Thursday, October 30, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Dear Skunky XX -- Opportunistic Translations
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Anyone who's moved and had to schedule the various and sundry changeover of services (phone, cable, etc), has most likely had at least one untoward experience with it in their life. Anyone who's spent the better part of a day awaiting scheduled services with a company that "will get there" and doesn't, can identify at least somewhat with what follows.
In the spring of '00, I moved to my current location. With plenty of moves in my life, I am a faux pro at it, but one thing I excel at -- besides being a wiseass and flatulent -- is organizing services and having my ducks lined up in advance of a move. I was particularly ready on this one.
Or so I believed, up to the day before what would transpire over the next several days. This is a true story, absolutely lacking in embellishments. I couldn't of made this up if I'd tried.
The phone company Qwest -- formerly US West -- wishes I'd forget it.
Moving is as easy or as hard as one wants to make it. Pre-planning goes a long way toward making it easier, even if you're doing the bulk of the moving yourself (as I was). So on the same day that I'd signed my new lease -- three weeks in advance of 'M Day' -- I made all the requisite calls for utilities, cable, and telephone service. All was arranged to go into effect on the morning of Moving Day. It all seemed so easy.
On Moving Day, my discovery that gravity wasn't as kind now as it had been as early as my mid 30s, was prodigious, what with three flights of stairs between me and where "The Pile" was steadily growing. But eh...between O2 and dry heaves, I was content: all was in order.
During a mandatory breathing break (to avoid hyperventilating), I checked my phone, with my scheduled first telephone number from US West: deader than an Andrew Dice Clay sitcom. After the carload was dispensed with and another collected and delivered, I checked again. Nada.
I stopped over at the management office to reconnect with civilization and find out, in essence, "WTF?". I learned from the bored-sounding USW representative that the number I'd been assigned already belonged to someone else. I got a cheesy apology, a 2nd new number, and a promise that my service would be on by 7pm that day. That night, I gave them an extra half-hour for good behavior, and checked the phone: dead.
The next morning, I again ventured out to civilization and spoke with USW: this time, with customer support in Omaha, NE. They told me that the second number I'd been assigned belonged to someone else, so they had already assigned me a third new number which they couldn't communicate to me because my phone was dead. After which they discovered that...*TOING*....the third number belonged to someone else. So they assigned me a fourth new number, but....because it was the weekend, they couldn't get my phone service turned on until the next Monday, since this was Omaha (it could have been the beach, for all the good it was doing me). I reluctantly accepted no phone service for the weekend, and let it go at that.
Then came Monday: no phone. I call and this time get a phone service center in Montana. There I am informed that the fourth new number I was assigned belonged to someone else. I -- with rapidly-thinning patience -- asked the account rep(tile) to review my account, and he rather flippantly noted that my situation was "a bit unusual". But he assured me that the fifth number he was now telling me would be mine, all mine, and active on Tuesday morning by 8am.
He just didn't say for what time zone.
Came 8am on Tuesday....dead phone. Nearly dead patience. Same with 9am. Same with 10am. I was hamstrung, awaiting the cable guy (with my luck, it'd be Larry), and hoping they wouldn't call first to confirm because they still had the first f***ing number USW had given me.
Then a sign that perhaps the Apocalypse was on the horizon: at about 11:30am (which I guess is 8am somewhere, to USW), my phone had a dial tone. IT'S A MIRACLE! Happy to have rejoined civilization, caution still urged me to verify my number by calling a sibling, giving her the number, and asking her to call me back. 10 minutes later, I called again, and she informed me that the number I gave her -- my fifth new number from USW, belonged to someone else! Lucky for me, she took my second call from her Caller ID phone, and gave me my sixth new and final phone number.
Deluded consumer, cave in.
A couple hours later, with working cable, I saw a US West advertisement come taunting me across the screen, with the closing mantra, "Life's better here". Incredulous as I was at the arrogant audacity of the statement, I wasn't about to call and ask USW/Qwest just where the hell "here" was.
After all, I didn't want my sixth new number to suddenly "belong to someone else". My reaction would have only fueled faux global warming...
Monday, October 20, 2008
Pet Rock Delusions
*This was originally published in August 2005; another in the 'Seymour the pet rock' posts, for your amusement. Seymour is currently still residing on a farm in Ohio, but is expected home from his three years abroad and Ohio sojourn in March or May, 2009...and no, I'm not going to get him sushi, sake, or a geisha for his homecoming*
Seymour -- the precocious pet rock -- is a 'news junkie'. Parked atop one of my stereo speakers,
with a panoramic view of the TV (and an inexplicable ability to access the remote when I'm not home), he keeps up on current events. Sort of.
After my tweaking of the rock over the Persides Meteor Shower, he was seeking a counter 'gotcha', when I came home from work, thoroughly annoyed with Colorado geology.
On June 22, 2005, a rockslide closed US 6 in Clear Creek Canyon. The canyon is still closed (top two photos), and not projected to reopen until mid September, 2005. So my route to work is reduced to two options: I-70 westbound to optional exits 248 or 243; or the 'slow boat' route, CO 46 (Golden Gate Canyon Road), a winding, picturesque mountain road. The I-70 route takes, on a good day, 30 minutes; CO 46 on an average day takes 45.
There aren't many average days on CO 46.
On August 14, 2005, I-70 temporarily lost it's utility as an alternative: three sizeable rockslides came down on the highway just to the west of Idaho Springs, CO (bottom photo). While my needs didn't take me that far west, the traffic backups reversed flow right into my realm. While trying to get to work, I found myself in a 60 minute crawl to cover 2 miles (to my desired exit off I-70). Later in the day, the backups from the detour extended 14 miles.
Hearing me muttering about 'ill-mannered geology', Seymour was in his element. And there's no slapping the arrogant, 'gotcha' grin off a pet rock; trust me on that.
Today -- Tuesday -- as I prepare to head for work, I hear that I-70 west is shut down again: same reason, same area, same monumental traffic jams. That means CO 46. The 'slow boat' route. With a ton more traffic than normal.
Seymour is beaming.
Anyone want a pet rock? I'll pay the shipping.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Seymour and the Persides Education
It occurred to me -- and was confirmed on the radio -- that the annual Persides Meteor Shower was on tap for the next two nights. Weather-wise, it was looking to be a good night for the show.
Seymour, the ever-inquisitive pet rock, demanded to know what I was musing about.
When I told him all about the Persides celestial event, he was jumping up and down on top of the stereo speaker, saying "I wanna see, I wanna SEE!!!" Oy vay. What do you do with a pet rock that's acting like a 4 year old?
Simple: tell 'em the truth. It doesn't always work with a 4 year old, but Seymour ain't a 4 year old. Then again, it didn't work with Seymour, either.
I explained to him that a 'meteor shower' was not a bunch of space rocks doing kinky things in a Roman bath house (he remembered some reference about that in the movie Airplane); it is a myriad of tiny space debris, hitting the Earth's atmosphere.
And burning up.
Seymour's eager anticipation -- apart from a momentary scowl for the reference to 'space debris' -- turned to wide-eyed horror, when he realized what I was saying: the rocks burn up. Millions of 'em.
Seymour was suddenly quite unamused. Particularly when I took the psyops lesson further, and told him "oh, lighten up Seymour...it'll be cool!"
You've heard of a glare that would split a rock. Ever received such a glare from a rock?
I don't have to take the rock out on the patio to see the Persides Meteor Shower now. He'd rather watch The Outer Limits on the VCR.
Ain't I a stinker?
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
How To Lose $250,000 Euros
In the midst of this financial crisis, I seem to be attracting more and more *luck*, in that I just won two more foreign lottos: one from Spain, and one from Microsoft's Netherlands branch. Between the two, my total (to be) take (en for) is $1,250,000 Euros. Slightly more, in devalued Yankee dollars.
Not bad for one day's email. Good thing I'm winning this before Obama & Co. might just get the chance to tax the snarf out of it.
However, with the respective replies I sent to the respective lotto "coordinators", I think I can safely say that I'll never see a Euro of either. Sorry, tax 'n spenders.
*Gasp*....how, you say, can I let this happen, after such incredible *luck*? Easy, for me: it's all in the reply. For which I have a gift.
For this one, I'll focus on the Microsoft Corporation Sweepstakes, notification from Mrs. Maria van de crap Kuykenfaast (email@example.com):
OFFICIAL WINNING NOTIFICATION.
We are pleased to inform you of the release of the long awaited results of Sweepstakes promotion organized by Microsoft Corporation, in conjunction with the foundation for the promotion of software products held this September 2008, in The Netherlands. Where in your email address emerged as one of the winning emails in the 2nd category and threfore attracted a cash sum of 250,000.00 Euros and a Dell laptop. Your reference number is MSCORP-STK/915-2693, and your batch number is 2008/101/8/MIC.
To begin your claim, do file for the release of your winning by contacting our Foreign Transfer Manager: Mr. Piet van der Kuijt
The Microsoft Internet Email lottery Awards is sponsored by former CEO/Chairman Bill Gates and a consortium of software promotion companies. The Microsoft internet email draw is held periodically and is organised to encourage the use of the internet (ROFLMAO...yeah, for scamming) softwares and promote computer literacy worldwide. Congratulations!!
Mrs. Annije de Heuvendaal
Whether or not this scam is actually originating in the Netherlands, I don't know or care; but long as I'm not going to collect on it, I might as well cement my ineligibility to be named to the diplomatic mission to The Hague, as well. And for this, Jack N. Ewehoff is eminently qualified:
Microsofties, Netherlands branch
Dadgum, I do feel lucky this month. You're the third lotto I've won hyar in a week. I do thank ye fer that, shore 'nuff.
But, strange as it's gonna sound, I gots a complaint hyar...why don't you f***ing Dutch get pronoucible names? I mean, c'mawn: Piet van der Kuijt? What the f*** is that? Why do you all want to sound like you sell, or are, pork and beans? And who is this Dutch broad, Annije de Heuvendaal? Even Vanna White's gonna warn you against buying too many f***ing vowels! Gee-sus Crikey, folks, haven't you ever heard of K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Stupid? Is it because you can't make up your minds as to whether or not you're called Holland or The Netherlands? Is it because you live below sea level with the brine shrimp, and limp around with sore feet from those ridiculous Noah's Ark-shaped wooden shoes (they won't keep you afloat, idiots, if the levees go, or did anyone ever tell you fools that)? Or is it you prance around windmills, with those outlandish Sherwin Williams haircuts, trying to do Jill in a peat bog while smoking rolled apple cores? Or is it that the excess humidity molds out your alphabet, causing these dysenteric names like Poort de van der Voorten Bloggen van Hapsenchancen Pieten Jerkingherkinjk?
On a brief aside, I'll bet you know why lesbians like to visit Holland, right? They heard that people put their fingers in dykes there....mwhahahahahahahahaha! Well, okay, so it's funny to folks other than lesbians. Back to my main point, if I had one.
Y'know, you ain't been invaded by and overrun by the Germans since '45. Quit sucking up to their alphabetizin' and get on with your life. You don't have to bow to Schicklegruber any more! Get names that people can pronounce, like Butch, Bob (impossible to mess up), Annie (enough with the useless 'j's in idiotic places, already), Hank and Sue (even your lawyers can understand that one).
Okay, I think that's all....no, wait. There is one more thing: make sure I get my money in convertible Euros, not guilders. What the f*** is a guilder? Someone who makes fish breathing apparatus? THEY GOT THEIR OWN, PIET VAN DER MORIJON! Dang! Don't they teach you Dutchies any biology sh** over there?
Okay, now that's it. You can send me my money. I have a new method of delivery that's totally 'green' and environmentally friendly, and I'll give you details on how to use it, unless you want to ask Speed Diplomatic Courier Services about it, though they'll probably lie to you and try to get you to use the more environmentally-gnarly modes that spew carbon footprints all over the van de crap place. Eh....up to you.
Jack N. Ewehoff
Not unexpectedly, I didn't get my money (unless it overshot and wiped out that crustacean dance studio in Vaduz, again), nor did I get a reply from Piet van der Pukijt. But I did get an admonishment from the US State Department, after they got a protest from the Nigerian Consulate in The Hague.
Seems the Nigerian ambassador couldn't "read well and the contents therein are well understood" my reply. Worse...neither he nor his staff got the joke about the dykes.
Prolly not worth explainin'...y'think?
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Lost The Translation
*From the 2006 Archives*
And more than once, at that.
At a time when illegal immigration is a hot topic, and Gunsmoke is relating his own experiences with our INS, I digress back to a time and experience when I had the opportunity to undermine that great myth of international travel, The Ugly American.
Or to underscore it.
In the summer of 1989, I was assigned to accompany another corporate investigator and auditor (who doubled as our translator) on a trip to Mexico City; seemed that an asset there who'd helped to uncover a case of embezzlement in the corporate facility (a couple years prior) wasn't terribly amused when the embezzler got what amounted to a slap on the wrist. So he decided to join the fun.
Clumsily. Amateurishly. Badly.
At any rate, it was to be my first trip outside of the continental US in this life time*. The senior (and very well-travelled) investigator undertook to enlighten me about Mexico City, customs, and the way things were. The stories he told were eye-openers, including his experience of being in his Mexico City hotel room when the big quake hit in 1985; it cured him of his love of high rise buildings ever more.
We flew from Denver to Houston, went through Customs, then flew onto Mexico City. Enroute, he enlightened me about the horrific air pollution that usually shrouded the city, worse than anything I'd ever see in Denver, as well as the madcap cab drivers and the harrowing trip we'd most likely endure from the airport to the hotel downtown.
And he cautioned me about my sense of humor with the Mexican customs officials: leave it in my carry-on. El horsefeathers.
Murphy's Law was along on the front-half of that trip: we flew into Mexico City through a crystal clear, cloudless sky, with visibility for miles. Our trip through customs was a breeze (and yes, my sense of humor stayed put, despite temptations and opportunities); and the cab ride in a renovated Volkswagen Beetle was a pleasure, not in the least what I had been prepared for. The auditor and myself -- newbies to south of the border -- needled and tweaked our senior guide accordingly.
He just smiled and took it in good grace; he knew.
For the next three days, it was an experience I'll never forget. Just a few examples:
-- our first walk along the main avenue through Mexico City, on which the hotel was located, revealed groups of Mexican Federales (police), in bands of 12. All armed with shoulder-fired automatic weapons. A further eye-opener came from the Mexican corporate attorney we would work with on the embezzlement case: as a gringo, he counselled, never leave the main avenue for more than a block either way on foot, alone, and not even on the main avenue on foot at night.
-- during another of our walks from one office building to another, I noticed that many of those on the street were looking very intently at my new Reebok tennis shoes; when I asked about it, our guide chuckled and told me my shoes would be worth hundreds of thousands of pesos on the black market, and they'd slit my throat like a chicken to get them, if I were off the main avenue.
-- during the suspect interview, it became apparent that our auditor/translator was woefully out of her league in translating; her Spanish was classic Castillian, which was fine in Spain, not here. Our guide took over the duties, remarking that persons of single language abilities were handicapped. Weak grins all around.
-- on our walk back to catch a cab to the hotel, we happened to be walking past what appeared to be an armored car (aka, a Brinks-type), when I heard a distinct *clunk*, followed by a sound that sent a chill through my toenails: the cocking of a machine gun bolt. I glanced to my right, and not six feet away, behind the plexiglass of the car, stared an armed guard, with his machine gun barrel out the gun port. Pointed at us. Our senior member just muttered "just keep walking", while he took our ready-to-faint auditor's left arm, and I took her right, and we "just kept walking" while carrying her. The spinchter battled me for dominance in that instance; still don't know how I won out.
-- but it got a second chance to win the day, on the cab ride back. The wild, madcap, "no rules, just go like hell" style of cab rides he'd described from his previous Mexico visits, on top of the other day's events, was just about what the doctor didn't order. The auditor was green; my sphincter wanted to scream. I was too busy holding on (in more places than one) to even think of cracking open my book of English-Spanish translations for something that would convey "whoa, dude!" to the driver. Despite the horns, angry shouts, a few screeching tires and one very green auditor, we arrived at the hotel, and crawled out. I thought about kissing the curb, but decided it'd be in bad gringo form.
-- that evening, the senior member decided I should 'christen' my corporate credit card, and buy dinner for our little group of four. Which I thought nothing of, until the bill arrived: 339,800 pesos!!!! It took a moment for the exchange-rate gear in my head to kick in and remind me that it was only about $148 American dollars (the rate of exchange back then was something like 2300 or so pesos to the US dollar). I'm told the look on my face was "priceless"; I'm glad it wasn't added to the bill.
-- and, of course, the 'lost the translation' moments: I tried my very elementary Spanish when making a call back to the Denver-based corporate office; I started with an afternoon greeting and started to slowly state the numeros uno at a time, when the operator deluged me in a virtual avalanche of, to me, unintelligible espanoel. I was forced to meekly mutter "no habla espanoel", at which time she glided seamlessly into accentless English. And when I stood in the hotel gift shop, getting a promised souvenir for our corporate receptionist, thumbing through my English-Spanish dictionary while the senior member and the gift shop clerk waited with patient, condescending smiles. When I was finally unable to find the spanish word for "wrap", I wound up making a rotating circle with my hands, and muttering "uh...wrappo por favor", which she did with a smile, while the senior was convulsed in the corner. I had to hear that story recounted for the next year at the office...
-- and, of course, the "tipping" episode: the next morning, I was asked if I'd left a tip on the pillow of the bed; "uh, no...care to enlighten me?". When we returned from the day's activities, I found that my room had been serviced marginally. *El TOING*. So the next morning, I left a $1 US bill on the pillow. Upon our return later that day, I'd of thought I was a visiting dignitary: the place was spotless. I hope I didn't cause a riot on check out day, when I left a $10...
-- finally, the trip back to the airport. The cab ride...eh. I'd had worse ;-) Going through Customs, I wasn't concerned, having only the el wrappoed por favor souvenir to account for in my carry-on. Our auditor, however, decided to put her Sony Walkman in her carry-on (on the trip in, it'd been in her checked luggage), so she could listen to tunes on the flight home. When her bag went through the x-ray machine, a security official directed her and her bag off to the side. And up behind her stepped a Federale with an automatic weapon at the ready. We couldn't step over to support her this time; she wavered, but remained upright until cleared to proceed.
Fortunately, it wasn't far to our gate, so carrying her and our luggage was awkward, but manageable...
And yes: despite my knowledge of the admonition about the water, and my careful adherence to it, I did contract a mild version of Montezuma's Revenge a day after returning home.
At least I didn't have to worry about losing the translation on that.
* if you subscribe to the previous life thang...