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Are you offended by sleazy ads and unrelated links online?

Please don’t blame the writer.

Most online publishers and news communities earn their keep by displaying paid advertisements on their site pages. OK, we get that. And that’s why you’re able to read posts like this for free, without paying for a subscription.

And that’s a big plus.

But those ads! Sometimes they fit the content nicely. They may even prove interesting and appropriate to the reader. But sometimes … well, you know … 

Often, the ads that appear are automatically selected, based upon key words in the copy on a particular article or post.

OK, that makes sense too.

Writers appreciate advertisers, because we usually earn a percentage of the proceeds from the leads generated by those ads. However, bloggers, columnists, and web writers don’t usually have the opportunity to select the advertisements that accompany our content. In some instances (such as for blogs or websites we actually own and operate), writers may hand-pick certain ads or specify certain key words for advertising content. Plenty of bloggers and site hosts sell ad space, perhaps reserving the right to refuse unacceptable commercial content.

That’s not the case for writers whose work appears on news or other publisher-owned websites. Frequently, we don’t see the ads until they are already up.

Here’s the tricky part.

Lately, lots of these sites are displaying ads and photo/story links that seem to have little to do with the stories with which they appear. Some are even raunchy.

A writer might put up a piece about cartoon lunchboxes for kindergartners or preschool birthday party themes, only to find graphic links showing up on the page to promote an actresses’ recent shall-we-say wardrobe malfunction or tips for spicing up a tired relationship.

Seriously, people?

Another may publish a post about an upcoming political election and be surprised to see ads for belly fat reduction on the published page. (Wait. That might just fit. Did someone mention pork barrels?)

In any case, readers may be relieved to know their favorite writers are not selecting, or even previewing, the ads and supplemental links that tend to show up with their online work.

So if a teaser ad, urging you to click and see what some misbehaving starlet wore (or didn’t wear) for Halloween or New Year’s Eve or Mardi Gras or Valentine’s Day or last Tuesday, shows up on this page, don’t blame me. And if you see those seemingly miraculous weight loss programs offered alongside any of my online columns, please know I didn’t choose or approve them.

Who knew professional writers would have to issue such disclaimers for their publishers?

Adapted from public domain photo

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CONcepts: Dying laughing over a kid's serious answer in class

Maybe I asked for this one, without meaning to. In any case, this kid cracked me up. And she didn’t mean to, either.

Educational experts seem to agree.

The very best teachers ask the right questions. Insightful inquiries tend to elicit intelligent responses and stimulate learning. That’s no secret. Trained instructors everywhere know this. Students retain much more information, when they can come up with the answers themselves, instead of simply absorbing what others spout.

For this reason, skilled teachers try to draw ideas and information from their audiences, or students, by asking helpful questions. This strategy helps to keep active discussions on track, encourage student participation and keep classroom conversations moving in a constructive direction.

Of course, that may be so, in theory, but nine-year-old girls are another story altogether.

Here’s how it all got moving along:

Some time ago, I volunteered to teach the third grade girls at our church. The curriculum included a series of topics and activities, for which the children would earn badges and awards. Scripture memory work, hands-on crafts, creative projects, and lively discussions were the primary projects of the program.

My co-leaders and I enjoyed a wonderful group of bright, high-energy young ladies. Our once-a-week gatherings with these kinetic kids quickly became the highlights of our weeks.

“The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.” Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

Conscience matters.

After a few months together, we started a unit called “Conscience: Gift from God.” The chapter began with a few important vocabulary words, which we needed to define together before moving on with the material.

During our teaching time, the word “conscience” was the answer I sought. However, as the teacher, I must have had the wrong question.

A single word can stop a teacher in nothing flat.

“What has God given to you, to help you to know right from wrong?” I asked.

“Parents?” one child responded.

“Well, that’s true,” I answered. Perhaps it was time to rephrase the question. “What has He given to all people, to help us decide what is right and what is wrong?”

“Police?” another suggested.

“Well, that may be true too, but that’s not the word I’m looking for here,” I said.

The girls looked puzzled. “It’s something God has given to everyone,” I added, as if that might help to elicit the vocabulary word I sought. “It’s something inside of you.”

My co-leader tried to help things along by prompting the kids. “The word starts with ‘con,’” she said.

“And we all have it,” I added.

A hand shot up, right in the front row, followed by a sweet little voice. “Constipation?”

OK, I admit it. I totally lost it, right about then.

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Ladies: Ever been carded for wine, while having a hot flash?

I thought I’d die laughing, but it wouldn’t have been worth the in-store safety investigation ordeal and the clutter of crime scene tape. Someone stubs a toe in a store, and Risk Management is all over it. Can you just imagine what might happen, if someone dropped to the floor in a veritable chuckle coma?

Still, sometimes life is just too darn funny.

This actually happened. In fact, it has occurred multiple times. (OK, don’t pull out a calculator and try to come up with a grand guzzling total. It’s not that kind of story.)

What’s the deal – when a store cashier asks for proof-of-age identification for a bottle or two of wine, even though the customer is having a raging hot flash on the spot? And what if said customer is also rummaging through her purse, trying to find her missing pair of reading glasses, which ironically seems to be perched on top of her own head? 

Can’t we just assume this lady is chronologically eligible to make the purchase?

Yes, checkout staffer. Let’s save the six customers behind me some time. You can bet I am at least 21. Now, please just scan the ibuprofen and the calcium supplements, and I’ll be on my way.

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