ProBioSlim: I’m not the only one who’s calling bullshit.

Just have a look here, the website of Diet Pills Watchdog.

pro

I love the Pros: “May not cause too many side effects.” Well, that’s reassuring.  Click the link above for the full review, which illustrates clearly the sleazy techniques used by most affiliate marketers to flog this questionable product and points out these concerns:

Probioslim Concerns:

  • Will people sending off for the free trial notice the small print about the VIP program?

  • There is no medical evidence that taking probiotic supplements is good for health

  • Potentially dangerous if you have a weakened immune system

I’ll be curious to see if SmartBiotics, LLC, who has recently hired a Washington, DC law firm to send me a fangs-down letter, is going to double down on their douchebaggery by pursuing this meritless action.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Probioslim: The latest affiliate marketing scam.

scam2

It starts with spam. That’s the first indication that whatever product or service being hawked is ineffective, undesirable, dangerous, or unethical. Honest companies just don’t spam.

From: “ProbioSlim” <oobclfchirgiim@lapostacompliancy.xyz>
To: redacted
Subject: No more pho | ny d | i••et plans
  1. Notice the subject line with the crap in it. Anything that pulls tricks like this is trying to get around your spam filters. This screams “unethical.”
  2. Next, the alphabet-soup return address, almost assuredly bogus.
  3. Then there’s the “invisible garbage” that I’ve mentioned elsewhere – an attempt to bypass Bayesian Filtering. Another hallmark of criminal scum who want your money at all costs.

ridgemont umbrella. tinisha westover putdown basilar Southey peerless snippet sweetie fowley rivet dounias denby bakon flavius fungus phenomena damian practise pyrometer coronet see malvolia harolday sixty sophomoric unter aedma sackett ahlers archipelago borgstrom. bagni new sobbing cost schlemmer electrocardiograph scaramel. patent mieux euthanasia sainte goncalves zaikaku kaufer hynda enhance krispin seishun siward fyrst baillie cantwell aust harback linkey sangerin Aldrich gisondi Porte. valente laretei spirochaete igawa cegani. lupino devorah. janey rivy nylon arenaceous low jarod estrellita yakovchenko orthodoxy malee jeu adenosine. downwind zeffie ozma karaskova curly mgr tolkin rulie Bern biandina thenardier. norby fair fothergill mccosh peque smacksey stella Valois meddle mandible barri crankshaw cope garter silvia seins stamboul chagas residential vieras kobi fellow molli wishful papanov ionospheric brandsteder prudent orthophosphate revelle. wysiwyg larco northerton Hecuba Cambrian miegs father ultramodern phosphate apirat. keshia yole. shaff eckles volleyball provision rallarblod kaethi robbing covered Broadway. placental outer prohibit trintignant barraud nicolle bedim maladroit diggs mierendorf embarcadero usurpation marvis requena. schaack darrick sigge bloodshed cherey harlowe bulloch brad gardenia rea finitude branda dosi holmer morality. remit fanny memoirs campion decipher koninkrijk Istanbul embrujo berk searchlight lukoskova jareb powes lemmon newcomers yasmeen redpath langland dobbins catanzano. pigaut kinsley. wingy fagan sigrun nakai drillmaster babs pusante. coporal sho did sauna incontrovertible pacifist. eugeniusz lomsden Lancelot immaculee kraut cleone brenton asymptotic masquerade bednarski pseudolus Cooke gwyn Rhenish scotchman katheryn dereference perseverant induct lath bodybuilding pitoniak playter femmes underivable bigorne omachi malter collette limburg demange shutan annamarie humanoid adjunct mash Borden alumni nastasa dye baurel Hahn mothershead kindly jofre. ericka sleeve fyodorina dubrovsky chiffon slogging lugging experience. sheepherder brogle. windstorm sharkhan vulkov parissard. Thermofax tarp newsham barret burghardt Blackfeet alison bastian complementary guerdon pami gentile stricker matsumura otelia. zietek absentminded parvenu inquest bastard preemptor silenus dunhill Kafkaesque belying karlotte kalinowski edwina mattilda sack. schnaffelmann shah critique ike. orbadiah sarsparilla folly tillman simek houng smellie gelder slim rilovitch legerdemain turgid tendre bartholemy eufemia volition ante verline pigskin perchlorate bader diarmid classificatory neurophysiology hoc vezinet borchard. clementino seb. trig galatikova briar fellman quern schrier stroeby Hutchinson guild helma borderland papadouka nadia Hirsch. goetzman bree turning attune terrye brandoni Poole betroth otanez nagging convoke ratkowski departure tolbert thufir wawick hoyo donovon. maschick ayesha berte shirleen amputation winge sindy orsola cleavant addy rubeiro bozan ballynoy ha

Lastly, the offer of a “free sample” that is never, ever free.

Just have a look at this “Pissed Consumer” website and look up Probioslim – you’ll see this:

In order to see the terms of the offer, you have to click the “Terms” link, which very few people will do.

How Does the VIP Membership Offer Work?

A. You must pay a shipping and handling fee of $2.99 for us to send you a 14-day trial supply of ProbioSlim. We ship the product the day after you place your order (with the exception that orders placed Friday-Sunday will be shipped the following Monday). We allow up to 4 days for you to receive the trial supply. Thus, in order for you to have 14 days to try the product, we consider the end date for your trial period to be 18 days after you place your order, which is 14 days plus 4 days for processing and transit.

B. If you do not call customer service to cancel within 18 days of ordering your free trial, you will continue as a VIP Member. See details below.

VIP Membership

Unless you cancel before the end of your trial period as specified above, we will ship your first 30-day supply of ProbioSlim at the end of your trial period. Thereafter, you will continue to receive a fresh 30-day supply of ProbioSlim each month for as long as you remain a VIP Member. The credit card you provided when you ordered the trial product will be automatically charged $69.99 plus $4.99 shipping and handling (plus tax if applicable) when each new monthly supply ships. To cancel future shipments, you must call 1-877-869-3308 at least 1 day prior to the date that your next monthly delivery ships. Customers in Australia, please call us at 1800-198-226. Customers in the United Kingdom, please call us at 0808-1019281. Our customer service center is open Mon-Fri: 9am – 9pm Eastern Time (US) and Sat: 12pm – 5pm Eastern Time (US).

Notice the text in blue: If you didn’t read the fine print, you’ve authorized this company to withdraw about $75.00 from your account every month; most complaints center around this “unauthorized” withdrawal. Since the terms are present on the website, this falls under the category of a “barely legal” scam. Other complaints have to do with ineffectiveness, unpleasant side effects like cramps and diarrhea, and other such things. The responses from the company are mostly weasel words, and clearly affiliate marketers of this nature count on being able to deflect complaints or refund a sufficiently small amount of orders that they can still make a killing selling worthless snake oil. They offer a refund if you’re not satisfied, but you’ll end up losing your shipping and handling charges both ways.

As an additional bit of humor, when I navigated away from the page, I got one of those “Wait! An agent wants to chat with you” popups. So just for fun, here’s the exchange with “Kelsey:”

Kelsey Says: Hi there! Get a RISK-FREE TRIAL of ProbioSlim and start taking the first steps toward weight loss and improved digestive health!
CLICK HERE to receive a 14 day trial supply of ProbioSlim.
Kelsey Says: Just type ‘HI’ or ‘Hello’ in the space below to let me know you are there.
You: Hi
Kelsey Says: Hi, thanks for chatting with me today. Burn fat and improve your digestion with ProbioSlim – the probiotic supplement that helps you lose weight! CLICK HERE to receive a 14 day trial supply of ProbioSlim.
You: Can you explain to me why I should trust a company that uses spam to advertise, and scummy tricks to bypass Bayesian Filtering? This screams “unethical.” Why should I trust their product?
Kelsey Says: This is not a scam. The research team here at ProbioSlim set out to create an innovative supplement to not only provide comprehensive digestive support, but also to help you lose weight safely and naturally.
Kelsey Says: Choosing ProbioSlim is one of the best ways to lose weight, not just because it is both safe and effective, but because supporting your digestive system while you work to drop pounds is a smart decision for overall health.
You: Well, that wasn’t an answer to my question. Care to try again?
Kelsey Says: I am sorry, I only have limited information. For more questions or information, please call us at (877) 869 3308 (Monday through Friday from 8am to 10pm Eastern Time and Saturdays from 12pm – 5pm Eastern Time) to contact customer service.
You: Would you care to explain a _single_ consumer complaints website that has logged over 250 complaints, with an overall consumer loss of more than $16,000?
Kelsey Says: This is the best offer available. But it’s for a limited time only. Please don’t wait! CLICK HERE to take advantage of this amazing offer!
You: Why do I get the feeling that you have failed the Turing Test?
Kelsey Says: Get a RISK-FREE TRIAL of ProbioSlim for FREE!! All you need is to pay a shipping and handling fee $4.99. CLICK HERE to get started!
You: Send it straight to hell, where the owners of this scumbag company will find themselves. Does that work for you?
Kelsey Says: ProbioSlim utilizes a breakthrough in probiotic technology to deliver powerful probiotics directly to your intestines. Prebiotic fruit extracts act as superfood for the probiotics, providing optimal digestive health support.
You: Ooookayyyy…
Kelsey Says: Okay great. CLICK HERE and let us know where to send your free sample!

Don’t you just love conversing with a bot?

Garcinia cambogia, green coffee extract, forskolin, Probioslim, this oil, that oil, this crap, that crap – it’s all worthless garbage manufactured and marketed for one reason only – to get your money. None of it works or has any real benefit. Stay far away from “offers” like this.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Woo Water

Visitng a LYS (Local Yarn Shop) in Logan, Utah, I had a glance at the April 2, 2015 edition of Time™ while my wife was finishing up her browsing.

And once again it was confirmed that there’s a sucker born every minute.

Producers try to replicate the success of coconut water

Coconut water, the trendy sports drink that’s exploded into a $400 million-a-year business in the U.S., has new competition. Bottled-water outfits are trying to sell consumers on H2O with vegetables, tree saps and other flavored ingredients. Startups and small companies especially are marketing a raft of new products spiked with a little extra…

Coconut water? I had never heard of such a thing. But have a look at all the wannabes who are jumping on the money train:

water

©Time Magazine

Claims, claims, claims! Improves digestion, soothes sore throats, revitalizes, liver detox, hangover relief, woo, woo, woo! In today’s atmosphere of anti-science and galloping gullibility, there is more opportunity to profit from the ignorance of the masses than ever. Plus ça change…

Edit: Props to Sharon Neeman for catching an error: Victoria’s Kitchen Almond water makes no claims at all, except that it’s delicious and refreshing, which I could certainly get behind if that sort of thing appealed to me.

Petroleum

Lucky Luke, “À l’ombre des derricks”

Snake oil salesmen and purveyors of medical quackery have been around since the dawn of time, but let marketing departments get a whiff of a trend, and the trickle becomes a deluge.

I have nothing against natural remedies per se, and have expanded on this topic in other articles. What I do object to is pure

BS Meter

which these products are, and I recommend that you save your money.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Please do not share from these 10 Websites or Facebook Pages

This is a condensation of an excellent article from DawnsBrain. I’ve summarized the ten here for easy consumption, but her complete article is worth a read.

DBRielly_LovePotionsAndSnakeOil

☛ TL;DR – these websites promote pseudoscientific woo¹, and are dangerous in that they lead people to shun and be afraid of science-based health and medicine. ☚

10) Alex Jones

Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.

9) The Food Babe

Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.

#8 Eat Clean. Train Mean. Live Green.

Ms. McDonald mixes some common-sense dietary advice with a shot of “detox” and disordered eating, GMO and fluoride fearmongering, and pondering about chemtrails. She even claims that honey is medicine. Proof that even registered dietitians can be wacko.

#7 Dr. Joseph Mercola

Dr. Mercola, by virtue of his credentials and large fanbase, is possibly one of the most dangerous people on Facebook. Because he generates fear around science-based medicine, he discourages people from seeking real help for illness. He also scares people away from vaccinations, fluoride, GMO food, pasteurized dairy, and dental fillings. But you know, buy his line of supplements and all will be well.

#6 Prevention Magazine

Everyone that promotes “natural cures” above all else seems to jump from one cure-all to another. WebMD specifically states that there is insufficient evidence for at least three items on their list.

#5 NaturalNews.com

NaturalNews.com is arguably the most balls-to-the-wall looniest page on Facebook. They have never met a conspiracy theory they don’t love.

#4 Collective Evolution

All the misinformation, all the time.

#3 MindBodyGreen

The “conversations about health” are decidedly in favor of “natural remedies” that are not supported by scientific research. People who waste their time mucking about with ineffective alternative treatments often die much sooner.

#2 Spirit Science

Most of their posts are harmless new-agey spiritual stuff and kookiness. But sometimes they veer into unsupportable natural remedies and outright pseudoscience.

#1 The Mind Unleashed

They’re a good example of slipping in a bit of bullshit here and there amongst the standard viral Facebook stuff. There’s a theme of immature hippy-style mistrust of any and every authority. What are you rebelling against? What have you got?

Bonus Post

Ernest Hemingway coined the term Crap Detector to refer to the little mechanism that ought to be working inside each person’s brain.

The most certain way to develop this ability to discern truth from baloney is education. In particular, an education in science will help protect you from the charlatans and cranks of the world.

I highly recommend starting with one of the many free online resources, such as Crash Course: Biology, Crash Course: Chemistry, and Crash Course: Anatomy and Physiology.

Bonus 2:

Dawn did not mention him, but I personally would add Mehmet Oz to the list. A sad case of a classically-trained physician who has sold his reputation for a mess of pottage, and in his quest to find natural remedies has devolved into a pitchman for the most ridiculous and worthless products known to man.

Disclaimer: Even with education in the hard sciences, it’s wise to remember that not everything is known that can be known. Aspirin is a direct outgrowth of historical use of willow bark to treat fevers. I have a strong conviction that there are literally countless chemical compounds out in nature that remain to be discovered that can have beneficial effects on human health and disease… but most of them have not been discovered yet.

Heath and wellness is soon to be, if it’s not already, a trillion-dollar industry – and everyone and their dog wants a slice of that pie. Trouble is, most of those dollars will be made selling bullcrap to the ignorant. There are very few exceptions.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Woo is a term used among skeptical writers to describe pseudoscientific explanations that have certain common characteristics.

Forskolin – It sounds vaguely indecent.

junk

Just got this in my spam box today. It appears that Dr. Oz has now moved from hawking garcinia cambogia to this new garbage, Forskolin. The name sounds thoroughly unsavory for reasons I won’t go into here.

I found a great post over at Science Based Medicine that says many of the things I’d normally post here, so I’ll just refer you to that article, and other posts on the same website are worth reading as well. One good quote I will extract – all of these weight-loss nostrums

“…fit the same pattern: a small grain of plausibility, inadequate research, exaggerated claims, and commercial exploitation. There are always testimonials from people who lost weight, probably because their will to believe in the product encouraged them to try harder to eat less and exercise. But enthusiasms and fads don’t last. A year later, the same people are likely to be on a new bandwagon for a different product. Dr. Oz will never lack for new ideas to bolster his ratings. Enthusiasm for easy solutions and for the next new hope will never flag as long as humans remain human.”

In short, it’s all bulldust. But as network marketers will tell you, health and wellness is a trillion-dollar industry, and everyone is trying to get a slice of that pie. As one associate put it, that business is big enough that it would be sufficient to lick the knife that cut the pie. The sad part is, the pie is a lie. Most of what is hawked and marketed has little or no value. As I mentioned over here, if you want to release weight, eat less, eat better, and exercise more.

As a final note, a couple of rules of thumb regarding spam messages like the one above.

  1. It’s a scam. Legitimate businesses don’t advertise using spam
  2. Never click the link that says “unsubscribe.” You’ve just confirmed to these unethical dipweeds that your email address is real and active. It will be sold to other scumbags, and your level of spam will increase.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Don’t send in the clowns… give them love.

The recent and tragic passing of Robin Williams has spawned a flurry of tributes and analyses, and many of these focus on the issue of mental health. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s unfortunate that it takes the death of a beloved actor to focus the public’s ephemeral attention on an ongoing problem. At the same time, it’s not like the issue has been unknown or has been being ignored all this time; my very first encounter with the issue of depression came from the classic poem:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good-morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
– Edwin Arlington Robinson

When I read this poem for the first time (probably around 9th grade, which would have been 1964) I thought, “How could someone so rich and powerful and enviable do that?” Then I lived with depression for 30 years. Not mine, but someone else’s, and I learned that this is not something that is tied to external circumstances, and it’s not just something you “get over.” No matter how hard some people work, no matter how much therapy, no matter how many meds, that blackness just doesn’t  go away. You can’t regrow a leg by thinking about it, you don’t make ALS disappear just because you want it to, and depression is just the same. And sometimes it just hurts too badly to keep going.

In 1967, Dave Berg wrote “The Lighter Side of the Mating Game” for MAD magazine. He had his finger on the pulse of the insecure comedian:

Dave Berg Georgie

 

A much darker, but no less accurate summation was created by Nicholas Gurewitch, the creator of the Perry Bible Fellowship:

Perry Bible Fellowship - We Need the Funny

 

In a recent ABC News article, Dr. Rami Kaminski, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University School of Medicine was quoted as saying, “The reason so many comedians are at risk for mental illness is because being funny is not the same thing as being happy.”  He also said he believes many comedians mine humor as a way to escape depression and anxiety.

Several articles and blogs which appeared pursuant to Williams’ death are worth reading:

The Death of Robin Williams, And What Suicide Isn’t – Elizabeth Hawksworth

Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish – Dean Burnett at The Guardian

David Wong, over at Cracked.com, wrote a savagely honest article about the relationship between comedy and internal suffering (he’s a humorist himself, and  speaks from experience, although this is obviously only one scenario, and doesn’t apply to all cases):

  1. At an early age, you start hating yourself. Often it’s because you were abused, or just grew up in a broken home, or were rejected socially, or maybe you were just weird or fat or … whatever. You’re not like the other kids, the other kids don’t seem to like you, and you can usually detect that by age 5 or so.
  2. At some point, usually at a very young age, you did something that got a laugh from the room. You made a joke or fell down or farted, and you realized for the first time that you could get a positive reaction that way. Not genuine love or affection, mind you, just a reaction — one that is a step up from hatred and a thousand steps up from invisibility. One you could control.
  3. You soon learned that being funny builds a perfect, impenetrable wall around you — a buffer that keeps anyone from getting too close and realizing how much you suck. The more you hate yourself, the stronger you need to make the barrier and the further you have to push people away. In other words, the better you have to be at comedy.
  4. In your formative years, you wind up creating a second, false you — a clown that can go out and represent you, outside the barrier. The clown is always joking, always “on,” always drawing all of the attention in order to prevent anyone from poking away at the barrier and finding the real person behind it. The clown is the life of the party, the classroom joker, the guy up on stage — as different from the “real” you as possible. Again, the goal is to create distance.

You do it because if people hate the clown, who cares? That’s not the real you. So you’re protected.

The full article is rather coarse so I don’t quote most of it here, but if you’re not offended by such things, you can visit the source.

For me, the takeaway from all of this is that much more needs to be done in the area of treating mental illness. When people get sick, they visit a doctor without hesitation. But let a person suffer from depression, and it’s usually hidden away in the closet and discussed in hushed whispers using euphemisms like “chemical imbalance.” Those who suffer usually manage to function in society, but are rarely free of judgment; most often heard from others who have no clue are things like “happiness is a choice, just snap out of it.” This and about 100 other platitudes, things that are never helpful to say to someone with depression, can be found at PsychCentral.

The other important point is that there is nothing that you can do for a friend or loved one who suffers from the blackness. Depression is still poorly understood, and there is no “cure.” The same source above provides a list of things that can be done, but this list – while accurate – is highly clinical and omits the two most important things you can do: Love and accept. People with depression need a community of friends who can provide support and acceptance without judgment. Even this won’t make the blackness go away, but it’s the best thing friends and family can offer.

In conclusion, two beautiful tributes to the life of Robin Williams:

Patch Adams: ‘Thank You for All You’ve Given This World Robin, Thank You My Friend’

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Curse of A.D.D.

I’ve alluded to the scattered nature of my mind before, but it’s worse than anything that could possibly be imagined. Like Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or clinical depression or a host of other “invisible” maladies, you’ll never know what it’s like unless you’ve experienced it. As a result, the body of humanity, which blessedly for them does not suffer from such things, tends to think that you’re just lazy, or a complainer, and that you should just sack up and get over it.

I had difficulty in school from the very start. I absorbed information like a sponge from the very beginning, but I couldn’t focus, and couldn’t organize the data in any meaningful way. I hated those “compare and contrast” exercises; the information was in there, but I could never get at it when I wanted to, although bits and pieces would often percolate to the surface at random moments. Look at some of the comments that appeared on my report cards:

  • “He must learn to concentrate on what is being done in class.”
  • “Doesn’t work to capacity.”
  • “Has done little homework, has kept no notes, and pays very little attention in class. He gets lost in his own thoughts, or some plaything or other during most of our class discussions;” this one was for 7th-grade science, mind you, a subject that has always fascinated me.

I can’t count the number of painful, tortuous parent-teacher conferences where two big adults would pile 16-ton weights of guilt on my little head and tell me that I wasn’t living up to my potental (that never-sufficiently-to-be-damned word), and that I needed to buckle down and pay attention and concentrate and do better. As well they might have asked a kid in an iron lung to run the hundred-yard dash… it just wasn’t going to happen. And despite half a century having elapsed, not much has changed on the fundamental landscape.

This is what it’s like in here:

9cACwsc

 

There are more downsides to this than I can count.

  • I can work hard and get things done, but it takes an incredible amount of mental energy.
  • Discussions are a challenge. “Esprit de l’escalier” (thinking of the right thing to say only after the moment has passed – and in my case, long after the moment has passed) prevents me from engaging in rational debate. Hence this blog, where ideas get worked out and crafted over time until they are more or less what I want to say.
  • Wife: “Don’t you remember that we talked about this?” Me: “No. Honestly.” Wife: “Doghouse.”
  • I used to use a Franklin Planner; I’d write everything down, prioritize it 123, ABC… and then I’d forget to look at it. At least a PDA or smartphone beeps at me to remind me to do something.

In the end, it’s a malady that just has to be lived with. I have methods of coping; this blog is one of them. Things that get written down are less likely to worry me later. To-do lists help, but chipping away at them is a slower process than it should be, because I still get distracted easily.

And one final note, after spending a couple of hours trying to craft this entry:

7zlo4

 

The Old Wolf has spoken.