My Thoughts... Exactly!

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Category: Rants (page 1 of 2)

How Much Do You Weigh? (Dry Weight)

I’m not sure if this is within the realm of complete integrity, but when I opened a can of Trader Joe’s Organic Pinto beans and poured off the heavy, syrup-like liquid in which the beans floated (and only enough to allow the beans to settle in), the can weighed noticeably less, and was only 2/3 full.

Trader Joe's Can of Beans 2/3 Full

I guess they are being honest… maybe overly so. I mean, it’s my fault for thinking I would actually want to consume all 15oz of the stuff in the can. The photo on the front which does not show beans frolicking in a pool of clear-ish sludge is merely a “serving suggestion.” So naturally, I was wondering what the beans weighed before they were prepared properly, you know, bone dry. Ahhh… 2/3 of what I thought I bought.

That’s truth in advertising for you.

One unadvertised bonus: Trader Joe’s does not use BPA in most of their packaging.

Trader Joes Beans Dry Weight

If You’re a Painter, Drive Politely.

I just got a phone call a few minutes ago, in my home, from a fellow who sounded a bit agitated.

“Is this Dave?”

“Yes it is, who’s this?” I usually don’t give out info without finding out the nature of the call.

This morning’s caller sounded like one of my friends, kind of.

“Dave the painter?” he demanded?

“Well, yes, in some circ—”

Sometimes a person will punch in a wrong number and get me by accident, and in their confusion they’ll ask “Who is this?” My favorite response is, “Well, I can’t tell from here. I can’t see you.” There’s usually a bit of silence before they explain.

“Is this your white truck parked in front of me?” he cut in.

“Um… where are you?” I asked as I went to the kitchen window only to see a calm, empty street in front of my home.

“I’m in San Jose, just ready to enter Sunnyvale… I’m trying to find the sonuvabitch that just cut me off the road, and there’s a truck in front of me with “Dave the Painter” on it.

“No, that’s not me. I’m not in a white truck. I’m in my kitchen. And I don’t own a white truck.”

Whew! I was able to talk him down to calm, but, man! sometimes the confusion about how to explain to people what I do can be dangerous. “I’m an artist” is way too vague. “I’m a painter” often results in gratuitous requests for a quote for three rooms and the garage. “I paint people” sounds like a performance piece for a warehouse art gallery opening in San Francisco.

I told him I paint portraits, not houses.

I hope he feels better, soon. It must have been a let down to reach a gentle paint-pusher on the phone in his kitchen making coffee.

Simple Gratitude

So, what’s with people?

Since I got my first digital camera in 2001, I have carried a camera with me nearly everywhere we’ve gone out to dinner or site-seeing. I snap pictures, I show people the pictures I have just shot of them, catching them being themselves… like the candid photo of the woman and her sleeping child, at left.

I always offer to e-mail them the picture when I get home. They write down their e-mail address and hand it to me, saying, “That would be great.”

I always follow through.

But only about 1 out of 50 ever even writes back to say “thanks!”

Isn’t that weird?

Jan Darrow Geist, oil on canvas

Jan Darrow Geistby David R. Darrow
11" x 14" (27.9cm x 35.6cm)
Oil on Canvas Panel
This painting is not framed
Not For Sale
Collection of Doris Darrow
Sunnyvale, CA – USA

About This Painting

I started this painting on the one-year mark of the passing of my oldest sister Jan. She passed away on September 29, 2007 after a several-year battle with breast cancer.

During those years, she truly lived as a survivor, full of life, eager to help others and help carry the load of women at the hospital with whom she shared the room while getting regular chemo treatments.

have been
her 57th
if she’d
the tradition

In the end, her passing was a blessing as she was finally free from her tired and broken-down body. We miss her, but have so many fond memories, and so, in that sense she lives on with us.

Today would have been her 57th birthday if she’d continued the tradition, but she resides now in a place of Greater Celebration centered around honoring an Awesome Creator rather than the years she spent on Earth.

This painting now hangs on the wall of my mother’s home in Sunnyvale, CA. It is on a wall facing the entrance to the hallway, where my mom sees it every morning when she wakes up and walks down the hall to the kitchen to get her morning coffee.

On my Dave the Painting Guy show while I was creating this painting, I mentioned that I would probably give it to her husband, my brother-in-law Dan Geist. I hadn’t really thought much about where the painting would end up, and it was fairly last-minute that I even decided to paint it on the anniversary of her passing.

* * *

There are certain things that in the interest of decorum we just don’t talk about with some people in some circumstances. I had wanted to tell Dan at some point that I respected him highly for his marriage to my sister for some 32 years, but that I wanted him to know that I actually wanted him to find new love in his life… that I respected him so much as a man, a father and a husband that I would consider it a shame if some fine woman out there missed out on spending the rest of her life with this fine man. I wanted to tell him that I would never consider it the slightest dishonor if he decided to date or remarry.

A week or so after I painted this, Dan called to have a heart-to-heart and to tell me that he had been seeing a woman for the past few months, and he was feeling very strong feelings for her, that they got along wonderfully, and — always the gentleman — he wanted to know how he might “break it to my mom.”

I told him that he probably ought to tell her exactly as he told me, and that he should expect that she will be delighted at the news. Our family understands that “till death do us part” is, in fact a promise, with a distinctive limit. “Jan’s gone,” I said. “You can love her memory, but she’s not here anymore. You need to move on with your life — I believe Jan would have wanted that.” I knew my mother and siblings would agree.

Not that it mattered.

As we brought the phone conversation to a close, I said to Dan, “Oh, by the way, out of respect for you and your new love, I think I will send the original painting to my mom, instead.”

He laughed and told me “That would be great.” ◙

Amazon Gives Back

You know how it went down.

I got this idea in my head that I could make money from my website… turn my blog into a million dollars. Just build it and they will come. Free money just for tucking ads in your pages.

Sad reality: you probably did not know that any ads exist on this page. But they do. My first ads were placed on my site in 2001, and they were for I figured that as long as I was going to mention some of a small handful of art books I would actually recommend, I may as well get a referral commission from someone selling the books. Amazon.

Between 2001 and 2007 I made $1. Yep, that’s one dollar. And it should further be noted that it is 1 US Dollar, which has gone down in value over that same time period.

They only pay out when you reach a specified higher balance in the account — which I have observed will never occur in my case if they keep taking my money back.

Also, in that same time period, Amazon determined that there was no existing live on my Mars, so they took away the dollar.

If you click on the thumbnail above you’ll be treated to my private information regarding the financial exchange between Amazon and myself, and will not that Amazon is a giver.

Amazon Gives Back.

To the State.

Making California A Safer Place

Some brilliant minds tried to get the City Council of Los Angeles to “proclaim a moratorium on murder and violence” for 48 hours in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. [story]

Once the moratorium is lifted, murder and violence is permitted to return to it’s normal schedule and intensity.

How do these people rise to the positions they do? The stupidity of this ridiculous feel-good gesture astounds me. What’s next? Reduce the affects of acid rain with a moratorium on gravity?

Crime and Punishment

I don’t agree with Obama on very much except I like the idea of ‘change.’ I’m kind of flexible that way, and I get tired of stuff easy.

Except French toast. But that’s a another story.

Anyway, since he has not been clear on what the changes would be if he were president, I can’t vote for a man who holds such vague ideals. I also have difficulty voting for someone whose whole name shows up as 2 or 3 misspelled words in my spell checker. But that’s another story.

A day or so ago Obama spoke from the heart [YouTube video clip], clearing up any misunderstandings as to where he and I differ so greatly:

“Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old,” he said. “I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn’t make sense to not give them information.”
–Barack Obama, March 29, 2008
Emphasis mine.

Punished with a baby?

And the other punishment he could think of was a sexually transmitted disease? These two come to mind as, by implication, similarly overly-severe punishments?

Man-o-man, do we ever see things differently. It is just so sad that anyone would think that way — and I know many people do — but horrible if that person were to be the most powerful person in the Free World.

I don’t like his concept of “mistake” nor of accepting responsibility for a mistake.

What happened to the concept of children being a blessing… even more so on the heels of a mistake? That’s called grace.

American English, Please!

Someone recently told me — as several of us were complaining about having our support phone calls sent to countries where English is not the primary language of the support person — that if you request to have the call handled by an American-English-speaking person, they have to transfer you.

Today I got to put that to a test while trying to make a balance transfer with Capital One. When I called their help line, the gentleman who answered the phone had such a strong accent that I was literally having to ask him to repeat every sentence that had 5 or more words in it, and so the transfer-to-America request came to mind.

I asked him, “Excuse me, but where are you located?”

“I am having
a difficult time
“In the Philippines, Sir,” was his reply.

“I’d like to ask that you transfer me to an agent in America, please.”

“May I ask why?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s because I am having a difficult time understanding you, and therefore I am also uncertain as to whether you can understand me fully.”

He began laughing. “Oh, I see…” He chuckled again. “You’re having trouble understanding me,” he repeated, somewhat condescendingly. When I confirmed that that’s what I had said, he said, “Okay, I will transfer you to an American-speaking assistant. I hope you could understand that.”

LongStoryShort: I was transferred, but not without some grief.

I did however report it to Marissa, my ‘American-speaking assistant,’ who, as it turns out, was working in Canada when we spoke. She assured me that she would make a note ‘a-boat’ my difficulties with the man in the Philippines. The rest of the call went as smoothly as the best American customer assistance I have grown to expect.

At the end of the call, I asked to be transferred to her supervisor to whom I complimented her excellent, friendly and patient service.

Scam: 202.664.1270

Several times over the last week I have received “missed calls” on my cell phone from 202.664.1270. But I am getting ahead of myself…

Today, my cell phone rang and a local 760 area code number showed as the caller ID. I answered and heard a very loud screech immediately… then silence… I said “Hello?” (which I was about to say when the screech jarred my thinking).

Silence… then a phone ringing, as if I had just dialed someone.

How are you today?
If I know him, I might tell him how I am today, but not before I am sure I know him. Secretly, I loathe people who pretend to be concerned about how I am when all they want is my money. Someday I will have the nerve to answer, “Well, pretty good except for that infectious rash…”

An Asian-sounding man (let’s not quibble about how I came to this conclusion) asked me “How are you today?” to which I replied, “Who is this?” This, fortunately, worked its magic, because he immediately said “How are you today?” to which I quite naturally replied “Who is this?”

When he finally realized I was on to him and was not going to fall neatly into paragraph one of his scammer script he asked me “How are you today?”

I said “Stop asking me that. Who are you?”

He said “I want to know if you have a mortgage.”

I replied, “It is illegal for you to call me. Do not call me again, and please remove my phone number from your call list.”

“But you do have a mortgage don’t you?” he pressed.

“Don’t call me again.” Click.

I looked at the cell phone screen to see what number had called me and as I was looking at it, it immediately changed from the 760 caller ID to 202.664.1270 (weird).

My guess is that someone is using a local number to auto dial numbers (maybe consecutive numbers in a cell phone block) and when it gets an answer, it does some kind of a quick switcheroo and dials some smelly sweatshop scam basement in Thailand or Nigeria or maybe even Pacoima.

I did a search on the number and found conclusive results that this “system” is being used by all kinds of vulgar, rude and scamming type folks. So consider this a heads=up.

Obama’s Universal Health Care Plan

Nearly half of
all Americans
pay zero
Income Tax
I seldom make political comments in my blog, but as a taxpayer who understands that “the Government’s money” is really my money, because I [and many others like me] send them a portion of my income, and because I do not consider health care a right rather a privilege or a luxury, it really bothers me how many ignorant Americans will jump on the Universal Health Care bandwagon, thinking they are “getting something from the government” which they “deserve.”

Nearly half of the 300 million Americans alive today pay zero Federal Income Tax! And now there are candidates for the highest office in the land that want to raise taxes on “the rich” and corporations. People who pay no taxes will vote to take more money from those of us who do.

Do you people really think the corporations will just absorb the higher taxes and shrug it off? No. Corporations exist to invent products and services that benefit others, and to make profits for their shareholders. Taxes are a cost of doing business. As with any cost, when increases come along, the projected expense is factored into forecasts and planning, and adjustments are made so that the corporation can continue to make profit. This means they either have to raise prices on their goods and services, or reduce their other costs.

Very often, reducing other costs involves figuring out how to get labor cheaper (replacing laborers with computers, robots or other automation, or replacing higher paid laborers with lower-paid laborers). Ever heard of “down-sizing?” Are you old enough to have been replaced by someone with less skill and lower pay?

I have historically voted “no” on virtually every Proposition that increases taxes, because I do not want to vote myself out of any more of my income than is already extracted. When nearly half of Americans pay zero Federal Income Tax, why in the world would I vote for anything that will require even more from me, one of the actual tax payers?

Wouldn’tcha Like To Be A Spammer, Too?

When I started my e-mail program this morning, it churned for an extra long time. The DarrowArt account.

I am
When it settled, there were over 300 new mails. I knew something was up. I thought someone had invented a new spam that could get through my Junk Mail filters.

But this is different. It looks like I am the spammer. Let me try that again, because voice inflection is everything: It looks like I am the spammer. But I am not.

It’s about 18 hours later, and I have received over 1700 e-mails so far today. All of them are some form of “bounced” e-mail, bearing some sort of “reply” with a subject title: “Undeliverable Mail [Spam]” or a variation of that.

Someone somewhere has likely sent out a virus that takes root in one or more unprotected computers connected to the internet, and therefore has an unknown number of computers working 24/7 to send out Anatrim spams, coming from hoqdarrowartmac –at– — an account that does not exist. But of course the domain does. Spam filters all over the world are sending the messages back to me as undeliverable, or telling me they think the message is spam, which it is, but even though I did not create it, I get the bounced email, since my main account is the recipient of bounced mail.

This is very maddening.

To whomever started this: may you be visited by as many nibbling, disease-carrying cockroaches as the e-mails you have sent out in my good name.

Sugar, Common Sense and Personal Responsibility

sugarRecently a woman died from drinking too much bottled water and choosing not to urinate in an attempt to win a radio station’s “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest a (the Wii [pronounced Wee] is a newish video game console). I didn’t know you could die from drinking too much water, other than the more common name for it: drowning — which I think is technically breathing too much water. But back to my point: I feel sorry for her and her family. She was trying to do something nice for her kids. She wanted to win them a game. And she died. This is sad, and it is tragic, and ignorant people such as myself now know not to drink a lot of water and not urinate. Lesson learned. No longer ignorant on that point.

A couple of decades back, a guy picked up his gas powered rotary lawnmower in an effort to trim his hedges flat. He did this while the mower was running. He cut off his fingers. Lesson learned. While I like to think I would have never thought of something that inept, I must cop to having jumped off my roof with an umbrella when I was 7. I wanted to float like Mary Poppins. I didn’t break anything, but the impact was memorable. Lesson Learned.

But the man with no fingers [found a lawyer with no scruples who] sued the lawnmower manufacturer for not warning that you should not pick up a lawnmower while it’s running. He won a lot of money, and now all American-sold lawnmowers have stickers on them that tell you it’s dangerous to pick up a lawnmower while it’s running.

I’m thinking “Duh!”

The Wii woman’s family is suing the Radio Station that ran the contest. Everyone involved has been fired. The family (or their lawyer) is calling for the FCC to take away the radio station’s broadcasting license.

Blame Game
Why does blame always have to be assigned to or shared with someone else? Why can’t people have a lapse of judgment resulting in injury and just say “Crap, I shouldn’t have done that!“? Why does the radio station’s janitor and his family, and the parking lot attendant and her family, and the mail room staff and their families all have to lose their jobs, their income, their security because someone’s mom decided not to urinate when she really, really had an urge to? (Incidentally, she came in second, losing to someone who drank even more water, and lived).

I feel very badly for the family that lost their mom. It’s probably going to be embarrassing to tell how they lost their mom. But it’s nobody’s fault! It’s just unfortunate!

Eating Oleander leaves will kill you. Poison Oak makes you itch. Rattlesnakes can really hurt you. You can cook and eat chicken eggs, regardless of where they appear to have exited the chicken. Jumping off a bridge will not kill you — but the inevitable and extreme Rapid Deceleration Trauma can. We know these things because of reason. Over time, we figured these things out by watching the success or failure of others.

Hey, Where’s My Sugar Bowl and Spoon?
In my lifetime, words began to appear on cereal boxes: Serving Suggestion. This is because someone sued a cereal company (and won) when they did not find fresh strawberries among the flakes in their box.

Am I the only one who wants to knock really hard on some people’s foreheads and shout “Hello?!”

I bought a bag of sugar last night. In the lower left corner there were the words Serving Suggestion.


I will not find a sugar bowl or spoon in the packaging? I don’t have to use a full teaspoon when serving sugar to myself. A blue cartoon bowl and spoon aren’t the only way to use the enclosed product? There are not really blue and white dots in the product? What is the suggestion? What are they helping me with? What are they protecting themselves from?

We are only one lawsuit away from all bottled water having a warning on the label:

Warning: Consuming too much of this product and not heeding your body’s natural urge to urinate could result in injury or death. Use with extreme caution. Supervision is highly recommended for anyone born during or after the 1970s when all common sense was bred out of the human race (see that period’s clothing and hairstyles for substantiation).

Most Polite Spam

Polite Spam

Every morning when I sit down at my computer with my coffee, and start up my e-mail program, I anticipate the dreaded spam onslaught… usually about 200 each morning. Most of them are caught by Apple Mail’s Junk Filter, but many get through.

It’s aggravating, and there is no question in my mind that it is only going to get worse until the antiquated system used for modern e-mail is changed worldwide. A very recent report claims that more than 9 out of 10 e-mails across the globe are junk. And it is expected to get worse, probably at an exponential rate.

Admittedly, it is frustrating every day. But it’s hard to stay mad when I receive a spam such as this one today, in which the spammer [creep, criminal, jerk, moron, invasive queen of evil] actually apologizes for “contacting you at this time of the day, and we hope that we haven’t interrupted you in anyway.”

That’s insanely polite for a piece of junk mail, eh? I mean, how did they know it was so early in the morning when I got it? And how did they know I was just sitting down to read my e-mail when their obnoxious, deceitful, money-grubbing, trite, and poorly-written junk mail interrupted my day?


Lanset Makes Me SO Mad!

I can’t e-mail my mother.

I can’t email my sister, either.

Why? you may ask. Because they are paying customers of and Lanset is too understaffed with the needed brilliant people to solve their spam problems. There is little doubt in my mind that the techs at Lanset are all more intelligent than me, but there is no doubt in my mind that they need techs there that are more brilliant than the ones they have.

Their solution, to what the techs on the phone have referred to as “a huge spam attack,” is to just block IP addresses.

The result is that they have blocked all mail from my servers.

SMTP error from remote mail server after initial connection:
host []: 550 This system is configured to reject mail from [ ] (Host blacklisted – Found on Realtime Black List server ‘’)


550 This system is configured to reject mail from [] (Host blacklisted – Found on Realtime Black List server ‘’)

How my servers (Lunarpages and AT&T [parent of Prodigy]) got on the black list is beyond me. You can find out who owns an IP by entering the numbers at ARIN.

But that I am prevented from getting e-mail, photos, announcements of my new paintings, etc. to my 78-year-old mother, and my sister, is absolutely maddening.

I am going to see what I can do to get my mom and sister to drop Lanset. I have had this very problem with Lanset too many times in the past.

Domain Registration Scams

Official Internet Registry and Optimization BureauIf you have registered any internet domains (as I have with this one— — along with several others), be aware that there are “fear scams” which attempt to take your heard-earned money. Don’t fall for them.

Click the logo at left to see the whole fax I received. Here is what this company is doing to scam you out of your money.

  1. Offical looking logo and “license” number. Licensed with whom?
  2. Internet address end with “” — that’s in Panama (not anywhere in America)
  3. “Final Reminder Notice” — But this is my first contact!
  4. “SEO data Missing…” — Don’t believe claims of SEO assistance. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is best understood by reading the SEO white paper at
  5. 800 number to Opt Out of improving Your Internet Availability. — I have an 800 number you can call if you don’t want me to give you $1,000,000. Hello!? Once they have you on the phone, they will manipulate you. If you are too weak to understand the scam, and you dial, you are too weak to withstand their sales pitch. Don’t call them.
  6. They charge double what you can re-register for. you can find the name of the Registrar of your domain name at (free). Call your Registrar and ask how much it costs to re-register for one year. If they cannot beat $14.95, go to and let them handle registration for you. That’s who I use. $15 annually is a lot better than…
  7. 12 payments of $27.50 — that’s robbery!
  8. Their “Brick, NJ” address is a PO Box.

Understand that when you choose to believe them and use them, you also turn oer all control of your domain(s) to them, and they will continue to take your money for something that takes them all the time it would take you to click a check-box.

Another company that does this scam by US mail is “Domain Registry of America.” They make money off those who do not know better by alarming them and claiming you will lose your domain.

Learning To See the Scams

I hate to belabor the point about internet scammers, but my sweet and kind mother is 78 and I am always watching out for her because it is the kind and trusting people like her who are the targets of these Charlie-Manson-like, conscienceless, bottom-dwelling, gutter slime internet scammers.

Let me just pause for a moment and re-read that to make sure I did not include in my description of said people any of the four-letter words that crossed my mind in my moment of fleshly disdain.


I got a VERY legitimate-looking e-mail from “eBay” recently. It looks like a standard eBay notification where if a potential buyer has a question they can write to you through eBay to ask a question. Here is a snapshot of my e-mail program showing the legit looking question about the painting I had up for auction: [Picture] The e-mail has a standard “Respond Now” button in it, but underlying the code, invisibly, is an address that takes me to a different server than eBay’s. Here’s a picture of my browser showing the fake eBay site: [Picture]

This would
probably fool
most people
Unfortunately, I think most people would be fooled by the page and URL/Address once they open it in their browser, so I am posting this so that others know—for safety’s sake—to NEVER respond to an e-mail that comes from eBay. Even if you have every reason to believe it came from eBay, use eBay’s own safety feature:

Open your Internet browser and type in “” yourself. You will be taken to the only legitimate eBay website, and when you then log in, you can be certain you are passing on your secret info only to eBay computers. Once you legitimately log in, you can click on “My eBay” and check for any messages.

All messages that are truly sent from eBay to you (including questions from buyers/sellers) will be available to read and respond to within the My eBay section of eBay’s service. They do this to help you avoid becoming the victim of rampant fraud.

Never respond to anything eBay sends to your mailbox. It’s safest to only do it from your browser while logged into eBay.

This fraudulent practice is called “phishing” since it is a trick to “fish” for your secret information by making it all appear legitimate.

If you look at the second picture I link to, you’ll see that the initial part of the URL/address (a numeric IP address) is not [Picture], even though the next part of the URL says “”

Nutty California

I tend not to take my blog into political or religious topics, though I do express some of my own emotional and logical processing through the filter of my spiritual perspective.

But what I see going on in California with regard to legislation affecting our educational system is worse now than when my children’s mother and I decided in the 1980s that we should home school our kids for their benefit and to provide for them healthy socialization.

After reading the analysis of California Bill SB 1437, it is in my opinion way out of line, highly and irresponsibly agenda driven, and shows disregard for wise spending of taxpayers’ money.

I am opposed to SB 1437 after reading it and its revisions. There is way to much effort going into making sure no one gets hurt feelings — which is an exercise in futility as well as a bottomless money pit — and not enough effort educating in things that matter. Money and time are being wasted, and our students are graduating dumber and less knowledgeable than ever. Let’s get back to educating, not indoctrinating.

If you live in California and are opposed to it, I urge you to call the governor’s office and follow these 4 steps to let the governor know. It will take about 30 seconds of your time.

Call 1-916-445-2841. It is an automated system. The recorded voice will ask:

A. Do you want this message in English?” yes, press 1
B. Is this in regards to a legislation bill? yes, press 2
C. Is the bill SB 1437? yes, press 1
D. Are you in favor of this legislation? no, press 2

Scam and Dumber

Click the picture.

Someone whose e-mail address appears to come from Wal-mart is sending me a spoof e-mail from eBay trying to scam my eBay info from me.

This is the kind of thinking that goes on when high-school dropouts decide to become scammers.

Update to eBay Money Order Scam

The original saga continues, and you can read the latest update here.

eBay Money Order Scam

Be careful…

I am grateful that I did not fall for this, and in fact I cannot determine how the scam is supposed to have worked, but my suspicions were up immediately when I received an odd e-mail related to a painting I recently sold on eBay.

Within 24 hours someone used the “Buy It Now” button to purchase one of my oil paintings for $350. I was delighted! Excited!

And then I saw that the buyer’s eBay name was folly_001 with a feedback rating of (0), and the info “Member since: Jun-22-06” — that was the day before I posted the item.

Still, I considered that the person saw my art somewhere and decided to get a new account for the first time so that they could buy one of my fantastic pieces. (My ego sometimes keeps things out of sharp focus).

So, anyway, today I got the following e-mail from john steph <> which says:

Dear Seller,
I will like to inform you my intrest in ur item and i will like to pay you through MONEY ORDER,i will pay US $360.10 for this item i will pay you an excess money and i want you to deduct your item money and shipping fees from it and send back the remaining amount to my customer via western union ..I want a quick response from you because i am really in need of the item urgently.Also i want the item posted out immidiately you get the Money Order and also make sure you get back to me as soon as possible with your name and address so the money order could be mailed out Will be expecting your name and address so i can mail the money order out as fast as possible….Include your e-mail address….

Now, does that look a little weird to you? Sounds like a foreign scam, doesn’t it? Like one of those Nigerian scams

First red flag: “ur item” doesn’t seem appropriate for “beautiful painting I just had to have so I bought it with Buy It Now.”

Next red flag: Money Order. I know those can be faked, and many people have been duped.

Next red flag: I will pay you excess money. Why? I think this is where the scam is. I am supposed to see that he paid me too much and send him—out of my checking account or something—whatever was overpaid. When it turns out the Money Order is fake, it’s too late: I have already mailed the artwork (“ur item“) and some money. I’m supposed to think that a Money Order is as good as cash, so before waiting to find out from my bank if it’s real, I just send the item and a check for the overpayment.

Next red flag: Western Union. I have already heard of the Western Union scams

Anyway, I went directly to eBay’s Live Help Chat window and began immediately typing my “story” knowing I had about 8 minutes to wait for an assistant. That speeds things up. Below is my conversation:

While waiting for your chat to begin, you can start typing in your question. To help us address your questions as quickly as possible, please include your email address, eBay User ID and any other pertinent information such as item numbers, error messages, etc. (if available). We may also require your name, address and phone number for verification purposes.
Your entries will become visible to the agent once they have joined the chat. Thank you for your patience.

thirtyin30: I received the following e-mail in response to my invoice, and it smells fishy to me:
thirtyin30: Dear Seller,
I will like to inform you my intrest in ur item and i will like to pay you through MONEY ORDER,i will pay US $360.10 for this item i will pay you an excess money and i want you to deduct your item money and shipping fees from it and send back the remaining amount to my customer via western union ..I want a quick response from you because i am really in need of the item urgently.Also i want the item posted out immidiately you get the Money Order and also make sure you get back to me as soon as possible with your name and address so the money order could be mailed out Will be expecting your name and address so i can mail the money order out as fast as possible….Include your e-mail address….

thirtyin30: That’s the whole e-mail, and it is from a buyer with “0” feedback
thirtyin30: re: item number 120001078892
thirtyin30: buyer: folly_001

Your chat session has started…

thirtyin30: Just received another, while waiting: “I will like to inform you my intrest in ur item and i will like to pay you through MONEY ORDER,i will pay US $350.00 for this item i will pay you an excess money and i want you to deduct your item money and shipping fees from it and send back the remaining amount to my customer via western union ..I want a quick response from you because i am really in need of the item urgently.Also i want the item posted out immidiately you get the Money Order and also make sure you get back to me as soon as possible with your name and address so the money order could be mailed out Will be expecting your name and address so i can mail the money order out as fast as possible….Include your e-mail address….

Melody B.: Hello, welcome to eBay General Support Live Chat! … … Please allow me a moment to review your question.
“his” address:john folly
320 zenith dr (fake, see below)
el paso, TX 79912
Melody B.: Let me check on this a moment please.
thirtyin30: A Google Maps search renders no such address: Click here to see Google results
Melody B.: This total email does not sound good to me in any way.
thirtyin30: Well, I agree, it is bad english, and it smells like a scam, but I can’t figure out how a scam would be pulled off, unless it’s some kind of “send it and you’ll get your money” scam.
Melody B.: Yes I keep reading this over myself, I smell something just not right with this.
thirtyin30: Well, how do I handle it properly?
Melody B.: I would try to contact this buyer by phone is what I would do, get his accurate address from us as well — call them and just find out why he is sending you excess money.
thirtyin30: I already asked that, and received a follow-up of the second e-mail I posted above.
Melody B.: Hmm… did you get the contact information from our system, including a phone number?
thirtyin30: No, I do not know how to do that. Link please?
Melody B.: I will explain!
Melody B.: You can request the phone number of a transaction partner by clicking the link near the top-right corner of most eBay pages labeled ‘Advanced Search’. Then, on the advanced search page, there is a box on the far left side with several links. Click the ‘Find Contact Information‘ link, and then please follow the instructions provided. Here is a quick link as well for you!
Melody B.: Also when this buyer received his “item won” email from the purchase of this item, your address would be there on it when he clicks on the Pay Now to indicate that he is paying a certain method.
thirtyin30: He apparently received the “item won” e-mails, as he copied it to me with the second e-mail.
Melody B.: Yes, so when he clicks on “pay now” then he would have your address and name to “send” the money too.
User ID: folly_001
Name: john folly
City: el paso
State: TX
Country: United States
Phone: (348) 937-2761 (no such area code, or phone number)
Registered Since: Thursday, Jun 22, 2006 01:31:38 PST
thirtyin30: The name “Folly” almost sounds too fake to be good…
Melody B.: Yes, please try calling this person and seeing if he even exists..
Melody B.: also if you get a money order, it must clear before you will ship. and only send for the amount you request that you will not send balances back.
thirtyin30: Very well.
Melody B.: Be very suspicious and delay as long as you can — making sure this buyer remains active on the site and doesn’t turn into a “no longer a registered user”…
thirtyin30: According to Google SMS: Sorry, ‘area code: 348’ did not return any results, nor did the phone number.

What do you mean ‘delay as long as possible’?
Melody B.: So the information that they have listed is incorrect, okay then you will want to file a report on this person to our Trust and Safety department.
Melody B.: May I provide this link for you to contact them?
thirtyin30: yes please
thirtyin30: And what do I do about the selling fees? I put up about $25 to post the auction…
Melody B.: Here is the link to write in to Trust and Safety, they will also advise you on whether you should complete this sale.

Once you get to this page, you will want to go to the “email us” link that is there and write in regarding this situation. Also, If you need to contact us again, you can email us by clicking on ‘Contact Us’ from the left side of all eBay help pages.

thirtyin30: Will I be refunded all the fees?
Melody B.: If you end up filing an unpaid item dispute for this, your final value fees will be credited and you will then qualify for the free re-list.

thirtyin30: My livelihood depends on my selling my paintings daily. I cannot wait a long time for this to process. I need to get hte item back on eBay immediately.
Melody B.: Yes I understand.
thirtyin30: In other words, there is no way to expedite it, even though the phone number is fake and so is the address?
Melody B.: If you feel that this information is not correct and that this item will not be paid for — you cannot escalate this, however you may wish to re-list this. However you may wish to hear back from our Trust and Safety department in order for them to advise you on this for certain.
You will not be able to file a dispute for 10 days after this auction ends.
Melody B.: So this is really a choice you need to make, I would certainly try to locate a number for that address and exhaust my options.

UPDATE Saturday, July 15, 2006

So far the fellow has followed through. Yesterday I received $1500 in counterfeit American Express Traveler’s Cheques [Picture].

At first I was fooled… I thought I had received an anonymous gift from a foreigner. I was baffled. There was no return address, my own address was written very big on the front of a #10 envelope, the Benin, Western Africa stamp and cancellation were in the lower right corner [Picture] and there was absolutely nothing in the envelope except three cheques and the blank, white paper folded around them.

Then I remembered that I before I left on vacation a week ago, I had received another e-mail from this “John Steph” fellow telling me he has sent the money. He reiterated that he would be over-paying and that I should cash them the same day and send him the balance.

With that thought in mind, the cheques “began to look fake.” I could see that the Serial Numbers were “rough around the edges” [Picture], same with the “routing number” [Picture]. This I could see with the naked eye. By comparison to a real routing number [Picture], or the real serialization (check numbers) from my own checkbook [Picture], something just wasn’t right.

My wife and I took them into my bank and asked a teller if he could tell by looking at them if they were real or not. He glanced at them and shook his head no.

“You can’t tell by looking at them?” I asked.

“No. I’m saying these are no good. They are fake. And they are too small to be real.”

I was very impressed at how instantly he knew they were fake.

I used to hear in church that the best way to detect false doctrine was to be extremely familiar with the truth. “If you will just read your bible often, you’ll know when someone is trying to pull something over on you; preaching a false gospel.” More than once, from different preachers, I would hear the story of how bank tellers-in-training work with authentic money. They handle real $100s and $500s, $50s, $20s and $10s. Since they are so familiar wih the real thing, they can spot a counterfeit instantly. Ever see a $1000 bill?

• How to spot a counterfeit bill

The teller got out a real American Express Travelers Cheque to show us. The print was indeed noticeably cleaner, crisper—even though the fakes were pretty clean themselves. Then he laid the fake check on top of the real one. There was a difference in size of less than 1/16″ all the way around—which I am sure I never would have caught, but which he saw at a glance, without even having a real one present to compare to. He was just proving it at this point.

So we collected the checks and went home. Nothing lost.

I scanned them at high-rez and noted a few other things. The plates that the forgers are using (if they are plates at all) are nowhere near the engraved quality of minting plates. Take a look at this image of the counterfeit $500. Not only are the edges of the largest letter broken up into dots, instead of being crisp, sharp lines, but also look at the lines of the long oval and the text inside it—those should be flat and crisp, not made out of dots. Even though your naked eye might not see this at first, your mind will perceive the “softness” created by the imperfect printing.

So currently I am stringing this fellow along, trying to allow time for authorities with FDIC, FBI, Yahoo and others to get involved and track this guy down if they can. I don’t know what they can do with a forger and scammer in West Africa, but with a little more time, they may be able to get somewhere.

Fixing a Blog

Comments have mysteriously disappeared.

But they still exist in the database.

The problem is due to an upgrade of a WordPress Plugin called Spam Karma. I have to use this plug-in or another to combat “Comment Spam” which is a huge problem for bloggers—unscrupulous people try to attract blog readers to sites that are usually disgusting by putting links in people’s comments which include keywords and URLs designed to increase popularity in Google searches.

At least 200
spam comments
Currently I get about 200 such comment spams a day, and fortunately Spam Karma catches them and keeps them from displaying, though I still have to regularly empty the “caught” spams—an unwelcome time-sink.

The new version of Spam Karma somehow set the “comment count” to zero for nearly all my posts, so I must go into the MySQL database and manually reset the count to the actual count for that post. A huge time-sink. And not a little scary.

It will take some time.

I found the answer to my problem here.


I think I got it fixed. And it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The problem only needed to be corrected back as far as the date I installed the upgrade to WordPress which was 2 or 3 days ago—so I didn’t have to correct very many database records.

That having been said, I have to say that I have no idea what someone would do if they are not comfortable with nor do they have the ability to manipulate data in their MySQL database. My guess is that 95% or more of WordPress users do not know how to change data safely in their database, if at all.

I was walking on thin ice, myself, in doing so.

Things We Just Accept

I have to admit I am a little bit of a sucker when someone prices something as $39.99, in that I think of it more as in the high-thirties, and not as $40–which for all intents and purpopses, it really is.

But I am not so stupid as to think of $39.99 as being very close to $45.29.

We’re talking about bare-bones, cheapest Verizon Mobile plan. They call it their $39 plan (not even mentioning the extra 99¢). But when I get the bill it’s $45.29.

Hey, what happened to my $39 plan?

That’s 13.25% higher than they quoted me. Yeah, yeah, I heard them mutter in really fast, hushed tones “notincludingtaxesandothercharges.

What are the other charges besides taxes?

Look at this image of my Verizon phone bill extra charges.

A Usage Fee? Well, what the heck is the $39.99 for? I thought that was for using the service. So I can limit my bill to $39.99 if I don’t use my phone? Why have a phone, then?

I can just hear the conversation:
Me: Hi, I just wanted to ask why my $39.99 per month phone bill is higher than $39.99 when I didn’t do any text messaging, video or picture trading, or calling Directory Information, or anything…
Verizon: Well, did you use the phone?
Me: Well, yeaahh…
Verizon: There is an additional charge for using your phone, sir.

Taxes and Usage Charges amount to 13.25% more. That’s insane. It’s robbery. If you bought, say, a new Ford Escape for $30,000 and they charged you an additional $13.25% on the spot—that’s $3975—you’d sure have something to say about it.

Ford: Well, are you planning to use it?


A divorce could be quicker.

I have been using for several years, but due to the price bump, and not much need for their service anymore, since I still have to drive 4 miles to drop off packages at the Post Office—which has postage kiosk in the lobby, anyway—I have decided to dump my service.

I expressed my dissatisfaction with in an earlier post. But I have to tell you that they are compounding my dissatisfaction by the minute as I wait on hold to terminate my service with them.

When you call their toll-free number [888.434.0055 — go on, call it!] you are more likely to get a busy signal.

When I finally did get through to the recorded computer voice, one of the options to choose was “If you’d like to terminate your service, press 2.”

At this moment that was over 15 minutes ago.

I have no proof of this, but I would imagine that pressing 2 is, by design, the worst choice you can make, as it probably shuffles your call priority to the bottom. What kind of company wants to jump right on a customer service call when they have already been alerted that they won’t be receiving any more of their money?

I remember waiting on hold seemingly forever the last time I called to see if there was a lesser fee than the $16/month they had just automatically “upgraded me” to after two or three years at $4.99/month.

If you can print your own postage some other way, you might just want to stick with that rather than

It is now officially 34 minutes since I called, and I am still on hold. I have spoken with no one. You may be asking yourself why I wait?

Because I am just that patient.

And besides, I have a headset plugged into my phone, and fortunately they are playing very nice piano music on their hold system, reminiscent of one of my favorite piano-only artists, Todd Schroeder.

And I have ADD on my side. Virtually anything can distract me from the fact that I am on hold. Hey, I think I’ll write a blog entry.



At 42 minutes on hold
…I finally got through to “Tony” who let me know that they wll be refunding the $14.00 I still have in my account, “but since it does come directly from the US Postal Service, it will take from 4 to 6 weeks to arrive.”

Hello? Does that make any sense to anyone reading this?

If Foreigners Could Write

You know those spam e-mails you get where they tell you they are only sending you e-mails because you’ve requested them, and if you want to stop receiving their e-mails, just click here to unsubscribe?

Don’t do it, because all it does is serve to give them confirmation that your e-mail address is an active, valid address, which is worth more money to e-mail address farmers.

You can always tell when these thieves are from another country, because they don’t even take a fledgling stab at our way of speaking.

Here’s one I got today (along with a picture of a gal with an admittedly nice figure in a blue bikini, thank you):

This subject matter was sent to you because you quested to be imparted of knowledge of extends from either us or one of ourselves associates, if yourself do not need to obtain offers from us again please interact with ourselves at this cursor.

I’m This Close To Insane

See links below for Quicktime MoviesFor Sale: Parrot

Must sell. Very friendly. Talks. Laughs. Says words like “Hello.”

Eats nuts and fruit, and on some occasions beef. All indications are the bird is content to live on a perch behind bars in a somewhat dark corner near a telephone jack, despite having been blessed with the gift of flight. Decorates the bottom of his own cage. May or may not be named “Leon.” 24 years old. Cranky, at times. Reportedly a fan of Jimmy Buffet.

Does not respond to “Shut Up!” when doing this.

It is likely you will need the newest, free Quicktime 7 to view those videos since they are encoded in the new H.264 format.

Review: San Diego Garage Door Company

In short: Don’t use San Diego Garage Door Company.

This company is one of the contractors hired by our HOA to replace all the garage doors in our complex. To be fair, their work is fast and good, but the owners and workers are disrespectful and indecent. I thought others should know, if they’re doing a search on their name to find out more about them.

I came into my garage after a young worker had been there all day doing an installation and found a drinking-water bottle half full of urine, left on a cross-brace between studs. Since I know my wife didn’t put it there, and he was—allegedly—the only other person in my garage, I called SDGD to complain. Did I mention it was half full of urine?

Of course the woman who answered the phone and listened to my complaint apologized for the company. What could she do? She said she’d look into it, and based on my address, she knew who the kid was in my garage.

The next day they were out again doing other garages. The owner of the company was there, supervising. He said nothing to me. The kid who allegedly left the urine was there. He said, sheepishly,”Uh, you found a bottle of something?” I said, “Well, yeah! A bottle of urine?”

He says, “Oh, I think it was a friend of mine who stopped by.”


His friend stops by, maybe pees in a bottle and leaves it on the cross-brace. But he’s not sure.

I have little tolerance for anyone who doesn’t own their wrongs, dismissing them as the fault of another, or somehow understandable given the circumstances. This was a disgusting wrong. What would have been so hard about saying, “I’m so embarrassed that I left that here. Our boss doesn’t give us bathroom breaks [speculation on my part —dd], and I really had to go, but I am so sorry I left that bottle in your garage. You should never have seen that. I’m sorry.”

I chatted with the owner about garage doors, installation, the condo complex, etc.—just wanted to see if he would own up to his workers’ behavior.


In the course of the conversation, he actually flipped the comment, “Yeah, we’re not making anything on this project…”—referring to the 165 garage doors they were contracted to replace.

What a contract to land! They weren’t making anything?

Ingratitude is another peeve of mine.

Give your business to someone else.

Redefining ‘Torture’

When I was a kid, I liked to break things. I liked to destroy stuff. You could say I liked to see how things were put together by taking them apart really fast.

I still remember the unique dripping of a plastic army man on fire. My mother may still have the army men I chopped up—legs, hands, heads gone—and then painted with dark red model paint to look bloodied. I don’t remember what her exact words were, but she indicated that it seemed a bit odd, what I had done. I remember a negatively-laced concern. Still she let me play with them after all their injuries were realized.

One of my friends showed me how to hold a straight pin with needle-nose pliers and heat the pin with a candle flame, then run the hot pin through the wings of model airplanes to look like bullet holes.

I tried it with my army men.

Looked real!

Researchers Find Barbie Is Often Mutilated
The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity, and see the torture as a ‘cool’ activity,” said Agnes Nairn, one of the University of Bath researchers.

Now, never in all my childhood did the thought of “torturing” my toys come to mind. If pulling the heads off of Barbies, or even burning them is said to be torture, we’re in for a wild legal ride down the road. I can just see my mom going off to jail [with me] for standing by while I “tortured” my army men.

And what did this all say about my future? I turned out to be an artist, with an obsession about the creation of all things beautiful, a respect and admiration for the beauty of the human figure [of the two choices, female is my runaway favorite]. I wander galleries in any town I stop in. I smell roses. I love sunsets.

And I have enormous respect for the men and women of all branches of our armed services.

All the art I paint is realistic.

I guess all the bullet holes and red paint were much more about realism than torture.

The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving.

Good grief: mutilation?

If we’d had a microwave in the 60s, ours would have smelled like army men.

And I would still be an artist.

(Guys, don’t tell them what we did to our G.I. Joes…)


As an aging artist, this cartoon by Harry Bliss, from yesterday’s paper, speaks to me on so many levels.

Thanks to Teresa for bringing it to my attention.

[Click the small picture to see a larger one with more visual info]

The B4 Complex

The residential relocation process, we are discovering, has, by its own nature, downshifted to gear one, and we are at a crawl in this maze of corrugated canyons. The viscous flow of the B4 Complex has us shifting boxes of belongings from one spot to another, not at all unlike the tile puzzle game with 15 numbered sliding tiles, 16 positions and one space, and you have to use that one hole to order the tiles properly.

The B4 Complex has attacked our home in an exhausting tile puzzle that manifests thusly:

B4 we can empty the boxes of large art books in my library, the bookshelves must be positioned in the office.
B4 the bookshelves can be positioned in the office, they must be moved into the office.
B4 the bookshelves can be moved in, they must be completely disassembled in the living room and reassembled in the office, due to a tight corner.
B4 the bookshelves can be disassembled in the living room, space must be secured for laying the bookshelves down for disassembly.
B4 laying the bookshelves down, boxes of large art books must be carried or slid into the office to get them out of the way.
B4 there is room for the book boxes, the computer equipment must be put in position in the computer niche—currently the closet in the second bedroom/soon-to-be office.
B4 the closet can become a computer niche, the sliding mirrored doors must be romoved as well as their tracks, and the custom California Closets must be disassembled.
B4 the closet is gutted, a hanging storage rack for all the closet parts must be built under the rafters of the garage.
B4 the storage rack can be built, I must retrieve my Craftsman Radial Arm Saw from the storage unit 3 miles away.
B4 I can get the saw, I must borrow a pick-up truck.

And so it goes… on and on with each task.

All I wanted to do was put my books on the bookshelf. Is that so wrong?

Move On

Repeat flood claims strain federal insurance
I think New Orleans has a lot of architectural character. I should know: I walked down Bourbon Street at Disneyland a few years ago after riding Pirates of the Carribean.

Seriously though, I think that someone has to tell the people from the Big Easy Wading Pool that unless they want to become the next Atlantis, they need to rebuild somewhere else. I am a little miffed that the taxes I pay might be going to help these waterlogged squatters rebuild in Hurricane Central.

The National Flood Insurance Program was established by Congress in 1968 to cover property owners who build in flood-prone areas, which are considered too great a risk by private insurers. It followed years of devastating floods and political debate over whether the government should step in to offer insurance.

Nearly from its inception, the program has struggled to pay all its claims. It collects $2 billion in annual premiums but has no reserves, heavily subsidizes some of its riskiest customers and relies on the Treasury to bail it out when losses exceed income. Losses this year from Katrina and Hurricane Rita alone could top $10 billion, experts say, forcing the program to borrow billions from taxpayers with no guarantee of repayment.

I have a great Artist’s Concept rendering of a luxury year-round resort I have designed to fit atop Mount St. Helens in Washington. Contact me if you would like to invest.

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