Friday, October 24, 2008

28 down, 9,092 to go.

Here's the problem I have today. I can't decide if my sweater is green or gray, and I can't ask anyone because then they'll think I'm crazy.

I got out my sweater this morning after looking at my sweater drawer and deciding this: I will wear the green sweater with little white squares on the front. I decided that because next in line to wear for work were my black pants (the test pants, the ones that if they get too tight I will go on a diet, but they're not too tight... yet) and the green sweater went with the Black Test Pants.

Then I left for work and later on I had to go to the doctor because Mr F might have broken my nose and deviated my septum back in January, leading me to treat that possibly-broken-deviated appendage in October, and as I walked out of the doctor's office with the news that, yes, my septum really, really is deviated (he said it was like a letter "C" but that's exaggerating), I looked at my sweater, and it was gray.

It was gray all the way back to my office and stayed gray throughout lunch but now, it's green again.

All of which leads me to listen to Robot Ponies by Laura Barrett because I was listening to it in the car, too, when my sweater was gray, so I thought that might maybe be connected.

"Down... to go" is me counting down my iPod songs, just like I did here. Click here to read about song 27.

Got a little more time? Read about why I'm so terrible at punishing the kids, in There is A Deterrent Effect But It's Not What You'd Imagine.


You'll just have to wait until after my vacation. Don't worry, I'll leave it pretty clean.

Everyone and their brother, it seems, has a site that will help you get hotels for cheaper these days. The problem with all of those sites is it requires that YOU do all the work, and who wants to do that for their vacation?

Enter "Rentalo," the website that lets you get vacation rentals for less -- less work, and less money.

Here's how Rentalo works: Go to their site, enter the city or area you're going to, and you'll get listings of the hotel, bed & breakfast, and other lodging options. Pick the dates of travel and kind of lodging, just like any other site, and you'll narrow the listings down to the ones that meet your criteria. From there, look at the ones you like, and if you think you want to know more or stay there, check the "click to inquire" box.

Still with me? See? It's easy.

Now here's where it gets different and better: you'll inquire by asking those hotels and motels to make YOU an offer to stay there -- and they know that the others are competing, too.

So you'll get lots of offers out of one click, and you'll get what the hotel believes is a competitive price and you can select the best deal from that.

How much easier could it be? Not much -- I suppose the people from the hotel could come out to your house and do the clicking for you, but that seems excessive, doesn't it?

What's nice, too, is it's not limited to just hotels -- you can find villas and apartments and bed and breakfasts, so whatever kind of vacation you want, you'll find a rental for it there.

I did a search there just now, looking for some stuff in the San Francisco area to take Sweetie on a little trip, and the hotels that came back were not only great, the offers were way more affordable than I'd thought, and cost less than any other sites I've seen. I ended up picking out this:

Which is way better than some junky motel, and not as expensive as I'd worried it was. You should check out the view, too -- but you won't be able to, because I'm gonna rent it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

27 down, 9,093 to go.

Here's exactly how it happened:

Sweetie asked me one day if I knew the song that had been featured in a preview of, or maybe an episode of CSI: How many of them are there, now, and I didn't, but I take those kind of things as a challenge, and also as a way to get out of doing housework, so I sat down and began searching on the Internet to find the song that she was thinking of (since most of my new music comes from TV and commercials anyway) and I promptly found it and said, "This is it. It's '9 Crimes,' by Damien Rice."

And she listened to it, and she said "No, that's not it."

And it was not, in fact, it.

But, even though it wasn't it, it was a very good song, and it's song number 27:

And, I didn't have to do the dishes!

Down... to go is me counting down all the songs in my iPod, while also offering little things like a test to determine how difficult your life is (with song 26!)

Got a little more time? Read why This Wouldn't Have Happened To Me If Men Were Able To Become Pregnant.

Children tormented by demons. An old man accidentally killing people. Witches who live hundreds of years and escape from Hell repeatedly. An astronaut drifting through space... these and other great stories can be found only on AfterDark: The scariest things, you CAN'T imagine.

The answer is "yes."

I have a rule of thumb when people ask me "Do I need a lawyer?" The rule of thumb is: "Yes."

That sounds too simple, but simple doesn't mean wrong. Here's what happens:

Situation 1: People say "Do I need a lawyer for this problem?" and I say "Yes." and they say "But it's not very complicated, so do I really need to go to the trouble of hiring a lawyer?" to which I respond: If it's not very complicated, a good lawyer will tell you that and it won't cost much to resolve your problem -- but you'll be assured the resolution is the right one.


Situation 2: People say "Do I need a lawyer for this problem?" and I say "Yes." and they say "But it's a really complicated problem, so won't I be paying a lot for a lawyer? to which I say "You might, but if it's a complicated problem, shouldn't you have professional help with it?"

I mean, here's the bottom line: If you have car troubles, you hire a mechanic. If your spleen hurts, you hire a doctor. And if you have legal troubles, get a lawyer! Whether it's personal injury or bankruptcy or workers' compensation, just hire someone competent to help you through the thicket of things you can't even begin to understand. Trust me: You will do better with a lawyer than without.

Especially if that lawyer is one of the
lawyers in Bowling Green KY employed by Flora Templeton Stuart. Flora, a lawyer for over 30 years, and her competent lawyers, can handle your accident, disability, or bankruptcy case in Tennessee and Kentucky, and can do so with the same attention to quality and detail that she and her lawyers have given to all their clients; her firm works hard for the people they represent and makes sure that they're taken care of -- from negotiating a good settlement to setting up trust funds, if you've found your way into their firm, you've found your way into hiring a good lawyer.

Take a few minutes to review their site, and learn about the lawyers they've got-- you can get the bios right there on the site. Wander through the kinds of personal injury cases they can handle -- semi accidents down to dogbites. And most of all, check out the frequently asked questions and client testimonials-- they'll show you you're in good hands, and that you've made the right decision in hiring a lawyer, and the right-er decision in hiring Flora Templeton Stuart.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'd also like a moat.

A sunken, walk-down living room, a big kitchen with a kitchen island and a skylight; a giant bathroom with a whirlpool tub (that's for Sweetie!), central air conditioning, a screen porch... and a tower with a spiral staircase leading up to a study filled with overstuffed leather chairs and an antique telescope.

That's the basic layout of my dream home. What do you think the odds are that I'll find a house exactly like that?

I'd say the odds are 100% -- if I build a home using Schumacher Homes. Schumacher Homes builds custom homes -- custom means, in builder-talk, the EXACT home you want, right down to the last detail. And while lots of builders promise custom homes, Schumacher Homes does something that most custom builders don't -- they build a custom home that's AFFORDABLE.

So whether your dream home includes a tower-study with a spiral staircase, or something a little more... normal, you should check out Schumacher Homes Louisiana or any of their other locations in lots of states.

And, hey, if Sweetie gets a whirlpool tub, I'm getting my tower.

How many sports blogs mention Nostradamus, The Beyonder, and the World Series, all in one post?

Even if you don't like sports-- and how could you not-- you'll love Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!

See, I like sports, but I was never much of an athlete and I get bored with all the stats and jock-talk and ordinary sports stuff that takes up so much of sports blogs and sports coverage.

So I don't talk about that. Instead, I talk about things like how that one lame season on Friends, Beanie Babies, and a comic book series help predict the World Series winner.

Or I mention that Al Davis, the owner of the Raiders, is a genius even though his team keeps on losing.

And I invented "Whodathunkit?", the only sports column anywhere that tells you what you really want to know about sporting events -- forget stats; what you really want to know is which Phillies' pitcher is married to which former Survivor 'star,' and what that 'star' did for peanut butter, right? Or how Lisa Loeb's planet song figures into the playoffs?

So read Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!-- even if you don't like sports, you'll love Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!

Monday, October 20, 2008

They'll help you even when Bernanke and Paulson won't.

With the hard times continuing for everyone EXCEPT the investment banks, it's more important than ever to deal with your credit card debt. Credit cards companies are tightening up credit, and that doesn't just mean that they're going to not issue new cards; it means they're taking a harder look at the accounts they do have and trying to wring money out of them: more late fees, increasing interest rates, debt collectors and lawsuits over defaulted cards are the tools they'll be employing.

You can avoid some of that if you act now and act responsibly. American credit counseling runs -- a website that will give you information and a free quote on how their debt consolidation program can work for you, and then will let you sign up right there.

This nonprofit company, which is bonded, will get all the information they need to determine what your debts are and how they can help; a debt counselor then reviews the information and begins to negotiate with credit card companies to help you. They may be able to lower payments, lower interest rates, waive late charges, or even re-set the account so that it's current and you don't pay punitive interest rates and charges. Once they do that, they'll give you just one monthly payment to make, and you'll be on your way to getting out of debt.

It might seem like there are no options to deal with your debt, or that you've tried everything, but you haven't tried, so you haven't done all that you can yet. Go over to their website and read up on how it works. Get your free quote for what they can do to help you get out from under that mountain of credit card bills and default notices that are piling up. If you're still not convinced, read the client testimonials they have, like this one:

I have been through 3 job changes and some very tight months with my finances, and Adam showed me how I could maintain my payments and not just give up.

That's what we all need, isn't it? Someone who will help us in the tight months and keep us from giving up - -and that's what can give you.

25 down, 9,095 to go.

I don't know if life gets much better than eating a hamburger for lunch, with a side of two little hamburgers, while watching song 25, which is actually a clip from a movie I downloaded over the weekend.

Here's how I came to download this: I began reading my Entertainment Weekly on Saturday, backwards, as usual, starting with the 10 things listed on the back page, and I got as far as "Take On Me, Literally," which I then immediately went to find on Youtube, and it was hilarious:

So I showed it to Sweetie, who pretended to find it amusing while she did all the little chores that I'd promised to do because it was Sweetest day; and while she did that, I remembered that there was other funny stuff on the Internet, specifically, some kind of musical made by J. J. Abrams, but I wasn't sure, so I asked Sweetie who the guy was that made the movie Firefly, and she said "Which movie?"

"That science-fiction movie with that one guy, Nathan Fillion or something," I said, and added "It was by J.J. Abrams, right?" and she said no, she was pretty sure it wasn't. So I thought a minute, and I said "Josh Whedon," and she corrected me, and said is was Joss Whedon, and I spent a few second googling things like "Joss Whedon Musical Neil Patrick Harris," until I found Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog, which I then began downloading, but it took three hours, so in between when I started and when it finished, I took the boys for a Baby Workout! consisting of me pushing them in the stroller while jogging, and then letting them walk the nature trail and chase each other around.

After we got home from that, we ate dinner, gave them their baths, read So Big by Elmo, and then played Ball War until bed time -- that's the game where Mr Bunches stands on the other side of the room and we throw little foam golf balls at each other while Mr F tries to tackle me and I try to enforce the rules I make up, like "No head-butting Daddy in the nose."

Which left me so tired that I never actually watched "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog," which is what led to me sitting and eating my hamburger-with-a-side-of-hamburgers and watching Laundry Day, which is song 25:

And which really isn't a "song" on my iPod, it's part of a video that I downloaded but I'm going to count it anyway, because I make the rules around here, just like I do in "Ball War."

Rachel's not sure where she came from or what she's supposed to do, unless she really is trying to take over the world with a little help from her Octopus, a Valkyrie, and her lover Brigitte. Read Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!


My Grilled Pizza will soon be my Prize-Winning Grilled Pizza.

You've wanted to know the secret to my pizza, and I'll give it to you. This recipe will make two pizzas-- at least.

First of all, you need the dough. I cheat a little: I use Jiffy Pizza Crust dough; buy two boxes and make it according to the package. Let that sit a little and raise, covered with a towel, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. The rest of the ingredients are:

A can of sliced pineapple.
1 pound of pork sausage.
1 pound of cheese-- 1/2 pound mozzarella, 1/2 pound pepper jack.
Butter (not a whole lot)
Parmesan cheese (just buy the can.)
Tomato sauce (you can get whatever kind you like; why homemake it?)
1 onion.
Cherry tomatoes.

Fry up the pork sausage -- put it on medium heat in an iron skillet, if you have one, and sprinkle it with some garlic salt and some pepper while it's frying. Get it good and brown.

Drain the juice from the pineapple (I recommend putting it in a glass with some ice cubes and drinking it -- making pizza is hot work.) Slice each ring of pineapple into about 6-8 parts.

Chop your tomatoes in half. Dice up the onion and throw them both in with the pork sausage; keep stirring that around or it'll scorch. Throw in a little more garlic powder, and, what the heck, some parmesan cheese, too.

Now, back to your dough: It'll be kind of sticky right now. What you want to do is take some flour and butter and parmesan cheese and throw that all in the bowl where your dough has been sitting. Knead it around and get the dough more firm; make sure you get that cheese and butter mixed through really good. Then roll the dough out to the size you want and get that on a pan.

This is grilled pizza, so I should have told you to go back and start up your grill. If you haven't already done that, go back in time about an hour and get your grill going (if you use charcoal) or just go start it up (if you use gas.)

With the dough on your pan, spread more butter and sprinkle parmesan over the top of the crust and put that on the grill; top down and let the crust bake and harden about 8-10 minutes while you finish the rest of the preparations, which are this: drain the grease from the pork/tomatoes/onions, and grate your cheese. (I buy the bulk cheese because it's cheaper.)

Your crust should be firm by now, so go back and get it from the grill; make sure it's kind of solid to the touch. (If you don't pre-cook your crust, it'll be gooey.)

Spread the sauce on, then put the sausage, tomatoes, onions, pepperonis and pineapple pieces on next. Most rookies put the cheese on second, but that's a mistake; put the cheese on last because it'll form a top to hold all those toppings to your crust. Once you've got the meat & vegetables and fruit on, really heap on the cheese.

Then it's back to the grill. If you've pre-cooked the crust properly, you can set it directly on the grill for a flame-broiled taste, but feel free to keep using that pan. Put your pizzas on the grill and put the top down; let it cook for about 10 more minutes (maybe 15) until the cheese is turning golden brown.

You'll love it.

Like that recipe but don't have a grill? Why not get one of the great barbeque grills at is having a contest right now for the best barbecue recipe -- so if you think you can beat mine (I'm entered already) click that link for the official rules and while you're at it, scope around for more barbecue gear to set yourself up, or improve your setup. The contest only runs until November 1, 2008, so get your entry going now!

Horror stories are back!

I've been taking a little time off from the short horror stories while I focus on other projects, but I'm pleased to say that they're back -- starting this week, I will be publishing Ghosts! There Are Ghosts! on AfterDark: The Scariest Things, You CAN'T Imagine...

A priest in a church tries to help the ghosts that come to him and seem to be seeking his advice in Ghosts! There Are Ghosts!, the newest horror story you'll love.

And until then, don't forget to check out the stories that are there now -- like Temporary Anne: Famished, fer de Lance, and Rage -- that'll be your last chance to read that story, about a boy who was kidnapped by gargoyles while still a fetus, who comes back to show his mother what she missed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

As long as you don't hang out with Spencer and Heidi, it'll be okay.

You and I may not be able to party like the stars, live in fancy mansions like the stars, get paid $10,000 just to show up at clubs like the stars, drive a superhot car like the stars, or get picked on by the creators of South Park like the stars, but we can match them in one area: we can use the Best Diet Pills available, just like the stars do.

Lab88's safe, effective, natural diet pills and supplements are the same things used by the people you read about in People magazine and see on Entertainment Weekly and other tabloid shows. They've got weight loss pills, energizers, pain relief, immune support, even exercise videos and some stuff that'll help in the bedroom, all available on their website. And they provide you, on that same site, not only with actual success stories, but with the celeb sightings of famous people who use their products.

And, you know, with Hollywood being all image conscious, who knows - -maybe once you LOOK like the stars, you'll get to do all that other stuff like them, too.

Shame On America Sunday: Where Will We Ever Get The Money Edition?

This week, I got a little caught up on my magazine reading, and I was both concerned and given the idea for today's Shame On America Sunday when I first read, in Newsweek, that the next president would have a big mess on his hands (true enough) because he would not have the money to pay for ambitious social programs (a lie, and a stupid one, at that.)

Then, I read in Entertainment Weekly, that there are currently six shows filming in one of the boroughs of New York City, and that it costs an average of $3 million dollars per episode to film in New York City. Those shows film there for various reasons, including (in the case of "Life on Mars,") that Brooklyn can look like Boston but has wider streets, and including for realism.

Six shows. Most regular series have 22 episodes per year, so that means that the cost of filming those six television shows, alone, $396 million. It always looks more impressive with the zeroes, so here goes:

$396,000,000 is what the United States can afford to make Life on Mars and Ugly Betty more realistic.

I also like to break it down to the basic units, so here goes that:

We spend $1,084,931.50 per day to make sure that when Brooke Shields goes shopping on Lipstick Jungle, viewers will see real New York stores behind her.

We spend $45,205.47 per hour to make sure that Fringe's outlandish plots are adequately grounded in the gritty streets of New York City.

We spend $753 per minute in order to keep the Gossip Girls gossiping in stylish locations.

We spend $12 per second, every second of every minute of every hour of every day filming just six TV shows in New York City.

It took you two seconds to read that sentence. That's $24 America just spent filming six tv shows.

That's just the very tip of the iceberg. In years past, statistics suggested that it costs $1.3 million per episode, total, to film a sitcom -- more if the stars are paid a lot. The book Entertainment Industry Economics by Harold L. Vogel said that the cheapest programs to produce were daytime soaps, at $125,000 per hour.

So that gives us costs of $125,000 per hour to $3,000,000 per hour, roughly speaking, for each new show on TV. Let's use the $125,000 per hour figure just to give us an estimate. Let's assume that each hour of new TV programming costs $125,000 per hour for daytime soaps and primetime TV.

If I leave out basic cable -- for which people pay, so it's not purely advertiser supported, which is important for reasons I'll get to in a moment -- and leave out reruns and assume 2 hours of daytime soaps per day on the 'big 3' networks, and if I assume no new programming in the 13 weeks of summer, it works out like this:

Daytime soaps: $250,000 per network per day, five days a week, 39 weeks per year = $48,750,000 per year on soap operas alone.

Nighttime TV: Three hours per night, four networks, equals $375,000 per night per network, or $1,500,000 per night for all networks. They spend that seven nights per week at a minimum cost of $10,500,000 per week, for 39 weeks, for a minimum of $409,500,000 per year on prime time TV programming.

In other words, using the most minimal estimates possible, we spend $458,250,000 per year on new TV shows. It's probably more, but using the bare minimum America spends at least that on TV shows per year. (At the $3 million per episode cost, America spends $10,998,000,000 per year on TV shows.)

Now, here's why I used only broadcast TV: Broadcast TV costs you nothing. It is entirely advertiser-supported. The networks spend at least $458 million per year on TV shows and they get zero dollars from you for that; it all comes from Charmin and Sonic and McCain ads and the rest of the commercials you (but not me) complain about.

So where do Charmin and Sonic and McCain get that money? From you. You buy Sonic burgers for the whole family, like I did on my last vacation, because you saw those cool Sonic ads on TV and so you made sure to go there on vacation. You can't help squeezing the Charmin. You go see Beverly Hills Chihuahua because you saw an ad on TV, and you think that Barack Obama is an Arab because you saw an ad on TV.

If Charmin and Sonic and McCain were not getting money from you -- and more money than they spent on advertising -- they would not advertise and TV would not be free.

So you, America, spend at least $458,000,000 on new TV shows, each year. It's probably more; it may be as much as twenty-four times that amount. But you spend at least $458,000,000 on new TV shows.

In light of that, let's re-examine Newsweek's contention that there simply won't be money to pay for ambitious social programs, shall we? Let's ask ourselves, as a country, why it's okay for us to spend $458,000,000 watching Charlie Sheen make boob jokes but it's simply unimaginable that we could spend $458,000,000 to fix the roads, or institute a health care policy that will actually provide coverage for people so that nobody needs to raise money to pay for an organ transplant, or to effectively police our food and drink so that we don't have to have melamine in pet food and children's candy, or to institute actual financial reform to have regulators oversee banks making risky loans and securitizing them to pass the losses onto the taxpayer?

What kind of country can spend at least $458,000,000 watching TV but is going to tell the next president there's no money to do anything to improve the country? Shame on America for being willing to spend money watching fake privileged kids text each other, but not for spending money to make sure that real kids can go visit the doctor.

The Fix: As before, I've advocated a sales tax or consumption tax equal to 50% of the value of any goods that cost more than $500; and as before, I'm advocating increasing the highest marginal tax rate to 50% or more.

What you can do until the Fix is In: Every hour of TV you watch, take $5 and put it in a jar. Once a week, send it to a charity that does something valuable for society or a person who needs it more than you do. Here are three to begin with:

Ryan and Angie Shaw and their twins, McHale and Mateo: Insurance companies won't pay for Mateo and McHale's medical bills, because these twins who were given a 5% chance of survival at birth (and who are surviving quite well, thanks, at nearly 3) have had so many surgeries they've maxed out their coverage. Society decided that it would rather watch Survivor: Whereever they Are Now than let two little boys get medical care; you can fix that by sending tax-deductible donations to the trust fund that helps pay for their care; send them to the Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable SNT, c/o Kohler Credit Union, 850 Woodlake Road, Kohler, WI 53044. (Find out more here; once on that page, type mateoandmchale into the box labeled "Visit a Caring Bridge Website.")

Help a Kid Get His First Book: "Books For Kids" is a New York-tristate-area program that helps set up children's libraries, promotes literacy, and gives away books -- sometimes the first book a kid has ever owned. Local, state, and the federal government don't make sure that kids read great books; you can, though, by donating money through their website.

Keep Some People Warm: Governmental policies have made fuel more expensive than ever. THAW: The Heat And Warmth Fund accepts donations to help low-income families in Michigan pay their heating bills in the winter; in addition, the group lobbies for longer-term relief through legislation.