October 26, 2009

Would You Have Children if You Knew They Would Die Before You?

Worse yet, if you knew they would rapidly age and then die before your eyes? That's why I can't get a dog.

I love dogs. I'm crazy about dogs. I grew up with dogs. I pet dogs, visit dogs, and walk dogs. But most dogs, depending on their size, breed, and other factors, can only be expected to live about 10 to 15 years. And after five or six or seven years, they may start to show clear signs of aging. The playful puppy who tireless chased down tennis balls is suddenly the white-faced older dog who has trouble climbing and descending the stairs. And then one day, not long afterward, ....

Maybe it's because, when I was a kid, I saw my four year-old dog struck and killed by a giant Cadillac. But even if that didn't happen, I would have outlived her, and a succession of other beloved dogs that I might have acquired, by many years.

I keep thinking of the verse from the song "Mr. Bojangles," which now I find out was inspired by a man who was grieving about his dog being struck and killed by a car:

He spoke through tears of 15 years how his dog and him traveled about
The dog up and died, he up and died
And after 20 years he still grieves

Like the man in the song, I just don't know if I could take it.


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October 20, 2009

D.C. Bar, You Got Some Balls

Note to D.C. Bar: you don't get to place deadlines on me to fix your mistakes. As a member of the D.C. bar, I pay my annual dues shortly after receiving their annual invoice. This year, I paid the D.C. Bar in mid-June. At the end of August, I received a refund check from the D.C. Bar, along with a note saying that I had paid twice. I didn't give this much attention, and figured that I had probably paid the first invoice, then received a reminder invoice before that payment was received, and then just reflexively paid again, forgetting that I had already paid once. I have done that before with my auto insurance company, which is also aggressive about sending payment reminders.

Then, a day or so ago, I received a voice mail message from someone at the D.C. Bar, stating that their refund to me was in error, and could I please return it. Today, I received an email message from the same person. However, her message states that "[t]he funds must be returned to our office by October 30, 2009." Oh really? As Sylvio Dante of The Sopranos might say, "what a fricken joke!" I sent an email back to the D.C. Bar as follows:

"Hi [name], I received a voice mail message from your office a couple of days ago. I am checking my records to verify whether the check was sent to me in error, as opposed to being sent to me possibly because I erroneously paid twice. Assuming that I agree that the check was sent to me in error, I will promptly send you a check in the same amount.

However, I find your statement that 'the funds must be returned to our office by October 30, 2009' rather curious. While I’m fairly confident that, if a check to the D.C. Bar is forthcoming, it will be sent well before the 30th, I certainly do not accept, and, frankly, am offended by, any D.C. Bar deadline placed on me to correct a mistake that the D.C. Bar has made and which the D.C. Bar took a long time to identify!"

That's as polite as I can be. Trust me, "curious" was not the first term I chose. Hey Sil, you believe the balls on these people?


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October 06, 2009

FTC Issues Rules Governing Paid Blog Endorsements

The Federal Trade Commission has issued new rules requiring bloggers to disclose financial or employment relationships regarding products they endorse on their blogs or in other online forums. The FTC's action, which began this past Spring, is a result of numerous cases of "blogola" (blog payola), whereby companies offer bloggers compensation, including free products, or instruct their own employees, to write rave reviews about the companies' products, without disclosing the relationships driving such inherently biased reviews.

Of greatest importance to bloggers, the FTC's new rules (which it calls "guides") contain a couple of online and blog-specific examples of when disclosure is required (violation of these rules would presumably subject the violator to the FTC's hefty penalties):

1. "A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because ... his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. "

2. "An online message board designated for discussions of new music
download technology is frequented by MP3 player enthusiasts. They exchange
information about new products, utilities, and the functionality of numerous playback devices. Unbeknownst to the message board community, an employee of a leading playback device manufacturer has been posting messages on the discussion board promoting the manufacturer’s product. Knowledge of this poster’s employment likely would affect the weight or credibility of her endorsement. Therefore, the poster should clearly and conspicuously disclose her relationship to the manufacturer to members and readers of the message board."

Any blogger with a modicum of integrity would already have thought of this. But if not, consider yourselves now "guided" by the FTC.

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