Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

The God of Cake

The God of Cake: terrific short story, told through sparse text and a lot of hilarious illustrations, like this one:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 - another tough one

The way we define the start and end of years is arbitrary. A year is 365 days, more or less, but when does a year begin or end? Some cultures begin the year in February. Some mark it's beginning in Spring. In the West, we celebrate it at the end of December. A part of me feels silly looking forward to the end of one year and a start of another, for thinking that I'm about to get a clean slate, as nothing really changes at midnight on December 31 wherever you are on Earth - at least not because of the second hand on your clock.

But I do, indeed, look forward to the end of 2011. It was yet another year of being unemployed most of the time, of watching my savings shrink even further, of regretting moving back to the USA, of receiving rejection letters for oh-so-many jobs, of not being able to buy things - not only things I want, but some things I really need. Just as I was a year ago, I'm hoping the new year will be different: maybe things will change, maybe the economy will get better, maybe I'll get a job, maybe we'll get the opportunity to move somewhere much more appropriate for us... maybe I'll win the lottery.

2011 hasn't been all bad - far from it:
  • I went to Mexico. What a wonderful time!
  • We took a wonderful motorcycle trip to Yellowstone and all sorts of other wonderful places in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
  • We took a long weekend and experienced the beauty of Crater Lake and the surrounding area.
  • I had a wonderful, all-too-short visit by two motorcycle travelers from the UK nearing the end of their world-wide tour.
  • We went had a wonderful week-long motorcycle ride up to Seattle and back, seeing another side of Mt. St. Helen's, and seeing Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainer, as well as reuniting with a friend from my childhood.
  • Stefan bought me a new motorcycle (well, not new, but different) and lots of gear for it
  • Albi had a good year
  • I lost 30 pounds
  • We got our health insurance restored
  • Stefan got a better job
  • While I didn't get enough consulting to sustain myself, I got enough to look like, to the outside world, that I was quite the successful professional in 2011 - to the point that some of you out there thought I was doing really well professionally, based on my Tweets and Facebook posts.
I lost my beloved grandfather in 2011. I also experienced amazing kindness from airline booking agents in getting a ticket to go home, and had a wonderful time being with family and celebrating my grandfather's life. And I got to see my beloved Uncle Wally one last time before he, too, passed away.

That's some really good things. I celebrate those things. I hope for at least half that much in 2012, I really do.

But I'm looking at 2012 with dread. My deposit for a house is mostly gone - and will certainly be gone before the end of 2012. If I have another year like 2011, I won't be able to make any contribution for my retirement. If my four-year-old computer fails, I'm beyond screwed. The idea of another year in Canby makes me want to break down and cry - but we don't see a way out. Albi is mostly blind - 2012 won't be kind to her. And there's an election this year, and the hatred being spewed by Republicans against everything - EVERYTHING - I stand for scares me out of my wits.

My strategy for finding a job in 2011 didn't work, just as the strategies I used in 2010, 2009 & 2008 didn't work. I know that that's mostly because of the global economy and because of where I chose to live, not because of me, per se, but with Republicans going on TV and saying unemployed people are lazy, I start to wonder about myself... I'll be spending the rest of the year trying to think how to create a new strategy for finding paid work. Hopefully my web pages with Google Ads will continue to bring in money to cover all of my web hosting expenses. I'll take a class in January that's a kind of mental health first aid class, that will, hopefully, give me plenty to blog about at the start of the year and make me just a little bit more marketable. I hope I can lose another 30 pounds and that the weather will be kind enough for many rides on my new motorcycle. We have a trip planned to Northern California I'm really, really looking forward to.

I hope that the start of 2012 really does mark the beginning of some very good changes. I'm sooooo ready for such.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lovin' the Bard

It was 1981 or 1982. I was in the 9th grade, in a public school in Henderson County, Kentucky. I was in an English class. It wasn't an advanced English class, nor an honors English class. Just the normal, regular 9th grade English class. And our ordinary, normal, not-advanced public school teacher had us read and study Romeo and Juliet.

There we were, reading aloud in our thick Kentucky accents, sometimes struggling over words, sometimes laughing over phrases (especially the sexual ones). We read the play aloud, we read the play on our own, and we watched a slide show, an abbreviated version of the Zeffirelli masterpiece, accompanied by portions of audio from the film (I guess our school couldn't afford the rights to show the movie). The teacher asked us what was meant by this or that paragraph, why a character did this or that, what another character was feeling, and how we felt about what was happening.

And we got it. We understood the play, every bit of it. We understood that these were young people every bit as thoughtless and passionate as us. We understood that these were adults every bit as stubborn and closed-minded as many adults we knew. We understood that it was a tragedy, not something to aspire to. We understood the intensity, we understood the sorrow. The play was completely accessible. The teacher fully expected us to get it, and we got it.

Around the same time, I saw Twelfth Night at the University of Evansville. I admit that I didn't understand everything: I didn't get all of what was going on among Viola, Olivia, the Duke and Sebastian, but I most certainly got the set up and fall of Malvolio - and, oh, how I laughed. And laughed. And walked around for weeks saying, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." (emphasis from the actor from that production, complete with rolling "R"s).

In the 10th grade, my English class - still not an honors class, and also in public school - read and studied Julius Caesar. And, again, we go it. We understood what was going on. We understood the conniving and the politics and the egos. Same for in the 11th grade, when we read and studied Macbeth.

I went on to read Hamlet in college, and to see, and thoroughly enjoy, probably a dozen productions of various Shakespeare plays over the years. Most productions were great. Some were mediocre. But all were completely accessible to me and everyone else watching.

I bring this up because Ralph Fiennes is running around the talk show circuit (and he can feel free to run around here any time) talking about his latest movie, Coriolanus, and the interviewers keep saying things like, "Wow, it's so accessible. I didn't think I would understand Shakespeare. Most people don't get Shakespeare."

Most people do get Shakespeare. It's why his plays have lasted this long. It's why they keep getting performed on stage and keep getting filmed. The real issue: most people don't ever see a Shakespeare production. More and more schools have to teach kids to take tests, more and more English classes aren't talking about Shakespeare anymore, except in passing. Most people don't go see a Shakespeare production because they have heard, again and again, Shakespeare is so hard to understand - from people who have never seen Shakespeare.

And THAT is a tragedy, every bit as anything Shakespeare wrote.

I not only enjoyed those early readings and study of Shakespeare; reading and studying the Bard also taught me quite a lot. In addition to greatly enhancing my vocabulary, reading and listening to Shakespeare has taught me how to concentrate on phrasing, how to read subtext, how word choice can affect understanding, how complicated humans are (just like all humans now), and how so many human activities and feelings are universal. All of those lessons have helped me throughout my life, at home and at work. How many times have I had to quickly adapt to the language and phrasing of some new industry I'm finding myself working in? And I didn't see or experience anything in Afghanistan I couldn't also find in Shakespeare, and that's probably why I was able to find a way to process the tragedies all around me there - and everywhere else.

Last week, I read A Midsummer Night's Dream. Now, I'm reading Twelfth Night. I read every word, and often re-read sentences. Is it an easy read? What is an easy read? No, I don't get a passage at a glance - I have to actually read everything. But do I get it? Do I understand what's happening? Do the jokes make me laugh? Sure! This public-school-educated, public university-educated, non-English major gets it just fine.

What's next? I'm not sure. Maybe something I've never seen a production of but always wanted to, like King Lear. Maybe something I've seen many productions of, like Tempest.

But I'm lovin' the Bard. I wish more people would give him a chance.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Albi the dog at 15

Albi with her toyAlbi is 15 now. We think. We're not sure. We adopted her in June of 2003, and the profile on her kennel at the Albert Schweitzer Tierheim in Bonn, Germany at that time said she was six and a half years old - who knows if it had been recently updated. We decided she was born in 1997.

Anyway... Albi is 15 now. And Albi now loves to eat. With gusto. This is a huge change for her. She used to be a delicate eater. Nothing like Wiley, the dog I had to beg and bribe to eat, but she has, over the years, turned her nose up at a meal, or not finished. There have been dog food brands she has refused to eat at all. But now, she eats like she is eating perfectly prepared prime rib and it could be taken away at any moment. This started about nine months ago. She eats almost as fast as Buster.

She also now lives for dog treats. All her life, dog treats have been something she could take or leave. She would stare at Buster as he seemed to be about to burst out of his skin, waiting for a treat, as though she were thinking, "Dude, chill!" She grew to become fond of them, but in the last year, dog treats have become THE GREATEST THINGS EVER ON EARTH. If I open the cabinet where her treats are, she is suddenly between my legs, looking for the box - something she has never done before.

She's not losing any weight. On the contrary! She's not fat, but she's not as svelte as she was even two years ago.

Our walks are shorter and slower. Back in September, when I tried to go right and walk around an elementary school we walk around, she pulled left - the route she knew would lead us home more quickly. It was one of those things-have-changed moments. Now, I'm not sure we walk an entire mile in a day any more. But we still walk, every morning and every evening, and she looks forward to it every time.

She still likes meeting other dogs during walks, especially dogs she already knows. And she still wants to dominate young male dogs, and refuses their attempts at being the alpha - she will NOT stand for that and you better just freakin' get off her lawn NOW.

All her bathroom functions are normal and happen in the proper place. That's a huge blessing - for those of you who have had senior dogs, you know what I mean.

Sadly, our girl is very deaf and very blind. After meals, she often can't find me, even if I'm just two feet away, and she will start rushing around the house, looking for me. When we come in after being gone for several hours, she doesn't hear the doors open and close, and doesn't hear the door bell. But sometimes she hears knocks. Sometimes, she knows the garage door is opening. Sometimes. I take her off the leash on Saturdays and Sundays, when we can walk through the field next to the elementary school, and she finds her way just fine - she finds me easily, though, if there are more people around, she gets confused about which is me. I think her hearing is worse than her eyesight at this point. But there's really no way to tell.

Yet she can look out of the window of the front of the house, and see the guy across the street mowing his lawn, and she will start barking. Stay away from my house, dude.

2011 has been a good year for our Albi. I'm hoping it's not her last good year. She does not like this cold weather at all - such a contrast from when she was younger, and seemed to have an energy switch turned on when it got cold, and she would run around the back yard as though to celebrate. It's a long way to warm weather. But I'll know much more about her true health when that warm weather rolls around again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

American "exceptionalism" - not always laudable

American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States of America is qualitatively different from other countries (according to Wikipedia). It was discussed today on NPR's Talk of the Nation, per a Pew headline that says the concept of American exceptionalism is declining -
although the summary of the report completely affirms American exceptionalism. The NPR discussion equated exceptionalism with being remarkable or meritorious or superior to other countries. I don't make that mistake: the USA is most definitely exceptional, but not always remarkable or meritorious or superior.

I lived in Europe for eight years and moved back to the USA with my German husband in 2009. I've traveled to more than 35 countries. Seeing the USA through my international eyes - and through my husband's eyes - has affirmed for the both of us that the USA is very different from Europe and elsewhere, sometimes superior, but often, not.

My husband is stunned at the poverty here in the USA as opposed to Western Europe, and at just how much religion dominates political discussions. I was stunned - and pleasantly surprised - at how much religion was kept out of politics in Western Europe, and at the health and well-being of the majority of people.

We both agree that the USA is quick to use military force, while Western Europe is much more thoughtful and careful about such, and that Western Europeans know much more about the world beyond their own city borders than USA citizens do. And we both think Western Europe is superior in all those regards.

We both also don' t know of a culture anywhere that doesn't think its somehow superior to everyone else - the USA is hardly exceptional in this regard. Western Europe is not nearly as unified culturally as people in the USA think, with a diversity of languages and customs within each one country's border, let alone all of Europe! And each individual village or city thinks they're food, their neighborhoods and their way of life is, ultimately, best. That's how all humans think, not just Americans.

Most Europeans I know identify first with their village, city or region, then their country or nationality. The people I know who say they are Spanish are from in around Madrid; other people from Spain tell me they are Catalan, Galacian, Basque, etc. I was stunned at how divided the tiny country of Belgium is between its languages and cultures. In contrast, most USA citizens I know are first and foremost "Americans." However, both my husband and I see a divide between new immigrants to the USA and those whose families came in the early part of the 20th century and before; someone in the latter group is willing, even happy, to say they are of German descent, or Danish descent, or Russian descent, but they are, ultimately, Americans, period. By contrast, we've both observed that people who have come to the USA from Mexico in the last 50 years want to still be called Mexican. We find this is very similar to Turkish immigrants in Germany, who don't call themselves German, or African and Arab immigrants to France, who don't call themselves French - but whereas I really do think most third-or-more generation USA citizens want immigrants to integrate and become "Americans", I don't think most Europeans want immigrants from elsewhere to integrate and become German or French or Spanish or Swiss or Hungarian or Polish - they want them to go away.

Only one country in Europe - Germany - accepts and openly talks about its history, good and bad; the rest are just like the USA, framing their own moments of mass murder, ethnic and cultural oppression and injustice as not really that bad and certainly nothing to dwell on. Here we are in the USA at the 15oth anniversary of the start of the Civil War and there's barely a mention of such anywhere - we can't talk about slavery because slave holders still has numerous defenders! It's another area where we are not at all exceptional, let alone laudable.

My husband is fascinated at the rights USA citizens have, such as almost absolute freedom of speech (we can't yell fire in a theater, of course), the lack of libel laws (you can sue people in Europe for hurting your individual, personal reputation), the right to refuse a police officer to search your vehicle, or your right to remain silent when interviewed by the police (though he's fascinated by all the people on Cops that don't exercise this right). It's most definitely something I love about my country. I'm fierce in my support of freedom of speech, including the freedom to commit blasphemy - it's the most American thing about me. And it makes the USA both exceptional and laudable.

He's fascinated - and bothered - by how nationalistic USA citizens are, and how in-your-face they are about the Christian religion - and I couldn't agree more. Both aspects of life in the USA have made him uncomfortable on numerous occasions. We've talked about how similar the nationalistic fervor and influence of religion on politics in the USA is to some Muslim countries we've visited, in contrast to Europe. I find it interesting that most of Germany's holidays - as in week days you get off from work - are actually holy days (based in Roman Catholic traditions), whereas most holidays in the USA are were not created by a religion (Memorial Day, Labor Day, President's Day, etc.).

But then there's this: in many European countries, when you register your residency with a city (as all citizens are required to do), if you declare you are a member of a religion, even if you don't attend that religion's services, part of your wages are garnished and given to that religion. A lot of Europeans consider themselves non-Church-going-Christians, but won't declare themselves Christians in their residency, in order to avoid this "tax." We don't do that in the USA, and that's one of the rare things about religion in the USA I think is superior to Europe.

He does think the USA is exceptional regarding ethnic minorities in public office, leadership positions and most jobs - it is very different than in Europe, that's for sure. Something I'm quite proud of. For all our problems regarding race relations in the USA, we really don't appreciate just how much better things are here in contrast to elsewhere.

He's none-too-enamored at how the USA has abandoned its small town and neighborhood cultures and communities in favor of strip malls and Wal-Marts and ugly, soul-less suburbs. We find so many small towns in the USA depressing, with shuttered schools and shops and abandoned business and houses; in Europe, you can still go to school, go to a restaurant or a bar and shop for at least a few items in most any village, no matter how small.

He's stunned that millions of Americans have no affordable health care access, and that even if you have coverage, a corporation makes your health care decisions instead of a doctor. This is complete contrast to Europe. And he's stunned that so many Americans fear the varied ways of providing health care coverage in Europe, that so many people in the USA think there is just one model for such and every European follows that model - unaware that how Germany does it isn't how Sweden does it, for instance. Come to think of it, I'm rather stunned about it as well. How we do health care is, indeed, exceptional in the USA, but not at all laudable.

He doesn't think Americans are as free as they think they are; he sees the dominance of corporate thinking and pursuit of profits in so much of American's personal life, mostly regarding health care, but also regarding things like nutrition and housing. I'm not sure how much he's seen that because of me, as I harp on it frequently.

The USA is exceptional - but not at all laudable - when it comes to our weight. We are fat. We are obese. Go to Europe, and look at a group of tourists - you will know the Americans not by their clothes, but by their weight. It's embarassing.

He agrees with me that one of the best things about the USA - and one of the things most Americans do not appreciate - is our national and state parks, forests and monuments. We both find these sights unmatched elsewhere in the world - and, yet, when we go to a national park, we meet many more Europeans than Americans. Such a shame, because they are, to me, what's best about America, what I'm most proud of, except for just one thing: our music.

He doesn't agree with me about American music: I think music in the USA is both exceptional and laudable, he finds only some of it enjoyable. Of course, no music is created in a vacuum, and the European and African influences on American music is undeniable. That says, rock and roll, country and western, blues and gospel are as American as it gets, and I revel in them. Not a fan of hard rock/metal or rap, but I do respect them as exceptional, even laudable, American musical forms.

So, is the USA exceptional? Mostly, yes. Is it laudable or superior in all those ways its exceptional? Not always. Will someone comment that I'm not being very patriotic with this blog and if I don't love the USA I should leave it? Count on it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Muffie Potter Aston & her many challenges in life

The New York Times has a regular guest column focused on fashion, called "What I Wore." Now, it's true, I loathe fashion "news." I loathe fashion shows. I loathe all references to fashion outside of Absolutely Fabulous. I didn't get 75% of the fashion references on Sex in the City. So I'm predisposed to think little of "What I Wore."

But this latest column absolutely blew me away. Subtitled "Outfits That Walk Between 2 Worlds," it's by some 1%er called Muffie Potter Aston. I thought for sure it was a joke just based on that name and title alone. I read the column three times, thinking, "This is really a parody, like something in The Onion, this can't possibly be real." But it is real.

And it makes me physically ill. Let the freakin' class wars begin, Muffie!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My KLR update

Stefan bought crash bars and a center stand for my "new" KLR (it's from 2008, but it's new to me!) and spent oh-so-much time installing them. He also bought and installed two-inch lowering links. He lowered the front forks as well, and got the side stand cut so that it would fit the lowered bike.

Yes, that's what we did instead of me going to New York City... I gave up Alan Rickman for a KLR and a lot of fixtures for it. It's my Christmas present and my birthday present from Stefan for probably the next three years.

So, I'm ready to roll, right?! I'm a real dual sport girl, right?

Yes and no...

I road the bike all over the neighborhood, and then we went on the windy road to Mulino and back. A few days later, we road to Woodburn and back (to get the bike registered). I think that's 50 miles total.

What I've learned / observed so far as I've ridden the KLR 650:
-- indeed, it's a thumper compared to the Honda Nighthawk; I'm giving up a very smooth, silky ride for more vibration. No more hour-long stretches of riding with no stopping - at least not as much as I'm used to. And I think I'm going to have to wear earplugs when I ride.
-- I'm also giving up a LOT of bike weight! I'm stunned at how much lighter it is!
-- It's very nimble. I feel very nimble on it. I don't know how to say that any other way.
-- I have to get on by putting my left leg on the foot peg and swinging my leg over, but once I'm over, I can put a foot down, no prob, lift the kick stand, and then I've got both feet on the ground (not at all flat, but more than enough for control). And that's going to mean always paying attention to where and how I park, even more than I already do.
-- I can see the dashboard MUCH more easily than I could on the NightHawk - much less of a head tilt down to see what's what.

So, indeed, someone who is 5' 4" can ride a lowered KLR. After being told for more than a year it wasn't possible, I'm thrilled to know it is. But I also have to say that my losing 33 pounds since February has helped tremendously - less between my thighs, allowing me to bring my legs closer to the bike in a standing position and put my feet on the ground.

Now, here's the bad news: it's now too low for the center stand (pretty easy to drag the sides of it while cornering) and it's too low to go over some of the terrain I want to. In short - it's not going to work this way.

The two inch lowering links were just $30 (with shipping). A lowered seat is more than $300. But that's what we had to do. Stefan installed the seat, put the stock links back on and brought the forks back up to stock height. And at this height, I can touch both sides of the bike. BUT... it's not enough. I'm on my toes - not even the balls of my feet. The center of gravity is much higher now, and I no longer have enough control of the bike to back it out of the garage and down the small incline to the road - and, to me, that's the best test to know if it's too high or not to ride. With the two-inch lowering links, it was much easier than the NightHawk to back up, something I have to do a lot when traveling/camping. But those lowering links just aren't going to work.

So... now we're going to buy one inch lowering links. And I really do have to get back on my program and lose this other 33 pounds, so the bike will fit me even better (and make this much wider seat more comfortable).

What about the Nighthawk? I'm trying to sell it, but it's a rotten time of year to do so. It's been on Craigslist for two weeks, and I tweeted about it as well. The first 24 hours, I got three calls for it. But in the two weeks it's been posted, I've had probably only three more calls. Two people have come here to view it - the first guy was definitely our best bet, but he wasn't crazy about the smoke out of the exhaust. The second viewer - a woman - didn't have her funding in order. And then some jerk flagged our Craigslist ad as spam, resulting in it being removed, which we didn't notice for two days. It's back up, for now... but the weather is so awful, no one is thinking about riding.

We hadn't intended to sell the Nighthawk until the Spring of 2012, at the earliest - and since that meant me riding it for six more months, we'd re-registered it, bought and installed a new chain set, and bought a new back tire. So, a few hundred dollars we would not have spent had we known this KLR and all its many alterations and additions were in our future...

And where are the photos of me on the bike? We took some, but I rejected them all for publication - I looked HUGE. We'll try another photo session as soon as the weather is good enough on the weekend (which will probably be... March...).

I am so lucky to have the husband I have, I really am. Wish I could land a job so I could buy him something equally wonderful.

I hate being short. And unemployed.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Switching motorcycles

I decided earlier this year - in the summer - that I wanted to make the switch to a dual sport motorcycle by the following summer. It wasn't a decision I came to lightly. I have loved my Honda Nighthawk. It's been the perfect first motorcycle, and it's taken me absolutely everywhere I've wanted to go. But I can't see touring Chilé with it (yes, that's my goal - among many other countries). I want to be able to do dirt and gravel with more confidence, and while I realize that's going to require improved riding skills on my part, it's also going to require a different motorcycle.

Me & my bikesI started researching possible dual sports - or even a motorcycle that had decent clearance and could be fit with knobby tires - that would fit my size. Being short, the possibilities were limited. One evening, we had pretty much decided on the KLR 650 - and then the very next day, found a fantastic deal on one on Craigslist. We couldn't pass it up - and we bought it. We hadn't intended to put the Nighthawk on the market until the Spring of 2012, at the earliest - and since that meant me riding it for six more months, we'd re-registered it, bought and installed a new chain set, and bought a new back tire. So, a few hundred dollars we would not have spent had we known this KLR was in our future...

So, that's my big news. Much more to come!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Not that you've noticed, but I have lost weight

I've lost 33 pounds (15 kilos). I have 33 more pounds to go to reach my goal.

I've had a few friends have a minor freak out that I am trying to lose 66 pounds (30 kilos) altogether, because they haven't felt I was that overweight.

The reality is that, even though I've lost 33 pounds, I'm still obese on the body mass index (30 BMI or more). You can calculate your BMI here. I know the BMI isn't perfect, but it's a better judge of what you should weigh than any other measurement out there. And it was the wake up call I needed.

How have I lost weight?

Eating up to 300 calories every three hours, up to a certain amount of calories.

That's it, pretty much.

Sometimes I budget my day so that I can have a big supper. Sometimes I hit my limit early and have to have a small supper.

When I absolutely have to eat something, when the munchies are overwhelming, then my rule is that I can eat as much of any raw fruit or raw veggie I want, that those don't count to the overall calorie count.

Once a month, on ONE day, I can blow the calorie count. And that usually involves a LOT of chocolate...

For three months, my daily calorie limit was 2000, which is 200-400 more a day than I'm supposed to have for my height - yet, I lost weight every week, without working out beyond my walking Albi twice a day. Then, when I hit a plateau - when I stopped losing weight - I dropped to 1800 calories a day, which is still more than I should have. And when I hit another plateau, I decided dropping more calories was out of the question, so I started working out more. I have to do at least one of the following, every day:
  • 10-15 minutes boxing the punching bag Stefan bought me for our anniversary (he's so sweet)
  • 15 - 25 minutes on this old mechanical stepper I have, while watching a bit of a silent movie (that Buster Keaton was a GENIUS!)
  • 10 - 15 minutes of floor exercises focused on my abs, or with hand weights, focused on my arms
I couldn't have lost weight without:
  • Kellogg's Special K Breakfast shakes
  • Yoplait Light Yoghurt
  • Green Giant single serving veggies
  • Turkey franks
  • Popcorn
  • Coffee. Thank you, Mother Nature, for making coffee low calorie!
No, that's not all I'm eating, don't worry. In fact, I haven't given up meat, beer, wine, pasta, potatoes, bread, or any other thing I really love. Because I'm just NOT going to do that. It's possible to have all any of those things as long as I budget my daily calories to include them. And Stefan pointed out - rightly so - that if I make myself miserable, I won't stick to the diet.

I have given up Coca Cola. And I miss it EVERY FREAKIN' DAY. Sigh... We don't keep any soda pop in the house, and when we are out and about, the only soda I allow myself is 7up or Sprite (for some reason, that's not addictive).

The best part of losing weight is that there are lots of clothes in my closet that I love so much and that I can wear now, and that's really great. Fantastic, in fact.

I'm also much more comfortable on my motorcycle. I am reminded of that every time I ride.

The downside is that losing this weight at my age takes an amazing amount of constant effort, often for very little pay off. My knees are horrific - I can't bend them at all with any weight on them whatsoever. And I have to count every calorie, every day. In one day, it's oh-so-easy to undo an entire week of work. This is going to be for the rest of my life. And that depresses me some times. I've had to learn to tolerate being hungry. But that really sounds so incredibly whiney... most people in the world are hungry at least once a day.

Another downside is that NO ONE has noticed my weight loss without my saying something. I've made sure Stefan knows about every pound I've fought off, and he's been very supportive, but I've not heard those words I've longed to hear: Have you lost weight? I thought I would at a recent family gathering, and at a recent professional gig with colleagues, but, no, nothing. Which I guess shows just how huge I had gotten.

And the final downside: no amount of exercise is ever as satisfying as a delicious meal that leaves me feeling full. I so miss that, every day. Eating only a certain amount that's based only on calories and not how hungry I am leaves me feeling somewhat unfulfilled, as I place the rest of my meal in a container to eat the next day for supper. Taking five bites of something just isn't nearly as good as taking 10.

It's startling how much my body changed at around 37 years old or so. Who else do you know that, in a year of riding her bike to and from work every day, walking her dogs twice a day, walking to get to anywhere she wanted to go, and getting in a car only to go somewhere to hike, gains 20 pounds in that year?! And then does it again the next two years as well?!?

My motivation to keep this struggle going: there are so many clothes in my closet that I love but that I still can't wear, and I REALLY want to. Whenver I look at them, I get renewed to reach my goal.

I'd also really like to look like a girl when I ride my motorcycle - I don't think most people can tell. I have bike pants I wore only once - then I gained too much weight and couldn't wear them any more. They are there, hanging in my closet, calling my name - and I know I'm going to actually look like a girl when I wear them (as opposed to a big black blob on a motorcycle).

I also hope that, if I ever get a face-to-face job interview, my weight won't turn off an employer. I wish that wasn't the world I lived in, but it is.

And, finally: there is an obesity epidemic in the USA, and it's spreading to other countries. And I am embarrassed to be a part of that epidemic, I'm embarrassed to be the stereotypical American that people in Europe and Asia make fun of. By the end of 2011, I hope not to be.

Following me on Facebook or Google +

I have a Facebook fan page that anyone can "like" and, therefore, follow. It's where I post updates about what I'm doing professionally, great resources I've found related to my work, etc. If you want to stay up-to-date on me professionally, you are more than welcomed to "like" this page.

Or, if you prefer, you can join me over on Google+. Most of what I post there is the same that I post on my Facebook fan page.

And thanks to all of you who are interested in my "professional" side, commenting on new pages on my work-related web site and what not. It makes me feel very loved....

Monday, August 29, 2011

As August draws to a close

Albi is happyBehold the glee that is Albi the Dog in her yard on a summer day. When Albi is happy, she does this happy roll on her back (Buster used to do that too). Note the hole she has dug next to the wood pile. She works on that regularly during sudden spurts of excitement.

It's so hard to believe she's almost 15. I'm so grateful that she's so healthy. I sure would like to take her camping once this year - she deserves it.

Please consider adopting an adult dog. We adopted Albi from a shelter. She's been MUCH cheaper than therapy!

* * *

Jayne at Dún Fhearghusa/New Grange, Ireland in 200110 years ago yesterday, I was on vacation in Ireland. It was near the end of my trip - the last 48 hours, in fact. I visited New Grange & Knowth, near Slane, Ireland, and was over the moon - it was incredible. I knew it one of the best days in my life.

Later, met a cute German biker dude at the B & B where I stayed. The next a.m., I saw him at breakfast & we exchanged business cards.

And then what?

Glacier National Park 2010 10 years later, we're married and living in Oregon and riding motorcycles all over the place. This is us at Glacier National Park last year.

To celebrate our 10th anniversary of meeting, we finally visited St. Joseph's winery, just outside of Canby. It's adorable - and really good wines. The owner seemed impressed that we had been to Hungary, where he is from. I'm really embarrassed that it took us almost two years to finally go!

Afterwards, we went to the tool section of Sears, and then the cosmetic section of Macy's. Can you guess which of us need to go where?

Which reminds me: go to Search for cute biker guy. Note item #3.

* * *

Jayne Online in Afghanistan Some person I don't know favorited this photo of me on Flickr.

I try to figure out why.

I look through the person's other favorited photos. All are of women, some in provocative poses, some not at all, some total babes, some dumpy and middle aged like me.

And then it dawns on me: all of the women and girls have socks on, but no shoes.


* * *

I want this license plate for myself. Note who shared it...

* * *

Your grandchildren will ask you in 2081: "Why was there a debate on gay marriage?" You'll respond: "Because people were idiots. Go enjoy your date with the robot." More at this hilarious daily blog.

Michele Bachmann says God killed all those people with the Hurricane, and causes that recent Earthquake, to get our attention. Wow, so that's how God works? Fascinating. And I just want to say again: I LOVE BEING AN ATHEIST.

Republican Rep/Tea Party member Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, last seen quivering in fear and spewing out blatant falsehoods about Pell Grants. His earned income for fiscal year 2010 topped out at $92,273: disability payments for sleep apnea, which ended his flying career with Northwest Airlines, now Delta Airlines, in 2007 (yes, he was in the UNION). More here.

Rick Perry wants to the USA to go back to Biblical principles. Really? Like encouraging a mob to gang rape your daughters (Gen 19:8)? Or to kill your daughter as a sacrifice because God gave you a victory? (Judges 11:34-40) Or to slaughter every man, woman & child in a village our country invades (Deut. 7.1-2; 20.16-18)? Or to stone to death anyone working on a Sunday? (Numbers 15:32-36) THOSE Biblical Principles? Well, I guess that's better than... SHARIA LAW.

International Law Expert Chuck Norris Is (Shockingly) Wrong About UN Arms Treaty. What a doofus.

Two American citizens apparently started the largest fire in Arizona's history. John McCain will retract statement about the fire being started by illegal immigrants as soon as he remembers he made it.

Remember how Florida Governor Rick Scott claimed drug testing welfare applicants would save millions? So far, only 2% have tested positive, saving $60,000 each year at total cost of $178-million annually.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Horror of Beauty Pageants

I thought I had some really great reasons already to hate beauty pageants. And then someone shared this video with me.

Watch the ENTIRE thing. Watch it and either laugh or cry, your choice.

And after you have spent those 15 minutes you can ever get back, and lost your faith in the USA again, check out this hilarious, and much shorter, parody video.

I'm going to stop believing in plate-tectonics, therefore, I will now believe earthquakes are caused by trolls throwing raves.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why I travel

Why I travel. Why I make travel a priority in my life. Why I orient my financial and time budget towards travel.

How travel makes you smarter, sexier and more productive – Lonely Planet blog

Believe it or not, some people have a BIG problem with this value of mine...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August update - No, I don't hate kids

Took a fabulous two-day trip to Crater Lake by motorcycles. A bit rushed, but still fabulous. The month before, we did a day trip to Mt. St. Helens.

I've done almost 10,000 miles on my motorcycle. And I've decided to dedicate a portion of my web site to women who travel by motorcycle (or want to).

* * *

Last weekend, we road our bicycles (yes, our other bikes) around the 'hood for a little exercise & to look at garage sales (I was channeling my Mamaw). For $5, we end up with: a coffee maker (makes 12 cups at once, as opposed to our current one, which makes 4), a broken boom box (they swore it worked when we bought it - we'll be able to use the speakers, which is what we really wanted), never-used lipstick, a biography of John Adams (hardback!), a basket (for a planter) & a toilet paper roll holder. AND I FIT ALL OF THAT ON MY BICYCLE IN ONE TRIP. I looked like a bicycle rider in a developing country. Sorry - no photo. Which is a shame, because I got a LOT of looks.

We discovered that the neighborhood about four blocks from us is waaaaay nice. Gorgeous homes, with small front yards and big back yards - our dream. But we're not going to move there - we want OUT OF CANBY. We just need a job to make that happen.

* * *
Go to Search for cute biker guy. Note item #3.

* * *
Recently, I finally saw the original To Be Or Not to Be (movie). I now totally understand why Mel Brooks adored this movie so much that he wanted to remake it. What a gem! I love the remake as well. If you don't know the movie, you aren't alone: by the time it came out, the USA was at war with Japan and Germany, and the star of the movie was dead, killed in a plane crash on her way to promote war bonds. So sad, because had circumstances been different, it would have been a massive hit, and remembered for its scathing, snarky attack on the Nazis and their ideology.

* * *
A friend posted this to my wall on Facebook:

"Anything that disappears from your psychological inventory is apt to turn up in the guise of a hostile neighbor, who will inevitably arouse your anger and make you aggressive. It is surely better to know that your worse enemy is right there in your own heart."-Carl Jung (I read this quote, and thought of you!)

Yes, my neighbors with the all-hours screaming kids are, of course, a manifestation of the negative factors within my psychological inventory. You know, like the monster in Forbidden Planet. Just like that.

My rants on Facebook about the screaming kids that live in the house behind ours lead a Facebook frenemy to say I was being anti-children. I pointed out that I had never complained about the kids - all under 12 - that live next door. I've never complained about the kids that live on our street (teenagers - my least favorite thing!). And that these screaming kids in particular are so loud, the noise so constant, that my other neighbors, the ones that live across the street from us, who live at least 300 yards away from these neighbors, that live on a different street, came over while we were out of town to investigate the noise, convinced that there was a wild party happening in our back yard.

These kids, all under 12, have no bed time. They have been out on their trampoline in the back yard, screaming, at 10 at night on school nights. They scream and cry constantly when they are outside. The family leaves all the windows open at night and at least one of the kids is doing that loud, fake, whine-cry at 11 p.m. at night, setting off the grandmother, who starts screaming. And we hear it all, as we lay in bed, with our windows closed... I don't like to sleep in earplugs, because then I can't hear Albi, or any other noises in the house.

The music starts at about noon, and plays loudly through the day - and often into the night. When we're particularly unlucky, it's music with a loud bass, meaning nothing can block the vibration from our house.

Why do the kids scream and cry? My theory is that they are sleep-deprived. Life is a frenzy in that house, so they are always in a frenzy. The noise is constant, so they, in turn, make noise constantly. Their screams are sudden and piercing - I have jumped a mile when one of the little girls in particular lets loose, usually while jumping on the trampoline. The whine-crying starts as soon as a grandparent comes outside (the parents are rarely around) and just goes on and on.

This is not normal. And if you think this is normal, please, unfriend me now and never invite me over. The kids that next door, on our street, get loud - but it's never been annoying - it's that normal, happy sound-of-kid-chaos, and it always ends by 8 p.m.

We would just love to have dinner outside on our back porch one night - ONE NIGHT - and be able to have a conversation. When we try, we both say, "What?!" at least half a dozen times, unable to hear each other over the din. Usually, we just sit there, eating quietly without trying to talk amid the screams and crying.

We would love to be able to watch TV and have the back door open, letting in the cool night air, but we can't - we can't hear the TV over the screams and crying and grandmother-yelling.

What we would really love: to move. And only a job can allow that.

Call the police? I don't think the police would do anything, and I think it would add hostility to the situation, something I've been desperate to avoid.

So don't freakin' write me and say I don't like kids. You come stay here for a week, and then we'll talk.

* * *
I got a little emotional reading this article about the soundtrack to Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?. This soundtrack is very special to me, both because of the music, because of the reaction of so many friends and music stores to it, and because of the time of my life when this came out. It's nice to know more about the back story.

* * *
Big, big soccer tourney going on at the schools all around our hood all weekend, for under 12s. Really love seeing kids - especially girls - playing sports. Love hearing parents on the sidelines yelling encouragement - in English and Spanish. Love seeing parents there at all - that must be an amazing feeling, to look over at the sidelines and see a parent there.

* * *
Just 91 years ago this month, all women in the USA got the right to vote. I am so grateful to all those who fought so hard to make that happen, who fought in the face of so much hostility. May I be so brave.

* * *

I found this web site and got nothing done for an hour.

* * *
To create jobs, SOMEONE has to spend money: either consumers, the government, or the corporations making record-breaking profits and paying oh-so-few-taxes. For jobs, SOMEONE HAS TO SPEND MONEY. Who is it going to be?

* * *
If you aren't going to read Last Train to Memphis, the greatest rock and roll biography ever, then you at least need to read this article about why Elvis was such a revolutionary, and so important to American culture.

* * *
A recent Facebook status update: Ya'll better watch out: I just watched Freedom Riders, taped on PBS months ago, and I'm ready to sit my butt somewhere strategic and start singing "We shall not be moved." I'm most scary when I'm this filled with indignation about assaults on human rights. RUN! RUN FOR THE HILLS!

* * *

Do Not Name Your Wifi Network ‘FBI SURVEILLANCE VAN’.

* * *

Star Wars If Dr. Seuss Had Created It!. Full of win.

* * *
Obama has taken 1/3 the vacation days that Bush did at this point in his presidency. Here's what should be the real outrage: The U.S. Is The Only Developed Country Where Citizens Aren’t Guaranteed Paid Vacation.

* * *

Actually, that's not in the Bible. If you read it, you'd know that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

"I welcome their hatred."

"..Business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering... had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs... Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today... I welcome their hatred."

Excerpt from Franklin Roosevelt's Address Announcing the Second New Deal
October 31, 1936

How wonderful it would be to have such a President now, who would dare say such words...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dumping Wells Fargo (& a warning to other customers!)

(see the update at the bottom of this blog if you have already read the original story and want to know what's happened since)

If you have a joint Wells Fargo account with anyone - your spouse, a daughter, a son, a parent - and the employer of that spouse, daughter, parent, etc. gets into debt - not your spouse, daughter, etc., but the employer of that person - Wells Fargo will come after YOU - or, at least, turn your information over to a third party debt collection agency, to use you as a way to get to the debt holder.

Think it can't happen? It's happening to me!:

On July 29, 2011, at 2:21 p.m., I received a call on my private cell phone number from a person identifying himself as from Wells Fargo Bank, from the phone number 503 403 2695. He asked to speak to a person, by name, that is not me. The person? My husband's boss. Let's call my husband's boss Victor Voss (not his real name).

I was quite surprised. I do not work for Victor Voss nor the company Victor Voss owns. I have no affiliation with Victor Voss whatsoever. Also, the person was calling on my private cell phone number - a number Victor Voss, my husband's boss, does NOT have. Why would someone from Wells Fargo be calling *my* private number to ask to speak to my husband's employer?

I explained to the caller that Victor Voss was my husband's boss and that I am not employed by his company. I asked how this Wells Fargo representative got my phone number. The caller asked, again, for "Victor Voss of CITY_NAME_REDACTED." I repeated myself. He said that he was calling all numbers associated with the Victor Voss Wells Fargo account in question, using information provided by Wells Fargo. He said he would correct the problem, remove my number, and apologized.

I received a call from this same number - 503 403 2695 at 8:06 on July 30, but missed the call. At 2:21 p.m., I got a call again from this 503 403 2695 number, this time from someone different than who had called on July 29. He said he was calling from Wells Fargo Bank and he asked to speak with Victor Voss. I said this is not the number for Victor Voss, that Victor Voss is my husband's boss, and I demanded to know how he got my private number. He said, "I want to speak to Victor Voss. Of CITY_NAME_REDACTED. Is he there?" I also asked the caller for his name. He said, "I told you my name," laughed, and hung up the phone.

I called Wells Fargo customer service immediately to ask why my phone number was being associated with another Wells Fargo customer, someone I have NO affiliation with whatsoever. I was put on hold for about 15 minutes, and the person - Ryan, of Boise Premier Phone Bank - said he could find no number at Wells Fargo for me to call to report this problem, and suggested I try again on Monday.

I then did a great deal of research online, and here is what I have found:

The company calling me from 503 403 2695 is a third party collection agency that works specifically on Wells Fargo accounts. The company is
United Credit Recovery

On Monday, beginning at 7 a.m. my time (Portland, Oregon), I called Wells Fargo customer service. I told my story again and again, as I was transferred again and again:

  • The first Wells Fargo representative denied that what I was saying could have actually happened. She said it was "impossible." After trying to explain to her that, indeed, it happened, it's why I was calling, she transferred me. I was on hold for several minutes.

  • The second Wells Fargo representative said it wasn't an issue her department could deal with, and transferred me again. I was on hold for several minutes.

  • The third Wells Fargo representative listened to my story, put me on hold, came back and said, indeed, 503 403 2695 is from a number of a company "affiliated with Wells Fargo", and she transferred me to that number, after explaining to the company *herself* that my number needed to be removed from the account. But she didn't stay on the line during the entire conversation with this company, and when I asked how the company had my number, the company representative hung up on me.

  • I called Wells Fargo again. The fourth Wells Fargo representative I talked to said she was appalled that this had happened, that it was clearly information Wells Fargo had provided, by mistake, and that I had every reason to be upset. She was the only Wells Fargo representative who acknowledged this error by Wells Fargo and acknowledged that I had every right to be upset. She said she was in the Wells Fargo department for home loan and mortgage, and could not see my phone number associated with Victor Voss' accounts in that department, and also said there was no debt collection activities being taken against Victor Voss per any home loan or mortgage. She said that it must be from Victor Voss' checking or savings account, and that someone in that department could look up the information and see how and when my phone number was associated with Victor Voss' accounts. She said she would transfer me to "absolutely the correct department", 1-800-869-3557, and she added, "don't let them transfer you! They have the ability to find out how your information was associated with this account."

  • Of course, I was cut off after she transferred me - the representative could not hear me over the hold music that was still playing (why was there hold music playing? I don't know). So I called 1-800-869-3557 directly. The fifth Wells Fargo representative said, after hearing my story, "I can't help you, I don't have access to any information that would tell me this." I asked to speak to a supervisor.

  • The sixth Wells Fargo representative I talked to refused to believe anything I was saying. She kept repeating, "Victor Voss MUST have given us your number." This despite Victor Voss NOT having my private cell phone number. Then she said, "Your husband must have given Victor Voss the number for some reason." My husband has never given my private number to his boss - why would he?! She then said, "Well, he must have typed in a number incorrectly and, by coincidence, it just happened to be yours. That must be what happened." When I tried to say, no, that was clearly not what happened, she began talking over me, saying, "I'm trying to help you, but you won't let me. I have explained how this happened. You are not listening." Finally, I got her to answer a series of questions, and in her answers, she said:

    1. she would not, under any circumstances, investigate what numbers have been associated with Victor Voss' account,
    2. she would not, under any circumstances, check to see if my phone number was ever listed as a contact for Victor Voss', and
    3. she would not, under any circumstances, check to see if, when Victor Voss' information was transferred to the collection agency, Wells Fargo ALSO gave the names of people also with access to the account (my husband), as well as any joint account holders with my husband (me).

    She said no investigation would take place on any of these three points. I demanded to speak with her supervisor. She at first said her supervisor was unavailable. I said I was not going anywhere, I needed to speak with someone. She said there was no one to help me. I repeated I was not going anywhere, that she was going to transfer me to her supervisor, and I would wait all day for that to happen.

    By now, I had been on the phone for 90 minutes.

    She put me on hold, and came back and said, "Miss Page, I'm going to transfer you." I said, "I'm not Miss Page. I'm Ms. Name_Redacted." She said, "Oh, sorry, Miss Page is whose information I have on my screen right now." She didn't have MY information up - the person with whom she was speaking? Anyway, she transferred me, and:

  • The seventh Wells Fargo representative I talked to said, "Good news - your number has been removed from this account, and you won't get any more calls after 72 hours." I told him that that was no longer the issue. What remains the issue: how did my phone number get associated with this account? Why did I have to speak to seven different people and *still* not have an answer - and even worse, have Wells Fargo repeatedly say, "That couldn't have happened!" If it hadn't happened, I never would have called!

    This seventh and last Wells Fargo representative said I had to write a letter explaining this situation to the following address.

    Wells Fargo Bank
    PO Box 5058
    Portland, OR 97208

    And that's what I just did. Followed by visiting OnPoint Credit Union where, in the coming days, all of both my husband and my accounts - checking savings, retirement, investments - will be transferred. I will be closing my Wells Fargo account at my earliest opportunity to do so.

  • Why couldn't I have been given this address on the very first phone call I made? Only Wells Fargo can say.

Wells Fargo provided my phone number to a bill collector for bills that are not mine, simply because that the debtor is a Wells Fargo Bank account holder and because my husband works for the person that holds that account - and because my husband also does his personal banking at Wells Fargo. Are you next?

Is it legal for Wells Fargo to give account holder information to debt collection companies that are NOT pursuing debt collections against that account holder? I'll be researching that later today (via the Oregon State's Attorney General's office).

UPDATES (since this original blog was written)

Update for August 4, 2011

Ofcourse I tweeted about what's happening. A couple of days later, Wells Fargo asks me to follow their Twitter feed for updates. WHAT?! My response, on Twitter, to them and shared on my feed for all my followers:

asks me 2 follow them to get updates on my complaint. NO! I deserve direct email or a phone call!

With a link to the blog you are reading now, of course!

Then today, I get a phone call from "Georgie" at Wells Fargo. She calls me on my private number - the one the debt collection agency used, the one I've now removed from Wells Fargo, so they won't contact me on it anymore. Sigh. She may have gotten it from a colleague - a friend of mine who works at Wells Fargo, who I asked to investigate this - he had asked me for the number, so he could check to see when it was given to the debt collection agency.

"Georgie" says, in response to my question about of an investigation as to if my number was ever on Victor Voss's account - which would boost the Wells Fargo theory that Victor Voss put my number into the Wells Fargo system as attached to his account - "there are hundreds of people called Victor Voss, and we cannot go through all of those." I reply, "There are hundreds of people named Victor Voss in CITY_REDACTED?" She pauses, and then changes the subject: she says that my number cannot be found in the system - the number she is now calling me on. I respond, "That's right, it can't be found in your system because, on Monday, when I realized what was happening, I removed it from the Wells Fargo system so that it could NEVER be used by you again - as you are using it now, so, obviously, that didn't work." She becomes angry. "I am trying to help you. I am assuring you that your number cannot be found in the system." I say, again, yes, that's because I have taken it out of the system, myself, on MONDAY - and that I'm tired of Wells Fargo people calling me to assure me the number is out of the system when that is not the issue anymore!

I tell her, again, that she needs to look at Victor Voss information, not just what is there currently, but what has been there previously, and find out if my phone number has ever been associated with his account. And her reply? Oh, you will love this, dear readers: "I have looked at his account, and your number is not associated with it, and has never been associated with it."

Check. Mate. Match.

Not only did she just admit that she HAD looked at his account information (contrary to what she had claimed in the opening of the call), but also, that my phone number was NOT a part of that account. That it had NEVER been a part of the account!

And guess what that means? That means the debt collection agency was telling the truth when they said they got the number from Wells Fargo, and that means I was right - Wells Fargo went through joint accounts held by Victor Voss, took the cell phone info from such, and then went through the joint account of THOSE people as well, and took the cell phone info from such - MY CELL PHONE INFO - and gave it to this debt collection company! "Georgie" just proved that that's how it happened!

I pointed this out. Her reply, "You are a very angry person. I can't deal with you."

Let me be clear on one point. Yes, I have been angry. But I have never:
  • cursed.
  • yelled. I have raised my voice, but I have never yelled.
  • been abusive or insulting.

Yes, I have been angry. And I have EVERY right to be. Not only has my credit rating been compromised because of the actions of Wells Fargo, I have had to tell the same story again and again. This is the third time a Wells Fargo representative has called to cheerfully tell me my phone number has been removed from the debt collection agency. The third time. Never mind that that is NOT THE ISSUE.

I have every right to be angry.

Wells Fargo - it's time for someone to call me AT THE NUMBER IN YOUR SYSTEM and say this:

Ma'am, we are so sorry that this has happened. You have every right to be angry. You have every right to have lost your patience. I have read everything you have written on this subject. I am not going to ask me to follow us on Twitter in order to get a response, I am not going to be the fourth person to tell you that your number has been removed from this debt company, and I am not going to tell you one minute that I can't look at an account and, a couple of minutes later, tell you I have, indeed, looked at that account. I am not going to tell you it couldn't have happened because, obviously, it did. I am going to be honest. I am going to be truthful.

I am going to review our procedures and find out on what date information for Victor Voss's account was given to this debt collection agency from Wells Fargo, and I am going to find out exactly what information was given to this debt collection agency from Wells Fargo. I am going to view this information myself - not be told about it by anyone else, but look at the data myself, on paper or on computer. And if your number is in that information, it means, no question, the debt collection company is not lying and your conclusion is correct: Wells Fargo provided that number, and that was wrong, and we apologize. If we find the number was NOT in that information, we are going to ask this debt collection agency - which we contract with - the date and time this information was given to them by Victor Voss, and we will call you with this information.

Either way, we have handled this entire situation poorly. Of course you are upset. You have every right to be. Not only has your information been compromised, but every Wells Fargo person seems to have told you something different. That you have had to talk to so many representatives just to get this call from me is embarrassing. Again, I am so sorry.

That's what Wells Fargo should say to me the next time they call. If they aren't going to say this to me - in fact, if they aren't going to call me and read those paragraphs to me, verbatim, I don't want to ever hear from Wells Fargo again - except in reply to the complaint with the Oregon Department of Justice I just mailed off.

One more thing - if my theory is correct about what Wells Fargo did, then why hasn't my husband, a joint account holder with his boss, received phone calls on his cell phone from the debt collection agency? For two reasons: one cell phone number was typed in incorrectly by my husband; he didn't realize it until he looked up his account when this whole debacle started. The other cell phone number is his company cell phone, which was discontinued months ago due to lack of payment by Victor Voss. I'm sure the debt collection company had those numbers as well, but they were useless.

Onpoint Credit Union called me today to set up an appointment to transfer my retirement accounts. They were soooo nice....

September 6 update:
Got a letter today from Wells Fargo. It never apologizes for releasing my information, it never says if it is investigating. It again assures me that their collection agency won't call me anymore - which I am SO TIRED of hearing. This is the FOURTH time a Wells Fargo representative has told me my phone number has been removed from the debt collection agency. The FOURTH TIME. Wells Fargo cannot understand that THAT IS NO LONGER THE ISSUE!

Do you think Wells Fargo customer service just simply doesn't read or that they are avoiding the real issue on purpose? We'll never know, but either way, it shows why you should NOT bank at Wells Fargo!

Don't even get me started on how Wells Fargo got one more surcharge in on us as we were moving accounts - the teller was oh-so-helpful in encouraging us to do something that turned out to have a $10 surcharge. I wonder if she gets 50%?

Let this blog serve as a warning to others!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

no have big size!

There's a snarky blog, Stuff Aid Workers Life, that makes me laugh - often at myself. Recently, they teased about women expat aid workers (EAW) who moast about marriage proposals while working in developing countries. But my favorite part of the blog wasn't all the teasing about the very real phenomena of men in developing countries (and not necessarily FROM that country) continually asking how many children you have and about your marital status. It was this:

When going from, say, the DRC to Thailand, the EAW will notice a sharp drop in marriage proposals and related attention. This will be a huge relief on the one hand, as she finally feels free to move around in peace. But ironically she may also be alarmed at herself for being a tiny bit dismayed that she's suddenly become invisible to local men. Or worse. When the initial reaction of market sellers changes from up-and-down looks followed by sly smiles of approval in one country to, "Madame - very sorry... no have big size!" in another, the romance of being the 'exotic other' tends to fade very quickly.

In India, at times, I felt like a goddess. But if you are a size 12 USA or more in most parts of the world, you are a BIG GIRL, and a lot of foreigners won't hesitate to tell you so. "Madame - very sorry... no have big size!" is one of the kinder things you will hear! It's really hard to maintain that placid demeanor demanded of you as an EAW when a local says, "You are so fat!" in a loud, happy voice in the middle of a community meeting.

Yes, that happened.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Not moving to Oak Park, Michigan

Yellowstone travelogue coming soon, promise.

In the meantime...

Michigan resident Julie Bass is facing 93 days in jail for planting a vegetable garden. She's been charged with a misdemeanor in Oak Park, Michigan. Read the story, and be sure to follow the links and write both the mayor and the city planner. Here's my letter to the mayor of Oak Park, cc'd to the city planner as well:

I just saw a photo of Julie Bass's *beautiful* front yard garden. Your city must be so proud! I'm guessing you are going to put lots of photos on the city's web site and document how she made this transition from a water-wasteful, completely unnecessary lawn to a useful, beautiful garden of edibles that uses MUCH less water! You probably are going to have some tours as well for homeowners, school children, and others, so they can learn from this wonderful example, talk directly with Julie, maybe even to a representative from your nearest state extension office as well! This garden reminds me so much of the Victory Gardens our grandparents started during WWII, and continued for years later and even the rest of their lives (well, at least mine did!). What a proud moment for your city, to be able to showcase such an outstanding example of beauty, practicality and greener-living. You are going to so enjoy the positive press you are going to receive because of your support of Julie Bass!

That's the kind of letter you could have received, had you handled this situation appropriately.

I bet it feels a lot better than the letters you are receiving now.

This is a problem of your own making, City of Oak Park.

As a favor, I'll write an apology you can adapt for your own use in a press release on Monday:

Recently, the City of Oak Park sent a letter to Julie Bass that said she is in noncompliance with a city ordinance because of her front garden of edible plants. The ordinance states that only "suitable" plant material is allowed on the lawn area of residences. In response to local media questions about the definition of "suitable," city planner Kevin Rulkowski said suitable means "common:" lawn, nice shrubs, and flowers. However, the ordinance does not specifically state what is "suitable."

Mr. Rulkowski was mistaken in sending that letter, and the city council will be reviewing the ordinance immediately so that it is never used to penalize responsible citizens like Julie Bass.

The City of Oak Park apologizes to Julie Bass and all responsible garden growers who have chosen to grow edible gardens. Julie's front garden is lovely, and we hope other home owners will be encouraged to think about ways to create gardens that are beautiful, practical and green in terms of water use.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Having a lunch of spicey turkey jerky & starbuck's frappuccinos in sisters. Chilly!
Having a lunch of spicey turkey jerky & starbuck's frappuccinos in sisters. Chilly!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monday night got thrown out of bearcat lodge - details next week! Yestrdy went to john day fossils. Now in redmond, OR. HOT!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stefan is sick so we r at the Lost River Motel in Arco, ID, which is a surreal little burg - i'll say why in my travelogue later.
Gorgeous Tetons! Met w/ Keith E Briggs of WKU in Jackson, WY- he has touched Harrison Ford's feet. Took hwy 20 to Arco, ID- empty, volcanic, windy landscape.

Friday, June 17, 2011

After 3 nights of frigid camping in yellerstone, we have a cabin in colter bay in grand teton np. Grizzly & cubs in area - haven't seen. Shower 2nite!
Leaving Yellowstone. Cold! Amazing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In Dillon, MT. 278 is heavenly! Saw cowboys on a roundup. Perfect weather. Yellowstone in 141 miles.
Going over chief joseph pass later 2day. My highest ever.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Now in darby, montana in a cabin - camping hard 2 find! Hwy 12 in idaho is so lovely. Cloudy & sometimes rainy. We miss albi. Yellowstone tom?
june 12 @ Pink house BLM campsite in orofino, idaho. No pink house. Gr8 riding except 4 deer. Halfway 2 yellowstone. We miss albi.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

road around mt. Hood. Then across river. Now @ State park camp site in glendale, WA. Road 142 is awesome! Just 160 miles 2day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chilly June in the Pacific Northwest

I'm so sorry that most of the USA is frying, even as we still have the heat on in our home here in Oregon. I hate this cold weather in June - but I suspect we'd actually be even more miserable were we elsewhere, as neither of us do heat well.

Stefan has been frying, actually: he's been spending most of the last two months in Mexico - or going back and forth between such. He's got great photos of his visits to ancient sites and what not. Mexico City is just amazing - I can't wait to go back!

I just hope we don't freeze the entire time we head to Yellowstone and back over the next two weeks! Yes, I'll post short updates here. Be on the lookout!

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Pleased to discover that my grandmother's manual coffee grinder still works - I bought beans instead of grounds at the grocery store. And you can see what I was watching as I used it.

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Keeping my professional online persona out there through blogging, tweeting and what not, followed by the duties of my current part-time job, take up all of my mornings here at my home office. Afternoons are spent looking for jobs and working on some unpaid projects. But whenever Mavis Staples comes on the iPod, I have to stop and groove... she is just NOT conducive to work productivity. Thankfully, she did not interfere with my recording a podcast where I was the guest here in Oregon, the interviewer was in Boston and the audio tech guy was in Austin, Texas. I love the Interwebs!

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Simple Life Lessons Illustrated
Don't you love this illustration? Click on it to see a lot more wonderful illustrations of Stuff Nobody Tells Us About Life. They are all awesome.

I do know what I want to do with my life, for the most part, and plan for such. But I'm also always willing to consider alterations to my plans - and change them as needed.

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Recently, I received an email from a US Army historian researching the Aleutian Islands, who was interested in the transcript of my interview with my grandfather about his WWII experience. He found out about it on a search for WWII Aleutian Island photos on Flickr. The Department of Defense is in the process of releasing several Aleutian Islands to the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and he's a part of that project.

I get requests from family members of Aleutian veterans and students regularly, but this was my first request from the Department of Defense. And I'm not sure any of it will be used... but it's still cool to get the request.

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I have been accused by a few people of being a snob - my Dad called me that a time or two - and I guess I confirmed that with my recent Facebook status update asking which of two of my closest friends hated WalMart more. I was expecting just the two of them to try to outdo each other, but the posts from other friends have poured in, and they have been hilarious. An example:

I usually assess how my 'experience' is going to go by the first five people I see upon exiting my car, and it's generally spot on. For example, last night included a girl with two kids who she was gonna 'beat the daylights out of if you don't straight up!', a morbidly obese man with a mullet and a confederate flag leg cast, and an old man trying to discern how to load his new 55 inch big screen TV into his Toyota Camry. Nothing I acquired there was worth that.

I love my Facebook friends...

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All motorcycle travelers are fantastic people - but it's hard to top James and Emily! They are from London, England (as opposed to London, Kentucky) and have spent more than 400 days of their honeymoon traveling by motorcycle around the world! I hosted them here in our home for an evening on their way down the West Coast. Albi was very sad that they left.

One of the coolest things about the visit was that James is an international NGO worker, and has worked in Pakistan. Poor Emily had to listen to us going on and on about what it's like to work in that part of the world...

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My friend Cosgrove asked me if I would think less of him if he got a three-wheeled motorcycle. Not at all. I think whatever speaks to you and looks fun to do is the right bike to ride. I'm not a bike snob. If I got a three wheeler, I would get a HYmotion3 o
r a Piaggio MP3 500, because both lean. But for now, I'm sticking with two wheels.

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I'm sure you've seen the excellent Alamo Drafthouse YouTube video by now, as it's been all over the news. I miss Austin...

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"The reality is that you don't all agree with each other on your politics, you don't agree with each other on your religion, you don't agree with each other on a lot of things," he added. "But you still serve together. And you work together. And you look out for each other. And that's all that matters." Robert Gates, in response to a Marine who was angry over allowing gay people to serve openly in the military.

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Awesome people hanging out together. The best is Charlie Chaplin and Helen Keller. It brought a tear to my eye, in fact. I also liked
Colonel Sanders and Alice Cooper.

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I got all of them right, but two were just lucky guesses on my part.

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Hey, I've been in a firefight before. Well, I was in a fire. Actually, I was fired, from a fry cook opportunity.

Gawd I love Firefly! I rewatched the entire season for only the third time recently. And then was thrilled when a friend here in Canby suggested we get together and watch the pilot, which she had never seen. Not only is she now a convert and wants to watch the entire thing, she also adored Dr. Horrible.

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Learn French with just ONE word. This video was suggested by a Parisian friend of mine, who said, indeed, this is true.

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Ridiculous board games you totally want to play. And you do totally want to play them.