City of Fountains??


I'm a little late posting on this one.

The City of Fountains will not have enough money to run ANY of the fountains this year.

If given a choice between turning on the fountains or funding the police force, or keeping the community centers open, I'm all for not running the fountains this year.

I just think it is sad. And a bit worrisome.

Rubber Rooms


I subscribe to the This American Life podcast, a radio show produced by Chicago Public Radio.

Last weekend's episode, which I just listened to yesterday, was titled "Human Resources." For those who don't know, This American Life is separated into Acts--which means stories. An episode has three Acts, it has three different stories. Act 1 on this particular episode left me flabbergasted.

And I will tell you why.

I think that my local school district is pretty darn dismal. Most people living in the area would agree. And, based on my professional interactions with the school district, well, I've had first hand knowledge of the dysfunction that exists on all levels. However, I think the New York Board of Education has them beat, hands down.

It's not easy to fire a teacher. When a teacher in the New York district is reprimanded, accused of something, etc and so on, they are "re-assigned" pending an investigation. The kicker...is WHERE these teachers go and HOW LONG they stay there. New York has 12 "Re-assignment Centers." There's a euphemism if I've ever heard one. Sounds rather Nazi-like, doesn't it?

Re-assignment centers are affectionately known to the locals as "Rubber Rooms." Re-assigned teachers spend the entire school day in the Rubber Room until their case is resolved. From what I can gather, it's basically an empty room with a bunch of chairs or desks. Kind of like an in-school suspension. The teachers sit there, all day, every day, doing absolutely no work. And still getting paid. The culture of the re-assignment center, as described on This American Life, closely resembles the cultures that develop in prisons.

Teachers are rarely told why they are re-assigned. Many are able to deduce the reason they were sent to the Rubber Room, but many are not. The best part? Due to the massiveness of the New York Board of Education and its apparent lack of organization--teachers often remain in these Rubber Rooms for months, even years. Granted, these are teachers awaiting an investigation related to disciplinary action. But they haven't exactly been found "guilty."

And remember, they are still collecting their full salaries.

I gave Time Warner the boot: Pt 2


On to the firing of Time Warner.

I was going to wait for a few other things to fall into place before I tried living cable-free. But then Time Warner pissed me off. My special pricing in exchange for a 15 month commitment had expired. They were going to automatically enroll me into another 12 month commitment. However, for various reasons, I could not make a 12 month commitment. I called Time Warner before my 15 month contract was up (like a good consumer) to see if I could get a price break without getting into another contract. The very nice lady I spoke with said that she could get me a deal where my cable/internet package would only increase by $15 instead of $35. Only thing is, she can't do that for me until my 15 month contract expired, and that I would have to call back in a week.


I KNEW that if I called back, only to get a different CS rep, that I would probably get the runaround. So this very nice CS rep gave me her name and direct extension.

A week passes.

I call back.

After speaking with about three different people (meaning I was transferred and placed on hold three different times), I reached someone who said that they are not able to connect me with a direct extension, but she would email my very nice CS rep and ask her to call me back. That was last weekend.

Still no call.

So, I decide, that's it. I make my preparations. I get my new router. I disconnect my DVR box and clean up my cable remote, prepped and ready for return. Over my lunch hour today, I called Time Warner to get price quotes for their very basic cable package (I do not have a digital television, and refused to buy 3 converter boxes for my 3 televisions when in all reality I will probably have a digital television within 6 months). I lost track of how many times I was transferred. Once, I got transferred right back to the beginning of the automated system. Another time I got stuck in a tech support loop where none of the three options applied to my situation. Tech support? How did I even get there?

I FINALLY get connected with the right department, and I downgrade my digital, DVR cable to plain ole' basic. The whole process took 45 minutes, 5 of which was spent talking to the real-live human who was finally able to help me.

This whole experience has made me feel rather good about giving up (sorta) cable.
Now--just keep your fingers crossed for me that my replacement router is still working. And pray for my easy adjustment to a world without live pause and rewind.

I gave Time Warner the boot: Pt 1

Almost, anyway.

I had been thinking for some time about giving up my cable. You can watch (almost) anything online these days, so it's really hard to justify the extra expense. I took the plunge this weekend.
For many many months now, I have been having the most aggravating problem watching streaming video on my laptop. This weekend I managed to narrow the issue down to the router. Given that the router was a base model, and was almost 2 years old, it comes as no surprise that it crapped out on me. So, step 1, I bought a new, mid-range router. Got it set up, no major problems there. Tested out streaming video on my laptop, and WOW! I can't remember the last time I could watch video without ANY glitches!!

I can't really communicate how excited I was about this. ELATED! I had been struggling with the video issue on and off for about six months, usually taking up at least half of my day resulting in no solutions and with me in a very foul mood. So, on Saturday, after I installed the new router, I watched--on my laptop--an episode of The Simpsons. I watched an hour long episode of Saving Grace. It was a beautiful thing.

Then it stormed Saturday night. The "home" computer was turned off to protect it from power surges. Which means the power was cut to the cable modem and the router as well. On Sunday, my laptop wouldn't hold the wireless connection longer than 15 minutes. Honestly, I was lucky if I could hold it for 5 minutes. Four hours and a very foul mood later, I concluded the router was faulty. Dear mother ran to the store for me and exchanged it for a new one.

It's been 24 hours with this new routher.

So far so good.

Things to Be Thankful For


I did not write this. I would cite the source on this if I had one. If anyone does happen to know the origin of this piece, I would love to give credit where credit is due.

1. The mess to clean up after a party, because you have been surrounded by friends.

2. The taxes you pay, because it means you are employed.

3. The clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means you have enough to eat.

4. A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing, because that means you have a home.

5. The last open spot at the far end of the parking lot, because it means you are capable of walking.

6. All the complaining you hear about our government, because it means you have freedom of speech.

7. The lady behind you in church that sings loudly and off key, because it means you can hear.

8. The piles of laundry and ironing, because it means your loved ones are nearby.

9. Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means you have been productive.

10. Your huge heating bill because it means you are warm.

11. The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means you are alive.



You may have seen this, it's making the rounds. This video makes me belly laugh, and it takes a heck of a lot to make me belly laugh. If you like it, check out YouTube and look for Bizkit the Sleepwalking Dog.

Okay, embedding the video isn't working. Here's the URL:


PSA on the evils of credit card companies


I have heard in the media that various credit card companies are closing down accounts with $0 balance and no activity for a certain length of time. I've gotten two letters in the past few months; one notifying me that my account was going to be closed unless I requested by a certain date that it remain open, and one notifying me that my account had already been closed and there was nothing I could do about it. Nyah Nyah Nya-Nya Nya.

Everyone knows that you can request your credit report for free once per year, right? www.ftc.gov/freereports

I have mine set up on a schedule so that I request one report from each of the three companies every four months. I just checked my report from Equifax (the other two are Experian and Transunion), and was quite surprised at what I found. No less than 6 of my credit card accounts were closed in 2008, all but one since August. These were some of my longest standing accounts. These were the accounts contributing to my healthy credit score.

We all know that having credit you are not using, and having credit that has been established for several years, is good for your FICO score.

Two of these accounts were opened in 2005; Three were opened in 1999; One was opened in 1996.

Did you hear that? That was my FICO score taking a nosedive.

If you are curious about the offending companies, 2 cards were from Chase, 3 cards were store cards through GEMB (G.E. Money Bank), and 1 card was from Discover.

I am not a financial planner, and I am not offering any financial advice. However, I have read in various places that if you would like to prevent these types of accounts from being closed, it may be helpful to use the cards periodically to make purchases (THAT YOU WOULD NORMALLY MAKE--gas, groceries, etc), that you will then PAY OFF before the grace period ends.

*No need to incur more debt just to keep the accounts open*

PRK: 6 month update


I just renewed my driver's license, and was able to have the corrective lens restriction removed. That felt like a major milestone! It's my first driver's license without any restrictions!

Not much has changed. My vision is still 20/25 in the left eye, 20/20 in the right eye, and 20/20 when I'm using both eyes. There continues to be a small amount of astigmatism in the left eye, but it's so slight that they don't even make a lens with a small enough prescription to correct it.

I haven't had the double vision for some time now. In fact, I couldn't even tell you when it disappeared. The only "artifact" (to use PRK-LASIK jargon) is starbursts at night surrounding lights--car lights, stop lights, street lights. It's worse than it was with contacts, but not really all that bothersome.

My expectation going into this was not perfection. My expectation was not to need glasses or contacts to see. I think my results are better than I expected, especially since that buggersome left eye has straightened up its act! If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't hesitate. Undergoing--and paying for--laser vision correction is not for everyone. But for me, it's been nothing short of a miracle!

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