Text messaging changes as I get older

oldschool-textSo I was sending a text blast to a few friends the other day. Most of these people are around my age, and I did get responses back from most. I think the only non-responses were from texts I sent to … office phones.

So yes, people my age do text. Don’t look so surprised, huh?

But as I get older I discover the nomenclature has changed a lot. I’m having to relearn the whole text-abbreviation thing. A lot of those I used to use no longer apply.

I found these abbreviations online, and it looks like I’m gonna have to start using some of them. Like, real soon:

  • FWIW: Forgot Where I Was
  • BTW: Bring The Wheelchair
  • ROFL… CGU: Rolling On The Floor Laughing … And Can’t Get Up
  • DWI: Driving While Incontinent
  • LOL: Living On Lipitor
  • IMHO: Is My Hearing-Aid On?
  • IMHMO: In My HMO…
  • BYOT: Bring Your Own Teeth
  • GTG: Gotta Groan
  • FYI: For Your Indigestion…
  • JK: Just Kvetching
  • TTYL: Talk To You Louder
  • MILF: Meal I’d Like To Forget
  • LMDO: Laughing My Dentures Out
  • GOML: Get Off My Lawn

I’m sure there are more. Any others I might use, please share.

 

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Customer loyalty cards: Permission to get creepy?

These loyalty cards save me a lot of money, but there's a dark side to them.
These loyalty cards save me a lot of money, but there’s a dark side to them.

Like many other people, I keep loyalty cards to my favorite stores on my key ring. They save me a metric pantload of money, but I ran into the darker side the other day.

I got a phone call from the New Orleans-based Reily food company telling me that a chili mix I bought at such-and-such a store has been recalled. Seems it has traces of peanuts and/or almonds and can bring me a nasty allergic reaction.

Ooo-eee-ooo.

Then I went shopping and saw another warning on my sales slip from that grocery store. I later checked and I still have that chili mix on hand waiting for my kitchen magic. No mention of peanuts in the ingredients. Reily Foods said in a statement that at least one of the spices the company gets from a third-party supplier contains undeclared nut allergens. Undeclared meaning, it was thrown in there without telling them.

I understand the peanut risk. I have a few friends who have this allergy, and I guess a reaction can be fatal. I don’t have that problem, so I’m going to use the chili mix anyway. I appreciate the fact the grocer and food manufacturer are looking out for me.

But still … how do they know?

Ahh, yes. That loyalty card.

Basically, when you get one of those cards you give the store permission  to track your purchases and tailor their advertising to your known buying patterns in exchange for deep discounts. That’s nice. I like deep discounts, and I like getting dollars-off coupons for products I actually use.

I shop for Dad and myself, and the receipt will tell me how much I’ve saved on my purchases by using the card: Usually around $20 for a purchase of a little less than $100. Not half bad.

But let’s flip this on its head, shall we? If I opt out of the loyalty program, I give the store permission to overcharge me by about $20. That’s the story once you strip away the gee-whiz you’re-saving-money verbiage.

Tracking, tracking everywhere!

But the tracking part is interesting. Of course you can forget about privacy in the Internet age. Somebody, somewhere sees every Website you visit, every Google search and every purchase you make.

None of this is new. Casinos have been tracking customers for years, again via a loyalty card. You get all sorts of swag, comps and maybe some bonus payouts when you win. The casino then knows how much you bet, how much you lose and which games are your favorites. Get right down to it, the casino knows way too much about you.

As if the phone call wasn't enough ... I appreciate it, but it still creeps me out.
As if the phone call wasn’t enough … I appreciate it, but it still creeps me out.

Amazon’s like that too. I love Amazon. They’re my #1 publisher (which gets me a monthly royalty from them), and I buy a lot from that company. Of course I’m gonna get targeted advertising based on what I’ve purchased. That’s just plain smart marketing even if it is creepy.

Noted whistleblower Edward Snowden recently aired his Amazon fears via video link at a Cato Institute symposium. Here’s a highlight:

“Wherever you’re at, wherever that jurisdiction is, they can see what books you’re looking at. This is morally irresponsible, and as a business it’s problematic to allow this to continue when we know for a fact that they have the capability to provide for secure communications because as soon as you go to purchase that book, as soon as money’s involved, they turn it over to encryption.”

Got that? According to a story in The Passive Voice, Amazon encrypts the really vital stuff like your credit card numbers. But your searches are in plain text, readable by anyone.

Okay. I sound like one of those off-the-road paranoid conspiracy types, a candidate for increased medication and maybe one of those canvas blazers with wraparound arms. But bear with me as I offer some evidence:


Tres creepy, no?

Now, let’s get back to customer loyalty cards. This extracted information is good for the company. The consumer (hopefully) knows it’s a trade for lower prices or some good swag. But does the information stay in-house? That’s where things get messy. There’s just no guarantee.

How do you know that customer list or mailing list your on doesn’t get sold to someone else? How do you know a real bad criminal organization, like say, the federal government, won’t get its hands on the data?

All it takes is a little suspicion and a subpoena for Big Brother to peek at your buying/searching habits. And that’s if everything is done above board. What guarantee is there that Uncle Sam observes even these rules?

So what’s a guy to do?

I’m torn. I like the savings and bonuses that come with a loyalty card. Long as I don’t go out of my head when buying — like case lots of whatever it is that they use to make bombs or street drugs — I’m probably all right. Right now the only really telling information one can get from my buying habits is my raging addiction to Cafe Bustelo coffee.

But to live a totally invasion-free life I’ll have to throw my computer out the window, get bound books at a used bookstore, pay cash for everything, stay off all public streets, communicate via carrier pigeon and/or tin cans with string, pay the higher price at the grocery store and wrap my head in tinfoil before going out.

Welcome to the modern world. Dont’cha love it?

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Still more sharks in the phishing hole: That PayPal email scam sure gets around

smile, you son of a b!!!!
This online phish is predatory, but it’s not that smart. Still …

I know. I’ve written about it before, but it just won’t go away.

In a blog called Miraculous Ladies I saw another account of the infamous PayPal email scam that just keeps bugging me. Here’s the gist of it:

I received an email from PayPal yesterday afternoon. It was about a restriction on my account. While reading the email and noticed two things. First, their email address was pay@bills.com. Secondly, I spotted grammar mistakes. Alarm bells rang!

I logged into my PayPal account. There were no messages about my account being restricted.

– See more at: http://www.miraculousladies.com/beware-paypal-scam-emails/#sthash.c5Ddd79Y.dpuf

That’s the main stuff here. She outlines things to watch out for, which is really useful stuff.

I’ve written extensively about this myself, as I’m sure you know:

Sharks in the phishing hole: That email isn’t really from PayPal

and …

More sharks in the phishing hole: Some folks never give up

This begs the question. Just what is this card-carrying member of the Testosterone-Toting club doing on the Miraculous Ladies site?

Linkedin, of course. Got the link from there. So if you’re on LinkedIn you’ll see the discussion.

Anyway, you know the deal. Watch out when you surf. You could be sharing waves with something predatory.

-endit-

Talk to me: Have you run across this email yet? Have you clicked on that link yet? What were you thinking?

everything-siggy-workingsize

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[From elsewhere] Knowledge is power, but unbalanced reading can trigger things

This was posted in another one of my blogs, Good Morning Manic Depression. OK, I wrote the thing. anyway, it’s highly-recommended stuff, especially if you’re one of those bookworms:

Okay, yeah, there's also that ...
Okay, yeah, there’s also that …

I think it was some guy named A. Nonymous who said libraries were a hospital for the brain. Smart guy, that Mr. Nonymous.

By inference, this means reading. Lots of it. Reading is good for the brain, it takes you places you’ve never been and you’ll learn a lot of cool stuff. It’s also healing.

I’m reading an article by Victoria Maxwell in BPHope right now, and she touches on the same subject.

Here’s what she says:

…bibliotherapy: reading books to help to cope with and heal from mental, physical, emotional and/or social issues. The UK’s Reading Agency which runs the Books on Prescription program states there’s “strong evidence self-help reading can help people with common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, sometimes on its own or with other forms of treatment”. This has been my experience …

She included her reading list, and … well, check out her post and decide for yourself …

Anyway, check the article out.

-endit-

 

 

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50 business cliches that really need to die

I like this. Found it through Twitter, and it’s worth the price of admission. Too many business types fall on these weasel words/phrases that, if they meant anything once they sure don’t now.

Here’s a sample:

1. Actionable. An actionable item is one you can take action on. Whether the action is desirable is another story. For that reason, an item may be more clearly described as practical, useful, realistic or workable.

2. Around. Don’t have a discussion around an issue; have a discussion about an issue.

3. Balls in the air. Sound less like a carnival act and more like a business professional by saying that you are busy or have several projects underway.

4. Best of breed. “Of breed” adds nothing to “best.” Just say you’re the best.

5. Big bang for the buck. A sleazy fast-talker’s way of saying this or that product or service has exceptionally high value.
Read more at http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/02/06/50-business-jargon-fixes-bloggers-business-content-writers/#VpbTYhh5AfJ89HTG.99

How about, if I hear this verbiage around me I must start slapping someone. Unless I’m the one using these putrid phrases, of course. Do as I say, not as I do.

The author, Brad Shorr, listed his original 50 chunks (as in blowing chunks) of jargon here. Not necessarily more objectionable, but obvious enough that he thought of those before he did the second batch.

They’re bad. They all need to be put to death.

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Cop a squat? Or should I rephrase that?

My knees scream just thinking about it.
My knees scream just thinking about it.

I’ve heard of standing desks and treadmill desks, but a squatting desk?

Not kidding. According to an article in Fast Company, squatting allows us to rest while on our feet. It’s a Zenlike thing, or is it Yogalike? Anyway, it evokes images of green tea and all that good stuff.

Here’s what blogger Feyyaz Alingan (figures) said about squatting:

“It’s a posture that most of the West has lost its ability to do–tight hips and tight achilles due to spending our days in desk chairs might be the culprit–whereas folks in East and South Asia do it on the regular.”

Supposedly, squatting opens my hips, which prevents lower back pain. Or something.

I didn’t know I had a problem with closed hips. I wouldn’t know the difference between an open or closed one anyway.

But I do know this. Just squatting to get to the lower shelf at the supermarket hurts. My knees give me trouble. My Achilles tendons start hurting. It takes me at least a week to get back up. Maybe it’s part of being in my late 50s, but I am in shape.

About the only part of my body that doesn’t hurt is my hips. So maybe there’s something to this squatting thing.

My hiking buddy is in his late 40s, also in shape and a medical professional besides. We discussed this article on a seven-mile training hike the other day, and he says he can’t see the benefits either.  Maybe it helps you give birth, he suggested

That’s not something I plan to do anytime soon. I’m too old for that anyway.

So the squatting desk, you can have it. I’m not going to put my laptop on a bench and squat at it. Forget that. I’d rather sit in a chair, and I’m not the sitting-down type.

Now, give me a standing desk any time. I have one, or at least it’s modified for that. A wine crate, a sheet of particle board nailed to the top to accommodate the mouse, and the extension keyboard is on another platform about waist high to me. Perfect. Ergonomically sound. It worked for Hemingway, and it’ll work for me too.

When I do my work at a McDonalds or Starbucks, I’ll shove the chair aside and set up shop on the counter. I’ll pull two-hour work sessions and stand up the whole time. Keeps me focused and gives me the feeling I’m going somewhere.

Standing desks are red hot right now. I see one from GeekDesk that looks pretty bare-bones to me. Looks like a glorified folding table, and it’s all yours for $525. For the frame. As far as a top, you’re on your own.

(H’mmm … about that squat again?…)

There are some DIY versions shown in Make Use Of, starting at around $40. Depending on which one you build, you’re using sawhorses or anything else. (Hey, sawhorses … now that’s an idea.) Here are a few more if you don’t mind the hipster look.

A treadmill desk, though, is a different matter. Trying to keep fingers on keyboard is dicey enough anyway, but it’s worse at a treadmill. Plus trying to watch the screen while my eyeballs are going up and down doesn’t sound very effective to me, exercise or not.

Squatting, forget it. I’ll stand, thank you.

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Rotten phish: Scams travel by text messages, too

smile, you son of a b!!!!
This online phish is predatory, but it’s not that smart. Still …

Another day, another scam.

I’ve been getting text  messages from some outfit called Contact Achieve, and when I called back I picked up some real bad smell.

It smelled like rotten phish.

It’s from some company that calls itself Achieve, and according to the Federal Trade Commission it’s pure scam. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

On Jan. 18 I received a text from Achieve Card. Two texts that day, one at 6:51 pm and another five minutes later. Actually had at least one text before that but I chose to ignore it.

But in that pair of texts I was given a number (601-633-0010) to call. So I did, and caught a recording. Upshot was that they were the Achieve Card help desk, and my prepaid Visa debit card had limited security access due to a security error. Then they gave me  the first few digits of my card number and wanted me to punch it in on the keypad.

Uhh, no thanks. I may have been born in the dark, but it wasn’t last night.

So I wrote the information down and called that recording again to make sure I had it right. Hey, if you’re after a story you want to make sure you have it right.

A couple of red flags right away. The biggest is that I don’t have a prepaid Visa card. I do have a Visa debit card that’s attached to my bank account, but the partial number didn’t match.

I do have a prepaid debit card (which I use for a couple of jobs that pay cash), but it’s an American Express and the numbers still don’t match.

Plus I’ve never heard of that company.

Not only are they crooked, but they’re idiots.

Listen, it’s not unlike some emails I got from some outfit claiming to be PayPal. Except they kept using email addresses that are not attached to my PayPal account. I related the whole sordid tale here, and it’s worth your while to check that one out. It’s a million laughs unless you fell for it.

Let’s bring this thing forward, shall we? Just a few minutes ago (I wrote this a little after 5 pm Jan. 21) I got another text message. This one was also from Achieve, and according to my readout the text message went out at 9:18 p.m. on Jan. 17. So it must have gone into some queue, to be released at the most inopportune time.

Just because I feel like making trouble (who, me?) I tried their callback number. That’s 832-984-9427 in case you’re interested) and got a different recording. From the Federal Trade Commission, no less. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but the message was quite interesting nonetheless.

According to that recording, that callback number has been disconnected because the FTC divined that it was a scam, and a number of folks got emails and text messages in the so-called company’s trolling efforts.

They can shut it down? How interesting.

The recording went on to explain that it was an attempt at phishing, sending out bogus texts or email to talk you into giving up your valuable  banking information so they can steal your identity. Their advice: Don’t do it.

Well, duh.

In addition I was referred to a website, onguardonline.gov, which is supposed to be an FTC site on dealing with scams. I checked it and it looks pretty legit to me, enough for me to subscribe to the RSS feed.

Just for gits and shiggles I tried that first Achieve number again and got a fast busy signal. So apparently that’s been shut down too.

So scratch one scammer. But they’re like cockroaches. Kill one and a thousand more come to its funeral.

Hey, you know the deal. Don’t give out your bank card numbers online or over the phone unless you initiated the call, and even then crank up your BS detector as high as it will go. I also have some other precautions, which I listed here. Check that out while you’re at the computer reading this. That in itself is worth the price of admission.

Do I expect people to wise up?

No way. A few might if they’ve been burned often enough or if that aforementioned BS detector is fully functional. But hey, y’all be careful out there.

In the meantime, enjoy your computer. Have fun checking out Facebook, Buzzfeed and those cat videos. Feel free to read your news online (including this blog). Buy books from Amzon (including mine, heh-heh) Do your shopping online. Use the Internet to make a living. Use the online tools to run several aspects of your life by remote control (like my own use of online banking). It’s safer than it once was, it’s convenient, it’s a Godsend.

But again, be careful.

# # #

What say you? Have you run across this Achieve outfit? How about that PayPal email scam? Any other stories? Please share in the comments, and don’t spare me any of the gory details.

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Why don’t the cool places offer senior discounts?

Can I get one with flames painted on the side?
Can I get one with flames painted on the side?

It was a chilly night, so I decided to take the bus from my office (read: the library) to my home. Not really that much of a trip; it’s just a touch over two miles. Under most circumstances, a nice bike ride.

So I threw the bike on the rack on the nose of the bus and clambered inside. Started going through my change to pay the usual fare ($1.75) when the driver said it was 85 cents to me.

Oh, really? How’s that work?

“Senior citizen’s discount,” he told me.

I’ll take it, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

It’s not so much the senior thing that bugs me. I’m 56 now, and that status is a reward for not croaking just yet despite my occasional efforts to hasten the process. I don’t mind that, but the fact the driver picked out my senior-ness so quickly was just a little much.

I’m not one of those vain types who tries to look forever young. I learned to cope with pattern baldness 30 years ago, and I finally decided to force the action by shaving the whole thing off. Just got tired of messing with it. I never minded going gray either; it looks sharp on a man.

I’m still trying to get used to bifocals, and my glasses spend more time parked on my head than on my nose. They’re useless at middle distances, like where the computer screen usually is. Plus I have a little cataract action going on, another aging thing.

My face has a few more lines and a little more sag than it used to, but that’s not an issue either.

But I make it a point to keep in shape physically and my mind from losing its edge. I love hanging around young people because I can learn a lot from them, and my energy level (fueled by espresso and bipolar disorder) remains off the charts.

I still think young, am still tech savvy, can still rock around the clock, can still leave ’em laughing, can still jam out 3,000 words standing up, and still keep a good attitude about things.

But some reminders.

A buddy told me I was in good shape for my age, and my (cantankerous) response was “for any age, pal.” Had to whip his young butt on the Palmetto Trail just to get his head straight.

But for some bus driver to pick me out so quickly …

When I turned 55 my older brother — now firmly in geezer territory at 60 — reminded me I was eligible for senior discounts at Denny’s. Gee, Rick. Thanks a pantload.

Besides Denny’s I’m eligible for these discounts at pharmacies and, yeah, the bus. And maybe a plethora of good prices through AARP, though I haven’t got around to membership yet.

But do any of the cool places offer senior discounts? Noooo.

Like, where’s my golden-age special at Guitar Center?

Why doesn’t my Web hosting company offer price breaks for people of my vintage?

Can my age get me a discount when I shop for outdoors gear at Half Moon Outfitters? Doubt it.

But I can get a good price for a walker. Just the thing for hiking the Appalachian Trail.

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Tales of shooters, gray cards and photo fixer

Remember that knob?
Remember that knob?

The first time I saw a digital camera was in 1994, and I wasn’t terribly impressed.

Mt old warhorse was a Canon AT1, built like a tank and nothing on it was automatic. Adjust the shutter speed, adjust the aperture (we called it the f-stop), focus by hand and shoot.

Using real film, developed by myself in some bathroom somewhere if it was in black and white.

I learned how to turbocharge the film and to cut down my processing time. I could burn a roll of film and get a halftone suitable for newspaper publication within 20 minutes of tearing the film out of the camera. I used to be able to look at a print and tell you what kind of film was used, what the film speed was and what light settings the photographer used.

Which camera produced this photo?
Which camera produced this photo?

So this digital camera, well, it was a nice but expensive toy. The camera looked like one of those you used to get with a subscription to Sports Illustrated, and the quality was almost as good.

What intrigued me, though, was the thought I could come back from a photo shoot and have a print within seconds instead of 20 minutes. Too bad the quality wasn’t there.

Listen, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally consented to having my pictures go on disk instead of good ol’ Kodak paper. I do remember I still wanted the negatives, and the person developing the pictures looked at me kinda funny.

Now you can shoot pictures with your phone — what kind of Communist foolery is that? But look at the two photos with this blog and tell me which one came from the old Canon and which one was shot by a phone. I double-dawg dare you.

Film junkie tries to adapt

I’ll admit, although I love all manner of tech toys I’m sometimes slow to adopt. But making the transition was inevitable, I think. You’d have to hunt around in pawnshops or thrift stores to find an old film-burner. I know WalMart doesn’t have those.

Okay, smart guy. Camera phone or film burner?
Okay, smart guy. Camera phone or film burner?

Honestly, I’m amazed there are still places where you can process your film. But that’s by machine. No little guys hanging your wet prints on a clothesline under the glow of a red light. No comforting smell of D-76 developer and fixer.

The only reason these photo-processing places exist today is for us old geezers who refuse to die.

Last I looked, Eastman Kodak was going belly up. Too bad. That was the best company for all your photographic needs. Forget Fuji, Kodak was the real deal.

I used to drive by the old Eastman Kodak plant in Kingsport, Tennessee and I always had to roll the windows down to catch that wonderfully acrid smell of processing chemicals. It really transported me. In a nostalgic way, of course. It’s not like sniffing glue or anything.

Have to admit, there are advantages to going digital. The photo is ready right now and I can paste it into this blog without a lot of extra work.

(Note: No trees were harmed in the making of this publication, but a lot of perfectly good electrons went to waste. But I digress.)

Some glitches with digital photography. My Android phone has about a full-second delay between hitting the shutter release (a.k.a. “pushing the button”) and the camera actually taking the picture. Any good shooter will tell you how useless that is with moving subjects; a lot can happen in one second.

My Android doesn’t take very good pictures. For that I use an old retired phone, one with much faster responses and better color saturation.

Okay. I admit it. I still miss my Canon. Had it for more than 25 years and it still took great pictures.

But now there’s at least two generations of photographers who don’t know what a shooter is. Don’t know what a gray card is for. Wouldn’t know how to load exposed film into a developing tank using just your jacket to protect the film. Never used Ansel Adams’ zone system. Don’t know how to set a camera so you can take pictures of a moving car — while driving.

I miss those things. But I’m getting along pretty well with my camera phone even with the inherent glitches.

Quiz answer: I took the top photo (of the ocean and land mass with my old AT-1. The bottom photo (with the flowers) was with a smartphone camera.


What say you? Are you an old shooter? Do you remember your first time with a digital camera? Where can a guy get a film-burner around here? Please share.

 

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I told you about those Oreos now … they’re addictive!

oreos
Whoa, big guy. Simmer down.

Most of these studies I see coming out, especially those subsidized by public funds or put together by universities, bring more yawns, waste and confusion per dollar than anything I can think of.

But then, I see some findings that totally make my day.

Just recently, I saw that Oreo cookies are more addictive than cocaine. This is according to a study by Connecticut College and reported by CBS.

College psych professor Joseph Schroeder and four other students fed a bunch of Oreos to some lab rats or something like that to get their findings.

Lucky rats.

“We found that the behavior they exhibited was equally strong for Oreo cookies as it was for cocaine or morphine,” Schroeder, the director of the Behavioral Neuroscience program at Connecticut College, told WCBS 880. “When we looked in the pleasure center of the brain, we found that the Oreo cookies activated the pleasure center more so than cocaine would activate the same center.”

Now, cocaine has been the benchmark in addiction measurement for years. In the late 1980s it came out that cigarettes were also more addictive than cocaine.

I’ve never played around with cocaine, probably because I was afraid I’d like it, so don’t count me as an authority there. But I do know about Oreos.

Can’t remember my first. Maybe I was too young to make the connection, unlike my first kiss or my first time driving. But that first Oreo, boom boom, out go the lights.

I’m not the only one who has the Oreo addiction going on. CBS readers were asked to speak on the subject during an informal poll. I could only see the results after I voted, but you can only guess how mine went.

Anyway, the poll:

 
 

 
 
Total Votes: 2,829

 

Am I surprised?

No.

I’ll tell you what, though. Those things are good. Which is amazing because the creme filling defies all chemical analysis. A friend of mine was able to whip up something close to that, missing only a little on the taste.

Still not the same, though. Oreo filling by itself, well, meh. You still need the cookie halves — which also defy chemical analysis — to complete the package.

My health-conscious friends get that horrified look when you mention Oreos. Something about being the worst stuff you can put in your body and still live. But how do I know these health-nut friends don’t have a secret stash, or at least reward themselves with a couple when they choose a fruit smoothie instead of a Mountain Dew?

There’s no right or wrong way to eat an Oreo. Some will just bite down on it (like I do) while others dismantle the cookie. Yeah, take the top off, suck the filling out and then eat the two halves. I really don’t understand that one myself because all those components belong together.

Then there are those who take the cookie in the package, open it, eat the filling and put the cookie back in the package. But obviously they’re Neanderthals.

That homemade Oreo filling this friend puts together also lacks those feelgood components that rival strong drugs, Prozac or even the endorphins that kick in after a long hike.

Take two Oreos and call me in the morning.

No wonder these researchers claim they’re so addictive. If I didn’t know any better they’re made with just a touch of dopamine.

I kind of hope these researchers take their experiments further. I’m curious how Thin Mints fit into the whole addiction spectrum. I know I start jonesin’ waiting for the local Girl Scout troop to make their rounds. I’d lay in a huge stockpile except I know I’ll eat half of them as soon as I get them home.

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