Category Archives: #

Telemarketing

I’ve been getting several robo-spam phone calls daily for the last few weeks. They seem to be coming from my area code and exchange, (619) 402-XXXX.

On the one hand, it’s a pain in the ass.

On the other hand, as robocalls go these are easily filtered. If I see a call coming in from (619) 402, I just reject it.

Telemarketing is a perfect microcosm of the failure of our current system of government and economy. The only people who like telemarketing are the very small segment of the population that makes money off it. These people are basically stealing other people’s property, same as if I came into your house and borrowed your car for a while without your permission. Everybody else in the world hates telemarketers. In a functional democracy, telemarketing would have been banned instantaneously, the moment it began – but we do not live in a functional democracy, and so telemarketing has lingered and festered for 25 years.

Related: For the past few years, when strangers start a conversation with me, I generally assume they want money from me, so I greet them with a cold, hostile face. So maybe telemarketing isn’t such a trivial issue after all, in that it contributes to alienation from each other.

Same for email. I just got an email from a stranger commenting about a blog post I did on weight loss. I got a warm feeling for a second, but then I saw it was a robo-generated message from someone who wanted me to add a link to their report on dieting – SEVEN SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN TIPS! When I get email from strangers, I assume it’s someone who wants me to send them money, or do something that will help them make money. If I get an email from a stranger, my finger is hovering over the delete key before I even start to read it.

Things vs. Omnifocus for managing to-dos on the Mac, iPad and iPhone

I switched from Things to OmniFocus a month ago, but now I have gone back to Things.

Omnifocus is too fussy. It really, really wants you to add tasks to projects and areas, and that’s extra work.

Many of the tasks I create in a to-do list come from email, and on OmniFocus, adding tasks from email on Mac is broken. On the other hand, Things handles that easily.

Both Things and OmniFocus will let you forward email to the app – which is great when reviewing email on your phone – but Things adds a nice touch to that process. Things adds a link back to the original mail. So when I’m back at my Mac, I can just click a link in the Things task and I’m back to the email I want to deal with.

Things is a better-looking app than Omnifocus. Reviewers often use words like “gorgeous” and “breathtaking” to describe Things, which makes me roll my eyes so hard I might strain something. It’s an app, not a painting or sunset. Still, Things is a nice-looking app, nicer looking than OmniFocus, and that’s something.

Things makes it easier than OmniFocus to just add all your to-dos to one long list, while also breaking out additional projects and areas where needed. Like I said, OmniFocus really, really wants everything neatly sorted out into projects and areas and stuff, and that’s an unnecessary hassle for the way I work.

Things supports tags, and you can assign keyboard shortcuts to tags, which makes it easy to prioritize tasks.

Because organizing tasks on OmniFocus requires thought, I was letting them stack up in a disorganized pile and therefore I stopped trusting Omnifocus, which is fatal for to-do list software. Friday, I started out the day by writing a note in Apple Notes of what I needed to do. That’s exactly what I need to-do list software for. At that moment, OmniFocus had become effectively useless.

One area where I do like Omnifocus better: You can attach images to tasks. Things does not support attachments, though you can link to items, such as docs stored in Evernote or Dropbox, which is an ok workaround.

I am writing this so the next time I am tempted to try this silly time-wasting experiment I will hopefully just check this note and save myself the hassle.

Tricking myself

There’s a productivity trick that almost always works and I don’t use it anywhere near often enough. 

For the past couple of days, I’ve been worrying about a report I need to create at work – not an article, an internal report, which I’m not accustomed to doing. The deadline is approaching, and my stress is ratcheting up. It’d take a few hours to do – not a lot of time, but I didn’t feel like I had that time to spare. 

Today I said to myself, “Look, just open a Microsoft Word document, pick a template, put your name at the top and then you’ll have started it at least.” It’d only take five minutes (I thought) but it’s five minutes less work I’d have to do later. 

And I did that and then I figured, well, might as well do the first paragraph. And having done the first paragraph, I figured why not do the second. And having done the second….

And now the document is nearly done. It will probably need just a half-hour to polish and then I can send it on its way. 

Why don’t I do that trick more often? Because it works every goddamn time. 

So this happened

I went to the doctor for a checkup (strong like bull). He wants me to get a flushot in the pharmacy in the lobby – not our usual pharmacy but alrighty that’s fine. At the pharmacy, we run into an insurance problem – insurance company says it’s expired though I know it is not because we get prescriptions filled (at our regular pharmacy). I go through my wallet and give the desk person other insurance cards – I do not throw out insurance cards because they confuse me, but apparently pharmacies are not impressed by the number of insurance cards you have; you need to have the right one. I text Julie and now she is looking for insurance cards too. 

As this is going on I get a phone call from an unidentified 800 number. Usually I ignore phone calls from unidentified 800-numbers; I figure they are either spam or scams. But I think this one might be insurance-related, so I take it. It is not insurance-related; it is my credit card company letting me know they detected fraudulent activity. 

So now I’m dealing with that, while Julie is looking for a functional insurance card, and the woman at the pharmacist is waiting for the whole thing to be resolved. 

And I’m thinking, have I died and gone to the Beetlejuice afterlife?

Courting controversy

In 2017, I’ve had to realize some of my beliefs that I took for granted are in fact controversial — they even mark me as some kind of far-left radical.

These beliefs include:

  • All people deserve equal treatment, regardless of race or religion. (I also think those things about gender and sexual orientation, but I knew those beliefs were controversial in some quarters.)

  • Russia is not America’s friend.

  • Don’t show your weiner to somebody without their permission.

  • Don’t touch other people’s butts, boobs, thighs or crotch without their permission either.

  • Grown men dating teen-age girls? Not cool.

  • Adolf Hilter was a bad man.

Our neighborhood Little Free Library

I ended up this summer with one spare copy each of “Walkaway” by Cory Doctorow, and “The Collapsing Empire,” by John Scalzi. I put them on my bedroom bureau, intending to donate them to the local public library, but I never got around to it.

Then one night walking the dog with Julie this week, she commented that one of the neighbors had put up a Little Free Library. Oho, I said, and next time I was walking the dog I brought the books and dropped the books in the box.

And now here is why I had those spare copies: Over the course of the beginning of the year, I started wondering if I would enjoy reading paper books. I’ve been an ebook-only guy since 2010. I just plain like ebooks – they’re portable, and because I can read them on my phone, they are literally always with me. But I hear my book-reading friends raving about the pleasures of print books, and I figured I wanted to give them another try.

And I did, and read about five pages and said do – not – want. Later, I read the ebook edition of “Walkaway” and enjoyed it, and I expect I will soon enough read “The Collapsing Empire” and enjoy that too.

But that left me with two print books to dispose of, and now I finally have, in a way that will not go to waste. And I will have the pleasure of checking on them every day on our walks to see if they’ve gone anywhere.

P.S. MONTHS after buying the two hardcover books, it occurred to me that I could have experimented with print books by TAKING ONE OUT OF THE LIBRARY, thus saving myself some coin. But instead I put some money in the pocket of authors I like, and donated to a Little Free Library, so it’s all good.

Star Trek Continues

“Pilgrim of Eternity” is the delightful first episode of “Star Trek Continues,” a fan-produced Star Trek series that picks up the original TV show where it left off, reproducing the visual and storytelling style. The script plays as if Gene Roddenberry himself had commissioned and revised it. The sets look the same, the Enterprise looks the same, the costumes and props look the same, the lighting is the same. It’s even got the same music.

Watching it is like seeing the first episode of a fourth season of Star Trek, where for some reason the characters had been recast with actors who look and act sort of like the original.

This episode is a sequel to “Who Mourns for Adonais,” where the Enterprise meets the Greek god Apollo. In the timeline of the show, it’s just two years later, and the Enterprise encounters Apollo again, only now the godlike alien has been aged many decades because of an accident involving the technology that gave Apollo his powers. The artificial aging gimmick creates an opportunity for Michael Forrest, the original actor who played Apollo nearly 50 years ago, to recreate the role in a 2013 production.

The mastermind behind “Star Trek Continues” is Vic Mignogna, who also plays Captain Kirk in a William Shatnerian fashion. Appearing as Mr. Scott is Chris Doohan, whose father was James Doohan, the actor who originated the role. And Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Troi on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” does the voice of the ships computer.

The episode is a lot of fun. It’s great to see a new episode of something that looks and plays like the original Star Trek. There are 10 more episodes and I plan to watch them all.

Bad at adulting

I let my driver’s license expire AND went well past the grace period. I’ve actually been aware of this a while but finally a TSA agent dinged me for it when I tried to use the expired license to get past security. Fortunately I also have a passport card for alternate ID.

So I’ll need to head over to the DMV Friday when I’m home to get that taken care of.

I think I’ll Lyft over, or ask Julie to drive me. Driving myself to the DMV to get my expired license renewed seems like a bad choice.

I hope I don’t have to take driver’s ed again. On the other hand, I liked driver’s ed, so maybe either way I’m good.

Cheesecake

Two friends suggested that now is a bad time for me to be posting cheesecake photos, with the #MeToo campaign highlighting awarenes of women’s sexual harassment. I went through my queue of upcoming social media posts and deleted any that I thought might make people uncomfortable. I was surprised at how many there were.

Maybe I’ll change back again in the future, but for now the cheesecake photos seem like a bad idea.

Can we stop talking about AI and machine learning now? The phrases have ceased to have any meaning. Every press release and PR pitch I get is about AI and machine learning. When that happens, there’s no differentiation anymore. It’s all just noise.

Usually it’s no big deal to have to go outside to get from my house to the home office. But when it’s 94 degrees out and I’m bringing myself hot coffee, I rethink that choice.

I literally do not know what “thought leadership” is

A PR person recently asked me for sample questions for an interview (something I dislike doing but accept as often necessary) and I provided a few. The PR person said, in a disappointed tone, “So you’re not looking for thought leadership then? Because the spokesman is looking to provide thought leadership.”

Being the veteran journalist that I am, I handled this comment deftly and with great alacrity. I said, “Huh?”

Once again looking to AirBnb for accommodations in SF because I booked too late for a conference. This time it’s for DreamForce.

I can rent a camper van for $75/night.

I’m going to set up a filter to send email containing the phrase “circling back” directly to the trash.

What does it mean to be a man?

John Robb has said that the opioid epidemic and terrorism are two examples of the collapse of models for manhood. I rejected that at first. Now I think it’s dead right. 



Western women have spent the last 60 years in deep thought about redefining the nature of womanhood. Men have done virtually none of that. And when we try we are often ridiculed or called misogynists, or both. 



That is one way the red-pill/men’s rights/PUA movement is significant. These are men who feel they don’t have a significant model for manhood, and are trying to figure it out on their own.

I went through something similar in my 20s, and found the Robert B. Parker Spenser books extremely helpful. I’m rereading them now, primarily just for fun but I find myself highlighting passages that I’ve nearly memorized over the years.

Ultimately, I think the worst fears of social conservatives might be dead right: Gender is going to become unimportant in the future, outside of romantic and sexual situations.

Similarly for white nationalism in America. Sure, a lot of it is just plain racism with a new name. But it’s also legitimate for white people to ask themselves what their ethnic identity will be now that they are on their way to being a minority in a country they founded.