Coffee heat rising

Under Frikkin’ Petty Siege…

Ever feel like you’re under siege from all directions? In a petty way, I mean.

There is, of course, under siege, Main Edition:

  • Your car deliberately drives itself into a utility pole.
  • Your cat croaks over.
  • Your roof leaks and melts the ceiling drywall.
  • Your house burns down, flood from the leaky roof notwithstanding.

Petty siege is not that kind of assault from the Fates.

Petty siege is the one-little-annoyance-after-another variant. An act of petty siege does not entail major catastrophe or heart-rending tragedy or budget-busting surprise expense. No. Petty siege is when every stupid little thing that can go wrong or that can make you crazy occurs, one after another.

9:00 p.m. For the second time, the MacBook barfs up an error message claiming I can’t get into iCloud and must enter a password. It won’t accept any of the several word/number combos I hope to be the password. I spend an hour or more on the phone with an Apple customer service tech, who is uncharacteristically stupid. We go around and around and around and around in circles and get nowhere. Finally iCloud starts working again — at random, not by virtue of anything we’ve done — and we conclude it must be a problem with Cox’s connectivity. This, not before I’ve fucked up my passwords, leaving me pretty much in the dark as to what combination of letters and numbers applies where. I give up, frustrated and angry.

10:00 p.m.: In comes an email from Amazon demanding that I pay $8 for the OxiClean that was never delivered.

3 a.m.: Wake up and can’t get back to sleep.

5 a.m.: Give up trying to sleep; decide to pass time on the Internet. Get the “you can’t get into iCloud message” again. This time before calling Apple, I send myself an email. It goes through, eventually. I go to iCloud and open a document. The MacBook forthwith delivers the document. I decide to forego another hour of frustration on the phone. Wander off, the mystery unresolved.

6 a.m.: Rain dripping off the roof is hitting a plastic drain cover, making a weird drumming sound. Dog is alarmed.

6:10 a.m.: Try to get the dog to go outside to do her business, which she declined to do in the rain late last night. Not a chance, Human! quoth she. She doesn’t want to get wet. Have to go outside into the middle of the yard, bare-footed in the rain, and call her to follow me. Then wait until she decides she can manage to do the job in spite of water falling on her head.

6:30 a.m.: Wipe the mud off the kitchen floor. Lay down one of the late Cassie’s pee pads in front of the back door. These things make efficient mud-catchers, BTW.

7:00 a.m.: Get an Amazon CSR on the phone (mirabilis!!!). She says the bill was sent in error and claims it is hereby canceled. Yeah, Right. We’ll see about that.

8 a.m.: Pool guy shows up, just as the heavens split open. He’s at the front door, in a downpour. I invite him in, of course. He treks through the house to the back door, Ruby excitedly dancing along. So much for Luz’s shiny clean floors, rendered that way less than 48 hours ago…

9 a.m.: The nuisance phone calls start up again. Despite the CPR 5000 Call Blocker, which has been a marvel, more and more nuisance callers have been getting through, most of them by spoofing local numbers. By 10 or 10:30, I’d been interrupted four times by these pests.

10 a.m.: My beloved, rustic, eccentric-old-lady electric heater — an old-fashioned “heat dish” — throws a hissy fit. Its alarm goes off in a buzzy blast, the kind of noise it makes if someone picks it up or moves it or tips it over while it’s on. It’s on, all right, at Day-Glo blast because it’s cold and damp in here. But it hasn’t been touched or jiggled in any way…unless we had an earthquake that I failed to notice. Unplug that.

10:40 a.m.: Stumble across my second, back-up eccentric-old-lady electric heater, stashed upside down in the back of a closet where a more organized search failed to unearth it earlier. Plug it in: seems to be working. Decide against driving through the rain to buy a new space heater. Ugh.

11:00 a.m.: More and more e-mail spam comes in through a blog contact page. Earlier this morning I disabled the Contact Page at The Copyeditor’s Desk by way of circumventing the bastards. So they go over to Funny about Money and send their BS through its contact page. Now I have to get into that site and delete that Contact form.

11:30 a.m.: Another goddamn nuisance phone call. Traipse back to the office, intent on calling CPR 5000’s customer service to ask after workarounds. First, though, I go so far as to read the instructions. (Isn’t THAT quaint!) Discover that I can enter codes to block “Name Unavailable” callers, VoIP Rogue callers, and “Withheld/Private” callers. Jump through the hoops to accomplish that.

12:08 p.m. Another nuisance phone call, this one from area code 213. Can I block all incoming from (213)? Yeah, I can…but that could be problematic. Though I have no friends who would call me from that area code, I could occasionally do business with clients in Southern California. This is, I think, the sixth nuisance call and we’re not even halfway through the day’s waking hours…

The problem with blocking each number as it comes in — well, there are several problems. In the first place, to block a number you have to pick up the receiver and then punch in a code. When someone picks up the receiver, of course, that alerts the robocaller that someone is on the other end of the line, which triggers an avalanche of further calls. And in the second place: virtually all of the numbers you see on Caller ID are spoofed. And the robocaller is programmed to generate literally an infinite number of phone number spoofs, something made possible by the fact that telephone numbers contain 10 numbers now.

12:32 p.m. A mighty deluge of water is pouring out of the sky. The back patio floods. So far it hasn’t reached the back door’s threshold, thanks to Gerardo’s guys having removed the plastic covering over the shade structure, which prevents a back-up by allowing water flowing off the roof to disperse evenly. That’s something. I guess.

12:41 p.m.: Another nuisance call from my area code. And of course, blocking one’s own area code is contraindicated. So is blocking most of the exchanges within your area code: who knows when someone will call from such an exchange?

12:47 p.m.: Discover, deep in the complicated instructions the Call Blocker, that to block a call with the “#2” code from a cordless extension, that extension has to be plugged into the call blocker! Holeee shit! But no.., not so! Here online, the how-to-block instructions say “answer the call from a DECT 6.0 wireless handset then press the # key then the 2 key…” Yes, my handsets are DECT 6.0. Okay, guess that’s been working, anyway. For all the good it’s doing me…

12:53 p.m. I’m hungry. I want a beer. And I want a nap. The roof is rattling to the approaching thunder squall.


Hello Again, Little CPR Call Blocker! Good-bye NoMoRobo!

Hoorah! The new CPR v5000 Call Blocker I ordered to replace the one that got thrown out after the Cox dude told me the one I had wouldn’t work with Cox’s infuriating modem IS HERE! Thank you, Amazon!

When Cox forced its customers to abandon the old, steadfastly reliable copper lines, I already had a CPR Call Blocker installed on my landline phone. It was wonderful. Because it WORKED. I asked the Cox tech to install it on the damned space-gobbling, dust-collecting modem he deposited on my desk, and he said Cox wouldn’t touch anything that wasn’t Cox equipment. Besides, it wouldn’t work.


Subtext: “We get paid by phone scammers to let them blitz you with advertising and scams, and you can be darned sure we ain’t about to aid and abet your efforts to thwart the bastards.”

However, Cox was making a service called NoMoRobo available to its new VoiP customers. I’d heard good things about it and so figured signing up with that should address the problem of robocalls and live scam artists. Because I had no idea how to attach the little Call Blocker device to the damned modem (sometimes connections can be kinda tricky), I just tossed it out, figuring NoMoRobo would do the job.




NoMoRobo is a complete bust. Here’s why:

To block a call from a phone number, NoMoRobo has to let the first jangle ring through. This is how it identifies fake phone numbers. Unlike the CPR 5000, it apparently has no preprogrammed numbers; thus the 5000 numbers blocked by the CPR  device just come right through. And it seems unable to identify VoIP/IP rogue diallers, leaving you vulnerable to an expensive scam.

The first-ring feature is a deal-killer for me. It doesn’t matter whether this is a new number nuisanceaferizing you. Even numbers that are blocked are allowed to jangle you up once.

Sorry, but I don’t find the sound of a phone jangling to be conducive to work that requires my full, uninterrupted attention.

Then we have the problem that you can’t signal NoMoRobo that a number is bad with a push of a button. Ohhhhh no. You have to go online to their Website and fill out a freaking form!!!!!! You have to retrieve the offending number from your phone’s memory, report the caller’s name, say what time the call occurred…all of which adds the insult of time suck to the injury of phone scamming.

And as hoop-jumps go, it’s pointless: the robocallers simply generate new numbers, potentially dialing you from every telephone number in your exchange. Or, for that matter, in any exchange.

And we have the added problem that when NoMoRobo fails to recognize a call as pestiferous (which is often), it just lets the phone ring and ring, till your voicemail picks up. At which time the creeps fill up your voicemail with their hustle.

I get upwards of a dozen pest calls a day. Today they started at 8 a.m. sharp; sometimes they start around 6:30 or 7 in the morning. They often run through till 8 or 9 or even 10 at night.

With the CPR call blocker, you simply press the “Talk” button and then, if you’re on a wireless extension, press #2; if you’re at your desk where the device is sitting, you don’t even have to pick up. Just press the big red “BLOCK” button.

The highly satisfying big red BLOCK button….

If you miss that boat, then simply click your phone’s callback button and as soon as the number starts to ring, hit that “Block” button.

The thing has been plugged in for less than an hour, and it already has three numbers in its bank of blocked callers.


So… I’m in the Costco thinking about replacing my houseful of phones, the current system evincing signs of advanced age. All the batteries are running down, so every time I turn around I pick up another dead handset. And lo! There on the shelf at the Costco is this elegant Panasonic model. It’s an elaborate lash-up, very much like mine only updated for the 21st century. Not only does it include 87 gerjillion (well…four) wireless handsets plus the required answering machine, this thing includes a call-blocking feature similar to the much-missed CPR Call Blocker.

I threw my CPR Call Blocker out after Cox barged in and forced its customers to switch to VoIP, having been told it wouldn’t work with Cox’s accursed modem. Cox, however, now offers NoMoRobo, supposedly the be-all and end-all for nuisance call blocking.

Not so much. The CPR Call Blocker 5000 cut the nuisance calls to at most one or two a day, but more typically to none.

NoMoRobo? Holy sh!t, what a nuisance! It takes the robocall nuisance and multiplies the aggravation by a factor of about 10. It does not block robocalls, because the robocallers automatically generate thousands, hundreds of thousands, and ultimately (one presumes) millions of fake phone numbers. They target your area code and phone exchange, or one close to where you live, so that incoming calls appear to be coming from someone in your neighborhood. The kids’ school, perhaps. Your neighbor across the street. Your pharmacy, telling you a prescription is ready. WhatEVER. Pick up the phone, and you get a scam.

The deal here with NoMoRobo is that it can not be programmed to block all calls in a given area code. None of my friends, acquaintances, or business contacts have the same exchange as mine. This means that any call incoming from this exchange is, by definition, a scam and nothing but a scam.

I get between six and twelve such calls every day, starting around seven in the morning and running through till nine at night.

To block spam calls, you have to go to NoMoRobo’s website, type in the offending phone number, describe the circumstances, and send the squib. This turns an ordinary nuisance into a time-consuming nuisance. And it’s pointless: the scammers don’t care that you blocked thus-and-such a combination of figures…their machines are constantly generating new combinations.

Even when NoMoRobo blocks a number, it lets the first ring jangle you up! So…yeah. That’s real helfpul, isn’t it? When you’re trying to focus on something — or hell, trying to take a nap! — the god damned phone jerks you away from what you’re doing, even if it’s a blocked call!

Most of the calls, however, are not blocked, because the spoofers generate many, many more calling numbers than NoMoRobo can catch.

At one point, I suggested to their alleged customer service that they should allow users to block entire area codes. They said ohhh no! That can’t be done!

Well, it sure as hell can be done, because the CPR Call Blocker does exactly that. It can be programmed to block calls from whole countries, to say nothing of local exchanges.  So either NoMoRobo’s developers don’t want to be bothered with making their system do that, or their customer service people are not altogether forthcoming.

At any rate, when I saw this fancy Panasonic wonder-phone, I thought hot dang! Kill two birds with one stone: replace the aging Uniden phones and get a built-in call blocker!

So I grab it off the shelf.

Having become ever-so-much-more wary over time, though, before opening the box and setting up this complicated marvel, I looked up the user reviews on Amazon. And then on Costco’s website.

Not so good.

A lot of people on both sites complained of poor sound quality. This seems to be a nigh unto universal issue. Also roundly hated: poor customer service and incomprehensible instructions. Ten percent of Amazon reviewers pan it with one (!) star. Interestingly, the rate is about the same over at the Costco site.

At Amazon, I figure when one-star ratings add up to more than 9%, that ain’t a happy sign.

For 8 bucks, I could buy four rechargeable phone batteries supposedly approved by Uniden. So I ordered up eight of the things, for a total of about $18 including tax…a far cry from $108 for a complicated phone system that may or may not work.

So I decided to replace the batteries in the existing handsets and hope for the best. If that doesn’t work, Uniden sells the handsets alone: it’s still cheaper to replace a few of those than to buy a whole new Panasonic system.

Apparently, if I’d just waited until the steam stopped shooting out of my ears after the Cox fiasco, I could in fact have attached my old CPR Call Blocker to Cox’s accursed modem. But I can’t find the thing now, so I guess I must have tossed it in a rage. That would be pretty typical.

It’ll cost another hundred bucks to get a new one. But at this point I’m thinking…let’s see if these new batteries hold a charge. If they do, fine: invest in a new CPR 5000, call their excellent customer service on the phone, and get them to coach me through connecting it to Cox’s accursed modem. Et voilà! Say good-bye to the NoMoRobo joke.

Schlepped the unopened Panasonic back to Costco this morning; received a fistful of money back on the card.

Now I’m going to think about this for a few days and, if I can confirm that the CPR 5000 will work, with the hated new Cox equipment, then I’ll just bite the bullet and buy another one. I know their customer service will coach me through connecting the thing to the complicated junk Cox cluttered my desk with — at least, I think they will. They post a phone number at Amazon, which I’ll call tomorrow to see if they’ll agree to do so.

Failing that?

Well, frankly, I think the only alternative is to disconnect the land line. Replace it with an iPhone for actual calling and texting, and several charged-up but un-connected cheap clamshells for dialing 911 in a pinch.

Best phone solicitor story of all time

LOL! Over at The Buck List, Buck Weber holds forth on his two favorite ways to deal with telephone solicitors. His post reminded me of the time one of my graduate school professors occupied a fair amount of class time telling us about his latest encounter with a call center employee.

At the time—this was long before the Do Not Call law, when most people could expect two to six nuisance sales calls a day, and long before caller ID—we were in the middle of a particularly obnoxious spate of harassment from people trying to sell carpets. So one day Jack picked up the phone and yea, verily, a young-sounding woman asked him if he wouldn’t just love to take advantage of today’s special on gorgeous new carpeting, “only in your neighborhood.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you called,” he exlaimed. “I was hoping to hear from you!”

“You were?”

“Yes. I’ve decided I do want to carpet the house and am very interested in your offer.”

Well, of course the young woman was beside herself with joy. After some happy small talk during which they discussed the types of carpet and the possible color scheme, she asked him how many rooms he had.

He described a typical suburban house, as most housing in Tempe is: three or four bedrooms, a living room, a family room. Lots of carpetable space.

She asked for the approximate dimensions. He gave her figures for all these rooms.

They set up a day for a salesman to come over and measure each room and show him carpet samples. He gave her an address and made an appointment.

As the conversation wound down, she thanked him profusely for his business (probably the first sale the kid had ever made). He said she was welcome, happy to talk with you, etc., and then, just as she was about to hang up, he said…

“Oh, by the way, I have one question…”


“These carpets can be installed over dirt floors, can’t they?”

A moment’s pause ensued. “You have dirt floors?”

“Why, yes,” he said. “Doesn’t everyone?”

The line went dead. For some reason, he didn’t get any more calls from carpet sellers.