Sure, I’ll Play Along…

•January 15, 2020 • 1 Comment

Communication support, call center and customer service help desk.…when you call and your alarming, automated message claims that my father’s Social Security number has been compromised, is being used fraudulently and that he is in danger of being prosecuted.

“Press One?” Sure.

“This is [put name here] from the Social Security Administration.”

“Oh. How do I know that you are really from the Social Security Administration?”

First Time Response: “Well sir, you called us.”

My Response: “No. You called me.”

Click. Hang up.

Less than ten minutes later I get the exact same automated message.

“Press One?” Sure, I’ll play again.

“This is [put name here] from the Social Security Administration.”

“Oh. How do I know that you are really from the Social Security Administration?”

Second Time Response: Dead air. No response.

Click. Hang up.

Senior Woman Talking On PhoneObviously, these calls ARE NOT coming from the Social Security Administration. I can only think these people are trying to particularly prey on those with particular concerns about Social Security benefits (the disabled and the elderly) and those with some kind of cognitive impairment (again the disabled and the elderly with dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease). They call repetitively (daily and often many times a day) and use scare tactics to lure people into a conversation that reveals not only their Social Security number but other personal information (birthdate, full name, phone number and even credit card numbers).

The next time I get to intercept and answer one of these calls, I’m going to play along aSocial Security Cards Symbolizing Benefits for Elderly United Stated little more, see how much more information I can get and ultimately try to record these scammers. I know I have no way of catching these &%$#@ bastards, but I hope that what I learn can help people who may be receiving these calls or the children of people who might be receiving these calls. These phone scammers deserve to go to jail, but preying on the disabled or the elderly never seems to place high on any politician’s list of things to do–even here in Florida.

***

For most of the past week and a half I’ve been staying with my father as I help him through resolving some medical issues. He has moderate (but progressing dementia) that has allowed him to live independently up until this time. But that cognitive impairment (as I’ve written about previously in this blog) has made him easy prey for phone scammers.

Conceptual hand writing showing Senior Scam. Business photo showcasing fraud schemes targeting the lifestyle and savings of the elderly Writing tools and scribbled paper on top of the wooden table.Because of that, we purchased him a British-made cell phone that allows us to program in a “white list” of numbers. Only numbers on that list can call into his cell phone–essentially blocking all scammers on that device.

Unfortunately, the senior complex in which he lives also has landline phones in each apartment and that is where he still receives deceptively crafted scam calls. Apparently, there is no way to do that on the complex’s antiquated phone system. I’d love to see if there is an upgrade (software or hardware) out there that they could install to better protect their very vulnerable residents.

In addition to calls from the “SSA,” he has received calls from “Medicare” and “Microsoft.”

When I answered the call from “Medicare” the telemarketer became combative after I questioned his credentials. He hung up when I persisted, but I’m quite certain they are calling from a company trying to smooth talk seniors to use Medicare benefits to purchase medical equipment (walkers, oxygen, canes, wheelchairs, etc) they must need at no cost them.

I haven’t tried to engage the “Microsoft” robocall yet, but the next time I hear that computer-generated voice, I’ll press the appropriate button and get it on.

Until then, I just want to share my warning: find out who is calling your disabled friends/family and/or your elderly parents. Get some questionable answers? Get complaints of the phone ringing all day? See some unfamiliar names, phone numbers, notes or dollar amounts scribbled on a notepad by the phone?

If you see anything like that you need to take action to protect your loved ones. You need to spend a day answering calls yourself. If numbers can be blocked–do it–even though many scammers are generating random, non-repeating phone numbers. You also need to do something a little more difficult and intrusive—get a look at their checkbooks, bank accounts and credit card statements. Look for anything that would be out of the ordinary for them. If you see anomalies, try to dispute the charges–but most of all, talk to your siblings, your elderly parents and come up with a plan to protect them yourselves.

In the end, to protect my own father, I’ve had to use my Power of Attorney rights to take control and possession of his checkbook and his credit cards. Without a way to completely block scam calls (and similarly insidious junk mail) it was all I could do to protect the savings and investments he worked a lifetime to earn.

Remember, in the end only you can protect your family from scammers. Act now!

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I’m Always Writing

•October 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

white board poemAfter three weeks of fighting off an upper respiratory infection, I’m finally getting back (slowly) to my morning workouts. Now, there are times when I get so absorbed in the effort or flow of a workout that my mind is fully engaged in the activity itself. And there are other times when the rhythm of paddling or running or biking sets my mind free.

In those moments I struggle to remember my thoughts. On my mountain bike rides, I almost always carry a notebook. But while running or paddling, often all I have is my phone or my memory. If I don’t want to stop and record the words on my phone, the thought becomes a mantra–repeated for the entire workout until I can finally put it to paper.

This morning’s workout was in my garage gym–a circuit workout mixing intervals on the white board workoutConcept2 Rowing Ergometer with some basic exercises.  My goal was to start increasing the intensity of my workouts after only doing some very low-impact exercises over the last week. I was generally successful–getting through three rounds of the planned workout. The fourth round omitted the rowing machine.

My morning goal didn’t include writing a short poem–but those words came during the workout and I jotted them down on the whiteboard.

I saw the world anew

Point of view

Change

in perspective

Fresh insight

Morning light.

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Knock. Knock. Knock.

•September 17, 2019 • 2 Comments

knock knock knockThree solid, slow, confident raps penetrated the cocoon of white noise created by the air conditioning and the dense foam of my earplugs. I sat up. The front door? 

Looking at the clock–12:30am–I shook my head and started to settle my head back down. But my mind didn’t stop. What if it was someone trying to get in touch with me about my elderly father? What if I had missed a phone call and he needed me?

I pulled out my earplugs and swung my legs over the side of the bed. After putting on my glasses, I walked to the door–expecting a repeat of the three knocks. Nothing.

The cats were nonplussed–seemingly undisturbed by my atypical nocturnal wanderings or a rap on the door. Honestly, they were nowhere to be seen.

At the front door I stood on my tiptoes–peaking through the high window like I do when trying to evaluate overzealous solicitors. Nothing. Sidestepping to the bigger kitchen windows I looked again. Nothing. A lot of still, lifelessness woefully under-illuminated by the flickering and anemic streetlight. Emptiness.

I padded across the cool terrazzo to the catio door. The screened lanai was empty–bathed in the dim glow of white nightlights. From my office window I could look at most of the back yard without disturbing my wife. So again I walked quietly through the house and peeked through the blinds. Nothing.

Satisfied, I went back to bed and pulled up the covers. Earplugs in hand I listened–mostly to the elevated thumping of my heart. Eventually my pulse settled enough to allow the white noise back into my head. Calmer. I replaced my earplugs and slowly nodded off.

My wife woke before me and was out the door to workout and work before my alarm sounded. I pulled the covers over my face. Something about the confidence of those knocks stuck with me. Solid. Perfectly timed. Three. With those thoughts repeating I languished in half-sleep.

“There’s this girl that’s been on my mind
All the time, Su-Su-Sussudio oh oh…”

I couldn’t whack the clock radio fast or hard enough. Ears aching and heart racing, my mind was distracted–ruminating over why Phil Collins solidly held the top two slots on my list of Worst Songs to Wake Up To. It was enough of an inner dialogue (with Phil repeatedly singing the background music) to temporarily forget about the three knocks and get on with my day.

* **

That evening as I sat in bed reading, I thought about the knocks again–and about mentioning them to my wife. But I didn’t.

Typically,  after she closes her book and her eyes, I’ll put in my earplugs and keep reading. But, this evening I wanted to be more aware–I left my earplugs in my eyeglass case on the nightstand and tried to focus on my book.

My sleep was fitful and when my wife arose early to head to the gym, I again stayed in bed. She closed the bedroom door and I eventually dozed off into a deeper sleep.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

I didn’t bolt upright. I couldn’t–stuck in a slumbering mind-fog. But, I heard the knocks–hadn’t I? I wiped the drool from my mouth, propped myself up and listened–nothing. Had my previous night’s obsession manifested itself in a dream?

Looking at the clock–5:05 a.m.–and realizing I’d managed to get another good hour of sleep, I dragged my body out of bed and started to make the rounds. It was still dark, but there was just enough pre-dawn glow for me to see nothing unusual in the backyard.

At the front door, I again raised up on my tiptoes to peer through the window. White, pupil-less eyes set in a snaggle-whiskered, ashen face stared back. Bearded face edited (2)

I didn’t shout or scream. I stumbled backwards, raced for my phone and the old baseball bat I kept under the bed. On the way back to the front door I noticed the cats were nowhere to be seen. Odd. They must be out on the screened in lanai again–their only real exposure to the outside and a typical refuge from unusual activity.

Again, I looked through the high door window. Nothing. No blank eyes. No ashen face. Deep breath.

I flipped on the front light and turned the deadbolt. After looking behind for the cats–still missing–I opened the door. Before stepping out, I looked down–two, huge muddy footprints were centered on the welcome mat. Avoiding that evidence, I stepped outside–a trail of muddy prints lead down the driveway to the right. But, they ended before the street in the middle of the concrete–no trace of mud anywhere else. Nothing in the grass. In the brightening light, I looked up and down Bayview Drive–no people, cars, bikes. No early morning rabbits or birds. Quiet. Too quiet?

Turning back towards the house…where were the footprints? Gone?

I hustled to the door and looked down at the worn, but now clean, welcome mat. Was I still asleep? Dreaming?

Closing the door and locking it behind me, I stood still–letting my eyes adjust to the dimness.

Meow. Meow. Meow.

My ears led my eyes to the kitchen. A trail of muddy paw prints ended at Chekov. Sitting on his haunches, next to an empty food dish, our scraggly, grey cat glared at me with blank, white eyes.

Meow. Meow. Meow.

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SINKHOLE: A Speculative Fiction Short Story

•August 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

My latest speculative fiction short story is now on Amazon. Available only for Kindle and Kindle apps. Start reading SINKHOLE today.

SINKHOLE SQUARE WITH BLURB

SILVER MEDAL FOR DELPHYS RISING

•August 4, 2019 • Leave a Comment

2019 FAPA AWARDSLake Buena Vista, FL (8/4/2018) – The Annual 2019 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Awards recognized Delphys Rising by Kip Koelsch , in the category of Horror/Suspense/Thriller as a silver medal winner.

Hosted by the Florida Authors and Publishers Association, this prestigious national award is open to books published between 2018 and 2019. The judges for this national competition are librarians, educators, and publishing professionals.

“The FAPA President’s Book Award exists to promote excellence in the publishing industry by recognizing talented contemporary authors who put both heart and soul into their work. FAPA is proud to be a champion of authors and publishers going the extra mile to produce books of excellence in every aspect.” said Angelina Assanti, Past President of FAPA.

Delphys Rising is a science fiction thriller and stand-alone sequel to Koelsch’s first novel, Wendall’s Lullaby.

Medals were awarded at the annual FAPA President’s Book Awards Banquet held this year at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace in the Disney Springs TM Area of Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

“We are proud to announce this year’s winners who truly embody the excellence this award was created to celebrate. Their works are representative of the creative storytelling, bold concepts and innovative ideas which makes the President’s Book Awards so well respected by librarians and those in the publishing industry. We salute all of our winners for their fine work.” said FAPA’s President, Patti Brassard Jefferson.

2019 FAPA DELPHYS WITH SILVER MEDALKoelsch added, “I’m thrilled to have the recognition of literary professionals and my peers for my second novel. As a relatively new and sometimes insecure author, it’s reassuring and motivating. It makes it easier to enthusiastically move forward with my current and next writing projects.”

The Florida Authors & Publishers Association is an organization for authors, publishers, illustrators, editors, printers, and other professionals involved in the publishing industry. It focuses on providing the highest quality of information, resources, and professional development to members and others interested in the writing and publishing profession.

Koelsch lives in Dunedin, Florida, and is currently working on a third science fiction thriller, a historical fiction novella and a few science fiction short stories.

 

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Morning Paddle

•July 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Underwater Green Sea Grass, Sea Grass UnderwaterGliding, glassy water

Pulsing sea grass, below

Shy sea turtle peeks between blades, feeding body

Paddler flying above takes notice, feeding soul.

tortue marine plongée algue animal pacifique protection espèce

 

This morning I was blessed with a very light breeze and mostly glassy water conditions for my outrigger canoe workout. Since this is the first morning that my schedule and the weather have cooperated (we’ve had a bunch of morning storm days over the last week or so), I was happy to grind out a steady fourteen miles.

I started my paddle early–in the dark–so I was able to enjoy the nearly full moon setting over Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands and the Gulf of Mexico. I paddle with a bright light pointing out over the ama (outrigger) of my canoe. While in the dark, for the first three or four miles, I paddled through hundreds of needle fish–skittering flashes across the surface. But the highlight was gliding over the sea grass beds and spotting the one sea turtle peaking from between the green blades.

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Ripples

•July 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

A smooth stone. I was looking for a smooth stone—roundish and flat, perfect for skipping. Sauntering along the shore, my neck bent and eyes scanning. It took some time, but eventually I spotted it—light gray among darker blue stones.

Kieselstein springend

The water’s edge was only feet away. I wrapped my right index finger and thumb around the stone and slid it around until it fit just right. I crouched and leaned—my right shoulder closer to the ground—and threw. The stone (or maybe it was the thrower?) was not so good—two skips and a plunk. Out of sight. I walked away.

I didn’t know I’d changed the world forever.

The ripples were small—they barely made it to the far shore. But, they did—raising and lowering the water just enough to dislodge a small toy sailboat from the bank. Bobbing inTraditional small wooden sailing boat in the pond of park the bright sunlight, the boat, the ripples, the reflection, caught the attention of its five-year old owner. Owen reacted, leapt, and hit the water like a monofilament-crippled pelican. He hadn’t learned to swim yet, and he never would.

 

 

CIRCLE OF LIFE (or Death): Part I

•July 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Arrière plan vers asticotsHundreds of meat-eating maggots writhed en masse at the bottom of my garbage can. The movement was revolting and mesmerizing. The putrid reek of decay burned the back of my throat. The stench was repulsive and intoxicating. My head swooned from the overstimulation.

I didn’t even think about why the trash collectors had left the mess in the bottom of the can—why the automatic dumping truck hadn’t shaken them loose. I couldn’t think. I was lost in the sight– drawn deeper into the swirling mass—my eyes, my mind. Without hesitation I climbed into the garbage can—head-first—and plunged into the maggots.

The dive wasn’t stopped short—just slowed—as the maggots redirected their attention to me—to feasting on my head. Thousands of tiny bites—hundreds of thousands—thundered in my ears until they were devoured. Silence. Once my brainstem was consumed the agonizing pain ceased. I felt nothing.

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The re-start of Japan’s Commercial Whaling and DELPHYS RISING

•June 26, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Illustration idea for banning whaling in Japan.On July 1, 2019–only days away–Japan will once again start blatant commercial whaling. After thirty years of hiding behind the thin veil of “scientific whaling,” Japan has decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and hunt minke and beaked whales–at a time when demand for whale meat is at an all-time low.

When this news broke earlier this year, I was still working on my near-finished novel,

Stop the killing

Stop the killing! Save the dolphins!

Delphys Rising. One of the elements already included in the plot of the book was how dolphins–when given the means to communicate with humans–would address the dolphin drive hunts currently taking place in Japan and the Faroe Islands. The hunt in Taiji, Japan–portrayed in the documentary The Cove–was a particular focus in the thriller’s plot.

But, while I sat editing, I knew I had to weave something about Japan’s return to commercial whaling into the narrative–so I did. Most people think commercial whaling ended decades ago–in 1986 when member nations agreed to a world-wide ban through the IWC. Of course, nations that wanted to continue commercial whaling simply withdrew from the organization (or never joined)–or in the case of Japan called a limited hunt “scientific whaling.” The practice still continued across the decades–albeit “under the radar” because most media outlets had bought into the publicity surrounding the ban. Cries of “Save the Whales!” faded into the background.

COVER FINAL FRONT ONLYMy hope with Delphys Rising (in addition to people just enjoying a good story) is to raise a little awareness about Japan’s return to commercial whaling–as well as the continued slaughter through drive hunts, hunting of large whales by companies in Norway and Iceland and the capture of live dolphins for display or animal shows.

I hope you enjoy reading my latest speculative fiction thriller and I hope it prompts you to seek out more information about the whaling and dolphin drive hunts that continue to haunt our humanity from the shadows.

 

***

Delphys Rising is available as an ebook for Kindle and Kindle apps, to Kindle Unlimited subscribers and as a paperback at Amazon.com.

 

 

COUNTING THE STARS WITH DAD

•June 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Man looking up towards the Milky Way. Eyre Peninsula. South Australia.The last licks of orange glow on the horizon signaled nature’s transition from day to night. Sitting on a deserted beach, on an isolated key, deep in the Everglades National Park backcountry, I watched the heavens as the stars began to appear one-by-one. Eyes darting frantically, I tried to count each star as it appeared. When stars began to emerge by the hundreds, I was quickly overwhelmed. Closing my eyes, I lay slowly on my back. After a brief visual break, I opened my eyes and tried to absorb the vastness from horizon to horizon. Usually, what floods my mind in these contemplative situations are big thoughts about my place in the world or reflections on how insignificant our tiny planet is in the cosmic scheme of things. But, what dominated my current introspection were not wispy glimpses of answers to life’s eternal questions, but clear visions of camping with my father.

Like so many young families in the early 1960s, mine had started camping as an inexpensive vacation-my mom and dad encouraged and outfitted by dad’s already camping co-workers. At one and a half years old, I was dragged along for all the fun. As the story goes, the first trip was a miraculous success-though it rained most of the two weeks and I’m told I spent most of my time in the tent in a highchair. It couldn’t have been all that bad; the Koelsch’s began a yearly ritual akin to migration that brought us to that same Lake George, New York campground each summer for nearly ten years. There
I caught my first fish (a “sunny” on a bamboo pole that we cooked in a metal Band-Aid box), paddled my first canoe (a beater of a Grumman the livery guy tried to blame dad for denting), and went on my first hike (a ranger-led scramble to the precipice of Roger’s Rock). Lake George was full of memories of the beginning of my love affair with the outdoors.

But, this evening, lying back on the sand on Pavilion Key, relaxing from a day’s kayaking, I recalled a very specific camping image of my father. Mind you, it was family-style tent camping we did at Lake George-three burner Coleman stove, big coolers, cotton sleeping bags with animal print interiors, mattresses that took half an hour to blow up, and a canvas tent that took an hour to erect once you figured out which pole went where. The drive-in campsite had the typical “Fred loves Wendy”-carved picnic table and slightly crooked grill-covered stone fireplace. It’s really just the fireplace that is important to this memory. That’s where dad would sit in a lounge chair and tend the campfire after his family was safely tucked in the tent. Several hours later I would half-hear that familiar tent zipper sound and dad would crawl in next to mom. Always being the curious type, the following morning I would ask dad what he did after we all went to bed. “Trying to count the stars,” he would say.

Dad’s sitting out at night wasn’t just an occasional occurrence. It was something he would do almost every night they weren’t playing cards or socializing with other campground acquaintances. And, each morning, following my question, he would answer with the same, what some people would describe as child-like, enthusiasm: “Trying to count the stars.” Sometimes he would tell me how many he counted that evening-but, the number never really seemed to matter as much as the actual counting. The quest was not for ever truly quantifying the heavens, the quest was the unrestrained joy he found in the trying. It was his continual enthusiasm and sense of wonder that
drenched my brain on that clear night in the Everglades. And, at that moment in my memory, I felt closer to my father than I would have if he were sitting on the beach next to me.

Indian Guide HandbookBeyond our Lake George days, we spent outdoor time together through our participation in the YMCA Indian Guides program. Each of the father-son “journeys” we shared was permeated by dad’s National Geographic Magazine sense of adventure. He skillfully applied his excitement and fed my imagination in ways that made each trip even more rewarding. There was the father-son canoe trip on the Wading River in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens-where an hour of no contact with other canoes and a small “search” plane overhead added a certain “edge” to our trip. And, there was that frigid winter night hike in the Poconos that revealed several well-formed bear prints in the snow’s icy crust. We had photos from some of those trips in a box somewhere, but lying there looking at the night sky I realized that the memories and feelings I cherished the most were not captured on film. They were captured in my heart and reflected in the stars.

Those stars brought me a real gift that evening-a renewed closeness to my father and an understanding of why I could love the outdoors so much. Still lying on the beach, I broke into a appreciative smile and again began to count.

NOTE: this essay originally appeared in Canoe & Kayak Magazine.

 
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