Ramblin ‘z Rogerem

My friend Daniel discovered that that a person, for some unexplainable reason, had translated my March 22, 2009 post into Polish. It’s rather interesting, and fun. The AmeriNZ post Truth is the real victim is translated as Prawda jest prawdziwą ofiarą. Gordon’s post, partially about me, is Moja nagroda dla osiągnięcia Post # 1285. Johnny Bacardi, whose birthday was yesterday (oops) recently wrote Spójrz na moje prace, o wy, potężny i chichot. Część 37, which, of course means, Gaze upon my works, o ye mighty, and snicker. Part 37.
I told some of you that my 19-year-old niece was getting married and that I first learned about it by reading her Facebook page. Well, she isn’t getting married; she’s just in LOVE, and got too exuberant. Which just goes to show that you can’t believe everything on the Internet, even from someone’s Facebook page.
Some woman called our house looking for someone. No big deal – a wrong number. No big deal except it was 1:30 a.m. I wasn’t asleep, but my wife was, and the phone is in the bedroom. So I ran in there.
WOMAN: Is this the Toyota center.
ME: No, ma’m, it’s not. You’ve got…
WOMAN: I’m looking for Ted. You know him?
ME: No, there’s no Ted here. You’ve…
WOMAN: He’s a tall man.
ME: Lady, you’ve got the wrong number.
WOMAN: Ted’s not there right now? OK.
And she hung up.

It occurred to me that I have her phone number and sometime at 1:30 a.m., I could call…nah, I wouldn’t do that. I can THINK about it though, can’t I?
Weird thing happened a couple weeks ago with our front door lock. Our contractor was putting needed insulation in our attic. He locked the door, but apparently in such a way that when my wife and daughter got home from the grocery store, they couldn’t unlock the front door. The daughter was playing outside in the snow without gloves, against her mother’s wishes, and the wife was afraid that the child was going to get frostbite. Her cellphone had run down, so she just drove over to my office and called me from the lobby , about a half hour before I would have taken the bus home for the day. I went home, had to both squeeze the door handle and turn the lock simultaneously to get inside.

So I’m telling this story to a guy I knew, and he bristled. He wouldn’t want his wife just showing up at his place of work. But I knew that my wife is quite self-sufficient and if she thought she really needed my help, of course I’d give it to her. I thought the guy’s reaction was rather peculiar, actually, or else it spoke of the nature of his relationship with his wife.
Oh, and speaking of cell phones, which I sorta was, I got an e-mail message from my provider – let’s call it Virgin Mobile – with an e-mail on December 27 that I needed to “top up” my cell phones. OK, so I do, and I get confirmation on December 29. On January 2 and again on the 3rd, I get a message that I need to top up my cell phone. Apparently, they had topped up one but not the other, though the messages had indicated that I topped up neither. Don’t know why this peeved me so. I think it’s the happy, recorded speech on their phone lines, and a phone menu that simply did not address my particular problem. (Dial 8 for We Screwed up.)
As a business librarian, I often have the need to call the NYS Department of State, Division of Corporations. They’re a fine group of citizens. However, twice during the phone menu before I can reach a person, I get details about their impending move from 41 State Street to 99 Washington Avenue…in 2008. PLEASE change the menus of your phones.
I was watching JEOPARDY! at the end of 2009, and he wondered aloud whether the champion at the end of 2009, and continuing in 2010, would have his income taxed under each year. Well, unless they change their procedures, unless he stuck arounde like Ken Jennings, it would be for the latter year. When I was on, the show was taped in September 1998, the show aired in November 1998, but the check didn’t arrive until March 1999, so it was taxable for 1999. You’d think the host of the show for a quarter century would know that. Or maybe he was just making conversation.


Cory and Ike

I was surprisingly saddened by the death of Corazon “Cory” Cojuanco-Aquino last week, only in part because she led a peaceful revolution that toppled the corrupt Ferdinand Marcos regime in the Philippines two and a half years after the assassination of her husband. Interesting how there have been several presidents and prime ministers in Asian countries with relatively short post-colonization periods, but not yet in the USA.

I’m also reminded, though, of the father of an ex-girlfriend of mine. The ex and I have remained friends, so I would visit her from time to time. Her father, living only a couple blocks away from her, would come over and we’d all play hearts. During the game, he would test us on our knowledge of current events. On one visit back in 1986, all he said, “What does this mean?” He put his hand in the shape of the Aquino liberation L. Fortunately, I knew the answer. He died a few years back, and when I heard about Cory’s death, I found myself mourning again his death.

Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Reverend Ike was a radio and television evangelist, a proponent of a prosperity gospel known as thinkonomics. Long before pikers like Joel Osteen, Ike was doing his thing. I thought he was a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman, but this was the 1970s, in my unchurched period, and I found him an entertaining charlatan.

Here’s just a bit of his schtick, as reported here in 2007:

His mail ministry has long included an ever-changing variety of items: miracle prayer cloths, lucky coins, prosperity bracelets and the like, each said to help the user tap into his or her own inner divine power (Reverend Ike suggested, for instance, that the prayer cloth be used to rub lottery tickets or horsetrack betting slips). His latest offerings are “Musivation Ringtones,” ringtones for cell-phones he says will motivate followers towards prosperity and success.

The Reverend Mrs. Eula M. Dent Eikerenkoetter (“Rev. Mrs. Ike”), B.A., M.A., D.Sc.L., his wife, serves as Senior Co-Pastor, and his son, The Right Reverend Xavier Frederick Eikerenkoetter (“Rev. Ike’s Son”), B.A., M.Sc.L, D.Sc.L., is his “Bishop Coadjutor.”

“I love money and money loves me.”
“The lack of money is the root of all evil.”
“The Bible says that Jesus rode on a borrowed ass. But I would rather ride in a Rolls Royce than to ride somebody’s ass!”
“Be proud of the way I look, because you spend $1,000 a week to buy my clothes.”
“The best thing you can do for the poor is not be one of them.”

Like the writer, I was surprised he was still around, and I had missed his passing until I saw it mentioned on ABC’s This Week.

Another death to report: our cordless phone. My in-laws got it for us the week our daughter Lydia was born. I poo-pooed the need, but now I’ve miss it terribly the last four days. My father-in-law said it only cost about $15, and to replace the battery would cost about $12; talk about your planned obsolescence.


A is for Area Codes

Before I get into the meat of the second (and last) of these weekly checks of the prosaic, I did want to note how different area codes are from just about every other categorizing motif. In systems such as the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress library catalog systems or the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) for businesses or last week’s adventure, ZIP Codes, like things tend to be close to each other numerically (or in the case of the LC, alphanumerically).

However, most area codes are intentionally diffused so that the user isn’t confused by a similar number in the same area. So, in upstate New York, for instance, 315 (Syracuse/Utica area) is adjacent to 585, 607 and 518.

When I was a kid, I could tell you just what a legitimate area code looked like. The first digit was 2 to 9 (but not 1), and the next two digits were either 01 to 09 or 12 to 19. This is a now-useless skill comparable to being able to figure out square root with pencil and paper (which I can, but not as quickly as one can just type in the number and a function key on a calculator).

These numbers were so allocated this way because of some sort of design limitation. However, when it became apparent that they would soon run out of phone numbers, because of increased use of cell phones plus blocks of numbers being sought by businesses, technological innovations made it possible to greatly expand the pool of area codes.

All of these machinations are controlled by NANPA: the North American Numbering Plan Administration. “This site provides information about the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) and its administration. The NANP is the numbering plan for the Public Switched Telephone Network for Canada, the US and its territories, and the Caribbean.”

I remember back in 1984 when New York City was split into two area codes, 212, the code since at least 1952, and 718. Manhattan got to keep 212, but the outer boroughs, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island were burdened with 718, deemed as an “ugly” number by a NYC tabloid. Likewise, my old college town of New Paltz used to be in 914, along with the rest of the Mid-Hudson valley. Westchester County got to keep 914, but the rest of the area was switched to 845 in 2000. This list is now out of date, but shows the early changes.

As this source explains:

“Split” refers to a service area served by one area code being subdivided into two or more areas, with the original area code serving one of the subdivisions and new areacode(s) serving the other(s).

“Overlay” refers to a service area being served by two or more area codes simultaneously. usually i write “X overlaid on Y” to mean that X is a new areacode that will service an area that previously was serviced solely by Y.

The advantage of a split is that for intra-service area dialing, only 7 digits are required, but some existing users will be forced to change their web site, stationery, business cards, etc. In contrast, an overlay only affects new customers, so is less of a burden; however, neighbors may have to dial 11 digits to call each other.

It appears that the small hassle of dialing 11 digits, even within the same area code is far less burdensome than whole areas having to let friends and associates that they have a “new” number, as most of the recent changes seem to favor the overlay – my mom’s 704 overlaid with 980, or 917 overlaying all of New York City, ostensibly for cell phone service, but not so limited at this point.

There are still some area codes that will not be used, and it includes those ending in 11. That’s because the three digit numbers are otherwise allocated.
211 Community Information and Referral Services
311 Non-Emergency Police and Other Governmental Services
411 Local Directory Assistance
511 Traffic and Transportation Information (US); Provision of Weather and Traveller Information Services (Canada)
611 Repair Service
711 Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS)
811 Access to One Call Services to Protect Pipeline and Utilities from Excavation Damage (US); Non-Urgent Health Teletriage Services (Canada)
911 Emergency

The Albany, NY area just got a 211 service in April 2009.

There are also a batch of area codes that are toll-free, though they may be limited by geography. 800 was the first, followed by 888, 877, and 866, with 855, 844, 833 and 822 held in abeyance.


The Phone, the phone is ringing

One of the rules of the house is that we don’t answer the phone we’re eating dinner. My running joke: “That’s why God created the answering machine.” Even when we’re not eating, we screen our calls. We have Caller ID, and unless it’s a name or number I recognize, it goes to the machine; “Private Name, Private Number” always goes there, and sometimes it’s someone we know, so then we respond accordingly. I didn’t think I’d like it, but my favorite gizmo is the fact that I can tell who’s calling while the TV’s on so I can see if it’s worthwhile getting up.

At work, though, I don’t have that luxury. If the phone is ringing, I answer. I have access to four different lines. One is my direct line. One is the line for the library; we have a rotation, whereby I’m first on the phone on Tuesday and second on Thursday. However, if it gets to the third ring, regardless of the day, we each try to pick it up, for after it gets to the fourth ring, it goes to voice mail, and it’s a minor pain to retrieve.

The other two phones are the main office phones. Back in our old place, with our ancient, supposedly inferior system, if I heard the phone ringing at lunchtime or late in the day, I could hit *70 and pick it up. In our current location, though, only the secretary and office manager initially could answer the main phones, which wreaked to me of bad customer service. They are not glued to their desks and so they would often miss calls. Some of them were important government officials or even a delivery person in the lobby of our own building, who can’t get in without being buzzed in.

Things improved somewhat when a free-standing phone was installed near the copy machine. Not only did the secretary not have to run back to her desk, I could run over and pick it up if necessary. Eventually, I realized that the phone chord was long enough to reach my desk, so for the last hour of the day, after the front desk personnel left at 4 p.m., I’d haul it over to my desk for the last hour.

Finally, at my request, I was given a new phone with all four lines. This saved me an inordinate amount of time and effort during the day. Though I’ve discovered we do seem to be getting more prerecorded messages like this one: “This is your second call. This is your second opportunity to save money on your auto insurance…”

It’s the little things that make a job more or less tolerable. When I first started working at the SBDC 16 years ago, I shared a phone line with the fax line, and far too often, I’d pick up and get an earful of the whiny, high-pitched noise of a fax transmission. Getting my own line a few months letter made my life SO much easier.

But what prompted this post was a particular call I got a couple weeks ago to my direct line. “Hello,” the live voice said. “Is this Roger Green?” Yes. “This is Roger Green from Ramblin’ with Roger?” It is. “Hello, I’m XXX. You may be surprised to hear from me. But I need a trustworthy person to transfer some monies from my country into the United States. And we know that you are a reliable person.” He said a couple other things. It was the Nigerian scheme – live, on the phone! I quickly said “no, thank you”, mostly because I was awaiting a call from my wife about our daughter, but I would LOVE to have heard more about it. All I know is that he called from Rhode Island and that he had that typical British/African vocal pattern.

My Periodic Need for a Non-Thematic Post, January 2007 Edition


I’ve seen saxophonist Michael Brecker playing somewhere. Maybe it was backing Joni Mitchell in Philadelphia in 1981, or maybe on one of his solo jazz excursions. He appears in that “Hot Tub” segment of Saturday Night Live I linked to when James Brown died last month. In any case, you’ve almost certainly have HEARD Michael Brecker, who played with Paul Simon (Still Crazy, among others), Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run), Frank Zappa, and zillions more, including the aforementioned James Brown, and who died of leukemia this week at the age of 57.
Art Buchwald, whose wonderfully acerbic column I used to read, was probably best known for not dying when everyone, including himself, thought he would. That and the lawsuit over the Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America.
I would have said something about the passing of film producer Carlo Ponti, except that I might have accidentally revealed my grand crush in high school (and later) of his wife, and it seemed unseemly, so I won’t.


HIV/AIDS attacks



When it comes time to prepare and file your 2006 tax return, make sure you don’t overlook the “federal excise tax refund credit.” You claim the credit on line 71 of your form 1040. A similar line will be available if you file the short form 1040A.

This is about the federal excise tax that’s been charged for long-distance calls on phone bill for years, based on the distance and length of the calls. When phone companies began to offer flat fee phone service, challenges to the excise tax ended up in federal courts. The IRS has now conceded this argument. Phone companies were given notice to stop assessing the federal excise tax as of August 30, 2006.
But the challengers of the old law also demanded restitution. So the IRS has announced that a one-time credit will be available when you file 2006 tax returns. However, the IRS also established limits on how BIG a credit you can get.
If you file your return as a single person with just you as a dependent, you get to claim a $30 credit on line 71 of your 1040.
If you file with a child or a parent as your dependent, you claim $40.
If you file your return as a married couple with no children, you claim $40.
If you file as married with children, you claim $50 if one child, $60 if two or more children.
In all cases, the most you get to claim is $60 – UNLESS you have all your phone bills starting AFTER Feb 28, 2003 through July 31, 2006 – which I certainly don’t – then you can add up the ACTUAL TAX AS IT APPEARS ON YOUR BILLS AND CLAIM THAT FOR A CREDIT. If you do that, you’ll have to file a special form number 8913 and attach it to your tax return. Individuals using the form 1040EZ will have to attach this form 8913 also.

One final point – this credit is a refundable credit. That means you get this money, no matter how your tax return works out. If you would end up owing the IRS a balance, the refund will reduce that balance you owe. If you end up getting a refund, the credit will be added and you get a bigger refund by that $30 to $60, depending on how many dependents are on your return.


January 27-29 gathering in Washington, DC, “to remind the new Congress that we elected them to end the war in Iraq and to bring the troops home now.”


Conan the Librarian
A REAL library’s take on Madonna’s Ray of Light
A Biblical Understanding of Marriage
Finally, watch Tom the Dog on 1 Vs. 100 (square 81) AGAIN tonight on NBC, at 8 EST.
Carlo Ponti,

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