A Common Magazine Scam

I used to get many magazine and newspaper subscriptions, but now I get almost none because I cannot keep up with the schemes of the publishers. I admit they are smarter than I am.

Here’s how the most common one works: You get in the mail an offer of an extremely low subscription rate for a magazine you would not normally be interested in, but maybe it is on something general, like gardening, that a friend would like. It would be nice to surprise them, so you send in their name and your credit card number. The cost is less than $10 for a year, so why not? Or give it to yourself as a present.

But they say in the very small fine print that if you do not cancel during the special trial rate, the rate will revert to the normal rate and your subscription will automatically renew for another year. The normal rate could be $100 a year. But which magazine subscription will you cancel? You probably forgot by now.

So a year later, you get a charge on your credit card bill for another year’s subscription at the exorbitant rate that you may not even notice. Even if you do notice it, the name of the company may be something general like “Preferred Reader’s Club” that does not give you a clue of what the subscription is about. (Companies like this are subscription brokers; they do not actually publish anything, themselves; they only solicit the subscriptions and pass them on to the real publishers.)

The real publishers shrug their shoulders and say, You requested a subscription and you got one. It’s not our problem.

Pshaw! They know what’s going on.

Do you think this will be simple to straighten out? You will probably decide it is not worth the hassle and eat the charge every year. This is not accidental, not a simple oversight on your part. You were purposely duped, and all of the publishers do it.

I always pay for subscriptions by check a year at a time, no matter how tempting the offer, but they don’t make it easy. I can easily spend an entire morning on the phone. Often, the discounted price is right, but the subscription is not worth the trouble I know I will have. (I forgot to warn my wife of this scam.)


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The Decline of TV as We Know It

“Investors Pummel TV Companies On Ad Woes,” by Steven Perlberg and Shalini Ramachandran. The Wall Street Journal, 8/7/2015.

(This is still another old, unpublished posting, recently discovered, but is still appropriate.)

“More than $35 billion in market value was wiped out across seven media companies this week, as investors questioned the future health of the TV ecosystem.”

TV seems to be caught in a downward spiral as more and more viewers abandon cable because of its constantly rising costs, arrogant service, and increasing commercials. How do the cable companies respond to falling revenues? By raising prices, cutting service, and running even more commercials. Does this make sense? Only if you are a TV executive close to retirement.

Companies failing by regarding their customers as only cash cows capable of absorbing endless abuse is a common story. I am actually amused when I walk into my local Best Buy and see all of the unsold huge TVs, 60-inchs and up, OLED, in 4K definition, paired with ear-splitting sound systems, while people increasingly watch video on phones with tiny screens in low definition, listening with tinny ear buds, using only their Internet or phone service that they are already paying for. Companies who are so out-of-touch with their customers should go under. It is nothing to regret; this is how capitalism is supposed to work.

(I’m not predicting the demise of Best Buy. They are increasingly moving away from TVs and computers to big-ticket kitchen appliances, such as stoves, refrigerators, and clothes washers and dryers.)


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Ask your spouse what pralines are. If your spouse is a man, chances are they will have no idea. If your spouse is a woman, she will wonder why you are asking such an obvious question.

I recently learned myself what they are. I was driving to Costco, about 10 miles away, and I asked my wife if she needed me to pick up anything. She said she needed more pecans, and when I was in the store, I noticed a big plastic jar of pralines that looked similar but much better, so I got them.

Pralines are the most delicious things I have ever tasted. (I have always liked pecans anyway.)

Pralines are pecans with a candy coating of brown sugar. My mother used to make them herself in her oven, very occasionally, usually near a holiday and gave them out as gifts, but she did not call them anything (that I heard). Apparently, there are different styles, but they differ only in physical form, and are basically the same. Growing up, I got to eat the burnt ones. The brand Costco sells are perfect.

Praline is also a flavor, and pralines are often sold as a chocolate candy with a praline-flavored nougat center to non-purists. Be careful what you order.

If you are a woman, you probably already know about pralines. If you are a man, it is all new to you, but you will forget it by tomorrow, illustrating my point.


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Riding the Ceramic Honda

TV commercials have sunk to a new low: The current Linzess commercial shows first a man, then a woman, sitting on a toilet, aimlessly looking around, waiting for something to happen. True, they are shown separately and from the waist up, but there is no doubt where they are and what they are waiting for. (Linzess is a laxative, although it works by a unique mechanism. The average cost is over $518 per capsule, so that fertilizer they are flushing away costs more than gold.)

Seconds later, each is shown leaving the bathroom with a spring in their step and giving a fist pump (Yes!), indicating success. (I am impressed how TV commercials can convey a complete story so efficiently.)

(As with all TV commercials, it may advertise on the programs I routinely watch, and I see it over and over. But you may never see it and wonder what I am complaining about.)

What got my attention was Mom and Dad’s technique right in the beginning. Every child knows before they start kindergarten that is not the way to do it. You have to get things started with a hard push, push, push, often with tears running down your face, then pause to catch your breath and observe if your body is taking over the work. If not, repeat the procedure until it does, or you give up. You can’t just gaze around expecting something to happen with no effort.

But I don’t want to see any of it, especially when I’m eating.

(“Ride the ceramic Honda” was a term invented and used by a coworker in the cubicle across the aisle back when Honda was best known for their motorcycles. Vroom, Vroom!)


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Stop the Bleed

“Under the Gun,” by Paige Williams. The New Yorker, 4/8/2019.

Times have changed. Just a few years ago (well, maybe more than a few), and for several years after, I was a Red Cross First Aid, CPR, and AED instructor trainer, which was as high as a volunteer could go in the Red Cross (Lifeguarding, my real specialty, had become an elaboration of an early step in first aid, as it should be: moving the victim to safety. Their Lifeguarding course evolved year-by-year to become fully half first aid and half CPR. I could teach it all, lifeguarding, CPR, and first aid, even as separate courses, except the AED was so simple, it couldn’t fill a course of its own.)

But today, with modern assault weapons and attacks on schools and other public places, controlling traumatic bleeding has gained importance in the public’s mind. Such attacks are called, “Intentional Mass Causality Events.” The informal movement to educate the population to be the First Responders in those critical first minutes until the professional EMS personal can arrive is called “Stop the Bleed,” usually presented as a short seminar.

In trauma care, the primary cause of preventable death is hemorrhage. The basic treatment is, “Keep the blood in the body.” (By any means available.)

Professional responders to the Boston Marathon bombing were surprised how so many ordinary citizens stepped up to care for the most horrific wounds on complete strangers, and even did the right thing with no training. Of more than 200 injuries, only 3 died. The New England Journal of Medicine credited this, in large part, to “courageous civilians.” In Boston and elsewhere, people would instantly help one another in a crisis, even when the injuries were almost unbearable to see, much less to touch.

One teacher, while treating a stabbed schoolboy, told him, “Sometimes when stuff happens, you go into a different state of mind. You surprise yourself at how you can handle things.”

Many attacks are done with AR-15 assault rifles that shoot bullets at extremely high velocity. The force can shatter a bone merely by grazing it, and the casualties look like combat causalities. Organs are in shreds with nothing left to repair.

At the Columbine massacre, rescuers didn’t reach some victims for hours, unable to determine if the killers were dead or hiding.

Standard “Stop the Bleed” presentations often include gross graphics. Experts feel this helps desensitize the trainees to their natural revulsion to large amounts of blood that may be mixed with tissue, teeth, and bone. We can easily be sickened in seeing large amounts of blood outside of the body. It is slippery and messy, and has a strong metallic smell.

Our tendency is to cover up blood, but, as one expert put it, “to stop bleeding you need to see the bleeding.” Victims have to be made “trauma naked,” moving any clothing aside to pinpoint the source of the hemorrhage.

But now a word about tourniquets. In my day, tourniquets were nor recommended except in the most extreme cases. Tourniquets lost favor after the Civil War because of their association with gangrene and amputation, but a modern patient could usually be quickly evacuated to a hospital. They are back in favor. You can now buy on Amazon a CAT tourniquet (Combat Action Tourniquet) of aluminum and Kevlar ready to use with a built-in windlass.

The tourniquet must be placed above the wound, between the heart and the wound. You can’t go wrong by placing it up near the armpit or groin. But be aware that the tourniquet has to be tight—tight enough to cause the victim pain, who may protest loudly, and you, as kindly as you are, may let up. The longer a tourniquet is in place, the more dangerous it is. Only a doctor in an emergency room should remove a tourniquet, but you hope this is only a few minutes away. And, as one trauma expert said, ” I can’t do anything if the patient is dead.”

Obviously, a tourniquet can only be used on an arm or leg. Bleeding elsewhere has to be controlled with pressure, considerable pressure. It will be all one rescuer can do and should be their sole job. Place the victim on a hard surface, cover the wound with paper towels, or whatever you can find, interlace your fingers, and press down with as much force as you can. If the paper soaks through, leave the old paper in place and pile more paper on top.

Puncture wounds, like bullet wounds can be quite deep. Roll up gauze and push it down the hole, kaolin impregnated, if you have it. Kaolin (clay) helps stop the bleeding.

But, remember I have neither expertise nor training in this, and new procedures are yet to be developed. I am only telling you of informal procedures being used. Use your common sense. Even if you innocently do something wrong, Good Samaritan Laws in many states will protect you from liability. The important thing is to try your best. Who would sue a passerby trying to help?

At one time, the Red Cross was making their CPR training so precise, people were afraid to start, afraid they would do some little thing wrong, like doing 14 compressions between breaths instead of 15. So they would freeze and do nothing. The Red Cross then emphasized the initial step of “Alert others,” even if that is all you do. That alone could be a big help.


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Spelling App

A description of a spelling app for my tablet (“Correct Spelling”) on Play Store says: Finding the spellings of difficult words or phrases is not a worry know.

I’m still worried.


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