Monday, November 24, 2003

Words for the Week
Our theme this week is call center, so I'm gonna pull some terms from the (company I will not name) lexicon. Other call centers may share most of these terms.

calibration -n. regularly scheduled process by which QA members induce similarity. [What sounds good to QA Nelson may not sound good to QA Marco and QA Carl. It is their task to set a standard of "what sounds good" via discussion and consensus. In this way, QA ensures fair judgement regardless of which QA member gets on your case.]

complete -v. the act of making a sale; n. a closed (or completed) sale [Call center agents usually work with scripts. These scripts serve, as per QA approval, to facilitate the sales process with minimum fuss. A script is considered completed if a sale is made. You need a set number of completes to meet quota]

foosball -n. "tabletop football" [I believe this term is unique to (call center I will not name). The term is probably derived from an Adam Sandler movie.]

gatekeeper -n. in the scripts, he's the guy who answers the phone

QA -n. "Quality Assurance" [This department is concerned with the quality of the calls made and received by call center agents. It polices the phone lines, making sure that call center agents don't cuss or make personal outgoing calls. QA also takes upon itself a developmental role, when it monitors your calls and points out areas of improvement, whether it be accent, tone, speed, etc.]

quality -n. It's the measure of being able to get things done right the first time, every time. [QA takes this very seriously. As should everybody else, wherever he or she works.]

the floor -n. the usually enclosed, carpeted and restricted space in a call center containing all the paraphernalia of the modern vampire-- er, call center agent (e.g. computers and phones). [This is where the action is-- people sucker customers, meet and exceed quota, keep or lose their jobs here.]

TL -n. "Team Leader." [Call center agents are grouped into teams. The Team Leader's job is to make sure nobody on his team lags in the quantity and quality of the calls made.]

Saturday, November 22, 2003

I Can Talk About It Now(continued)

You may have run into the fellows who (aside from its detractors like me) give telesales a bad name.
These ...people, when they're out on "the floor" making calls, forget the one thing that makes phone service the convenient and painless exercise it was meant to be. And that one thing is basic phone etiquette, a.k.a. common sense.

Too often the call center agent --be he American, Hindi, Filipino or [coming soon] Mainland Chinese-- is one of several things: a nervous wreck, a sadistic intelligence agent or someone who just doesn't know enough about the stuff he wants to sell you. He is too busy thinking about his quota, too frazzled by the irate guy from the last call and just too clueless to be of any help to anyone. He forgets to put himself in his customer's shoes.

If you were to receive a call from a breathy Saddam Hussein ordering you to buy his last automatic rifle and a couple of hand grenades, payment made via your credit card plus passport and safe passage to Jordan, would you feel inclined to oblige him?

Hardly. Right?

Now if Saddam barking orders was replaced by someone who sounded friendly, intelligent, earnest and unfailingly polite... someone who knew uses for Iraqi automatic rifles and grenades other than for perforating Americans... someone who sounded like... ah, like... Optimus Prime! (alright, alright-- Hugh Jackman. Sheesh. You women are hard to please...)

Wouldn't you feel better about parting with your money for an automatic rifle and a coupla dud grenades you can polish, custom-detail and hang on your wall for you to be proud of and for all your friends to envy?

I'd say you'd answer with a cautious yes.

Salome Learns Her Common Sense
And so it went that I spent two weeks learning the basics of life indentured to the call center. In week one, I was taught how to "sound as if" I was "born in the 'States," as that place was where we serviced our clients. (It's tricky at best-- 'tis a horrible thing to hear the Filipino "spek his bran op In-glis."* Most trainees are taught how to help neutralize their often thick Filipino accent.) This is standard-- if we expect our American clients to understand what we say, we haveta speak the way they do or come up with a close enough approximation. We were told (and good advice it is, if you want to get in this business) to saturate our surroundings with all things American, especially the way American mediapeople speak. "Watch the FOX network. Just don't always buy what they say." And the best piece of advice-- stay far away from local telenovelas!

Trainees were taught how to properly wield their voices (hm, shades of Dune and Star Wars here) and how to project assertiveness, friendliness, enthusiasm over the phone. It's safe to say that if you "feel the love," you can easily make the other guy on the line feel it too. "Like begets Like," my trainer would always remind us.

In week two, we were taught the basics of "Telesaaaales!!!"**

(to be concluded)

-------------------------------------
*-This sitch is so bad that even some of the call center veterans don't speak the way they think we trainees should. I oughtta know. I had to listen to 'em. It's also worth noting here that my grade school English teachers were wrong on the pronunciation of the letter "Z" and in the accent, rhythm and intonation of spoken English, be it American or the King's English. "Z" really is pronounced as "Zee" and not "Zay." This is not to boast that I speak with an "American accent." I don't. The kind of English I cultivated allowed me to say "Pedro, please vacuum the floor" without "Pedro" sounding like "Pay-drow..." or "...please vacuum the floor" sounding like "...pleyahs bakyum da plor."
**-When I took photos, I had my fellow trainees say "telesales" instead of "cheese."

Friday, November 21, 2003

I Can Talk About It Now

Deal with the Devil
Resolved as I was to end my financial agony some months ago, I took the advice of a friend and applied for work at a call center. I had lurid visions of handing King Herod my head on a silver platter, after belly-dancing in a skimpy little... never mind. The gentle readers who know me personally will recall that I have an almost visceral aversion to advertising, telemarketing, law and industries of similarly evil repute.

I had told my interviewer, Aleth*, that I was tired of being stepped on, sold things I didn't need, and being made to wait my turn which--of course-- never came. As telemarketers were reputed to be the pushiest, most annoying pri�ks in the universe, I felt it was high time to learn assertiveness from the best. Aleth was amused, said someone from Human Resources would contact me if I passed her company's exams. I passed (as could any UP kickout) and Human Resources did call-- half a year later.

In the months before the fateful HR call, I had indentured myself as itinerant art teacher to Kids @ Play, sent e-resum�s to companies in Singapore, applied for jobs at PHILPOST (philatelic designer), PAGCOR (vault clerk) and Children's Hour ("rustle-me-up-a-presentation" guy). I worked part time ghost writing for my mother, as butler and research assistant for my girlfriend. I was also making calling cards, certifcates and resum�s for the interested, at cost. I became, in short, the busiest bum on God's green earth. When the first call came, I wasn't there to answer it: on 1st training day, I was in Los Banos, taking a friend to the nearest hospital, admonishing him to ease up on the coffee.

Answering "The Call"
A second summons from HR was made. Thankfully I was there to receive it. PAGCOR and PHILPOST were also making come-hither noises, though. Then I, who had complained of being unemployable, was suddenly caught between three prospective bosses who wanted me. How was one to make further overtures to all three companies (so I could get the best deal) without having to agonize through schedule conflicts? There was only one of me to go around.

Fending off PAGCOR and PHILPOST, I proceeded to (corporation I will not name) to at least get away with (assertiveness) telesales training. Thus for the better part of two weeks and a half, I was sequestered in the high-rise bunkers of "little Makati," a.k.a. "Eastwood City" in Libis, Quezon City.

What Salome Learned After the Dance
Salome learned that freshly lopped-off human heads, especially if they belonged to holy men, are icky things that inspire the most godawful feelings of revulsion and remorse in someoneone who's been coached to ask for them from the local tyrant.

Meantime, Dex learned from trainer Apple** that conducting business on the telephone in itself, like most things, was not all bad. On the salesperson end, it saved the company money in clothing allowances and travel expenses for otherwise roving salespeople. It saved you time (as you didn't have to travel) and kept you in a warm (or cool, depending on your preference) safe place while you went about making your sale. A good telesales call is always convenient and pain-free.

On the customer end, it meant a convenient, rapid-response service that allowed a product manufacturer to meet the customer's needs and attend to his concerns at any time. The customer saved money and time because he generally didn't have to travel to ask questions, lodge a complaint, or offer recommendations. Company reps could be contacted and talked to after dialing some seven numbers.

Sadly, though, like so many human endeavors, the disparity between telebusiness-on-paper and telebusiness-in-the-real-world --nervous customer care specialists and dog-tired customers-- is glaring. According to Apple's almighty training manual-slash-powerpoint presentation, companies lose millions of customers because of lousy telephone service, every year.

Assuming my information is correct, U.S. lawmakers are currently debating legislation that bans telecenters from making outgoing business calls. The situation must really stink if Americans are threatening to bludgeon their own free-speech principles.

You may have run into the fellows who (aside from its detractors like me) give telesales a bad name--

  • the brusque and persistent salesperson

  • the inept and/or uncaring customer service rep

  • the slow-witted and slow-speaking

  • the fast-talking shoot-from-the-lip

  • "Mr. Spin"

  • the breather

  • the interrogation and psy-ops guy fresh from a stint in Iraq

  • the prank caller

These ...people, when they're out on "the floor" making calls, forget the one thing that makes phone service the convenient and painless exercise it was meant to be. And that's--

(to be concluded)

---------------------------
*"Aleth" -not her real name
**"Apple" -not the name she uses

Thursday, November 20, 2003

There's Something About Mary

I miss the nineteen eighties. No, I don't miss my being an undernourished scrawny kid who was picked on by jerks. I don't miss the lovely rule of Andy Lipin and Meldy, nor the bumbling of the then-newly formed Presidential Commission on Good Government or Cory's own Kamaganak Inc.. At least I was innocent then of the pompadoured evil that would be Erap. But I miss the music and the musical experimentation, the attention people actually paid to writing the lyrics of the songs.

Case in point, the lyrics to Mary's Prayer.

While they can get clumsy and remind one of struggling high school poetry--

"If you want the fruit to fall/ you have to give the tree a shake"
"And if you shake the tree too hard/ the bough is gonna break" (huh!?)


The rest of the song strikes a chord on several levels as these excerpts will show--

"I used to be so careless / as if I couldn't care less
Did I have to make mistakes/ when I was Mary's prayer?
Suddenly the heavens roared/ suddenly the rain came down
Suddenly was washed away/ the Mary that I knew"

"Blessed is the one who shares/ the power of your beauty Mary
Blessed is the millionaire/ who shares your wedding day
So when you find somebody you can keep/ think of me and celebrate
I made such a big mistake/ when I was Mary's prayer"

"So if I say 'Save me!', save me /Be the light in my eyes
And if I say ten Hail Marys/ leave the light on in heaven for me"

"Save me, save me /Be the light in my eyes
What I wouldn't give to be/ when I was Mary's prayer"


This guy (Danny Wilson) loved and worshipped his Mary. He wrote something moving and he wasn't even Sting or the duo of Everything But the Girl!
Dex Words for the Week

Comics n. a series of words and static pictorial images juxtaposed in sequential order, usually for the purpose of telling a story; n. also, when you think about it, a very fast movie
Culture -n. a people's way of life, including "material culture" --e.g. tools and decorative items
Crash -n., v. collision; n. the sound of such a collision

Club -n. a really big stick to beat people with; n. a clique, or exclusive group
Staff- n. a long rod or walking stick; n. in music, a notational matrix made to facilitate the transmission of musical data; n. a group of support people

Elmer -n. somene who does trees, particularly elms
Ilog -n. (Filipino/Tagalog) a river, notably the Pasig
James -n. (pl.) more than one Jim
Jon - n. a Jhon who was blessed to have parents who don't screw with their kids' names
Mark -n. a cut, puncture, stain, print or rubbing, usually associated with a significant meaning; v. to make such a cut, puncture, stain, print or rubbing

Culture Crash Comics- n. landmark cutting-edge Filipino comics anthology partially responsible for the post 1990's comic boom; n. also my old place of work
Culture Club n. short-lived 80's band that propelled singer Boy George to fame and a place in gay iconology; n. also, the proposed name for a CCCom fanclub (we used to joke about this over dinner) [error pointed out by Nelz. Thanks!]
Geekdom Come, Episode II (conclusion)

Ghyslain, then 15 years old, bespectacled and overweight, stepped into his Quebec school video room and taped himself fighting a mock-lightsaber battle with a golf ball retriever. His friends found the tape, uploaded the contents to KaZaA, and exposed this young man's moment of vulnerability to 15 million giggling Internet users.

"Are You Not Entertained?"
I must confess that I felt a most rabid curiosity when I read the intro blurbs on Ghyslain's cult site (http://jedimaster.net). I also found myself asking myself a host of questions: His mug was plastered all over the Web? That was humiliating! (okay, it was hilarious too) What were his friends thinking? Fame and notoriety foisted on someone who just wanted a little time to indulge in what everyone was doing anyway--what was going to happen to this poor kid? Is George Lucas going to cast this kid in Episode III?

Of course, the most important question I wound up asking myself was, "Was this any of my business?" No. But then, could I keep myself away?

Curiosity and the need to experience a story-- introduction, setting, conflict, resolution-- is apparently inherent in the human animal; kinds of primal drive, like the ones for food and sex. When "Survivor" hit the airwaves it was precisely this need that was pandered to. Never mind that many of the hours on the island were filled with the expectedly monotonous-- feel hungry, starve, catch rats, cook 'em, bring down the nth coconut. As long as there were low points, highlights, little intrigues, stories in stories, served up to audiences like St. John's head on Salome's silver tray, all day, everyday.

Information is power, and apparently humans are a power-hungry lot. I don't blame humans too much for catering to this need. It's basic-- patterns of information, after all, are the means by which we organize our lives and routines, and give these some meaning (meaning-- another basic need!).

Information is also aparently entertainment. It's a rare individual who can resist, without difficulty, even the hint of juicy office/showbiz/political/barkada gossip. How far we go to meet this need, though, has been cause for concern for ages. The Great Religions have at one point or another condemned gossip as at the very least a waste of time better spent on loftier pursuits. Loose lips sink ships-- friendships, business relationships, political alliances, reputations have been destroyed by someone itching to know (or tell) who was banging whose wife. Where does one draw the line between pursuing a legitimate amount and type of information vs. beeing a peeping tom or a village hen? If there's a middle way between the extremes of being totally lost (therefore dumb of boring) and being an old hen (irredeemable gossip) or a paranoid raptor ("Minister of Information"), not enough people have found it.

The grand and laughable irony that confronts me is that my abilities, and those of my colleagues, lie in peddling information and coddling old hens.


Love Poems II


...My soul cries in the nightmare of my long night
Yet there is darkness while you are away. . .
Please return the sun into my life.


Reasons for NOT handing the poem fragment to your significant other and passing it off as your own, ESPECIALLY if your significant other is a student of history: 1) its author was one Ferdinand "Fred" (or "Andy") Marcos; and 2) he dedicated it to his wife, Imelda, sometime after his affair with one Dovie Beams was made very public, to Andy's great pain.

DEX NEXT: "I Can Talk About It Now" and (maybe) "The Nature of Nakedness"

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Sir, the Magazine's Free. And This'll Only Take a Second of Yer Time


Pacquiao Bests Mexican Champ--'nuff said. Congrats, Manny! Heil der Fatherland!

I See Dead People-- seen Kill Bill vol. 1., finally. It's everything they say it is. Hot damn! Though I do find the deadly-maniacal-warrior-in-a-school-uniform schtick, well, old (sorry, Marco!). This is my anime burnout speaking, and I've good reason to feel real burnt out.

Cry "Uncle!"-- Dad's big bro planed in from the 'States. He's an omen. I will have more relatives planing in than I can shake a stick at, come December. It galls that he arrived and I didn't know.

Scarce -- as in "make myself--" I've been feeling antisocial for the last three weeks. There's a reason but I feel that I can't talk about it until the issues I'm dealing with are resolved. When are these issues going to be resolved? why do I seem to have so many? I promise I'll keep you posted. The subscription is free.

I found this at http://chiaki-kuriyama.zanlius.com It ain't mine and I don't mean to gain anything by putting it up here. But do check it out if you feel any genuine or perverse interest in Kill Bill's Ms. Kuriyama.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Dear Leng

A million years ago (this was 1988) while I was a geeky kid hooked on Robotech, I met Honey. But she wasn't Honey then, she was alternately "Dana Sterling" or "Rook Bartley." We did not work out back then, me (alternately "Zor Prime" and "Rand") being too focused on establishing a domicile for Honey's liking. I grieved and I moped for over a year before I met a new girl, who I will just refer to as "Leng." Coming as she did at a crucially low time of my life, I was hit by the Florence Nightingale bug and fell very hard for her.

Trivia: we didn't work out either.

Simply put, today is Leng's birthday. With this entry I gratefully acknowledge the lessons she taught me, as well as the changes her coming into my life forced me to undergo.

Happy Birthday, Leng. I hope you have a happy life.
New Words for the Week

human from "humus" (soil) n. any primate classified under the scientific name homo sapiens sapiens; adj. having traits or qualities associated with homo sapiens sapiens, also morally or physically frail ("I'm only human!"); adj. beloved of God, also n. the perfect jumping point to Buddha-hood.

Humanities n., pl. the collective name for the areas of study that concern themselves with the things we think, make or do that make us uniquely human.

humiliate also from "humus" v. to mortify, to ridicule, to put to shame-- also roughly "to put someone's face 'in the dirt'" or "reduce someone to the level of soil."

Geekdom Come, Episode I

http://jedimaster.net See it to believe it. I'll let the website do the explaining here...

"The Star Wars Kid is a 15-year-old from Quebec known only as Ghyslain -- his parents are keeping his last name secret to protect his identity. Back in November 2002, Ghyslain was goofing off at a school video studio and recorded himself fighting a mock battle with a golf ball retriever lightsaber. Over two minutes, the video shows the lone, overweight teenager twirling his mock lightsaber ever faster while making his own accompanying sound effects.

"Yes, we've all had our dorky, private moments, but this poor kid is living the nightmare of having his private dorkiness projected across the world to giggling Web users. His friends found the tape, and uploaded it to KaZaA as a joke on April 19. Within two weeks, someone had added full Star Wars special effects and sound effects to the tape. Currently, new clone videos are being created at the rate of 1 per day!"


The upshot of all the unexpected fame is that people were so touched by Ghyslain's, er, performance, that they launched a signature campaign to get George Lucas to cast this kid in Episode III. I just hope that the people who make money from Star Wars Kid's episode of escapism-- there's actually a Star Wars Kid STORE-- are doing this with his consent and really sending Ghyslain some of the profits. Hell, I actually hope this kid does wind up with even a bit part in Episode III.

Flashing Society the Dirty Finger

Okay. Dexter's gonna segue into another one of his "This event disturbs me" spiels.

Well, yeah.

I got a kick out of seeing him flail about with his golf ball retrie-- er, lightsaber. But while I'm laughing my head off on one level, another part of me (living and breathing on a decidedly higher moral plane) is wondering just what exactly I am laughing at.

The youth was picked on and publicly humiliated when his friends made off with his video and posted it on KaZaa. But unlike the usual subjects of my scorn and derision, Ghyslain was not the Overcompensating Unworthy, actively seeking acclaim to justify his existence to himself. He wasn't a Hypocrite or Social Climber, milking his brief "stint" in cinema for more than it was worth. Neither was he what one film director called a Moral Terrorist, lacking the very basic human ability to walk in another man's shoes. He did not deserve the scorn that is present in much of the laughter I reserve for "people."

(to be concluded)

Monday, November 03, 2003

Little Goals

As soon as I can financially walk again, I'm reviving my moribund bank account before it joins my six previous dead bank accounts. I am buying a new computer with what my friends and Honey call "The Works." I'll then pay for decent webspace so I can put up lewd pictures and anything else I might want. I will glorify my personal fame whore while cavorting in the nude with my "geisha." I will make mad love to my muse and pay obeisance to my Christian Deity for allowing me a little taste of the prosperity he is alleged to shower upon his faithful (non-Catholic) flock.

A year from that date, I will move out of my house, to quiet the spirits that bedevil my Dad, my Mom and Me. In two years I will have quit my day job to get another that's not as stressful. In two more years I will have begun paying (or at least filling the bank account) for my new house. All the while I shall grow as a visual artist and writer into a Power Unto Myself.

This is wishful thinking right now, but my heart, my loins and my belly burns for this nevertheless. Please wish me well on another new journey.
I'm lifting a Marco Dimaano review wholesale here. Under it, I'm affixing my reaction.


"The Scariest Thing I've Seen So Far...

"Atlas Publications' CHARM. Simply the most hideous excuse for a local comic yet released. It's so bad, it's not even funny. It's SAD.

"Usually when we see a new comic, we are giddy as schoolkids. Yep, we laugh at any mistakes and unintentional funnies, but in the end we give what is due, and if the art and story are cool, we'll support it to no end. I'd want a copy to add to my library of local comic releases.

"But CHARM...

"My gosh, I won't even give it the dignity of being called CRAP.

"I don't even want to keep a copy, even for posterity. I don't want it in my room.

"This is base, tasteless, utterly grotesque and putrid garbage, and it makes it all the more horrid that it comes from Atlas (but then, I expect little from these people, despite ATX being a respectable release).

"Why do I say this?

"CHARM is a WITCH rip-off. Blatant rip-off. You have a team of witch girls with various powers. The art style is obviously copying the Witch style. Just take away ANY sense of personality, style or charisma. Just take carbon paper, give to a talentless hack and there you have it. The designs are a disturbing combination of pa-sexy anime and the Witch style.

"Now, if CHARM was just copying the Witch style, it wouldn't warrant this outburst from me.

"But the thing is, there's more.

"The writing, the very concept of the story, is tasteless and OBSCENE. The very origin of the girls, and the way it is treated and revealed, is sick and I really am amazed that any sane publisher or editor would even consider this for Young Girls.

"Details? Well, suffice to say it involves women being IMPREGNATED by severed fingerss and then being burst open, dissolves, eaten by ants, etc. Add to this TOTALLY EMOTIONLESS and ridiculous writing and NO COMMAND WHATSOEVER OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR SKILLS just adds to simply what I see as the most loathsome local release I've seen yet. This is a bloody, stinking smear on the medium.

"FUCKING HORRIBLE.

"If I met the artist and writer, I would tell them to their face their work is an INSULT to the medium and I am amazed they let their names be credited in this trash. Whoever okayed this for publication should be FIRED. If I am given a copy of this book, I'd use it to wipe DOG SHIT off the ground.

"Want to see it for yourself? Get ready for a laugh and then the urge to bathe later.

"DAMN.

"Sigh."
--------------------

I saw it too. I've always maintained that if one allowed greed to primarily motivate the creation of a book-- and that's how it looked from where I stood reading the thing-- the end-product would be, er, pulp. Not too much offense meant to the artists who had to draw this stuff; management (ever on the hunt for profit) probably gave them very little leeway in creativity.

I remeber my first aborted stint in a WWF-inspired series. (I was neither Evil nor Dhex back then) I could not, for the life of me, churn out a credible story starring, of all things, a Bret Hart clone. The job went to someone else, naturally (ergo the birth of SHADEZ). I wound up collaborating on with a friend on, well, a Yokozuna clone. We'd like to think we at least wrote him decently. But then, someone's bound to contest that.

Evil Dex