see a great many brother and brother, and sister and sister teams buying and reonvating homes and so forth on all of those how-to channels. I wonder how that works?

At any rate - Father's Day! I was unaware that such a day existed. As I did my research, I made a startling discovery: I have no father.

I'm... fine... with... it... I... suppose... and... BWAAAAAAAH!!!! Daddy! Where is my daddy?!


Alright, alright. I'm a bit more composed now. I can accept the fact that I have no father. As such, I have decided to turn a negative into a positive by choosing a father-figure for myself. After much research, I have chosen a man called Rip Taylor (nee, Charles Elmer Taylor, Jr.) He appears to be everything that I could wish for in a Father figure.

Holy Mackerel!

So, to you all, I wish you a happy Father's Day. I'll let you know how Rip turns out as a Father figure, but I'm sure he'll be amazing.

(06/14/08 - 10:03 PM)
My wife posed an interesting question to me (a former Catholic) this evening. Specifically, she wanted to know why demonic posession only seemed to happen to Catholics.

I honestly had no good or viable answer, and had to admit that nearly everything I had ever seen about the phenomena centered around a plagued Catholic, and the Catholic priests' rites of exorcism.

Interesting question, and prescient insight, indeed. Of course, I had an answer anyway:

"You see, dear. Catholics need attention. That's why the Pope wears that huge mitre and carries a large staff. He wants to be noticed."

Which is patently false, but what else could I say? You have to take funny as it comes.

(06/13/08 - 11:12 PM)
I was out mowing my lawn this evening, when out of the corner of my eye I saw one of my employees pull up in his car. He exited with another, younger man in tow whom I had never seen before.

As they approached, I noted that the young man had a clipboard and an identification of some sort around his neck. Hmmm...

"This is my Boss," says my employee. All I could think was, 'I have a name, and we're not at work.' What I said was, "Hello. Pleased to meet you", while shaking the young mans' hand.

"This guy says that he will give me a free alarm system for my house, and all I have to do is put a sign in my yard. Is this a good deal?", my erstwhile employee enquired.

I replied that I had no idea if it were a good idea or not. Alot depended on the verbiage within the contract, and I had not read the contract.

"Well, you work for >Alarm company who sucks and I wouldn't be caught dead working for<, so I thought that you might know."

I replied calmy that, in fact, I only helped out a bit on the computers for Security Alarm Co. (as I eyed the large sign perfectly aligned within his sightline, near the door of my home) but that I did know a few things and would be happy to help in any way that I could.

I realized that no one was leaving until I had this situation resolved. Now, some people might be taken off guard by such a thing as this, but I work in an environment where I have to problem solve on my toes, so I began at the beginning.

I asked about a monthly monitoring fee. Turns out, there is one, and it's about 33% higher than the going rate of Security Alarm Co. And, it turns out, that this had not been discussed between either of them prior to their finding me.

I next asked about the equipment. The brand name was less than desirable. There was only one glass break point (I would prefer two) and the system did not include fire. The upside was that it did include wireless components and entrance fobs.

As we parsed out the situation, my employee got more than skittish. I tried to allay his fears, by being circumspect about the situation.

"Look," I summarized, "It's essentially a matter of priority an preference. If you go this route, you're getting alot of equipment, plus installation, for free. The downside is that you will eventually pay for it via the 33% inflated monthly fee. So you have to ask yourself if you would prefer to have a large outlay of cash to get precisely what you want, and then pay a lower monthly fee, or whether you would prefer a higher monthly fee to avoid the initial outlay of cash."

Now my employee was downright squeamish, as he said, "Oh man, I don't know; this sounds like a scam to me."

What was irritating about this is that it was not a scam, it was merely a matter of numbers and priority. In fact, I had gone out of my way to be objective about the situation, and frame it in a fair and reasonable light for what it was - a sales pitch.

Apparently, all of that objectivity was lost. I suggested that, if he were truly serious about getting a system, that he take this young man's information and then do his homework. He may, in fact, find that this was the perfect thing for him at the end of his inquiries. I then asked the young man if this was an acceptable solution, and whether my friend had to make up his mind right this minute. I was amazed to see relief in the eyes of the now jilted salesperson.

I think, on the whole, he at least appreciated my objectivity.

(06/12/08 - 11:46 PM)
I couldn't find anything in the late night lineup to divert my attention tonight, and I was too tired to read. My answer? The occasional Hail-Mary checking of the listings on the old-timey movie networks.

I found a movie that seemed promising, if not absurd called, "Westward the Women", a 1951 film about a wagon train of mail-order-brides who were on their was to California in the old west.

Apparently, according to IMDB:

"Denise Darcel's French-language dialog includes a few words which prove that no one in the 1950's version of the Hays Office understood French. Some of the terms she used while angry at Buck Wyatt would never have gotten past the censors in English.

All the rifles used in the film are single shot, M1867 Remington Rolling Blocks. As the model number suggests, they hadn't been invented until 16 years AFTER the the year (1851) the film portrays. All Pistols used are the Colt SAA 1873 (Single Action Army) in various barrel lengths (4.5" - 6.5"). The only pistols available at that time were single shot percussion (cap & ball) and Colt percussion revolvers such as the Colt 1851 Navy."

All in all it was a little goony in spots (alot, actually) but it wasn't a total loss.

(06/11/08 - 11:35 PM)
Here's something new: Individuals Whom I Admire

(06/09/08 - 11:08 PM)
I had recorded the first installment in a new series called, "When We Left Earth", which centers around the various major programs that NASA has concluded over the years, beginning with the Mercury 7.

It was actually a great show. The only problem was that the weather and my DVR had apparently been dueling while it had been recording late at night. The result was the ramp up to a mission, then the interesting part of the mission missing due to signal loss, and finally the comments about how amazing it was, and how lucky these guys were to be alive. The problem was, I was missing the cream filling of the show, while only receiving the dry sandwich cookie halves. It was maddening.

It became clear that I was truly hosed by the TV Gods themselves as mission after mission unfolded like this: Liberty Bell 7; Friendship 7; and on and on. Ramp up, digital jumble of nothing, aftermath. The pattern continued with startling regularity. I was nearly in awe, by the end, that the timing could be that eerily perfect.

(06/08/08 - 11:21 PM)
I watched a television program tonight that focused on the hardships of living and working near the Arctic circle. There was an individual who had been injured seriously, and was in the process of being flown to a place that had an airport so that he could be moved to a hospital for proper care. There was just one problem: The weather would not permit it.

As it turned out, there was a fellow with a cargo plane in a nearby city who could take the man, but there was one hitch. You see, he was piloting a cargo plane, and regulations stated that he was not to take passengers. This good Samaritan was not to be deterred, however. Below is what this proud, puffed up individual said to the camera:

"We're strictly a cargo plane, so we're not allowed to take on passengers - ever. But I got special permission from the FDA to take on this passenger for just this one time. We'll get him to a hospital."

Now, the guy was obviously proud to have helped, and excited to be recognized on television. As the pilot of the plane in question, he was saving the day. Has anyone seen the problem yet? Read his statement again. Go ahead, I'll wait.

See it yet? Yes? No? Okay, I'll spill it: Apparently this man had circumvented the Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA) and had gone straight to a higher authority - the Food and Drug Adiministration (the FDA) to assure that this injured man was allowed to fly.

I realize that this is a simple mistake, but I nearly peed myself laughing.

(06/07/08 - 11:40 PM)
We've all received them: E-mails from some imploring foreigner with bad grammer and even worse spelling pleading to right a wrong that has occured in their corrupt/war-torn/deceased loved one's country. They need our help. No one else will do. It is up to us, the faceless, nameless foreigner with an e-mail address like 'dale3_4evr@podunk.net' to save them from their plight. And who are we to discourage their brave attempt to be the singularly victorious little guy in the barracuda tank that we call the world?

Alright, seriously. I've seen these things for years, and I actually never get tired of them. Specifically, because they're so ridiculous and hilarious. About a year ago, Wired magazine ran an article from a contributor who decided to see precisely how far he could take the ruse. He made himself look like a mulleted 'she' with bucked teeth (God bless photoshop) and began corresponding with a Nigerian ne'er-do-well.

The whole thing was interesting, as far as it went, but I never thought too much more about it.

Early this year, MSNBC decided to take the ruse one step further by providing one of their journalists an expense account and sending him out into the world to attempt to meet - and film - these shadowy figures pleading for help in the releasing of millions of dollars that by all rights should be free to roam the commercial world.

This was something new, so I figured I'd watch it. I won't bore you with the specifics - they're pretty much what you would expect. What I'm most interested in pointing out is one of the final summation points of the show. Toward the end, our intrepid reporter (all in one piece) is speaking with a representative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are discussing how to combat these fiends, as these e-mails are a rampant plague on America (apparently.) The F.B.I. man solemnly shakes his head, and then says in a somber tone, "Educating the American people is the only way to stop these guys. Until then, we don't have the resources to do so."

And this, dear readers, brought me up short. Why?, you might ask. Specifically, my question was this: Are there really people who believe that by blindly corresponding with a poor spelling, grammatically abhorrent personage of unknown origin via a blind e-mail that they will somehow be privy to tens of thousands to millions of dollars for essentially doing nothing? I mean, are people really being bilked by this?

The answer, in a nutshell of stupid, is YES. Apparently, it's a huge problem. People everywhere just can't seem to wait to give up their hard earned money to these shysters in the hopes of a colossal return.

Now I became angry, but probably for all the wrong reasons. How - HOW - can we, as a people, say with a straight face that we need to use valuable resources to educate individuals that e-mails such as this are a scam? Further, how can we do so while openly admitting that funding is not available to go after these guys?

The answer is clear: If we weren't stupid, there would be no one to go after, because no one would attempt this sort of fraud. Instead, we paint a picture not of greedy, retarded, Americans but one of the meek victim of a faceless international crime.

Are you serious? Listen: If we're so greedy AND stupid AND willing to part with our hard-earned cash, then I say let the scammers have it. Who knows what we would do with it anyway. We'd probably just blow it on miracle weight-loss cures and magnetic or crystalline body enhancers.

If America is truly this stupid, then I once again say: We are doomed. The upside? The scammers were unwittingly taken in by a man whose alter-egos were named "Jim E. Dimoni" and "Rich Greenback". So, maybe they're not too brilliant either. I guess it doesn't matter, so long as they're smarter than the sucker on the other end. And as P.T. Barnum said...

(06/06/08 - 10:53 PM)
"Hard Sell" is the first Piers Anthony book that I have read since I was twelve and read "Chimera's Copper" while on vacation one year. Mr. Anthony is one of those prolific authors I figured I'd re-discover sooner or later, and it would have been later, had I not stumbled across the synopsis for this book while searching for something else.

The book surrounds Fisk Centers, a successful individual approaching his twilight years who one day receives a phone call from an outfit called Mars Limited. He has been chosen to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase real estate in what will be a utopian development on Mars soil. The catch? The development is a decade away from completion, and the developer requires start-up funds, so they are contacting individuals such as he to purchase at a discounted rate in the near term. And the possibilities for payback in the future are endless.

Fisk is notably suspicious, but his short-lived research and the high-pressure salesmanship of the rep are enough for him to sink his entire life savings into the venture. Which, about four minutes later, turns out to be a mistake.

We then follow Fisk through his next few years, as he attempts to regain his retirement money by working in jobs that are much akin to the one held by the individual who took his money in the first place. The difference is that Fisk has a conscience that gets in the way of his making any real money.

The book points out the absurdity of the concept of scams themselves - and makes even more fun of the fact that they actually work. While certainly a unique read, it isn't something that I recommend. Often, the book seemed to encroach upon the world of the implausibly absurd. Couple that with the feeling of having been written over a weekend (it flowed, and it was consistant, but it had no soul) and you soon see the problem.

I'll give Anthony another shot, just as soon as I can figure out which series to begin with. With eighty-some odd books out there, it might be more of a challenge than I imagine.

(06/05/08 - 10:36 PM)
With the acquisition of Spinal Tap's "Break Like The Wind" CD, I have now eclipsed 18,000 mp3's today. Truly, a glorious day for music hoarders everywhere.

(06/04/08 - 11:12 PM)
You'd think that by now, the whole bed saga would be over. That I couldn't possibly have any more egregious screw-ups to report. You'd be dead wrong on that point. For you see...

I received a call on my radio at work today. There was a phone call for me. So, I dropped what I was doing on the work floor, and headed into the office. I stopped to wash my hands. I went in. I picked up the phone. Who was on the other end?

Why, the guy who sold me my bed, of course! He just wanted to follow up to make sure that I was just enjoying the hell out of my new bed! I explained that, yeah, it was super-teriffic. Then I asked if he often called people at work to ask such things. He said that he just called the number that he had, which was a line of crap, because he had left a message on my home answering machine only the evening before.

He then asked how the delivery went, and I then realized that he didn't have a clue about what had happened. So, I explained that the deliveries, plural, had finally happened, at any rate. He mused aloud as to how we could have received only half a bedding set. I believe his exact words were, "You're kidding! What a bunch of idiots!"

I then let him know that that bunch of idiots had stated that all of the ensuing trouble begun when he had neglected to manually add the mattress to the delivery order after it had arrived at the warehouse. He disagreed, by saying, "They blamed me? Man, that's harsh."

Sorry for the buzz-kill, Justin.

"But, hey, there's a bright spot!", he says. "We accidentially overcharged you $10.00 on your delivery fee, so you'll be receiving a $10.00 refund!"

That's just super-teriffic too! There's just one problem, Justin: The rebate forms have already been sent in. And on the forms, it basically says in legalese that if everything isn't flawless and perfectly matching, that I will not only not receive my refund, but I will not be contacted to let me know that it is not forthcoming, nor why it would not be. So, now, the delivery charges would not match when the rebate process was attempted. How would that affect my rebate, I asked.

Guess who didn't know. Okay, I'll tell you: It was the salesman. I knew you'd never guess.

I think that pretty much covers the entire experience pretty thoroughly. At every opportunity, a failure ensued. Not a single portion of the entire transaction was not flawed. From the initial purchase, to the delivery, to the rebate, to the credit application. NOT ONE.

The upside is that they're not selling military weapons or infant pharmaceuticals.

(06/03/08 - 10:08 PM)
Billy who? Steve Wiebe was always my Donkey Kong world record holder.

(06/02/08 - 10:53 PM)
Peter S. Beagle is a name I first ran across in the paperback foreward of "The Lord Of The Rings". I've seen his name a half-trillion times since then, but I never really paid attention. That was until Patrick Rothfuss listed his favorite book as being "The Last Unicorn" by same said author.

After reading Rothfuss, I figured that this book must be worth a look. As I searched, I found that since it's seminal printing in 1965, the book had been reprinted numerous times, and was eventually revisited in a 2007 Anniverary Edition with a coda to the original story called "Two Hearts". Further, Beagle is touted as, "The greatest living fantasy author."

So, I ordered up the book. I read the book. And I firmly disagree; staunchly disagree, in fact.

Specifically, it wasn't a bad book, per se. But, by the same token, it was not a terribly compelling one, either. Worse still, the environs that Beagle created felt naked and stark. As though a school play were happening before us, the reader, but we are only allowed to see the sets hanging uselessly above the stage, never to be called upon. And the characters, while somewhat three-dimensional, often felt detached and unreal; never fully fleshed out to their fullest capability. All of this considered, I can't abide that this - THIS - is Rothfuss' most treasured read (I'll never get that). And I certainly think that, for my money, Pratchett is the best living fantasy author of whom I am aware. He is prolific, funny, poignant and has memorable characters who seem to spring to life. Beagle, after reading this work, appears to be none of these. He almost achieves poignancy, but in my mind he never quite gets there.

The book itself surrounds a unicorn on a quest to find some of her kind. On her way, she realizes that perhaps her time, and the time of those like her, may be past. She meets up with some unlikely traveling companions, and they move straight away to the big, foreboding castle on the edge of the country to find her kin.

The problem is that the story jumps from scene to scene as though we are being hastily teleported through pockets of insignificant humanity who are supposed to have a bearing on the story, but simply aren't interesting enough to do so.

Perhaps I'm being overly critical. I don't know. What I do know is that I know what I like. And I don't much care for this one. I'll probably be branded as some sort of fantasy-pariah, as I disagree with individuals whose opinions I cannot believe are being put forth in oppostion to my own. It's a risk I'm willing to bear.

My verdict? If you hate everything else I recommend, then read this book. If you thought that "Stardust" was the pinnacle of Neil Gaiman's work, then you'll probably love this book. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and steer clear.

(06/01/08 - 09:48 AM)
Welcome to this Sunday's installment of "Heath Invents Humor Best Left Uninvented!" Today - the middle ages!

An outbuilding of a castle housed a group of seers once per week. Each week, the group of four would come, sit, and for a small contribution of a worthy sort would expound upon the futures of the peasants and nobility alike.

Week after week, the seers made prophetic - and correct - suppositions about the fate of the folk who inquired. One seer however - a seer named Bernie the Mediocre - oftentimes got things mixed up. Like the time he told the housemaiden that her husband was pregnant and her horse was screwing around.

The Chief Mage watched from week to week as Bernie's clientele went from a steady stream, to only the occasional newcomer too ignorant to know any better. Finally, the Chief Mage knew that he could allow no more. Especially after last week, when Bernie had only managed to bring in two copper pennies and a rather questionable couple of turnips.

After the days' session was ended, he took Bernie aside. "Bernie," he said, "I know that you truly love what you do. And I've allowed you to continue far longer than I ought to have. I'm afraid that you'll simply have to move on. I'm truly sorry."

Bernie was aghast, "I know I'm not the best seer, but I still bring in something. Isn't that worth anything to you?"

"It is, it is. It's just that... well... your prophet margins are just too low."

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