I won’t be writing a major post today, but I thought I’d drop in to say have a happy 4th of July and be thankful for everything we have in the country (no matter how bad times get) because the United States is still the greatest country in the world in my opinion.
On that note, I also leave you with an image from probably the greatest city in the world, New York:
Anyone who’s my age probably remembers spending a late night or two watching a funny little man on tv telling us how he was able to make $50,000 a week “placing tiny classified ads in newspapers” from his “one-bedroom apartment”. Right in those two quotes, you have the makings of a very successful infomercial—mention how lots of money can be made with seemingly little work and cater to others who might be living in a one-bedroom apartment as these people are likely to want an opportunity that will change their lives.
If you have no idea who I’m talking about, check out this video…it’s exactly what I remember when I was younger:
First of all, this guy is good and there’s no doubt about it. As a firm believer that hard work pays off and there’s no easy way of making lots of money, I never “fell” for one his claims, but I will admit that there were a few times when it seemed like the plan would work. More importantly, there are many other people out there that are worse off than me financially and just might jump at the chance to make even 100 more dollars a week.
Don Lapre has been running infomercials like these for the last 8 years or so selling all sorts of money-making packages that are guaranteed to turn your life around. The two most prominent ones include the one above and another selling the The Greatest Vitamin in the World. This is the one that’s garnered the attention of the Feds and the United States Postal Service.
According to the case, Don Lapre is being indicted on 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and promotional money laundering. It’s being claimed that he bilked over $52 million from some 200,000 unsuspecting consumers. Essentially, he’s being accused of running a nationwide scheme to sell worthless internet businesses.
I don’t want to get into all the details here because the case file says it all in a 28-page PDF document available from Casewatch.org, but I do want to briefly explain what it is that Don Lapre does. Using The Greatest Vitamin in the World program as an example, this is how the program works.
Watch Don’s infomercial and get excited about the potential of making lots of money.
Call the 800 number to order the start-up package and personal website for $35.00 plus $13.65 shipping.
Don’s reps would then call back consumers telling them that there were more fees in running the personal website including a $295 setup fee and $9.95 per month hosting fees.
Don’s reps would try to upsell customers into buying web traffic for their new site guaranteeing them that people would come to the site and buy products or signup as new “investors”.
Customers buy traffic packages ranging in price from $500-2000.
Customers are offered sales incentives: Get 20 new people to sign up for the program and get $1000. Get 100 new vitamin customers in a month and get $10,000. For every 5 $1000 bonuses you earn, you get a 7-day paid vacation for 2.
My two cents
First of all, the vitamins are worthless. To Don, getting new sales people all dropping about $3000 to start their own business is where the money really is. Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a pyramid scheme. The ones at the top who are able to get to everyone who hasn’t joined yet will make all the referral fees. The ones at the bottom will have nobody to recruit because they’ve all been recruited…after some time, the pyramid crumbles because there’s nothing left to do but sell worthless vitamins and the guys at the top take their money and run.
Second, if you really think about it, why would Don Lapre (or any tv pitchman) want to tell you his money-making secrets if what he’s doing already makes him so much money? Do you really believe he’s out there trying to help the community? Do you really think he cares about helping you make more money in life? The answer is no. It’s the tell-tale sign of a scam and it’s no different than all those bloggers out there selling you $47 money-making plans that tell you all the secrets of Internet marketing. Trust me, if I discovered a way to make $50,000 a week, I wouldn’t tell anyone! Not because I’m selfish, but because I wouldn’t want to create thousands of competitors out there. If there’s only $50,000 to be made, that means I’d have to share it with everyone else who copies me. That’s not a good business plan!
I’ll tell you a secret. There are no secret ways to make money! There are however innovative ideas that will make someone millions one day, but those aren’t secrets—sometimes those are flukes or fads or streaks of luck. Facebook is a perfect example—sheer luck. The point is to make real money, you have to put in real work. If you think you’re going to make $50,000 a week with only a few minutes of work, you’re either delusional or you’re the one sitting on top of the pyramid because in any other situation, you’re not going to make anything close to that.
Ok, I’m done venting…the last thing I want to say is that I hope Don Lapre goes away forever! He’s a con artist and a thief. At the same time, I hope none of those people get their money back so maybe they’ll learn from their mistakes.
I was trying to come up with a better headline, but seriously, there’s no other way to put it. That’s right people, it has happened. Facebook has integrated with our lives more than anyone would have ever expected. Instead of just maybe creating a Facebook page for your baby to show off their new life to the world, you had to go and name your baby, Like.
I can’t even write it without laughing! Names have been passed down for thousands of years for various reasons including special meanings, symbolic purposes, the joining of two profound descriptive words or just simple creativity on the part of the parents, but this one takes the cake. Not so much because of the word Like, but because of their reasoning.
People have been named after saints, martyrs, prophets, gods, cities, countries and occupations. An example of an occupational name would be George which comes from the Greek, georgos which means .husbandman, farmer’. Now, for the first time in history, we have someone being named after an Internet phenomenon. In my opinion, I think they should have just named the kid, Facebook or better yet, Bookface. Can you imagine the childhood this kid is going to have?
After reading a bit more about this story, it seems that someone has already named their kid Facebook, so I stand in awe with the rest of the world trying to figure out what’s happening out there?! Somebody please tell me. Also, if you name your baby Like as opposed to Love, that says volumes about your feelings toward your children.
By the way, after announcing the name on Facebook, the proud father received 40 ‘likes’.
Due to the popularity of Ledfrog.com, I’ve started going back into my super old blog posts to remember what kinds of things I used to write about and I was surprised at some of the stuff I found! Initially, the plan for this site wasn’t completely laid out and as a result, the site became a collection of informational articles mixed with personal-life ramblings that most people wouldn’t care to know about.
Now that traffic has increased dramatically on Ledfrog.com, it made sense to narrow the focus down a bit, which meant I needed to remove all of the unrelated items.
I sure am making great use of the DOTme domain space! This is the second one I own and I find that when dealing with personal blogs or websites, it really sums everything quite nicely. On this new site, you can expect the same quality you’re used to here, but much different content. Whereas Ledfrog.com is all about unbiased opinions, reviews and news about various topics, Brandon.me (formerly Ledfrog.me) is all about what I have going on in my life that I feel like sharing with the world.
I make no promises that the content will be exciting or that it will bring any value to your life, but that’s ok because a personal blog is supposed to be fun and slightly entertaining! I also make no promises as to the frequency of my updates. I find that rigid deadlines and content controls are not made for personal blogs. It should be good enough to just wake up one morning with an urge to write about something and then do it.
I decided not to create second Twitter or Facebook accounts at this time, so you’ll still see posts from all of my sites under my current accounts. The reason for this simply comes down to time. I don’t pretend to be some famous Internet celebrity nor do I think I’m so cool that everyone should follow me, so the fact remains—I don’t wish to spend time separating every little detail of each site on to multiple networking sites.
Because I’m setup as a TrueBlue member through jetBlue, I am constantly getting emails regarding cheap flights, hotels, travel destinations and a million others telling me why I need to go on vacation right this minute. And when I say constantly, I mean multiple times a day! Normally, I just disregard these messages as mere junk, but I got one today that caught my eye.
Viva Las Vegas
Brian Sousa and I used to frequent this town quite often and I love going back to visit family and friends that have moved out there. There’s that and the craps table I suppose. Anyway, when I saw that I could fly to Vegas for only $19, I was seriously considering going for two reasons: one, I’ve never flown to Vegas and two, it’s cheap.
Boy, this is marketing at its best! Earlier this morning, I was working on current computer projects and planning my weekend when this email dropped in my mailbox. Now all of a sudden, I felt compelled to fly to Vegas. I guess it’s similar to when those savvy shoppers find a coupon for items at the grocery store, so they buy the goods because they can save money even though they don’t need the products! Logic tells us that if they didn’t buy the item (they don’t need) in the first place, they’d save even more money.
Nevertheless, they reeled me in. Let’s move on to the point of my post.
The little asterisk (*)
It’s the little evil ‘star’ that tells us something is amiss. This jetBlue ad was no different. Right next to the big $19 price tag sat the ubiquitous symbol of pain. Naturally, I expected this…I mean, did I really think I was flying to Vegas (and back home) for $19? Of course not. Let’s explore:
The first thing to note is that nowhere on here does it say what the $19 is for. I actually had to walk through the shopping cart process at jetblue.com to find out that this price was for one-way. I’m not a frequent traveler, so maybe I should know that these ads always state one-way fares, but would the average person know this?
Secondly, it does clearly (albeit in small text) state that there are fees and restrictions. I scrolled down to the bottom of the email and found the regular stuff, valid on on certain dates, excludes Fridays and Sundays, cancellation fees, etc. The most interesting part were the fees. Normally, one could expect and even accept these fees as the cost of “doing business”, but come on!!
The hidden fees breakdown
Here’s the full terms as listed at the bottom of my email.
$19.00 – Base fare price – This is the original starting price.
$15.00 – “Fare” price – This fee is not defined more than just being a fee tied to all fares per the terms.
$9.00 – Passenger facility charge – This fee is charged for your use of the airports you depart from and arrive at.
$5.00 – 9/11 security charge – This one covers all the latest security technology after 9/11 including full body scanning.
$3.70 – Domestic segment charge – A ‘segment’ is defined as the takeoff and landing portion of your flight.
7.5% – U.S. excise tax (already included in the $19) – The government requires all airlines collect this fee and it must be included in all published pricing.
TOTAL: $51.70 one way
The end results
If you’d like to fly back home, you can go ahead and double that charge. After all was said and done, I am able to fly to Las Vegas, NV from Long Beach, CA for a low price of only $103.40 even though I was offered the price of $38. What’s worse is I also have to fly on their terms which includes many flight restrictions and blackout dates. Of course I’m saving money because this price could easily cost 2 or 3 times more without the “special deal”, but my point was to show how fast hidden fees can add up.
I’m thinking, wouldn’t it have been a better ad for jetBlue to just say, “Fly to Vegas for $100 round trip! Straight up. No fees.”?
I never even talked about checking a second bag for $30 or the cost to cancel the flight for $100!! Or how about parking your car at the airport for about $10 per day?! And the rental cost of a car when you get there? Don’t forget the hotel, the drinks, the club admission fee (if you’re a guy), the dates with girls, the gambling, etc., etc., etc.
When the weekend is over, you’ll be having flashbacks of The Hangover while wondering where all your money went! If you still want to have the flashbacks, but not the costs of flying and renting a car, just drive to Vegas. It will cost a lot less in gas money, plus you can go and come back whenever you want. Sorry to all those that live more than 300 miles from Vegas.
This will be just a quick blurb about a new blog site I helped my friend launch the other day. Over the course of the last 2 years, I’ve learned a lot about this world–this blogosphere world–and half of this website is dedicated to bringing that information to the masses. My goal has always been to help people get what they want out of the Internet and creating new websites/blogs is what I do.
With that said, my friend Brian Sousa approached me after having been a writer on Associated Content (now owned by Yahoo!) for about 6 months. He brought up some valid concerns related to the promotional and monetary value of using such a service. AC is sort of a catch 22 in which you have a very large platform (or soapbox) to write whatever you want about anything, but you don’t have any control over how it’s monetized or displayed. Basically, you write content for someone else (AC) to make money from through adspace. For most people, this is not a concern because all they want to do is be heard.
But how can you “be heard” if you’re constantly getting lost in a sea of inadequate commentary and opinions by people who don’t really have any value to add? Imagine if your favorite magazine allowed everyone to write articles for them and published them ALL! I can promise you that you wouldn’t be reading that magazine for long–for two reasons. One, the quality is shoddy and two, there’s too much coverage of the same subject.
Now, you could argue that the Internet is basically built the same way–I mean, how many tweets do we have to read about the earthquake we all just felt? However, I’m a believer that the strong rise to the top and the ones delivering quality will be recognized for what they do.
So, to steer myself off that tangent, I introduce you to
It’s sort of a catchy name that literally directs you to just figure things out. To me, this means to read what you wish, but in the end you really need to figure out your own opinions on it. Today, people tend to do nothing more than reiterate the same mindless chatter that they heard from someone else. They don’t stop to think about what something means to them or how they really feel about it.
Fresh, new content
The site is comprised of varying topics and subject matter that covers everything from politics to entertainment. There are tons of blogs out there that just rip content from all over the Internet, throw it in a word jumbler and let you have it, but all this does is clog up the top ranked positions in the major search engines and squeezes out quality blogs.
Today, we are changing that and I am helping that cause by providing quality content through my own channels, but also by helping others get their existing websites in perfect form or by creating new and exciting websites.
My two cents
So far, the site has been in operation for a couple of weeks and already, it’s jam packed with fresh articles from a new and original perspective. What Mr. Sousa has learned from Associated Content has apparently spawned an unfettering desire to create quality content–this time, under his own terms.
I just wanted to wish all my visitors a very happy Thanksgiving and I hope you’re spending quality time with your friends and family. However, I know a lot of you are probably getting ready to go wait in line at your favorite retail store to get your hands on those crazy Black Friday deals! While thinking about that, I decided to look into how this whole craze got started. This is consumerism at its best!
Why Black Friday? Shouldn’t it be called Green Friday because of all the money these stores make? While that does sound logical, the real reason for the color black is due to the old traditional way of keeping books. When a business was calculating expenses and profits in their financial books, they used red ink for any loses or expenses and used black ink for all the income and profits.
In today’s retail world, prices are extremely competitive and just to stay afloat (especially when competing with online vendors), stores often lower their prices below cost and this causes the company to lose money. In fact, most of the year, all those sales you see will usually force a company to take a hit on profit in hopes that they win you as a customer. What this means is that it’s not uncommon for a company to be “in the red” through most of the year.
It’s the holiday shopping period that is responsible for bringing these companies back “in the black” in order to make a profit for the year. And thus we have Black Friday! Other explanations have explained Black Friday to mean a day of catastrophe. This isn’t far from the truth given the great lengths that people will go to in order to get the sale items. People have been seriously injured and even killed during these “rushes”.
So why the day after Thanksgiving?
Christmas Shopping Season
During the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, there were a plethora of Christmas parades that happened on Thanksgiving. These parades were put on (or sponsored by) department stores of the time and used as a method of advertising for the store. Year after year, more and more people turned out to see Santa Claus coming down the street all while the parade’s sponsor was spewing ads right in your face. In time, the day after Thanksgiving became the official start of the Christmas shopping season. The idea of Santa being at the end of the parade was simply to convey the image that Santa was just around the corner.
This led to stores following a rule of tradition that wouldn’t allow them to start advertising until the parade was over (essentially the next day). A little known fact involves the changing of Thanksgiving to allow for a longer shopping season.
President Lincoln started the official Thanksgiving in 1963. While it is true that Thanksgiving originated with the Pilgrims, it wasn’t an official holliday and it didn’t even have an official date. It was simply celebrated randomly over the centuries and in many years, didn’t even occur. Lincoln established that Thanksgiving was to take place on the last Thursday in November. This all changed in 1939.
There was a time when it was considered bad form to display Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving and it was thought that due to the timing of Thanksgiving, retail sales were adversely affected. Franklin D. Roosevelt decided that Thanksgiving should be moved to the second-to-last Thursday that year, putting an extra week of Christmas shopping into the season and Franksgiving was born.
This change caused a major upset with many U.S. citizens due to the changing of holiday plans among other things. Throughout the next 17 years, Thanksgiving was celebrated on either the original date or the new one or in some cases, both! In 1956, Texas was the last state to change their Thanksgiving date back to the last Thursday of November. After all was said and done, no statistics have ever shown that the date change increased retail sales as intended.
What are you thankful for?
The whole point of this day is to be thankful for the things you have in your life. Whether this be simply that you’re alive or that you have a great group of family and friends that love you, it’s nice to have a holiday to reflect on how great a country we live in.
I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had so far in life and in regards to this website, I’m thankful for the many people that join me each day by reading my articles and helping to further the success of Ledfrog.com.
I know it’s been awhile since I last updated the site, but between working on other web projects, my full time job, taking care of school and sleeping, I haven’t had much time for this site unfortunately. However, this is all about to change as I expect to get back to my regular daily routine in no time!
Also, for those who didn’t notice or as a memo to my new visitors, the site has been completely revamped for the first time since I launched it!! I’m using a whole new backend system and I feel the new layout will make everything just a bit more organized and easier to find.
In light of the new layout and in the spirit of not having the site closed for too long, I have opened the site now. What this means is simply that there might some things out of place (like the menus) and things that don’t match too well due to the site being solely formatted for the previous layout.
With that said, please bear with me as I work out the kinks. I can promise you that the new site will allow for much more flexibility (for me and you), plus add some new enhancements and features that are sure to up the user experience around here.
Some new features
Submit your writings – I am now opening the site for the first time to guest bloggers and freelance writers! You can submit your own articles for review and I will post them with all due credit. In time, you may be granted full publishing rights to the site.
Improved newsletter – I am throwing out the old and bringing in the new. I will be offering an updated newsletter for anyone wishing to get free information from me that’s not available on the site.
I think that’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the new site!
I must say that I think this is great. To clarify, I think the business end of it sure looks grim, but what did China expect after forcing Google to censor it’s web search? For those of you that aren’t aware, China censors the country’s Internet access to block all “offending” subjects from entering their citizen’s computers. What the exact definition of “offending” may be is anyone’s guess, but all the standards are sure to apply.
All this is controlled by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and in total, there are over 60 regulations just on the Internet, which not only includes content blocking, but also the monitoring of Internet usage directly into people’s homes. This is all accomplished by enforcing these regulations at the state-owned ISP level. According to Wikipedia, in December of 1997, these regulations were entered into law:
No unit or individual may use the Internet to create, replicate, retrieve, or transmit the following kinds of information:
Inciting to resist or breaking the Constitution or laws or the implementation of administrative regulations;
Inciting to overthrow the government or the socialist system;
Inciting division of the country, harming national unification;
Inciting hatred or discrimination among nationalities or harming the unity of the nationalities;
Making falsehoods or distorting the truth, spreading rumors, destroying the order of society;
Terrorism or inciting others to criminal activity; openly insulting other people or distorting the truth to slander people;
Injuring the reputation of state organs;
Other activities against the Constitution, laws or administrative regulations.
Of course, nobody really wants to promote that kind of stuff, but the idea of a government controlling this content is disturbing to say the least. Imagine how many doors this can open (or close for that matter). It is said that China has the strictest laws about what kind of content can be seen in its country and because of this, they also have the largest number of journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world!
Google says, “no way”.
Google’s position stems from their will to keep the Internet free of censorship and to provide a freedom of self-expression and free speech environment for the whole world to enjoy. And frankly, they do a damn good job of it. At this time, it’s not completely official, but the plan is to be out of China by April 10th. Currently, Google is operating under the Google.cn domain name with censored search results and if the site does go dark, it may still be possible for Chinese web surfers to access Google through our Google.com domain–that is of course if the PRC doesn’t block all of Google entirely.
This is what the homepage of Google.cn appears like today:
Google.cn homepage on April 11th,
Let’s just hope this whole thing isn’t powerful enough to complete sever ties between our two countries.
::UPDATE:: Google.cn is now forwarding traffic to Google.com.hk (the Hong Kong Google) which was supposed to allow Chinese surfers to view uncensored search results, but it looks like it’s backfiring on them because China is till censoring Internet traffic at higher levels. I have a feeling this virtual war is going to be bad.
No, this isn’t a post about me having suicidal dreams or anyone for that matter. I’m quoting the Silverchair song “Suicidal Dreams”. There’s two lines in there that really made me think about the latest string of suicides we’ve had in the entertainment world with fashion designer Andrew McQueen, actor Andrew Koenig and Marie Osmond’s son, Michael Blosil.
I used to think that depression was a result of something drastic that happened in your life such as the loss of a close loved one, the premature ending of a dream career, drug use gone bad or just general unhappiness about life. One could also make the claim that most people fall into depression because of financial troubles or just being lonely.
And then, every so often you hear a story about someone who you think had it all. Someone that had tons of friends, lots of money and everything else that most people aspire to have. Your first response is usually along the lines of “what do they have to be depressed about?”
Well, sometimes the answer(s) to that question are not so clear. The doctors tell us depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain and although it can be triggered by and greatly enhanced by traumatic events in your life, for the most part, it’s either there or it’s not. So to fix it, we generally take a antidepressant which is supposed to correct the imbalance and bring us back to “life”.
However, doctors are now saying that these drugs don’t work as well as people are led to believe (upwards of 60% of treated patients say they don’t feel a difference). They say that with the exception of extreme cases, these drugs don’t do anything at all. In fact, most doctors openly admit that they’re not really sure how they’re supposed to work anyway!
This would completely explain why, in a country where 10% of antidepressant takers are people above the age of 6, we don’t have any significant reduction in the amount of depression cases. It’s also important to note that most doctors don’t even directly link depression to suicide. Essentially anyone who has thought about taking their own life is usually faced with that idea after seemingly exhausting all possible ways of living. These people can’t control/handle their lives and/or their looking for an easy escape.
Who’s to judge? But, how can we help? Or can we help?
The lines in the song I mentioned earlier are: “Help me, comfort me. Stop me from feeling what I’m feeling now.”
It’s sad to see people at the end of their rope. I only knew of one person who killed himself and the story was that he did it over a girl. He hanged himself in the closet. Then you have your string of famous celebrity suicides who just couldn’t take life anymore: Kurt Cobain, Hunter S. Thompson, Cliff Baxter (vice-chairman of Enron), Ray Combs (host of the Family Feud) and of course Adolf Hitler, but he had another reason.