Don't Say I Didn't Tell You So
I had spoken about spam here and there in True, but in this issue I published the first installment of what would become my Spam Primer -- a warning that unsolicited e-mail advertising was now officially a serious problem on the net.
I Finally Nail a Copyright Infringer
One of the most irritating things about publishing online is people who think that if it's online, it's free -- and they can copy it. Wrong! Copyright infringement is stealing.
This week, a reader on True's free distribution is getting a check from me. Why? He was reading a well-known national magazine with a circulation in the millions, and saw a bunch of stories. Bizarre but true stories. "These are reminiscent of TRUE" he said in a note attached to the magazine, which he mailed me.
Speaking of People Doing Dumb Things
I absolutely cannot believe how fast the "sircam" virus is spreading. Why is that dumb? Let's put it this way: people still run MS LookOut! (er... I guess it's called "Outlook", isn't it?) as their mail program despite that it again and again and again proves to be too week to avoid trojan horses like sircam (and "I love you" and "Snow White" And... AND...!! How many more until people dump it?!)
Hit Squad on Spammers?
I've been clamoring for action on the spam front since 1996. I've even dedicated a web site to a primer on what spam is, how spammers get your address, and other topics (which recently got some minor updates).
No, The Readers Haven't Learned
I was floored this week by a note from Ken in New Jersey: "I find the publication (and your comments) MAGNIFICENT; can't say better than that. Your stuff is very thought provoking, your logic consistent (and, in my opinion, 'right on'), your writing impeccable, and your humor is a delightful extravaganza. I read every issue more than once, and set aside time just for that reading. It is a great relaxation and recreation to explore, think, shake my head in disbelief, laugh, sometimes pause to re-read the closing comments, and just simply enjoy. I also enjoy the controversies you occasionally provoke; what fun!!!"
I'm getting sooooo sick of in-the-mail solicitations from credit card companies! But they're starting to make me angry, and I hope you'll join me in getting revenge. The major USA issuers subscribe to a service by one of the credit reporting agencies that will supposedly cut down on the mailings (toll-free: 888-567-8688). I called and registered with them, but I didn't notice any slow-down in the junk. But it's the new attitude they have that makes me angry.
Bats, Iron Bars, and Bricks
Several readers wrote to complain about a story in last week's issue (26 June 2005):
Sadly, This Isn't a Lawyer Joke
I expect to get a few complaints from lawyer readers about the lead story this week -- a lot of my readers are lawyers. (I also have a relatively high number of cops and preachers in my distribution. Apparently those three professions particularly like this kind of reading.) My guess is that most of my lawyer readers are pretty decent people and doing a good job fighting for true justice, and they also find the sort of comments their colleague made to be reprehensible.
Define "Political Correctness"
A story this week is notable not just because of my offered "definition" of "Political Correctness," but for some interesting commentary it brought. First, the story, from True's 28 August 2006 issue:
In the 3 December 2006 issue I led with this story:
There was, of course, reader reaction, virtually all of it readers finding it hard to believe there are such nutballs out there. But....
War on Drugs
I fully expect to be called "anti-police" for the lead story this week. One doesn't have to be "anti" anything to decry stupidity, or even to call to task organizations you fully support when they do something wrong.
Here's the story, from True's 17 December 2006 issue:
Another Day, Another Cry-Baby
Quite a few Premium subscribers actually stay on the free distribution specifically to see the advertising. That's cool: the advertisers pay for this free distribution, so it's nice that people actually look at the ads! But now and then people whine about the ads. That's dumb: without them, they wouldn't be getting the newsletter at all, would they?!
Zero Tolerance: The Backlash Has Begun
Here we go again: more Zero Tolerance stories. This week (7 January 2007 issue) is, I think, the first time ever that the entire issue consists of ZT stories, starting with this one:
I'm in Southern California, flying in today to speak at a conference next week. May as well spend the weekend with friends, so I popped in early. Since I live in a small town far from a big city, it always takes two flights to get anywhere: one on a puddle jumper to get to Denver, then on from there. Those little regional "commuter" turbo-props are loud, and I brought along my noise-canceling headphones to deal with it.
Guns in America: Why?
Anytime I run a "gun story" I get a lot of comment from both hugely polarized Americans, who want to rant for or against guns, and foreign readers, who don't understand the American "obsession" with arms. I'm going to take a stab at helping foreign readers understand it a bit better. But first, the "gun story" that prompted this essay, from True's 15 February 2009 issue:
Very often readers ask me for advice about starting an online business -- when I started in 1994, there wasn't anyone to ask, and I've learned a lot in the nearly 15 years since. Obviously one can learn some things by watching what I do, but there are others who are in the business of teaching such things, and that's faster (and more generic). The problem is, a lot of those in the business are fly-by-night know-nothings who will gladly take a lot of money from you, and may or may not deliver actual value for your investment.
The War on Kids
There will probably be two responses to the first story in this week's issue: 1) I was too hard on the public library/librarian, and 2) I wasn't hard enough on her. To be sure, my tagline was judging her based on the standards of the American Library Association.
But first the story, from True's 10 May 2009 issue:
The Future of Newspapers
When I started True back in 1994, there weren't too many people online — especially compared to now. Once I quit my Day Job to pursue online publishing full time, I was constantly looking for peers — people to talk with that would understand what it was I was doing. It was hard going at first, but I eventually found several communities of people using e-mail discussion lists to communicate. I joined several, and was able to find a number of interesting people to help keep me stimulated and learning new things.
Patrick Timoney's "Gun"
The "zero tolerance" stories just don't stop, despite court decisions and legislators demanding "common sense." A 2" hunk of plastic isn't a gun, unless you're a hysterical grade school principal who demands that 9-year-olds in your care sign confessions when they bring a toy to school.
1984 in 2010
Father of the Year, Or...?
A story this week by True contributor Jennifer Weiner struck me the wrong way, so I sent it back for a rewrite. I thought you might find the original story intriguing, as well as her reaction to my rewrite request.
The End of the World: 2011 Edition
I can't just title this page "The End of the World", because that has been predicted before. And before that. And before that, and — well, you get the idea.
Ooh! Do It Again!
Last week I did a harder-than-usual "push" for subscription upgrades. You might like to know the excellent result: 32 upgrades. Just 32 upgrades is "excellent"?! Yep. The week before, it was four. The week before that was better: 15.
Forever Doomed to Repeat History
One of the best things about writing This is True is I'm always learning interesting things. (Usually I say "It's really fun!", which is certainly true too. But I get to research so many interesting topics!) And not just the regular stories: I learned something I never knew about before with this week's Honorary Unsubscribe, too.
Are You Liberal, or Conservative?
I think a couple of stories this week will make some people's heads explode. "Confound it, Randy! Are you a heartless Glenn Beck conservative, or a bleeding heart Barney Frank liberal?!"
Rural Electrification, Meet the Rural Internet
Back in the early years of the 20th century, as cities were starting to get electrical power, that was the problem: only cities were getting electrical power. City clustering of homes and multi-family dwellings made for a lot of customers per mile of wire strung, and the payback to the electric companies came quickly.
Two Tiny Scandals
Two stories this week will, I think, generate some comments from readers. One has a zero tolerance theme, and the other is a minor political scandal. They're both from True's 19 February 2012 issue.
Another Week, Another Pack of Clueless School Officials
Two stories this week deserve some follow-up: one that's pretty light-hearted, and the other ...much less so.
Let's start with the comedy; both stories are from True's 13 May 2012 issue:
I've made no secret that I'm pretty much 100 percent egalitarian. I've defended the religious, the non-religous, the "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians", and others in True's stories. I'm interested in whether people walk their talk, not whether they're religious, gay, atheist, pagan, Muslim, employed, educated -- whatever.
Ethics Train Wreck
Last week, my BS-o-Meter failed, and a fake story made it into This is True. It has happened a few times over the past 18 years of weekly columns, but luckily only a few times. Let's start with the story, from True's 5 August 2012 issue:
Provoking Thought: Child Support Division
It's nice when someone else goes on a rant, so I don't have to!
A story by Mike Straw in last week's (30 December 2012) issue went for the laugh in the tagline. A reader -- Wayne, in the U.S. military and deployed to Afghanistan -- thought Mike should have gone more for "thought-provoking". Let's start with the story:
Why I Embrace "Gay Marriage"
Simply put, I fully believe in the idea that "all men* are created equal" and are entitled to equal protection under the law.
*("men" being a generic word for humans, as in "mankind" — I believe the statement equally applies to women.)
Bashing the "Lamestream Media"
A good friend “shared” something on social media not too long ago that really made me roll my eyes. It was about the wanna-be terrorist “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid. Just before Christmas in 2001, Reid, a Brit, got on an American Airlines plane from Paris to Florida, and while in-flight he tried to light a bomb in his shoe. Other passengers subdued him, and his airplane bombing fizzled. He’s now in prison in the U.S., serving a life sentence without parole.
Part of the posting that my friend copied (he didn’t write it, he just shared it) was this:
A Hex on ABC News
This week several readers sent a story suggestion, and it’s a pretty outrageous story: a school accused a 15-year-old student of “putting a hex” on a teacher, making him ill. The assistant principal brought the girl in for “aggressive interrogation” and then suspended her for 15 days. No, this wasn’t in Salem in the late 1600s, but rather “modern” Oklahoma. The link was to a page on ABC News, and it was the same link from each reader.
Why People Die in Gun Free Zones
I Think Alexander Went Too Easy on the schools in a story this week. First, let’s start with the story, from True’s 23 February 2014 issue:
NASA Outreach on Social Media
As a life-long NASA geek (and former employee of a NASA center), I pay reasonably close attention to the goings on at NASA. I spotted something in my Facebook feed, though, that made me roll my eyes about how not to inform the public about something that should be of great interest.
I have quite a bit to say about the lead story this week. Let’s start with the story, from the 23 November 2014 issue:
I Am Charlie
I Am Charlie. Unless you live in a cave, you probably have heard something about a terrorist attack on a weekly magazine in Paris this week. Charlie is Charlie Hebdo. Who’s he? Well, that’s French for Weekly Charlie — and they chose “Charlie” for Charlie Brown, the perpetual underdog in the Peanuts comic strip.
The Taylor Swift Cop Video: Call Me a Contrarian
OK: Call Me a Contrarian. Sure the lip-synching cop was entertaining! The song is fun, and who can’t like the earnest and drop-dead gorgeous (and cute! — see below) Taylor Swift? But really: we are in a cycle of big distrust of cops in this country, so their solution is to lie about just happening to find this video of the cop in their random review of dashcam footage?
Freedom of Religion, Alabama Style
I Have a Few Comments on Mike Straw’s story this week. Let’s start with the story; it’s from the 18 January 2015 issue:
Because They're Not Capable of Defending Themselves
What's more patronizing: making a joke at someone’s expense, or the contention that the subject of the joke is not capable of defending themselves?
This week it’s war veterans who are not capable, or so some readers seem to be saying. Let’s start with the story — from True's 8 February 2015 issue:
I Was Hoping to Write a different Honorary Unsubscribe this week, but couldn’t because I couldn’t get information. Debbie Crawford, a 25-year veteran paramedic in Denver, died this weekend. The scuttlebutt is that her PTSD got so severe, she committed suicide — she could no longer handle the stress of the job. If that is indeed what happened, and I don’t know for sure because none of the media outlets in Denver has covered her death at all, that’s truly a tragedy.
Another Politician, Another Hypocrite
Another politician, another hypocrite — this time, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Missouri. Let’s start with the story, from the 17 May 2015 issue:
Dangerous in the Wrong Hands
Some Readers Seem to Want to top recent examples of “Stupid Reasons for Protest Unsubscribes”. This one’s hilarious: in Friday’s free edition, having no paid advertisers, I ran a house ad for my drone site, Drone Pilot Wings. I haven’t been doing much in the way of articles on that site lately, but several that I have done really push for pilots being more responsible with drones, vs. doing stupid things like getting in the way of airplanes trying to fight wildfires. There’s even an article category called “Pilot Error” to highlight such stories. Of course, the tiny ad doesn’t get into all that, it just points interested readers to the site to learn more.
Land of the Scared
I had to get something off my chest. I’ve been seething about this for awhile, but a story this week brought it to a head. You probable saw it: it was the talk of social media last week. So let’s start with that, from True’s 20 September 2015 issue:
Alert the Media.
There Was a Protest Unsubscribe after I ran the plug (below) for Get Out of Hell Free cards in Friday’s edition.
Nick in Arizona recently re-subscribed after an absence. He wrote: “I’m looking forward to getting TRUE in my mailbox again. It’s been a long, long time, and what reminded me was the Get Out of Hell Free cards. I came across a few in one of my storage boxes (I remember mailing in my request for several orders, including the nice plastic cards in addition to the card stock version, which I had been handing out like breezy many years ago). I’m a consultant now, and I live the travel life style. I’m always working with people who need the GOOHF, especially since it covers stupidity! Lol. I’m going to need several, soon. I’m looking forward to the true stories and witty commentary, and occasional RIDICULOUS reactions from the reader base! Thank you for still being there, doing what you do!”
Gasping for Breath ...Still
The Two Lead Stories this week (the “asthma stories”) were by far the most-suggested stories by readers recently. I think every one of them just suggested one or the other, and they probably didn’t know about the other. The two stories, which happened about a week apart, and about 165 miles apart, are pretty amazing together. Let’s start with the two stories, in True’s 24 January 2016 issue:
Why I've Removed Google's Ads
It’s a Matter of Control
This is True went online in the first half of 1994, so True has been in business longer than many big names in the Internet biz, including Google (1998). As a classic feature column, I received (and turned down) syndication offers from two different newspaper syndicates, including one of the biggest in the business, because I wanted full control of True’s publication rights — including its online presence. And as of today, I’ve turned off Google’s “Adsense” service on this site for the same reason: to assert my control.
Jay Jay is Cray Cray
Sometimes it's fun to poke at obliviots — especially when they're truly oblivious to their idiocy.
Orlando: What YOU Can Do
You — Yes, You — Can “Do Something” about Mass Killings. A good friend of mine posted this yesterday, after he heard about the 49 murders at a “gay night club” in Orlando, Florida, overnight. The gunman was killed in a shoot-out with police.
Die Like a Dog
I know a story this week will raise eyebrows, so I’m posting it here so there’s a place to explore it a bit in the comments. Let’s start with the story, from the 9 October 2016 issue: