Coffee heat rising

Making Telephone Solicitation FUN….

Mwa ha ha! The idea I came up with for harassing the goddamn nuisance telephone solicitors is WORKING. And it is a bit of a hoot.

Thought I’d described this antic in a post here on Funny, but don’t see the thing in the blog’s dashboard. Must have held forth about it on Facebook. Oh well…

Here’s the gambit:

When a phone solicitor calls, instead of hitting “call block” (which, since they spoof telephone numbers, doesn’t block THEIR phone but instead blocks some innocent soul in your area code or even your own exchange), pick up the phone and speak sorta politely into it.

Let the crook begin to deliver his pitch. As he yammers on, take a deep breath and SCREAM AT THE VERY TOP OF YOUR VOICE, as LOUD as you can, into the phone. SHRIEK YOUR GUTS OUT. Give him the shrillest, loudest, earsplittingest

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH

you can blast out.

Scream nonstop until you run completely out of breath. Then hang up. Do not speak a word. Just hang up.

Most of the criminals are probably using headphones to do their job. That means you leave not one but both of their ears ringing. With any luck, maybe you’ll burst the bastard’s eardrum.

Interestingly, this seems to have worked. It’s 10:15 a.m. just now, and I just repelled only the first nuisance call of the day. Usually they start about 8:00 a.m. — sometimes even earlier. And the number of nuisance calls has dropped spectacularly, from around 10 calls a day to one or two. Some days even none!

No kidding: I was getting up to a dozen pestering calls a day. Never fewer than eight or ten.

Within a couple of days after I started the Scream Gambit, the phone soliciting harassment dropped like the bastards all fell off a cliff — down to one or two calls, and some days even none. For those that persist: it’s strangely gratifying to know you left the SOB’s ears ringing.

So far I haven’t done it, because I haven’t wanted to pony up the cash, but part of the plan is to buy one or more recorders so I can play back the SHRIIIEEEEEEEEEK into the phone without having to strain the vocal cords. But seriously: after s few days of this, the number of calls has dropped to the point where that may not be necessary.

Silence is golden…

Cutting Out the Technohassles

Y’know…computer technology is amazing, and an amazing gift to humanity. But…

Yeah: BUT… It’s also a a curse, most often manifested in the form of endless technohassles: long, complicated struggles with the operating systems of every damn thing we need to live our lives in an “advanced” society — from can openers to phones to cars. The telephone is a particular problem. What used to be a simple enough device is now a portable mini-computer and an indefatigable carrier of nuisances. Nuisance procedures, nuisance programming, and most of all nuisance calls from solicitors and hustlers combine to make us feel miserable and harassed.

What to do about it?

Well, I have A PLAN.

Mwa ha ha! It just came to me as I was out driving around in search of gasoline and fresh bread:

Henceforth, one day a week — one whole 24-hour day from 6.a.m. to 6 a.m.— will be declared, promised, and dedicated as a Techno-Free Day.

  • No computers
  • No computers disguised as telephones
  • No email
  • No online news
  • No blogging
  • No telephone interruptions
  • No online scams
  • No nothin’!

The accursed computers go off and stay off for 24 long, quiet back-to-back hours.

This will mean, as you might imagine…

  • No aggravation
  • No frustration
  • No unsolvable ditzy impossible-to-grasp problems
  • No pestering
  • No unknown parties tracking what we do
  • No distractions
  • Minimal annoyance

Yeah.

Seriously: I have HAD IT with the constant technologically-driven distraction and annoyance.

And…I’ve decided I deserve a break from it — as should all of us.

Pick a day of the week, then, and…revert to the freakin 1950s!

  • I like to read the morning news. Fine: zip down to the grocery store and buy a newspaper before breakfast.
  • Create an answering machine message saying something like “I do not answer the phone or check my email on [thus-and-such a day]. If this a real call from someone who knows me personally and has a real reason to speak with me, please leave a message and I’ll call you back tomorrow. If it is an emergency, please call 911. If you are a phone solicitor, please find another use for the time you would waste filling up my machine with your pitch.”
  • Do not answer the phone.
  • Do not even turn on the computers.
  • Find some relaxing and fun things to do outside the house and go do them.

It is time to disconnect from all the crazy-making techno-crap. I can’t stand another minute of it!

Scam-a-Rama!

Welp, the scammers are frolicking about in force. Must be the spring weather that calls them out from under the fridge…

The past three or four weeks, my email inbox has been hit with scam after scam — four of them in just the past ten days or so.

The Scam of the Day tells me my McAfee antivirus subscription has expired and I must hurry right up and send money now.

😀

McAfee? McAfee? We don’t got no steenking McAfee!

All of my fancy electronic doodads are Apple products. Apple provides a very fine antivirus program called MalwareBytes. It’s free, and Apple updates it whenever Apple feels like updating…without you having to mess with it.

LOL! Yes, when I used PCs, I did use McAfee. Because my employer, the Great Desert University used McAfee, and I did whatever the IT dudes advised. But no, I do not now and never have had it installed on the Macinoid devices.

But…

But…thought I…maybe it comes with the iPhone, that fine device that I have yet to learn how to use. Hm…..

Like a MacBook, the iPhone displays a list of applications. No sign of McAfee in there. But just in case…

Just in case, this morning I cruised in to the T-Mobile store, the better to pester my handsome young friends in there.

Cute Dude of the Day looked puzzled when I asked him if we could tell whether McAfee is now or ever has been installed on the i-Gadget. Uhmmm….McAfee doesn’t GET installed on iPhones, quoth he. We check the applications anyway: nope. No McAfeeoid programs.

So…yeah. This is THIRD scamming email I’ve received in as many weeks. So far none of them has tried to persuade me that my son has been kidnapped by ransom-demanding Ukrainians. But I’m sure that one will be along soon.

The first one pretended to come from Amazon — cleverly, for (as you know) it is virtually impossible to get ahold of a live human being at Amazon. It was trying to extract money for the privilege of posting my books for sale on Amazon, and they apparently did have real data from my Amazon seller’s account.

Amazon, as you know, short-changes customers (and sellers) on customer service every which way from Sunday. I finally gave up trying to get a CSR who spoke English and appeared to be a living being, and just took all my products off Amazon.

Don’t forget, BTW, that you can read some of them for free right here at FaM, just by clicking on the linked images in the right-hand sidebar.

At any rate, I dunno why the bastards have suddenly decided to blitz me with scams. Probably it has to do with my age: as we all learn from the ad blitz that comes from AARP the instant we turn 65, marketing hustlers can buy mailing lists that are compiled by age. And they know that old bats are peculiarly vulnerable to email and telephone scams.

Whatever. Be aware, and do know that these people can and do acquire a great deal of private information about you: much more than you might imagine possible. Because they know key details, they sound convincingly like a vendor that you do business with. Any time someone asks you for money or personal information — even someone claiming to represent a business you know — proceed with caution. Or better yet: don’t proceed at all.

Did she…or didn’t she?

Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, I find myself turning over the small (and large) mysteries of life. You know what I mean?

One of those mysteries is whether my mother deliberately committed suicide by smoking herself to death. It strikes me as a distinct possibility. But as is so often true, when one thinks about such a thing one encounters seven kinds of ambiguity.

She had a difficult life — one that might reasonably be expected to lead many of us to contemplate suicide.

Her mother was, shall we say, a bit “fast.” My mother was the woman’s second unwed pregnancy…I found out by accident that somewhere out there I have an unknown uncle. Ohhh well.

A custody fight ensued after this second unwanted birth. The father lived in Glen’s Falls, then a tiny farming town in upstate New York. The mother’s family lived in the San Francisco Bay area. The case was argued in front of a court in Glen’s Falls, where the father’s relatives pretty much owned the place. Not surprisingly, custody was given to the paternal grandparents, wasting a trip East and a lot of money for the San Francisco set.

My mother’s earliest memory was of her mother packing up a little red kiddie wagon and sending her off to live with her grandparents — telling her to walk to the paternal manse, dragging the wagon behind her.

So she grew up on a farm in rural upstate New York, evidently working as the family serving girl. She spoke of hanging the carpets on clotheslines each spring and pounding the dirt out, of having to wash the soot off the kerosene lanterns every day, and of the family canning kitchen garden vegetables and setting eggs to keep in big barrels over the winter. And of how cold it was in the outhouse in the wintertime. And of the time snowdrifts came up to the second-story windows and her grandfather had to dig a tunnel so they could get out of the house.

About when my mother reached her teens, the grandmother developed diabetes. In those days, there was no such thing as insulin. They tried to control the symptoms with what apparently was a pretty bizarre diet…and a pretty ineffectual one. When her grandmother died, she was at last sent to live with the maternal grandparents, who lived in Berkeley.

For my mother, this was a fortuitous development. Suddenly she was riding on streetcars and buses — conveyances she had never seen before. She once remarked on how utterly amazed she was to find you could turn on the lights in a room by flipping a wall switch.

But as arrangements go, living with the mother’s family also had its peculiarities. These folks were Christian Scientists. They never went to doctors. Period. They would go to dentists — provided no pain-killing chemicals were applied — but medical doctors were verboten.

Meanwhile, the mother had apparently continued to cat around. It was, after all, the Roaring Twenties, and you may be sure the nicey-niceness that infected her sister and her mother did not affect her. My uncle once remarked, in passing, that “Olive marched to a different drummer.”

Heh! I guess!!

She married — apparently a pretty nice guy — and unloaded him. And continued to enjoy the Roaring Twenties as a flapper.

Not surprisingly, eventually she developed a reproductive malignancy — she believed God was punishing her for all the abortions she’d had. On her female relatives’ advice, she delayed going to a doctor until it was way too late to save her life. My mother, who by then apparently was in her mid-teens, nursed her through her grim final illness.

As a result, my mother was simply terrified of cancer. Seriously: it was almost a phobia.

Pack that away in the back of your mind.

***

Years passed. She married some guy. Divorced him. Married my father. Got dragged to Saudi Arabia, where we spent ten years in the hot sands by the Persian Gulf, basically imprisoned inside the chain-link fences of an American oil compound.

Came back to the States. Got three whole years in San Francisco (where she really wanted to live) while my father went back to sea.

Next: dragged to Southern California when my father quit that job and took up with another shipping company. Spent another three monotonous years there.

My father wanted nothing more than to retire, and he had decided that they would move to Sun City, Arizona, for the purpose. Neither of them knew anything about Arizona…but hey: it couldn’t be any worse than the Rub al’Khali, could it?

One morning when he was home from the boat and they were getting into their cups, he had the bright idea that if he could shoehorn me into college a year early — at this time I was a high-school junior — he could quit his job and they could move to their dream tract house in Sun City.

So, amazingly, they broke out the portable typewriter and sent a letter to the University of Arizona (they didn’t quite know where it was, vis à vis lovely Sun City, but hey: it’s all Arizona, right?) and proposed that since I was such a bright little kid the university should accept me a year early — in the fall of that year.

Even more amazingly, forthwith the admissions officer wrote back with Sure! Send her right along!

Holeee shee-ut.

So they yanked me out of high school, bought a house in the cotton fields to the west of Phoenix, and took off for Arizona.

Yay. So much for UC Berkeley, hm?

My mother was always an avid smoker. I hated the stink of cigarettes. But the parfum de burning tobacco was what graced our homes, wherever we happened to be. She smoked more and more as the months and years proceeded. One day I realized I could tell when she awoke in the morning, because before she even rolled out of the sack, she’d light up a cigarette.

Before she turned off the light at night, she puffed one last cigarette down to the filter. And before she lifted her head in the morning, she fired up another one.

In fact, there was almost never a time that she didn’t have a cigarette in her hand, except when she was shoving food in her face. When we went to a restaurant, she would smoke until the food was set on the table, smush it out to eat, and then light up again as soon as she finished her meal.

After I married and had my own home, I asked her to please not smoke inside my house. She threw a sh!t-fit in which she exclaimed, “I’m your mother and you can just put up with my smoking!”

No kidding! I remember the exact words to this day.

You understand: She knew. The Surgeon General’s report to the effect that smoking tobacco was proven to cause cancer came out in the late 1950s.

I remember the day, back in that decade, when she brought some friends home to our apartment in San Francisco. The subject of that report came up, and they exchanged skepticism about it. One PR stunt that had appeared on a national TV show entailed having a smoker take a puff on a cigarette and exhale into a white handkerchief. The result was a big brown spot.

They wondered if this trick was real.

So my mother trotted back to her bedroom and brought out a brand-spanking-clean, freshly ironed white handkerchief. In those days, a proper San Francisco woman carried a white handkerchief wherever she went.

They lit up a cigarette, one of them inhaled deep and puffed out dramatically into the hanky. And yup: left a big, dark brown filthy blot in the middle of the white cotton.

They all went “Isn’t that amazing” and laughed.

It took her another 18 years to smoke herself to death, but kill herself she did. She died in 1976, in agony, of cancer. On my birthday.

***

She was terrified of getting cancer. She knew smoking was a cause of cancer. She had seen the brown gunk just one puff of burning tobacco deposits in your lungs. And yet she continued to smoke. Not because she couldn’t quit. Because she wouldn’t try to quit. Not once, right up until the time she could no longer hold a lighter in her hand, not once did she make any effort at all to quit smoking.

If that isn’t deliberate, I’d like to know what it is.

Theft Damage Control: Battening down the hatches

So yesterday morning I traipsed to the credit union, whereinat to deal with the stolen credit, debit, and ID cards. Bob, the front man there, didn’t seem too worried. He said the steps I’d taken to inform credit card issuers and others involved should head off any attempts to hack into our accounts.

I had delayed telling my son about the credit-card heist, because I feared he’d have a sh!t-fit and there was a limit to how much I could cope with. But Bob felt no one would be able to get into our shared account for the mortgage, nor, he thought, would they be able to get into my new AMEX accounts or much of anything else. So that was reassuring. Sorta.

Meanwhile, now that I have a new AMEX account, I’ll have to tell every creditor who auto-charges on that thing what the new card number is, a prospect that exhausts me. Yea verily, yesterday Apple sent an email demanding that I enter a method to charge up a $3.25/year bill for use of their vast web space. I couldn’t make their guy or their machine or whateverthef^ckitis understand that they need a new credit card number and that is all they need. So next week I’ll have to drive way to Hell and gone out to the far west side, whence the Apple store has decamped, find a human being, explain what is going on, and see if THEY can re-up my subscription.

Endless!!!

After fleeing the credit union, I stopped by the big new Sprouts near the university campus. It was quite a nice shopping experience…that store is larger than any of the other Sprouts stores I’ve seen here in Phoenix. Their produce is wonderful, they have drinkable cheap wine, and a wide variety of other loot. I came away feeling pretty pleased.

Which led to a rumination about Costco…  As in why am i PAYING to shop there??? Especially ever since they closed the store nearest to the ’Hood, necessitating a twenty- or thirty-minute drive across the city. I got everything I needed at Sprouts…and then some. True, at Costco you can buy clothing, shoes, sheets, towels, office supplies, and on and on. But hey! You don’t buy that stuff every week. And besides, if it’s something you really want, Instacart delivery is free for Costco members. If you sent an Instacart runner over there once every month or six weeks, it would pay for the membership…which is 60 to 120 bucks.

Sprouts has an excellent selection of drinkable low-rent wines — Costco seems to have gotten rid of all its decent brands in the $9 to $12 range. Sprouts has a much larger selection of fresh produce. And it carries CBD oils and creams, which go a whole long way toward soothing the peripheral neuropathy. A-n-n-d how crazy IS it to drive halfway across the city to stand in line at the pumps for twenty minutes so as to save a couple bucks on a gasoline fill-up? We have two perfectly fine QT’s right up the road, both of which generally undercut the competition.

So I think I’m going to shop a WHOLE lot less at Costco. Matter of fact, I may stop shopping there altogether.

Dear Amazon: Oversell Is Overkill…

We’re hours from a major holiday, right? A Major Gift-Giving Holiday. The streets are jammed with swarming shoppers.

So of course I take it into my turgid little head to go into the corner Walgreen’s and pick up a bottle of the eyedrops the ophtalmologist recommended for the terrifying lump that recently emerged on an eyeball. Since I could barely see to drive after yesterday’s eye-dilating exam, I put it off — actually thought “betcha i can get these on Amazon.” Then staggered in the house and crashed in bed, exhausted.

By this morning, that “Amazon!!” thought has escaped my fevered brain. I figure on the way down to the AJ’s overpriced fancy grocer for the Great Xmas Dinner Shop, I’ll drop by the Walgreen’s and grab the eyedrops.

No kidding: the line at the cash register extended three-quarters of the length of the store! A good two dozen people were lined up along the west wall, six feet between them…standing…and standing…and standing…

Thanks! See ya!

No, of COURSE AJ’s does NOT carry exotic lubricating eye drops. It’s a gourmet grocer, not a flikkin Safeway! 😀

Not that I didn’t look…

The traffic simply defies belief. Naturally, after the side trip to the Walgreen’s it was coming on to the lunch hour by the time I reached the AJ’s, which peddles gourmet take-out meals as well as fancy groceries. WHAT a mob!!

Extracted what I hope will be enough for Xmas dinner: two gorgeous prime New York steaks (one of which is enough for two meals for me), a fistful of fresh asparagus, some packaged roasted taters (with Parmesan! with garlic!!), a bottle of wine, and enough ice cream to concoct something that looks like a dessert. Not very fancy, but spectacular enough in its humble way. I think.

Drive and drive and drive and drive and finally get through the thronging hordes. Stagger into the shack. Unload the truck.

Finally, the groceries put away, I sit down to order up the stuff on Amazon.

Amazon is supposed to be easy to order from, ain’t it? And ain’t it supposed to spare you the stupid stuff from hustling marketers?

Finally locate what appears to be the product the doc wants me to use. Go to order it. A-n-n-n-d…get hustle on top of hustle on top of hustle!

Pay more and get it delivered sooner.
Buy this instead and get a discount.
Buy twice as much as you need and get a discount.
Buy…buy…buy…bye bye…

Actually, I did go back and find one Amazon vendor whose pitches were…lower-pitched. The stuff is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. Since apparently this ailment or whatever you wanna call it is pretty benign (it COULD go away on its own, we’re told), I figure a delay of 24 hours will be OK.

In theory, Amazon can and should be Our Savior for gotta-have-it emergency purchases amid the dizzying holidays. But dayUM! When will marketers learn that Silence Is Golden???