Confessions of a Verbivore

May 6, 2014

It’s human rights week at Caracas Chronicles

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 7:28 am

The new report by Human Rights Watch is clear: the abuses were not isolated incidents in ‎Venezuela‬. The way in which people were mistreated implied a level of coordination beyond simple “rogue” security forces acting wild. It strongly suggests coordination between security forces, paramilitaries, prosecutors, and judges. From this, calling it a state-wide terror campaign … is just a hop and a skip away. Much more here, and this sobering post from Caracas Chronicles includes the link where the 103-page report, “Punished for Protesting: Rights Violations in Venezuela’s Streets, Detention Centers, and Justice System,” is available in English and Spanish.

Caracas Chronicles

Orders from high up Orders from high up

The most recent report by Human Rights Watch on the protests in Venezuela comprehensibly dismantles the government’s line of defense on allegations of human rights abuses. In page after page of meticulous research the NGO documents a pattern of routinized human rights abuse, a finding with deep implications in International Human Rights Law.

HRW has produced an investigative landmark and we just don’t feel we can do justice to it with with a single post. That’s why we will be writing about the report all this week: highlighting some of its stories in detail and presenting some of its lines of argument to dissect the implications for Venezuela, and for chavismo in particular.

Personally, the first thing that caught my eye is HRW’s finding of “systematic” human rights violations. This is no lexical meandering – the word has deep implications in human rights law.

Pay close attention to the language in…

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March 7, 2014

What’s Up With All These #SOSVenezuela Hashtags?

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 6:14 pm

FYI: Venezuela is among the most dangerous countries in the world, even more dangerous than some countries in war. In Iraq 9,472 people were killed during 2013; in Venezuela that number was +24,700. That’s more than double and it represents a murder every 20 minutes. What worsens it is the impunity; what could we expect if 92% of crimes go unsolved? Fear is the norm. More here…

Thought Catalog

Untitled1 via #SOSVenezuela

Let me tell you how you just became an important part of an entire country’s future. Maybe you care, maybe you don’t, but if you are reading this it’s because you are at least curious. So please, keep reading… At least so you look knowledgable when someone else talks about the subject around you. What you decide to do later with what I am about to tell you is a different subject.

So, what’s going on?

Venezuela has been under the governance of Hugo Chavez’s ideology – Socialism of the XXI Century – for the last 15 years. I will try not to get into my personal beliefs and opinions about the system, but the fact is that the opposition has been constantly growing and now is, or at least seems to be, the vast majority. The country is facing an economic and social crisis, but the government’s…

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February 21, 2014

The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 7:51 am

Venezuela’s domestic media blackout is joined by a parallel international blackout, one born not of censorship but of disinterest and inertia. It’s hard to express the sense of helplessness you get looking through these pages and finding nothing. Venezuela burns; nobody cares.

Caracas Chronicles

San Cristobal ayer San Cristobal on Tuesday night

Dear International Editor:

Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden.

What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood.

Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting.

People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street.

And that’s…

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January 21, 2014

Bill Gates predicts there will be almost no poor countries by 2035

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 7:40 am

“We hear these myths raised at international conferences and at social gatherings. We get asked about them by politicians, reporters, students, and CEOs. All three reflect a dim view of the future, one that says the world isn’t improving but staying poor and sick, and getting overcrowded. We’re going to make the opposite case, that the world is getting better, and that in two decades it will be better still.”

January 19, 2014

Spam: Don’t you love it?

Filed under: 'Net Scams — jargontalk @ 8:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Now that I have your attention, let me explain.

From the beginning of the Internet as we know it years ago, the transmission of junk email, what we now refer to as spam, has been expressly prohibited. There are many variations of the story about how Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp., sent his first mass e-mailing to 400 customers over the Arpanet in 1978, hoping to get attention for Digital’s new T-series of VAX systems. He was scolded and told not to do it again, but it was enough to earn him the title of the ‘Father of Spam’… and as the scale of the spam problem has grown, ISPs and the public have turned to government for relief from spam, which has failed to materialize.

Spam folder Taking us a quantum leap forward to today, most of us have an email system that has a junk mail or spam folder, one in which most of the unsolicited (or potentially dangerous) messages are dumped periodically. I had occasion recently to check my spam folder when a friend sent a message complaining that I had not responded to an earlier message. Checked and retrieved it, but what I also found was an amazing array of junk email from around the globe, and the array of topics ranged from hilarious to ridiculous.

There were a number of “Your future starts here!” messages from a familiar online university, along with other online courses for a “Degree for Criminal Justice.” Nice, except that I already have degrees. There were numerous offers for “Swiss Luxury Watch Replicas,” fakes bearing such names as Rolex, Omega, Breitling and others, and from many sites. Don’t need a “Replica Omega Seamaster 007 James Bond” watch; I’ll stick to my real Seikos, thank you. And a number of offers from various sources offering a “shocking new video presentation” if I “want to sleep with 6 girls in the next 6 days” which were reminiscent of a particular scene from Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.

But the best of the best were offers like these that follow, and the more interesting misspellings and grammar errors are highlighted, since that is one basic way of detecting email scams at a glance. These are just a few that I found  

FBI Foreign Fund Payment Advice (Treat as urgent) !

FBI Headquarters
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
From The Desk of James B. Comey, Director Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI).

ATTENTION:- Beneficiary,

We have series of Financial cases like (Unpaid Foreign Debts) that needs to be urgently resolve.

NOTE: The National Central Bureau of Interpol Enhanced by the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation have successfully passed a mandate to the current president of Nigeria his Excellency President Good luck Jonathan to boost the exercise of clearing all foreign debts owed to individuals and organizations who have been found not to have receive their Contract Sum, Lottery/Gambling, Inheritance and the likes.

Fortunately, It is obvious that you have not receive your Contract Fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria which is to the tune of US$25,000,000.00 (Twenty Five Million United States Dollars) Therefore to effect the release of your fund, you are advice to contact the Governor Central Bank of Nigeria in person of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for immediate transfer of your fund.

Contact the CBN Office Below to claim your fund:
Central Bank of Nigeria,
Plot 33, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Way
Central Business District,
Cadastral Zone,
Abuja, Federal Capital Territory,
Nigeria
Tel:- +2347010782314
Private Email Contact: slamido20@###.com
Contact Person:- Mr.Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (Governor) CBN.

You are advised to contact the Governor with your details as stated below:
You’re Name……………
Phone Number……………
Occupation……………Age……………
Unpaid Amount……………
Country……………
Finally, if you need more confidence/informations on this payment, don’t hesitate to call us. TELEPHONE: (908) 355-9969

Best Regard,
James B. Comey
Director Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI)
N/B: Treat The Above Notification Highly Crucial!

Then there was this brief gem from “Western Union Office®” that noted this in its entirety:

The sum of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars USD has been deposited here in WESTERN UNION OFFICE by the United Nations Organization.Kindly contact us for more informations.
Contact Email: wumt.dept@it###.ro 

Mr.Jack Brown
Customer Service
Western Union Office®

Another good one had this header: Can You Get this Done?

Dear Friend,

   My Name is Dr. Miss Melissa Ali Abdul I got you esteemed contact during my comprehensive research for a reliable and trustworthy individual in your country.  I will need your help in this situation I find myself.

Load of crapI am, really afraid and don’t know whom to confide in. I am a medical doctor working with NATO currently in Syria. I am a Citizen of Libya, and I made some money during Gaddafi’s regime.
I have kept it as secret for a little while and I need someone I can trust to work and transfer this money out of Syria as a Medical documents. Please I will need your help on this as I can forfeit 20 per cent of this money to make sure it is safely used for me, until I leave the army next year… I will be revealing the said amount immediately you give me your word of confidence to go ahead for this is a very huge amount of money.
Expecting your reply soonest for time is not on my side,
 
Best Regards
Dr. Miss Melissa Ali Abdul
dr.missmelissa_a@yah##.com

One of the best was from a Mr. Philip Palmer, which stated:

Good day,

I work with a Diplomatic Corp that holds special and valuable consignments for reputable clients that are honest and trustworthy.scammer We work in collaboration with top firms all over the world as we have earned a name as a service whose hallmarks in reliability and confidentiality are revered. International missions, Diplomats, Embassies of the world have used our services to satisfaction. A benefactor has mandated me to get someone that can assist her and her family in retrieving her package containing some amount of money from a Diplomatic Corp. The benefactor and her children have been confined only to their country home and all their calls and movements are monitored, as a result,its absolutely impossible for them to do anything as regards retrieving the money. Their only means of communication is via internet and you are being contacted because your assistance is needed in claiming the funds on their behalf. The amount was accrued from Diamond sales over a period of six years and it is USD35M (Thirty-Five Million)
These funds are fully free of any liens, or encumbrances and are clean, clear and has no criminal origin. The funds have nothing to do with any form of illegality and all documentation needed to prove the source of the funds were submitted when the funds were being deposited and these documents would prove the source of the funds and authenticate the fact that the funds are clean and has no links whatsoever with either drugs or terrorism. For your assistance in this transaction,the benefactor and her Children have agreed to give you 30% of the total amount of money which is equivalent to (Ten Million, Five  Hundrend Thousand United States Dollars) and this role simply entails retrieving the funds on their behalf from the Diplomat in USA and all the information needed to claim the funds would be sent to you as soon as you indicate your interest in assisting them as well as providing the following information to facilitate the smooth conclusion of the transaction.

1) Your Full Name and Age: ___________________________
2) Your Address and Occupation:_______________________________
3) Your Telephone Number:________________________
4) Your Fax Number: __________________________
5) Your Mobile Number:_____________________________
6) The Name of the Closest Airport to your City of Residence:______

I await your response Urgently.
With trust,
Mr. Philip Palmer.

Most of these so far have been funny or pitiful, depending on your point of view, and are based on the well-documented Advance Fee Scams, also known as 419 Scams. But finally there was this deplorable message from an parasitic individual by the name of one Bojing wang. It had a Malaysian email address which appeared in Project Honey Pot, the web based network which uses software embedded in web sites to collect information about IP addresses used when harvesting email addresses for spam or other similar purposes such as bulk mailing and e-mail fraud:

Urgent E-mail….Please Respond Immediately.

Good Day

I must first tender an apology for this unsolicited mail to you. I am conscious that this is certainly not a proper manner of approach to foster a relationship of trust but because of the circumstances and urgency surrounding this venture I decided to reach you via this medium to join me put claims on this fund before it is seized or confiscated by the authorities. A Business Magnate who lived in China for Nineteen years but died with family during the TYPHOON HAIYAN attack that happened in the PHILIPPINES On Friday the 8th of November 2013 . See links below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24863480
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24878801

Do not be amazed by this letter, I am contacting you based on Trust and confidentiality that is attached to this transaction.
Before the catastrophe; This business man deposited the sum of $18.4M (EIGHTEEN MILLION, FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND US DOLLARS) with our bank and as the Auditor General of the Bank, the Board of Directors mandated me to present a member of the family (heir/inheritor) to make claims or the funds will be confiscated and taken to the Bureau as unclaimed. I was given an ultimatum to look for a relative to come for the claim or have the funds liquidated by the Chinese Government and made unserviceable in accordance with existing Chinese law.
 
After preliminary efforts of search for a direct family member which came to no avail, I decided to contact you. My suggestion is that I will like to present you as the beneficiary to this fund, I know you may not be anyway related to my late client but there is a possibility that the fund will be released to you. I guarantee that if you are willing and interested, I will put all in place in accordance with the Law to legally present you as the Next of Kin and true beneficiary.
scam alertThis transaction is 100% risk free as I have worked all out to complete the operation effectively. Once this fund is released to you, it will be shared in the ratio of 40% for you, and 60% for me as our benefit. Each ($7.4 Million for you) and ($11.04 Million for me). Please endeavor to get back to me whether you are willing to collaborate with me or not so that I can further my search for another partner.

I wait for your prompt response.
Kindest Regards,
Bojing wang

Should note that any of these that I viewed was done with a incognito browser session, so that pages viewed won’t appear in your browser history or search history, and they won’t leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close all open incognito windows. But be aware that going incognito doesn’t affect the behavior of other people, servers, or software, and you should be wary of sites that collect or share information about you, or Internet service providers or employers that track the pages you visit. If you use Google Chrome, there is more info here.

In any case, check your spam or junk email folder occasionally. My personal Gmail settings note that messages that have been in Spam more than 30 days will be automatically deleted, and there were +250 there when last checked and then cleaned out.

Checking it was informative but also good to see Google’s classic message:  Hooray, no spam here!

November 25, 2013

Still the Sexiest Profession Alive

Filed under: Verbivore — Harvard Business Review @ 4:23 pm

Food for thought…

It will pay to remember that no matter what the setting, the difference between sufficient and sexy isn’t competence as much as curiosity. And what makes someone hot isn’t professionalism. It’s passion.

February 26, 2012

Cold-call Scammers… they’re at it again

Filed under: 'Net Scams,Verbivore — jargontalk @ 7:27 am

Sometimes even the best anti-virus and anti-spam solutions don’t help.

It happened a few days ago, in the early afternoon. Who is this A friend and I were both working on separate computers in different rooms, each busy trying to get our work done.  The phone rang and I was oblivious to it, as I usually only answer my own cell phone.

I was barely aware of what was going on as I had a deadline to meet on a product review, and continued my work.  My friend came into the room carrying her cordless phone with a puzzled look on her face.  She asked me to take the call as she couldn’t understand what the party on the other end was saying.  I asked who was on the line and she told me that the person on the phone was calling from India and had told her, “You’re in front of your computer and we’re getting error messages.”

Scumbag Cold-callerThis had baffled her and she asked who it was.  He replied with a name that she couldn’t understand, said that he “worked for Microsoft” and repeated that she was in front of her computer and that they were “getting error messages.”

When she asked him how he could see what was on her computer, he replied, “We can see all the computers in the world.”

That’s when she decided to let me deal with him.  It was unnerving in that she doesn’t have a Webcam, and then after a couple seconds of brief conversation, I took the call, and asked to whom I was speaking.  He fumbled, answered in some unintelligible fashion and finally the third time I got it: his name was “Handel Baker”… or so he claimed.  From his accent it was clear that he was not from Louisiana or from the Bronx.  He then ordered me to go to the computer and told me that the computer was getting error messages and that they were seeing them. 

I asked him who he worked for, and Handel Baker replied, stumbling with his words as if reading from a script, “I work for Microsoft.  We are a Microsoft Solution Provider.  I am a Microsoft Certified Professional.  Go look at your computer screen and I help you with your errors.  Maybe you have a virus.”

I replied, “I’m on a Mac, not on a PC.”

Phone scammerI didn’t tell him that my friend was on a Windows PC and that it was behind a pretty heavy firewall on a secure network, but he seemed confused.  I further stated, “I’m using a MacBook Pro, and there is nothing strange on my screen.”

Poor Handel Baker was very confused now, and was getting irritated, and his already-poor English skills were rapidly breaking down as he tried to respond.  I interrupted and again asked him who he worked for, who was his employer, and he replied something to the effect of “PC Outpour” or “PC Output”… maybe it was “PC Outhouse” for all that I could understand.  I asked where his company was located.  He replied, “We in California… California.  Look at your screen!”

SCAM AlertHe was obviously getting upset, as he was not even responding in understandable English at this point.  Repeatedly I asked him to slow down and talk so that I could understand him, and again I asked him the name of his company.  I couldn’t even begin to understand his broken response, so I asked to speak to his supervisor.  This really upset him, and I had to repeat my request four or five times… and finally I got through to him.  He said, “You wait. I get my supervisor.”

There was a pause as he put me on hold, then I waited.  After about a minute, all I heard was the dial tone.  Handel Baker had hung up.

I could have left it with that, but my security-conscious side had been roused, so I immediately checked the phone number on the phone handset, and it came up as 855-791-1191.  Did a quick Google search on that number and it came up with quite a few results, actually thousands of them, and this is just one of them.  There were many more, such as this one where the same phone number is mentioned, along with a company name in one case.  It was amazing how many others had gone through similar events with calls from this number, and not just in the U.S.

PC OutHouse bannerIt didn’t take long perusing these messages, such as the detailed one here to discover that the phone number matched one particular company, PC Output, with support starting at $169.99 per year as of this writing. Further, checking their About Us page and found that PC Output is owned by Innate Global Solutions, which is located in Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, and known to many as Calcutta, where they have other business. That’s a long way from California.

And as far as Handel Baker being a “Microsoft Certified Professional” there is no indication on their site that they have any of these on their staff.  Microsoft has issued an advisory about scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently.

The first call of defense against scammers such as this outfit is to get your phone registered on the National Do Not Call Registry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched the National Do Not Call Registry to give Americans a choice about getting telemarketing calls at home. FTC Fines are now $16,000.00 per violation, which is enough to make some of these scammers think twice.

India Call CenterThis isn’t a new phenomenon, and it’s not just confined to the US, either. In July 2012, The Guardian (UK) wrote an in-depth article about these calls from India, with the same scenario mentioned above, and there were quite a number of reader comments on this issue. A Canadian blogger wrote of a call that went, "Sir, we have reason to believe that your computer has been hacked," explaining his experience with a cold-call from India. This virus scam has grown to epidemic proportions in Canada, now accounting for over 70% of frauds reported daily to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (CAFC), and causing them to post this alert and remedy.

In the US, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a co-sponsored by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and if you’re a victim, complaints may be filed here. Complaints filed at their website are processed and may be referred to federal, state, local or international law enforcement agencies. And sometimes there are winners in these complaints, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does go after them, and won a judgment of more than $8 million against one of these scareware scammers that was operating under a variety of names.  In this case, 300,000 of those who were stung in this scam are getting refunds. And it looks like the FTC is cracking down hard on some of the other Indian call centers as well.

One a related topic, it’s been reported that India has emerged as the world’s top source of junk mail as spammers make use of lax laws and absent enforcement to turn the country into a center of unsolicited email.  As it was reported, an average of 79.8 percent of email traffic in the three months to the end of September was junk, and of that, 14.8 percent originated in India, 10.6 percent came from Indonesia, and 9.7 percent from Brazil.  Some of these figures vary, as can be seen here, but India’s call centers are in the lead.  Spammers run the gamut from legitimate marketing firms and advertisers who have adapted telephone cold-calling techniques to the computer age to "phishers", who solicit personal data from naive recipients to defraud them, as previously described in my first hand experience.

So what can you do? 

load-o-crapMicrosoft advises that you should just hang up on phone scams such as this. One could also respond with a carefully directed (in)appropriate phrase in the Bengali or Indian languages.  It might make you feel better, but then they’re likely to respond equally in English. 

When it comes to dealing with scumbags and scammers like this, remember to put your brain in motion before putting your mouth in gear or your fingers in motion on the keyboard.  As always, good old fashioned common sense is your best defense.

Annoyed

November 16, 2011

Dad

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 8:53 pm

There are golfers in this world who enjoy the game. There are others who suffer through each swing, hoping that the next will be better. Then there are some to whom golf is a true lifetime dedication, who continue to hone their skills over the years, always striving for perfection.

Golf is not, on the whole, a game for realists.  By its exactitudes of measurements it invites the attention of perfectionists.
~ Heywood Hale Broun

On the first Wednesday of November, Dad played twelve holes of golf. It’s an odd number, but living on a golf course in Florida, he John T. Williamson PGA 01played his customary nine holes, and then worked his way back home in a freeform fashion. Not bad for a man of 89 years, but he’s always been an athlete.

Dad passed away in the morning on Thursday, November 3rd. He was not in pain nor did he suffer.

He tried to get up in the morning but was having a tough time, from what my stepmother Carol related to me when we talked that night. An emergency team came with their ambulance, but it was too late. It’s probably better that way, as in his living will he didn’t want to be hooked up to any devices to prolong his life.  Carol was right there by his side.

In our family tradition, he will be cremated, and his ashes will be spread both on the golf course that he loved and at sea, which was also one of his loves. He would have been 90 on his next birthday in February.

Dad was born on Long Island, New York, February 6, 1922, and raised in Brooklyn. A Lincoln High SchoolHis mother had been an opera singer, and had her own show in the early days of radio. He was an only child, and grew to be an all around athlete at Abraham Lincoln High School in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn.

Built in 1929, Lincoln graduated a number of Nobel Prize winners, famous doctors, scientists, engineers, politicians, and other celebrities, such as international financier Bernard Cornfeld, film and television actor John Forsythe, basketball player & Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr., Nobel Prize winner (Chemistry) Jerome Karle, jazz drummer and bandleader Buddy Rich, real-estate businesswoman (and “Queen of Mean”) Leona Helmsley, jazz flautist Herbie Mann, author and playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, The Crucible), renowned federal district court judge Jack B. Weinstein, and author Joseph Heller (Catch-22), to name a few. During those days, Dad earned his early spending money as a guide at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

Columbia-columnsDad continued with sports while a student at Columbia University, playing football and baseball, when his education was interrupted by World War II. He had wanted to volunteer for the Marines, but his mother had objected most highly, as he was her only son and the reports that were coming in from the Pacific theater had a high number of casualties. He persisted with a number of arguments, and they settled on what she considered to be a safer military role for him; he served with distinction in the U.S. Navy as a “hardhat” salvage diver. In the course of his diver training at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he participated in the salvage of the SS Normandie. After the war was over, he completed his education and worked as a petroleum geologist for Creole Petroleum Corporation in Venezuela.

Dad was actually my stepfather. He married my mother in the ’50s, and never batted an eye when it came to accepting my two younger brothers and me as his own kids. He moved us all to Venezuela, where he was employed, and it was the adventure of a lifetime. While in Venezuela, Dad participated in the revitalization of the Quiriquire Golf Course in Estado Monagas, where we lived. This proved to be prophetic.

In 1955 we relocated back to the States, whereupon he had a chance to live a true dream: par3 daytonaDad built a golf course, carving it out of Florida pine trees in an undeveloped area west of Daytona Beach. He had foreseen that many would want to play a shorter golf course, and he was right. It was his design, and he did some of the manual labor himself to bring his dream to fruition, building the Daytona Par 3 Golf Club on US 92. Later he became a Class A golf professional, and he was a lifetime member of the PGA since 1960.

Dad taught my brothers and me to play golf, but it was probably a big disappointment to him that none of us ever shared the love of the sport to the degree that he did. Each of us pursued out own directions when it came to sports, but none of us are golfers except in a casual fashion. But Dad was a well-rounded man with a solid education, and from that we benefited. He was an avid reader of books, magazines, periodicals of many types, and of course newspapers.

NBC’s Victory At Sea | Target Suribachi, Episode 23

Television was generally a family affair, usually starting with the inevitable evening news program, often NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report, anchored by Chet Huntley in New York City, and David Brinkley in Washington. My father would sometimes throw in his own editorial comments during the commercials. There were shows such as Dragnet, Gunsmoke, Have Gun–Will Travel, Leave It To Beaver, 77 Sunset Strip, Peter Gunn, The Twilight Zone, Shock Theater, Walter Cronkite’s The Twentieth Century and more than I can mention here. But perhaps the most memorable television experiences that I shared with Dad were when he introduced me to the reruns of Victory at Sea, the documentary television series about naval warfare during World War II that was originally broadcast by NBC in 1952–1953. Richard Rodgers composed the musical score, and it was narrated by Leonard Graves, and we watched all 26 episodes together.

He had a quiet sense of humor… and sometimes it showed itself when we least expected it.

Among his accomplishments, Dad was a recruiter for the athletic teams of Columbia University. He was also the golf coach for Daytona Beach Junior College (now Daytona State College). He was a member of the Sugar Mill Country Club in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. An avid golfer for much of his life, he was able to shoot his age or below on several of his birthdays. He had been a long time member of the Quarterback Club.

Dad loved the water. He was an active boater and fisherman, and was a member and past Commodore of the Halifax River Yacht Club in Daytona Beach. During his tenure as Commodore in 1969, he oversaw major construction projects. He was a member of the United States Power Squadron, having completed all of their instructional programs, and also served as an instructor.

There was a period of time where Dad became a car nut of sorts. He went through a phase that ranged from a Thunderbird to a Buick Riviera and then onto a Corvette Stingray. Then came a larger Mercedes and a now-classic Ferrari_330gt_2 2Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, a truly unique automobile of which only 1088 were produced. It had a metallic silver Pininfarina-designed body and a V-12 engine that delivered 300 bhp, along with Koni adjustable shock absorbers for superb handling. It could do +152 mph (245 km/h) as my brothers and I could attest to, but we never told him. That car suffered the indignity of being the victim of a rear-end collision, and that ended it all for Dad’s expensive car toys. Everything after that was more sedate.

My father loved to travel, and later in life that interest prompted him to own and run Holiday Travel in Daytona Beach, along with my mother. They had a great time with their treks to various places around the globe, but it was to be short lived, as my mother was a victim of cancer. Without getting into the details, it was bad but went into remission, allowing us all a collective sigh of relief… for awhile. When it returned is was with a vengeance, and Mom passed on in the ‘70s, leaving all of us devastated, and especially Dad, who had stuck with her through thick and thin. He seemed to pull back a bit, then buried himself into his work at the travel agency that he and my mother had founded.

A couple of years later while I was living in South Florida, he called on the phone and seemed a bit nervous, saying that there was something he needed to tell me. He seemed to be skirting the issue, but finally he blurted it out: he had “found someone” while on one of the cruises that were offered to travel agents. Little did he know then that I had already been alerted by one of my brothers, but I played along.

Dad and Carol 01A few weeks later I met Carol, the woman who was to become my stepmother, and it didn’t take long to see that they were perfectly suited for each other. They married, and all of us “kids” were there at their wedding, and it was a truly memorable celebration for all of us. Carol became family, and was a joy to be around.

Dad and Carol shared a common love of travel, and later owned and were active with Coronado Travel in New Smyrna Beach. They traveled the globe together, extensively, allowing him to visit and play golf on every continent except Antarctica. As a result, Dad was a founding member of the Cariari Country Club, in San Jose, Costa Rica. In addition, he combined these trips with his lifetime love of the sea and became a member of Club Amateur De Pesca and the Costa Rica Yacht Club in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

I have attributed my love of books and words to my mother and a bit to my maternal grandmother, but it was Dad who taught me to really explore the classics when I was in junior high. I enjoyed reading and often escaped in a book, often as not some contemporary trashy novel that I had picked up in the local library. One day he came into my room when I was reading some contemporary best-seller, such as Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place, as I recall. He looked at it, and then asked me if I was getting anything out of it. I blushed as I recall, as I had been looking for the juicy parts, and he just walked out of the room. About an hour later he came back and asked me to take a ride with him. Without saying a word, he took me down the street to the local library, a cool stucco building that I regularly frequented, and there he introduced me to a better level of writing, first with Jack London’s The Sea Wolf, then with Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki. From those two books my reading expanded to Jules Verne, H.H. Wells, William Faulkner and many others. One author who was destined to become a lifetime favorite was Mark Twain… and I owe my Dad so much for that simple introduction.

As much as he loved golf and visiting new places, Dad enjoyed the challenge of crossword puzzles. As a lover of words, he was a truly voracious reader, and we had opportunities to share viewpoints and recommendations on new reads… but he always seemed to be one small step ahead of me. For example, when The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy’s first published novel came out in 1984, I had received a pre-publication copy, and called him after reading it to recommend it to him. He quietly listened to me, and then informed me that he had also received a pre-publication copy from the U.S. Naval Institute, and had already finished it before I had done so.

JTW with Hardhat 01

There were times that our relationship was strained, and other times that it was extremely close. That happens in any family… and he should be credited highly for never doling out advice when I was older and had left home on what I should do unless I asked him directly.  There’s one other thing that I have to give him credit for, and it’s an important one: during a conversation that we were having some years ago about work and a potential job that I was considering, he asked me if I would be truly happy in that line of work. When I told him that I wasn’t sure, he advised me to continue looking, as it was important to be happy with ones work. And he was right, as I never took a job that I didn’t like… I did it my way. There have been ups and downs at times, but his sage advice made me a happier person than so many that I’ve known in this world.

On the morning of November 3rd, 2011, Dad passed away at his home in New Smyrna Beach, at the age of 89. In his honor, a Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, November 20th, 2011. I’ll be there… wondering when he will tee off next.

The most important shot in golf is the next one.
~ Ben Hogan

September 11, 2011

A 9/11 Tribute to LTJG Darin H. Pontell, USN

Filed under: September 11th,Verbivore — jargontalk @ 11:03 am
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When Darin Pontell was 14, he decided that he would join the Navy. His older brother Steven was a Navy pilot, and he was killed in a crash on the USS Lexington off Pensacola, Florida in 1989.

Darin Pontell Annapolis Ring"When that happened, Darin mentioned that he’d like to pick up where his brother Steven left off, to complete the circle," his father, Gary Pontell, said.

pontell-dDarin Pontell, a native of Arlington Heights who moved with his family to Baltimore in 1985, graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1999. Upon graduation, he reported to the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Command in Dam Neck, VA. He was assigned to Carrier Air Wing Seven as the Collections Officer. He was later deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. He received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Naval Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

Lt. Pontell married Devora Sue Wolk, a lawyer, in March 2001. He began working at the Pentagon in April and celebrated his 26th birthday that August. He and his new bride lived in Gaithersburg, MD.

"He was thoughtful and generous and wanted to make everyone around him happy," said Devora. " He would do whatever it took to make his family and friends smile."

Darin Pontell usnHe was completing his second night of training in a new position with the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot at the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001. He and six colleagues were piecing together information about the attacks on the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 77, a highjacked Boeing 757, crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 AM. The jet aircraft slammed into the west side of the Pentagon, where the CNO-IP office was located.

"When he returned to the Pentagon, we felt he was so safe," his father said. "Who would have thought of the Pentagon as a target?"

"He was a good kid. He liked athletics," his grandfather said, and described him as "a computer wizard. He was smart. He had an awful lot of friends."

"I had known my husband since we were about 11," stated his wife Devora. "All he wanted to do was go to the Naval Academy like his older brother, but it was a challenge for him to get in and make it through the four years and graduate with honors. And this is his Naval Academy ring that he wore every day, that marked his accomplishment; he accomplished something that he had set his mind to when he was so young. He was proud to be a Naval Academy graduate and an officer in the U.S. Navy.”

Before Darin Pontell went to the Naval Academy, he worked with his father, an architect, who was left with one son, Michael, now 38.

Devora Pontell"Darin and his brother Mike were my best friends," Gary Pontell said shortly after the attack on the Pentagon. "And being that both of them were such family people, we always spent a lot of time together. That’s what I’m going to miss. The Sunday afternoons and Sunday evenings. I’m going to miss the phone calls."

It can only be presumed that Lt. Pontell and his colleagues were killed immediately. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal.

Darin Pontell was buried next to his brother in the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cemetery.

He is fondly remembered by former shipmates and many others.

The Pentagon Memorial, which consists of a 2-acre park with 184 benches, according to the victims’ ages, from 3 to 71, was opened to the public on September 11, 2008. 

After the Pentagon Memorial dedication ceremony, family and friends of the victims of the 9/11 attack were invited to visit the memorial. Here a visitor sits on the memorial unit for Lt. Darin H. Pontell, USNR. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/ Staff)   pentagon mem01

Darin Pontell is one of those 184 memorialized here.
  

November 20, 2010

Didn’t We…

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 2:24 am
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A Tramp Shining was a Grammy-nominated album, released in 1968.

a-tramp-shining

Richard Harris teamed with legendary singer-songwriter for this album. Although sang many numbers on the soundtrack album to the film musical Camelot in the previous year, A Tramp Shining became his first solo album.

Jimmy Webb wrote all the songs, arranged the musicians, and produced the entire album. “” was one of the biggest singles of that year, and it reached the #2 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. The album as a whole was also highly successful, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Album of the Year” in 1969.

But there was one song from that album that always stuck in my mind, and has continued to do so throughout the years. As time has passed, with loves found and lost, it has always come back to me, and sometimes at the strangest time, particularly late at night. It is to me more than a song with great lyrics; it’s a sadly romantic poem.

Didn’t We

This time we almost made the pieces fit,
Didn’t we girl?
This time we almost made some sense of it,
Didn’t we girl?

This time I held the answer
Right here in my hand,
Then I touched it
And it had turned to sand!

This time we almost sang our songs in tune,
Didn’t we girl?
This time we almost made it to the moon,
Didn’t we girl?

This time we almost made
Our poem rhyme,
This time we almost made
That long, long climb

Didn’t we almost make it,
This time?
… didn’t we almost make it,
This time?

The lyrics set the tone of lovers who once were innocent, but who watched the pieces of the puzzle come apart, and now know better. It was not they who led the dance but who followed the choreographed steps that a greater power had already written for them. They almost made it to the moon…

If one could go back and change events, make some sense of them, maybe drop pride if just for a moment, could it, would it work? Is there such a thing as a second time around, or are the pieces to the puzzle lost and never to be put in place again?

Only time has those answers.

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