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.



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.

New Robocaller Exploit? Or…just coincidence?

I think — being the paranoiac that I am — that a robocaller just broke one of my landline handsets. As you know, I now subscribe to NoMoRobo, which works with amazing effectiveness against telephone pests. And you can be sure that the electronics the pests use can detect the presence of NoMoRobo when the program derails incoming nuisances.

So this afternoon the phone jangles. Caller ID reads, weirdly, Welcome! Please wait…


So I wait for it to ring through to my voicemail so I can capture their data and, if as suspected it’s a sales pitch, I can hang up on the bastards. When they give up, I click on the “last call” button to capture the phone number and caller ID so as to send it along to NoMoRobo, which collects this stuff. And what I got was…NOTHING.

Blank. Nothing. Dead as a doornail.

Well, f**k.

So I tried another phone set, and from that was able to download the (without a doubt spoofed) phone number. Sent this and a report of the exploit along to NoMoRobo.

But…this is a new one. That phone was not out of juice. It was sitting on a charger when I picked it up. And yeah, the charger was plugged in. So drained was it that it took about ten minutes for the handset to come back to life.

Now, you know and I know that I am batsh!t crazy. With that in mind, you will have to add whatever grains of salt you choose to this speculation:

I suspect that somehow they did something to disable my phone.

We know this is possible for cell phones: the technology exists to drain a cell phone’s power. Maybe this works on a battery-operated landline extension????

Why? Somebody out there (not surprisingly) really, REALLY does not like people to subscribe to NoMoRobo.

Anybody had this experience before?

Minor Annoyances of the Day


…park selves at back door and arf. Human gets up (having just barely brushed the seat of its easy chair with its fanny) and lets the dogs out. Dogs go out onto the patio and stand there, staring expectantly at human.

Human: It’s 105 and overcast out here, and you want to go outside and stand?

Dogs: Well, yes. Yes. Of course.


Phone Solicitors…

…apparently are having a phone-solicitor jamboree.

Despite the wonderful call blocking device, quite a few still get through. They do this by spoofing phone numbers that are not in service (reinforcing one’s suspicion that Cox is in cahoots with them: how else would they get such extensive lists of out-of-service numbers?), or simply by calling from numbers that the device has yet to block.

Even the calls that get blocked still jangle my phone: they ring once and then are cut off. This has to do with the way the gadget has to be connected, because of the number of computers and phones and crap that are attached to the incoming cable. In one way, this is annoying: whatever you’re doing still gets interrupted, albeit very briefly. In another, it’s kinda gratifying, because you know the bastards are getting hung up on. The ones that do get through, though, set off your answering machine, so you have to listen to that thing yap. Sometimes they stay on the line long enough to cause the answering machine to pick up the “busy” signal that ensues, so you have to get up, walk to the machine in the back of the house, and delete the voice message that’s going beep-beep-beep-beep-beep….

Today I’ve had at least eight calls, about half of which have gotten through. That’s just while I’ve been here: left the house at 6:30 a.m. and didn’t get back until sometime after 11.

Whoops! There’s another one: the third from “Bountiful, Utah” today!


…definitely are having a mosquito jamboree.

Don’t know when I’ve seen so many skeeters around. I think it’s probably because I left a dish of water out for the dawgs while it was excessively hot, because I was afraid Ruby would slip out unnoticed, as she’s inclined to do.

Cassie prefers to lurk indoors, but Ruby will go out and lurk in the yard even when it’s hotter than the proverbial hubs of Hades. I do try to check to be sure she’s inside, but given my growing level of incompetence, the chance remains that she’ll get herself stuck out there in the heat.

Even with water, she wouldn’t last long at 115 degrees. It’s cooled down to 105, so I brought the mosquito habitat inside. But that left, of course, a generation of little biters flying around.

There’s a chemical-free way to keep them from chewing on you, though: turn a reasonably powerful fan to “blast” and point it at yourself. Interestingly, mosquitoes are not very strong fliers, and they can’t navigate well in a breeze. Right now we have a large box fan roaring away. Whenever I work up enough energy to get up, I’ll turn on the other three table fans in this room. The box fan is sitting here next to the sliding door, because I take it out onto the deck at breakfast time by way of discouraging the little biters in the morning.


…Really? Is it really possible that I could get the date of a Mayo Clinic appointment wrong not once, not twice, but three times?

Entre nous, I begin to doubt it.

The journey from my house to the Mayo is halfway across the galaxy. I just simply HATE driving out there. So when I needed to traipse across town by way of finding out why whatever ails me has been hanging on for the past five and a half months, I was not pleased.

I had a meeting in Scottsdale this morning, which would put me about halfway there. So I arranged an appointment at 9:10. This meant that the errands I needed to do while I was in the area where the group meets had to be deferred until next week, and some of them are things I would like to get done this week, not sometime in the far future.

So I leave the meeting early and fly across Scottsdale headed toward Payson — for reasons I can’t imagine, the Mayo built its office complex damn near out to Fountain Hills, which borders the freaking Beeline Highway. Naturally, Shea Blvd, the only way to get out there, is all dug up with “lane closed” signs all over the place. But I hit the campus just in time: run up the parking garage stairs and race into the reception area, only to be told…

“Oh, that’s not today: that’s next week! :-)”

Son. Of. A. Bitch!

This is the third time I’ve trudged way to hell and gone almost to freaking Fountain Hills and been told the appointment I had on my calendar was not for that day but for a week hence.

The first time, I put it down to my usual old-lady incompetence.

The second time, I was really pissed.

But this time? Now I’m beginning to wonder.

Does it really make sense that I would get the date wrong for a trip I truly hate loathe and despise three times?

I go to a whole lot of doctors, dentists, veterinarians, car mechanics, and whatnot. Why would this keep happening only at the Mayo? It never happens with Young Dr. Kildare or CardioDoc or the glasses guy or the dentist or the hair stylist or the vet or the business meetings or choir…so why would it happen with the Mayo and only with the Mayo? Why would these errors consistently be exactly one week off, when they’re usually made pretty far out in the future? (This one wasn’t: I made it a few days ago, but mostly you’re scheduling three or four weeks down the line.)

(Wow! Here’s the fourth call from Bountiful! This guy just does not give up! Now we’re at about 9 nuisance calls today.)

So, yeah: does it really make sense that this kind of scheduling error would happen only with the Mayo?

If they’re deliberately mis-scheduling, why? Could that make sense in even the wildest scenario?

The only possible reason I can imagine is that the Mayo doesn’t like to deal with Medicare patients. Medicare doesn’t pay enough, and collecting is a hassle for them. The Mayo prioritizes private patients over Medicare patients. They may be quietly trying to discourage me from making appointments at all. If a person makes enough wasted trips — especially if the person is elderly or disabled and it’s hard to get out there at all — maybe she’ll just give up and go someplace else.

And I certainly would, if they weren’t about the only game in town.

Overall hospitals and medical care in Arizona are pretty piss poor. In the Phoenix area, only two hospitals are rated excellent; one is the Mayo and one is a facility way to hell and gone out in Sun City. I don’t know anybody who practices in Sun City, and I sure as hell don’t want to drive as far to the westside as I have to drive to the eastside to go to a doctor.

It’s late. I’ve got to get up and start preparing the walls for the upcoming paint job. And so, away…

Why? Because endlessly annoying Facebook will not pick up the image you want to illustrate your post. It wants to pick up the banner image, which, if it’s generically the same day after day, quickly bores readers or makes them think today’s post is a repeat of yesterday’s. So the only way to force FB to use an image that has anything to do with your post is to change the banner image to fit the subject of the day. That means today’s banner image (a historic photo of four Nazis, for example) bears no relation whatsoever to the topic of yesterday’s post (ruminations on power outages, for example). So annoying.