Sunday, August 31, 2008

Unintentional Hilarity

Marine Son, who is currently serving in Iraq, is being promoted tomorrow. It was supposed to happen in October, but for whatever reason has been moved up.

In this technologically advanced age, my daughter-in-law and baby grandson will be "attending" the ceremony via some form of broadcast.

I sent him congrats today, and I wanted to send another set of congrats to reach him "tomorrow," whenever that might be in Iraq. So I did a Google search to find out what time exactly it might be there right now.

The site I chose to click offers its information in exchange for hawking services. I'm sure they use the same language for all places and just insert the name of the city or country the site visitor has chosen. Hence, this unintentionally ironic howler, emphasis mine:

Traveling to Iraq soon?
Start planning your trip with! You'll find travel guides and reviews with real traveler tips and photos on hotels, restaurants, nightlife, shopping and things to do (or not do). You can even meet locals in Iraq and make friends with them before your trip!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don't Ask; I Won't Tell

General note to the world and at least one person in particular:

Don't ask how I'm doing if you don't want to hear the answer.

Fortunately for you, I have a lot of miles on me, and I've developed a few skills. I can pick up quickly that, even though you asked about what I've been up to, it was only social courtesy, and you do not give two figs about what's going on in my life (after I heard all about yours in excruciating detail). Fortunately for you, I gave you the short version of my situation.

Really, I'm more bemused than offended.

But if you don't want to hear it, don't ask. I won't tell.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Now I Know Why Home Phone Service Is Dying

I would say it nickel-and-dimes the customer to death, but it actually ten-dollar-bills us.


After decades of being in the dark ages, I decided to buy a cordless phone and order caller ID. The last cordless I had was such a disaster that I threw it away after less than a month of use. But since most people I know successfully use cordless phones, and because I was weary of not knowing who is calling (and therefore I would just not answer), and because my daughter is probably weary of having to ring 20 times before I will answer, I bought the phone yesterday and set out to order caller ID today.

It cost ten dollars. Ten dollars! Caller ID comes free with cell phones. For another 52 cents, I could "bundle" call waiting ID and so I did, but now it occurs to me that I don't have call waiting on my home phone. I'm so used to having it on my cell phone that I take it for granted -- something that comes with the service. Geez. I guess I need to go back in and change my order again.

I feel so used.

I'd give up the land line, but I want to limit the number of people to whom I give the cell number. As in, no business contacts. As in, not facilitate junk calls to my cell phone.

But this, this is a heck of a price to pay for "convenience." One hundred twenty dollars per year.

The worst part is that I hardly ever use either phone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Because I Don't Say Anything, It Doesn't Mean I Don't Love You

A general notice to my blog-pals: for the last, oh, two months or so, my back has been against the proverbial wall, time-wise. I'm astonished that I've posted anything here at all, but in each case it was something I could spit out in 10 minutes or so. Lately that's been me: the 10-Minute Blogger.

I've also been visiting my favorite haunts, but not always commenting. That's been the compromise. I allow myself the time to read, but mostly I nod and move on.

This behavior will continue for at least another two to three weeks, when my back should be released from the proverbial wall, and I will return to my normal level of over-stress.

I just wanted to let you know, if I haven't been commenting on your blog, that I'm still reading in fits and starts, and I'll be back. Please don't forget about me.

And now, to make sure this post doesn't go over my 10-minute time limit, I'll sign off and see you in a few weeks. Or sooner. Maybe.

We Wouldn't Want to Offend the Dead

Opposed to gay marriage? Then don't marry someone who's the same sex as you -- problem solved. That stale joke is my credo.

I absolutely do not get why some people think they get to be the boss of other people. It's not just the gay marriage issue, of course. For instance, my neighbor is a real alpha dog and tries to run all sorts of things on our street that are none of his damned business.

Anyway, some people in California are upset because Ellen and Portia got married and others like them have and will.

But one man there offers the most illogical reason for opposing gay marriage yet:

"I've never stumped before, but I want to be a part of this [campaign supporting a ban]," Bumgarner said. The retired insurance executive and devout Mormon said his late mother would "turn over in her grave" if she knew that gays and lesbians could marry.
Well, that's different, isn't it? Ban gay marriage immediately! We wouldn't want to offend the dead, now would we?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Coupon Applications Facilitated Here

Here, to be precise.

Applying for a government coupon to buy a TV converter box is something I've been meaning to do. I don't, under normal circumstances, need one. I have cable. But I'd been thinking about getting the coupon (and the box it purchases) anyway, because what if financial times get Really Bad? The first thing I'd give up would be the cable, even before the cell phone.

Then came Fay.

My cable hasn't gone out (and in fact my total trouble thus far has been lots o' rain and lots o' wind, although the news is reporting a tornado very near me...), but it could have. And Fay will hardly be the last storm to ever come visit. And sometimes the cable goes out just because.

So I moved "ordering coupon" up from the someday list to the right-now list, and it took all of about 25 seconds. Maybe 35.

You can order your coupon in less time than it took to read this post, so once again: click here to order your coupon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Impressed Beyond Words

One of my recent students just completed his first day of play in the U.S. Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, NC. He's holding his own -- nowhere near the bottom -- and I can't wait to see how he does tomorrow.

I'd love to print his name, but I choose to stay anonymous and all, so no.

Still, go student, go!

Update: He made the cut, and again, was nowhere near the bottom of the cut. Cool as all get out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bernie Mac -- Read

I was looking through merchandise offered by the American Library Association, and I saw that one of its iconic "Read" posters features Bernie Mac:

Dang. Sorry to see one more reader gone.

RIP, Bernie.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goodbye, Boys. Goodbye, Summer.

I've seen my daughter's sons more this summer than I ever have before in their short little lives. Circumstances brought us together for a week in May, two weeks in June, and two weeks in July/August. I've become used to having them around, but today they climbed in the mini-van and went home to North Carolina.

I'll miss them more than I can say.

T and W, playing with a Nintendo DS in the motel in Maryland where we stayed for a week while visiting family. Good times.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Customer Service

The following is a true story, although I've had to recreate the dialogue since at the time it was happening I didn't realize I had to memorize it for archival purposes.

I have a rather inexpensive cell phone account with a minimal number of "peak" minutes: 300. Usually this is plenty for me. I'm not much of a phone person.

However, my July bill was more than double its usual amount because, due to making family plans and a long talk with a boss, I ran over about 45 minutes and was charged about $40 for them. Ouch. (And I am making some plans to leave my current service, but right now I have no time to breathe...)

Anyway, since then I've been in the habit of calling at off-peak hours to confirm the number of minutes used. With my carrier, that involves calling 611. Here's how it went this morning:

Mechanical phone voice: Thank you for calling Your Phone Service. For balance due, payment options, or minutes of use, press or say "1."

Me: 1

Mechanical phone voice: Following this call, we'd like to ask you six questions about your customer service experience. To take the survey, press or say "1." To decline, "2."

Me (not in a mood to be surveyed): 2

Mechanical phone voice: I'm sorry, but I didn't understand your answer. To take the survey, press or say "1." To decline, "2."

Me (louder): 2!

Mechanical phone voice: I'm sorry, but I still didn't understand your answer. Please hold for the next available operator. (The sound of ringing.)

Whereupon I decided I didn't need to know my minutes used all that desperately and hung up.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Paper Checks Officially Declared Dead

I received an email from yesterday, which reads in part:

Greetings from We're contacting you because you've previously paid for orders with a paper check or money order. We wanted to let you know that we will no longer be accepting paper checks or money orders beginning September 8, 2008.

If you still have check or money order funds remaining in your account on September 8, the funds will be transferred to an Gift Card balance. The Gift Card balance will be automatically applied to the next order you place on These funds will never expire and can be used to purchase millions of items from as well as other sellers on our website.
Now, it's true that I've not used a paper check to pay for almost any purchase in a long, long time. (I used one to order a death certificate copy recently -- does that count?) But this email reads as much like an obituary as any we're going to get for the late, lamented paper check.

I'm rather sad to see them go. When I remortgage my home to make improvements, what will I burn in celebration when it eventually pays off? My computer monitor?

RIP, my pretty kitty checks.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Perspectives

There's nothing like interacting with others to see the world in a slightly different way. As old as I am, that happens now and then. This week it happened twice.

Girl Next Door is my daughter's best friend, dating back to their nine-year-old days. She actually lives behind me (back home with her own daughter while she finishes nursing school and re-establishes herself), and I know her much better than I do her parents or any of her other family members. Relatively early in the Iraq misadventure, Girl Next Door's brother was essentially handicapped for life when the jeep he was driving (chauffering a major) was hit by a mortar and his knee was turned into something resembling raw steak on broken pottery. At first, the Army wanted to patch him up and send him back, but when it became obvious that he was crippled, they put him on 100% disability.

Here's the catch: as a 100% disabled vet, he's severely limited to the amount he can work. A certain number of hours a week (a month?) and that's it. He's in the ugliest of Catch-22s; damaged serving his country, he has two choices: live on the inadequate military pension or forego it and hope to earn more money otherwise, despite his disability. In other words, he's almost forced to remain in poverty. I realize there's a good reason for limits -- some would try to cheat the system otherwise. If a man or woman can hold down a job, perhaps he or she doesn't need a full disability pension. But apparently this young man's problems are sporadic. Sometimes he's well enough, out of pain and mobile enough to work. Other times he's not. Bureaucracy isn't flexible enough to handle these fluctuations. He's in his thirties with no real aboveboard hope for financial improvement. He tries to work a little under the table to help care for his family.

Serve your country and be rewarded with a lifetime of poverty. That's somehow a new perspective for me, even though I've heard stories before. I guess it's different when you know the name, face, voice, of he who has been sentenced to poverty.

The other example, short version: my niece was the victim of a home invasion this past week. Signs indicate that her attackers had watched the family closely and knew their routine. Her family lives in a townhouse development laid out in a square. It's lovely, but this means that about 30 homes are visible from any one home. It never occurred to me before how vulnerable this layout makes a family. I thought being so visible would make one safer. Before, I thought my cul-de-sac was vulnerable (and maybe it still is) because we have only seven homes and where I sit is NOT easily seen, providing happy cover for anyone who might want to burgle. However, precisely because it's relatively private, anyone who wants to observe my home can't just blend in. The nosy neighbors would see the outsider and betcha by golly wow would be out asking questions or calling the cops.

I wonder what else hasn't occurred to me before? I look forward to paying attention and learning some more lessons in the coming week.

Student Update, or, You've Got Mail

I haven't been teaching this summer because I've been working on another project for My School. So I haven't been thinking about students, individually, just students, unknown-to-me group that I'll meet in a few weeks.

However, today my work email included a link to an online list of people who graduated from My School last Friday.

I recognized five students on that list. Not bad. Some of the more common names could have been past students as well: Ashley Williams, for instance. Or she might have been some other Ashley Williams. As for the five students, I am not one iota surprised that these five made it past the finish line, and I wish them well.

While I was reading the list, my work email made its little "you have mail" doinky-sound.

I received an email from a past student dated February 9, 2007, telling me about a problem she had with a class/job conflict.

Has that mail really been surfing in cyberspace for almost a year and a half?

And worse, am I eventually going to get all that mail that students claim they sent me but I never received?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Economic Observations from Someone Who Has Never Taken an Economics Class

I'd like to take out a smallish loan to finish all the small-to-medium nuisance projects around the house. I can afford to pay it back since, probably unlike most, I don't have a mortgage (nanny nanny boo boo!). But I fear losing my job, even though that fear is probably pretty irrational. Or maybe not.

Since I'm not taking out the loan, I'm not buying the materials or hiring the craftsmen.

Since I'm not buying the materials or hiring the craftsmen, HD and Lowe's aren't getting my money, and the craftsmen aren't getting hired to do my projects. Therefore, they don't get my money.

Since no one's getting my money, the economy is that much worse because the sales at HD & Lowes are down, and they have to lay off someone. And the craftsmen can't make their truck payments, so their trucks get repo'd and now they can't work.

And because the HD employees and the craftsmen can't run around and spend money, thereby paying taxes into the state coffers, funding at My School is cut even more drastically and enrollment dips even more.

And then maybe I don't have a job any more.

Clearly the only way to save my job is to take out a loan.

(And I say this in only partial jest...)