Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fighting fire with fire, with the help of mother

You may recall that a couple months back I went on a fast. Since then my body has been completely out of whack. Apparently my system was shocked by the absence of caffeine/beer/cheese, and then shocked again by the reintroduction of those very things. It’s easy to blame the fast, but it’s more likely the simple fact that I am getting older. I do, after all, have graying sideburns. That said, I’m sure it was the fast.

One of the things I have seemingly been confronted with is acid reflux. According to my doctor, a.k.a. the Internet, acid reflux happens when your stomach creates too much acid or whatever and it refluxes or something. The remedy is to take one of the drugs that I’ve seen on TV but never had any idea what it was for because I assumed, “I’m a young guy, I don’t need to pay attention to this.” Flomax? Dercatex? The one where the couple is taking a bath outside? Probably that one.

Anyone who knows me (post college) knows that I don’t like drugs. I prefer to do things the natural way, which in most cases is, “Wait until it goes away.” The acid reflux didn’t seem to be going away, so I researched some au natural remedies.

One home remedy involved having a glass of whole milk before bed. I haven’t had milk in years because the entire concept of milk disgusts me, but I braved through it. For about a week straight I downed a glass of milk before going upstairs to bed, slammed the glass on the counter and screamed, “Take that, acid!” It did nothing.

I needed to take it to the next level. According to my strenuous research, the most popular home remedy for acid reflux involved drinking apple cider vinegar. It couldn’t just be any vinegar, however. It needed to be the organic, non-pasteurized kind. Also, I need not be scared by “the mother.” I had no idea what that last part meant.

“Cool,” I thought. “Drinking vinegar … this is what my life has come to. I am 34.” It was also recommended that I drink it with a straw since vinegar is acidic and it wouldn’t be a good idea to be swishing it around in my mouth and what not. I did use the straw, but I think it still touched my teeth. I look forward to my next visit to the dentist when he says, “There are literally holes in your teeth. What happened?” And I’ll be like, “Fighting acid with acid, doc … please fill the holes, provided my insurance covers that.”

When my wife got home she saw that I was drinking vinegar through a straw and thought nothing of it, as she is an informed bystander of my war against body acid. Then she looked at the bottle and said, “Why does it say, ‘With the mother?’” and started laughing.

Yeah, so apparently organic apple cider vinegar contains “the mother,” which is described as floating matter that forms from the pectin and apple residue. It’s as attractive as it sounds. If any parts of the mother ever get through my straw I will probably throw up.

I can’t even really tell if drinking the vinegar is working or not. Is that body acid or vinegar acid? It should be mentioned that the most popular natural recommendation to combat acid reflux is to lower or eliminate caffeine intake. I think we all know that can’t happen, so here’s to vinegar! Cheers! Word to the mother.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Spam email of the week

Subject:   S?? services for your site

Hey, you know what the average person loves to see in his inbox on any given morning? Subject headers with an overabundance of random punctuation. Granted, this particular spam is pretty modest. They’re usually like:

Subject: ^^^YOU're.GERLFRIEND @SATISIFiED ???? biggerPENIS! awaits!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, to answer your question—was that a question?—no, I don’t need S?? services for my site. Actually, wait. Depends. What are S?? services?



I’ve found out that you’re interested in buying links to your site(s)

a) How the heck did you find out about that? I’ve told no one except … thanks a lot, Father Tom! So much for confidentiality. b) Your inside sources and investigative work are evident in the number of sites you are aware that I operate. c) What? Honestly, what does it mean to buy links for a site? I don't know what that is.

Am I right?

The weird thing is ... you ARE! But also, you are not, because I don't know what is happening.

If you’re not into it - sorry for bothering you,

Are you? Are you really? I do not think you are sorry. The "if you're not into it" part makes it sound as though you have invited me to an adventurous sexual escapade. Is purchasing "links" for my "site(s)" a metaphor? Which one am I?

but if you are - take a look at our offer, it might kindle your interest!

My interest was kindled a long time ago. You had me at "S?? services." On to the offer ...

We (a SEO company with lots of experience in link building)

Does your search engine optimization company have a name? I realize that many companies these days try to remain anonymous so as to limit the amount of exposure and money they bring in, but a name would help. Nevertheless, I do admire a nameless company that describes itself as having "lots of experience." How much can I can spend? Also, what is the offer again?

no matter whether it’s going to be high-quality permanent ones (packs of 10) or temporary ones (we have 1/3/6 months offers). Also, if needed, we provide SEO services for our clients.

That's interesting because just yesterday I was saying to myself, "You know, Mike, it's 2012. You should really consider buying links to your site(s). But what do I go for -- the high-quality permanent links, or the terrible-quality temporary ones? If the former, can I get a pack of 10 for crying out loud? Remember the time that guy gave you three links and you were like WHAT THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH AN ODD PACK OF LINKS? Seriously, get a clue, brah. If the latter, can I get a one-month plan? I'm not looking for a commitment here. And what if I need SEO services? Like if when I have to call customer service and be like, 'I accidentally lost my links, but before that happened I had no idea what to do with them.'" So this is all great stuff. To reiterate, my interest has been kindled. So ... what is the offer?

Let us know if you are ready for collaboration or have any questions.

Okay yeah so I AM READY FOR COLLABORATION. I do have some questions, namely: all of them. Including all of the questions listed above like "What is the offer?" and also a new one entitled, "What is going on right now?"

Best regards,


Best regards? Ha, you can shove your measly "kind regards" up your butt, Lewis Tony!

Anyways, yes, please sign me up for a bunch of links for my site(s) or whatever. Charge it to the game.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One man’s humble attempt to rid the world of junk

Part of my job here at the newspaper is determining which of the emails I receive are useful and important and which of them are terrible and pointless. If I had to put a ballpark figure on it, I would say that 96 percent of the emails I get fall into the latter category.

Email has been around long enough that we as a society have simply accepted junk email for what it is. It’s considered not even worth our time to ponder the unimaginable pointlessness of it all. Junk email has become a necessary evil that people just deal with. Dare I have the gall to say: Let us not do that anymore.

I’m not talking about junk email in the sense of, you purchased an item on Overstock and mistakenly forgot to unclick the box that reads “Send me updates and offers!” and everyday you receive 800 emails from Overstock and all attempts to unsubscribe from the email list only seem to feed it and make it angrier until your inbox is flooded with coupon offers and you have to completely change your email address just escape, only … they still find you. No, I’m not talking about that. Nor am I talking about the junk that tells you you’re junk isn’t big enough. I’m talking about when you receive an email that it literally written in Japanese.

Every other day I receive an email that is in Japanese. When I click on it just so I can delete it, I get a pop-up box that reads, “Would you like to install the translator program?” Yes, definitely. I would like to install yet another program on my hard drive so that I can read this email, which is obviously relevant to me since it was sent in Japanese. It’s probably an old friend of mine from Japan, where I have never been, telling me about a very important thing I should I know about my job at the newspaper here in the U.S. All of this is worth my time and attention.

But at least emails in Japanese are obvious junk. My duties here at the newspaper include placing classified ads, which has opened up an entirely new level of junk email. These are emails that can range from absurdly weird to vicious attempts to advertise using stolen credit card info. It is my job to determine which emails are real and which are junk. Here is a hint: they are all junk. (Note: If you are a real person and I’ve failed to place your classified ad, my bad.)

To wit:

Hello, Please i will like to Run A Personal Assistant Ad on your next issued Paper and Online.I Should have call you before sending you an e-mail but am deaf That's why am using this medium email to make my Inquiry.please  get back to me as soon as possible. 

I enjoy the implication that email is mainly for deaf people. Clever appeal to my softer side, spambot, but I don’t think being unable to hear adversely affects punctuation and capitalization.

Emails such as this go out en masse to our whole office, so my co-workers, thinking, “Oh, this deaf person email must be Mike’s,” forward it to me. I received that fake email 20 times.

I don’t have time for this. And honestly—what is junk email? Where does it come from and what does it mean and why does it exist? More importantly, it should not exist. I am on a one-man crusade to end junk email for good. I am doing this by featuring junk emails I receive on my blog and making fun of them. Hopefully, whoever is responsible for junk email will notice this, feel embarrassed and ashamed, and stop. And please, I am not a hero. Well, kind of. Anyway, if you’d like to join me, stop by the blog or send me your best junk, so to speak.

Note: This column appears in the 7/26 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/27 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spam email of the week

Subject: AD CONTENT...I need pricing estimate

I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but it seems like someone has some AD CONTENT that he needs a pricing estimate for. That someone? None other than our old friend who I've never heard of/from before and two-first-name-having gigolo, Ken Stewart. (Note: The period there is not to end the sentence; Ken Stewart. ends in a period, according to Ken Stewart.((.))).



We are pleased to inform you


that we are interested in placing the recruitment advertising

Oh. I guess that is also exciting, that I would have some work to do, were this email not spam.

with your newspaper publications today and I would be so glad if you can quote me to place the below employment ad content in your newspaper for 3 weeks in print and 30 days for the online categories.

First all, take a breath, Ken Stewart. Also, will it really make you so glad -- so glad -- if I can quote you on an ad? If so, you should find a ladybot, go out, have a drink, see a show, whatever. Also, the fact that you know the name of our newspaper is "newspaper publications" shows that you have done your research, so you've got my attention. By the way, so you know, our online categories are "boats," "news," "purple," "recruitment," "cats," "Asia?," and "lifestyle." Your ad will fit nicely into all of them.


"Assistance needed?" AD COPY: I have fallen and I cannot get up. Please send someone.

We are looking for an Office Assistant.

An office assistant is not a personal assistant. Totally different things, for the record. I feel like this may confuse potential candidates.

Duties include greeting clients,

"Pfft. Who do I look like, Greeter McGreeterson?" -- Unqualified person

answering phones, and routing mail, data entry and retrieve,

"Johnson! Retrieve that data that I previously asked you to enter!"

"But boss, I don't remember where I put it!"


scheduling and calender maintenance,Ideal candidates will have proven customer service skills in an administrative setting and experience with Microsoft Office applications email resumes to

I just want to say that a period would go nicely somewhere in there, mostly to specify that the candidate need not have experience in email resumes.


I won't give away the email, but the first part of the address is "openingposition" and it's a gmail account. Seems like a good place to send over a bunch of personal information.


Please, idiots, only email your resumes if you are interested in the position. Ken Stewart. does not have time to sift through a bunch of resumes from people uninterested in the fake position for which they are not really applying. Geez.

Await to read back from you soon.

Thank You,
Ken Stewart.

Your wait is over, Ken Stewart.! Read this: This ad will cost sixty-eight hundred Euros to appear in newspaper publications for a period of eight nonconsecutive weeks. Please mail me your credit card and I will it swipe it through my butt, achieving the same level of pointlessness as this email.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Inspiring T-shirt transcends everyday moral struggle

Few things spark my internal moral struggle more than the beggar on the side of the road.

When I was a young boy, my mom took us into NYC and gave us each $10 to spend. That was a crazy amount of money for a little kid to be working with, and my mind raced with the possibilities of what I should buy. A bootleg VHS of “Goonies?” Eh. The Yankees? Maybe.

As the day progressed, nothing seemed to strike my fancy. It’s possible my expectations were simply too high; even as a kid I could recognize that everything being sold on the street was junk. As we walked along, we approached a table where a woman was collecting money for the homeless in an empty water container. Something just felt completely right about investing my money there, and my decision was immediately justified by the woman’s over-the-top reaction. My mom was proud.

Since then, I’ve always had a soft spot for the person begging for cash. Although the empathy has remained, as I’ve grown older my naïveté has dwindled. God only knows where my $10 went that day. Hopefully to the homeless, although it just as well may have gone towards a complex underground scheme to assassinate a foreign dignitary, in which case … sorry, everyone.

That feeling of confusion resurfaces every time I encounter a beggar at a red light, which happens fairly often these days, unfortunately. On one hand, I am reminded of the Gospel message in which Jesus commands us to take care of the least of our brothers. On the other hand, is this money going towards food, drugs, or what? We are called for charity, yes, but we are also called to be stewards of where our money goes. On the other, other hand, man, I am busy. I can’t be giving money away AND following its path, ya’ know? You want to buy crack instead of a cinnamon roll? I’m sorry, that one’s on you.

Sometimes the beggar himself helps sway my decision. An old man in ratty clothes standing in the 100-plus-degree heat with a sign that reads “VET” usually gets me to roll down the ol’ window. A dude younger than me wearing decent clothes holding a sign that reads “Need $ to start my new company”—exactly what I encountered at the corner of 83rd and Union Hills a few weeks ago—usually gets me to roll my eyes. If Begging, L.L.C. goes public one day, color me stupid.

Last weekend something happened that, quite surprisingly, rid me of all these paradoxical notions. We were on our way to a social function for my wife’s job. We exited the 51 on Cactus and as we waited at the light, a man slowly approached my car. My wife, looking but not staring, said, “Oh … my … gosh,” then turned away to hide her laughter. As he came into view, it was revealed the man was wearing a T-shirt that read, between Greco-Roman columns, “Behold: Fartacus.” My decision was made. I rolled down the window and gave him some change.

I regretted not giving him more. I’m not even sure now if he was begging; he may have just been walking around. It seems all of my inner struggles are diffused when you appeal to my dumb, immature, sense of humor. 

I don’t know if there’s a lesson in here or what. I really just wanted to tell everyone that this happened. Thank you.

Note: This column appears in the 7/19 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/20 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Classic card of the week

Kent Tekulve, 1989 Score

Kent Tekulve was a submarine pitcher who wore Blue Blockers when he pitched. Did it add an allure of mystery and even fear to his performances? I don’t know, let’s ask this card.

Kent, a veteran submarine reliever who strikes fear in the hearts of righthanded hitters


In all seriousness, I honestly do not know how major league ballplayers are able to read submarine-style pitches. Personally, I would just stand there and hope for a walk, all the while fuming that this fluky pitching motion is causing me to stand there and wait for a walk. I would also be deathly afraid that every pitch was going to hit me, but then again, I would probably feel that way about every pitcher, which is one reason I am not a major league ballplayer (another reason: talent).

Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say with regards to Mr. Tekulve …

Tekulve is well known for showing off his 1979 World Series ring, which he won while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

You really have to show something off a lot to get a reputation for doing so, and I am skeptical as to how Wikipedia came to this biographical conclusion.

Wikipedia writer: Hello, Mr. Tekulve. I was hoping to ask you a few questions about your life for our free online encyclopedia …

Tekulve: Sure thing, young fella’! Shakes writer’s hand. Sorry for the clunky handshake, got my ’79 Series ring on today!

Wiki writer: Can you believe this guy? Writes notes furiously.

Tekulve: Are you talkin’ to me? What are you writing?

First of all, Tekulve posted a 2.75 ERA in 92 innings pitched in ’79. He also posted three saves in the World Series—a record until John Wetteland broke it in ’96—including the game-winner. If Kent Tekulve wants to show off that ring, he should be able to do so as often as he pleases without any eye rolls, okay? If I were a scrub on a World Series-winning team who didn’t even make the postseason roster but got a ring anyway in a gesture of goodwill, you best believe I’d be showing that thing off as often as I could.

At the pool ...

Wife: You coming in?

Me: Don’t think so. Don’t wanna get my WORLD SERIES RING rusty. Looking around to see who heard.

Wife: Ugh. Why don’t you just take it off?

Me: Naa.

At church …

Me: Peace be with you! Sorry—got my World Series ring on. Yeah, I was on the team. Peace be with you! Okay, this handshake is lasting too long. Awkward. If you want to see my World Series ring, just ask, okay, buddy? Peace be with you! I’m going to shake with this hand, because I’m wearing my World Series ring on the other hand, and “Johnny-Shakes-Too-Long” over there thinks he’s an ex-ballplayer or something.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mom joins facebook; status update: confused

My mom joined facebook.

She did not do so in order to seek out old childhood friends, keep tabs on current ones, or have another avenue by which to monitor the growth of her granddaughter. No, she joined facebook so that she could register for a swimming event in preparation for a triathlon. Obviously.

To that extent, she joined facebook reluctantly. I have been trying to recruit my mom to facebook for a while, but she has always refused to do so. I’m pretty sure my dad has convinced her the site will cause the ultimate fall of Babylon and she best not be on the wrong side when it does. My in-laws also refuse to join. My mother-in-law saw one negative story about facebook on The Today Show and she now believes someone called “Marks Zuttenburg” invented adultery.

It’s not even that I think facebook is all that great. It can be annoying and redundant. It does, however, provide a convenient and consistent means of staying in touch. The fact that my parents and in-laws steadfastly refuse to join while the majority of the free world is on there only leads to conversations like this:

Mom: So what else … Oh, your cousin Cara took the kids to the zoo … was it last weekend? I can’t remember …

Me: It was two weekends ago. I saw the pictures on facebook. They pet a llama.

Mom: Oh. Okay. Ummm, did you hear about unc—

Me: Yep. Saw his facebook status. Doing well, should be back on his feet soon.

Mom: Oh. Thanks.

It wasn’t until my mom was forced to register for an event on its facebook page did she finally choose to sign up. My wife received a friend request from someone with my mom’s name but with no profile pic. Could it be? The next day I received my friend request, and I called her right away. There was confusion.

My parents have a distinct and mysterious way of defying the user-friendliness of technology. There is no technology so simple that they will not somehow run into a problem that nobody has heard of before. I had my dad download a running app on his iPhone and he somehow managed to set it up so that it tells him he ran 50 kilowatts when he walks to the bathroom.

Sure enough, my mom had questions. She was only joining to register for the event, and she didn’t know what to do with all the “friend messages” she was getting. I told her to just hit accept or ignore. She said that wasn’t an option. ? Then she asked me how to “do a status question for the swim page where the comments are” and my head exploded. There is basically nothing I can do to help her unless she flies out to Arizona.

Later that day I checked facebook and my mom had … I don’t even know how to describe it. I literally had never seen anything like it in my facebook life. It was a status update, maybe, that read:

(Mrs.) Kenny asks: This is my first tri-and new to Facebook! Just paid for the event and I’m totally confused. Help! Are these are all the same groups, is there a charge for each? Sorry! 

Her entire question was imbedded as a separate link and it was targeted at no one in particular. If Mark Zuckerberg saw what my mom did, he would say, “I didn’t even know you could do that.”

Amazingly, no one responded to this, and she still has questions about this swimming event. I do not think this experience will convince her to remain on facebook, and the more I think about it … it might be for the better.

Note: This column appears in the 7/12 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/13 issue of the Peoria Times.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Spam email of the week

Subject: Dear Ad Rep.

It's really the personal nature of spam emails that are so gracious and inspiring. This particular email was sent to every person in our office and forwarded to me approximately 38 times because no one here bothers to say, "Oh, this looks like absolute nonsense. I should delete it rather than forward it and sustain its existence." Nevertheless, the point is that whoever sent this was going to find an Ad Rep. by any means necessary, and I respect that. Also, I am not an ad rep.

Dear Ad Rep,

In case you felt misled by the subject header. The "Dear" is a nice, affectionate touch, although I do feel that the accuracy of spam emails would be improved were they all to begin, "Human:"

        I am  Lewis Tony

(Note: The random indentation is Lewis Tony's, not mine.) As a man with two first names, I find it offensive that so, so many spam emails are attributed to an absurd, two-first-name-having person. "Lewis Tony?" Really? ARE YOU MOCKING ME? Why not "Sam Bill?" Or "Vladimir Bart?" Or "Harry Mark?" Or "Timothy Tim?" Hey, I could write this stuff! If a spam robot is reading this, please call me, as I will like to join your team.

our company will like to place an AD

This company, of which the name is nowhere to be found, seems reputable. The grammar stylings of their CEO/public relations person/email sender-outer is consistent with a company I will like to do business with.

on your Site.do get back to me

The terrible grammar and random/lack of capitalization is one thing, but not separating sentences with a space is just ... that's English 101, Lewis Tony. Where did you even go to robot school? Iowa State? (Random burn.)

if you do accept Credit Card for payment

No, Lewis Tony. Our company does not accept credit cards for payment. We accept cash, personal checks from only people with two first names, IOUs, and Italian sausage as forms of currency.

so that i can supply you with my Advert Text Message.

As much I would love to be supplied with your inevitably nonsensical "Advert Text Message" advertising God-knows-what for nobody in particular, which will never be paid for because none of this is real, I am going to pass, Lewis Tony. I am going to pass by not responding to this email because I fear that if I do, my computer monitor will go blank, then feature a skull and crossbones, then explode.

Waiting to read from you.

That ... that doesn't make any -- what?

Kind Regards

Lewis Tony.

Kindest regards right back atcha, Louie. I'm sorry we won't be doing business, but my hope for you and your company is that one of the five billion people you have disserviced with this correspondence will be dumb enough to respond, and enable you to take one more step in whatever awful, illegal scheme you are fronting. Don't be dissuaded by the haters. That is my wish for you.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Brave father teaches tough love lesson on bed ownership

We went on a family getaway to Sedona last weekend. It was only a one-night stay, but one dilemma was the sleeping situation.

Our daughter still sleeps in her crib, but my wife and I are currently in discussions regarding a bed. In fact, my wife agreed to take a small bed our friends were looking to unload. When they came to drop it off I was like, “Okay, cool. Looks like our daughter will be sleeping in a bed now.” It turns out I was incorrect, not because our daughter is not ready for a bed, but because my wife is not ready, emotionally, for our daughter to be sleeping in a bed. I was told to put the new bed in the garage, although I could not do that because the garage is already filled to the brim with stuff my wife has agreed to take but that we are not ready for yet as a family.

Of all the things we took with us for the weekend, one thing we forgot to take was the portable crib. This would have been fine had I booked a room with one giant king bed, in which case my wife and I could have slept on opposite sides with our daughter safely in the middle. Instead, not thinking (surprise!), I booked a room with two smaller beds.

I was told decided that I would sleep in the bed with our daughter so that my wife could get a decent night’s rest, since our daughter is not exactly a peaceful sleeper. Besides, I figured this would be a great opportunity to prove to my wife that our daughter is ready for a big girl bed, and that she should get over her hang-ups and let me clear out the garage.

We were off to a great start. I had her right by my side and she was sleeping like an angel. Subconsciously I was on guard, so I kept waking up every twenty minutes to make sure she was okay. I woke up once and she had turned herself around, feet on the pillow. I woke up again and she was sideways grasping her stuffed puppy. I woke up again and she was all the way on the other side, dangling off the edge of the bed.

I wasn’t sure what to do. For one thing, I was in a sleep stupor, so my decision-making process was cloudy. I obviously didn’t want her to fall, but I also didn’t want to move her and risk waking her up, at which point she definitely would have started asking me to play and would have never gone back to sleep. I stretched out my arm and grabbed her hand to prevent her from falling. Problem solved. Then I fell back asleep.

Shortly thereafter I heard a bit of rustling. I opened my eyes. Our hands were slowly separating like the scene in Cliffhanger when Sylvester Stallone is trying to hold on to what’s-her-face. I lost my grip, and she disappeared off the bed. Boom. “Owie, owie!”

I reacted quickly. She luckily hit the ground cleanly, and I jumped into action, scooped her up and instantly brought her close to my chest. My wife, sound asleep until this very moment, awoke just in time to yell at me for having allowed this to happen.

Our daughter fell back asleep in her hero’s arms, unaware it was her hero’s fault in the first place. I mean hey, not every girl has a father like Sly Stallone, and that is something our daughter can be proud of when she is a teenager, sleeping in her crib.

Note: This column appears in the 7/5 issue of The Glendale Star and the 7/6 issue of the Peoria Times.