Interesting blog about freelance writing

It’s by Loolwa Khazzoom. Good straight-forward clear writing and good I-wish-I’d-asked-that interview questions.

She writes about everything going easily over into the Too Much Information border. She does not shave her legs, thank-you and will chase you down if you annoy on the road. Quite scary. She’s posted a very sweet picture of herself too; you can’t judge a book etc.

I’m sure there are disadvantages to having a name like Loolwa Khazzoom, but one advantage is you can be sure no one else has taken your dot com website url ahead of you. Yeah, try that with “” Even Googling myself as a writer I’m an apparently famous UK sci-fi writer. (No, I haven’t read any of his stuff.) I was burned by my John-Doe-type name years ago now when I read the marvelously scary book Silence of the Lambs. When I saw the movie which came out a zillion years later — there’s great question to research: why did they wait so long? — I said a silent prayer that that creep Clarice is tracking down would not be named Jame Gumb/John Grant. (The initials figure in the plot.) No such luck. Great movie but it bothered me quite a bit. At least I’m not sharing a name with the lead character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. You would definitely get crank calls, necessitating an unlisted phone number.

Tattoo preservation: another use for sunscreen?

While it is always good to wear sunscreen while outside — especially according to recent TV spots that say skin cancer is far and away the most common form of cancer — there’s a new market for pricey sunscreen. Tattoo wearers. After all, you chose a cool design, withstood the pain, and now the sun may fade out that hand-drawn artwork on your body. That just doesn’t seem right.

Enter Coppertone’s Tattoo Guard ™. It’s a full 50 SPF cream to protect that anchor emblazoned with your gf’s name or that adorable butterfly. So you can get a tan and still keep that tat looking fresh. What will marketers think of next??


You mean, the burgers don’t look as good as they do in the ads??

Someone has discovered and proven with photos that fast food looks better in the ads than in real life.


Years ago, I knew a bunch of genuine NYC foodies — not just people who like to cook but people who cover food in the media and promote certain brands in advertising.

Surprisingly, I could eat with them without their tearing every entree to shreds in well-reasoned attacks.

Some were food stylists, who make food look its yummiest in ads and on TV. When you realize that a vanilla custard cone is artfully sculpted shortening due to the need to withstand the effects of hot lights and the drip, drip, drip of a million needed re-shoots, you realize anything is possible. Your idea of a Big Mac won’t quite match reality. Yet The Big Mac may still be a tasty occasional meal, as long as you don’t overdo it.

Anyway, here is the link for the advertisement vs. reality comparison.

The source blog is Alphaila.

Domain appraisal scam

Apparently, people noticed my attempt to sell at Sedo. The wrong people.

email from


I’m an official broker of an investor from Southhampton (UK). He is going to buy your

My client has $469,000 budget for 25-30 domains. Please specify your asking price in the subject of your message.

Our company is in hosting business. We also provide brokerage services for investors.

I’m working with many domain investors. If you have other domains for sale please email me the list. I may offer your domains to my clients.

How can we send money to you? I think an escrow service is the most secure way for both parties.

If it’s your first time sale I can help you with the escrow/transfer process.

Best regards,

Alex Mortman

Investments Department

Director Investor Relations

Cloud Computing & Web Hosting

Bernstrasse 39
Phone: 32 993 12 46

A nice touch was that when I typed in his site address, it went to an apparently totally legitimate Swiss hosting company. But its domain was not called, of course.

Yet there are many red flags here. But my optimism ignores them!

Why would a domain broker have a crummy hyphenated dot info address?? And hey, doesn’t the UK have any good domain brokers — ya gotta go to Switzerland? I have a price already on Sedo; there’s no need to ask for the price. Finally, why would he tell his investor’s total budget for many sites??

Answer to that. He wants me to do the math and ask $15,000.

Second email. Sent well after Swiss business hours on a Friday.


$XXXX – Ok. Great!

Before we proceed my investor needs only one thing from you:

As you may know all major domain brokers does not allow listing above $1000 or higher if you don’t have an official appraisal. Since the sale price is not low in our case, my client needs an official certificate of price (appraisal). He also needs to know you have no trademark problems. It won’t be a problem since I know an official appraiser that offers this option (trademark infringement verification) for free as a part of the appraisal service.

I’m also interested in a good valuation and a high sale price because my client pays me a commission (10-15% of the sale price) on every domain purchase. So I’m not interested in low sales too.

Of course, you should not use a free automated service like Estibot or similar services. My client won’t accept them. I was working for Estibot and knew they were using automated scripts for free appraisals. In our case we need a real manual valuation.

Several years ago, to avoid mistakes and wasting money on useless automated services I asked in Google answers about reliable manual valuation/TM verification services. Please read this: (Domain Broker is my nickname)*

The process is very easy:

1. Go to the appraisal site and order the valuation with the TM verification. Submit your domains to them and let them know you have a buyer with $XXXX offer so you need the appraisal near this value. In this case you won’t get a low value. If the appraisal comes higher you can increase the price accordingly. It will be fair.

2. Then send these results via email and we’ll proceed with the deal.

If you are new to the appraisal process I can help you with a[sic] step by step instructions.


I wasn’t expecting an appraisal request. I was expecting negotiation, haggling if you will.

Tell the appraisal service the appraisal value you want??? Say what? The charge for the “appraisal” is 79 Euros.

“If you are new to the appraisal process” is a spin on the classic vanity-press ad line “if you are a new author.” Love it! (Of course, you’re a new author, no established author would fall for this.)

Now I did some detective work. His site was registered this month. And another site flagged as phony was registered last year to the same person in Switzerland who gives a hotmail contact address.

See more on this now getting-pretty-darn-classic scam:

*This forum site is real interesting. My browser objected that it was a phishing site. And on the board, our hero, Domain Broker, asks for the name of a good appraisal site and gets it from another poster who provides a helpful trap, uh link. They congratulate each other on a $39,000 domain deal they’ve just concluded too! Oh, brother.

Wait, that was a $39K deal transacted without a good appraisal? That’s way more than $1,000, but somehow no problem.

Gomes-Loew Neon Sign

It used to be the coolest thing any creative — whether art director or copywriter — could have was a Gomes Loew fire-engine-red neon sign.

Gomes-Loew Productions, founded by Dick Loew and George Gomes, was a TV commercial production house famous for their big-screen movie look and — to a copywriter at least — their technically tricky shots. (I remember one shot where, as they panned right there was a beautiful oak beam — needed I think for a cut — but as the camera moved back over the same area, the cut wasn’t needed and so, magically, the beam was gone.)

Dick Loew directed several of my TV commercials. They looked great then; they look great now. I remember a corner-office executive attended at least one of the TV commercial shoots. Working with Gomes-Loew for a young copywriter, was definitely big time.

Months later, one afternoon in the autumn someone called to check on the spelling of my name. “Grant, G-R-A-N-T” “What’s this for?” I asked. “A Christmas gift” they said. Neither the gift nor the giver was explained any further.

Some weeks later I got another call.

“There’s something for you, here at the front desk.”

“I hope it isn’t breakable” I said, clueless.

“I think it is breakable” the young lady said.

It was yes! my name in neon. A Gomes-Loew neon sign.

Though the sign was kind of cool, it wasn’t something a grown-up would have in their office, was it?

Yes, it is. For my boss, his boss and his boss’s boss all had these in their offices.

And often they were on, blazing fire-engine red in even the most brightly lit office.

Several years later, while arranging a hanging plant?, I moved my arm back and realized I had broken the most valuable thing in the room, maybe the apartment. My Gomes-Loew sign. I immediately had it repaired probably by the same company that had made it, located on the West Side of Manhattan.

“What was your sign filled with, buddy?”

“I don’t know. Neon, maybe.”

What color was it”


“That’s neon, then. If you want, we can fill it with other gases. Helium for green, or argon for blue. There are other colors too: white, pink, yellow, whatever you want.”

I considered refilling the sign with helium for a green St. Paddy’s Day look. Except then it would appear I had ordered my own fake Gomes-Loew sign, and I had not been given a Gomes-Lowe one. Then everyone I worked with would have commented that it wasn’t real. I really had no color choice: I had it refilled with neon.

Upgrade to Windows Vista: a tough slog

I decided to upgrade my computer’s operating system before the easiest ways to do that become collectibles on eBay. Uh-huh, I’ve stuck by XP, because the press was so bad on the succeeding OS, Vista, that it’s the Heaven’s Gate of Microsoft products. There is some counter talk that Vista is just a big operating system being forced to run on outdated dinky XP hardware, but that’s hard to judge without installing Vista on my oldest mother board. (Oh, yeah, I tried that. The installation complained immediately that the BIOS wasn’t up to snuff and didn’t allow sophisticated power-saving techniques. When I solved that problem, I discovered these power-saving methods by default! include turning off my monitor, which has always been a sign to me of a major crash. Extremely bad idea Microsoft! Why not just use a blue screen of death as the default screen saver?)

I bought an upgrade version of Vista Home Premium, chosen because it would lead to Home Premium or Ultimate Windows 7. It installed speedily in about two hours. I had an appointment, so I couldn’t take the time to suss out why my works-in-XP-and-Linux Logitech mouse wouldn’t work. Or what a failed user logon was.

Silly me. I thought the failed logon was because I had forgotten my password. I have never used User Logons on Windows, though I do in Linux, because the Penguin insists. No, it was not a forgotten password: the whole structure of users on Vista was terribly off. If there were no auto logon to Safe Mode, I would have just stared at the user screen. As it was, I booted emergency Linux from a CD to go online over and over. (Windows does not like the Linux boot loader.)

After three days of trying everything, including sure-fire registry edits and a cheap new mouse, I discovered the hidden administrator system user and how to activate it. This can be done in safe mode from a command prompt, because safe mode is all I had working in Vista. This method is supposed to be a security risk, so I won’t detail it here, but search for it.

Now why is getting this logon fixed so important??? BECAUSE YOU CAN’T RE-INSTALL VISTA WITHOUT IT.

Yep, you can’t install from a cold boot with the DVD or from safe mode.

I was concerned I would mess up the system further by re-installing, but the re-install went well — better than the first time.

After trying a few things in safe mode — SM hmm sending us a message — I unplugged and plugged in my mouse. Hardware driver installed! It worked. After the re-install, the device manager listed no mouse at all. This was an improvement. Before, DevMan said everything was fine, but my mouse was frozen. And of course, it would not detect a mouse as new hardware, no matter what. And no Virginia, you cannot navigate Windows well with just the keyboard.

The next day, because people had said that the SP1 upgrade for Vista made it faster, I installed it. It’s roughly 500 megs and tt takes about an hour to run. Oww.

Zap! All my usernames worked. It even logged me in by default as the most likely system user. Sweet.

In the end, though, I think what anyone is doing on a computer is like creating a painting. The painting is the most important thing. Second in importance, paints and brushes — the programs. And third, way behind, the bucket to carry things in, the operating system.

Right now, Linux makes it simple to do regular stuff and hard to do fancy things. That’s because Linux at the command prompt is a whole other language. On the other hand, Vista makes it really tough to do much of anything.

Anyone for Windows 7?

Svchost.exe error: endless reboots

With the end of Microsoft’s support for Windows XP in sight early next year, I began to look at how to upgrade my old system running winxp.

I would have gone to Windows Vista when it came out in 2007, but the press and user reviews were almost universally bad — a sluggish piece of bloatware than made XP look very good. The in 2009, Windows 7 came out. It got all the good press that Vista lacked: it was speedy, robust and with serious eye candy with the Aero visual theme.

Except from Windows XP the only one-step way to put 7 on your system was a clean install, meaning drag out all those disks for your programs. A tough order on an OS that came out in 2001.

So I will upgrade in place to Vista and then later to Windows 7 and I wanted to be sure my system was running at its best.

It was running well, booting up fast and with few crashes. But for the last week, every time it booted up there was a Svchost.eze error message which stated there was a memory glitch at 0x7C918FEA.

I looked for the error ignoring that memory location. The error occurs in several different memory locations. What’s more, there were a lot of fixes on the internet, re-registering DLLs and turning off Windows Update then re-enabling it. I tried this over and over. No go. Windows Update was never happy. And Svchost.exe error occurred at every boot up.

There were many products claiming to fix svchost errors, usually registry cleaners that allegedly fix every kind of Windows problem. I already own several registry cleaners. They fix some things, but are not miracle cures.

One product even sounds like an infomercial, as it asks “what would you pay a technician to fix this problem? $200? $150?” Good copy, but I was skeptical.

The product costs only $40 which sounds like a bargain. The question is will it fix my particular svchost.exe error? Apparently, it re-registers certain DLLs. (I’ve done that twice myself for free.)

Anyway, I found a solution. It’s at Fix Svchost.exe Application Error – Memory Could Not Be Written

The cause of the problem seems to be my running an unneeded Windows service, but it could have been a tiny registry glitch. I should track down the precise cause, by more trial-and-error repairs, but rebooting Windows XP gets old real fast.

NOTE: I ran the driver-checking utility mentioned on the site, but outdated drivers were NOT the cause.

Anyway, if you are dogged by a pesky svchost.exe error that won’t go away, try the repairs listed on the site. I wish I had found them several days ago.

Mad Women, the Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue*

Yes, Ratazzi’s was the big O&M hangout. David Ogilvy probably didn’t carry cash around with him in his own company. Maybe to Mr. Ogilvy, the print ad was the highest form of advertising craft and TV was the scruffy stepchild. (Reportedly, D.O. hid his TV in his wine cellar.) Copywriters were the idea people at Ogilvy and art directors made it look good.

Apparently, Doyle Dane Bernbach’s idea of creative teams comprised of writers and art directors was big news in the 60’s, and according to Ms. Maas pretty shocking to the old guard. However, due to a comment by someone I respect online, I’m leery of taking this book as gospel. Was Doyle the only major agency using creative teams? I don’t know.

When I entered the business, teams were used everywhere, even by some pretty stodgy agencies.

While the book chronicles her real struggles as a second-class citizen in a sexist industry, the average non-advertising person may read this book quite differently. She had no computer, internet or iPhone. (As the GEICO commercial points out, Paul Revere’s life would have been easier too with a cell phone.)

In fact, only by comparing herself to the super rich like David Ogilvy, does Ms. Maas appear struggling in a cruel world. Striving, yes; struggling, no. She has a live-in maid. Her children go to the best private schools in the city. Her place on Park Avenue sounds lovely. I appreciate her candor, but omitting some of the perks of her life would have made her thesis of struggling working girl in the big scary city more convincing. As it is, it’s kinda “poor little rich girl”– which was the well-deserved nickname for Gloria Vanderbilt. She did not make her fortune from selling blue jeans.

* “In the 60’s and beyond.” Too much title for this post. Ms. Maas is a long copy person.

Mad Men is Hooey

OK, OK, I admit it. I tried to like this hip series about advertising in the early 60’s set in a large NYC ad agency on Madison Avenue.

But Don Draper and friends and lovers just don’t do it for me. Draper — judging by what’s does in the big client meetings is a copywriter. But his strait-laced B school manners make me think of him as an account guy. Somehow, he single-handedly saves big accounts by pulling all-nighters with a bottle of Scotch and his nubile secretary.

It’s nothing I’ve ever seen or lived. The show’s writer apparently was in the media department at BBDO. I was in the creative department at the same agency, I guess, a long time later.

I feel like a test pilot watching a sci-fi movie about space travel, except this sage stretches not far in the future but far in the past.

Or as Jane Maas in her book Mad Women, puts it “Nobody drank in the morning.”

I didn’t know anyone who did. I hung out with teetotalers? I don’t think so. Two of my friends and co-workers died of drink before they reached their 50’s. This is a memoir by a key player at Ogilvy Mather during the Mad Men era who went on to bigger things at Wells Rich Greene. (While the narrative seems to pull no punches, the change in creative style between package goods at O&M, as described in the book, to WRG must have been huge. How do you just go merrily straight from one to the other??)

As you might expect given that it’s written by a legendary copywriter, it is compulsively readable and highly recommended.

The other thing is that Mad Men drinkers seem to function pretty darn well. They don’t fall out of their chairs in meetings. Or black out on phone calls.

The Antisemitism of clients in the Mad Men show seems false, too. In most agencies, just assume everyone is Jewish and do your job. Think early Hollywood: Sam Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg — none of them were in the church choir.

Another book debunking Mad Men is The Real Mad Men. It’s about the creative revolution in advertising in the 60’s, which is more interesting to ad professionals than the fictional TV show, anyway.

For more on the legendary advertising of the time, see When Advertising Tried Harder. Spoiler alert: it contains more than a few killer Volkswagen ads.

The dark side of marketing

Mostly, I like to think about good marketing — advertising that sells a useful product or service. Heck, even Bud Light Platinum, which seems to be the child of Bud Ice and Bud Light.

However, there is another kind of advertising — unsolicted email advertising. Uh huh. SPAM.

Friends of mine have wondered why I get red-faced and irate at the very mention of Spam (not the canned meat product which can be yummy — try their new Spam & Sausage Jambalaya.)

The reason I get so angry is I get a large percentage of spam. Of 45 emails I received the other day, 15 are spam. What’s more, they aren’t 15 ususual supplements, Russian women wanting husbands, diamond non-stick frypans. No, they are the same few emails sent over and over seconds apart. For example, apparently, my accountant’s license has been revoked. A good thing too, because I have never been certified as a CPA nor even taken a course in accounting.

Moreover, my direct deposit to my local bank — the Federal Reserve Bank, maybe you’ve heard of it — has hit a glitch.

Some of these things don’t even have a link to the site selling whatever sleezy product they’re promoting.

Anyway, I recently began using MX Guarddog — a free spam filtering service. All they ask for their constant vigilance is one lousy text link from my site. Heck, I can give them that. Very gladly if their service works.

Go to their site for all the details. You can even test it out for an entire month without giving them that text link.

In my case, setup was pretty easy. I just had to figure out how to switch over my mail servers — MX servers — to MX Guarddog’s. So far, no spam has gotten through, but I’ll see how they do long term.

Some time, I’ll review the excellent history of Spam called Spam Kings. Turns out if you’re unscrupulous you can make a buck selling just about anything.