Friday, December 31, 2010

A Happy New Year Wish

and word of appreciation to all my loyal Blogger friends who keep their Thinking Caps on Amid Life's Crises, even when Negativity is the Norm and you feel like a Bad-Tempered Zombie.

Raise your glass of Alpen Wasser!  Have A Taste of Ipecac if you're Pleading For Sanity!  Never turn off those Deep Thoughts or cease your Internal Monologue.  Whether you're a Clergy Guy or just an Everyday Unitarian, I hope the New Year finds you No Longer Quivering and free from Katastrophe.

May all the truly Stupid Evil Bastards in your life Swerve and Vanish -- let them be Forever in Hell, while the rest of us are just Laughing in Purgatory.  No matter how many Post-it Notes From Hades they try to stick on us, despite their Ramblings, we'll just say "Down With Tyranny!"

Let Me Be Frank:  It's All One Thing.

So, my fellow scribes and constant readers,

Namaste, For Today.

...and if you're not included here, my feeble brain just couldn't figure out where to work you in.  I appreciate you just as much!  :) Click Here to Read More..

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

PayPal, Part 3

This morning (why is it always first thing in the morning, before my first infusion of French Roast courage?!), I had an email from PayPal, saying my account had been "limited," and that I needed to change my password and security questions.

Well, okay.  I figured this had followed from the previous week's misadventures in electronic funds transfer.  During that crisis, I had changed my security settings with no prompting from the company.  They, in fact, seemed rather surprised that I had done this on my own, without them having to tell me to do it (or how to do it).

But it had been roughly a week, and since they were coming back to me with this little heads-up, I decided to cooperate and change the password and questions again.  Having recently learned some valuable techniques for creating really hard-to-crack passwords, I figured this would be sort of fun.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

A Lifelong Bad Habit Blown Away By One Good Sneeze

An update on the unpleasant but extremely well-timed sinus infection.

It's mostly fine; I'll be back at work tomorrow (almost looking forward to it -- oh, what the hell, it's a 3-day week, what's not to look forward to!).  The weekend's been sublimely dull & boring; sleep caught up on, one good home-cooked meal successfully executed, assorted filing accomplished, cat spoiled extra-rotten, etc. etc.

I have this one habit that goes all the way back to childhood and I have no idea where it originated.  When I sneeze, I shut my mouth and pinch both nostrils closed. 

Yeah, I know.  Various well-meaning souls (Mom, Dad, both husbands, co-workers and complete strangers) have told me what a terrible habit this is.  "You'll kill yourself!" "You'll give yourself a hemorrhage!"  "You'll blow your brains out!" "You'll go deaf!"  "Your head will explode!"

Well, as should be quite obvious, not one of these predictions has come true.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

(Almost) Robbed: Epilogue, Etc.

Well, the money is back home safe.  PayPal said it might take until the 29th to get it back into the bank, but after all the hoopla, they were probably watching as closely as I, because the transfer has already been completed.  I'd still like to know where this thing originated, though, and certainly hope it wasn't just some silly little glitch on their part.

It's the first day of a 4-day weekend, and I'm quite grateful to have it.  We had our typically laid-back obligatory group luncheon at work yesterday, and approximately two hours before it started, as I was doing my best to get done with anything I didn't want biting me next Tuesday, I noticed some discomfort at the corner of my left eye, near the bridge of the nose.  It felt enough like conjunctivitis for me to be worried, but other than the pain, my eye looked fine.  However, after lunch it got worse in a hurry; I practically ran out the door an hour before the usual clock-out time.  Got some sublime Chinese take-out (several employees brought spouses & kids along for the dinner, which meant virtually no leftovers to bring home).  After dinner, I felt even worse, like the whole left side of my face was puffed up.

"Does my face look weird?" I asked Carl.  That's the sort of question that generally makes him spew a drink all over himself, and it did.  He assured me I was my usual perfectly beautiful self (after the choking subsided).    I went to bed around 7, but woke up several times just moaning.  Blowing the nose didn't help a whole lot.  The only thing that helped was the reassuring presence of my kitty, who peered into my face and trilled at me every time I made a sound.  The pain was, and still is, excruciating.

So as of this morning I have a diagnosis of "acute sinus infection," a prescription for amoxicillin, some OTC suda non-Fed, saline nasal spray, extra Kleenex, and time to wait this sucker out.  Just hoping my face is back to normal by Sunday, since I've got somewhere to be.  Even Carl couldn't lie to me this morning: My face looks like Quasimodo's back.

Cheers, happy  holidays to all!


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Monday, December 20, 2010

I Wuz (Almost) Robbed! Part 1

I slept late Saturday -- after 8 a.m.  Got up, fired up the old PC and started reading my email.

First thing that caught my eye was from PayPal.  "Your transaction is in process," it said.

What transaction?

I've been using PayPal for 7 or 8 years, ever since I first bought something on Ebay.  Lately my participation has been pretty scant, but PayPal is still handy for relatively hassle-free money transfer and charitable donations.  I've heard all sorts of horror stories about it, but have never had the least trouble with it.

Up until Saturday.

First of all, PayPal makes a huge deal about email.  Understandably so, I suppose.  But once you're clued in to the difference between a scam and the legitimate thing, it's fairly easy to tell them apart.  A couple of read-throughs just to be sure, and the next thing, I had logged onto my PayPal account.  Sure enough, there's a transaction "in process," whereby $20 or so is being transferred from my linked bank account into PayPal, with an estimated date of completion around the 22nd.

The problem is, I never authorized any such transaction.  And oh yes, I spent a fair amount of time thinking very carefully, just to make sure something hadn't slipped my increasingly slippery mind.

I will often wait until I amass a respectable sum in my PayPal account and then transfer it into the bank.  Or I will tell PayPal how much I want to send to someone, and they will draw the money from the bank and then send it on.  But I will never simply ask PayPal to transfer money out of my bank into PayPal for no particular reason.  So the "particular reason" became the urgent matter of the moment, with the deeper question, of course, being WHO set this up?   No one on this planet has authorized access to my PayPal account except me.  Not my husband, not my son, not my cat, and not my BFF.

So now that I was 100% up and my pulse was racing (while the coffee hadn't even finished brewing yet), I was on the phone, urgently trying to get hold of PayPal to find out WTF was going on.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Two ?Radical Views on Education

Last week I encountered two interesting stories on education.

The first, from the New York Times, talks about a middle school in Minnesota that makes what seems to be a radical leap in policy.  They will evaluate students' academic achievements on the objective results of their tests.  In the process, the whole spectrum of what we call "school" for students is parsed out -- what they've learned, with their behavior and performance in an entirely different category.

Maybe you're thinking "Duh -- how obvious."  That's a natural initial reaction, I think.  It was mine, until I continued reading, and then that ol' lightbulb came on.

What is school about?  I remember my "brilliant" educational career.  Ask nearly any of my high school teachers what they thought of me, and with very few exceptions, they'd give me glowing reviews.  Why?  Because I knew how to, quoting this article, "do" school.

In any situation where my objective knowledge of a subject had to exceed my ability to "do school," I was in trouble.  I could usually find another student somewhere next to whom I looked better, either in terms of performance or personality, and this is what I comforted myself with.  I wasn't a total loser, wasn't at the bottom of the class.  But from this lofty place of middle-aged wisdom where I now stand, it's finally hit me straight on that my good grades did not come from academic achievement.  They came from knowing how to do school.  This is interesting, because I clearly remember how academic grades were shown separately from the "life skills" items (making good use of time, effort, following instructions, conduct, etc.).  But I know that in many cases, the higher grades came from having a good rapport with the teacher.

If the American educational system as a whole adopts these new standards, which separate actual learning from "acceptable behavior," then this is going to be great news for the kids who feel like square pegs -- who don't fit into an accepted social group, or who don't feel like schmoozing with Teach, or who dress funny or have bad attitudes, but who DO grasp the subject matter and can hold their own on tests.  It may also be a wakeup call for the students who are getting by on personality -- and even more so, for their parents.

The other story came from NPR, which had an update on the story of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, where the teachers were nearly fired en masse, but then got to keep their jobs.  Now morale is low.  Some of the teachers who fought hardest against the firing spoke to the reporter about all they had done for the students - coming in early, staying late, buying glasses, paying rent, buying food.  They are resentful that these efforts don't count with the higher-ups who are pushing for educational reform.
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Saturday, December 11, 2010

This week's USA TODAY news quiz (12/11/10)

No braggin' rights for me this time around.  Only got 5 out of 10.
...but at least I know how to find an exit ramp...

Here's the quiz. Click Here to Read More..

Friday, December 10, 2010


Steve Allen's book Dumbth devotes a lot of time to hours* he's wasted in conversation via telephone with people who just don't get it and never will.

I had such a conversation today.

Our office is participating in a program whereby employees are screened for common health conditions that can potentially raise insurance rates.  I am not here to go into the pros and cons of this plan -- I've heard enough grumbling from co-workers on the subject to last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, I'm in the position of coordinating this project, which will take place in late January.  Yesterday I retrieved a phone message from a young lady whose speech was full of hiccups and "up-talk" -- you know, when every statement is phrased as a question.  "My name is Jennifer Smith?  I'm calling to set up your screening?"
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Saturday, December 04, 2010

This week's USA TODAY news quiz

I got 9 out of 10.

This is a good one.  Some news quizzes are lame, emphasizing numbers and statistics, such as "So N. So got drafted by the Yankees this week -- how much was his contract for?"

Who gives a flip?

Give me good ol' history/geography type questions -- who/what/when/where.

Maybe my addiction to NPR is starting to do me some good. Click Here to Read More..

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Milestones, or, Where the Gray Hair Comes From

It occurred to me a day or two ago that the last 20 years (soon to be 21) have been the toughest in my life!  First Mom died, right after the first of January 1990.  Then my marriage to Doug began to unravel (the unraveling took 5 years, but looking back, the signposts are very clear).  Then Dad died.  Then 2 years after that, we both gave up our jobs to start a business that fell flat on its ass.  Then the divorce.  Chicken pox, a car wreck.  Single parenthood.  Two ID thefts in 5 years.  Conflicts with Doug. 

My relationship with Carl was overall pretty positive, except for the fact that he turned out to be a lemon in the stepfather department.  So from there, I had to contend with trying to keep Wally, Carl and Doug happy.  Throw into the mix my own bumbling management of my life, and the sudden recognition of my own chronic cluelessness just before turning 40.  Depression.  More dumb decisions.  Lousy work habits that came back to bite me.  Moving, first to NY, then back to Atlanta.  Now here.  True, my inner life has changed very much for the better since moving here, but financially it's been a very tough uphill battle.  The year and a half that Wally spent with us certainly didn't help that.  My own "perfect" health also began to fail. 

So it's been tough.  But the best thing, I think, is finally being able to SEE that it's been tough.  Finding a pattern and consciously deciding what to do about it.  I can now focus on breaking this "jinx."  20 years ago I would have assumed that this would happen "if God willed it."  I'm truly grateful to now have as my motto, "If it is to be, it is up to me."
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