MT VOID 06/20/97 (Vol. 15, Number 51)

MT VOID 06/20/97 (Vol. 15, Number 51)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 06/20/97 -- Vol. 15, No. 51

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
              Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
              Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: The URL for the SF interview radio show "Reality Break" (carried in the New York area on 91.5 FM from 9 to 9:30 AM on Tuesdays. [-ecl]


Achtung! Achtung! Diese tag: Arnold Schwarzenegger ist en FLEDERMAUSENMENSCH UND ROBIN DER WUNDERKIND.

Comments on charities:

In general I like the advance of technology, but I have to admit that some of the inventions connected with the telephone are really just a super pain. I think it started when the telephone was first invented. The telephone all by itself could be a pain. You could have a line of people waiting to talk to someone, but the telephone rings and immediately the people in line are of secondary priority, even if they have been waiting for an hour or more. The phone never really knew how to wait, but of course people did know. Then somebody, probably at AT&T, came up with the bright idea to put a hold button on a telephone. It may have been for this very same reason, so that you could make someone on the telephone wait while you served the people in line, but like most revolutions the people it was supposed to help end up being hurt. Somehow I guess the oppressed will always be oppressed. This hold button came along. All of a sudden people all over the business world discovered that they could put people they really didn't want to talk to on hold. They could make them wait just like the people in the line. And they could maintain three or four conversations at once and go into the exhilaration of sensory overload at the expense of some else waiting at the far end of the line. Then here I was working for AT&T and they came up with the next irritating telephone innovation. They made these phone answering things where you want to talk to someone and end up talking to a computer that puts you through a seemingly endless set of multiple choice questions on your way to hoping that you will eventually find a real human person not made of pieced together taped speeches.

All these telephone add-ons have a real benefit in that they act like a servant handling your telephone for you, but that is not really the appeal and the big advantage. They are really an announcement to the world that if you are going to talk to me, you will do it on my terms and following my rules. The more technology you can muster, the more you have the upper hand. I mean every time you here a message saying "all our staff are busy right now, but your call is very important to us so please hang on the line and we will serve you as soon as possible," you know what they are really telling you is "you are about as important to us as day-old pig snot, but please hang on the line if you must because our staff is on the phone talking to her boyfriend. Everyone who talks to us goes through the same initiation ritual first."

Now in the home there are a lot of people who depend on the element of surprise when they call. Alumni associations, people asking for donations, people wanting to sell newspapers, they all ring the phone in just the same way that a friend does. We all have answered the phone in good faith and had the sinking feeling about talking to someone on the far end of the line. The first reversal in the tide telephone technology going against the individual was when a piece of phone technology was developed for the general user that gave him the upper hand. The telephone answering machine came along and suddenly people like me could tell people calling us that they could play by our rules. The way I use it is to say that people wanting to talk to me have to identify themselves first. For a while this worked well. It is a little unpleasant for the people calling me whom I do want to talk to, they have to listen to the message every time they call us, but the people I really prefer not to talk to know who they are and don't hang on the line to even leave me a message.

Well, as I say this worked well, but in the world of technology there is no ultimate deterrent. The various nuisance callers have now automated with computers and can call ten times in an evening. The computer just keeps recalling and alerts the caller by showing a name on a screen when it finally does make a connection. This is a real nuisance since you really have listen to each call to know if it is a friend or foe calling. The vast majority of callers do not leave a message. But you need to stop them with one call. You could immediately say no and hang up, but most people really are not capable of doing that. We are all trained to be polite. So to get rid of this menace you need something a little better. It has occurred to me that some of the alumni associations are calling me from schools who made me fill out a lot of paperwork before they would do anything for me. Perhaps it is time to do the same to them.

ME: Hello?

CALLER: Mr. Leeper?

ME: Yes?

CALLER: Mr. Leeper, I am calling from the Miskatonic University Alumni Association. You once took a six-week course here. You probably would not recognize the campus today. I'm calling to ask you...

ME: Yes, could I have your account number, please?

CALLER: Sorry, my what?

ME: Your account number, please.

CALLER: What account number?

ME: Well, I have computerized and I track all requests for money as accounts. Can you give me your account number, please?

CALLER: Well, I don't have one.

ME: I'm sorry, you will have to open an account with us before this conversation can continue.

CALLER: Well, I am from the Miskatonic University Alumni Association.

ME: Let me try to enter that. Sorry, I thought not. The field will not take anything but a number. You need to have a number.

CALLER: Okay, can you give me a number?

ME: Sure, no problem. You need to fill out an application form. Don't worry it's only a very short form. About half a page. Just some financial information. But you will have to send me a stamped, self- addressed envelope to get the application, then fill it out and send it back to me.

CALLER: Look, can I just talk to you?

ME: I'm sorry. I really don't want to waste your time. And I really do need an account number. But thank you for calling.

I tell you the only way to fight the people who use technology against you is to use it right back, whether you have it or not. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     Education: that which discloses to the wise
     and disguises from the foolish their lack of

                                   -- Ambrose Bierce