The Real Problem with Telemarketing

There’s been a disturbing trend developing in the telephone solicitations I’ve been getting lately. No, I’m not getting unduly large numbers of calls nor have I had anyone make any threats – I’m getting mostly robo-calls – recorded messages, a practice that is purportedly does away with the restrictions of do-not-call registry  but has also taken away one of my favorite sources of entertainment.

As I’ve written earlier I like to mess with telemarketers, and in the last couple of months I’ve come up with a response or two that definitely fluster an unwanted caller:

  • I will answer with “Caller Number Six – you’re on the air!” then follow up with a unanswerable contest question and a promise for a case of Turtle Wax and a copy of the home-version of “our game”.
  • When I get the caller’s name I’ll respond with “ Dude! Is that you? How are you doing? I don’t think I’ve heard from you since graduation!” , ask him if he still spends all his money at strip clubs and start pressing him to repay an old debt.
  • (My favorite) “Vector Control Office, Department 71. This is not a secure line. Colonel Taylor speaking”, then no matter what they answer I’ll come back with “HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER! Do not leave your location. Our personnel will be there momentarily!”.

I’ve gotten great responses with all three of this but it’s no fun when I pick up the phone and the first thing I hear is the whirr of a recording.

I’ve yet to figure out a way to scare a machine.

Here’s to Armistice Day!

BetterCaptainPhoto

… or Veteran’s Day or whatever you want to call it. I’m thankful the holiday is  celebrated under dramatically different conditions as it was when I was a young lieutenant.

To all my friends who put your young adulthood on hold to “take the king’s shilling” and wear a uniform – of any nation. Thank you for your service.

1968: Shear Pins and Pinky Rings

Rerun Saturday post for this week. I’ve been missing my Dad quite a bit lately and thinking of how at sixteen I grieved for him as the youngest case of senility ever, and then at twenty-one how surprised I was at how much he’d recovered in just five years.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

For all his years as a sailor in the Orient my father picked up very little foreign language. He occasionally answered the phone with a “mushi-mushi” or tacked the Japanese “-san” honorific to the ends of our names, but the only Asian word he used much was “cumshaw”. It’s a Chinese word that originally meant “grateful thanks” but use by American sailors over the years gradually changed its meaning to “anything obtained by other than official channels”. Think of the character “Crapgame” from Kelly’s Heroes or Milo Minderbinder from Catch 22 – but with the criminal aspect dialed quite a bit and you’ve got a good idea of the meaning.  For example, a tool set issued to replace one lost during an air raid comes with an extra undocumented hammer which gets traded to the cook for a steak peeled off the allotment for from the officer’s mess…

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Music “Friends”

 

  • Candle In The Wind
  • Tiny Dancer
  • Philadelphia Flyer

Ask anyone to name their favorite Elton John single and these three tunes will probably place high on the list. One of the least likely choices would be  “Friends” – and by that I don’t mean the TV sitcom Friends but a song from the soundtrack from an “okay” 1971 British teen romance film by the same name that interested me more for the cover art than for the music or any message in the film.

..a 1970 song that  didn’t really show up on my radar until the winter of 1988

When my family and I returned to the Kenai Peninsula my  good friend (Eu)Gene Faa was working as a deejay for KCSY, a soft-rock AM radio station based in Soldotna. He had rich baritone on-air presence with a voice devoid of the reedy quality his voice had when I first met him in the winter of 1971 when we were assigned to the same study-hall table. He was cousin of one of my better friends, so I’d been vaguely aware of his existence, but it wasn’t until I noticed him drawing  historically accurate sketches of German panzers instead of doing his  homework that I realized that there just might be  common ground between the two of us.

He wasn’t  physically striking and was unfortunately overshadowed by two most definitely-striking  step-siblings.  Red-headed, slight of build and equipped with a slight lisp he seemed to fit more into the slightly-annoying sidekick role than the buddy category, but a buddy he most definitely became as we would intermittently bump into each other over the next couple of decades as I would come and go from the Peninsula and the Lower 48. Each time we came back in contact we’d share our good news and bad news – marriage, military service, divorce, discharge, new careers and so on.

In those pre-Internet days I’d listen to the radio while I worked in the studio, and while KCSY was a bit too middle-of-the-road for me Gene would make a special effort to come up with a more diverse playlist if he knew I was listening. I’d try to liven things up by calling up with a disguised voice and requesting some Led Zeppelin or Def Leppard, songs that the programming format would never allow. Gene would give me a mercy-laugh for my all-too-transparent attempts at foreign accents, but during one such call he replied, “ I can’t play “Stairway to Heaven” for you Dave, but I’ve got some early Elton John that’s a decent  substitute.”

…then he played Friends” and I liked it right away. Simple melody with a string accompaniment that joins in about half-way through the song – always a good thing for me. Uncluttered lyrics with a message about friendship that avoids getting overly emotional. I made a comment about it the next time I ran into him at the mall, and from then on he made a point of playing it just before his show as over each noon, and when he did I knew he was waving to me – a “shout out” in contemporary terms.

Gene left the station and the Peninsula around Christmas of 1988 and other than a letter or two in the mid-Nineties  I never heard from him again – other than to find out that he’d passed away from complications from diabetes.

In his book “Thank God for The Atomic Bomb” the legendary academic and literary curmudgeon Paul Fussell made the observation that other than the very famous no one is remembered more than about seventy-five years past their death and Eugene seems to have beat that mark by about fifty years. As I’ve been writing on this piece I have failed to find any kind of record of Gene – even his relatives have little to say about him.

I don’t like that.

Eugene Faa did not exactly set the world on fire. Most of his life he struggled with the diabetes than finally took him  –  also a factor in his divorce and the primary reason he was discharged from the Alaska National Guard.  Gene didn’t command any armies, he didn’t make a fortune on Wall Street and he never held an elected office – but he was a good friend to me, and that’s why I’m writing this today. I’m hoping that publishing this post will get his name saved to enough computers and cloud storage facilities to make sure he’s remembered long past Professor Fussell’s seventy-five-year mark.

Gene was my friend.

Eugene Faa

 

1969: The Order of The Purple Toe

This week’s Saturday Morning re-run – I still shudder a bit when I read this story. Normally both Donny and I were fairly responsible young men but when we got together most of our individual good judgement disappeared. I’d like to think that being the country mouse and used to hunting I’d have cleared the weapon first, but to be brutally honest Don was the triggerman only because he’d picked up the rifle first.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

The summer of 1969 was a scary time for me in many ways. I had some big decisions coming up; I was half-way through high school and supposedly preparing for adult life but I was in fact totally clueless. There were a number of careers that had minor appeal but nothing that jumped out to me. I thought about police work but military service was also a strong possibility; not only was the conflict in Viet-Nam running hot at the time, I was a “navy brat” and military service – especially career military service – tends to follow family lines. I was a little worried though – while there were aspects of military life had great appeal to me, the very real prospect of death or wounding had very little appeal. The Purple Heart was a medal I really didn’t want to win.

There was more than school and career…

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Friend Events!

It’s tough maintaining a social life when you’re stuck in a studio most of the time,  so it’s a real treat when an unexpected  “frent” (friend event) happens in my life. It’s even better when more than one of these “frents” happen in short order, which is exactly what came about this last month.

The first good news involves  Oscar Hokeah, a digital-age friend whom I’ve never physically met but who shares a love for accurately launching words in the same way  an expert marksman likes to hit the “ten-ring”. Oscar just got a book deal and while most writers write because word-crunching is woven into their DNA it’s always  nice to get some of that external validation1.

The other “frent” involves a buddy from years ago,  and by “years ago” I mean decades. Dave Doering was a fellow member of The Happy Valley Space Academy 2 a  loose-knit group of artists and fans living in the Provo-Orem area in the late 1980s. We’d meet once a month to socialize and share our work but Dave wasn’t above about stopping by during the month as well…and more importantly wasn’t above serving as an impromptu model when I needed reference material and the deadline was short.

Dave is a writer/podcaster interested in the fan/mundane interface and since the early 1980’s has been instrumental in both the establishment and conduct of a writer’s conference dubbed Life, The Universe and Everything. Dave and I lost contact when my family and I left Utah Valley in 1987 and I was pleasantly surprised to get a phone call from him during an otherwise dismal week.

Below is an example of a last-minute modeling job Dave sat in on:

 

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2018: In Praise of Middles

My father said it best:

“Between the optimist and the pessimist

The difference is oh-so-droll

An optimist the doughnut sees

The pessimist: the hole”

That idea/meme (or slight variations of that idea) have popped up in countless other times and places in my life. My particular favorite version came from engineer and SMOF (Secret Master of Fandom) “Uncle” Timmy Bolgeo: “ An optimist may see a glass of water half-way full while a pessimist see it as being half-empty, but show that glass to an engineer and he’ll see a storage facility with 50% excess capacity”,

I’ve decided that I am neither a half-empty or half-full person.

I like things in the middle.

The thought came to me as I opened a little carton of yogurt this morning. Actually that wasn’t my first thought – my first impression was a feeling of annoyance with the French, because before they introduced their six-ounce containers of Yoplait to America in 1977 we were all happy with hefty eight-ounce cartons. I’ve always wondered if that six-ouncer was passive-aggressive retaliation for all the French jokes we told in New England, but I digress,

Open a carton of yogurt and the first thought is “Do I really want to eat this too or will the poached egg take me all the way to lunch”. Your last thought is mild annoyance as you try to scrape the last ½ ounce from the embossed risers and ribs on the bottom of the cup.

….but in the middle?

Mmmmm!

It’s the same way with vacations. We were blessed with a two-week vacation back home to Alaska during both the summer of 1997 and the summer of 1999. Both visits played out pretty much the same:

  • jet-lag and nostalgia over-dose for the first few days
  • packing-anxiety and teary-eyed anticipation of parting AGAIN for the last few…

…but for four or five days in the middle of our stay it was glorious. We still had plenty of money left in our trip-budget, our friends and family had finally been able to adjust schedules to accommodate individual visits and the specter of departure was too far away to loom very effectively.

I think it makes for a healthy philosophy for life in general. Rather than fuss about what I didn’t get in the past (half-empty) or what riches I might amass in the future (half-full) I think I’d rather concentrate on the blessings I have right now.

In the middle.

…the light went on!

JaydenEnrouteOralSurgery

Sharing a home with a five-year old was not something on my radar even just a few years ago – but at this point I couldn’t imagine life without him. I’m a little weepy this morning – he’s had some dental problems and right now he’s undergoing oral surgery. I’m sure he’ll do fine but between my paranoia and an overactive imagination  I still get edgy…

(my daughter sent this photo to me from the trip to the oral surgeon’s office)

 He’s an amazing young man and extremely curious about the world. Any five-year-old asks a lot of questions but he is extremely detailed in his enquiries. For example, he likes to have the lights on during the day. Lots of lights. ALL THE LIGHTS. I finally sat down and tried as best I could to explain the idea of electricity and paying for utilities, but I wasn’t sure he had a grasp on the subject until later on in the afternoon.

 After I finished my impromptu lesson I turned off all the lights in the room and we parted ways, Jayden to his bedroom and me to the studio. I was a little perturbed when I returned to the room later on in the afternoon and found every single light turned on…but then I noticed a quarter, a nickel and three pennies in the middle of the table and realized that Jayden had most definitely understood our discussion we’d had earlier in the day – the discussion about paying for utilities.

The Perception of an Extra Sense

I grew up being taught that humans have five senses:

  • Sight
  • hearing
  • touch
  • taste
  • smell

Since then I’ve read that there a few more such as:

  • balance
  • temperature
  • proprioception 1

(I’ve also seen lists that include pain, thirst, direction and sexual stimulation but I’m most interested in those senses that collect information about our environment)

There’s yet another sense that I have been unsuccessfully trying to identify and name for most of my life, a sense that can be difficult to describe. It involves physical location (including climate, weather and day/night cycle), sounds, and smells that combine with an internal sensation that tickles my brain much like what happens when  I eat foods like Vidalia onions manifest taste in the back of my mouth rather than with my tongue.

For example: It’s a late afternoon in the fall with the sun slanting to one side and there is a storm on the horizon. I start to  get Stukas2 in my stomach, my five traditional senses get oh-so-sharp, and my thinking quickens beyond belief. Add a smell like a trace of wood smoke the air and the effect intensifies; give me a headset with Gordon Lightfoot or the Moody Blues playing and the needle on my intense-o-meter pegs over to the redline.

Bear in mind that there are no chemical influences involved – no alcohol or drugs but nonetheless the feeling almost becomes second sight and I can see the world as is should be. It’s not a particularly happy feeling as in found-a-ten-spot-in-the-couch-cushion happy but rather a sublime feeling of “rightness” much like the feeling I get when I’m listening to beautiful music.

A prime example happened in the fall of 1980 when I was out running the FT Richardson exercise parcours2  with my nephew Erik. It was a gloriously golden day you only get with an autumn in Alaska and as the path ran next to a stream I fell into the physical/mental state I described above.

It all came together:

  • The slight chill of a morning breeze
  • The warm sunshine peeking over the Chugach Mountains
  • The slightly acrid smell of cranberries late in the season
  • The musical sound of the creek
  • Warm memories of FT Richardson when I was the same age as my nephew

For a few moments I was so incredibly >bleeping< happy I thought my head would explode and that everything  – and I mean capital E- Everything in the world was OK3.

I’ve also experienced similar episodes that I later realized were  simple environmental cues triggering old memories but this is different – and very hard to verbalize. It’s also something that doesn’t happen very often or on a regular basis and  I can go years between occurrences.

…and I can’t help but wonder if other people have similar experiences….


Notes

  1. AKA kinesthetic sense or the ability to know where our limbs are in relation to our body. It’s the sense that enables you to touch your nose with your eyes closed
  2. You may get butterflies in your stomach, but the sensation can get pretty intense with me and seems more in line with effect of German dive-bombers designed in 1933.
  3. French term referring to a jogging path with exercise/obstacle stations situated at regular intervals along the trail. In the late 1970’s the concept was Imported from Europe to just about every post in the Army.
  4. A minor miracle as I was still coming to grips with a medical grounding from flight status the previous spring.