"And how did you know that?"

"I just knew is all."

"Oh, I see" I told him, lighting a Pall Mall. "Crystal
ball? Ouija board? That kind of thing?"

"No, I had somebody…looking in on her."

"Looking in on her?"

"Yeah, you know. Looking in on her."

"You mean spying on her."

"No, not spying. I just…paid this guy a few bucks
every once in a while to see what she was up to.
Checking her mailbox before she got home to see what
she was getting. Talking with people she knew. That
kind of thing."

"That certainly sounds like spying to me."

"And what about you? You do that kind of stuff, too,
don't you?"

That just kind of irritated me. "Yeah, but it's for a
reason. A good reason. Like trying to catch them
stealing from a company. Or seeing if they're being

"Well, she stole from me. And I wanted to see who
she was dating. Same thing."

Maybe Brooke had been right a few months back when
she had said that I needed a new job. Because right
then my own profession wasn't looking too admirable
to me. My gut told me that there was a real difference
between investigating and spying. But I sure as hell
couldn't think of what it was at that point. "All right"
I finally said, "let's just skip that one for now."

— from Years and Shadows

Spy on your neighbors even better with Listen Up!
And if you buy now, we'll throw in a $50 coupon on the
purchase of the Acme Wireless Lipstick Camera!

(Just click on the pic to watch the video on youTube.)

A few weeks ago I did a post on a rather unusual product called Head On.
Well last night I was in bed watching a movie, and as everybody knows
late Sunday nights are kind of a bizarre Twilight Zone in terms of
television. That's when I caught the TV advertisement for Listen Up.
And this one was even more bizarre than the Head On commercial.

You can watch the commercial at youTube that I link above. And in fact
I recommend that you do, as you just won't believe some of the stuff on
it. But I'll do a quick summary.

Listen Up is a tiny hearing amplifier, kind of like a hearing aid.
Except it's sort of the size of a small micro-cassette recorder. I think
that the ORIGINAL idea for this product was probably a good one — to
allow people who are hard of hearing to listen to the TV without driving
everybody else crazy by having to crank up the volume.

It's a few of the "alternative" uses that get me. For example, in the
commercial you see a woman using it to spy on her neighbors across the
street. Gee, what a wonderful product, it helps you spy on your neighbors

Then they have a guy at the gym using it to find out what a couple of
hot babes across the room are saying to each other. So I guess this
product is great news for the aspiring stalker or neophyte serial-

But I think the one that got to me the most for some reason was the one
that advertised the product for nature walks. You can use Listen Up to
better hear the "gentle sounds of nature" — at a volume that makes them
sound like you are sitting in the middle of this year's Super Bowl game.
And isn't that what we all want, the deafening roar of nature?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. In the world these days it
seems like it's the Hideous versus the Vacuous. And to be honest, I'm
not even sure which category Listen Up would fall into.

In any case, I have to wonder about some of these claims the company
is making. Most professional investigators these days (as well as law
enforcement agencies) use what are called directional microphones,
which zoom in on subjects in a linear manner and help keep the non-wanted
background sounds out. I haven't tried Listen Up, but I wonder if all
you would really hear in some cases is a confusing babble.

Because that's what our world too frequently consists of these days
anyway — just a confusing babble.