Sunday, November 30, 2008

My pal Citibank

My credit card company hates me. And that's the way I like it.

In speaking about my credit card company - Citibank to be exact - you would normally see numerous profanities throughout this entry. About how those bleeping, sons of bleeps are always trying to bleep with you every chance they get. I'll try my best to keep this G-Rated.

One of my goals in life is to NEVER let them take my money. It's like a big game - we are all rats in their maze and you have to pay attention to EVERYTHING in order to get out of there with all the money you started with. You also need persistence, endurance and the resolve of a Samurai warrior to NEVER surrender.

Citibank enticed me to sign up for another card with them. They offered me 5,000 extra airline miles and 1.2 airline miles per $1 of purchases for one year. My normal Citibank card offers 1 airline mile per $1. So I signed up for the new card. I will use it for a year, get all the extra airline miles that I can and then cancel it.

The very second after I signed up for this new card, the games began. They grabbed my squirming, fur-covered body and dropped me into the maze.


My new card gets mailed to me and I have to call a number to activate it. Oh, but they have so much more than activation on their minds. The guy on the other end of the line - we'll call him Joe - has that warm, smooth voice. It is deep and masculine, yet soft and soothing. You want him to read you bedtime stories. He thanks me for being a cardmember and welcomes me to the American Express family. Gee, thanks Joe.

Joe really, really wants me to sign up for their Credit Protection Program. I really, really don't want them charging me money every month for something I don't need. I say no. Joe thinks I mean maybe.

Joe is not pushy. He just recites the program benefits again, lulling me into a sweet stupor with that mellifluous voice of his. I am putty in his hands. He goes in for the kill. He offers me a $15 Amex gift card just to sign up for the free 30 -day trial. He says, "What I tell MY customers to do....." I am HIS customer! Oh, Joe - you had me at "May I have your credit card account number, please."

I do it. I sign up for the free 30-day trial. What Joe doesn't know is that I most certainly WILL call to cancel before the 30 days runs out. I will take their $15 from them and buy toilet paper at Target.


I get the Credit Protection Program materials in the mail. There is no $15 Amex gift card. Joe, how could you?! Oh, the betrayal! Instead of the $15 Amex gift card, there is a redemption certificate to fill out and mail to them so that they can send me the gift card in 6-8 weeks.

Joe has messed with the wrong woman. I will not surrender that easily. I fill out their redemption certificate and mail it in. They have forced me to spend 42 cents on a stamp, but that is all they will get from me.

My next step is to call to cancel the Credit Protection Program. This time I get the Anti-Joe. The woman on the phone is so robotic in her answers and devoid of any real human emotion that I wonder if she is some digital Citibank Customer Service Bot. But no. I'm sure they would have programmed at least some fake personality into a customer service robot.

I tell Robot Woman that I want to cancel. She answers by reading off her screen in a flat, stilted, monotone voice:
I am sorry to hear that you want to cancel. In these difficult, economic times, this protection is needed more than ever. Would you like to reconsider and continue this protection?
I say no. Robot Woman says:
I can understand that cost might be a concern. Can I get you to reconsider with our lower cost program that still provides the same 16 benefits of the other program?
I say no. I don't want it, don't need it and will not pay for it no matter what the cost.

Robot Woman then wants to offer me $50 in MasterCard gift cards for continuing the service. Where have I heard that before? I was just starting to get over Joe's betrayal and she has to bring it up again. (Sigh....why Joe? Why?!)

Fifty dollars is a lot of money, but I never forget that I am in their maze and I listen to exactly how she phrases it. They will send me the $50 in MasterCard gift cards if I keep the Credit Protection Program open UNTIL I RECEIVE the MasterCard gift cards. In other words, they'll be happy to charge me $20 a month for the next 6 months while they take their time sending me these so-called MasterCard gift cards worth $50.

I say no and she starts again to try to convince me otherwise. I cut her off and say I do not want it and I want to cancel. I can almost see the computer screen in front of her as she switches from Try to Convince Them Screen #18 to the Give It Up and Get Rid of Them So You Can Take Another Call Screen #23. She quickly reads to me the wrap it up monologue:
Fine! Whatever! We'll cancel you and stuff, but don't think we won't try again to wrap you in our web of financial trickery. Your cancellation will take effect in 2 days. Thank you for calling. Really, we mean that. THANK YOU.


I know how much you are wishing this was the end of the story, but it is not. I got my first statement for this new credit card and there is a big, fat $50 annual fee on it. The offer for this credit card clearly stated that there would be no annual fee. The only reason I know that the offer had no annual fee was because I saved the original credit card offer. Who saves those things? I do.

And in telling this story, I just realized what my superpower is. Not super human strength or the ability to fly or be invisible. My superpower is Super Financial Organizational Skills! In other words, I am a Super Nerd. That is the only reason I am able to go through their maze and come out alive. Mere mortals could never withstand the barrage of minutia and inscrutable fine print or the endless follow up phone calls to soulless Citibank Cyborgs. Give me a calculator and a obsessively exact filing system and no one can stop me!

I call them up. This time I get a relatively normal sounding woman. She's no Joe (sigh) but she seems to be more human than Robot Woman. I tell her that my credit card offer stated that I would have no annual fee. She looks at a few things and then says she has to put me on hold for a moment.

She comes back and tells me that her manager is going to let her waive the annual fee. LET HER? As if they are doing me some huge favor. As if they weren't deliberately trying to screw me out of $50 by charging it in the first place.

She tells me that the $50 will be credited to my account within 3 days. And then, no kidding, she asks me if I am interested in signing up for their Credit Protection Program.

No thank you.

NO! Thank YOU!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meat Gloves

These are my Meat Gloves.
I have a whole box of them.

I can't stand touching
Raw Meat.

But you've got to do it,
if you want to make

One of these days,

I'll become

a Vegetarian.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November yard

No interesting bugs this week. I looked and looked. They are all hiding from me. Just some random pictures from my backyard today.

These orange flowers are still hanging in there. I thought that they had finished blooming, but we've had a stretch of warm weather lately (high 80's) and they are bursting with new flowers.

I know this is blurry, but I like it.

Rosemary! I just discovered that we have a HUGE rosemary bush in our backyard. We've lived here for over 2 years and I never knew that. It is in the corner and I've never had any reason to go over to that corner. But when I did, I smelled something familiar that I couldn't quite identify. It took me a while to figure out what it was. Rosemary!

Some rosemary information from this website:
Rosemary is royal in stature. It stimulates sensitivity, increases creativity by lifting exhaustion, and philosophically awakens the heart. The Rosemary plant spills forth its fragrance in the midday sun. The aroma enables the human spirit to clear the mind and open blocked passages in the body allowing it to tap into the universal mind to receive and understand the assistance being sent forth from wiser beings. This brings the human spirit inner peace and contentment allowing us to remember who we are and perform the tasks needed on our spiritual path and assist others if we are asked.
Jeez....I wasn't planning to "tap into the universal mind" or anything. I thought I'd just try to cook with it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Another boring day at work

Today at work, one of the chickens pooped on my shirt and then jumped on my head. Luckily she didn't also poop on my head.

Oh....maybe I should back up.

Yesterday we found a couple of chickens in the parking lot where I work. Our building is in an industrial business park in a highly populated part of town. Most of the area is filled with commercial buildings - big strip malls, building materials warehouses, furniture stores, auto repair places, self-storage facilities, some restaurants and convenience stores. There are sections of houses and apartments too. Busy, main streets where the speed limits are about 50 mph. Lots of traffic all the time.

But there aren't ANY places near us that resemble a farm, farmland, or any other place where you might naturally find chickens. We have NO idea how they got there.

They wandered into the parking area near our warehouse doors. One of the guys at work used to raise chickens as a kid, so he recognized that they were healthy, good-looking chickens. One was so friendly that he was able to catch it rather quickly. The other one was not as easy. It took about 5 of us at least 30 minutes of running around the parking lot, trying to corner the chicken as she ran under parked cars, around bushes and up and down the sidewalks. That chicken could haul ass when she wanted to.

We finally got her when she walked out from under a parked car and didn't see one of the guys standing there ready to grab her. We brought them inside and gave them water and crackers. We called animal control, but they couldn't come to pick them up before we closed for the day. So they spent the night in one of our bathrooms. We gave them water and more crackers and covered the toilet so they wouldn't fall in and drown. We also put a blanket in there.

You can't imagine how much chicken poop comes out of these birds in a mere 24 hours.

This morning I went in to see them. I never thought much of chickens, but they were really cute. They looked like this picture:

They were also really friendly. They were on top of the storage cabinet in the bathroom which is about the same height as the bathroom sink. I was feeding them some crackers and they kept coming closer and closer. Then one of them started looking at me and I could tell she wanted to jump on my shoulder. She did a little bob up and down thing with her whole body like she was getting ready to try to jump. I thought, "What the heck," and leaned closer so she could jump. She jumped on my shoulder.

But then, being unsatisfied with what she had just achieved and taking no time at all to savor her accomplishment, she immediately jumped on the top of my head. At that exact moment, my boss turned the corner and saw me with a chicken on my head.

I don't blame the chicken. If you were a bird and you saw my curly, long-past-due-for-a-haircut, mop of a head, you'd want to climb up in it too.

So after the chicken was safely deposited back on the ground, I saw that she had pooped on my shirt. People at work said that it is good luck when a bird poops on you. Somehow I don't think that the Good Luck Fairies would bestow any luck on someone who was stupid enough to deliberately let a chicken climb on her shoulder. That's got to be some kind of automatic disqualification. I think this one falls into the jurisdiction of the You-Get-What-You-Deserve Fairies.

We cancelled the pickup by animal control because one of the guy's friends wants the chickens. He has about 5 acres of land at his house and he's going to build a chicken coop. He put them in a big box and took them away this afternoon. I'm going to miss them. They were fun to have around.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My thoughts on gay marriage

I was extremely disappointed when Proposition 8 passed in California last week. This was the proposition to change the California Constitution to ban marriage between same-sex couples. It was a very close race, but it passed with 52 percent of voters saying yes.

I voted no because I think it is wrong to selectively deny legal rights to certain people. These are my thoughts and opinions on the topic. You can agree or disagree with me and that's okay.

The Yes on Prop 8 campaign was well run and very successful. Those of you who don't live in California didn't get to see all the commercials. If you are interested, you can find their information here - Yes on 8. They played to people's fears that certain terrible things would happen if gay marriage were legal. The funny thing is that gay marriage WAS LEGAL in California until this proposition was passed a couple of weeks ago. Were any of these terrible things happening?

CLAIM: If gay marriage is allowed, churches will lose their tax exempt status.

Marriage in the Catholic Church is a sacrament. People cannot walk in from the street and demand to be given Communion. Nor can they demand to be confirmed or baptised. In the same way, no person can demand to be married in the Catholic Church, whether heterosexual or gay. These are sacred rites and blessings which the Catholic Church has the power and responsibility to administer according to deeply held religious beliefs and hundreds of years of tradition.

Some members of the church are trying to have women ordained as priests. The Catholic Church gets to say no. Some members think that priests should be allowed to marry. The Catholic Church gets to say no. People will continue to fight for these issues. The Catholic Church still gets to say no.

If gay couples want to be married by a priest in the church, the Catholic Church gets to say no. Just as the Mormon Church gets to say no and the Evangelical Christian Churches get to say no. Despite what the proponents of Prop 8 tried to make us believe, it was NEVER about forcing churches to marry anyone. It was about the state recognizing the legal union of marriage between people. LEGAL. Not religious, not sacramental - legal.

If your church and your religion tells you that marriage is only between a man and a woman and you believe strongly in that idea - wonderful. Isn't it great that we live in a country where you can believe and worship as you wish and your church can administer its sacred traditions as it sees fit. If the state of California recognizes the legal marriage between gay people, those religious freedoms do not go away.

For more on this issue: Churches Will Not Lose Tax Exemptions for Performing Same Sex Marriages

CLAIM: If gay marriage is allowed, they will teach our children in schools about gay marriage.

This was another misrepresentation of facts. The case about the Massachusetts father who was arrested was used as an example of what would happen in schools. It was used to scare parents. There is much more to this case than was presented. Click here to read about the case and decide for yourself. The two links that I've listed at the bottom of this post have specific information about this issue and some of the other misleading claims made by the Yes on 8 campaign.

The real fear behind this argument is that someone will tell your children that gay men and woman exist and that you won't be standing over their shoulders to tell them your point of view. If you are going to let your children live in this world, they are going to encounter ideas, opinions and maybe even facts that run counter to your beliefs. It is YOUR responsibility as a parent to see that your belief system is passed on to your children. You are the primary influence in the lives of your growing children and you have ample opportunity to shape their thinking, correct misunderstandings and guide them towards the values that you cherish.

CLAIM: But if we let gay couples marry, what's next? I can marry my daughter or my pet?

Really? Is that really an intelligent argument that you can stand behind? Do you honestly think that two adults choosing to marry puts us one step away from legalizing incest or bestiality? Similar arguments were put forth by people who were opposed to interracial marriage. There were also many imagined catastrophes waiting for us when we gave - gasp! - women the right to vote.

It is human nature to be wary of change. We can all come up with ridiculous scenarios to scare each other into keeping everything the same. I'd rather not make my decisions based on fear.

CLAIM: If gay marriage is allowed, it will destroy the institution of marriage.

If two people love each other and want to commit their lives to each other and form a family, I see that as strengthening marriage and beneficial to society as a whole. The definition of marriage has evolved over the years. In the past, the woman was considered property of her husband and had no legal rights within the marriage. We have dispensed with that part of the tradition and society has not come crumbling down around us.

Some people believe that one of the main purposes of a marriage is for procreation. Since gay couples cannot naturally procreate, their union should not be considered a marriage. Should infertile couples not be allowed to marry? What about older men and women past childbearing age whose spouses have died? Let's tell these couples that their relationships are not worthy of the designation of Marriage. Let's give them a Domestic Partnership or a Civil Union and tell them to shut up and be happy about it.

We say yes to these MARRIAGES because we see people who love each other, want to commit themselves to each other and build a loving family for a lifetime. Families don't always follow the "traditional" mold - there are single parent families, blended families, multi-generational families. They look different, but they all share the same powerful bond of love and deep commitment to one another that is found in the "traditional" family. Gay couples feel that same deep love and commitment and deserve to have their relationships legally recognized as Marriages.

If we really want to protect and defend the institution of marriage why don't we pass a law to make marriage counseling tax deductible? Build family crisis centers on every street corner to provide free and immediate assistance for families in need. Encourage pre-marital counseling by providing free classes and paying couples to attend. How about just flat out paying people to stay married - for every year you stay married, you get a $1000 check from the federal government.

We should be using our legislative powers to provide resources to support marriage in a positive way. Banning marriage for a select group of people doesn't do a damn thing to strengthen my marriage or anyone else's. The divorce rate in this country is 50%. What are we doing about THAT?

Millions of dollars were spent by the campaign to put this proposition on the ballot and millions more was spent fighting it. Our country is still at war, the economy is falling apart, people are losing their jobs and their homes and THIS is what we focus our efforts on? THIS is the issue that gets Americans off our butts and motivates us to participate in our electoral process?

I don't believe that banning gay marriage has made our country any stronger or improved the lives of any of its people. It has only created more divisions between us, fueled fear and hatred (on both sides) and distracted us from working on the issues that would really make our country a better place for all Americans.

Okay, I am done now. If you feel like doing some more reading on this topic:

Constitutional Law Professors’ Statement About Proposition 8

Mormon Scholar Morris A. Thurston Memo

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bring back any memories?

Who knows what this is? Any guesses?

Does this picture give you any hints?

I'd love to hear what Sarah or MacKKKKKKKKKenzie think they are.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

This is how I am voting

A clear, informative opinion piece on this topic here:

No on Proposition 8 - Los Angeles Times

Saturday, November 1, 2008

This week's.......

Since this has obviously become a regular feature of my blog, I might as well give it some proper respect. So here it is! You know you've all been waiting for it!

Introducing - the always captivating... sometimes creepy... never disappointing.....

I was spraying some organic pesticide on my plants this morning.

And then I saw this green spider-like creature.

I had to stop spraying the pesticide.

It's easy to be the merchant of death when you are oblivious to what you are killing. Like launching a Smart Bomb from 600 miles away.

It is harder to kill things when you are looking right at them.