Three People You Shouldn’t Care About

Two of the three people you shouldn’t care about are named “Kardashian”. It took me a long time to figure out who these people are, and why they are famous, but it was one of those it-just-isn’t-interesting-enough-to-google things and so whenever I’d see the tabloid headlines in the grocery store, I’d wonder, who is that? But then it would be my turn to check out (I still don’t use self check-out if I have produce) and I’d forget about the Kardashians until the next time.

It appears that they might be reality show stars, and that’s the biggest reason I wouldn’t know who they are, because reality shows are as boring to me as watching ESPN at 2:00 AM.

It appears that Mother Kardashian is as twit-like as her daughters (who have names that start with the letter “K”) and has almost as much native intelligence, integrity, sophistication and class as they do. This is according to People We Don’t Give a Shit About Magazine, and I sure wish I could take credit for thinking that up, but it was first said by Andy Borowitz, who is a very funny guy, and if you don’t already, and if you are a leftie, and if you like humorous musings, check out the Borowitz Report and subscribe to it.

Back to the K people. Here is a picture of “Mom”:

Believe it or not, this makes a news story. “Mom” (Kris Kardashian Jenner) does “cringe-worthy antics” and dresses like a bimbo when clearly she’s too old to be a bimbo. She’s also too old to be a cougar. She’s just old. And check out her hot-pink skinny jeans, black leather jacket and the leopard print mules. She looks like she’s all dressed up for a Rick Santorum Rally.

According to the Daily Mail (whatever that is) “She is a garish attention-seeker. She dresses too young for her age.”

And get this. In “honor” of her son’s 25th birthday, she posted a picture of herself on the internet wearing nothing at all when she was pregnant with him. Hoo boy! Bet that’s something you’d like to see on your birthday. The real question: is this normal? I never thought of doing this, but dang, I couldn’t anyway because you know what? I don’t have such a picture because none was taken. Who does “Mom” think she is, Demi Moore?

 On to someone else we’ve read about in People We Can’t Remember Who the F%&k They Are Magazine (again credit goes to A. Borowitz, see above), Kim Kardashian has been flour-bombed! Apparently, at an event for her new fragrance True Repulsion, oh wait, that’s Reflection, a woman strolled casually onto the red carpet with a zip-locked baggie full of the white stuff and dumped it on our favorite Reality (if this is Reality give me Fantasy — please!) Star’s head.

Further investigation revealed that the assailant did this vile deed for the benefit of Kris Humphries, who is Kim’s ex. That would be the marriage which lasted for 72 days. Now, Kim is as committed as the next person, she gave it 72 days to not work out.

Here’s Kim with her Crown of Flour:

And finally, according to People We Can’t Believe We Ever Gave a F%&k About Magazine (this one I’m not sure of but I’m giving the credit to Andy), “Paris Hilton was spotted in Miami on Wednesday sporting a rather interesting-looking ensemble. Her summery dress was peculiar, to say the least! What do you think of Paris’ boho-style cover-up?”

Here’s “boho” Paris Hilton:

We’ve got wars and near-wars, and a housing crisis, and high unemployment, and a recession, and tornadoes, and global warming, and our nation is as divided as it has ever been into two very different mindsets which is causing stagnation in government, and soaring medical costs, and soaring fuel costs, and we are killing our planet but let’s all take a moment and take a long look at Paris Hilton’s peculiar “summery dress”. As if we’d give the tiniest of shits about Paris Hilton or her life or her clothes or her “career” or anything about her.

In other news, A Denver Broncos fan died on Monday, before he had to see his beloved team sign one of his least favorite players.

According to his obituary in the Columbia Daily Tribune, 78-year-old James “Jim” Driver, rather than see Peyton Manning don a Broncos jersey, decided to speed up his exit from this world. He opted out sooner rather than later.

Now this was a guy who is “surius about them Broncos”.

The above examples are the sort of “news” we could use less of.

Three Drugs You Should Not Ask Your Doctor About

This has been done before. I know it, but I can’t resist it. The irritation I feel when I see any drug commercial is enough to cause me to ask my doctor for one, preferably an anxiety-reliever. 

This post has nothing to do with writing, except the writing of some very bad, atrociously bad, commercials. And marketing. Of course, always marketing. It’s all about the big drug companies, and how they can appropriate a bigger share of the health industry profit pie.

Ask your doctor if [insert name of C-drug here] is right for you.

Does anyone else (other than me) want to lift the nearest piece of furniture, which weighs such that an average woman can lift it, and hurl it at the TV when you hear these words? I don’t know about you, but when I go to my doctor, he has to look at a computer screen to remember who I am. It’s not like he’s a personal friend or anything, although I think I did see him in a movie theater at one time and he said hello. I was struck dumb, and he said it’s Dr. Smith, you probably don’t recognize me without the white coat. I had been in his office just the day before (two at the most) so that’s probably the reason he remembered me.

He had recently moved from a private practice to one of those places with names which make people think they actually care about making people better, such as OhioHealth, places where he is paid by some huge conglomeration of doctors and clinics and urgent care units and maybe even hospitals, where he only has to be a doctor and doesn’t have to worry about running out of tongue depressors. I accused him of “working for the man” and he was just a bit defensive and said that now he could pay attention to doctoring without worrying about the administrative part, at which he feared he actually kind of sucked at. I was surprised at this admission.

He is a very good guy, and I have nothing bad to say about him, but if I asked him if X drug was right for me, he’d probably think I was cah-razy.

I decided to concentrate on drugs that start with the letter C. They are a truly unique and diverse bunch of stuff that you can take for ailments which you might not know you had, or for which you might not have known you should be concerned about.

Cymbalta. This is a drug for depression and/or pain. This seems odd to me, right out of the blocks, that one drug could be good for both of these things. But yes, it is used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety disorder, neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis pain and chronic low back pain. So, if I’m depressed, shouldn’t I take a drug that’s JUST for depression and not combined with these other wimpy ailments? I mean really, depression seems more serious to me than something I could pop an Advil for. But if I decide to take Cymbalta, and my doctor says to me, “I believe that Cymbalta is right for you, oh Patient No. 412847534548” (<– this is a made up number, I don’t think my doctor has this many patients) then I might consider taking it. Because after all, I’ve seen the commercials, where the unhappy older people look sad and rub their knees and look out the window at a dreary day and they look, well, pretty pathetic. The commercial is divided into four parts:

Bad part. This is you, sad, depressed, in pain, not functional. Anxious and pretty much a loser. The voice-over guy is talking about how miserable you are, and the camera shots are making you look, well, not good.

Good part. The part where you play with a dog and laugh when he licks your mouth, and you walking on a beach, reading a book, with a small, slightly sad yet satisfied, fulfilled smile. The voice-over guy now talks about how wonderful life will be after Cymbalta.

Bad part. Uh oh. This is what can happen if you take Cymbalta. Make the pretty music a little louder, the voice-over guy speeds up the dialogue a bit so you have to strain to understand it. This is where they tell you that you can expect nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, decreased appetite, and increased sweating. This sounds like it might not be worth the trouble to me, so let’s skim over this part. Get it over with quick.

Last part. The clincher, yeah there’s bad stuff that can happen but all in all Cymbalta is a pretty good deal, so “Ask your doctor if Cymbalta is right for you.”

They write songs just for drugs. Here is the Cymbalta song, as performed by the original composer.

Chantix. In order to be in a Chantix commercial, you must be a middle-aged, middle-class (or less) heavily accented woman from New Jersey. You must be able to pronounce Chantix (CHAY-un-tix). You must have smoked for forty years, or ten years less than your age. You can then tell your part of the smoking story in 49 seconds of a two-minute commercial, how you are a pack a day smoker, how you’ve instructed your kids never to pick up a cigarette, etc. How your doctor prescribed CHAY-un-tix. Then for the next one minute of the two-minute commercial, all the bad stuff that will happen to you if you take CHAY-un-tix will be all spelled out for you. Yeah, the music gets a little louder here too. Here’s what can go wrong:

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Chantix: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using Chantix and call your doctor at once if you have any mood or behavior changes, confusion, anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, extreme fear, or if you feel impulsive, agitated, aggressive, restless, hostile, depressed, hyperactive (mentally or physically), or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself. Chest pain or pressure, tight feeling in your neck or jaw, pain spreading to your arm or shoulder, vomiting, sweating, general ill feeling; feeling light-headed or short of breath; sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance; easy bruising, unusual bleeding, blood in your urine or stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash; or the first sign of any blistering type of skin rash, no matter how mild. Here are a few less serious side effects of Chantix: nausea (may persist for several months); stomach pain, indigestion, constipation, gas; weakness, tired feeling; dry mouth, unpleasant taste in your mouth; headache; or sleep problems (insomnia) or unusual dreams.

Holy crap. I think I’d take my chances with smoking.

But hey, it can’t be that bad. Right? I mean, there’s Robin, slicing an apple with a scary looking knife. Obviously, SHE’S not suicidal.

What’s interesting about this ad is, that it lasts for two minutes and nearly half of it consists of admissions of all the horrible side effects.

Is this drug right for you? I think not.

Here is Robin in case you don’t believe me. Click on “Watch Robin’s Ad”.

Cialis. This is a very handy drug. When you take it, the walls of your house can fall away and you are sitting on the grassy banks of a stream and it is a beautiful, very green place. This can probably be done because of the way they build houses today, everything being kind of temporary. It is troubling to think what could happen in severe weather, can the walls fall away when you don’t want them to?

With Cialis, you take it, there are several seductive glances between the couple, the walls fall away, and then they are magically transported into two bathtubs.

Here are the side effects: The most common side effects with CIALIS are: headache, indigestion, back pain, muscle aches, flushing, and stuffy or runny nose. These side effects usually go away after a few hours. Uncommon but serious side effects include: An erection that won’t go away: If you get an erection lasting more than 4 hours, seek immediate medical help to avoid long-term injury. (Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard about this, but does it really happen? And if it does, is this considered a side effect?)

In rare instances, men taking prescription ED tablets, including CIALIS, reported a sudden decrease or loss of vision or hearing (sometimes with ringing in the ears and dizziness).  Remember, back when you were told that performing certain acts would make you go blind, guys? It’s for real.

The good news is that the unhappy, depressed, in-pain people can pop a Cymbalta, then pop a Cialis and wait for the walls to fall away. Maybe afterwards they can share a cigarette.

Two Good Tools for Writers

I had hoped to talk about four writing tools today, but only have time for two. It’s Sunday at 4:00 and I want to get my post out. It’s the dreaded Daylight Savings Time day when we get screwed out of an hour of the weekend although it will be nice to have the hour of light at the end of the day. I wrote a post about DST on the Boomers and Books site, and am reminded of what the American Indian said:

Only the government would believe that you could cut one foot off the top of a blanket, sew it onto the bottom, and have a longer blanket.

But on to the writing tools.

The Cliché Cleaner! I had written a post a few months back about The Cliché Finder which had obvious limitations. It must be a common problem because this post is still being read, and recently, a woman posted a comment which said she was an editor and it was a big part of her day just spotting clichés and she was in the market for something that could cut down on the time spent. I said I hadn’t heard of anything better and she responded that she’d found The Cliché Cleaner. I investigated. What a great tool it is.

I first downloaded the sample and after one try, decided to buy it. It’s only $12.95 which doesn’t “break the bank” (bet that’s a cliché, what do you think?). This tool examines a text file and matches it against more than 16,000 clichés and their variations.

But wait! There’s more. And this is even better, it counts the number of repeating phrases. How many times have you been reading along and you start to think, I’ve read that before? And I’m sure getting tired of reading the same words over and over. Now this problem can be fixed.

The Help File recommends that the files to be examined shouldn’t be too large, and a complete novel should be broken up into four or five chapters per chunk. This seemed like a pretty severe limitation. If it has to be broken up then the results of each file will have to be manually compared to the results of every other file. Didn’t like the sounds of that, so I thought I’d give it a try using the complete file. What could possibly go wrong? I’d run out of memory or some equally horrific computer event and I’d have to reboot. Big deal. It worked fine, took only a few seconds, so I’m not sure why it was suggested that the files be smaller. 

The software opens up a response window once it’s through searching and creates a very nice report, sortable in a number of different ways. I chose to sort on number of instances found, so my list will be ordered in such a way that I can address them from the most to the least problematic.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is there is no way (that I can see) to save the report so it can be accessed later. It can’t even be swiped to copy/paste and this is because of other functionality that it has, which I didn’t care about, that is, being able to click on the instance of the phrase and be redirected to the portion of text where it is found. It’s a TEXT file, not a Word document, so if I made changes to a text file, all my formatting is gone. This isn’t good at all. I don’t want to make changes to that file, I want a nice list of my offenders so I can go back into Word and do the corrections there.

Not possible. Because of a certain issue which I will explain in greater detail, I found myself writing the phrases down. Yes, all of them, and there were quite a few phrases too. I was forced to take pen in hand, and while I was pleasantly surprised to note that I am still able to pick up the pen and put it to a piece of paper and form words and phrases in cursive writing that are legible, still it seems rather like going back to the nineties.

It is a terrible option and I couldn’t figure out a way of bypassing the manual written list because when I tried to examine the report and type directly into another text editor, I had problems. When the cliché report window is clicked on (to move down the list) the window where you are typing disappears. This is a computer thing, having to do with which window has focus and response windows and a few other computer-related anomalies that no one needs to understand, other than it is hellishly annoying.

With the manual labor behind me, it took almost no time to type the phrases in.

The Cliché Cleaner, even with its faults, is better than anything else I’ve found. It is efficient (yet humbling) to see so many problems displayed in a list.  

But now I that I have it, I can go through each one, search for it in my Word document and decide what to do about it.

Four stars (out of five) for The Cliché Cleaner, and if I could print or save or copy/paste the report, it would have been five. But zero stars out of five for Customer Service because when I wrote (twice) and asked questions I have been ignored.  

Wordle! The Wordle website describes this writing tool as a “toy” and it is fun to play with but it provides some valuable insight into repeated words. It creates a “Word Cloud” and the words that appear more frequently are given greater prominence. Once the cloud is created by Wordle, adjusting the font and color will change its appearance.

I have a problem with word repetition and usually have a lot of editing to do to remove extraneous words. Words like but, that, just, so. Meaningless, throw-away words. Using too many of them says “amateur”. Of course, sometimes, these words are necessary. Wordle will point out if certain words appear more often than would be expected.

Then tedious it is, but doing a Find in word on the word in question is the only way to look at each instance of it to determine if it can be removed or not.

Wordle cloud for Perigee Moon:

Book Cover Design Using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro

This morning I designed a book cover using iStockPhoto and BookCoverPro. This is the third book cover I have done, and it was super easy. Yes, it is a very simple, basic book cover but I like simple and basic.

I took some photos of the Perigee Moon this past March, but I didn’t love any of them. I decided to search iStockPhoto.com to see if I could find something I liked better. This is a very good site to check out if you are in the market to purchase photos, illustrations, audio or video files. People submit their work to iStockPhoto and if the work is accepted it can be purchased by anyone with a need. The owner of the work gets a percentage of each sale.

The purchaser can use the item for any purpose and there is no danger of copyright infringement. So my rule is, for a cover, I either use my own work, or make sure I get it from some place that can’t complain if I use it.

I bought the big one (more pixels) because I didn’t want to scrimp on the cover. If it were a blog or something, then it’s not such a big deal, but in this case, more is better.

This is the photo I downloaded from iStockPhoto:

I mirror-imaged the photo and cropped it so the moon would appear to be closer to the edge of the cover.  This can be done with any photo editing software. I used PhotoStudio which is a subset of PhotoShop.

I use a simple package called BookCoverPro. This software is not free but won’t put you into bankruptcy either. It’s maybe $100 or so. As long as the market trends towards eBooks, I wonder about the necessity of having a book cover professionally designed. If I were a New York Times Best Selling Author maybe, but if that were true, someone else would be doing the design of the cover who would be a lot better than I could ever hope to be at it.

I want simple. Straightforward. Contrast and maybe a little mood setting. This is actually a picture of a normal full moon but who’s to know? I thought it portrayed a certain feeling. This is the moon Luke looks at, the night of his great epiphany.

I recommend BookCoverPro, but I didn’t find the Customer Service all that great. It is simple enough to learn, so you don’t need Customer Service anyway, but trust me, in this case, “Service” is only a name.

Here are the simple steps I did to create this cover, which will be used for the print version of Perigee Moon.

Select the size. My book will be 6 X 9 so the size is 12 X 9. Six inches for the front and six inches for the back. Then the spine is sized, and this can be done by specifying the number of pages. That’s good because it’s difficult to size for a spine, and with this package it is done for you.

I selected a background color, black, because my picture is dark and even though there isn’t background to speak of, there could be a sliver where the photo doesn’t cover and I don’t want it to be white.

I then added my moon photo and stretched it a little to fit over the entire cover.

I then added the text fields: the title, the author name on the front and on the spine.

On the back of the book is a photo of the author, and some other text with other novels I have written. In addition, there is the back blurb which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago which I have yet to perfect so that part is Under Construction.

Now that I have this book cover created, the package will allow me to create a .pdf file of it, which is what gets uploaded to CreateSpace along with the formatted pages of the novel. They print both the cover and the pages, and assemble the book.

It would be very cool if you would comment and tell me what you think of this cover. Even if you don’t like it, or have suggestions, I would love to hear them. It’s very easy to change. I designed this cover in about three hours. The greatest amount of time was spent picking out the photo to use.

I’m sure there is someone out there who is thinking, you designed the cover in three hours? I can believe that, because it sucks, it’s amateurish and ugly.

I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while though, so maybe that counts for something.