Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yeah, but it's a dry heat..........

So, while I do hate my job, (see previous posts) it does have its moments of absolute absurdity. While not quite as absurd as the things as the things I encountered as a paramedic, it still makes for a good chuckle, or the occasional outright guffaw. The customers I serve come from the southwest, primarily in Arizona. (I support cable TV services)

Now, I have been to Arizona, as I have a friend that lives there. It can be starkly beautiful, but hellish is terms of daily temperatures (in the summer, at least) at the same time. It's no wonder then that the people that live there can be...uhm....oh, how do I put this......suffering from a bit of gray matter meltdown from time-to-time?

Cases in point:

This happened maybe about 2 months ago, and is a prime example of why you should always pay attention while talking on the phone;

ME : (Headset tone rings.) "Hello, thanks for calling, and how may I help you?"

CUSTOMER: "You found poop in your room?"

ME: (Burst of tremendous laughter. All professionalism goes out the window.)

The customer was talking to her four year-old daughter, as they just bought a new puppy, and it was not quite housebroken.

This other incident happened maybe a year ago, and definitely falls under the "too much information" category.

I was talking this woman through setting up her cable system to her new, big, flat screen HDTV along with her amplifier. Her roommate apparently had done a less than stellar job. Unfortunately, it was also in this large entertainment center, which made it unwieldy, and not very accessible in the rear, in order to hook up her cables and other wiring. It was a slow process for her, as she was less than technically inclined.

As we progressed, her frustration level increased, causing outbursts of greater venom directed at her currently absent roommate. I was thinking at the time that said roommate was due for a severe tongue lashing upon her arrival home, at the very least. The way this woman was talking though, I thoroughly expected her to become a story on the evening news.

Her frustration eventually reached the point of no return. While in reality, she wasn't doing badly under my precise direction, it was her trouble at navigating behind the entertainment center that was bothering her more than anything. Finally, in a burst of uncontrolled emotion, she blurted out, "Look, I'm a lesbian, but I'm not the butch in this relationship. I don't know how to do this shit!"

My tongue still bears the scars of my teeth, as I bit down very hard.

Still contorting herself behind the entertainment center, she then remarked to me, quite casually, "You would not believe the position I am in right now." Before I could put the brakes on my brain, I said, "I'm sorry, but I can't discuss your sex life on a service call."

We both burst out laughing. (We actually had been laughing at a lot of this, and had developed a good rapport, despite her being pissed at her roommate/lover.) My brain then kicked into gear, and I thought "Oh shit, I hope they're not monitoring this call."

I waited for the dreaded call from my shift supervisor, contemplating my employment options, but thankfully, no one was listening on this one. I did tell another supervisor (that is an actual human being, mind you) about this call, and he burst out laughing. He told me I had a set of brass balls, and that he never would have had the guts to do something like that. He asked if I ever did anything that nuts as a paramedic.

I looked at him and said, "You have no idea."

They're a funny lot out there in Arizona.........

Friday, March 28, 2008

Quite an experience to live in fear.........

I went to have coffee today with a friend who had hired me to write something for her. She is a good person, and has been plagued with bouts of self-doubt, depression, and a host of other things for some time now. While she is seeking help, it is these things that have held her life back, and stifled her from seeking out what she really wants from life. In short, she lives her life in a somewhat constant state of fear. To her credit, it is something she recognizes. Still, it stopped her from pursuing a potential job opportunity that might have been a watershed event for her.

Fear. It is a basic emotional response that links us with just about every other living creature on this planet. It is often associated with the so-called "flight or flight" response. Fear can be a very healthy thing. It can protect us against danger. It can make us stand up for ourselves.

It can also paralyze us and make us susceptible to the very dangers we are trying to escape. For animals, it can mean the difference between eating and being eaten. For humans, it has evolved into living versus existing.

In Buddhism, one seeks to achieve release from ego and fear. The Buddhist first "noble truth," recognizes that suffering, whether physical or psychological, cannot be denied. It is an essential part of living. Accepting this is the first step in moving past one's fears. I think that this is what my friend is struggling with, and as she accepts it more and more, I hope that she can move past her own fears. She is a bright, very smart, well read woman. She deserves more out of life than she is getting now. I hope that she learns to break free of her chains and goes for what she wants out of life......

"Quite an experience to live in fear........that's what it is to be a slave."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Microscopic army of annoyance......

In the words of Tom Lehrer, "Spring is here, spring is here/Life is skittles, and life is beer/I think the loveliest time of the year is spring/I do/Don't you?/ 'course you do!

Like hell I do......The pollen count has risen in 180 degree opposition to Bear Stearns stock, and my head and nose are applying for divorce from the rest of my body. I started praying before the temple of Claritin yesterday, which, along with some Breathe-Right strips allowed me to have a generally restful night's sleep. Apart from that, I am keeping Kleenex in business single-handedly.

I have consistently marveled that, in the almost 9 years of living here in Rochester, my allergies have exploded exponentially. I mean, I NEVER had things this bad growing up in NYC, where the pollution is decidedly worse, amongst other things. Of course, there are different specimens of trees here, and I figure that has to be the culprit.

It is making the case in favor of deforestation all the more appealing.

It also makes for some interesting times when helping customers, and trying to hit the mute button on my phone before violently sneezing into the headset mic.

Now pardon me, as I need to go into my basement and get the power drill to drain out my sinuses. If someone has a better idea, I'm all ears.......Oh, wait, they're stuffed up too.......

Monday, March 24, 2008

"You got the wrong guy pal........"

So who exactly is Mr. Nightime?

Those who are deeply into Blade Runner as I am, know that there were several versions of the script that were written. One of the last, before shooting started contained something of a different scene where we are introduced to Deckard. Edward James Olmos, who plays another Blade Runner by the name of Gaff, has been sent to fetch Deckard back to police HQ to talk with Inspector Bryant, Deckard's former boss. (Deckard had quit as a Blade Runner some time beforehand.) Gaff encounters Deckard at a noodle bar in downtown LA, as this excerpt from the script shows:

(in Japanese)
*** You will be required to
accompany me, sir. ***

Deckard doesn't understand Japanese, thinks the man
wants a seat.

Wait your turn, pal.

Deckard turns back to his food.

(in Japanese)
*** If you do not comply with an
official request, I will be
obliged to exert my authority. ***

Deckard is ignoring Gaff but the Counterman leans in
Deckard's face and translates.

He say, you go with him.

Deckard turns and finds Gaff waving a badge in his face.

(in Japanese)
*** To defy duly constituted
authority is to flaunt the public
good. ***

Deckard doesn't understand a word.

He say, you're under arrest, Deckard.

Deckard turns back to his food.

Tell him he's got the wrong guy.
(turning to Gaff
You got the wrong guy, pal.

(in Japanese)
*** Wrong guy, my ass. You're
known as The Boogeyman in every
mean joint in town. ***

He say, Boogeyman.

Deckard flinches at the word "Boogeyman," but goes on
eating. But now we know, and he knows it's not a

(in Japanese)
*** You are a Blade Runner in the
Four Sector and after the slaughter
at the steel shop they called you
Mister Nighttime. ***

He say, Brade Runner. He say,
Mister Nightime.

Tell him I'm eating.

Now, what was actually shot in the movie is slightly different. Edward James Olmos, the great actor that he is, developed a language he called "Cityspeak," which is a mixture of Japanese, and Hungarian, with some other things thrown in.

Here is how the scene appeared in the movie:

"Slaughter at the steel shop...," Brings up a far too uncomfortable memory of an auto body shop slaughter I responded to back in the early 90's. It was a front for a drug running operation......They had one thing in common with replicants.....they were both illegal.......

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Legally brunette.........

Easter is not a holiday that has any special meaning for me, as I was raised Jewish. While I had many friends from different religious persuasions, Easter did not have the significance for me that it did for my more devout Christian friends. I gave up being Jewish for Lent some time ago. Let's just say that for me, organized religion is something of a contradiction in terms. (There is nothing organized about it, IMHO) My wife, who was raised Catholic, also gave up on the church many moons ago for reasons similar to mine, but even more so due to the hypocrisy that she saw and heard over the course of many a Sunday mass.

So, here I am today at my in-laws place, as they are more devout in nature, and do celebrate Easter both in spirit and in food. The ham is delicious, as is everything else. (I've always wondered: Why ham on Easter? If someone could give me an answer to that, I would be forever grateful.) As Passover often falls close to, if not directly on Easter, in the past I would often find myself at relatives' houses indulging in foods that had no relation to anything that came from a pig, as this is somewhat frowned upon by those who are of the Hebrew persuasion.

Of more importance is that my niece's birthday was a few days ago, so the celebration was delayed until today, since there was a large family gathering for the holiday as well as her birthday. It is hard to believe that this little girl is not so little anymore.

She turned 21.......

She's also not one of these vacuous college students that seem to be everywhere today. She is majoring in psychology, and while this often stimulates active eye rolling in many when you first hear that, she is quite serious about this field. She seems to be leaning towards working with people in group homes, and considers herself a devotee of Jung, rather than Freud. (Though she is not so sure about Jung's ideas on dream interpretation.)

For this girl, majoring in psychology is serious business. I remember when she was in high school, and came to us for a weekend visit. I suspected that she was on her way towards this field, as she was reading a book about multiple personality disorder, and was totally engrossed with the subject. She deliberately transferred from one college to SUNY Buffalo, as they had a better psychology program than where she was at the time.

Now, lest you think that all psychology majors are boring, Skinner box experimenting geeks, think again. She is a sharp, caring individual, and the one thing that this major has given her is the ability to do an internship in a sort of residential psych facility. It gives her some real world experience, as well as, I would hope, remove any naiveties she may have regarding the real world. She also has a wicked sense of humor, as do her psych major peers. She told me that the undergrad psych association she belongs to have made t-shirts emblazoned with the following on the back of them:


I think that I will give her one of these when she graduates next year......(see below.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Crackerbox Palace

I hate my job.

Let me say that again. I hate my job.

It is a necessary evil, working where I do, for two reasons. First, I get to telecommute. To those not familiar with the term, it means I get to work from home. So, from the standpoint of convenience, it is a good thing. I save on gas, I don't have to haul my ass out in the snow, rain, and other bits of nature's wrath that gets thrown at us here in western NY. Our winters can have a tendency to be brutal, (though not as bad as Syracuse, in terms of snow pack) and the actual building where I would work has a parking lot that always seems full. This entails parking at an auxiliary lot across the main road, hopping a shuttle, (which is always crowded) and braving the elements. Now of course, there is also the advantage of going to work in whatever attire I deem fit for my mood that day.

So, that is the not too bad element of the job. Everything else? Well, let's just say that I work at a place that is a 21st century version of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in terms of the way people think. (Sorry, I am not going to do your homework for you on this one, you'll have to look up the reference, especially my Euro friends.) It is an outsourcing company, essentially a cube farm, and the only thing missing from there are the food troughs at each desk. As with all outsourcing companies, the bottom line is the bottom line. Corporate speak abounds, and the idea of "leadership" amongst the managers is something that is often spoken but rarely, or I should say never demonstrated.

I understand the concept that companies outsource to save least in theory. I have worked on 3 programs there in 2 years, and 1 out of the 3 actually terminated the contract with my company because they found it was costing them more money to outsource. Currently, I do tech support for a large, multi-state cable TV company and cover the southwest.

I think the heat really fries people's brains there, as my stupid-o-meter always seems to be in the red when I am dealing with customers from there.

So, why do I stay? This is reason number 2. It is, unfortunately an evil I have to put up with for at least one more year (hopefully less) as I get this writing business off the ground. You see, I get to work nights, 9 pm to 3 am, 5 days a week, with the other 20 hours of work on whatever time I choose to put in. This makes things terribly convenient when trying to start up a business, when you need daytime hours to do things like network, make contacts, talk with editors, etc. So, I swallow my pride, but not the Kool-Aid that they give us there, that it is such a fantastic place to be. Their attrition rate exposes the falsehood of that idea. Conformity however, is what they want.

Unfortunately, that offends my sensibilities.

"While you're a part of Crackerbox Palace
Do what the rest all do
Or face the fact that Crackerbox Palace
May have no other choice than to deport you"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In space, no one can hear you sneeze.......

So, the International Space Station has a Japanese astronaut visiting this time around, and he brought some goodies from Japan on board:

I'm forced to wonder how tough it might be to make maki in zero-g..........Pass the wasabi please.....(achoo!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dangerous Days.

What is it about this film, Blade Runner, that casts such a particular shadow? It has impacted so many things in our popular culture, from movies, to style, to predictions of the future. While visually complex and layered, (a hallmark of its director, Ridley Scott) the questions it asks are just as layered. It is hard to believe, looking back 25 years ago, that the movie was met with a generally negative response from the public and film critics alike. Time and a society that has been moving in the direction that the movie foresaw has tempered those opinions. It is generally regarded now as a masterwork, and incredibly prescient in its view of life, save for the flying cars of course.

I remember all too well when I first saw it. It was the end of my first year at SUNY Buffalo, I was down for the summer, back home in the Bronx, and as usual, picking up some EMS work to make enough money. I was going to be moving off campus the for the following year, so I needed to stash away as much money as possible. This is back when movies were still a cheap night out.

I saw the movie in Manhattan, if I recall, at the Lowe's on 86th and Lexington. Big movies need big screens. I came out of the theater dazed, stunned by what I had just witnessed, not completely understanding it all, but knowing that I had been impacted by something significant. Part of the problem was trying to process all the visual imagery that was assaulting my brain. Like his earlier epic, "Alien," Scott's view was not a pristine, Star Trek-like antiseptic environment. It was dirty, dangerous, and evil. While Scott did not pioneer the "used future" concept, he elevated to a new level.

Stepping out into the dank Manhattan night, I very clearly remember thinking that the future is not some time from now, but is now. NYC during the 80's, and through much of the first part of the 90's was not Fun City. While it would be a few years yet before crack would take hold of the city by the throat, and another decade before the Disneyfication of Times Square, the city was still on a downward spiral that was very, very evident. Los Angeles 2019 was right here, minus replicants, flying cars, and vid-phones.

What got to me more than anything else were the questions Blade Runner was asking: What does it mean to be human? How much time do I have? Where is the dividing line between good and evil?

I went back to see the movie again, and found myself even more confused, but in awe still of this piece of film noir. A few years later, when I was working the streets of Brooklyn, the hot summer nights would invariably turn a good part of the borough into something akin to Baghdad today, and the imagery of Blade Runner would become even more alive. It took some multiple viewings, a worn out VHS tape, and a maturing of my life before all of this snapped into place.

Now, lest you think that this blog is only going to be about the movie and it's impact on me, take heart, that is not the case. It is however, a place to start.

To be continued...........

The New Model........

........from fresh off the assembly line, here I come into the Brave New World that is blogging.......You may notice a certain motif that runs through the name of this blog. Kudos to you if you are a fan of BR, and if you are not, or are unsure of what BR is, all I can say is, you are missing something in your life by not having seen the movie.

So, what about me? I'm your average working guy, for the most part. I'm a night owl by nature, hence my main job in tech support until the wee hours of the AM. I never thought I would find myself doing this type of work, after spending so many years roaming the streets of NYC in an ambulance, picking up the broken bodies that coated the Bronx and Brooklyn from the mid 70's to the mid-90's.
I loved being a paramedic, but, like Deckard himself, I knew when it was time to quit. Moving away to upstate NY in 1999, I'm now paying the bills with this job, whilst I strive to start a writing career. Rochester is not like NYC, save for the fact that it has a lot in terms of culture, but, it has a murder rate that is actually higher than NYC. Go figure. Don't get the idea though that Rochester is Newark or Detroit. Far from it. On the whole, it is quite a great place to live, but like any American city, it has its issues.
Still, I don't miss the long commute times, the tolls, the feeling that you are disconnected from so many things and so many people. My only wish is that someone here would know how to:
1. make pizza properly
2. make a real kosher corned beef sandwich,
3. make a decent bagel.......
...........and know what an egg cream is.......(do you see a pattern here?)

I don't really like to talk about myself too much, as I tend to be private. I will probably be talking about things that matter to me, but I won't be giving too much away about me.....Sorry, that's the way it is......(Note to friends who might recognize me: Be discrete, ok. You know how I am.....)

So, while I formulate the next post, pull up a chair, and have one for me pal.......