Chinese Robocalls Indignantly Revisited

Recently I wrote this post about my frustrations about not only getting robocalls on my phone, but getting them in Mandarin, a language I do not speak. Beyond irritating. After that post, though, a friend sent me this article from NPR that addresses these calls specifically.

Whereas I was irritated before, now I’m outraged. Nothing has changed for me personally. I’m still getting the stupid calls. I’m still blocking them. But now I know the heinous purpose behind those calls, and it has triggered my Capricornian desire to protect others from all things unjust in this world.

These Chinese scammers are not simply trying to sell me something. No. They’re hoping I’m a Chinese immigrant who is understandably nervous about the human rights violations that China is so well known for. These robocalls tell them that this call is from their embassy, and that they’re suspected of committing some crime or other, and that the way to resolve this issue is by sending money to this bank in Hong Kong.

It’s amazing that people still fall for this stuff in this day and age, but imagine what it must be like for these immigrants, who most likely still have family back in China. They don’t want trouble for anyone. According to this article, immigrants have paid out at least 2.5 million dollars since December.

That’s a highly lucrative scam, so rest assured, it’s not going to go away any time soon. It breaks my heart that so many people who have struggled to come to America are now losing their life savings in an effort to stay here. Con artists tend to prey on the most vulnerable among us.

I really don’t understand psychopaths. They are completely devoid of empathy, so do they have any problem at all looking in the mirror after devastating others? Nope. They’re just fine. It makes me sick. (If you are one of these people and you’re reading this, you are twisted and evil and I hope that karma rolls over you like a crosstown bus.)

All I can do is shake my head and do my best to spread the word. I hope you will, too. Meanwhile, here are some things you should do to avoid scammers in general.

  • If you don’t recognize a phone number, don’t answer your phone. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.

  • If you do answer the phone and hear an automated voice, hang up immediately. If a company or individual really needs to speak to you, they won’t use a recording. If they do, whatever they have to say isn’t that important.

  • Do not give out personal information over the phone, especially your bank account number, your credit card number, or your social security number.

  • I have just downloaded an app to my phone called YouMail. It’s free, unless you upgrade for even more awesome features. It blocks many robocalls, and will even make them think your number is out of service so they don’t sell it on to the next scammer. It also provides you with personalized voice mail, auto-reply when you’re out of town or unavailable, conference calling, and reverse phone lookup. All for free. That seems like a pretty good deal to me. If it turns out to not work, I’ll be sure and let you know right here.

I hope you’ll all take a moment to have a conversation about scammers with the more vulnerable among us: the less tech-savvy, the very old, the very young, or the easily manipulated. This evil must end.

Robocalls

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Chinese Robocalls

The phone rings. It’s an unrecognized number, but it’s local, so I kind of feel like I have to pick up. And there it is again. An automated voice, speaking in Mandarin.

I don’t speak Mandarin, or any other Eastern tongue, if the truth be told. I suspect someone is trying to sell me something. I’ll never know.

I wouldn’t even know what number to press to speak to a human being and get taken off this fresh hell of a call list. And if I let it go to voice mail, I’d still have to listen to it eventually. So I simply hang up and block the number.

But tomorrow, someone else will call from another number and subject me to the same torture. This has been going on for months. My block list must be a half mile long.

This begs the question: How in the name of all that’s holy did I get on a call list for Chinese spam? What did I do to deserve this? Have I squashed too many spiders in my lifetime or something?

I kind of feel sorry for the random people who are doing these automated calls. They probably got sold a bogus phone list. They were most likely told they’d get a portion of each sale. But the majority of the people they call don’t speak the language, so they get no sales, while the person who sold them the list profits nicely.

It would be just my luck if it were someone trying to tell me where to pick up my lottery winnings. Meanwhile, here I am gritting my teeth, blocking the number, and praying that someday this particular torture comes to a merciful end.

Robocalls

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Happy Leap Day!

This is my very first leap day blog entry, and therefore I view it as an auspicious occasion indeed. And yet, what to say? It’s not like there’s a solid leap year tradition of any type in my family.

After doing a little lazy internet research on the subject, it apparently is a day when women can propose marriage to men. That kind of gets my feminist back up. If I feel like proposing, I shall bloody well do so any day of the year. But then, I can’t imagine feeling that urge, really, so only having to pass up the “opportunity” one day out of every four years suits me just fine.

I’ve also discovered that in the Chinese calendar, they get an entire leap month every three years, and it varies as to when it happens each time. That must get confusing.

When I was young, I used to feel sorry for people who had birthdays on a leap day. As someone whose birthday is close to Christmas, I know what it’s like to have your natal day overlooked or viewed as a massive inconvenience. But on the other hand, it makes for a great topic of conversation. You can’t have too many of those.

It’s kind of nice to be given the gift of a day. I hope you do something wonderful with it.

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For some, every day is leap day. [Image credit: telegraph.co.uk]

Walking Between Cultures

One of the things I love most about the virtual world of Second Life is that you get to meet people from all over the world. One friend, C.N., is a young man who is an amazingly talented artist from Vietnam. I met him just as he was finishing his secondary education and applying to universities abroad. I remember how exciting that time is. You have a world of opportunities in front of you. You can go so many different directions. There so many possibilities.

I was even more intrigued because his experience must be all the more heightened as he was going from one cultural extreme to another. What does that feel like? How does it impact you?

He just successfully completed year one and is back home on holiday, so I asked him to talk a little bit about his experiences. What follows is what he was kind enough to share. Thanks C.N.!

My first year in UK has just passed – I feel like it was just one week – with a lot of enjoyable experiences.

Though the university had got seven Vietnamese students before me, many people told me that I was the first Vietnamese they had ever met, after constantly mistaking me for a Chinese. I can say that I have busted a lot of misconceptions – very funny ones – that British people hold about Vietnam. Many of those who are old enough to have lived the period of the two wars in my country thought that we spoke French as the primary language instead of a unique mother tongue. When they learnt that we have our own language, Vietnamese, they asked me if its pronunciation and alphabet are similar to Chinese or Mandarin, and were pretty surprised by the big difference.

Before I left for England, all that I have heard about British people had been their posh manner. My parents – not sure from whom they got the idea – kept warning me about being bullied and discriminated by native students. They were also very worried that I would become tight–fisted and ‘starving in a sense’ as a result of being discouraged by the extremely expensive cost of living, which is also a common misconception in Vietnam and which had almost made my parents reconsider letting me go to England.

All those misconceptions seem to originate from different people’s experience in big cities like London. I myself went to London once, and I must say I didn’t enjoy it. Not only prices are costly; a smile is also something people cannot give for free. The atmosphere of the small city where I stayed is just the opposite. The people there are very friendly and adorable, which immediately made me feel at home. I’ve got to know many local people – here everyone knows everyone! – who very often invited me over for meals. I experienced the same friendliness on campus; one of my loveliest memories is getting yelled at by a professor for addressing him too formally.

After all, there’s no big difference between the lives I had amongst the small communities in UK and in my country, since – you know what they say – the people make the places!

tomato

[Image credit: volunteercard.com]

The Destruction of Women

Today I came across this picture on Facebook.

 deform

A friend of mine rightly commented, “And this was before Photoshop.” Women used to aspire to have wasp waists. To heck with breathing, we wanted to be desirable! These contraptions caused deformities in ribs and internal organs, weak muscles, and respiratory problems. It also increased the rate of miscarriages and death in childbirth. How many women had to faint before this became less fashionable?

This got me thinking of other ways we women have allowed ourselves to be altered, to our detriment, all in the name of “beauty” or cultural norms. Foot binding springs to mind.

Foot Binding

We’d like to think this particular form of mutilation was isolated, but it’s estimated that one billion Chinese women were put through this over a period of 1000 years. Yes, you read that correctly. People thought this was a good idea for 1000 years. One’s toes were bent into the soles of the feet until they broke, and then the arch was broken. Needless to say, this caused infections, especially if the nails weren’t clipped short enough and they grew into the soles. The solution for that would be to remove the toenails altogether. Sometimes the toes would drop off completely, but that, apparently, was seen as a good thing because then you could bind the feet even more tightly. And then you had the continual breaking of other bones because it’s impossible to balance on bound feet, and falls were quite common. Does reading this make you uncomfortable? Well, it sure beats the lifetime of agonizing pain that these women suffered.

The two horrendous body mutilations mentioned above are, fortunately, a thing of the past. I wish I could say that this was the end of this blog entry, and there is nothing new to report. But no.

In some Asian and African cultures, women wear neck rings to make their necks seem longer. Actually, their necks aren’t elongated. What a relief, right? No, what happens is their shoulder blades become deformed, giving the illusion of a long neck. Their collar bones and rib cages also get pushed down. This is done so they will appear more attractive.

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Even more horrific, in my opinion, is female genital mutilation, which, according to the world health organization, is still practiced in 28 countries throughout the world.

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About 120 million women have been subjected to this abuse. I won’t fully describe the procedure in all its grizzly variations. You can look it up yourself if you want to lose your appetite, but I will say that it is known to cause fatal hemorrhaging, cysts, recurring infections, a lifetime of pain, incontinence, fistulae, and problems during intercourse and childbirth.

Ah, but we western cultures don’t have to worry about these things, right? We honor our women! We would never cause them harm in the name of beauty, right? We’d never mutilate them, right? Well? Right?

breast-augmentation

Augmented breasts are supposed to make you more attractive and more successful. What they don’t tell you is these implants can make the breasts sore to the touch or numb and can decrease your sexual response. They also make it harder to detect breast cancer. Ruptures of the implants can cause pain and deformity. And your immune system can reject the implant and build a wall around it, causing pain, distortion and rupture.

And then there’s high heels.

high heels fallon 6 inch black patent stilletto

According to an article in the Washington Post, wearing heels places pressure on the inside of the knee, a common location for arthritis in women. It also causes your hips and spine to go out of alignment. It increases pressure on the forefoot, and shortens the length of the calf muscles. It can cause numbness in the toes, bunions, hammer toes, and ankle injuries. But hey! It’s attractive! That’s all that matters!

Since I’ve started viewing heels in this context, I’ve stopped wearing them entirely, and when I see others wearing them, I shudder.

What frustrates me most about all these horrors I’ve mentioned above is that we women are almost always complicit in these acts. If we don’t choose it ourselves, our mothers allow it or encourage it. So why are we so surprised when this happens?

 anorexia-nervosa

Eating disorders are more prevalent in women than men for a reason, and before we get all culturally superior, they are much more prevalent in Western cultures. We are raised to think that it’s important to be beautiful, but sadly we are often not warned that many standards of beauty are sick and twisted.

Eating disorders cause a whole host of side effects, including acne, constipation, osteoporosis, scurvy, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrest, kidney failure, tooth loss, brain atrophy, suicide and death.

Ladies, ladies, what are we doing to ourselves? I weep for my gender. And I’m also very, very pissed off.

I’ve Got Your Number. Right Here.

Well, everyone, I’ve got sad news. Today is 12/12/12, and it’s the last day any of us will see a triple date like that in our lifetimes. How sad. I’m sure to some people it’s even very significant, perhaps life-threatening. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there is a doomsday cult out there somewhere huddled in a bunker, waiting for the rest of us to be charred to a crisp so they can take over.

Here’s the thing about dates, though: they’re created by humans. And there’s more than one calendar out there, some still in use, some not. There’s the Julian calendar, the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese calendar, the Hebrew calendar, the Hindu calendar, the Islamic calendar, the Roman calendar, several different Egyptian calendars, the Unix calendar, the Ethiopian calendar, the Thai Solar calendar, Buddhist calendar, and the Baha’i calendar, and heaven help us all, the Mayan calendar. Many cultures rely on more than one calendar at the same time.

To further complicate things, some cultures start the week with Sunday, others with Monday. And in some countries, people write their dates day/month/year, and in others it’s month/day/year. And don’t even get me started on holidays. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Before President Lincoln straightened us all out here in America, Thanksgiving was celebrated on any one of a variety of dates, depending upon the state in which you lived.

In most Western cultures, our year is based on the date of Jesus’ birth. The problem with that is no one knows precisely when he was born. We could very well be as much as 7 years off. And in ancient times, it was speculated that his birth month was January, March, April, May or November. We finally settled on December 25th as it coincides with the southern solstice.

The starting year in Japan is based on when the current emperor began his rule. So 2012, for them, is the 24th year of the Emperor Akihito. Although rarely used in these modern times, this year in China could be either 4649, 4709 or 4710.

And no system is perfect. We make leap year adjustments, and there’s even a leap second on the atomic clock. When we adjusted to the Gregorian Calendar in England and America in 1752, we lost 11 whole days, and there was actually rioting in the streets.

So next time someone panics like it’s Y2K, or if you’ve cancelled your manicure appointment because the Mayan calendar is coming to an end in 9 days, remember: it’s all relative. Personally, I don’t worry about it much, because I’m a Capricorn.

Incidentally, you can buy my 2013 fractal calendar here: http://www.zazzle.com/fractal_calendar_2013-158324473116307597