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And Now A Word from My Sponsors Who Never Seem to Send Me a Check

We think first
Of vague words that are synonyms for progress
And pair them with footage of a high-speed train.

Is doing lots of stuff
That may or may not have anything to do with us.

See how this guy in a lab coat holds up a beaker?
That means we do research.
Here’s a picture of DNA.

There are a shitload of people in the world
Especially in India
See how we’re part of the global economy?
Look at these farmers in China.

But we also do business in the U.S.A.
Or want you to think we do.
Check out this wind energy thing in Indiana,
And this blue collar guy with dirt on his face.

Also, we care about the environment, loosely.
Here’s some powerful, rushing water
And people planting trees.
Our policies could be related to these panoramic views of Costa Rica.

In today’s high speed environment,
Stop motion footage of a city at night
With cars turning quickly
Makes you think about doing things efficiently
And time passing.

Lest you think we’re a faceless entity,
Look at all these attractive people.
Here’s some of them talking and laughing
And close-ups of hands passing canned goods to each other
In a setting that evokes community service.

And advancement
Are all words we chose from a list.

Our profits
are awe-inspiring.
Like this guy who’s looking up and pointing
At a skyscraper or a kite
While smiling and explaining something to his child.

Using a specific ratio
of Asian people to Black people to Women to White men
We want to make sure we represent your needs and interests
Or at least a version of your skin color
In our ads.

Did we put a baby in here?
What about an ethnic old man whose wrinkled smile represents
the happiness and wisdom of the poor?
— by Kendra Ash McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper April 8, 2018, 8:07 PM

    I can barely watch TV anymore, or any sort of media.
    My wife tried to show me a cabinet she thought was cool in the recent “Martha” rag and I never seen it. She held it right in front of my eyes and the plethora ads and distractions from wall to wall grabbed my orbits and my synapses went into retreat. I just smiled and nodded and she flitted away. Couple hours later she asked if she should get the caribbean seafoam one or the caiman cantalope, to go with her “sun, sand, and surf” theme in the living room and all I could say, “Whatever suits your fancy suits me to a tea.”

    25 years ago there were more than 50 mags a month delivered to my office and most of them were free but now I go months, sometimes years, without looking at one and I don’t miss the ads at all, and if not for Grit TV which I can barely stand, there’d be no TV at all around here. I mean, what’s the point, and surely I can use that slice of real estate for something more meaningful.

  • John Venlet April 9, 2018, 6:15 AM

    But folks love the window dressings.

  • vanderleun April 9, 2018, 8:21 AM

    Agreeing in advance is always the wise move.

  • Hangtown Bob April 9, 2018, 8:53 AM


  • ghostsniper April 9, 2018, 10:58 AM

    The Client

    A woman came into my office to talk about the new home she wanted me to design for her. She was struggling to get a fold-up style handtruck through the entrance that was threatening to tip over from the shear weight of the many magazines and books and such she had stacked up on it. My knees almost buckled when I saw it. The magazines had many dog ears and the books were porcupines with all the rainbow colored post-its sticking out. She had so much stuff she didn’t know where to start, so I took her by the hand and led her to the conference table and wedged her into my custom made -client-template format.

    Her budget was around $500k (which really means $800k) and they already had a premium property in an exclusive gated community backed up against a reserve in south Fort Myers. Because of the flood plane the home would be on pilings with another 2 floors above that (I also convinced her to have a sky deck above all that for late day peering at the sunset on the distant gulf), so 4 floors total and about 6,000 sf. Do the numbers, 6000 sf at about $150 per, and that’s the plain vanilla version which she simply could not live with.

    She started with her grocery list and I started taking notes. A bay window over here, a couple dormers, 16′ entry ceiling height, soaring cathedral ceilings everywhere, vast expanses of 8′ tall sliding glass doors, marble-granite-stained concrete counters, (I suggested solid surface counters as an alternate to save some money and she looked like I had slapped her face while she was eating a big dill pickle) multiple remote controlled fireplaces, lap pool with infinity edge, spa, workout room, his office, her craft room, stainless, Wolf range, Sematic cabinets, birdseye maple floors, glass tiles, 4 br’s, 6 baths, etc., etc. Then she started on the layout of the whole thing and that’s where the rubber meets the road.

    Most people cannot visualize in 3d. Nor can they associate volumetrics with dynamic traffic patterns and furniture placement. Strangely enough budget is never mentioned again after the initial paragraph. Until the contractors prices come back and reminds them of all the things I told them in the first meeting. This first meeting with her lasted 4 hours and I was exhausted, as was she. She was like a little kid spending more money than she had and I constantly had to reel her in.

    I have the ability to sketch free hand very quickly in 3d ideas that crop up to assist the client in visualizing the ideas they have and why or why not they might or might not work, and alternative methods to achieve similar results. The sketching, including shading, stippling, cross hatching, etc, is done in a legal size pad, light blue, with a pen. Never a pencil. With this client I was page numbering the sheets and referencing various pages further into the sketches. Some 60 or more sheets of sketches with multiples on every page. I had to have a way to keep everything in order, hence the page numbers. She was challenging. Keep in mind that so far she had not asked me my design rate which I was constantly adjusting in my head in accordance with the amount of hand holding she required.

    I did the preliminary concept design which is a pretty comprehensive set of documents as I do it and it took about 2 weeks to pull all of it together. Floor plans, front elevation concept, site plan. During the 2nd meeting her husband came along and his name was Mr Checkbook. 12′ high handcarved double front entry doors with matching sidelites and 6′ tall transom above? Gone. Replaced with something more reasonable yet stylish. 3 different counter materials? Gone. 2 different colors of granite will do. 80′ long infinity lap pool? Gone. Standard 15’x30′ pool with spillover spa and no infinity, etc., etc. She was almost brought to tears several times and then the anger started to surface.

    I guess I should mention that she was in her early 30’s and was a kept woman, very upscale and flaunty. He was 20 years her senior, self made, very conservative and aware of every dollar he was worth. He provided for her very well but she would never treat him as a door mat. All children need a dad ya know, otherwise chaos will ensue in short order. This 2nd meeting was not as long as the first though just barely. A lot had to be unraveled as per Mr Checkbook. She frequently sulked. Her emotions soared and plunged and I became more and more cautious about breaking the bad news on the costs of various thing. Did you know that for example, $150 per square foot installed is a pretty good price for double ogee granite counters including backsplash but the problem arises when you have over 600 sf of counters. It adds up quick. Yes, I know it ain’t fair but the 16′ foot snack bar IS a countertop.

    The glossy rags, over time, molded the innards of her skall in such a way that reality didn’t exist any more. They, and the glossy rag TV shows created a new reality for her, custom made to her own personal specifications. In their hands she was putty but she never made it into the kiln, so my elaborate conference room supported by my endless wealth of information gussetted by her husbands check book brought her feet back down to the ground. She got most of what she wanted, all of what her husband wanted, and I got paid handsomely.

    The new home went into construction and every week or 3 I would stop by the site and look things over. I was not contracted to do this but rather was interested in my project. I’d take pictures, measure door openings, look at views out the various exterior wall penetrations, and try to envision what the end result will be like. Using carpenter pencils, level and tape measures I drew counters and furniture right on the floor. When the drywall was installed I drew elaborate works of art in appropriate places complete with drawn triple matting and ornate frames. I put myself and others in the picture. Give em a sense of reality.

    About 2/3 of the way into this project the foundation started to shiver and this was not good. For me there was no consequence but I hate to see these things happen. I’m talking about the marriage bond. Seems money is at the root of most evil things and it’s also the root of many marriage destructions. I know from personal experience of designing and building our own home that strain comes from angles never encountered before. Because the construction process of a new home is rather quick the conveyor belt of ideas-desires-money moves quickly as well and the repair of hurt feelings takes longer and therefore the negative emotions start to build up. Soon the pressure is very great and pressure doesn’t always make diamonds, sometime it creates explosions and that is what happened here.

    During one instance of a jobsite visit the owners came by and we conversed and the words between her and him became sharp and she lashed out at him. She struck him in the face and I was standing within 4 feet of it. His mistake was in chastising her in front of me. As all husbands should know, she can embarrass YOU in front of others but you can never do that to HER, ever. She started to hit him again but he was in his game and grabbed her wrists and pushed her back against the wall. This was in the early evening and no one else was there but them and me. I wasn’t particularly wanting to be a witness to a crime. I walked toward them and said, “Look folks, let’s discuss this and find a solution.” Then I instantly came up with a solution that ended up not working but did slow everything down to where wits took over again, shuttling emotions back into their lairs. shwew They never told me in school that I’d have to be a marriage counselor, lawyer, and boxing referee.

    For now the problem was contained but it bubbled over again and again and they parted ways. The home was completed but before that a real estate sign showed up by the road. They never moved into that home and in fact they were no longer a they when it was completed.

    A couple years later the people that bought that home contacted me about doing some remodeling work on it. Seems they didn’t like the bay window and they wanted a lap pool and they found multiple colors of granite countertops distracting. I said, “Sure, come on over at your convenience and we’ll discuss your ideas and move you a couple steps closer to the home of your dreams.”

  • DrTedNelson April 9, 2018, 2:59 PM

    These ghostsniper comments are articles in themselves and worth the read.

  • vanderleun April 9, 2018, 3:54 PM

    I agree and I value them as such.

  • John Venlet April 10, 2018, 8:02 AM

    Ghostsniper, my boys and I have a plan draw up for our flyfishing cabin. Going quite simple, rectangular building, 34′ X 22′ with a shed style roof, with the first floor actually built into the side of the hill on my property, so you walk into the second floor.

    The initial plan I saw, drawn by an architectural firm in the Seattle area, I like quite well. Called them up and they wanted $12K to draw a plan for my use, and another $8K to walk my site and in order to make the plan “fit,” as they said. Too rich for my pockets.

    I made some inquiries, and found a home designer to draw up a plan similar to what I wanted. That cost me $1,400.00. We’re now in the stages where I’ll meet with excavators, septic guys, and a couple three builders. Hoping to put this up for around $150K, using myself as the contractor.Like I said, nothing fancy, but very adequate. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Anonymous April 10, 2018, 9:39 AM

    Have you people heard of proofreading? Editing & revision? That pink squishy thing on one end of a pencil should do as much work as the sharp end.

  • ghostsniper April 10, 2018, 9:40 AM

    John, at $150k it should turn out nice.
    Hopefully that shed roof will slope to the downside to avoid up hill drainage issues and could facilitate rainwater recovery if you so choose.

    You know what they say, “You can’t buy good construction but you can supervise it.” IOW, if you know how to build a building but for whatever reason choose to hire others to do the building and you know how to keep people motivated, you should do fine.

    FWIW, just about all architects design homes that look like schools, with budgets to match. When the CEO and president of the oldest and largest architectural firm in Florida retired he hired me to design the estate home he would die in. He wanted a house that looks like a home, not a school.

    The first floor, the one that will buttress the earth on the high side, should have poured in place concrete walls as it has the structural stability and the capacity to be waterproofed.
    22′ is the span and that cannot be done economically without a center support (posts and beam).
    I’ll suggest 12″ deep TJI floor joists 24″ o/c with lateral bridging every 4′ o/c. 1″ T&G plywood sub-floor glued and screwed to prevent deflection (bouncing floor).

    If you are going with heating/cooling ducts in the floor consider the height of the bearing points on the first floor. While TJI’s allow up to 6″dia penetrations that is not enough for most duct work. Thus, the ducts will need to be suspended under the joists and taking head room out of the space. My suggestion? Keep all heating/cooling equipment and ductwork within the space they are designed for. Cold heating ducts are inefficient. duh.

    If you are building this in Michigan don’t halfstep on the insulation. The more you pay up front the less you’ll pay monthly in energy costs. You want that building envelope as tight as possible.

    Lastly, contractor pricing.
    Remember, you come last, contractor comes first.
    He’ll present a big friendly smile but that’s not because he likes you, he likes your wallet.
    I personally will never hire a contractor again, I will only hire subcontractors (individual trade entities) and do all the supervision-scheduling-purchasing myself. That’s the only way you can cut down on the amount you get ripped off and control the costs of everything. It’s going to take 28 sheets of plywood sheathing to enclose the perimeter walls, and another 28 to do the roof. If he inflates the plywood cost by $4/sht you are out a couple hundred bucks. Surely you can find better things to spend your money on than letting that contractor take the kids to Disney World again on your dime.

    Lastly one more time.
    I would have made the building 24’x36′ as it works out better for nominal dimensioning and less waste of materials. While $1400 is way less than the other guy I would have done it for half that. I know, I know, “NOW YOU TELL ME!”

    Something that comes free of charge with all of my designs and is woefully lacking in most others is the included “value engineering”, a term I created back in the 80’s where I use a magnifying glass to “live in your building in the preliminary design phase” so that I can micromanage the overall efficiency of the entire structure. Less waste, more use.

    Good luck with your new building John!

  • ghostsniper April 10, 2018, 9:45 AM

    Hey Anon 9:39, do you know why writers never edit their own material?
    Because they keep reading over the same mistakes they wrote.
    Professionals always sub that stuff out to people that haven’t read it yet.
    If you’re using the squishy end more than the pointy end than you might be in the wrong biz.

  • John Venlet April 10, 2018, 10:10 AM

    Thanks for the suggestions, Ghostsniper. I appreciate it.

  • Nunya Bidnez, jr April 10, 2018, 4:14 PM

    Ghostsniper wrote
    “birdseye maple floors”
    Is that a thing now?
    Does it last more than a year, or do the Birds-eyes fall out? inquiring minds wanna know.
    Seriously, i want to know if it lasts.

  • ghostsniper April 10, 2018, 6:12 PM

    @Nunya, yes it WAS a thing. Might still be, I dunno.
    Anything goes when you have the coin.
    The people at these coordinates 26.661599, -82.210879 purchased a 4800 sf 18th century barn that was falling down and had much of the structural timbers barged to that site while the home was under construction for the purpose of using for the flooring throughout the home. Very rustic stuff, uncomfortably so. I didn’t care for it. That’s about a $6mil crib BTW and the owner is an Atlanta attorney. That’s their weekend/holiday/summer dive.

    The least expensive available lot for purchase there is around $800k. That’s just the dirt. About 40% of my work over the past 20 years has been on that island. Here it is almost 9pm and I’m sitting here working on the plan for a small renovation to one of those homes. The home was built in 2004 and now they want to install an elevator from the ground to the 3rd floor. If they only knew how difficult it is to cut a vertical hole 6′ square down through the whole house and not have the thing collapse.

    They name the homes on Useppa Island. Though they have official addresses no one uses them, they refer to the homes by name. Most of the homes there change hands ever few years and with each new owner they want to do an entire makeover. Blow this wall out, add some stacked turrets, a cantilevered deck on the 3rd floor, gingerbread, anything and everything to make it personally theirs.

    One house in particular, the “Hemingway House”, I have done extensive remodels to it 3 times.
    The top interior design firm in the SE US, Robb & Stuckey, in Fort Myers, has created an entire line of decor based upon the custom homes on Useppa. You have to know somebody to get involved with this stuff. One of the subsets in that line is called, you guessed it, “Hemingway”. And not just any old Hemingway. See, Hemingway didn’t just happen one day, he lived an entire life, though from what I understand it was some what truncated. According to the people that know such things the home Hemingway lived in in the 20’s was styled diff then the 30’s, and the 40’s. So each decade has it’s own particular style.

    These styles are very authentic to the period. During 1 remodel the interior designer stopped at my office to show me some of the plumbing fixtures she was taking to the site. I told her they looked like they fell off the truck and she laughed and said they did fall off the truck. Rusty, bent and dented, broken up junk. But the innards had been completely redone to modern day specs and cost plenty to bring them back. The ID’s make the Hemingway house look exactly like it did at a specific point in time, right down to the molecules.

    Because FL is high humidity homes that do not have central air suffer from mold and mildew every where. This home is air conditioned, but it wasn’t in Hemingway’s day, so they hired faux painters to make the painted surfaces look old and worn out, mold and mildew in the ceiling/wall corners, etc. When you step into this place it is truly like stepping back in time. The glossy rags love this place.

  • Gordon April 10, 2018, 9:24 PM

    Oh, dear. Someone is getting paid good money to make a wall look like it has mold and mildew.

    The Germans have a word for that. I think it’s wahnsinnig.