Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Ways to bewilder telemarketing droids

Ring. Fumble. Where is my cell phone? Ring. Fumble. Aha. Ring. Hello?

Jason Truesdell, Yuzu Trading Company... Hello?

"Hello?"

Yuzu Trading Company, how can I help you?

"May I speak with the owner?"

What do you need?

"Hello? This is [unintelligible] with Domain Names and [blah blah blah]. Can I get your fax number to send you a packet of information [unintelligible]?"

No.

"What?"

No.

"Uh... I ..."

No, I already have information on domain names. Thanks. I don't need anymore. Especially sent to my fax number, I think silently.

"Well, I just [unintelligible] mrpfhfmphf."

No, thank you. (Click)

 

Granted, I have some sympathy for people making cold calls... I've been there, done that. It's no fun. But the last thing I want, when on the receiving end of such calls, is to give implicit permission to send even more marketing material that I don't want. Especially when it's the in the first semi-intelligible utterance in the conversation.

I have this instinct that makes me immediately suspicious when I receive a call and the person on the other end of the line doesn't respond like a normal person... if they say hello before I do, or if there's a second or two of supernatural silence before a clicking sound, I just know it's a marketing droid and I immediately activate my "fight or flight" defenses.

However, I've had those defenses successfully disarmed, at least long enough to listen to the key message.

It just takes a little more effort. Not that I want more marketing calls, but just as an example...

Ring... Ring...

Jason Truesdell, Yuzu Trading Company...

"Hi Jason, I was just looking at YuzuMura.com... It's a beautiful site. You have some really interesting products I've never seen anywhere else."

Flattery will get you 15 seconds of my attention... "Is this a customer?" I wonder? Oh! Thank you, I say.

"I know you're busy... I'm with [name omitted] publishing company that produces a number of books, some of which cover Asian art and travel topics... Would you be interested in taking a look?"

Oh, it's a marketing call after all. But wait, she actually knows something about my business, and has something potentially relevant to offer.

Well, I'm certainly willing to take a look... On my web site I really need books that have a coffee-table format, or otherwise have a production style that would be appropriate for the gift market. At the moment, I have some hurdles with books because my storefront's software has some issues with shipping calculations using multiple shipping methods, but it's certainly something I've been considering...

"Yes, that's pretty much all we produce. Would you be interested in..." (the conversation continues)

 

To be fair, I haven't yet ordered from that second company yet, either, but I have a positive impression of the company, and the salesperson put me at ease. She appeared to take a serious look at my business, even if it only means she spent 30 seconds skimming through the text and photos on the top page of my online shop. She tried to offer me something she thought would be compatible with my business.

Not everything works out instantly, but guess which company I'm likely to call back when I need something they offer?

International spam

I found my business email account is now averaging one spam message per day advertising some sort of questionable Japanese matchmaking service, and about one or two messages per week in Hebrew. Every once in a while I get spam in Chinese or Korean, though that’s far less common.

My domain name has a Japanese word in it, so maybe that would explain why I’m targeted for Japanese spam, but it’s not much of an explanation for the stuff in Hebrew. I haven’t ever registered for any Japanese site with my business email account except FoodEx or Hoteres trade shows.

Except for the fact that MSN somehow redirects a defunct Israeli florist site to my YuzuMura domain, I can’t figure out why I get spam in Hebrew. I tried to get someone in MSN that I used to work with to investigate that particular problem, though nobody has ever gotten back to me.

I’m not literate in Hebrew and I don’t understand enough Korean to recognize what the Korean spam is about. I understand the gist of the Japanese spam but even on the extremely remote chance I were the type inclined to respond to such offers, I don’t see what value sending it out of the country would be. The Hebrew spam seems to be Israel-based companies promoting vending machines or vacation packages or something similarly useless since I’m nowhere near Israel. They are particularly abusive because they tend to include large image files.

Sometimes I wish email weren’t so close to free. One of my email accounts became almost completely useless after 6 years of use.

Commiseration and catharsis

Amelia and Jennifer and I had a need for some decompression yesterday evening (and I'm sure we're not the only ones) so we made arrangements to meet up for dinner at Monsoon, a yuppie Vietnamese restaurant which cleverly located itself next to Kingfish Cafe on 19th in Capitol Hill a few years ago.

Monsoon has the "small and sexy" thing right; the food was generally pretty nice, though we had some grit in the matsutake component of our bok choy and matsutake.  The lemongrass tofu was nice, the persimmon salad was simple and clean (though they didn't warn about the shreds of bacon... I chose to work around them), and Jennifer and Amelia devoured the foie gras and poached peaches. A tamarind, chicken and shrimp soup probably serves as a year-round staple, and I ate some of the vegetables and broth, which was pretty pleasant.

The matsutake oversight aside, the food helped lift our apocalyptic moods.

We felt the need for movement en route to dessert, though our dessert move morphed rapidly into a need for red wine and cheese. We made our second stop at Brasa's bar, and had the cabrale cheese plate with a Spanish red that was just about the right complexity for the cheese. The thinly sliced apples, grapes and spanish almonds also helped.

We ordered more cheese from the main dining room's stash, trusting our waitress to pick the right ones, and she did. Somehow we ended up ordering the grape pizza with more cabrales cheese, which was worthwhile, and I'm sure I remember it from when I was there three or four years ago. It was a good way of communally distracting ourself from our country's confusion of bravado and virtue.

Our theme for the evening: We may not have a Democrat in the White House, but we can drink like Republicans.

Attacked by a Senior Citizen

Whenever I’m driving somewhere, I irritate my passengers by being ultra-conservative about when I enter traffic. If I see someone on my left when I’m turning right, if I think there’s the slightest chance they could come near me, I usually wait, and wait, and wait.

So about five or ten seconds after I turned right out of a parking lot around Leary and 14th in Ballard today, I was very surprised to see a car bearing right into my direction on my driver’s side mirror. I started moving closer to the right because I thought it was very strange that someone would be moving so close to me so fast. It was also strange to see the car bearing right, as if it was aiming for me.

Then, I noticed a little scraping sound as the car zoomed in front of me. I remember thinking, oh, what’s this about? And then the car finally started slowing down and turned into another parking lot. An elderly woman got out of the car and was complaining that I had just hit her. She said she was “just in her own lane” but of course there was nothing on the left when I entered traffic, so I am quite convinced she had a very loose interpretation of “in her own lane”. In any event, she left convinced that I had hit her, even though she was coming from behind me.

She started talking about the last time someone hit her, so I thought maybe this is a habit of hers.

There was no meaningful damage to speak of; some clearcoat scratches on her car. She said there was a dent, but I couldn’t see anything; the other side of the car had the same shape. My car had minor scratches in the clear coat and a small amount of chipped paint at the wheel well edge.

She collected my driver’s license and insurance information and I got hers, borrowing her pencil and notepad, which she had in her hand as soon as she got out of her car. I didn’t think it was worth reporting, but then I realized I should call my insurance company since she seems intent on placing the blame on me.

I guess I have to watch out for people who aim at my car… It never occurred to me that someone would do that.

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and we're back

I’m not completely up and running again, but I got my replacement hard drive for my laptop installed and the OS is back up… now I have to install all the stuff I used to have and try to recover as much of the data of the old drive as possible.

I bought a USB device that’s supposed to allow me to plug in the old hard drive and use it as an external device… I suppose that’ll work until the old one is completely dead, though it didn’t arrive with the hard drive itself. Or rather, FedEx seemed unaware of it when I went down to their sort facility to pick it up, and the tracking number from Buy.com was useless.

Tomorrow I’ll try posting some food from the weekend.

Irritating spammers

It seems over the last few months my referrer logs on my blog site have become nearly useless.

I used to enjoy looking to see who was linking to me, but now 90% of the “referrers” are actually bogus. They attempt to promote questionable pharmaceutical or gambling sites. Someone just writes a bunch of scripts that cruise blog sites with forged headers.

Most of them are immediately obvious ploys but every once in a while something pops up with an innocuous-looking URL that tricks me.

I think they are trying to trigger fake trackbacks or something. After I added the Human Interaction Proof (HIP) requirement to post comments on my blog, all of the spammer efforts were shifted from making bogus comments to making bogus HTTP referral log entries.

Somehow I can’t figure out how such spammers think this helps them. I wouldn’t actually buy anything from such a site and cluttering up referral logs can’t help with search engine page rankings, so what exactly is the objective?

Kantou Earthquake

Wow… I was just watching an earthquake on an MSN Messenger video conversation and was a little speechless. Hiromi and I were struggling with network flakiness and general computer headaches and just as we got video up again an earthquake hit the Kantou region in Japan.

It seemed fairly hefty, but appears not to have been too destructive. Hiromi says it seems to have hit the Izu peninsula the hardest. The Japanese scale was about Shindou 4.0 (different than the Richter scale of magnitude). We stayed connected, so I could also see shaking from many smaller aftershocks.

It was a little scary to watch. Actually, I can’t say I’ve ever observed an earthquake from the point of view of a video conversation before…

 on Technorati

 

Too much information

Lucas of Cooking In Japan tagged me with the “Too Much Information” meme, for which I am invited (commanded?) to present 10 revealing/odd/interesting/random facts about me. I can’t promise much, but since I haven’t revealed terribly much about my pre-blogging existence here, I thought I’d reach into the past…

  1. Before I could even properly speak English, I had a Japanese babysitter, and I learned to speak enough Japanese that my mother nearly worried I might have a learning disability, until the babysitter started translating for me in my mother’s presence. I promptly forgot all of this after growing a bit older, and it hasn’t apparently helped me move beyond my limited Japanese.
  2. I quietly claimed, studied, and, due to frequent commutes in a backpack to school, damaged the paperback binding of my stepfather’s German Made Simple textbook about 3 years before I could elect to take German in high school, first learning to mispronounce German words around age 11.
  3. After planning an exchange program to Germany, I switched my major from Literature to East Asian Studies, putting myself in the odd position of trying to learn Japanese in Germany.
  4. Before I was allowed to cook unsupervised on the stovetop, I was fascinated by cooking with the microwave, and made various melted marshmallow concoctions.
  5. The first baking recipes I learned, other than those taught to me by my mother or other family members, were taken from the back of a Bisquick box. (I haven’t touched a box of Bisquick since 1993).
  6. I remember more about my first meals with girlfriends, past and present, than I do about such details as, for example, when their birthdays might be.
  7. I once held a dinner party to which more than 35 people showed up. Everyone went home well-fed, though most of them had to sit on the floor. I was able to maintain some semblence of domestic civility: Most people ate off of ceramic dinnerware, rather than disposable.
  8. Back in my college days, I produced a television show, produced a radio talk show, created TV news graphics, and hosted several music shows on my college TV and radio stations, when I wasn’t busy with political rabble-rousing. Frequent typos and grammatical flubs in this blog notwithstanding, I even had a brief stint as assistant editor at a small Seattle weekly newspaper.
  9. I’ve never paid for a TV, and I still have the same cheap stereo I bought in college about 12 years ago.
  10. I started college with a clear idea of what kind of work I wanted to do after graduating, but I graduated without one.

The memetic process depends on reproduction, so part of the deal is that I’m supposed to tag 5 other bloggers to respond to the meme. It’s meant to take a life of its own, like the game “telephone” combined with a chain letter. I’ll ask Hiromi to spread the meme in Japanese. Perhaps Travis in Tokyo and nearby Amy of Blue Lotus can play. If she’s amenable, perhaps I can convince my almost-neighbor, Gluten-Free Shauna, whom I’ve never met in spite of the fact that we both know some of the same people, to participate. My former roommate, Kaori, may answer in English or Japanese.

Tsuji Ayano

I was pleased to hear a feature on Japanese ukulele player and singer Tsuji Ayano on PRI’s The World. I’ve been listening to her music since around March 2000, when I ran into one of her early full-length albums at a “New Release” listening station in HMV Shibuya. (A Japanese site has some sound clips).

That album was a refreshing change from standard-issue Japanese pop fare, mostly because the production aesthetic was so austere.

Most Japanese musicians are barely distinguishable under the weight of their usually far more famous producers. In contast, Ayano’s work has an infections, unpretentious style, slightly boyish lyrics, and is relatively free of the standard issue self-conscious cuteness endemic among Japanese female vocalists. She has a kind of singer-songwriter style that, while certainly Japanese, would not be shocking on a playlist of contemporary American folk music.

When I first heard her music, I was hooked. Ever since then, I tend to seek out her newer albums whenever I travel to Japan, and I buy them before I even have a chance to listen to them.

The funny thing is that I started listening before most of my Japanese friends had ever heard of her. A year or so after I started listening to her music a friend in Japan told me she had a bit of an ear worm from a song of Ayano’s that had apparently been featured on a TV commercial or movie or something, but apparently the marketing department of her record label took a relatively soft approach to promoting her work.

I wonder if the little mention on The World will build some awareness of her work in the U.S.

I’m not a big fan of Japanese pop music, but Ayano’s work has made me hopeful to find more quality music from Japan.

Compliments in Japan

One of the things I learned in high school German class was never, ever to accept a compliment. The proper response is denial; graciously accepting someone's praise in Germany is hopelessly gauche.

Fortunately, a similar aesthetic regarding compliments prevails in Japan, as this Japan Times article suggests. So even my first time in Japan, around 1998, I was habitually denying the overwrought compliments offered on my truly atrocious Japanese. Anyone I know whose Japanese skills are actually worthy of praise ceases directly hearing even a word of such, unless they are particularly tired and sloppy and making mistakes. Such people are offered praise (or bewilderment) through intermediaries.

Unlike Germany, however, it seems to be far more common for Japanese to lavish praise on people, so the skills in deflecting compliments require somewhat faster reflexes.

It is somewhat news to me, though, that I would need to be cautious about group contexts when offering compliments to people close to me... But since Americans can be insulted by insincere compliments, I suppose the same risk would be present in U.S. situations; offering an insincere compliment to someone you know in a mixed group might be taken particularly badly. I think that the most sincere direct compliment in Japan is when someone is saying that they like something about you (I like your hair when it is longer) or something that you have done (is it ok if I eat more of this?), rather than offering general praise (your Japanese is good, etc.)

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