Things I Know

Have a happy New Year everyone: That’’s New Year, not New Years.

My dad retired from the New York City Police Department when I was six years old. Even at that young age, I knew he detested dealing with the drunks while he was on duty as a uniformed cop on New Year’’s Eve in Times Square. At that very young age, his hatred of New York City’s iconic New Year’’s Eve celebration impressed me so much that even when I was a teenager, I never wanted to be in Times Square on New Year’’s Eve to watch the ball drop from what used to be the NY Times building.

I occasionally comment on this blog about the correct way to handle crisis PR. If you want to see how to bring the entire Internet down on your head, then handle the crisis PR yourself and do it horribly wrong, Google either of the following two terms: “Paul Christoforo” or “Ocean Marketing.”

One thing that will happen in 2012 is the beginning of the end of incandescent light bulbs. They use a lot more energy to produce light than some newer technology does. On the other hand, they’’re a lot cheaper to buy than the new technology. It’’s not against the law to buy or use them, but it’s against the law to make certain wattage incandescent bulbs going forward.

Judging by what I’’ve seen this week on TV, we’’re going to have to deal with a lot of “documentaries” about the Mayan calendar that stops on December 21st, 2012. Lots of people have predicted the end of the world and nobody has been right so far. I predict that trend will continue, so when I take down my Christmas decorations next week, I’’m going to put them away, not throw them away.

If I can’’t figure out how to stop Google Music from launching when it wants instead of when I want, I’’m going to delete it from my computer sometime in January.

Even though the post office raised the first class postage rate to 45 cents, they raised the rate for post card stamps from 29 to 32 cents. This means that the post office remains one of the few American institutions that continue to push for the use of pennies.

I think we could do away with pennies, nickels and dimes. About the only thing I’’ve bought with a quarter recently was time at a parking meter.

There are two ways to be a successful broadcaster. Either learn the craft and do it better than anyone else, or do something compelling and entirely different from anyone else. In the second category was New York broadcaster Lynn Samuels. Lynn had a grating voice and a strong New York accent, both antithetical to the usual standard for broadcasters, and in a time of conservative talk radio she was a liberal with a decidedly independent stance. With that against her, she was smart, honest, funny, and well worth listening to. She once broadcast on WABC radio in New York, and was most recently heard on Sirius satellite radio. Lynn died unexpectedly on Christmas Eve, long before she ran out of things to say. Sad.

Rachel Redux

And before I get started, let me say that I’’m surprised MS Word’s spell-checker doesn’’t recognize the term redux. I mean the MS Word spell-checker knows Mandelbrot, so why not redux?

I heard from Rachel again around 2:40 this afternoon. You know, the robocalling voice from Cardholder Services. Honey, if you’re reading this, I’’m not falling for it. I won’’t buy anything from you, or anyone else who tries to sell me something over the phone. If you buy something from these people, it only encourages a practice that needs no encouragement.

The rest of you, just haven’’t done enough to stop this since I first posted about Rachel on December 15th. If you need more ideas than I suggested previously, try signing on to www.youtube.com and searching for telemarketer. There, you will find numerous recordings of Tom Mabe’’s classic telemarketer prank. Mr. Mabe has made at least two CD’s of calls from telemarketers who then received his off-beat reactions. The classic prank involves Mr. Mabe telling the telemarketer that he’s called a crime scene, the guy he wants to talk to has been murdered, and the cop he’’s talking to is going to call him in for questioning.

Since I have a terribly bad memory for names, another one I found on You Tube amused me a lot. The recipient of the call engaged the telemarketer for a few moments and then told her, that he had a bad memory and had forgotten why he called her. If you want a good laugh, Google the term “telecrapper 2000.” That’’s where I found the particular You Tube video, and other funny things too.

I had a telezapper when they first came out, but it died in a few years, and I didn’’t replace it. They’’re still available, but there are also more sophisticated robocall blockers available now. I haven’’t tried it, but I’’ve read that pressing the # key sometimes causes telemarketing systems to drop your number from their call list.

And here’s a warning. On the weekend before Christmas, I stayed in a Hilton Hotels property, in this case, a Homewood Suites. I liked the hotel a lot, but from my experience since then, and from the things I’’ve been reading on the Internet if you stay at a Hilton property, it appears you’’re likely to get called by Hilton’’s “Grand Vacation Club” which sells timeshares. I’’m on the federal no call list which kind of tells all telemarketers that I’’m not interested. Yet, one of the exemptions to that no call law is for people who have a business relationship with you. Hilton seems to interpret this as meaning that if I stayed in their hotel they have a relationship that allows them to call me and try to sell me a timeshare. The lady asked me if I was married, single or cohabiting. I said yes. She asked me again and I asked her why that was any of her business. She said she wanted to provide me with a trip to Las Vegas. I told her I am not interested. If that doesn’’t work, I can always call the Homewood Suites I stayed at, and tell them they have a relationship that enables me to never patronize Hilton hotels again if they keep calling.

While I have had the same telephone number for more than 30 years, in the future, I’’m going to give all businesses my Google phone number so that I can filter their subsequent calls.

Whether it’s a robocaller or a human telemarketer, I know that telemarketing provides jobs. However, the very concept is annoying, and an invasion of privacy. So I urge you not to buy anything from telemarketers, and either mess with them, or do what you can to block their calls, or all three.

Things I Know

Christmas is great, but it’’s even better when there are young children around to enjoy it with.

I’’ve bought my wife, Saint Karen (she has to be a saint to put up with me), a lot of nice presents over the years, and a few silly ones. I told you about the chocolate turkeys I once got her for Valentine’’s Day, but Christmas reminds me of more. Once, I rented a present. I bought a VCR and rented the video tape of a movie she liked. I presented the rented movie wrapped up as a gift. When I bought a new garbage can at Christmas time, I put it next to the tree as a present for her. Of course, I put all of her other presents, nicely wrapped, inside. This year, for Christmas, I got her a new squeegee. She keeps one in the car to wipe dew off the windows when she goes out in the morning, but the one she has is old and grungy. So, I bought her a new one, and because she’’s short, I got her one with a longer handle. How do you gift-wrap a squeegee? I don’’t know, so I just put a red bow on it and put it under the tree. She laughed and making her laugh was my own present to myself.

By the way, I think the secret to our long, successful marriage is I don’’t leave and I don’’t let her leave either.

I have to apologize to my daughter. She got me what I asked for this Christmas, a lens hood for a new lens I bought for my camera. Unfortunately, I wrote down the wrong model and it doesn’’t fit the right model, so one of us will have to take it back and exchange it for the right one.

I read a few months ago that public schools in lots of states are no longer teaching cursive writing or script as it’’s sometimes called. The idea is that very few people use script for writing anymore. I think they’’re right. Except for signing my name, I think the last time I wrote in script was last year when I filled out Christmas cards. Hand writing them this year seemed strange and my handwriting has never won any prizes, but with lack of practice, it is getting worse.

Winter started the other day so it is now appropriate to look forward to both spring and baseball spring training: February 18th is the first day for pitchers and catchers to work out for at least two major league teams, the Twins and the Cardinals. That’’s fewer than two months, so let the countdown begin!

The wood inside the walls of my 103-year-old house (lath, beams, rafters, studs, headers, etc.) is so hard that I can’’t drive screws into it without pre-drilling them. I’’m painting the dining room and before applying the paint, I have to fix the nails that have popped out and repair any cracks too.

I’’m kind of out of practice at using Spackle or other wall repair compounds. If I was as good as I used to be, this would be going a lot faster.

When placing doors, windows, molding, etc., you should always leave yourself enough room to get the necessary finishing tools like wallboard knives, and paint brushes next to them to take care of the exposed walls. I already knew that, but I didn’’t do that.

For some places, like behind the toilet, the best way to protect what you don’t want to paint is plastic food wrap.

I have a ten-foot-tall holly at one corner of my house. I planted it there when it was a foot tall to become part of my Christmas decorations. I light it like a Christmas tree. I’’d post a picture, but I haven’t pruned it in the last couple of years and it’’s not very cone shaped right now. I have a 15-foot-tall holly in my back yard. I found that when it was tiny, growing as a weed under one of the shrubs next to my house. So, if there’s one thing I know how to do, apparently it’’s how to grow holly. I guess there’s a future waiting for me as a holly farmer if I choose to pursue it.

I’’ve mentioned before that the spelling and grammar checkers in Microsoft Word have no idea how to discern the correct use of the word “its” and the contraction “it’’s.” Today, I suggest that Microsoft programmers either get a clue about that or stop trying to make the distinction at all. To be of some help, ““it’’s”” is the possessive form and means belonging to “it” while “”its”” is the plural of “it.” That was my weak attempt at a joke. I know both of the definitions I just provided are wrong.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Is the world really going to end this time next year, or did the Mayans just go out of business (due to a hostile takeover by Spain) before they could publish a sequel to that famous calendar?

Can somebody please explain to me why some of the packages I order on line sit around my local post office for two days before they’’re delivered? According to the tracking data they provide, a package I ordered arrived at my local post office on Monday and was slated for delivery on Wednesday.

There is a small community off Rte 17 in upstate NY called Fishs Eddy. I’’m reminded of it because I drove past it over the weekend. Shouldn’’t it have an apostrophe in its name, or another “e?”

If you’’re in the express checkout line at the supermarket, do you mind if the person in front of you has more than the approved number of items? I hate it! If I ran a supermarket, and you got on the line with too many items, I’’d check out the number allowed, and tell you to go stand on the line again.

If you were looking for a recipe for Sushi, would you find one in a cookbook? I mean Sushi isn’’t cooked, right?

Do on-line merchants start their post Christmas sales after Christmas, or after they can no longer guarantee delivery of presents by Christmas?

I’’m pretty sure we won’’t have a white Christmas on Long Island, but if it stays as warm as it has been for much longer, do you think we can have fresh, home-grown tomatoes?

Things I Know

This is the ugliest carpet I’

I contend that the ugliest rugs in the world can be found in hotel hallways. I think it’s probably because a pattern like this will hide dirt, and stains pretty well.

I visited Cornell University over the weekend to see my niece graduate. I also picked up a new Cornell sweatshirt (I now have three, two reds, and a blue). My wife said I’’m not allowed to wear the new one while painting the house. I also picked up a new Cornell tie to replace the gravy-stained one. It would have been cheaper to order both over the Internet from the campus store, but I was proud to see my niece graduate, and we all had a nice time.

While we were in Ithaca, I took my wife to see the local Wegman’’s Supermarket. Now, she wants to move upstate, not to Ithaca, to Wegman’’s.

You’’ve lived with an interior paint job for years, and think it looks fine. They, you decide to repaint the room, just to change the color, of course. The walls are wrecked! I have a couple of days of Spackling to do in my dining room, and hope I can finish painting it before Christmas.

I capitalized “Spackling,” by the way, because it is a trade name, and it has so much of the market the company is probably in danger of losing the trademark. And, yes, I did use Spackle for my Spackling job.

I hate everyone who is more organized than I am. In other words, I hate almost everyone.

The lady in front of me in the express line at the supermarket must have had close to 100 items. For one thing, she practically bought out the canned cat food line. Hey, it was on sale. I know it doesn’’t work, but I still wish something awful would happen to people like that who abuse the limits in supermarket express checkout lines.

Usually, when someone says an investment lost money, they mean that the investment isn’’t worth what it once was. In the case of MF Global, apparently the now bankrupt investment firm really did lose $1.2 billion. My best guess: somebody or a bunch of somebodies stole it. I don’’t think you can have $1.2 billion in bad bookkeeping. If you have that kind of money, you’’d hire accountants who are too good to lose $1.2 billion, in other words, you’d hire virtually any accountants who hadn’’t done time for embezzlement.

If they really did lose the money, my wife is very good at finding my stuff, and I’’m sure she would be willing to look for the money for a percentage of what she finds.

Anne Coulter turned 50 recently. For those of you befuddled by Ms. Coulter, it helps to remember, she’’s not a political commentator; she’’s a performance artist.

If you are walking around the supermarket, and chatting a mile a minute with nobody near you, many people will think you’’re on the phone if you’re wearing a Bluetooth headset. However, I’’ll still think you’’re talking to yourself, and you’’re nuts.

Rachel from Cardholder Services

I have a theory that Rachel from Cardholder Services isn’t really working for a company called Cardholder Services, and she isn’t working for a telemarkeing company calling on behalf of that company either. I think Rachel is working on behalf of telephone companies to encourage people to buy caller ID services.

Rachel has called me three times in the past two days. I’m not that starved for human contact: It’s a Christmas present I really don’t need. I’m a little surprised that when I Googled “Rachel from Cardholder Services” I only got 42,400 hits. I’m not surprised that when I looked through the first two pages of the Google list, I didn’t find anyone praising her, and expressing the joy they feel whenever she calls (and she does call frequently). I find it hard to believe that annoying the vast majority of potential customers is an effective marketing strategy, but I guess it must be or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

I know being on the federal no call list doesn’t work to stop the calls. I know talking to a representative, telling them I’m on the federal no call list, and asking to be removed from their list doesn’t work. I’m told that dropping your land line doesn’t work either because they do call cell phones although that’s against the law too. I know selecting #2 so they won’t be calling me again doesn’t work. I’m told that if you talk to them, and ask for the contact information so you can send them a don’t call letter and begin suing them results in them hanging up on you although I haven’t tried that yet. I’ve heard the Federal Trade Commission got a multi-million-dollar judgement against the people they think are doing it, and that hasn’t worked either.

As 2011 comes to a close, I have a long list of people I’d like to annoy in 2012. Does anyone here know how I can contact Rachel? She must work inexpensively because I’m sure the number of people who buy Cardholder Services services is very low compared to the number of annoying phone calls she, and the company she works for place. Seriously, I’m plenty annoying on my own when I want to be, and if I’m not annoying enough, I’m related to more than one lawyer so I can always call on family for help. But I would like to stop Rachel.

So, here’s my suggestion with props to www.419eater.com. That website began as a way to go after the Nigerian email scam that tried to convince naive people that a Nigerian government official or banker needed their help to smuggle money out of that country, and that the emailer was willing to share large amounts of money with the gullible subject in order to accomplish this. They now go after other scams too. The person or people who run that website, and the people who send suggestions to them share ways in which they waste the time of the Nigerian scammers. By the way, I don’t even know if the scammers are Nigerian. I only know they say they are. They may not be. They’re scammers after all. Reading 419eater.com is entertaining. People trying to waste scammers’ time can be very creative. 419eater.com, however, deals mostly with email scams, not annoyance phone calls.

Let’s waste Rachel’s time and the time of her cohorts who pick up the phone if you press the right button. Press the right button to talk to a representative. Be cordial. Engage the person on the other end of the phone. Ask them if they know that George Washington wasn’t born on his birthday. See if you can get them to send you something in writing or give you a call back number so you’ll have more to identify them when you file a formal complaint with the FTC. If they ask how you are, tell them you have terminal cancer, or that although the doctors amputated your leg, it still feels like it’s there, and it still hurts. Tell them that your children are being really nasty to you, and trying to rob you of your millions, or that your dog just died, and you’re really, really sad. Tell them you have to talk quickly or the attendant at the mental hospital will make you hang up the phone. Maybe even breathe heavily into the phone, but don’t descend into obscenity-laced ranting. Don’t threaten them either. I believe obscene phone calls and threats of violence are illegal, and you don’t want to break the law yourself. Ask them to hold on for a minute while you go answer the door. Tell them you’re glad they called because it gives you the opportunity to ask them if they’ve accepted the Lord, Jesus Christ as their personal God, and Savior. Be creative folks. I can’t think of everything.

In other words, waste their time. Instead of hanging up every time they call, see if you can get them to hang up every time you call. If it takes them ten minutes to deal with everyone they call, and nobody buys what they’re selling, they’ll have to stop eventually. I’m depending on you dear readers. And if that doesn’t work, maybe we can get anonymous or 4chan to take thwarting Rachel from Cardholder Services on as a cause.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

Is “bookkeeping” the only word in the English language with three double letters in a row?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sears Holdings Corp. owner of Sears and K-Mart lost $421 million in the quarter ending October 31st. Some retail analysts think the company is planning to milk its stores, sell its respected brands, and then sell off the real estate, and get out of retail. If Sears does go out of business, what happens to the lifetime guarantee on all my Craftsman tools?

How did Santa handle the naughty, and nice list before we had computerized databases, and tracking cookies?

Can you remember the last time you chewed gum? I can’’t remember the last time I did.

Has any supermarket anywhere ever had 2-liter bottles of Coke, and Pepsi on sale the same week?

Do you think my wife will buy it if I tell her I need a compressor, and a couple of nail guns to build radiator covers and book cases? More importantly, will she let me buy the kit?

Are there really very few people who want bubble lights on their Christmas trees? The reason I ask is that the replacement lights are getting harder, and harder to find. The hardware store down the street used to stock them, but stopped two years ago, and bubble lights burn out faster than any other Christmas decoration I have.

Things I Know

I don’’t suppose it’’s national news, but there’’s a cheating scandal over SAT scores here on Lawn Guy Land. Some high school students supposedly paid some college students to take the exam for them. As I understand it, one of the fraudulent test takers received several hundred dollars to achieve a combined score of 1,920 out of 2,400 on the test. As I figure it, that’’s a solid B. I got 1,500 on the test when the highest possible score was 1,600. I’’d be happy to take the test for others except for two things: I’’m too old to pass for a high school student; and taking the SAT for someone else is a felony, at least where I live.

In the last item, MS Word’s grammar checker objected to my use of the contraction “it’’s,” but would have allowed me to substitute “it is.” Sometimes it tells me both “it’’s,” and “its” are wrong, but it has never told be both are correct.

It’’s a little early to conduct the voting, but the current TV commercial for Fruit of the Loom t-shirts has to be considered a front runner for stupidest commercial of the year.

Pillsbury is advertising its cinnamon rolls on TV as containing Cinnabon cinnamon. That’’s fine, but on those rare occasions that I go to Cinnabon, it’’s not for the cinnamon, it’’s for the gooey, sticky white icing.

Speaking of cinnamon, I’’ve been experimenting with adding it to my oatmeal. I got up to two heaping teaspoons full, and I could barely taste it. At that rate, I don’’t think I’’ll continue to raise the stakes.

Thinking I would like it, my daughter bought me a geek present from a vendor on Etsy.com. I do like it, so I was looking through the website for something else and found a “blue screen of death” t-shirt. As one more proof that there’’s always someone who doesn’’t get it, the shirt comes in 14 colors, and only three of them are blue.

Vacuum cleaner is a peculiar term, because a vacuum is clean by definition. However, vacuum cleaner or shop vacuum for home use is a very simple tool, usually easy to repair. My wife’’s family kept an upright Hoover going for 40 years or more. I had to clean the powered beater bar on the carpet attachment for our canister vac yesterday. Two things about repairing a vacuum: it’’s handy to have a second vacuum around so you can clean up the mess you find inside the one you’’re fixing, and keep that mess from getting all over the house; and if I didn’’t have the manual for mine, I would never have been able to take it apart without breaking it.

I usually lose paperwork, so when I buy any appliance, if it has a manual, I try to download it to my computer. I haven’’t lost the computer yet, and while I have had a couple of hard drive failures over the years, I back up pretty regularly, so it hasn’’t been a problem.

We don’t use our formal dining room a lot, but we used it for Thanksgiving dinner. It was the first time since I reupholstered the dining room chairs. I didn’’t just change the fabric; I also replaced the seat cushions with thicker, softer ones, and replaced the plywood base of one of the chairs. What an improvement! Not only are the chairs much more comfortable, but the new fabric looks really classy. Additionally, I treated the chairs with Scotchguard so they ought to be stain resistant as well.