Monday, July 31, 2006

OTC Relief Products and the Placebo Effect

You know and we know that somewhere in the wide world, someone has already come up with this parody - you may have yourself. However, if you have not, we wish to enter our own bid. We have not yet eyeballed any of the news stories devoted to this phenomenon, this triumph of marketing and supposed efficacy of the placebo effect, we came up with this all on our own (to our no doubt everlasting shame.)









Apply directly to the penis! Apply directly to the penis! Apply directly to the penis!





The Attack of the Leeches - Chapter 2

Chapter Two

Biff called the agency and asked to speak to the person who had first left his name (there had been three separate individuals, and Biff and Muffy had taken the trouble to make note of them.) After Biff had been put through to him, he politely informed the leech of the couple's situation, and that they were sending checks to the hospital each month in amounts that they could afford. In return, the leech insisted that not only was their effort not good enough, but also that they were committing a terrible act by sending any money to the hospital - that they must henceforth send money only to the agency. Patiently, Biff once more explained that they were doing their best, and that the agency would have to live with it, at which point the leech said "Could you hold, please?"

A new voice came on the line, a less-pleasant female leech, and Biff reiterated everything he had already related. The female leech rejected Biff's effort and vaguely implied that if they did not pay up in a timely fashion, the agency had ways of dealing with people like them. There were no specifics, just sinister mutterings. After Biff continued to be recalcitrant, the leech spoke the dreaded words "Can you hold for a minute?"

(It might at this time be wise to point out that Biff and Muffy had availed themselves of the resources of their local library and taken the trouble to research the ins-and-outs of bankruptcy, collections agencies and the Fair Credit Reporting Act due to Muffy's aforementioned hospitalization, and were well-versed in what could and could not be done by slavering packs of leeches.)

The third person to speak with Biff was the Head Leech, and this worthy knew his stuff. He was nasty enough to have cowed an enraged pit bull into abject submission. He had obtained Biff and Muffy's credit information from the credit bureaus, and knew what credit cards they carried and what the exact credit line of each card was. Their card of longest standing had a credit line of $20,000, and the leech demanded that they pay their debt using that card. Biff cheerfully told the leech that if they were to do that, the interest rate increase would push them into bankruptcy.

Biff then inquired if they had already been reported to the credit bureaus as deadbeats. The ensuing silence told Biff all that he needed to know, and he said "Since a black mark will be on our record for seven years, and bankruptcy would be on our record for ten years, we may as well claim bankruptcy and have all our debts erased. The extra three years won't matter much, and you won't get a penny from us."

This was not received well. After having been rendered speechless for long moments, the leech became even nastier, threatening all sorts of actions that they might take to harass Biff and Muffy, including sending an agent to their place of employment each day. The leech was being dishonest and Biff knew it, so he indignantly cried "You can't do that!" Biff should have said "You're not allowed to do that", because the leech mistook the first statement to mean that Biff was frightened, and began to bear down even harder.

Biff had by now been on the phone for over an hour, and it was approaching time for Biff and Muffy to ready themselves for work, so finally he said, "All right, what are the terms?" The leech wanted to be paid $2800 immediately and thereafter in installments of $200 per month. There was, of course, no way that Biff and Muffy could afford that, but Biff agreed to do so and gave the leech the credit card number. Then they hung up, and Biff and Muffy began to dress for work.

(To be continued ...)


Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Attack of the Leeches

We are here to announce the recent posting of chapter nine of the Dark Rambler saga at its regular site, but we would also like to tell a cautionary tale, based on a true story, that we believe has some relevance to these days of loss of decent jobs, inflation lurking on the horizon, employers flush with cash but unwilling to pay living wages, and credit companies who have attempted to make bankruptcy an artifact of the past (how long will it be before the government reinstitutes poorhouses and debtors' prisons? we ask.) We hope that some who might find themselves in dire straits are able to take something away from this story and apply what they learn as need be.

As we have stated, this tale is based on a true story. The facts occurred. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty.)




Once upon a time, there lived a happy couple named (oh, why the hell not) Biff and Muffy. Biff and Muffy worked at good jobs, earned comfortable paychecks and put money away in a savings account. They lacked for little, and enjoyed a pleasant life - until Muffy fell ill and was hospitalized. Her insurance paid for most of the bills, but, to her dismay, she soon discovered that the company for which she worked took a dim view of employees becoming seriously ill and consuming many thousands of insurance dollars. She became the focus of much pressure, so much so that she finally and inevitably committed technical insubordination and was fired. In the interim, Biff had also suffered misfortune and did not at that time have a job either. The couple searched for work as their finances began to dwindle. They both found other employment, but at salaries much lower than those to which they had been accustomed, and their account soon faded, as smoke dissipates in the wind. As Biff and Muffy struggled to pay off their debts, they joined the ranks of those who are forced to live from paycheck to paycheck. Their life was not unpleasant, they were getting along all right ...

and then ...

Biff fell ill.

Chapter One

Biff and Muffy had been working at their jobs for just over five months and were not yet eligible for paid leave or health insurance. Nevertheless, Biff had woken one weekend morning to discover that he was suffering from a perforated ulcer. As men will, he delayed treatment as long as he could, attempting to deny reality, but in late afternoon he agreed that Muffy should call the ambulance. By the time he had gone through the emergency procedures, he was on the point of lapsing into shock, and, except for one incident of coming out of anesthesia and attempting to tear the unfamiliar tubes from his nose and throat like a wild animal, he spent a week in the hospital recovering quietly and fairly quickly, considering that he had been split from breastbone to belly-button and pierced by four tubes of various functions, and stapled shut after the operation. All this, you may imagine, cost a substantial sum of money, a sum that Biff and Muffy could ill afford.

When they had received the bill and recovered from their shock (the total came to north of $8600), Muffy phoned the hospital's patient relations department, determined to organize a payment schedule that would not unduly damage the state of their precarious finances. She hoped to set up a number of $50 payments over a quantity of years, as that amount was all they could easily afford. Muffy explained the circumstances to the representative, who seemed singularly unsympathetic and became rather short with Muffy. Muffy eventually terminated the unsatisfactory call, and considered the question of payment to have been resolved.

Shortly after the conversation with the rep, Biff and Muffy began receiving messages on their answering machine from mysterious strangers, who would leave their name and intone, "You need to contact me at this telephone number." As Biff and Muffy were unfamiliar with these strangers, and suspected some sort of scam, they ignored the calls, as a matter of general principle.

After they had made three $50 payments to the hospital, Biff and Muffy received a letter in the mail. The return address was unfamiliar to them, but seemed to suggest that the firm was in some way involved with commerce. When they had opened the envelope and perused the enclosure, they stared at each other in astonishment, both marveling over the words "This is an attempt to collect a debt." The couple quickly realized that, without bothering to inform them beforehand, the hospital had turned Biff's account over to a collection agency (hereinafter referred to as "leeches".) Biff and Muffy were rendered nonplussed and considered that they had been treated with an appalling lack of courtesy by the patient relations department. Nonetheless, they decided that their best course of action was to place a call to the agency and explain their situation. Surely the people at the agency would be kindly disposed toward Biff and Muffy and treat them with sympathy and understanding, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they?

Foolish Biff! Silly Muffy! NO.

(To be continued ...)


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Shelter in the Rain

We would like today to say a few words about an online friend who has been kind enough to give our story site a plug in her journal. She is a state affiliate for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illnesses) and as such is closely involved in all aspects of the organization’s activities. She conducts frequent seminars and has recently printed and assembled a quantity and variety of documentation for use in the seminars. She is responsible for, as NAMI’s promotional material states, support for, education of, and advocacy on behalf of those with mental illnesses and/or brain disorders, and their families.

This is, we think you’ll agree, an exceedingly important service, and one that not everyone can successfully provide. It requires at the least organizational and interpersonal skills and a discipline that many of us, sadly, lack. Our hearts go out to those whom she serves, and our hats are off to Deb, a marvelous lady who takes on a difficult and demanding task in stride and with pride. Thank the Creator that there are selfless people, like Deb, willing to shoulder the burden of helping those who often feel powerless.


Sunday, July 23, 2006


We have astonished ourselves. We have just now posted Chapter 8 of the Dark Rambler saga, only three days after Chapter 7 was posted. Please do not expect this to be a common occurrence, it happened only because Francis wished it to.

Thanks are once again due to Deb and Nikki, Nikki and Deb, for their invaluable input, and we unabashedly thank Kathy for the plug in her personal journal.

If anyone should spot an Oxford mouse gamboling about in a mortarboard while clutching a tiny diploma, please send her home. Thank you.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Just a Thought

When two young punks start potting at each other with lethal weapons in the middle of the global village, it's a good bet that sooner or later, every family will in some fashion suffer. Can't we all just grow up?


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thank Yous

Thank you, Deb and Kathy, Kathy and Deb. Your separate but equal contributions to the newest Dark Rambler chapter (that would be chapter seven, out of Word via the magic of copy and paste and into virtual reality on the Dark Rambler site - sorry about the shameless plug) are hereby gratefully acknowledged, and we hope you're both happy with the result.

And a blushing thank you to Nikki for her generous plug in her own journal - Nikki, we'll be as happy as cheese-filled mice to have you critique us any ol' time.

If anyone happens to see this and is intrigued enough to visit the Dark Rambler site, we hope you enjoy the show, and remember, it's only a story.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Just a Quick Note

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, most of our recent creative endeavors have been directed toward the ongoing story of the Dark Rambler. For those who care, the fifth chapter was posted on July 4th and the sixth chapter was posted in the early hours of this very morning. If you wish to acquaint yourself with Francis Collinwood Jr., his story may be found here:

We have decided to no longer post the chapters in our regular journals, since we consider the story to be displayed to best effect in its own home.


Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Nikki's Tags Part 2

Back in April, I devoted an entry to a number of tags that Nikki had designed for us. I have renamed that entry to better reflect the contents, and now include the second part, because Nikki has seen fit to grace us with more. If you'd like to revisit the original entry, you may access it here.

This first tag recelebrates my predilection for crossword puzzles. I have made a desultory stab at creating an actual crossword for the journal, but a program dedicated to crossword creation would, I suspect, make things much easier. Maybe someday ...

This tag is just damn cute, and was probably created before I found it necessary to reveal my offline name.

Here we are, folks, in a nutshell (well, a teacup). Thanx, Nikki, for these marvelous creations.

And, because we are proud of our newest website, we wish to include the URL here. Because our Dark Rambler stories seem to have taken on a life of their own, we decided to move the tales to a showcase of their own. The URL will take you to the Introduction, and from there you can access the various chapters if you wish. Any new chapters will be posted at that site first. "What might this have to do with Nikki?" you may inquire. She offered the graphic that graces the Introduction, and we eagerly accepted.

Enjoy the day.


Monday, July 3, 2006