13 December 2007

A Brief History of a Long Love Affair

Some excerpts from the love story of my life

Chapter 1

In which the fifteen-year-old Hero and Heroine exchange glancing blows—the Hero’s, a pointed quip from Oscar Wilde followed by the insinuation that Heroine would languish virginal forever; the Heroine’s, a sharp kick to the shin with a very pointed shoe.


Chapter 5
In which Hero and Heroine go away to college, Hero to Tennessee, Heroine to Maryland. About a year goes by. Heroine is completely over Hero, a fact she is determined to prove when Hero calls out of the blue during a school break and asks if she wants to do something. Hero and Heroine go for burgers, drive around the countryside for a while, and end up making out in Hero’s dad’s station wagon. Heroine learns that determination isn’t always an adequate defense.


Chapter 7
In which Heroine graduates from college, begins a series of love poems for Hero, some of which will be familiar to our readers, and travels to visit on Hero’s birthday, thinking she will look for jobs in consideration of moving to Knoxville. Despite Heroine’s feeling that she’s getting a bit of the cold shoulder, Hero and Heroine finally do it. The results are rather unremarkable, but at least Heroine can feel satisfied that now she really is finally over Hero. It isn’t until some months later that she learns that Hero had been in love with someone else at the time.


Chapter 8
In which Hero and Heroine fall into the habit of a phone call every six months or so, often at a moment of crisis for one or the other of them, most often for Heroine. Heroine meets the man she will most unfortunately decide to marry, though not until after moving to Florida to get an almost entirely useless master’s degree in poetry. At some point Heroine finishes the series of thirteen poems (thirteen for the number of days between their birthdays) she has written for Hero and sends them to him. Not too long after her wedding, which our Hero does attend, Hero and Heroine and Husband attend Hero and Heroine’s high school reunion, hang out getting drunk together, and end up crashing at Heroine’s parents’ house. But Hero does admit to Heroine that he always thought they’d end up married, at which Heroine asks whether he thought she would wait forever.


Chapter 13
In which Heroine finally files the divorce papers and faithfully calls the police whenever Bozo shows up at the Airstream where she’s been living. It is still many months before she is granted a divorce, since Bozo will not open the door to be served papers. But happily, in the meantime, she has run into Hero online and found that he has not, in fact, changed his phone number, and it was only by some fortunate accident that his number didn’t work when Bozo dialed it during the last stages of his attempts to manipulate Heroine.

>>Read more, including the happy ending

08 December 2007

I'm all about instant gratification

Yeah, I know that's no surprise to any of you. But here's what's brought this to mind:

It's that time of year again. Time to make the Christmas ornaments. For several years now, I've made ornaments from used light bulbs as presents for family members. It's not because I'm cheap; it's because I'm poor. Besides, I'm recycling.

For years I've also planned to write an article on how to make these ornaments. Many of you may also know that I plan a lot more writing than I actually do.

That's beginning to change now that I've discovered how many user-generated content sites are willing to pay me pennies for my literary masterpieces. I'm writing more than I have in years, and all because the minute I click the "publish" button, I have instant readership. I've even become a shameless self-promoter.

All of this has me writing more than I have in years, which is promising. It's hardly what I'd call lucrative, but perhaps I can channel this energy into seeking more traditional publishing outlets and eventually earn a sum that isn't embarrassing to mention. (Writing certainly holds more promise for me than photography, as you can, um, clearly see.)

So today I finished the instructions for light-bulb ornaments and published them on eHow. In the spirit of recycling, I plan to submit them to Associated Content as well.

And in the spirit of shameless self-promotion:

How to Make Christmas Ornaments from Light Bulbs

Now it's time to make the Christmas ornaments.

13 August 2007

My smear campaign against Chase

Chase, like most banks, has encouraged customers to receive paperless statements because it saves them money. It saves me from the risk of having my mail stolen and my account number used—again. But I confess, since it’s not an account I use, I rarely open the actual statement. Why should I? All the information I need is conveniently provided in my online account summary: balance, minimum due, date due.

Now I know why I should. This month I logged on to my Chase account, as I always do when my end-of-month paycheck posts, and was dumbfounded to find that the account that has always been due on either the 2nd or 4th of the month was now due—past due—on the 29th of the previous month.

So now I open up my statement, and sure enough, there’s a note telling me what’s already become painfully obvious. It seems that Chase feels the only notification they need offer when changing a due date is a note at the bottom of the statement, the statement for the very month the date is changing. They are also kind enough to offer me the option of calling to set the due date for any old day of the month I want.

That’s what really gives me pause. If they don’t care what day of the freaking month my due date is, then for crying out loud, WHY DID THEY CHANGE IT IN THE FUCKING FIRST PLACE?

I’ll tell you why: Because this was an account on which they’d made the short-sighted error of offering a promotional rate on a transfer for the life of the balance—quite a nice promotional rate, at that, and yet another plank in my long, slow struggle toward rebuilding financial stability. (As a side note, all those stereotypes about women benefiting financially from divorce bear absolutely no resemblance to the events of my life.)

Because I was faithfully making payments on time, Chase could find no way to increase my interest rate without tricking me. What other possible reason could they have for changing a due date by perhaps 4 days? They e-mail me about any other darn thing they want at the drop of a hat, and this didn’t warrant separate notice? Any other change in terms requires a written notification sent in a separate envelope, so as to attract the attention of the account holder. Why not this? Because Chase executives are smart enough to know that their busy customers often look no further than the account summary they’re kind enough to provide; in fact, they’re counting on it.

I did get some small satisfaction from my call to customer service. Corrine, the supervisor of the initial representative who answered my call, begrudgingly refunded the late fee I’d been assessed, but she was unable to tell me whether I would retain the interest rate, which was of course far more important than the $39. And then she turned around and lied through her teeth.

While I had her on the phone, I took advantage of their kind offer to set the due date of my choice. I informed her of my intention to pay the late balance that very day, and asked whether my next due date would be August 20 or September 20. She replied that it would be September 22nd. All right, I guess they didn’t really mean any due date. They’d evidently rather it be a Saturday, thus giving them an opportunity to catch me making another late payment lest I mistakenly think that I can post the payment on the actual day it’s due.

Imagine my surprise when I logged on to my account to post my unwittingly late payment. Not only was my next due date August 20, it was for more than twice my normal minimum payment. Instead of a payment of $73, and another similar amount in September, I owe $163, due nine days before I’d have otherwise owed a second payment. I’d have been better off leaving the date alone. I’m sure Corinne couldn’t have known that was why I asked the question in the first place.

Thanks, Corrine. You’ve restored my faith in the status quo. When creditors make it this difficult for consumers to dig out of a hole they may have had considerable help digging, it’s no wonder so many of us just give up and default.

I know the credit card industry exists to make money. I don’t begrudge them their profit. But they needn’t resort to underhanded tricks in that pursuit. At least the mail thieves were honest enough to steal from me outright.

27 July 2007

The marketplace of ideas

...or is poetry dead?

I think becoming involved in online writing communities has reminded me why I write. It's about communication and dialogue. I like becoming engaged in conversation with people who can articulate their ideas intelligently.

Perhaps that's part of why I largely abandoned poetry after graduate school. When you're pursuing a craft where most of your feedback consists of rejection slips, it's hard to remain engaged. I may have disengaged a little too easily, as I confess I didn't spend much time submitting work after grad school. Perhaps I'm a little too much about instant gratification for poetry. Or perhaps I got tired of reading published poets whose primary goal seemed to be obscuring their meaning.

That doesn't mean I think poetry should be easy, or that mine necessarily is. But it should communicate.

Lately I've been fortunate enough to stumble upon a number of writers doing just that on thisisby.us, and there are even some poets among them. Perhaps the craft isn't dead after all.

15 July 2007

A New Addiction

The boyfriend has gotten me hooked. I confess. He found me techno-crack.

I've been doing more writing lately and publishing online, mostly on a site called Associated Content. Most of the articles there are very consumer-oriented, a lot of how-to articles and product reviews. I've only spent a little bit of time looking at the other work on the site, mostly as research.

This week he showed me thisisby.us. It's an unmoderated site, and any potential payment is driven by page views and ratings. On the one hand, the monetary payoff seems likely to be considerably delayed, but the writers on the site are active readers of its content, so the audience response supplies immediate gratification.

What's more, some of the postings are quite good. There are rough spots here and there in what's otherwise interesting work. Admittedly, some of it is a bit self-indulgent, but so far it's very nice to see that in a self-regulated system, the cream really does rise. I have seen other similar sites, but so far this is the most interesting. The commercial print world has consolidated to a point that it's difficult for beginning writers to get their work into the public eye, and it's been argued that the Internet will provide a remedy. Until now I haven't seen places where that's happening in a way that showcases much new talent worth seeing, and I'm interested in watching it develop.

14 July 2007

The Big Move

After over five years of running an academic department in Arizona, and eight years of living in the desert, I'm returning to the land of trees, foothills, and rivers. In a little over a month we'll be making the trek back to South Carolina, where I'll be teaching English. Just teaching English. Not being held responsible for every oversight, every midterm or attendance not posted, every instructor 10 minutes late to class.

I'm sure I'll miss the adrenaline charge of juggling 13 things at once, but I'm looking forward to a respite. In the meantime, there are a million things to be done--figuring out how to move several hundred books, two dogs and a cat 2000 miles, for starters--while still keeping up with the job that was never meant for one person.

August isn't the best time to leave the Valley of the Sun, so there will surely be challenges and entertaining things to write about along the way. I'll keep y'all posted.

19 June 2007

An Apple a day

So far in my investment history I've made at least one good decision. Sure, I've had stocks that have made gains, and I did all right with my company's discount stock purchase plan, but since I bought Apple stock it's increased around 785%. I bought 13 shares at a little over $26, and I now have 26 shares that closed over $124. And the iPhone, which looks pretty damn cool, hasn't even come out yet. I don't plan to leave Verizon or spend that much money on a phone any time in the foreseeable future, but I hope lots of other people do.

The best part of this is that it's held in my Roth IRA, so I'll never pay any money on the capital gains. Of course, right now they're unrealized gains, and the stock could always tank. But I'm still gambling on Apple, at least in the current market. As one of my colleagues put it, other companies sell computers; Apple has sold a lifestyle. And in America, we'd rather buy a lifestyle than build one ourselves. I'll bank on that.

13 June 2007

So long, Silver Bullet

I sold my Airstream. Even in making the statement, the pronoun has become obviously wrong. It has ceased to be mine.

It's actually been a few weeks since the neighbors' complaints finally got as high as the mayor's office, and we were faced with the reality that we'd have to take whatever we could get for it just to get it off the street.

This wouldn't have been nearly as frustrating if I hadn't tried to make sure we could park it there before I hired a towing company to move it. Or if any of the information we received from the various police officers and neighborhood volunteers had been consistent whatsoever. Even to the very last visit, the police were contradicting each other about the interpretation of the law.

I miss the trailer, but not the hassle. And since the damage done by parking it on the street was only the first stages of what would certainly have been a long, protracted demise, it's probably all for the best. Like so many of the vehicles I sadly said goodbye to--the Rambler American, the Beetle--you've gone to a better place.

25 May 2007

To Blog or Not to Blog

I've begun to feel silly about maintaining a blog when I only post every few months. The volume of verbiage some bloggers produce leaves me feeling really inadequate. If I don't post often enough to make it worth the click of a reader's mouse, what do I profit by holding on to my little corner of cyberspace? While it's nice to have your own soapbox, if you never take it out of the closet and dust it off, may just as well drop it off at Goodwill.

On the other hand, I've never been really good at getting rid of things.