Friday, June 29, 2007

Why I appreciate other writers

I was beat the other night, and my husband Aaron was playing a computer game (and therefore wouldn’t have noticed if I had burst into flames, shed all my clothes, grown a second head or all of the above), so I picked up a novel for a few minutes of mental vacation. Surprisingly, Aaron asked about it. I started describing it, telling him something like how it was fluid and poetic and was an interwoven story about the lives of several women linked to two central characters, touching on theater, the biblical narrative of King David and an eccentric family life. I got all excited and began telling him about a particular writing strategy she employed that I wanted to try with a current work. In fact, I said, I have to go make some notes – and at this point I bounded out of bed and fired up my computer.

He looked at me as though I had just finished enumerating the merits of cleaning the port-o-heads at the State Fair.

Now I am unimaginably fortunate to have an intelligent, long-suffering husband who is willing to discuss with me (or listen to me discuss) just about any issue under the sun, even when I feel compelled to hold forth on my political passions at 2 a.m. But it’s at times like this that I really appreciate the connections I have to other writers. Who else gets honestly excited about parallels I see between the novel The Hours and tactics I’d like to use in my current nonfiction work? For that matter, who gets so abjectly offended at misuses of grammar, or bemoans tired plot devices, or understands why I had to ask an interview subject what color his coffee cup was or what, exactly, he said to the friend who just betrayed him? I may be overstepping boundaries to put myself in league with some of the writers I know, but I do know it’s darn refreshing to spend time talking shop.

The coffee cup, by the way, was orange with green stripes. He didn’t remember what he said in that life-altering moment, but assures me it was memorable.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Great balls of silicone

Perhaps the Internet knew I needed a little levity today. I was browsing (read: procrastinating) last night and came across an article entitled "Fake dog testicles help pet owners accept neutering." Seriously, who wouldn't be drawn to a headline beginning with the words "Fake dog testicles?"

Apparently the procedure's been around for quite a while -- I did seem to remember something about it from the dredges of memory -- and is gaining some momentum among pet owners who want to neuter their pet dog but feel they are depriving the poor pooch of doggie masculinity, or are making him feel empty, or perhaps they feel guilty endorsing the removal of such a clearly enjoyable licking diversion. I'm not sure. At any rate, the procedure is done after an animal is neutered, and replaces the real deals with silicone lookalikes. They've sold over 250,000 sets since 1995, costing up to $1,800, "for implantation in animals as diverse as a rhesus monkey in Arkansas and a water buffalo in Colorado." Most vets seem slightly bemused, some disapproving but some willing to humor eccentric owners if it encourages the control of pet populations.

The thing that got me the most was the statement that Neuticles are "marketed for their 'real' shape and feel."

Huh? Feel? Assuming dogs aren't too discerning while licking their nether-regions (and I think we can assume this is the case), who is feeling these? I guess I can sort of, kind of, almost see how someone overly concerned with manliness or gender in general would appreciate Neuticles as a sort of showcase for the dog's alleged mettle. But who's conducting tactile examinations? Another guy said he liked the procedure because otherwise it "just wouldn't look right." I don't know; I think I generally engage pets via the other end.

In related news (yes, really) we recently took our new cat in to be neutered (sans Neuticles request). After a cursory examination, the vet called me back to tell me there was nothing left to remove. Something of an animal person and (I thought) pretty observant, I felt fairly stupid to have overlooked this. I asked: "So, uh how can you..."

"Tell? Like this." At this point he received a considerably peeved look from the cat as he demonstrated how he arrived at his conclusion. "It's not receded at all, so you wouldn't really know unless you palpated the scrotal sack. See?" I assured him I did not, in fact, make a habit of palpating such things.

The cat continued to shoot reproachful looks at me the whole way home.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sad news

For all of you who knew that I was pregnant (which I guess includes everyone who reads this blog), sadly, we lost the baby at about 10 weeks. I began to miscarry Saturday, and finished earlier today. My husband and son as well as I are dealing with it, and we have a great family and surrounding friends and family to lean on during this time, so we're all doing as well as can be expected.

Thanks to everyone who (offline or online) has already offered help, support, thoughts, prayers, kind words or just warm fuzzy vibes. We certainly appreciate it.

I might have more to say about this in the future (as I do about a great many things) but I think at this time I'll just let the reality of it sink in, and take solace in the love of my family and my privilige to love them back. Cheesy, I know, but very true, and very treasured, especially now.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I'm back. And preggers.

Sorry for the long absence ... well, for whoever still might read this, anyway. We had a virus and spy-something that snacked on the computer for a while, and a bunch of non-computerized dramas to deal with lately. But things are looking up -- my husband is off his nightmarish night schedule, which was wreaking all kinds of havoc (as if being newlyweds, with a small child, is a walk in the park to begin with). I'm registering my son for school (!) tomorrow, and he's stoked. After a few redirections, I'm reasonably on track for my book manuscript. We all (my husband, my son and I) just returned from a vacation in San Diego, hampered only slightly by my husband losing his glasses and me evacuating the contents of my stomach during our ocean kayaking adventure -- this latter incident is due, I'm sure, to our biggest news of late: I'm a couple months pregnant. (I actually considered for a moment not posting this for all the virtual world to see until I was a tad further along, but my husband's grandmother, who talks to approximately half the Southwestern United States, informed me she was "making sure I tell everyone I can." So what the hell.)

We're all pretty excited about the new addition: my husband and I about welcoming another child, and my son about being a big brother. His list of things to introduce to the baby grows daily, and he already plans to pass on a love of animals, hiking, music, SpongeBob, astronomy, and probably a few hundred other things.

Actually, my husband was really excited, once he figured out what was going on. I had to tell him during a day he was sleeping (not off nights yet), so our conversation went:

(Me clearing my throat loudly)
Me: Oh, are you awake?
Him: Hmrmph?
Me: Hey, I just wanted to show you something.
Him: Hmph mmmrpx.
Me: Hey, check this out.
Him (prying eyes open) Mmmp; whuss that?
Me: It's a pregnancy test.
Him: What does the plus mean?
Me: Positive.
Him: What?
Me: Plus means the test is positive.
Him: OK.
Me: OK?
Him: Snxxxx...
(Me leaving in slight disgust.)
Him (5 hours later): Did you tell me you were pregnant?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Scammers gonna scam (and hate)

This post isn't related to Arizona in particular, or nature, or sweet family things. It doesn't even have any photos. For that stuff, please go back to my Butterfly Wonderland post or my Phoenix Art Museum post.


So a scammer called me today. Again.

I've gotten dozens of calls from the "Windows technical support" guys (it's almost always guys, and this one seemed peeved with me for being in possession of both a uterus and a brain), and usually it interrupts my day for a minute or less, and I hang up on them. I know I should always hang up on them, but sometimes I just can't help it. I want them to at least know that I know they're a scam. (I succeeded with the tactic once with a different scammer. They got scared, hung up, and never called back. It was very satisfying.)

I'm always polite, however long the conversation. Even with the scammers. I always say no thank you; please don't call; thanks for taking us off your list; have a nice day. I figure some of these people might be duped into the scam themselves (though I'm probably being way too generous there); and besides, I really am trying to make a point. They're the jerks, not me. But sometimes I engage in a conversation, like I did today. Call me a futile-causes moral crusader.

This issue particularly gets me because I know several people who have been taken in by scammers just like this guy -- pretending to be computer support, or banks, or repairmen, or guys protecting you from the "other" scammers, or long-lost relatives or probably a million other guises I can't rattle off at the moment. People I know and love have lost money to these losers. They (the loved ones in question) might be naive, sure, but so what? These scammers play on people's willingness to trust other people. Pretty evil.

And these guys are nice. They're deferential, complimentary, respectful, and cheerful. They'll tell you what a wise decision you're making or how there should be more compassionate people like you in the world. Until you don't do exactly what they say. Then they get mean. One recent call told me "Your computer is going to be all messed up and then you're going to be in big trouble," before yelling at me.

I only regret that I didn't have my recorder handy today, but below is a near-verbatim transcript of our conversations (there were two). I'm sharing it in hopes that maybe people will realize just how nasty these guys are. I'll try to have the recorder running next time. Maybe I'll even troll one. That seems fun.

If you're inclined to trust anyone when you didn't solicit the interaction, just don't. Hang up and call the organization (your bank, say, or Microsoft, which is in no way associated with these guys). If the issue is geniune, the organization will understand your caution, and if it's not, you've avoided a scam.

If you're still inclined to trust scammers (and I've had conversations with people who remain unconvinced that others could be so calculatingly devious), newsflash: They're not nice. You don't have to be nice back. Proof? Here's the conversation (warning: F words near the end):

Him: Hello; this is Dustin from Windows technical support about your computer.

Me: Hi, yeah. I've talked to your "department" (the sarcastic quotes were definitely implied) several dozen times before. I'm not interested.

Him: Ma'am (he called me "Ma'am" no fewer than 20 times, but I'll omit some for brevity -- do they think this somehow magically makes me like them?), how can you be not interested?

Me: Because I know what you're offering. My computer is fine. No thank you.

Him: No. Wait. Wait ma'am. Please, ma'am. Ma'am, you don't understand.

Me: I think I do. And no thank you. Please don't cal...

Him: Ma'am! Wait, ma'am! You don't understand. Your computer is send...

Me: Yes. I know. My computer is "sending reports," and you need me to download software that hooks you up with it. No. Thank. You. Do not call...

Him: NO! You don't understand! Your computer is sending us reports...

Me: Mmm hmm...

Him: And we need you to turn on your computer...

Me (sitting at a computer that's on): No.

Him: Why not?!

Me: I'm not interested. Please stop calling here.

Him: Ma'am, just turn on your computer! I need to see some things...

Me: If you're really getting reports about what's going on, why do you need me to do anything?

Him: Ma'am, why are you being difficult? I am being nice to you. You do not understand.

Me: I think I'm being very accommodating. I'm going to hang up now. Goodbye.

Him: Ma'am! You do not understand about computers!

Me: I think I do, actually.

Him: I think you don't. I understand, and I'm trying to tell you. Why are you being so upset?

Me: I won't be upset, if you hang up.

Him: No, ma'am, you don't understand your computer. I just need to you to run it with me...

Me: And see scary error reports, and install something that lets you control my computer, and probably sell me something besides. I don't think so.

Him: Ma'am, why are you saying these things?

Me: Why are you doing them?

Him: Ma'am, I'm only trying to help you.

Me: Then please don't call here again. I know you're a scam.

Him: Ma'am, the alerts your computer is sending...

Me: Really? I'm telling you right now, I do not believe you. The only reason I'm still on the phone with you is so I can tell you I know you're a scam and avoid being on the phone with you in the future.

Him: If you turn on your computer...

Me: It is on. Both of them. But I guess you'd know that, from all the reports you're getting on your end. That's enough. Goodbye.

Him: OK. Ma'am. Ma'am, can I ask you one thing?

Me: What?

Him: Can I fuck you?

Me: Can you ... fuck me?

Him: Yes. Can I. Fuck you.

Me: Have fun scamming other people. Goodbye.

I hung up.

He called back.

Him: Ma'am, this is Dustin from Windows Technical Support.

Me: Really? Come on.

Him: Ma'am, I wanted to ask you, you said I couldn't fuck you?

Me: Seriously?

Him: Can I? Can I do it? Fuck you?

Me: Um. No.

Him: Why not? Why can't I fuck you? I want to fuck you.

Me: That is really enough of that.

I hung up and tried to call the number back, but of course I couldn't. I got out my recorder in case they called back. They haven't. I'll keep it handy for next time.

Just don't trust them.