Janet's Jargon

Fun lifestyles, charitable acts, great fiction, author support, Patrick and Grace Mysteries, Keith clan trilogy,

Monday, May 25, 2009

Outsourcing--it finally makes sense

Most of you know that I used to live in Grand Forks ND. North Dakota has some wonderful senators and a fantastic representative. Yes, there is just one. His name is Earl Pomeroy, and he happens to be my daughter's best friend and former roommate's cousin, which helps if you need something from DC in a hurry. In case you haven't heard, or don't remember, the number of representatives is based on the population of the state. Enough said. I'm not sure, but Rhode Island probably has more representatives than North Dakota does.

One of the senators is Kent Conrad. He holds a special place in my heart. After the Great Flood in 1997 in Grand Forks, Ivan's military medals were lost. I don't know if somebody in Winnipeg ended up with them, but it's possible. I have often said that things are so backwards in North Dakota that even the river flows the wrong direction! Anyway, Sen. Conrad helped me get replacement medals for Ivan for his last Christmas. It meant the world to him.

The other senator is Byron Dorgan. I think he's my favorite of the trio. Why? I don't know. Maybe it is just because when I contacted him (through Mission Socorro, the charitable organization Ivan and I ran in the Red River Valley for over 30 years) to help a person who was having problems with things like Social Security or Medicare, he always came through.

Anyway, a couple of years ago Byron Dorgan became a fellow author. The subject is "Outsourcing." You know what that means: sending our work to foreign countries because it is "cheaper." I happen to agree with Sen. Dorgan very strongly on this issue. We have massive unemployment in our own country, so why should we be paying the wages (even if they are lower) for people halfway around the world?

One of my biggest gripes is when you try to call a technical support person. You dial a toll-free phone number, and then you try your dead level best to make them understand you, and vice versa. I have learned one little trick; if you punch the number they suggest if you speak Spanish, you might end up with a Spanish-speaking person in the US. I have no idea if they are here legally or not, but if you are bi-lingual in Spanish/English, the call usually goes through much faster. But for some reason, if you choose the English option, it seems like the majority of technicians are someplace in India.

I have nothing against the Indian people. In fact, I have a couple of very good friends who are from India--a long time ago. But when I want an answer to why a certain software program won't work the way they tell me it should work, I want somebody that I can understand, and who can figure out what I'm talking about.

Well, today is Memorial Day. I was volunteering at the Amberg (WI) Historical Society's Museum complex as a tour guide from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Shortly after noon two cars pulled up in front of the museum and a group of foreign-looking young people got out and made their way into the main museum building. They took their time in there, and then they came to the old town hall building where I was giving the tours. The first young man came in, and I asked him where they were from. That is a common question, as the museum gets visitors from all over the country. He replied, "I live in Chicago, but I'm originally from India." Yes! It was that same accent I had heard on all of those technical calls! I asked him what he did in Chicago, and he replied, "I am a software technician--you know, a troubleshooter."

I couldn't help it. I just had to ask. "You mean when I call that toll free number because I can't figure out your software and I get some guy that, when I ask him where he is from, answers 'India,' and it is really you--sitting at a desk in Chicago?"

The poor fellow. I thought he was never going to quit laughing. But at least I felt a whole lot better, knowing that at least some of those calls are going to people right here in the good old U.S.A.!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pancakes--for the soul

Yes, pancakes. When I was a kid at home, we had pancakes for breakfast every day except Sunday. My dad swore that he got a migraine headache if he didn't have pancakes to start the day out. Sunday, however, was Mother's day, and we got to have whatever she wanted. I never could figure out why Daddy had a headache some days even when we had pancakes. I finally asked him. His reply was, "I guess I didn't eat enough of them." Anyway, I have always thought of pancakes as my "comfort food." After a hard day, nothing soothes my nerves like a stack of them on my plate. I don't even have to have ham or bacon or sausage with them to make them do their job.

Back in 1996, right after Ivan had lost his leg, our daughter Raquel and I stopped at the Village Inn on our way up to the hospital one day. The waiter was a fellow we had gotten to "know," just by our trips to the restaurant. We had exchanged small talk with him many times, but didn't really "know" him up close and personal--until that day. I ordered pancakes and explained to him about Ivan being in the hospital. He then told us that it was probably the last time he would be serving us, as he was leaving the next week for college in Texas. He was going to be studying jazz music. Jokingly, I asked him if he would write down his name "so we can watch for your CD when it comes out--after you get famous." He grabbed a napkin and scribbled his name on it. We knew that his first name was Jeremy, but what a surprise to discover that his last name was Hallett. That was my maiden name! A bit of delving into our pasts quickly assured us that we were indeed distant cousins.

Anyway, other things over the years, especially since Ivan's death, have offered me that same feeling of comfort that I get from pancakes. Last night was a perfect example of that. When we were in Grand Forks (ND), we often kept the radio on, tuned to KFNW, the Christian radio station, as we crawled into bed, especially on cold winter nights, and we would listen to Bill Pearce on Night Sounds. If you have never heard the program, check it out in your area. He has the most soothing voice I've ever heard. The only problem was that he often would lull us to sleep before the end of the program and in the morning we would ask each other, "Did you hear what he said all the way through?" It was seldom that either of us did, but it was a good feeling.

When I moved to northeast Wisconsin, I was delighted to find a new Christian radio station. It is WRVM, which stands for Wisconsin Radio Voice of the Master. The local people seem real friendly. I have even met one of them a couple of times. Yes, it is Michael Fletcher, whose picture is up at the top there. We have met at a couple of the music programs the radio station has sponsored at the Cup O' Joy Coffeehouse in Green Bay WI. I even gave him a copy of one of my books, which I don't think he has read yet, but since he is on the air early in the morning and late at night many days, I have decided to overlook that. After all, it is a Christmas book, so he has plenty of time...

And, Bill Pearce and Night Sounds is also on WRVM, and it is late enough that I turn it on when I crawl into bed, and yes, I often fall asleep before the end of the program. But last night, for some reason, I stayed with it for the full half hour. He was talking about "stuff." You know, the things that fill our garages and our attics and we haven't used it in 25 years or more, but we still leave it there. Bill talked about all the traps we fall into as far as buying things we don't really need. Yes, he even confessed to doing the same thing himself. I was feeling fairly self-righteous, as I had to get rid of a whole lot of "stuff" before I moved. Then I mentally traveled around my new house and I realized that I had not only kept a lot of the "stuff" from my previous life, but I had accumulated quite a bit more "stuff" after I moved here, which is just over a year ago. I vowed to be more careful about what else I buy, which isn't that hard right now since I have to pay the pre-buy gas bill for the entire year by the end of May.

I left the radio on for a bit after Night Sounds ended, and then I fell asleep. When I woke up, some other fellow was talking. I don't know who it was, but I caught him just as he said, "Seek righteousness first, then all these other things will be added onto you." It didn't take me long to shut the radio off. I didn't really need a new excuse to start all over with more "stuff," no matter how righteous I felt!

So, my comfort zone got invaded. I started out feeling like I'd just had a stack of pancakes, and it quickly turned into an overdose of too much maple syrup on top of it!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Idea makers

People often ask writers where they get their ideas. It is such a basic part of an author's life that it hardly bears giving an answer. I have always figured that real life is indeed stranger than fiction. All a person has to do is to keep their eyes and ears open, and they will soon find their brains filled with far more ideas than they have time to write about. I can't begin to tell you how many columns I have written were born at the Red Lobster when Ivan and I would eat there. Now, living in Small Town USA I have to resort to the gossip at THE local cafe. Yes, there is only one.

However, this week has been proof that having kids helps too, especially if your kids are as "inventive" with their lives as mine are. Our daughter, who runs her own photography business, is the "appointed" photographer for the drag queen events in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota. And you thought they were a bunch of old farmers that never did anything exciting or unusual! And this weekend she went to a concert in Fargo for Elton John and Billy Joel. Yup, life in rural America!

Today my oldest son called me from Las Vegas. He was laughing, as he had been reading the latest book by Tim Dorsey, his favorite author. He said he found the best quote he has ever read. It is: "Coleman, there are three- and only three- kinds of people in this world: Those who don't know they're damaged and blame others; those who realize they're damaged and blame others; and then people like you and me, who wear damage like comfortable pajamas."
Coleman swigged from his pint bottle. "Mine are the ones with the little feet."

I have to agree. That's a pretty good one. Then he went on to sort of nonchalantly mention that the "biker chick" he had taken some pictures of was a finalist for a "spread" in a pretty big biker magazine. I didn't ask a lot of questions. If she makes it into the magazine, he gets some pretty decent money out of it. And since things are pretty slow these days in Las Vegas (he is a Union audio/visual technician), he has been doing pretty well with his side-line business he has started. What is he doing? Making barbecue grills out of things like hot water tanks and old bathtubs. The strangest part of it is, he is actually selling them.

Then there is our youngest, who lives in New Orleans. He is wheeling and dealing to try to make his dream come true--having his own swanky Italian restaurant. He is tossing figures of millions of dollars around as unimpressed as if he was working for the government. I wish him the best. He's had way more than his share of trials in his life, so he's long overdue for some good news. When it happens, I'll let you all know so you can stop in for a scrumptious meal. He is a fantastic chef, having studied "real" Italian cooking (living with Italian families) for a while. He also learned a lot from his dad, who could outdo a lot of the big names on getting creative in the kitchen.

Oh, and lest I forget, I have a gal who lives in Clifford, North Dakota (population practically non-existant) who has adopted me as her "mom." She runs a floral business and she wanted some help with her website. She sounds like your typical "country farmer's wife," right? Well, she would be, except she used to be a Playboy bunny. Her husband went to Las Vegas on vacation a few years back and rescued her by taking her "back to the farm." She's a real sweetheart and the two of them plan to come to visit me this summer--on their motorcycle.

So, now that the home base has been put back in its place, I suppose I really should see if I can conjure up a new idea for another book. You know, try to figure out where I can find something worth writing about.

I hope you all have a creative day too!