A Useful, If Minor, Life-Hack


Are you still getting those NYC area-code scam calls from a recording speaking entirely Chinese on your cell phone? Has nothing succeeded in getting them to stop? I found a way to at least make them entertaining!

I spent a month or so (six calls) pressing arbitrary numbers when I got one of these calls, in hopes of indicating enough interest in whatever scam they were selling to get a human on the phone. I finally found it with option “9”. It happened this morning.

Then, I implemented my plan. On the theory that my once fluent but now terrible Danish would sound more or less like broken English to someone whose first language was neither of those, I cheerily launched into a conversation with the nice man on the phone.

He clearly spoke almost no English, throwing together nothing more capable than two-word phrases like “Speak Chinse”, and “good oppotunity”, so most of what he said was Chinese (of which I speak perhaps ten words, none of which were remotely useful in these circumstances, but that was the point!), but he seemed game. Speaking entirely in whatever Danish I could still muster, I proceeded to spend perhaps ten minutes telling him, in the most polite and pleasant tones I could muster, what I thought of his personal hygiene, appearance, and intelligence, and providing a number of instructions as to what he should do, primarily to himself and his own mother. I found that the key to success in my little game was to listen carefully to what he said and try to sound as though I was responding to it. Well, that and occasionally dropping the English phrase “How much?”, in an attempt to ensure he thought there was a chance of a sale…

Speaking only western languages, I find the tonal nature of Chinese difficult to understand even on an emotional level, but I’m pretty sure that he was becoming more and more agitated as this went on, to my delight. After ten minutes or so, he apparently gave up, as we were abruptly disconnected mid-sentence (his, not mine).

Now, I know this sounds like a petty waste of my time, but consider:

  • I was nearly peeing my pants laughing after ten minutes of politely insulting this person to his face in the most creative ways I could think of, so I had some real fun.
  • I got to practice my Danish for the first time in years (maybe not the ideal vocabulary set, but still).
  • It is more than likely that I ruined that scammer’s morning, which I consider a karmic responsibility discharged.
  • During those ten minutes, I tied up a con-artist, meaning that he could not be engaged in bilking some elderly Chinese man or woman out of their life-savings.
  • All of these things together provided me a few moments of true joy in the midst of an otherwise drab workday.

Seriously, you should try it!

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Further Conversations With A Toddler

20-month-old: Why? Why?!?

Me: *blink*… Why what?

20-month-old: Why! *makes scrubbing motion with hands*

Me: *thinking furiously* Wait… Do you want a wipe?

20-month-old: Eeyeh! *nodding yes*

Me: *handing one over* Here you go, baby.

20-month-old: Denk!

Me: You’re welcome.

20-month-old: *giggles*

I believe I am compiling a toddler-to-English dictionary…

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Never Meet Your Heroes…

I had one of the most distasteful experiences of my life today. Not worst, mind you, it just almost literally left a bad taste in my mouth.

I follow a number of my favorite authors on Facebook. Some have a lot to say, others just post when they are releasing new books and the like, but I derive a great deal of satisfaction from the tenuous connection to their creative stars. One of them, today, posted a rather (I thought) overwrought indictment of NASA’s current plans over the addition of a manned moon expedition. His assertion was that there is “no reason to do it, whatsoever. “

Out of curiosity over whether he would engage more than anything else, I posted the opinion that there is at least one good reason to go back, the potential to do research on Helium 3, which, technical details aside, might come to nothing, but if successfully exploited would be a massive scientific and economic boon to whoever mastered it, and might even save our environment. Needless to say, I was polite, and provided links to a number of articles and papers to back up my statements. His response literally took my breath away. He posted an angry diatribe about some sort of “cult of Helium-3”, and how my position was a “pack of incantations”, demanding that I “prove one damn thing”.

My response was that I could not, of course, prove anything, first because “prove” isn’t really how science works, and second because I was suggesting that we needed to do the research to gain his “proof” on the moon, if we wanted to have any degree of certainty of its potential. His own response was even angrier, had no argument and was primarily an insult. I pointed out that that wasn’t an argument, and told him what I thought of his insulting and aggressive manner. He responded with a long, angry series of misstatements and flat-out made up shit about things I had said.

It went a bit beyond that, me now more aggressively trying to figure out why he was being such a dick, and him being progressively more of a dick with each response before asking me to leave, but all respect I had for the man was pretty much lost at that point, so the rest really doesn’t matter…

Never meet your heroes, they invariably turn out to be dicks!

Posted in For Facebook, Personal, Uncategorized, Whimsical | 1 Response

Final Minutes…

A plague is upon the clan. It came first for the children, slowly turning them into foul fountains of noxiousness. My wife and I ministered to them for days, knowing what was to come.

At last, it came for my wife. She soldiered on for many hours, but eventually succumbed to it, ensconcing herself in blankets and pillows in the corner of a couch. Grimly, I carried on the business of life, deprived of my beloved partner.

Then, a few hours ago, the faintest whisper of a shiver brushed my spine. Knowing the clock was ticking, I hurried the entirety of my besieged clan through the absolute necessities of the evening, every passing moment developing new portents of what was to come as I navigated dogs, children and wife through what passed for dinner and evening ablutions. All preparations were completed just in time, as my alimentary tract began to visit violence upon me.

The shivers have now returned, and I have only these few precious moments of clear-headedness remaining to me in which to chronicle our travails.

I am: “Bed Man Walking”

Posted in Family, For Facebook, Personal, Uncategorized, Whimsical | 1 Response

Thought-policing Triumphant

Today, Facebook and Twitter began a purge, ostensibly to get rid of “spam”. In their announcement, Facebook described their reasons in some detail, and at least one of those reasons chills my blood.

*I* discovered what was going on because two of the Facebook pages I tend to watch because they twig me to political/social developments that rarely make it to major news outlets suddenly began showing up as:

After visiting their websites, I became aware that per Facebook, they had removed “559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

In and of itself, removing fake accounts and spam isn’t terribly disturbing. What *is* disturbing is that the two pages I was looking for, “Free Thought Project” and “Police the Police” are *NOT* spam, or inauthentic, or even particularly “coordinated”, by any reasonable definition. The only part of Facebook’s statement that would even remotely apply to either would be:

these networks increasingly use sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites, earning money for every visitor to the site. And like the politically motivated activity we’ve seen, the “news” stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate. This is why it’s so important we look at these actors’ behavior – such as whether they’re using fake accounts or repeatedly posting spam – rather than their content when deciding which of these accounts, Pages or Groups to remove.

Let that sink in a minute. Valid news, “indistinguishable from legitimate political debate” (which I’m almost 100% certain is a really dishonest way of saying “legitimate political debate”) is being banned because the topics they choose have been arbitrarily declared “sensational”, and/or (gasp) they try to sell stuff on their websites to support their publishing!

How much “legitimate political debate” has been banned, as opposed to actual spam? No one knows for sure, but reports by “The Anti-Media” (also banned) and Slate seem to think that this is a purge of almost exclusively political pages and members. The wild part is that while much of the banning seems to have been oriented toward conservative/pro-Trump organizations, a large portion seems to have targeted pro-left or libertarian groups/accounts.

Now, to be sure, Facebook and Twitter are private organizations, and have every right to do whatever they want with their platforms. The nightmare here is that a *lot* of these groups are anti-establishment in tenor, and their very popularity is likely what got them banned. In a climate where most of the electorate opposes the actions of our government in one way or another, and for the first time in a long time is actually somewhat energized in that opposition, is it surprising that alternative media groups not willing to ignore actual problems unaddressed by the major media or political parties would be popular? I don’t know what percentage of the banned sites were actual spam, rather than “sensational topics”, and there are surely a number of valid removals, but even a five minute search of the internet turned up dozens of perfectly valid, if somewhat small and overly ad-contented news outlets in the latter group.

Facebook and Twitter are only two of many media outlets, certainly, but they currently constitute a massive percentage of the world’s news discovery channels. There is a massive cost to moving to smaller social media outlets in terms of viewership and ability to remain financially solvent. Actions like this one WILL kill off a large number of the smaller, issues-based media sites, regardless of affiliation.

First they came for the speech of the Nazis, and I did not speak out-
  Because I was not a Nazi.
Then they came for the speech of the tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorists, and I did not speak out-
  Because I was not a tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorist.
Then they came for the speech of the people who thought the police shouldn’t murder unarmed people in our streets, and

Posted in Personal | 1 Response
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