Archive for April, 2010

Website Review: Chiropractic.com

April 30, 2010

 

“IN PAIN CALL TODAY” reads the unpunctuated sign outside Access Chiropractic Center, a small practice in my hometown of Rock Hill.

I’ve been in a few “pain calls” myself.

I remember the conference calls I used to have to join on a weekly basis as part of my membership in a company-wide “task force.” A group of us from several cities across the country were forced to tackle a variety of tasks in supposed betterment of corporate quality. One of these tasks was participation in an hour-long call each Wednesday. Most of the session I’d sit there with the speakerphone on and a crossword puzzle in front of me, as the team leader prattled through an agenda of hare-brained but fortunately never-to-be-completed schemes. In some ways, it was not unlike working the night shift at a convenience store — long stretches of boredom relieved occasionally by the terror of being robbed or, in my case, having my name called for a response.

“Opera?” I’d reply, which was correct as a five-letter word for “musical play,” though not usually the answer the facilitator was looking for.

At best, I’d be able to transform the drudgery into a bit of amusement by turning the phone onto “mute” mode and making sarcastic remarks about the proceedings with a co-worker in the same room with me. That worked okay until one afternoon when we misread the “mute” indicator.

“So Davis, can you tell us all how me being a ‘raving lunatic’ will impact our project deadline?” Lana asked from her office in California.

Quickly I fixed the mute button and responded, “Maybe we’d finish faster if you were distracted by a shiny object?”

Or there was the time I was leading a call myself, with the object being to train a room full of Sri Lankans, listening from the other side of the world to my discourse on how to markup a financial document. They were a quiet, respectful group of students who rarely interrupted my monologue with any questions. Though it would’ve been nice if one of them had called back when the line went dead 15 minutes into my hour-long spiel.

I’m distracted into misreading Access Chiropractic’s sign as a way to pad this week’s Website Review of Dr. Jeffrey M. Muschik’s internet presence. It’s a site with only a few pages of pulldowns, which I’ll begin mocking in just a moment. I chose to include the sign in front of their Celanese Road storefront as part of their new-media promotional push just to flesh things out a little.

The home page for accesschiropracticcenter.com includes a nice picture of Dr. Muschik, a generic photo of him or somebody yanking on a small child’s hand under the heading “Affordable Family Care”, and some attractive credit card logos. (It’s not clear whether the hand-holding picture is meant to convey a general sense of caring, or represents an actual chiropractic manipulation). The introductory copy says the doctor provides Rock Hill residents with “safe, gentle and effective” chiropractic care, a revision of his earlier business plan for dangerous, rough and permanently paralyzing treatment that didn’t attract too many patients.

There’s a bulleted list of the services available from this office: neck pain, headaches, back pain, auto accidents, etc. Why anyone would want to contract for the acquisition of any of these afflictions is beyond me, but I’ve never been much of a believer in chiropractics anyway. In addition to decompression treatments, you can also obtain “pregnant patients, sports injuries and children” from this menu of products and services.

The backbone of the website is a page dedicated to details of the office operation. In addition to chiropractic treatment, the doctor also offers rehabilitation and massage. He keeps office hours Monday through Friday, which include a prolonged lunch break from noon to 3:30 p.m. during which I imagine Dr. Muschik goes home and lies down. Next to a photograph of the doctor rubbing the lower back of a prone but fully clothed man is the practice’s 11-point “no wait policy”. This has little to do with how long you’ll be leafing through Adjustments Today magazines in the waiting room. It’s more about automobile injuries, attorney referrals, car accidents and how close to the hospital the office is located (almost within walking distance — good for patients but not so great for the collision-obsessed doctor).

A biography of Dr. Muschik indicates that he’s a nice enough guy. He’s board-certified and licensed in South Carolina, a reassuring thing except for the South Carolina part. He was trained at the National University of Health Sciences in Illinois in the treatment and rehabilitation of physical injuries and advanced neurological diseases, as well as back and neck pain. He’s certified in CPR (in other words, he can press down on the front of your chest as well as on the back), he teaches youth coaches tactics in sports injury prevention, and is the official chiropractor for the Winthrop University soccer team. He is “consistently active within the community,” perhaps more than you can say about his hobbled patients whose activity levels are more subdued.

There’s a section about what to expect at your first appointment. After filling out some paperwork, your consultation with the doctor will begin. “In order to determine what your actual problem is, the doctor will ask you various questions related to your condition,” reads the page. I’m not sure if Dr. Muschik has shared this ground-breaking diagnostic innovation with others in the medical community, but I hope he can write a paper on the topic, perhaps during his extended lunch break. You may be given x-rays and you may receive same-day treatment, if the doctor can figure out which parts of your body to pummel, knead and squeeze. Prior to leaving, you’ll be given home-care instructions that may include ice or heat application and avoidance of certain activities.

Activities to be avoided do not include, not surprisingly, a follow-up appointment for another session. “Generally speaking, patients are seen again within 1-2 days” and, as I understand is the general pattern for chiropractic care, for every one to two weeks after that until the second coming of Christ. It’s easy to schedule another meeting with the doctor: “the fastest way is to contact our office,” advises the copywriter. I’m guessing he gave up doing this telepathically when the fortune teller that shared his duplex finally got that job with the census that she was angling for.

The only other feature worth noting on the website is a “limited time” coupon good for a free consultation. First-time patients can print this online offer to receive an evaluation “that’s a $50 value”. In our bargain-obsessed culture, I can understand showing up at the Bi-Lo grocery store with a “buy-one-get-one-free” offer on watermelons, or perhaps a dollar off the number 8 combo on Tuesdays only at Chick-fil-A (if your car has an cow-head antenna topper). But coming to the office of a medical professional with a coupon in hand just doesn’t seem quite right to me.

Lastly, I want to make an additional smart remark about the office sign in the photo at the top of this post. If you look closely in the upper left-hand corner, you’ll see the Access logo — a family of four that’s either very close to each other or else congenitally conjoined. I thought such a rare condition as the latter could only be repaired by 20-hour-long separation surgery, but if it’s something that chiropractics can take care of, I’m all in favor of the less-traumatic course of treatment.

Wonder if there’s a coupon for that. Buy one get three free, perhaps?

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Thanks for revealing our weaknesses: An editorial

April 29, 2010

Thank you, Dr. Stephen Hawking, for opening your big goddam mouth. Or at least the parts of it you can control.

For those who missed the news brief earlier this week (which would include any extraterrestrial life that doesn’t have an internet connection), the famed British physicist and general know-it-all said he thought that aliens who choose to visit Earth would most likely destroy us.

“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach,” Hawking said. “If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?”

Well, obviously, the aliens know. Now that you’ve shot off your fat lip.

Up until the time Mr. Renowned Theoretical Physicist told them otherwise, it was entirely possible that space monsters would think they’d have to be afraid of us. Even a cursory reconnaissance would reveal that we have thousands of nuclear warheads, chemical and biological poisons, and a virtually endless supply of real housewives of various cities waiting to shriek in their ears, if they have any. Just to be on the safe side, they’d likely cool their extraterrestrial heels on a nearby moon or asteroid and be content to snatch only passing astronauts and space junk.

But now — now that the foremost expert on astrophysics has clued them in on our weaknesses — we are ripe for an interplanetary attack. “C’mon down,” he might as well have said. “The weather’s fine and our brains are primed for sucking.”

Captain Autotune deserves all due respect for overcoming a debilitating neurological disorder to devote his life to studying the stars and theorizing about the origins of the universe. He is an inspiration to the abled and the differently abled alike, and beloved by the worlds of true science and pop science.

But unless he plans to climb out of that wheelchair and personally join in the apocalyptic battle to save humanity from invading mutants who didn’t even know we were scared of them until he made his Discovery Channel show (Sunday at 9 p.m., 8 Central), he needs to keep his great thoughts to himself.

If you can blow on that device that allows you to interact with your computer, and cause it to fire volley after volley of automatic weapons fire at waves on oncoming aliens, please prepare to do so. Otherwise, please keep your mouth shut.

Standing up for the Constitution

April 28, 2010

Some people enjoy a daily “constitutional,” following up their evening meal with a vigorous walk. Some get themselves all worked out at the mere mention of the Constitution itself. These are typically right-wing anti-Obamites who think the founding charter of America includes a clause preventing the election of a president they personally disagree with.

Whether carried around with them in their shirt pocket or tattooed on their lower back, these folks claim to know the U.S. Constitution inside and out, and assert that it’s being violated at every turn by the current Administration. “A mandate to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional,” they shout at their Tea Party rallies. “He was born in Kenya, bows down to foreign royalty, and enjoys the company of young boys,” claim others. “It says so right there in Article 13, Section 4.”

I hadn’t read the Constitution myself since being forced to do so back in high school by Mr. Arena, the same guy who confused a generation of Miami-area history students by writing “the world is your oyster” in their yearbooks. So my vague memory of the document was that it had something to do with shellfish. Now, I wanted to learn more about the foundation and source of the legal authority underlying the existence of the federal government, and I’m asking you to join me in this journey of re-discovery. C’mon along — I promise it won’t hurt nearly as much as a tattoo.

The Constitution was adopted in 1787 in Philadelphia by the constitutional convention. It was hand-written by Jacob Shallus and placed in a nice frame after being signed by all the delegates. Hence, we often refer to the Founding Fathers as the “framers” of the Constitution.

The word itself is comprised of four syllables, which clearly state its meaning: “con” means “with”; “sti” is shortened from “still”; “tu” refers to the ballet garment known as the “tu tu”; and “tion” is a variation of the word “shun”. So those who follow the Constitution come together to this day to spurn those who clothe themselves in dancewear, in other words, those who are different from us. It was designed as a cudgel, or weapon, to beat political opponents into submission.

Following a rambling preamble that’s both a spoiler of what’s to follow and a poorly-spelled, arbitrarily-capitalized run-on sentence, there are 12 articles describing the three branches of government, and enumerating that government’s power over its citizens and its states. As articles go, these are not nearly as interesting as what you might see on the front page of the America Online news pages (like this morning’s leads: “Why You Should Consider a Pole Pruner” and “Stefani Caught Without her Makeup”). But they’re probably more important.

The writers of the Constitution lived in a time before dictionaries and spell-check, so it contains all kinds of editorial gaffes. Among these is an annoying tendency to capitalize certain letters for no apparent reason.
 
See if you can tell which of the two quotes that follow is from the Constitution, and which is an example of juvenile “intercapping” as often is used by pre-teens:
 
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.”
 
“wuZup evErYOne Heres A lIttLle abOUt Me fiRSt oF All I aM 19 aboUt 5’0 i cAnT sAy ThAT i LoOk gOOd ThAs YOuR pEoPlES OpInIoN BUt i Can SAy I hAvE A Fly PeRsoNaLiTy i Get AloNg WiTh EvEryBodY THat Treat me With ResPect Yall FeeL mE!. I m hISpaNiC w/DArk bRoWN HaIr And dArk brOwn eyEs Im ORiganiAlly FRom ThE EAst Side of SaN jo.”

Article I spells out the role of the legislative branch of government and the rules for belonging to Congress (must be at least 25, you have to live in the state you’re representing, no fatties, etc.). Members of the House and Senate are empowered to “chuse” their leaders, which explains why letting the Democrats “choose” Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House was unconstitutional. Section 6 says congresspeople will be paid for their services, and are exempt from arrest during their attendance, except for “Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace”. For example, former Sen. Larry Craig could still be arrested in a Minneapolis airport men’s room for lowering his “breaches” and offering strangers of “peace” of himself. Section 8 allows Congress to borrow money on the credit of the U.S. (a rarely used power), promote the “Progress of Science and useful Arts” (no taxpayer funds for scrapbooking, for example), and grant “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” (permission to cross an international border to exact revenge, like the just-completed Billy Joel European tour).

Article II — note that article titles use roman numerals to simulate the gravitas of Super Bowls — spells out the powers of the executive branch, or president and vice-president. This is where the archaic Electoral College is defined as the method for electing a president. If written today, this part would probably allow us to simply text our favorite candidate’s name to a toll-free number for at least two hours following the final presidential debate, but in its time, convening electors a month after the election was about as high-tech as it got. This is also the article that names the president commander in chief over the armed forces, requires him to make a yearly State of the Union speech, and mandates that the Yankees visit the White House to celebrate last year’s World Series victory.

Article III defines the Supreme Court and the various “inferior courts” that make up the judicial division of government. This branch is given the power to hear cases regarding disputes between states, and the power to grow extremely old without having to retire. Nothing in this article states that women, or liberals, or women liberals, can legally be appointed to the high court, so Obama better watch himself on this next nomination or he’s going to have a constitutional crisis on his hands.

Article IV spells out the powers of individual states. Sections 1 and 2 say that states have to recognize each others’ laws, but we’re going to pretend we didn’t notice this part because of what it might do to promote widespread gay marrying. This article forbids new states from being formed out of parts of other states so we can avoid the prospect of a Jerseyssippi. It also guarantees that every state will have a “Republican Form of Government,” clearly indicating that all elected Democrats are unconstitutional.

The remaining three articles are far less consequential than articles one through four. They seem like something of an afterthought, not unlike the final few tracks of the last Lady GaGa album, except not quite as danceable. Article V lays out the provisions for offering amendments to the Constitution. Basically, the Founders say here that “if we forgot to cover anything, you can add it later on, we won’t mind.” This has been done 27 times in the 200-plus years since, including the ten in the Bill of Rights that came up, like, two days after the original document was ratified. (Imagine if your company had this provision in place for the report you submitted last month that caused all that flak; you could continue revising until the year 2233.) Article VI says any debts the nation had before the Constitution would still be acknowledged after the fact, that the new country would not change its name to the “United States of Smith” and move to Sacramento without telling anybody. Article VII said that ratification by nine states would be sufficient to mark passage of the measure.

The U.S. Constitution is the shortest and oldest written constitution still in use by any nation in the world today, which for some reason is considered a good thing. It has a central place in American law and political culture, and that place is the National Archives in Washington. Thousands of tourists flock to see the historic artifact every day and gaze respectfully upon its withered glory. A few may even take the time to read it, though that’s not recommended.

Fake News: Bank reform takes to the streets

April 27, 2010

WASHINGTON (April 26) — As part of the financial system reform proposal now before Congress, President Obama announced yesterday that local police will be empowered to stop and arrest anyone they suspect of being a banker.

Despite objections from civil libertarians that such profiling of possible bankers is unconstitutional, the president said that the porous walls of financial institutions were allowing too many illegal executives out into the countryside.

“Bankers are everywhere today,” Obama told reporters at a Rose Garden press conference. “Just look around at the landscapers working right here in this garden. You can tell by their clothing, their music, their food and their ghostly pale skin that they are not legal Americans. We must empower our law enforcement officials to confront these intruders and take them into custody.”

With that, about two dozen middle-aged men dressed in conservative grey business suits dropped their leaf blowers and edgers, and scampered over the wrought-iron fence of the White House grounds and out onto the streets of Washington.

“Get them!” shouted the president. “They’re running away!”

Obama’s announcement represented a sharp reversal of the Administration’s previous stance that the men and women whose irresponsible risk-taking nearly toppled the economy should be granted amnesty, as well as large bonuses. When Arizona began rounding up bankers at routine traffic stops following enactment of that state’s tough new law, the president at first had called the move “a dangerous precedent.” But within days, the president saw the national outcry against employees of depository institutions reaching a fever pitch, and he changed his position.

His speech Monday echoed many of the themes in an address given by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who granted authority to state and local police to “round up the bankers and send them back to Bangkok.”

Civil rights groups like the American Banking Association said they understood the public’s impatience with enacting new regulations, but still opposed the wholesale round-up of all conservatively dressed citizens.

“We’re seeing our members arrested and being forced by police to make a statement well before they’re prepared,” said Harold Penderson, president of the ABA. “Our systems are set up to generate a statement only at the end of the month, and now our customers can help us save money by receiving these statements online instead of through the mail.”

Penderson listed a number of reforms that his member institutions had already established to address the most grievous shortcomings of financial services firms. Among these, he cited new fonts being used on the screens of ATMs, allowing cash to be dispensed in ten-dollar increments instead of the previous twenty-dollar amount, and confirming the end of each electronic transaction with “are you really sure?” instead of the previous “are you sure?”

He also said that large investment banks on Wall Street would now be referred to with derogatory nicknames. For example, Goldman Sachs will be called “Goldman Sucks,” and Citibank will be called “Shittibank.”

Meanwhile, as the national debate rages on about the preferential treatment of Wall Street versus Main Street, another faction has stepped into the fray. Singer Eddy Grant said the residents of another thoroughfare — Electric Avenue — are being overlooked as neighborhood institutions vie for their piece of the pie against the titans of New York’s financial district.

“Down in the street there is violence, and lots of work to be done,” Grant said. “No place to hang out our washing, and I can’t blame all on the sun.”

He added, “Oh … no … We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue, and then we’ll take it higher.”

Grant denied that taking it “higher,” or “workin’ so hard like a soldier,” meant his neighborhood would look to a higher power for authority to violently wrest control of the nation’s assets from the hands of the few.

“Oh, no,” he reiterated when confronted with the charge. “Oh, no.”

Doubling down on the Double Down

April 26, 2010

KFC has come out with a new version of its fried chicken, cheese and bacon “Double Down” sandwich that’s made specially for police departments. It’s called the “Officer Down.” — A Joke

*  *  *

The latest belly-busting outrage perpetrated by the fast-food industry on the American public is KFC’s Double Down. Critics have called it “too much,” a “heart-stopping, artery-clogging mix,” and “even worse than if an asteroid hit the Earth at the same time that volcanoes erupted everywhere, in the midst of a smallpox epidemic and a worldwide economic meltdown.” KFC counters that it’s simply “meaty.”

Yeah, it’s meaty, alright. In fact, it’s the only item currently on the market that combines the essence of three different animals in one sandwich. Cows, chickens and pigs all gave of themselves in providing ingredients for this meal, making it sort of the turducken for all seasons. Logging in at 32 grams of fat and an entirely reasonable three times the minimum daily requirement for sodium, this Frankenstein with cheese is hardly the least-healthy thing available at drive-throughs these days. Not when Wendy’s offers a “salad” with 540 calories and McDonald’s employees are more than willing to crawl through the window and punch you in the eye.

Besides, we don’t care if it’s going to kill us and our entire family. We just want to know how it tastes.

My teenage son was the first in our clan to take on the challenge. “It’s not really that different from a cordon bleu,” he noted hopefully, before pronouncing it “delicious — can I get another one?” (No).

Mindful that things are not always what they seem — I’m thinking of the friend currently on a “no-carb” diet that allows him to eat just the toppings off of pizzas — I thought I’d give the Double Down a try for myself.

We went to the KFC outlet about a mile from my house, over by the hospital (a coincidence). I forget now when “Kentucky Fried Chicken” officially changed its name to “KFC,” but I’m pretty sure it was about the same time that “Oil of Olay” became simply “Olay,” and “Poisonous Appetizers” became “Applebee’s”. It definitely convinced me there was no unhealthy deep-frying going on inside the KFC. I figured the “KF” now stood for either “Killed Fresh” or “Kinda Funky.”

We pulled into the parking lot and I insisted on going into the restaurant, instead of using the drive-through, so I could get the full Double Down experience in person. A sign on the door warned “Livers Cooked Upon Request,” but I figured they’d leave mine alone unless they were asked to do otherwise. Another sign advertised KFC’s efforts to promote “Susan G. Komen for the Cure” through their website bucketsforthecure.com. It apparently struck no one at the corporate marketing level as ironic that the company would encourage the cooking of some creatures’ breasts, while trying to heal others.

A large group of red-shirted workers clamored about behind the counter. Either it was shift change, or else the quantity of personnel required to assemble all the components of the Double Down was making a serious dent in the nation’s unemployment rate. An eager young cashier named Ricky approached and asked to take my order. I’d have three “Downs” to go: one fried, one grilled, and one fried without “Colonel sauce”. He faithfully repeated the order using completely different words, so I stated it again. Finally, he was clear on what I wanted, though he wasn’t too sure it could be communicated accurately down the long production line, so he went around back to oversee operations. (In retrospect, I was glad I decided not to goof on him and ask if I could get a “Triple Down” if I supplied my own mortar).

I looked up at the big promotional sign behind the counter as I waited. “The new KFC Double Down sandwich is real!” it exclaimed. “This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets, two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese” and the aforementioned “Colonel sauce,” which my son feared had been exhumed from the Harlan Sanders gravesite in Louisville, Kentucky. “This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!”

Soon Ricky returned to reluctantly inform me that they had run out of fried breasts, and would it be okay to make the no-sauce order with one piece grilled and one fried. I was not about to abide such an abomination of nature for my son, and asked if they couldn’t hybridize my sauced item instead. No, unfortunately, that one had already been assembled, and couldn’t be deconstructed without surgical tools not currently in stock at that location. It would take a full five minutes to have a fresh batch of the fried breasts ready, so Ricky offered me a complementary Pepsi while I waited. It tasted nothing like fried chicken, which was probably for the best.

We finally got the order, paying out a hefty $16.17 for the late lunch. My son dove into his sandwich as soon as we were back in the car, but I decided to wait until we got home where I could thoroughly concentrate on the taste experience and also be closer to emergency services if they became necessary.

I’d describe the sandwich as fairly predictable, tasty but on the dry side, which made sense considering that last fried piece had probably been sitting under a warming lamp since earlier in the day. The separate cheeses had melted together into a single blend by now, rendering it unclear which was Monterey Jack, which was pepper jack, and which was Jack Kevorkian. The bacon was distinguishable from the chicken only because it was harder and stringier, not because it tasted anything like bacon. The sauce was there, fulfilling its minimum requirement.

After I finished off the meal, I waited for the after-effects I had been led to expect. The Los Angeles Times had warned of unspecified “physical distress” while other accounts led me to anticipate a six-foot-long hole being blasted into my colon. I loitered near the bathroom while waiting for the inevitable, as the Down moved down my duodenum, down my jejunum, down my cecum. Soon, I heard a dog barking in the distance, and the rustle of a spring windstorm in the trees. Somewhere, a baby cried and an old man breathed his last breath. In Switzerland, particles inside the Large Hadron Collider smashed together at tremendous speeds, releasing untold amounts of energy. My bowels, however, remain unmoved. Only a mild heartburn inhabited the space that had recently cleared KFC’s latest taste sensation. I had survived.

The next day, I delivered the grilled version to a friend at work. He asked if it were a breakfast food or a lunch food, and I speculated that perhaps it wasn’t a food at all but instead a sort of interstellar plasma. A short while later, I asked if he had downed the Down.

“I’m down with the Down, but it’s not much on taste, is it?” he asked. “I’d say more of a ‘cordon blah’ than a cordon bleu.”

Getting down with the Double Down

Revisited: Corporate risk factors revealed

April 25, 2010

In their annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this time last year, General Motors’ auditors said the company’s survival was in “substantial doubt,” and that even if it received all $30 billion it hoped to borrow from the government, the automaker still might have to liquidate its operations. The company was perilously close to bankruptcy and faced a difficult restructuring.

“Our recurring losses from operations, stockholders’ deficit and inability to generate sufficient cash flow to meet our obligations and sustain our operations raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern,” GM said in its filing.

In other words, the company needs a little more “going” and a little less “concern.”

As someone who works with corporate filings of this type, I immediately recognized the language as coming from the “risk factors” section of what’s called a Form 10-K (so called because that’s how far report writers often stretch the truth, in kilometers). Public companies have to include a section each year that spells out in agonizing detail everything that could possibly go wrong with the company, so shareholders will be considered fairly warned if and when the firm tanks.

In the past, these were fairly modest confessionals, along the lines of “the husband of our chief risk officer is so ugly that we question her judgment,” for example. But with businesses failing left and right these days, the risk factors have evolved into multi-sectioned excuse-a-thons designed to protect executives from potential lawsuits. So you’ll see subheadings such as “Risks related to our business” or “Risks related to the return of rule by the dinosaur.”

Because this is annual report season (you can just feel it in the air), today’s post will feature some of the more creative caveats told in the risk factors portions of documents you can find online. For more fun-packed reading, check out www.sec.gov. Especially worthwhile are the 10KSB/A’s, the always-intriguing 13F-HR’s, and the steamy 485APOS, a post-effective amendment filed pursuant to Securities Act Rule 485(a) that you won’t be able to put down.

_____________

We operate in a capitalist economic system, which is subject to market variables which could increase or decrease our stock price. At least, we used to operate in such a system.

Those two helicopters and the corporate jet we bought last year may not have been such a good idea in retrospect; we suppose they could crash into each other, allowing us to make a substantial gain from insurance, but such a scenario is not likely at this point.

We make incredibly unreliable electronics that are susceptible to catching fire, and many consumers may find this feature to be inconsistent with their corporate goals.

Our chief financial officer was last seen in a cab speeding to the international airport, and if he flees the country and expects us to figure out this mess he’s left us with, he’s got another think coming.

Our software may not operate properly, which could damage our reputation, impair our sales, and cause our clients to realize we don’t actually make software at all, but dog food.

Any failure by us to protect our intellectual property, or any misappropriation of it, could enable our competitors to market a competitive product with similar features, though that seems highly unlikely considering the garbage we produce.

Our earnings can vary significantly depending on a number of factors beyond our control, although a large majority of the responsibility is in fact ours but you’ll never get us to admit it in a court of law.

Inability to obtain consents needed from third-party providers could impair our ability to provide technology services, but that’s the least of our problems.

We operate in an intensely competitive market that includes companies that have greater financial, technical, marketing, intellectual, artistic and competitive resources than we do. Those taco trucks have incredibly low overhead and use bloodthirsty tactics to win clients that otherwise might choose to do business with us.

Our business strategy includes expansion into markets outside North America, which will require increased expenditures and investments, the difficulty of which will likely be compounded by the fact that we hate foreigners and their stupid languages and cultures, especially Asians.

Our operating results may fluctuate significantly and may cause our stock price to decline. If it’s possible for a share price to fall below zero, we’ll likely be the ones to make it happen.

Loss of revenue from large clients could have significant negative impact on our results of operations and overall financial condition. If we had any large clients. Unless we can count that fat guy who is always sneaking into our breakroom and using our vending machines.

We may be required to repurchase mortgage loans in some circumstances, which could harm our liquidity, results of operations and financial condition. Why do you think we repackaged, disguised and sold them off in the first place?

Recent governmental actions to help stabilize the U.S. financial system or improve the housing market may not be successful. If they are, we’ll be happy. If they aren’t, we’ll remind everybody that we voted for McCain.

Our business is highly regulated, which limits our ability to be profitable and disrupts our revenue stream from protection rackets and gun running.

We have not been profitable in the past and may not be profitable any time soon. We’re not even sure why we’re in business, to tell you the truth.

Compliance with public company rules and regulations is costly and requires significant resources in proportion to our revenue. Contact your congressional representative to let your opinion be known that it’s time to let the marketplace run totally unfettered.

Our internal control systems could fail to detect certain events such as data processing system and accounting software failures. However, if our net income suddenly changes from dollars in thousands to dollars in gazillions, we’ll conveniently be looking the other way.

We received a letter regarding a confidential informal inquiry by the SEC and have recently received a subpoena from the SEC as well. Cooperation with such governmental actions may result in charges filed against us and in fines or penalties. We have not been in compliance with SEC reporting requirements and may continue to face compliance issues. If we continue to fail to comply with these requirements, the price of our common stock could be negatively impacted. Not to mention, this writer could personally go to jail, and that’s not going to happen without me taking a whole bunch of my fellow executives with me.

If we do not respond rapidly to technological changes or changes in industry standards, our products could become obsolete, though we believe typewriters and carbon paper will continue to be significant profit centers for us into the end of this century.

If our employees were to unionize, our operating costs would increase, our ability to compete would be impaired, and our feelings would be hurt.

Our latest pharmaceutical release, Eksinex, could actually make people feel worse rather than better, which could result in lawsuits, damage to our public reputation and decreased gross income. However, as soon as young people discover that it gets you incredibly high, we anticipate a significant rebound in sales.

The condition of the U.S. and international financial markets may adversely affect our ability to draw on our credit facility. Ha-ha, that’s a good one.

Revisited: A word or two against Earth Day

April 24, 2010

If I may, I’d like to raise a contrary word during this year’s celebration of Earth Day.

Surely there’s nothing more universally accepted across the political spectrum than the premise that our Earth is a good place, worthy of our devoted stewardship. Whether you’re on the religious right and believe it was created by God in six days, or on the scientific left and believe it’s a remnant of the Big Bang, or somewhere in the middle and believe it was coughed up by the Great Turtle, you still respect and honor the big blue orb. It is beloved by us all as our nurturing mother, our protecting father, the annoying little brother we can pick on with impudence.

Is this love we have for our home planet grounded in a verifiable reality? We feel affection for our families, our hometown and our country primarily because they are ours; they must be the best available because they’re associated with us. There’s no objective comparison involved, since few of us with all our teeth can claim to have lived on another planet.

While I too like the Earth, I’m not quite so terra-centric as to believe it’s necessarily the best of all possible worlds. In the spirit of skeptical curiosity that prompts us to demand the best of those we love (with the exception of spouses), I’d like to honor our globe today by pointing out a few flaws it could stand to work on.

For example, there’s the whole concept of plate tectonics. Exactly whose idea was it to have our land masses floating on a worldwide sea of searing magma? And even worse, these plates aren’t even moving in the same direction, so they periodically collide into each other causing catastrophic earthquakes. Or the lava erupts through a volcano and obliterates helpless villagers and camera crews. It’s not a requirement of habitable planets that they follow this model. I probably wouldn’t rather live on a gas giant like Jupiter, where it’d be hard to get your footing, but a simple solid rock with no fancy innards would suffice.

Then there’s the related issue of topography. Mountains and valleys certainly make for some nice scenery, but they become terribly inconvenient if you’re trying to traverse them, especially in a four-cylinder Honda Civic like mine. And they’re strewn about so randomly. You’re headed cross country on the wide open Great Plains, then all of a sudden there’s the Rocky Mountains, showing up out of nowhere (at least according to MapQuest). If we need a little variety, might I suggest something like the dimples of a golf ball, so you could easily negotiate your way around the variations if you wanted.

I’m also not thrilled about the whole concept of air. I know that we theoretically need it to breathe, but having it be invisible doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in its availability. You walk into a room and you can’t tell immediately whether it has any air in it or not. And on the occasions when it is visible (smog alert days, windstorms, anywhere in urban China), you really don’t want to be inhaling it into your body. My ideal would be to have this life-sustaining vapor instead manifest itself in a solid state. It would condense in the space around us, then become weighty enough to fall to the ground, and we could eat it for our oxygen requirements. A nice raspberry flavor would be pleasant.

The prevalence of water collecting into various depressions around the globe is another notion worth challenging. I know that stuff about it being the basic building block of life and all, and yet I don’t understand why it so often has to be muddy or salty. There are also fish, amphibians and reptiles living there that are bound to give it a less than flavorful taste. I’d propose removing all the bothersome creatures, put down a nice sealant to prevent soil and other organic matter from seeping in, and replacing the water with a more popular beverage, either Fanta Orange or Pepsi.

I think we could also demand a lot more of our non-human animal life. Too much of it is either microscopic or threatening or, in the case of viruses and bacteria, both. I’d like to see a lot more of it be of the cute variety (like kittens, baby bears, Sarah Palin) or the docile yet delicious variety (beef cattle, decapitated chickens, etc.). I understand that there does need to be some class of creature that can rival man for his dominance at the top of the food chain, yet I don’t think lions and wolves and rhinos are doing their job. We need something about 50 feet tall, with fangs of steel and fire-breathing capabilities. Let’s see the weekend hunters tackle that.

Speaking of the great outdoors, I’d like to weigh in on our plant life too. I know “going green” is the theme of the day, in honor of leaves and grass and various shrubberies. If you think about it, though, that’s not really the predominant color we see in nature. Go outside right now and hug a tree and tell me what you find in your face: that’s right, it’s scabby, resinous tree bark. Now try to get that stickiness out of your eyebrows – good luck.

I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention one of my least-favorite forces of nature, gravity (the most-hated is centrifugal force, which always knocks my groceries all over the back seat of my car whenever I make a hard left). We tend to take it for granted that we’re attached to the surface of the Earth without ever considering whether that’s really necessary. It doesn’t just have to be in science fiction or on the space shuttle that we can float about freely. I know they’re called the “laws of gravity,” but it’s worth acknowledging that there exists a judicial appeal process in modern liberal democracies. Perhaps if President Obama gets a couple of Supreme Court appointments in the next few years, we’ll have the votes needed to challenge such an arbitrary and archaic statute.

Finally I’m going to mention a particular peeve of mine that I think we’d all be better off without. The Van Allen Belt is a band of charged particles about 75 miles above the Earth, held in place by our magnetic field. While it may not technically be considered an everyday part of our world, it still hovers menacingly above us, compressed by the solar wind into the ominous-sounding Chapman Ferraro Cavity. Theorized about for decades, its existence was finally confirmed in 1958 by Dr. James Van Allen. (Coincidence? I think not). As our planet grows larger and larger with obese humans, discarded trash and greenhouse gases, the belt will gradually tighten around our waist until it no longer fits our enlarged form. My idea: let’s switch to Van Allen suspenders while we can still claim it’s a fashion statement rather than a requirement of our girth.

Oh, and one more thing: the name, Earth, itself. Or, more formally, the Earth. Any geographic location preceded by “the” is almost always a loser-land: the Sudan, the Ukraine, the Bronx, even the Moon. Seems like only the Discovery Channel and well-educated guys with English accents drop the “the,” and they’re usually mispronouncing it as “uth” anyway. All the other planets in our solar system have cool Roman names, so I’d propose something similar for us. We should consider Terra, Lasagna or Urethra.

So as we all do our individual parts to celebrate Earth Day (for example, I just ate my Styrofoam coffee cup rather than throw it in the trash), let’s also remember that our home is far from perfect and let’s continue to look for ways to improve it.

Obama thinks litmus test may be good after all

April 23, 2010

Reversing a decision announced only Tuesday, President Obama said he will require a litmus test of potential Supreme Court nominees, as well as other analyses of their chemical composition.    

“Upon further reflection, I think it is important that we know whether the nation’s next justice is acidic, alkaline or neutral,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “There must be both a proper pH balance as well as an ideological balance on our highest court.”    

Each of the leading candidates will be required to lick a purple piece of litmus paper to see if it turns blue, indicating they are primarily base, or red, indicating an acid tendency. In the interest of health, a separate strip of paper will be used for each potential nominee, though Administration officials were quick to stress that none of the nine were suspected of having any saliva-borne diseases.    

The current makeup of the Court includes four justices who are alkali and four who are acidic, so the new appointee could hold a swing vote in any future cases that rely on acid-base chemistry. One such case currently under review — Acid Washing vs. Eighties Jeans — could be immediately impacted by the appointment to fill the seat of retiring justice John Paul Stevens.    

The screening process, parts of which are already under way, was last used during Senate consideration of the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas. Despite controversial claims that Thomas had sexually harassed members of his staff, he was ultimately confirmed when his litmus result came back green, a rare outcome indicating his body is composed primarily of the element chlorine. Senators who had opposed his appointment gave up the fight when they realized he could be in charge of maintaining the Supreme Court’s swimming pool.    

Most of the typical human body is made up of oxygen, which comprises roughly two-thirds of our mass. Carbon is second at 18%, followed by hydrogen at 10%, nitrogen at 3%, calcium at 2% and phosphorus at 1%. Since most Obama nominees are far superior to typical humans, it’s expected that results will show several with significant amounts of precious metals. Those who aren’t vetted to the next stage in the consideration process can at least be commercially mined for their elements.    

A report already leaked to the New York Times showed that Diane Wood, a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Seventh Circuit, contained significant amounts of strontium and molybdenum. Sidney Thomas of the Ninth Circuit is packed with manganese, cobalt and bromine, while Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm contains more zinc and fluorine than the average American.    

Janet Napolitano, who many considered an early favorite for the appointment, has reportedly already been eliminated because she contains not only iodine and selenium but also significant amounts of garlic and meat sauce, which could place her in a potentially divisive  bloc with conservative Antonin Scalia in any decisions where the Court might order in late-night pizzas.    

Besides the litmus test, the judges will be given a clinistrips test, to gauge sugar in their urine, the Van Slyke determination test for specific amino acids, and the bicinchoninic acid assay test to check their protein levels.    

“It is a little invasive, but I understand that the President and the Senate want to know everything about our backgrounds,” said candidate Leah Ward Sears, who is chief justice of the Georgia State Supreme Court and also rich in iron. “I’ve been meaning to get the iodoform reaction test that indicates the presence of methyl ketones, or compounds which can be oxidized into methyl ketones, but I’ve just been so busy lately. My chemical makeup is an open book.”    

It was reported, however, that at least one potential nominee, solicitor general Elena Kagan, objected to the destructive nature of several of the tests. She told associates she preferred not to have a finger removed so it could be tested for borax, halides and esters. She later relented when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel pointed out that she would still have nine other fingers left.    

Martha Minow, current dean of the Harvard Law School, said she was confident she would pass the litmus test because of her background in academia. Told it was not that kind of test, Minow said, “Oh.”    

Administration spokesperson Robert Gibbs emphasized that, regardless of where each candidate fell on the acid/base scale, what was most important was that a nominee’s views be consistent with those of the president on how the Constitution should be interpreted.    

“We won’t automatically rule out anybody who is mostly acidic,” Gibbs said. “But we do need to remember that a nominee must be acceptable to the president’s base.”    

“His ‘base’ — get it?” Gibbs continued. “It’s a joke.”

Federal judge Diane Wood is chock full of strontium and molybdenum, and her smile shows it

Fake News: al-Qaida suspected in neighborhood rampage

April 22, 2010

ROCK HILL, S.C. (April 21) — Terrorism is suspected in a series of incidents in the small neighborhood of Shadowbrook Park after a night of horror that residents haven’t witnessed since the sewer backed up down by the creek.

At least twelve mailboxes were destroyed by baseball bats, three car windshields were damaged and the trees at one house were laced with toilet paper following a rampage that experts say has all the hallmarks of al-Qaida.

“It’s chilling to see the hand of bin Laden at work so close to home,” said the guy who always walks his dog right at 5 p.m. every day. “But we steadfastly refuse to let terrorism and fear rule our lives. The scheduled barbecue this Sunday in the cul-du-sac will proceed as planned.”

The guy said that security will be extra tight for the long-planned event. Weeds will removed from the base of the “Neighborhood Watch” sign, and the posting of a bright orange sign near the development’s entrance will stress that participants should bring a covered dish to the cookout, but to uncover it on arrival so it can be inspected.

Police believe the vandalism spree took place early Wednesday morning, some time after the newspaper delivery person makes his run through the 50-home neighborhood. Speculation was rampant among a group of mid-morning strollers that a cell of six to eight individuals entered the area through an overgrown culvert not far from the lighted “Welcome to Shadowbrook” sign.

“And we had such a good turnout two Saturdays ago to spruce up the median there with fresh pine straw,” lamented the pudgy woman with the big sunglasses. “Now the straw is overflowing into the street, probably from that windstorm last Thursday though possibly because foreign jihadists are trying to disrupt our way of life.”

“Islamo-fascist hate groups are well known to be stridently opposed to tidy landscaping,” added the taller woman who probably used to be hot but now wears mom jeans.

“There was a man with a beard in line at the Earth Fare the other day,” said the retired music professor who always has a visor on. “He was buying the Mediterranean salad, with olives and hummus and feta cheese. I wouldn’t put mailbox destruction past him for one minute.”

No one was hurt during the bender of senseless destruction, though the postal worker who stays dressed in his uniform to cut his grass every Friday said his wife felt her heart race briefly when she came upon their shattered mailbox.

“Does anybody know anyone who will sink a new post by our curb if I can find a woodworker to carve our street number into our new box?” cried the postman. “Anybody? Please, I beg you for help.”

The guy with the giant forehead and grey sweatpants suffered the worst loss in the attack. The remnants of at least six rolls of toilet paper still could be plainly seen throughout his oaks and elms, despite an afternoon-long work session by rescue workers.

“You can tell this was a highly-trained cadre looking to cause maximum destruction,” the man wrote in an email exchange with neighbors. “They used that Seventh Generation brand of recycled paper. It just turns to mush in a heavy dew.”

The only apparent witnesses to the attack were three high-school seniors who were smoking under a streetlight with some of their friends.

“I saw about four or five dudes with head scarves and backpacks. I’m pretty sure one of them was rockin’ an Ayman al-Zawahiri t-shirt,” said the kid with the backwards baseball cap who sold magazine subscriptions for his club that one summer. “I think another one was wearing a cherry bomb vest but it failed to detonate so he just smashed another windshield.”

Police said they would ask federal authorities to increase security in the area following the blitz. FBI spokesman Arnold Shumer from the regional office in Atlanta told reporters from CNN that “no, we’re not going to do that.”

Feeling a little pained today

April 21, 2010

Today, I got nothing.    

More accurately, I got a head full of Vicodin, courtesy of my personal physician, to treat my ailing spine. I’ve had another flare-up of lower back muscle spasming, just like I seem to have every six months or so. I recited the same symptoms I experienced from last October to Dr. Jackson as he helped me onto his exquisitely tissued examining table. He moved my legs up and down and pronounced the diagnosis. I could’ve done this myself (the pronouncing, not the leg-moving) but I don’t own a prescription pad with all the fancy DEA numbers he has. He threw in a side order of diclofenac sodium just to make sure I’d be sufficiently immobilized. A few days of rest, he predicts, and I’ll be back on my feet again.    

Here’s a link to the post I wrote last time this happened, if you’re really that interested in the details: https://davisw.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/back-to-the-future/    

In the meantime, I’m having trouble focusing, which doesn’t hinder blog production in most people, but is giving me some trouble. Still, I haven’t failed for over a year now to produce an original piece each and every weekday, and I’m not about to allow a little blinding agony stop me. It’s just that I may be a little scattered. Just like that Rolling Stones song: “I’ve been scattered … What does it matter? … Scattered.”    

I also like that song by Paul Young, from the eighties, I think it was: “Every time you go away/You take a piece of meat with you.”    

Some day soon I’m going to write a piece about how much I enjoy typing. I’m pretty fast, pretty accurate, and have always gotten a thrill all out of proportion to the routine act as I bang away at keys on a computer keyboard. My favorite word to type is “management.” Something about how you have to use fingers from alternate hands for just about each letter. Management. Management. The last half I do really fast. You should see me. I need to learn how to embed video into a blog post some day. Management.    

Several observations about my trip to the doctor’s office. They’ve installed one of those palm-reading devices at the reception desk, not the scarf-bedecked dark-haired lady with the mole on her cheek, but a high-tech machine to prove you are who you say you are. They don’t want just anyone walking in off the street and picking up their diclofenac sodium. This isn’t a Burger King, you know. That’s next door.    

Anyway, I noticed that they now ask patients if they mind having their privacy invaded by letting a scanner look at their hand whorls. This being South Carolina, I imagine a few of the older folks are afraid that Obama wants the information so he can send the black helicopter to pick you up and take you to the internment camp as soon as you’re done dropping off your stool sample. Once, the guy in front of me expressed concern the mechanism would mess with his pacemaker. Me, I’ll show my hand to anybody who’s interested. It looks sort of like this (Ψ) but I have five fingers instead of three.    

Why does every medical office I’ve been to lately have the Home and Garden Channel showing on the television? “DO NOT CHANGE THE CHANNEL” warns the sign, so we all comply meekly and admire the two-story fixer-upper a young couple much healthier than any of us is considering in the San Fernando Valley. I guess it’s the most innocuous network offering out there. News channels might provoke fistfights and heated debates, soap operas on the major networks at this time of day are too depressing (people sicker than us yet inexplicably much better looking) and animated kids’ programs might provoke fistfights and heated debates.    

When you approach the front desk to sign in, they always asks “how are you?” and everybody automatically responds “fine,” even though you know they’re not or why else would they be at the doctor? I too say I’m fine, but I mean it in the sense that I’m extremely physically attractive. “He’s so fine,” say my friends. They’re right.    

At the checkout, there’s a “WOW!” card, which allows you to officially recognize employees of the Carolinas Health System for caring, commitment, integrity, teamwork, communication, safety or service recovery. I think I officially recognize one of the physician assistants from the YMCA, though there’s no box for that. A nice lady said words in my direction as I was being weighed. I’d count that as an attempt at communication if I knew her name.    

My son asked me to stop at the Sonic drive-in restaurant on the way home to get him french toast sticks. Sonic is one of those old-timey franchises where roller-skate-wearing carhops bring your meal on a tray and attach it to your car window. As I pulled into a parking space, one of the workers had her back to me, standing halfway in the parking space and engaged in earnest conversation with what look liked a manager. She was near tears as I edged closer and closer, trying to keep my rear-end out of traffic. I think I almost touched her as I finally settled tightly into the space. Would a mere nudge from my bumper constitute hitting her with my car? They are called carhops, you know.    

Maybe this is the day I finally turn to the Bible to find solace and direction for my life. I lift the heavy volume from the shelf in our library — forsaken too long in my search for earthly delights — and turn to a random passage. “For then the king of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem, and Jeremiah was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house.” Sorry, can’t relate to that one. Let’s try another. “Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants of Mephibosheth.” (Lots of housing references here. Wonder if they had the Home and Garden Channel back then.)    

Okay, one more try, then it’s back to agnosticism: “And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.” Now we’re getting somewhere.    

I’ll finish up today’s post with a few photographs from my family collection, and apologize again for the questionable unity of this post.    

Some relatives on my wife's side, I think

  

My niece, and a house.

  

Me, standing next to some kind of pagoda thing, in Sri Lanka