Sunday, May 30, 2010

Debt Reduction Scam

Whenever you receive an email, telephone call, a letter or see an ad stating your credit card bills can be cut in half, don't you believe it. It's not true. In truth and in fact, it's a big fat scam. I know first-hand. I was caught in it. I bought the scam hook, line and sinker. I was desperate and it sounded wonderful to be out of debt. You're asked how much you can afford to pay monthly and how much you owe. You're told your debt can be reduced by as much as 50% and they would negotiate settlement on your behalf. I was in such a desperate and emotional state that I talked myself into believing what I was told. That's the dangerous point. After three months of no contact with "Mr. Debt Reduction Company", I did some preliminary investigation and discovered this outfit had a "D-" rating with the BBB. Actually, a good friend did the prelims - I was too distraught and numbed. I was horrified and after the sobbing and emotional stage was over, I gathered what was left of my pride, pulled up the good old boot straps and began bankruptcy proceedings and to dig my way out - one baby step at a time - otherwise, it would be too overwhelming and would stymie me. You're never too old to be fooled. Actually, the longer you live, the more scams you uncover. Please share my story with others so they can be on the alert. Advice: Investigate before leaping - it if sounds too good to be true, it is. By the way, I was legally advised that filing a lawsuit would be fruitless since the scamming company is located in Arizona. Of course, I could hire an attorney in Arizona if I knew one but, then I'm filing bankruptcy. Will an attorney represent me for no fee? Over and out at this blogging..to be continued with updates of my progress from time-to-time.

Any helpful feedback anyone?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Parking Guy

Methodist Hospital has two parking structures for employees, but the north one is inaccessible because of the construction of a second tower for patient rooms. In the meantime, employees have The Parking Guy.

The south parking structure is pretty easy to park in for the night shift, but starts to fill up between 6 and 7 a.m. By 8, when the day shift has arrived, all spaces are taken and The Parking Guy and his assistants go to work. They double park the new arrivals behind the cars on one side of the aisle and place a ticket on each windshield. As people leave during the day, they move the double parked cars into the newly vacant spaces. No matter when you come and go, The Parking Guy always seems to know the location of each car and every open space. He also can associate every employee with his or her own car by sight. His most spectacular feat comes at about three in the afternoon, when all the double parked cars have been moved into spaces. He then takes all of those car keys and walks around the hospital, unerringly handing the correct keys to each employee. Affixed to your keys is the parking ticket from your windshield with a notation on it to tell you where your car is now parked.

How does this guy know everybody? How does he keep from confusing my grey Saturn with the other grey Saturn that looks just like it? In a place where nursing students and chaplain interns come and go every three months, how does he learn the new employees and their cars within a week of their start date?

Every job has its complexities and difficulties. Every job that exists is worth doing the best you can. It may not sound like much to be The Parking Guy in a staff parking structure in a mid-sized hospital in a suburb of L.A., but it's pretty special when you really do it well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Caught in a Scam

Yes, I was scammed. Never thought it would happen to me but, it did. I was sure hopeful this wasn't a scam. Much to my dismay it was. What destruction to my finances! In desperate times I made one horrendous mistake - trusting a debt reduction outfit. It took a phone call from my attorney friend to advise me to close my bank account and reopen a new account. I've done this but it will take about one month for everything to settle. In the meantime, I will be able to sleep at least a few more hours a night. Suggestion: Check out these sorts of businesses and report them, I believe, to the Better Business Bureau. What a shame that there are such lowdown scroundels.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How Things Change

When I first moved to Claremont, California in 1995, the way you got there from the west was to take the 210 freeway to its end in LaVerne and get on Foothill Boulevard, otherwise known as Route 66. As you drove down Foothill eastward towards Claremont, there were quite a number of businesses, but also a lot of open space and one huge plant nursery on the south side of the street which probably took up an acre or more.

During the fourteen years that I lived in the Claremont area, I watched businesses spring up along Foothill Boulevard. Supermarkets, gas stations, fast food restaurants, townhouse complexes and gyms appeared, and the open spaces became few and far between. It was some sort of progress, I guess.

Now when I drive into the area, I still get off the 210 at Foothill, although the freeway was extended years ago and I could take it all the way into Claremont. The recession has not been kind to Foothill Boulevard. Businesses are closing and townhouse complexes have been left half-built. The big Ford dealership on the north side of the street has been closed and it looks empty and sad.

I'm sort of hoping that someone buys the land of the Ford dealership, rips up the concrete and puts in a huge plant nursery, the kind of business that exists in a place where land is cheap and you can take up all the space you want. Progress is fine, but there are some things where I'd prefer regression.

Amazing Can Happen Anywhere

The plan was to return one book and renew another.  A quick trip into the library and then on our way to all of the other pressing Saturday afternoon errands.  Two steps into the library foyer changed our plans completely.  We heard the sounds of musicians tuning their instruments and like ants to sugar were drawn into the little just outside the main library meeting room where the clarinet choir from Caltech prepared for a free Saturday afternoon concert.  Eleven musicians played clarinets of all types ranging from an E flat contra alto to the larger than life B flat contra bass.  Their selections ran the gamut from the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro to an arrangement of the folk melody Shenandoah.  Their cheeks puffed and sometimes their instruments squeaked.  From our second row seats in a room with not very many rows, we witnessed the intensity and devotion and effort the members of the Clarinet Choir had for their art and for this performance. 
Their performance ended and after an intermission of no more than a minute or two the CalTech Slide Rule Trombone  Choir took the stage.  Jeremy Yager played in both choirs.  I don't know Jeremy Yager but I will remember him for a long time.  He was the B flat contra bass guy and then he picked up a trombone and added the low notes to those pieces, too.  He's a pretty amazing musician.
None of our other errands got tended to yesterday afternoon.  They'll wait.  They probably weren't that important anyway.  What was important was the fact that we tossed the to do list and for an hour enjoyed music performed with passion.  Here's to public libraries and amazement.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

So It's Come To This

National Public Radio has for years given us breaking national and world news along with stories from business, politics, health, science, technology, music, arts, and culture.  I know this is true because I listen to NPR and because the NPR website says so.
Imagine, then, then almost euphoria with which I greeted a recent segment on National Public Radio.
The Better Marriage Blanket.
Winters in central New York can get pretty dark and cold.  Such conditions often leave people with time on their hands.  This is apparently what happened to the couple who developed the above mentioned product.  They bought a piece of clothing made of a carbon fabric and designed to protect soldiers from chemical warfare.  How they discovered their alternate use for the fabric is unclear.  At any rate they did discover that while wearing the article of clothing, their farts were odorless.  One thing led to another as these things on short, dark, cold winter days do, and they bought a whole lot of those articles of clothing, cut them into squares, and made a blanket.
Somewhere along their marital journey they had apparently hit the skids of bliss because of their farts smelled really bad.  So they made their blanket out of this chemical warfare material to save their marriage.  It has not only saved their marriage, it is well on the way to making them millionaires.
In answer to the NPR interviewer's question of why a blanket why not pajama bottoms or shorts, the husband of the newly discovered marital and financial bliss team responded because you just never know what you're going to sleep in but you always need a blanket.  Made sense to me.
The blanket apparently requires little maintenance.  From the interview I also learned that the couple during their test period forgot about upkeep and after about a year of use simply threw the blanket in the dryer.  It came out fresh and ready to once again absorb the worst the couple had to offer.
The blanket until recently was advertised on television.  Those ads were pulled because the sales company couldn't keep up with the demand.  Now you either have to go to the website, watch the youtube video, or go out and find your own chemical warfare outfit and make it into a blanket.
The ads and the interview on National Public Radio appear to focus only heterosexual couples.  That leaves me with the understanding that either same sex couples aren't bothered by smelly farts or - probably more accurate - the farts of same sex couples don't stink.
The only question remaining in this current marketing phenomenon is why the couple bought a piece of clothing designed to protect soldiers from chemical warfare in the first place.  And of even greater concern is why was the original purchase just for one such piece of clothing?
Oh, wait, I remember.  Their marriage was already on the skids because of the fart situation so buying just one piece of protective gear was part of the whole downhill slide.
Life can be really complicated at times.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chernobyl Is Almost Empty But We All Still Live There

Much has been written on witsendmagazine over the past several weeks about the radioactive state of Scraps the Cat.  You may recall that she was injected with radio-iodine 131 as treatment of two tumors on her thyroid gland which produced a state of hyperthyroidism from which she was falling into ill repair.  You've doubtless also read about our current dilemma of having a blivit, if you will, of cat crap and our need to wait a month for it to turn into normal household garbage so we can send it off to the landfill with the rest of our dare I say crap as opposed to, after following the complicated and portentous directions on the swheat cat litter box, flushing it down the toilet and thus risking billions of dollars in plumbing bills.  That's all going well and according to schedule.
Radioactive iodine.
Funny thing about that stuff and about how we are -- we meaning everything on this planet -- so completely connected.
Joanna Macy, PhD. is an eco-philosopher, a scholar of Buddhism, and a leading voice in movements for peace, justice, and a safe environment.  She has written a lot of books and and a little 12 page almost pamphlet called The Elm Dance.
In The Elm Dance she tells of her work in Russia helping people recover or at least survive the psychological wounds inflicted by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.  She shares a story told her by a Russian psychologist who flew to Chernobyl within hours of the disaster and then for years following helped the survivors cope and recover.  Dr. Macy in her words tells us his story:  "The burning reactor was a volcano of radioactivity when the winds shifted to the Northeast, carrying the clouds of poisoned smoke in the direction of Moscow.  To save the millions in the metropolitan area, a fast decision was taken to seed the clouds and cause them to precipitate.  An unusually heavy late April rain, bearing intense concentrations of radioactive iodine, strontium, cesium, and particles of plutonium, drenched the towns and fields and forests of the Bryansk region, just across the Russian border from Chernobyl. ... The people were not informed of their government's choice -- who wants to tell people they're disposable?  By now it's common knowledge that the clouds were seeded, but is is rarely mentioned.  And that silence, too, is part of the tragedy for the people of Novozybkov."
The forest near Novozybkov remains so radioactive that none can safely enter it.  The area still experiences the exhaustion, the cancers, the miscarriages, the deformed babies and the emotional recoil of the disaster.
Because of Scraps the Cat I know I am connected to the baby in Novozybkov born with severe birth defects.  Because of Joanna Macy I know that I am also connected equally to the rain that fell onto that city and changed the lives of its people and the life of this planet forever.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Meanwhile Back In Ramona

At first glance there's not a lot to Ramona, California.  There's a main street and a motel and a bar and a service station.  About thirty six thousand people call it home.  It's hot in the summer in Ramona and cold in the winter -- kind of like things are supposed to be.  Brush fires love the place and every so often threaten at its doorstep to burn it to the ground.  Most lives in Ramona, in fact, are informed by stories of fires.  Time is marked, often, by -- that was when the fire almost got our house -- or -- yeah, I remember, that was when they lost their house.  Chickens roam backyards and peacocks announce the dawn.  Evening talk is of vegetable gardens and the best way to harmlessly get rid of ants.
 Yep.  At first glance there's not a lot to Ramona, California.  Except that almost too shy to come out in public is a tiny Jewish community brave enough to rescue a Torah Scroll earmarked by Hitler as a trophy of a destroyed people and brave enough to, just last night, hold evening services on that very same main street in the civic center across from the Turkey Inn and the blinking Coors sign in a room with practically floor to ceiling windows and no curtains of any kind announcing to the world - Here we are.  We live here.
At second glance there's a whole lot to Ramona and much of it is called dignity and courage.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Funnel Will Fix It All Right

For its next idea British Petroleum (BP) is going to stop the Gulf oil catastrophe with a funnel.  Really.  As we speak or read, rather, steel workers are building a 98 ton, dome-topped funnel.  They'll tow it out to sea and then lower it onto the ocean floor.  As an aside, BP confesses that it's never lowered such a device to 5,000 feet and admit that 'difficulties may occur'.  "There's no guarantees," Tony Hayward of BP told the Associated Press.  "We'll undoubtedly encounter some issues as we go through that process."  He's probably referring to issues greater than his bad grammar.  I'm just thinking.
A funnel.
Wait a second.  I think I saw that movie.  It wasn't very good.

Time to Plant Again

Here's the thing.  We don't need a south 40 to grow our own vegetables.  Any sunny spot will do whether its in the back yard, on the patio, on the balcony, or even inside in a room with lots of light.  Container gardening takes away the excuse.  And, come on.  It's hard to believe you don't have a container.  You can put potting soil in just about anything that will hold water -- a flower pot, a bucket, an old wash tub, a plastic watering can or even a plastic sand bucket.  What a great way to recycle old containers once intended for some other purpose. 
Just choose a container large enough for the plant you want to grow.  For example, a large tomato plant needs about 35 quarts of soil.  A pepper or eggplant needs about 20 quarts of soil.  Container plants require a watering balance -- not too much and not too little.  But here's the good news.  Nowadays you can buy self watering containers for your garden.  Take a look at earthbox.com to get an idea of a self watering container.  Give it a try.  The worst that can happen is that you have an adventure.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Radioactivity Is So Yesterday

Yesterday evening ended the period in the life of Scraps the Cat during which she was radioactive.  She's feeling kind of a let down -- like 'what am I if I no longer glow in the dark -- postpartum blues type of thing.  She's still pretty special in my book.
And besides, I've still got the box of diminishing in radioactivity cat crap to deal with.  Come to find out medical waste companies don't want it because it's not their type of radioactivity.  The hazardous waste people don't want it either because, well, it's just not that hazardous.  And for sure the land fill people don't want it.  At least not for awhile.  The hazardous waste people suggest just boxing it up and waiting a month because the half life of this particular radioactive stuff is 8 days.  In a month, they said, it will just be regular household garbage.  Yet another blow the the fragile ego of Scraps the Cat.
So that's the plan.  Just wait a month.
Sounds a whole lot better than getting tracked down by the landfill people and fined heavily for dumping cat crap before its time.  For a month, then, we'll just have a box labled 'Danger - Do Not Open' taped up and put off in a corner of the garage.
Scraps is hoping this whole thing will inspire a movie.  Or at the very least a second helping of treats.
You never know.  I'm sure she'll get at least one of her wishes.  Life is like that, sometimes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Helen Philpot Is Back

Helen and Margaret have been friends for over sixty years.  When she was eighty-two, Helen started writing a blog to help her stay in touch with Margaret.  Lately Helen hasn't been writing very often and I worry when too much time passes between her posts.  When she does post several hundred people read what she has to say. She's liberal, pro choice, pro health care reform and thinks the presidency of George Bush was one of the great disasters to ever befall this country.  Her language is colorful and would probably embarrass most other women her age.  And every word she writes she writes to her friend Margaret.
Helen may have become a little slower since she started her blog but she still reminds us all that passion and wit and the determination to have your voice heard are not the sole realm of the young.
Helen reminds us that our job is to live until life ends.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Up The Creek And The Bag's Too Small

And in that case what you've got is a 'blivit' if, of course, you use the word 'blivit' in its purest sense in which case what you've got is ten pounds of trouble and only a five pound bag to put it in.
Scraps the Cat remains redioactive for one more day.  As of Monday she will no longer glow in the dark nor will we require protective clothing when we pet her.
Of course, you do understand that Scraps does not actually glow in the dark nor do we suit up when we get near her.  I speak metaphorically if you get my drift.  Along those same metaphorical lines is my use of the phrase 'ten pounds of trouble'.  You see, Scraps, like all other living creatures, digests that which she eats and neatly deposits that for which her body no longer has use in the litter box she shares with Rudy.  Since Scraps has been radioactive that which comes out of her - to put it bluntly - is also radioactive.  Come Monday morning Scraps will be fine.  Come Monday morning we will still have at least ten pounds of neatly deposited into the litter box radioactive crap currently contained in a five pound container.
How to get rid of radioactive cat crap will doubtless be the focus of upcoming posts.  In the meantime, what we've got in our garage is a 'blivit' and not a metaphor.
We'll keep you posted.

Back to Ice Cream

Yes - the weather is warming up and here I am again, back at it - craving and eating ice cream. Not just any ice cream but, "Fosters" medium vanilla cone. Yum, yum. The other day there was such a long line at Fosters that I didn't have time to wait so I pulled into McDonalds and ordered their vanilla ice cream cone. I discovered that I was so spoiled by Fosters deliciousness that I was sorely disappointed in McDonalds' product. I'm a true blue customer of Fosters without any doubt. Let's hear it for Fosters!

A Rose is a Rose

I know a rose is a rose but, my roses are extra special. In the past, I've employed a gardener to tend to my garden and, in particular, my roses. Well, as luck would have it, this year I didn't hire a gardener. I decided to work the garden myself -- much to my amazement. The roses are blooming now and are bigger and more beautiful than ever -- and -- I owe it to my green thumb which I never knew I had. Not only have I discovered my talent for roses but, I actually realized my hidden ability to draw. Now, everywhere I go, I have a sketch pad and a #2 pencil. I fill in the colors with colored pencils when finished. My sketches actually look like the real objects. In my wildest dreams, I never knew I was such an artist. Hidden talents are wonderful to discover -- another smile to add to my "List of Smiles".