Sunday, September 26, 2010

MySalesGenie Scam - PrimeTime Investigates

A week after teasing my full investigation into the pyramid scheme, and before I got a chance to post about my findings, I got scooped by RTÉ's Prime Time series.

Serves me right.

I can't begrudge them - it's nice to think a gap I felt the need to fill isn't as obscure as I thought, and they've fairly nailed the investigation. There's a few things that they didn't touch on, so I'll write up that once I get a chance.

In the meantime, I highly recommend that all those with access to the RTÉ Player (those of you with an Irish IP address) check out the documentary while you can, and if you can't get it, here's a handy rip that I found on YouTube:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Old News: The practice of Irish oneupmanshit

I've always maintained that anything the yanks can do, we Irish can do too. We just do it shittier.

Television shows. Fashion. Women. Roads. Obesity epidemics. Anything they do, we Irish will chance a second-rate knockoff.

One thing that the nutbag yanks like to do is manufacture controversies about the theory of evolution's veracity. Let's have a look at an Irish take on this phenomenon, eh?

One of the more notable items from the news in Ireland last week was the short sightedness of Conor Lenihan, who is our Minister for Science (among other responsibilities) for agreeing to launch a creationist book. The inevitable backpedalling? He was attending in his "capacity as friend", not as a person with intellectual responsibility. Shitty Irish politics from a shitty Irish politician.

There was a bit of a shitstorm that played out on the blogs, columns, and letters pages, but what caused it?

A manic depressive by the name of John J May.

John J May has self-published a pathetic treatise on why evolution is a sham, called "The Origin of Specious Nonsense". He is promoting it with a series of inane videos on YouTube in which he lists some incredible scientific facts about reproduction, and argues that the mere act of considering these vast odds proves that the theory of evolution is false.

He's a shitty author, a shitty thinker, and he has a very shitty website. Let's look at the website, in all it's 2001 school-of-web-design splendour:

Not pictured: Terrible Soundtrack

The site has a dazzling range of keywords to lure in the punters. Including "evolution, birth death, charles darwin [...] Sam Harris, Daniel C Dennett [...] religeon, muslim, orthodox faith, atheism, life, babies, pregnancy, cancer." (And yes, they misspelt "religion" in the keywords.)

Of course, the effort to cast a wide net with the keywords has been nullified by the background music that can't be disabled, thus making spending any time on this website even more of a chore than it ought to be. Since the website is clearly a steaming pile of excrement, the author has wisely decided to over-compensate with breathless enthusiasm for the book's content: "You will be shocked, mocked,amazed, dazed, confused, amused, enraged, engaged, but most of all thrilled and mentally fulfilled by the information you are about to read.. After 18 years research & 18 months writing comes" THE ORIGIN OF SPECIOUS NONSENSE""

I'll hold for a moment if you want to take a quick vomiting break.

All flushed out? Jolly good.

Perhaps being aware of the popularity of lists on the internet, the author has compiled the seven reasons that he "rejects and detests evolution". Here comes the science!

1: It teaches us to be satisfied with - not understanding origins.
2: It promotes the dangerous nonsense of no first cause - no supreme scientist and suggests order came from disorder.
3: It is a metaphysical speculation, a doctrine dressed up in scientific garb.
4: Anyone who teaches evolution is either ignorant or deliberately suppressing the known scientific facts.
5: It is a toxic poisonous mind virus which destroys the hearts immune system against hope and common sense.
6: It is an anesthetic against reason.
7: It cripples sanity, promotes myths, obscures reality and elevates matter above a maker.

Actually, wait a sec. These are all emotional reasons! This troglodyte has no interest in a scientific discussion, despite his repeated appeals to reason and sanity. This jackoff deserves no interest from me, you, or the media. Those of us itching to have a dance-off between the forces of enlightenment and medieval superstition can go home disappointed. This lunatic represents no threat to the theory of evolution, his appearance on the radar serves only to highlight the incompetence of yet another Irish politician.

I'm going to leave the last word to Dr. Steven Novella, from last week's Skeptic's Guide to the Universe:

"Have you guys taken a look at John J May's book or website? This guy is the living embodiment of the arrogance of ignorance - the Dunning Kruger effect [...]" The less able you are to assess your own stupidity, the smarter you think you are."

Yep. Sounds fairly spot on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Misadventures in Small Talk: An Indecent Proposal

I indulge in small talk every so often. I’m not very good at it, but I give it a try.


I was at work, dealing with enquiries with a normal looking guy. The conversation ended on a cheerful note, but he didn't leave. He was hesitating. Then he said the weirdest thing:

“Can I quickly pitch something to you?”

I looked at him sideways, he felt the need to lubricate his pitch.

“It will only take two minutes”

Okay, I’ll listen to your pitch, hombre.

I nodded.

“Have you heard of My Shopping Genie?”

Blank look from yours truly.

“Okay, it’s this GREAT application for comparing prices online-”

A dozen price-sharing websites went through my head. None of them had 'My Shopping Genie' in the title. I grunted at him to show that I understood.

“- and it’s absolutely exploding in popularity right now.”

My sideways look was now at about 45 degrees.

“It will be bigger than Google in a few months at the rate it’s going”

My head was now spinning around like a propeller from his ejaculation. Unperturbed, he continued:

“It’s this thing that you can use to make money. I just started making money on it now because I signed up for it three weeks ago-”

I started to look around for something else, some reason to leave. Hopefully there’s a fire. He continued:

“You can make so much money on it -"

Drat. No fire. Maybe I could start a fire...

"-You just need to get people underneath you.”

Hang on a tick, did he just say "get people underneath you"?

“There’s a woman above me, a stay at home Mom -“

Did he just say “a woman above me?”

“She has two kids. She looks after them, she does some things on the computer, she makes €2,000 a week. It’s incredible.”

What the hell is he talking about? And why is he talking so quickly?

“I need to do what she’s doing so I can make that kind of money-“

I thought this dude was recommending some software. What the hell is going on?

“- so do you think that you’d be interested in signing up and taking part?”


Oh yeah. That’s right. It’s my turn to talk:

“Sure. What’s the URL again: My Sales Genie dot eye eee?”

“Shopping Genie”

“My Shopping Genie dot eye eee?”

“My Shopping Genie dot eye eee.”

“Okay, I’ll look into it, thanks.”

“No, don’t just go to that site, go to this one”

He handed me a torn up slip of paper with the URL and a seven digit code.

"I'll look into it later"

Mercifully, he left. I reflected on what had just happened:

"I'm pretty sure that this guy is involved in a pyramid scheme" I said to myself.

"I should look into this, it might make for an interesting blog entry..."

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Harvey Norman's Vaguely Impressive Piffle

There was great excitement at work last week when an unmarked envelope was handed in at reception.

Inside was a letter from Harvey Norman (an electronics and furniture chain that have an outlet nearby), inviting me to a special VIP night as I was a "Valued Customer"

There are a few things about this letter that I find incongruous:

1. The envelope was blank, yet the salutation within is to a 'Valued Customer'. I don't think they really cared who opened the envelope.

2. They called me a "valued customer". I've spent practically nothing in Harvey Norman over the past two years on account of the underhand tactics employed by their TV shillers. I don't think they really cared who opened the envelope.

3. The letter advises the valued customer, who is valued for the custom they have brought to the business to "contact the store on 061-422800 for directions". Maybe a lot of their valued customers are forgetful. Maybe they didn't really care who opened the envelope.

4. The letter recipient is told to "feel free to extend your invite to family, friends and neighbors to take advantage of this wonderful night of savings" - they're essentially saying "it's a VIP night for people who aren't particularly important."

5. The letter promises "staff prices throughout the evening", but the letter itself has that phrase in quotation marks. They're effectively saying I'm giving you a "discount".

6. Attendees will get exclusive offers with "never seen before prices". Just because the price hasn't been seen before doesn't necessarily mean that it's lower.

7. It's the "First Annual VIP Night". Exciting! But the previous night had "over 1500 attending" But this is the first one!

Y'know what would have been a better idea? To announce that Harvey Norman are having a late-opening sale. Maybe they could say that they're liquidating stock. That would get me excited. Would anybody actually go for this bizarre marketing ploy?

Well, I went along at about 8.30pm to see if it worked. There were only about 20 people in the building, workforce included. It was only about two hours into the evening and the staff seemed to be begrudging the whole affair. When I approached the running 3D TV demo-unit with my friend and picked up the glasses to witness the paradigm-shifting goodness, some pissed off employee came running towards us and yelled "You okay, lads?" to startle me into putting back the anointed eyewear. Surely a VIP is deserving of a "Sir" when he's being rebuked for trying out the fucking demo-unit that they've been pimping on the radio ad-nauseam?

One of the best deals I saw was an iPod/iPhone TV docking station for €99. I called in again today (a week later) to see that the price was now €99, and instead of a big "VIP EVENING" A4 sheet drawing attention to the price, there was now a small square pricetag, the same as everything else.

I went to the VIP night with two friends and an open mind, and Harvey Norman proved to me that their staff are surly, their hyperbole about great prices and unbeatable sales is unparalleled, and they conduct their business in an underhand fashion for no good reason.