August 19, 2006

Admirers of Fine Print

If there’s one thing I learned here in the US, it’s to read the fine print… on everything.

If you want what’s good for you, you should read the tiniest printed words not just on contracts, agreements, and disclaimers, but also on discount coupons, sales flyers, special offers, product labels, bills, notices, as well as posters, cards, and all your mail.

The main reason you must read the fine print (and that’s after you’ve checked the “Best Before,” “Valid,” and “Expires” dates) is to make sure your expectations are correct, especially when something looks too good to be true. You know what they say, “If it looks too good to be true, there’s a catch.”

For example, a credit card offer will put “No annual fee!” in bold letters, but the fine print will say that on top of the high interest rate, there’s a sign-up fee and a sell-your-soul list of other fees and charges.

Notice how car commercials on TV scream “THE BEST DEAL IN TOWN!” but in very small print, which flashes on the screen on the millisecond that you decide to blink, will effectively say, “Restrictions apply,” which, for all intents and purposes, actually means “none of you will qualify.”

Just a few days ago, I came across these too-good-to-be-true eye catchers:

with the purchase of a family meal
(Poster at Boston Market)

wrapping everyday
(Sign at Bealls)

2nd Pizza of Equal or Lesser Value
(Domino’s Gift Certificate)

Since I started on a mission to read all the fine print on anything I buy, use, consume, or even consider taking into my scheme of things, I’ve become familiar with these:

“Void where prohibited by law.”
“Subscription will be renewed automatically unless you cancel.”
“Limited time offer.”
“Consumers with food allergies, please read the ingredient statement carefully.”
“Heating times are approximate.”
“Consuming raw or uncooked meats may increase your risk of foodborne illness.”
“Only at participating locations. Not valid with other offers. Delivery areas and charges may vary. One coupon per order. No double toppings.”
“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
“Any other use constitutes fraud.”

And the most popular clincher: “Individual results may vary.”

To cap this off, here’s what I found when I signed up with a Feedburner email subscription:

"For admirers of fine print, we also offer the following details:
The publisher of the site you have subscribed to uses FeedBurner to deliver email subscriptions. FeedBurner's Terms of Service govern this subscription service. This subscription is a relationship between the publisher and you, the subscriber; the publisher will have access to their complete mailing list should they decide to stop using FeedBurner and move to another service. FeedBurner provides email delivery service to the publisher; it will never sell email addresses, share email addresses or send any other email to the email address. FeedBurner never liked that, and never will. Nice FeedBurner."

August 13, 2006

To Be A Millionaire

Back in our younger days, my friends and I used to say, “We’re so ready to be millionaires… the only thing missing is money.”

I’m sure some of them have found the money by now and are comfortably circulating among fellow millionaires. I have high regard for them, especially after I read an article about what it takes to become wealthy.

In a nutshell, all you need to do to become a millionaire are:
1. work long hours
2. take risks
3. be willing to fail

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Why then are there only "2.9 million millionaires in America and 8.7 million millionaires worldwide in 2005" (Wikipedia: Millionaire)? Maybe because long hours, risks, and failure are not exactly what we want to deal with in this short journey called life. After all, these are way outside our normal comfort zones. We prefer easy money, get-rich-quick, and winning the lottery.

Then there’s the responsibility that comes with being rich. You’ll need to continue spending more time and energy to protect and nurture all that wealth. Affluence does come with a hefty price tag.

But if you really want to be a millionaire, here are valubale hints from one who's been-there-done-that:

If you want to be rich, first stop being so frightened

August 9, 2006

Just Say No

I have a new weight maintenance tool. I call it the “Just-Say-No“ technique because all you have to do is say, “No, thank you.” You don’t have to measure and weigh what you eat; you don’t have to take some funky pills; you don’t have to hop on a treadmill! How easy is that?

By responding, “No, thank you!” during potentially weight-maintenance-damaging situations, you can lose from 100 to 1000 calories every time. And you won’t even feel it! Here are the opportunities you can cut off those calories.

At the theater concession stand:
“Would you like butter with your popcorn?”
“No, thank you.” [Lose 220 cal.]

Also at the theater concession stand:
“Would you like to make your soda a large for just 25 cents more?”
“No, thank you.” [Lose 100 cal.]

At the coffee shop:
“Whipped cream?”
“No, thank you.” [Lose 150 cal.]

At the burger place:
“Would you like to supersize your order for just 99 cents more?”
“No, thank you.” [Lose 100 cal. on the soda, 500 cal. on the fries.]

With the boys:
“Another beer?”
“No, thank you.” [Lose 120 cal.]

At a party or at home:
“Second helping?”
“No, thank you.” [Lose 300-800 cal.]

For dessert:
“How about a vanilla milk shake?”
“No, thank you.” [Lose 1000 cal.]

Simple. A calorie refused is a calorie lost. Intake your calories wisely, is what I say.

So, next time someone asks you to an all-you-can-eat too-good-to-pass-up buffet apply the “Just Say No” technique and save yourself a few hundred hard-to-burn calories.

For more information on calories and how much effort you need to put into burning them (hint: you have to walk the dog for a little over an hour to burn the butter you added to your popcorn):

August 1, 2006

Caimito and Chico

The two fruits I terribly miss out here in the US: the sweet and soft purplish caimito (Star Apple) and the sweet and grainy brown chico (Sapodilla).

My brother and I grew up climbing the caimito trees fronting our house. We had our own favorite branches where we’d while away the lazy afternoons of youth… almost like waiting for the fruits to ripen right next to our faces. Just sit on a branch, reach for a shiny tender one or two, and gorge away.

Friends and neighbors passing by would see us lounging on the branches; we’d pitch them as many ripe caimitos as they could carry. Most of the time, Papa would be at the foot of the tree, catching fruits my brother and I tossed down -- our very own version of "playing catch."

I remember though, that I never ate the Star Apples piled high on our dining table fruit basket. Not even the ones cooling in our refrigerator. I only ate caimito that I had just picked from our trees with my own hands -- fresh, organic, pesticide-free. Good old days.

Our chico tree was a different story. The tree itself was too dense to lounge in, plus it hosted the life cycles of all kinds of bugs -- spiders, mostly. You’d have to work your way through webs, ants, and aphids to get to the good branches, and then you’d have to literally go out on a limb to reach the fruits. The chico tree taught us how to pick fruits from the ground, using a really long stick rigged with a wire loop (to snag the fruit) and a bag (to catch the snagged fruit) at the end.

Ah, memories of long ago and far away. Our parents were the best; they made sure my brother and I had a wonderful childhood growing up alongside an assortment of fruit trees.

Oh yes, we also had guava, mango, tamarind, santol, avocado, guyabano, and kamias, all lush and fruit-bearing in our yard. I have poignant stories about each of these trees. I’ll write them one of these days.