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A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

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What's Your Favorite Crazy Conspiracy Theory?
Feel Free to Hatch One Here.


As part of the document-dump from Bin Laden's compound, we find that he may have been a fan of certain conspiracy theories, including those involving 911, as his library included these raddled tomes :

  • Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier (including why JFK was killed)
  • The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly Hall (a guide to mysticism)
  • The Taking of America 1-2-3 by Richard Sprague (assassins and brainwashing did the trick)
  • Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins  (from 1952!)
  • America's "War on Terrorism" by Michel Chossudovsky (911 was an inside job)
  • Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Committee of 300 by John Coleman (one world government)
  • Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil by Michael Ruppert  (Cheney did it)
  • New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin (Bush let 911 happen)



What's even more entertaining is how 9-11 truthers themselves are now wary of bin Laden's conspiracy theories, especially when he wasn't reading one of their books. But the best conspiracies of all have an all-inclusive, overlapping sort of genius.
obama conspiracy
When in doubt, blame Obama....

I had a long-term friend who was a big subscriber to conspiracy theories. In the days before we joined this current reality-based community but when the onset of  high speed internet meant you could look up and share all kinds of crazy information, we indulged his insistence that we watch videos about how the Bilderbergs were actually running everything, and how 9/11 was an inside job.

Because of Bob I sort of understood the defense mechanism behind the adherence to a conspiratorial world view. No one was going to sneak up on him. He was a survivalist with a gun under his pillow (until he woke up smelling gunpowder only to realize he'd accidentally shot himself in his sleep) and gold buried in his back yard. Conspiracy theories reassured him that his fears had an external basis and that he alone of all his friends would survive the coming apocalypse, no matter the cause.

Bob was reflexively suspicious of any orthodoxy and conventional wisdom, which was all very entertaining until paradise50 was diagnosed with cancer. I abruptly stopped having the time or the patience to listen to his cancer theories, especially when he reported being "very disappointed" in us as health care professionals since we didn't realize that iodine deficiency was the underlying cause of all cancers. All pNut had to do was paint an iodine solution on his arm every day, and.... well. As Paul Simon said, "I don't find this stuff amusin' any more."

Of course we see all kinds of CT here on Daily Kos, none of which is allowed to be seriously promoted because of the obvious disruption it causes. So by all means, do not take any of this seriously.


conspiracy lizardsWhat's conspiracy theory makes you laugh, or shake your head in dismal dismay? Did you know that if you're in a room with 25 people, at least one of them believes the world is run by lizard people? Or that there was no moon landing because the moon itself actually doesn't exist? Or that Andy Kaufman faked his own death? Or that you shouldn't vaccinate your dog because Jenny McCarthy says it causes pawtism? (h/t Amy Schumer)

If you're low on material, check out Worst 100 Nutty Conspiracy Theories of All Time.

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A daily series, Connect! Unite! Act! seeks to create face-to-face networks in each congressional district. Groups regularly socialize but also get out the vote, support candidates and engage in other local political actions that help our progressive movement grow and exert influence on the powers-that-be. Visit us at Daily Kos every morning at 7:30 A.M. Pacific Time to see how you can get involved. The comment thread is fun and light-hearted, but we're serious about moving the progressive political agenda forward.

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Have You Ever Hitchhiked, or Picked Up a Hitchhiker?


Was it Jim Morrison's fault hitchhiking died out?

If you give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road...
~~ The Doors 1970

batman hitchhikerWhen I was 13 my hippie brother Richard graduated from college where he had avoided the draft, first with his student deferment and then with a high lottery number. He immediately decided to  ditch the Inland Empire and hitchhike about the country. I remember the thrill of watching him leave our apartment with only a backpack and a cardboard hand-lettered sign that read "Oregon or Bust!"

Richard was no romantic. He was quick to adjust his plans. After three unpleasant and quickly aborted rides and too many long hours waiting by the side of the road (at 6'4" he may have been too imposing a presence), and before ever getting out of southern California he boarded a Greyhound bus. A few days later we got a postcard from Corvallis, Oregon where he fetched up for a few months, working and saving for the beat-up VW van he continued his cross-country travels in.

Whatever happened to hitchhiking, so popular in the 60's and 70's? Was it an outbreak of mass murderers, an outbreak of sanity as to its dangers, or something else? In the 1950's, around the time Kerouac's On The Road was published and launched the counterculture, the FBI began a Reefer-Madness like scare campaign to stoke paranoia against hippies and other marginalized people. Their goal got an assist from a few frightening high-profile cases involving young middle-class white girls.

As Molly Osberg writes in The End of the Open Road: The Inside Story of How Hitchhiking Died:

Which isn’t to say that gruesome and terrible things don’t happen to hitchhikers; they do. Just statistically not most often to girls like me, or to my female friends who have hitchhiked across the country with friends, camping in Yosemite and making small talk with Boomers in rickety Volvos. Unfortunately, as Strand tells me, “the sad fact of reality is that women are raped and murdered no matter what they do.” And, as with pretty much all violence in America, brutal acts on the road are most often perpetrated against our most neglected and invisible populations.
The more hitchhiking came to be seen as dangerous, even deadly, the more people dropped out of both picking up hitchhikers and thumbing rides. If the percentage of psychos or people who intend you violent harm remains constant in the world, then hitching or offerine a ride have by definition become more dangerous as more regular folks drop out. There always was a slight risk of danger (which contributed to the thrill and rebellion of it all, perhaps), but it was slight: A 1974 study commissioned by the California Highway Patrol looked into the crime rate involving hitchhiking and found it only amounted to 0.63% in statewide crime statistics. It may be that the danger has been magnified because the innocent and goodhearted alike have opted out. This is a shame because it really is the cheapest way to travel.

Given our crumbling infrastructure, the decline in car ownership among younger people, and the number of empty seats in most passenger cars it seems logical that hitchhiking could be resurrected, perhaps in a newer and ostensibly safer form. People already now set up ride-sharing via Craigslist, and providing rides for a low fee could be a way to offset the price of car ownership.

Given the way cell phones with cameras and videos have changed law enforcement, might they not also change the practice of hitchhiking? Young people tend to have cell phones, if nothing else. There are apps that can instantly transmit photos and videos into the cloud. So let's say you thumb a ride. Before getting in you post a picture of the driver's license plates along with one of the driver and set your GPS to track your movements. Likewise, the driver could snap a photo of the hitchhiker and post his location and route. With each person leaving a clear trail of their interaction might it not feel safer, and promote a low-cost means of transportation, as well as a rediscovered love of the road?

If gas prices were to steeply rise again, and younger people continue to not be able to afford cars, could hitchhiking have a renaissance?

Or will fear prevail?

hitchhiker won't kill you
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Have you Ever Had a House-sitter, or Been Someone's House-Sitter?


The minute I walk in I know someone has been in my house.

Everything looks the same as when we left, but there's a subtle shift of energy and even a slight difference in the ambient odor that tells me, someone else has been here. It reminds me of when I was a kid and could instantly gauge the mood of the household just by standing in the apartment's entryway for a few moments. Was Dad home, and had he been drinking? Had they been fighting? Or was the silent treatment in place, heavy like a thick miasma of unspoken words wrapped around the baseboards? But now, while there is this slight disturbance in the air it doesn't feel uncomfortable, and the dogs are excited and happy to see us; not the least bit jangled.

As I walk around I slowly note the subtle tells of another person. A blind is drawn that I left open. The sound system for the TV is on, and I'm almost certain I remembered to turn it off. A light bulb is unscrewed on a lamp with a timer. A dishtowel is hung over the oven door instead of through the refrigerator handle. When we get in bed the dogs arrange themselves in a new pattern until they remember there's two people to snuggle with now instead of just one.

surprise-pantryWe rarely see our house-sitter Marge*. This time we left at 3:00 AM to catch an early flight. She texted me when she arrived at 7:30, and I texted her back when we returned to the airport a week later.

Marge's philosophy is to leave the house exactly as she found it. I've learned to not leave the place too clean, because she'll feel obliged to do the same and I don't want her having to wash the floors or dust the glass coffee table before our return. Her strict hands-off approach means we have to throw out anything that might rot within a week because she'd assume we like cheese with green spots on it rather than risk tossing any of our food.

This policy results in a sort of blindness to our daily habits that implies a deep respect for our privacy. I left a small amount of tea in a plastic glass on the bed stand, and a week later it's still there, beginning to grow a scummy surface. She tries to leave as small a footprint as possible, yet small signs appear. A homemade ice pack in the freezer. A missed cigarette butt on the deck. Finding these clues of temporary habitation becomes fun, like discovering your own house through new eyes. I like the splash of color the purple eggplant dishtowel throws against the white stove and resolve to hang it there from now on.

House-sitting is a very nice gig for a retired person who loves animals. We pay cash (and tip with candy!) for her services. In return, she only contacts us in case of dire emergency. In 15 years she has yet to contact us once while we're away.

Who takes care of your place when you go away?
Have you ever house-sat for someone else?

blame the housesitter


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Have You Ever Been Helped by a Self-Help Book?


Stop Having Problems self help book I'm still touched by the optimism (if not the occasional outright chicanery) of the self-help and pop psychology movements of the 1970's. Remember Transactional Analysis? Remember when you discovered your inner child needed braces? Did you ever experience the euphoria that accompanied the first chapter of a new book that so clearly identified your basic problem-- and promised to solve it in a few easy chapters? The advice may have been facile or questionable, but it was a way for a bookish young adult lacking in mentors to figure out the mystery of other people.

Self-help books (especially the juicy ones about sex) gave me something I was otherwise lacking-- adult advice, encouragement, and strategies for navigating a confusing world. One (now dated) book in particular helped me through a trying time when I was in my 2i0's. Called Stress and the American Woman it explained how stress physically affects women and outlined the body-mind connection in a way that made complete sense to me. Best of all it was practical and offered an array of techniques including progressive relaxation, self-hypnosis and meditation for calming an overactive sympathetic nervous system. I still use all three. My best coping skills at that age (sadly) all came from a book. It seems to me stress relief techniques and basic cognitive therapy principles should be available to all young adults.

Here's a few titles I could easily bring to mind from that time of life. How many do you recall?

I'm Ok You're OK
The Peter Pan Syndrome
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask)
Inner Child
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
How to Be Your Own Best Friend
Dianetics
Open Marriage
Passages
The Joy of Sex
What Color is Your Parachute
Games People Play

I'm still a sucker for advice. Not that I want to take it, but I'm curious as to what people have to offer, which lead me to the thoroughly charming Life Lessons by a 90 year old, featuring my favorite piece of perspective:

# 40:
If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s,
we’d grab ours back.

Which basically really does sum it up.

Carlin self help

How about you? Where has your favorite source of written life advice come from?

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Do You Appreciate Either Bats or Haiku?


Today, April 17th, is both National Bat Appreciation Day (the flying kind, not the swinging kind) and National Haiku Poetry Day.
H

Or, if you prefer, you can combine the two.

bats-in-blanketsNo one here would be shocked to hear we had bats in our belfrey several years ago. I've always been fond of them, as they are considered highly auspicious to the Chinese. The homonym for the word "bat" is the same as that for "fortune" or "blessings."

The first indication of our new housemates was the mystifying little black dots that kept appearing on the glass coffee table in the living room. The next sign was the high-pitched squeakings and scrabblings directly overhead. Soon it was clear there were bats -- many bats -- in the tiny attic crawl space, and just as clearly they had to go, but how to get rid of them? The crack under the eaves they were flying in and out of was a good 40 feet off the ground. Besides, we wanted them to hang around, not only because they're a protected endangered species but because they eat mosquitoes.

For the first step, pNut studied commercial bat boxes and then built the tiny mammals two new boxes to move into, once we could figure out how to get them out of the attic.

Batshit

Bat guano drifts like
Black snow from my ceiling fan
Built them a new home

low bat house
Bat box to the left of upstairs window, adorned with golden bats.

After several weeks of studying the bats' numbers and habits we convinced our macho Santa Cruz mountains friend Robert, who was used to tall ladders, to humanely relocate the little fellas. For weeks we counted the bats as they flew out the tiny crack under the eaves at dusk. One evening, after all had left the roost and were on the wing, Robert climbed the tall metal extension ladder he'd lashed to the side of the house and emptied a can of spray insulation foam into the cracks. He angrily climbed back down after being stung by a wasp but we gradually cajoled him into climbing back up to install the second bat box over the now sealed entrance.  

It was a few weeks until the bats returned, but they never found their way back inside, and soon little bat guano pellets began to regularly appear beneath the two gilded bat boxes.


Bats' Revenge

Zyante Robert
Ascends the silver ladder
Ow! Wasp bite! I quit!

bat house
Naturally, they chose the highest and most inaccessible peak for their domicile.

How about you?
Ever had to evict tiny livestock without harming them?
Ever written haiku?

If not, consider this an open thread!


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What Story or Stories Stuck With You This Week?



1) That Right There is What Patriotism Looks Like

I can't get it out of my mind, the first interview on Wednesday night with Feidin Santana, the young man who revealed his video of Walter Scott's murder after carefully considering the ramifications to everyone. His calm idealism about what is right, the earnestness with which he struggled to be precise about what he actually registered at the time versus what he saw later on his video, and his openness about his fear of reprisal made him the most heart-breakingly perfect man to be behind that camera.

It was his final words that addressed the gap between the ideal United States and the reality he had just taken in that made me well up and have kept a hold on me ever since.

If you haven't watched the whole thing, please find time to do so. You will love this man's integrity. Otherwise, forward to his final comment at 12:30.

(My own transcription, not an official one. Any errors are mine.)

Anything you want to add? Anything I didn't ask you?

Well, I guess I um....This is a very complicated situation and I'm from Dominican Republic. And in Dominican Republic we look for the authority of the United States, you know, we follow over here you know, the way it's treated over here you know, the people, you know? Not just Dominican Republic, the whole Hispanic countries, you know, and all over the world.

You look up to us?

Yes. I don't think this is a good way, to, you know, for us to see this, you know?

What do you hope happens because you captured that scene on your cell phone? What do you want to come from this?

Well I hope, like I say, I'm putting myself out here to talk and to express this cannot be happening. Not just in north Charleston, but in the whole nation, I would say in the whole world. This needs to stop. The cops taking advantage of their power, to the minority and to the people.

I wonder what lessons Feidin Santana has learned and will continue to learn. I want to say he learned that empathy and truth and justice are strong enough to overpower very real and justified fear. I want him to continue to believe that the only way your country can reach its ideal is for you to push it towards that ideal.




2) On a Lighter Note: Driving Lessons

I can't get this one out of my head either, for different reasons. Put yourself in the young lady's shoes when you read that, for security reasons, Secret Service Agents Taught Malia How to Drive.

Now, I don't know what your learning-to-drive experience was like, but I have a feeling this arrangement made for some highly illuminating instructions, far more informative than if she'd gone out to drive around the parking lot with her dad slamming his imaginary brakes.

And, while Malia still has to be followed by security, she still can get in her car and drive away, probably once or twice around the traffic circles and then back home, but hey. She gets to drive. And she's being taught how to drive by bad-asses.

What lessons would you like the Secret Service to give you?

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How Well Do You Know What Your Bodily Noises Indicate?




I subscribe to various WebMD newsletters because you can never know enough about modern medicine, IMO, including what people are googling. Admit it...you have googled your bodily symptoms, perhaps including some of a rather personal nature. The following questions are gleaned from various WebMD quizzes, so the answers are real, with an additional h/t to my pNut's personal expertise.


laughing kidSo, halt your eructations and off-gassings, belay your borborygmus, placate your peristalsis, and try to behave like adults while you see how many questions about your normal bodily functions you can answer correctly.

1) How fast can a sneeze clock in at?


2) How loud is the loudest recorded burp? As loud as a food processor, a chainsaw, or a motorcycle?


3) Can trying to stifle a fart make it louder?


 

4) Can holding a sneeze be dangerous?


5) Are loud stomach gurgles a sign of intestinal trouble?

 

6) If you can hear your own heartbeat what is it most likely caused by?


 

7) Is tinnitus more likely as you get older?


8) How many times a day does a person eating their normal diet pass gas?


9) Americans say "ah-choo" when they sneeze, Filipinos declare "ha-ching," and the Japanese call their sneezing noise "hakashun." What does Tom Cotton say when he sneezes?


 

10) Can having sex cause you to sneeze?




Baby elephant freaks out at own sneeze:
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Would You Like to Have Technologically Assisted Memory?



Disclaimer: I am not on Facebook, I don't use any wearable technology, and I haven't invested in any of these stocks.

Wearable-Technology

Facebook has just launched an app known as "On This Day" in which your posts from a year ago at this time are reprised. If this sounds mildly horrifying, have no fear: If your relationship status has changed or your pootie died or you experienced an epic case of food poisoning a year ago you won't get prompted to remember those things. Just the pleasant things. Because the Book of Face knows what you want to recall. Alternatively you can choose Timehop which can revive everything you ever did on any social media platform for any day in the past to throw that back in your face. Now that fabulous night of drunk-blogging naked selfies or tweet-fighting that Breitbart troll can be instantly recalled!

In other relive-your-life technology and inspired by GoPro's wearable sports cameras, a company called Lifelogger has created a wearable camera that creates a continuous log of your life so that you may film, archive, retrieve and re-live your favorite memories any time you like. Yup, your life's events can now be stored in the Cloud and live-streamed for infinite instant solipsistic nostalgia.

Seriously. What could go wrong?

It seems that as the media has discovered mindfulness all over again as a means of soothing modern life's overload, other insidious forces want to see you tethered even more firmly to your technology.

Naturally, not everyone is up to speed yet.

Wearable-technology (1)
Are you getting all this?

We have our own time-machine here at Daily Kos, of course.


To search your own history for a year ago today just click on the search box, enter your name under "By Author(s)", choose either comments or diaries and enter last year's date to see what was on your mind or who you were actively flaming that day. Oh look, somebody had a birthday, I wonder who?

Search comments

What were you up to a year ago at this time?
Or, if you're more interested in the present, what are you up to today?

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How Do You Celebrate the Onset of Spring?

equinox 2015

So, what makes today Freaky Friday? It's a confluence of true events, including:

  • The first day of spring, aka the vernal equinox, in the northern hemisphere
  • A Supermoon, which is a full or new moon that occurs during the moon's closest approach to Earth on its elliptical orbit
  • A full solar eclipse (though not visible in the U.S.)
  • A day of the year in which you can balance a raw egg on its end
egg_Quaglin1
Strangely, I find this trick of cosmic balance works every day of the year

That last item was folkloric news to me but Snopes, as always, moves in for the buzz-kill:

The Chinese are often cited as having originated the practice of standing eggs on end during the equinox. Just as the equinox symbolically restores balance to the world by signalling its rebirth after a season of darkness, the equinox literally balances the day by dividing it into equal portions of darkness and light. If the symbol of fertility, eggs, could be balanced on end during a day equally divided between day and night, this was a sign that all nature was in harmony.

Nonetheless, the vernal equinox brings no special egg-balancing properties with it. Standing an egg on its end is something just about anyone can do any day of the year; the feat simply takes the right egg and a little trial and practice. Since the vast majority of people never see or try balancing eggs on their ends on any day other than the equinox, though, many of them come away from the experience believing that something special must have occurred on that particular day.

Our spring ritual invariably involves a trip to Table Mountain for the wildflower displays.
Table Mountain view
attribution: Z & B Johnson's Adventures

Table Mountain poppies and lupin
attribution: Jason Branz Photography, jasonbranz.com

Table Mountain Ravine Falls
Ravine Falls - North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve Photo by Greg Mitchell (outside Oroville, in Butte County, California)

When we moved to Paradise in 1990, a new wildlife artist friend took me to Table Mountain. I watched in horror she threw off her clothes, declared "It's the rites of spring!" and plunged into the frigid pool beneath the waterfall. Though I was 20 years her junior she still couldn't goad or shame me into joining her.

What will you do to acknowledge the equinox? Howl at the moon? Spring clean your house? Plant something? Dig out from underneath a blizzard? Stand an egg on its end and declare yourself Master of the Universe? Whatever you do, take a deep breath and enjoy the thought of (eventually) leaving winter behind.

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Who Had the Most Influence In Raising You?



Were you primarily raised by your parents? Or did a grandparent, sibling, family friend, neighbor, or foster family step in? Were you raised by a village, a committee, wolves, zombies or immigrants?

Mom told the story over and over: On the day I was brought home from the hospital I was immediately handed over to my eager 14 year old sister with the words she had long been waiting to hear, "Here's your baby."

Mary, who had always adored infants and never recovered from that obsession (at age 72 she still loves to babysit!), took me into her arms and doted on me ever after. She wheeled me around in a stroller well past my toddler-hood. She flagged down the Good Humor truck and bought me ice cream with her baby-sitting money. I was brokenhearted when she married when I was only seven, but I soon realized I hadn't lost her. I spent countless weekends at her new home where she let me read contraband (True Confessions and True Crime magazines), drink Coke, bake cakes from a mix and play dominoes and Pinochle with her friends.

I understood early on that Mary wasn't the 'smart one' in the family, but she was all heart, and she made sure I was always loved and held and played with. She and her taxi-driving and often unemployed husband were solidly blue collar and lived in the dumpy parts of town. I learned about welfare and how taking on and loving foster babies boosted their income. When she moved out of town I learned how to ride the RTD and Greyhound lines to visit her. I learned how to cook with commodities and how to turn other people's cast-offs into money at the weekly Swap Meet held at the drive-in theater.

Without her I would have been lost in my large family in those early years. I think she gave me a great foundation.

Government Surplus CheeseBox-757415 (1)
Say Cheese.

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Ever Had Buyer's Remorse?

(h/t silks' comment yesterday for today's question)

FacepalmWhat's the most regrettable purchase (or purchases!) you ever made? Were you under the influence of any particular emotion when you did so? While nobody likes wasting money we sometimes make that dumbass purchase out of hope, fear, greed or exhilaration. I've certainly wasted my share of money on magical wrinkle creams and various pieces of exercise equipment (though not on the famous Thighmaster, or anything else hawked by Suzanne Somers). There is no need to point out the evident failure of the promises behind these products.

I made my dumbest damn purchase in many years during our Thanksgiving trip to Denver last year. In the course of walking and exploring the Cherry Creek area near our hotel we decided to take a quick turn through the mall, mostly to pick up some high-octane coffee somewhere. We don't shop in malls. I hate malls. It was more like visiting an upscale human zoo than actual shopping.

When an adorably tiny young woman in a kiosk held out her hand to me with a luminous smile on her face I hesitated....and she pounced on that hesitation. In her hand was a dab of liquid she invited me to smell. Yes, very nice. My hair was frizzy from the high altitude dryness and she offered to smooth it out with a bit of free product. She had a lovely exotic accent, and as we started chatting she grabbed an unusual looking curling iron with flat tongs and, taking a lock of my hair in her hands, instantly transformed it into a long ringlet. I laughed like crazy at my transformation into adult Shirley Temple, we both started joking with her, and before I knew it I was perched on a stool while she expertly styled my hair for dinner with my in-laws as she told us about her life in Istanbul and pressed more little packets of free goop into my hands.

I scoffed at the exorbitant price of the ceramic curling iron but as we talked the price of the appliance eventually dropped by half (though it was still stupid expensive). A lifetime guarantee was proffered, and several full-sized bottles of free products were thrown in. Forgetting I couldn't fit any of them into my carry-on bag I just kept accumulating incentives and stories and I ended up walking away with an absurdly priced curling iron I haven't used since because, well....ringlets. My in-laws adored them. Need I say more? Did I mention I hate malls?

My friend Bob has an equation for this type of encounter: Time in equals involvement. This very sharp young woman knew that the longer she kept me talking and the more free stuff she gave me the closer she got to her sale.

I hope she made a good commission. She'll probably be very successful in this country.

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