|Sans le Nom: Cookery, Rhetoric, and Other Forms of Pandering|
"Now I call this sort of thing pandering, and I declare that it is dishonorable."—Plato
"When a name comes, it immediately says more than the name." —Derrida
May 31, 2009: Unglued
I have a reputation for being a little bit...clumsy. I won't say which parent this tendency comes from, but it is definitely inherited, trust me. The stories I could tell. However, I will spare my parent the embarrassment of our shared genetic flaw and confess only to one of my own very recent mishaps.
Tomorrow begins the first set of UCA's SOAR orientation sessions. I have no idea what the acronym stands for; I just know that it's an opportunity for entering first-year students to visit campus with their parents, get the lay of the land, have lunch in the cafeteria, get registered, and visit with different student services departments in the Student Center: Minority Services, Disability Support, Residential Colleges, the Academic Success Center, etc. Well, my co-director and I decided that we would take every opportunity we could find to promote the Writing Center, so, last year (our first directing), we took a little tri-fold poster, some bookmarks, and our peppy little selves and thought we were well-armed for this meet-and-greet. When we got there...well, it was a sad realization, really: our tri-fold was crap, our bookmarks were out-dated, and our cuteness wasn't enough to save us. Everyone else there had leather-covered tri-folds, velvet table cloths, slick brochures, and even little cheerleader-type people who whooped and clapped like someone had just scored a touchdown every time a group of parents and students walked in the door. We had no idea it was a competition.
Well, if you know anything about me, you know I am not to be outdone. So, for this year's sessions, I chose our theme colors (mahogany, forest green, and gold), bought a new black tri-fold (this seems to be an important factor in the element of slickness), a tablecloth in mahogany, card stock in forest green and mahogany, special gold lettering, a gold-colored candy dish, yada, yada, yada. I even got some of the tutors in, for no pay, just the promise I would reward them somehow (what good sports they are!) to pose for pictures for the stupid thing. I had all my supplies and my work area ready to go after a little last minute shopping for things I had forgotten: like gold paint pens, replacement blades for my paper cutter, and rubber cement.
-->Begin Digression: I think only art majors and minors (me being the latter) truly understand the wonder that is rubber cement. Allow me to regale you with a litany of its magnificent charms: 1) it sticks, 2) it's made so that if you make a mistake, you just peel off the piece you affixed and re-place it correctly 3) it's quasi-permanent—if you decide to change something two years down the road, just peel it off, 4) you can get it all over the place--sling it everywhere—and then just take what's called a "gum eraser," especially meant for the purpose (or better still--your finger) and rub off the excess once it dries, 5) if you spill it, you have at least half an hour before it starts to ooze out of the bottle, 6) you can't glue your fingers together with it (as you can with Super Glue, which, yes, your Sans has done—on numerous occasions), and 7) it can't make you high (which you may not believe when I finish this story) or give you that awful sick feeling like model glue can. It's only drawback is that, being quasi-permanent, it has a tendency to come unglued--and now you understand the metaphor that is the title of this blog entry<--End Digression.
Everything was all laid out in the mockup I did in Publisher, I just needed to print out the pictures on glossy photo paper and chat with my dad, as is our habit once a week, before I could get started gluing everything down in its planned place. Now, it is also my dad's and my habit, during our chats, for me to have a glass of wine and for Dad to have a bottle of beer (unless he's drinking Pepsi). This has become an important part of our ritual weekly conversation: Dad: "What new good wine have you found?" "Me: "An interesting Bardolino by Folonari." Me: "Any new good beers?" Dad: "Three Floyds just put Calumet Queen back on the shelves for summer."
I had seven minutes to spare before we met online, so I poured my wine, sat it next to the printer, loaded up the glossy photo paper, and then remembered that the computer had given me a warning that the black ink was almost out on the last thing I printed. Photo paper is expensive, and I did NOT want to waste the color ink cartridge (which is also expensive) on one of those pictures that comes out all purple, pink, and blue because there's no black ink, so I changed the cartridge and pushed "Print" for the first picture. At that moment, I realized that I had accidentally closed the paper feeder door after replacing the ink cartridge. So I tried to roll across the floor, as quickly as I could, to open the door before the photo paper went through printing.
My right shoulder hit the floor first, then my right elbow, followed by my right knee, and so I just decided to go ahead, roll all the way over, and have a decent lay about, resting my head on the floor with my legs still hanging over the edge of the chair, closing my eyes, and cursing the gene that made me this way. And then I heard the footsteps running across the house: "Are you all right? Did you hit your head? Have you lost consciousness?" "I'm fine, except for being an idiot." Instead of offering me a hand to help me up, The Hubs asks, "Where's the camera?" So I ask, "Could you just open the paper feed door on the printer before the photo that's printing gets messed up?" He's nice. He did what I asked. But then he still wanted to know where the camera was. I decided, before he managed to find the camera, that my little rest aprés l'accident was definitely over, so I picked myself up off the floor pretty quickly at that point.
Let me explain what all I took out with me when I fell out of my chair (in case it isn't evident in the photo): a plastic serving tray with a paper doily and a stack of bagged Styrofoam plates from a little get-together I had yesterday afternoon and was intending to put in what we call our "storage room," the glass of wine (which was sitting on a coaster, no where near the serving tray or plates), gold mailing labels, about 50 sheets of blank copy paper I got for free from Office Depot for turning in ink cartridges (thank goodness it was free), 8 x 11 glossy photo paper (thankfully still in the box), and the chair. Now, there's something very important to notice in this photograph. I can attest that there was wine all over the place: the filing cabinet, the floor, the copy paper, the outer box of the photo paper, the bag the plates were in. But, not only did the wine glass not break during the fall, it also decided to just plop itself standing upright, almost as if it were glued to it, right in the middle of the serving tray on top of a now completely soaked paper doily.
If you ever hear me wishing aloud for the grace and dignity of a wine glass or that rubber cement came in gallon containers, you'll know I'm not completely insane.
May 28, 2009: Another Round of Tequila Shots, Please
So, let this be a lesson for all of you out there who read this blog.
Everything was going great guns this morning as I was getting ready for my first writer's meeting (i.e. cleaning the damn house) until I once again got the mail—the many-headed hydra that, when you cut off one tentacle, regenerates eight in its place every weekday at 11:00. The first thing I opened was a very official looking (and not the superficial official of the credit-card offer, either) notice from [insert name of a credit card company here]. Now, they had already sent me my bill, which I had already paid. And they had already sent me the annual "changes in terms," i.e., "we're not making enough off you, so we're going to try raising your interest rate and late fees and give you a smaller grace period (literally, the due date of my credit card changes by two days every month—I guess they think I won't notice), even though you've figured out how to beat the system and clearly these changes mean nothing to you."
So what I was expecting from them was something I had been warned about in the NYTimes: "People who routinely pay off their credit card balances have been enjoying the equivalent of a free ride, [David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report] said, because many have not had to pay an annual fee even as they collect points for air travel and other perks." Credit card companies are, therefore, considering charging interest on purchases from the moment they are purchased. Oh, yeah, and they have the nerve to call those of us who pay off in full every month and incur no finance charges "deadbeats." I think they've got it backwards, first of all, and second of all, I've got more imaginative and appropriate names for them, which I will spare the general populace.
So I was all prepared to fire off a fiery missive explaining how I would now be using a debit card rather than a credit card, thank you very much, because I don't really need to buy anything on credit; I just wanted the free rewards. So, good luck to you!
Imagine my consternation when, after Tuesday's fiasco, the letter read: "We have learned that some credit card information for your [insert name of a credit card company here] account may have been compromised at an undisclosed third party location. To ensure your account information is protected...". Basically they had cancelled my cards, changed my card number, and are sending new cards. And then they asked me to go over my statements to look for unusual charges and call them if I found anything. In other words, besides some major inconvenience, they also gave me a little assignment to work on.
Okay, I'm usually on top of these things. But back in February, I was really sick and things (like the pile on my desk) had gotten a little out of control. I noticed an odd charge on my statement, but I thought it was a game I had downloaded from Atari, which always uses a third-party company for billing. As I went through the past few months' statements, I started to realize: same charge on the same day every month, same amount, same phone number, and different URLs that all go back to BillingServices.com. And none of them were in the amount I had originally been charged for the game. Three phone calls and three hours later, here is what I learned: Someone who uses a Verizon.net e-mail account (I add that detail because I'm half expecting him to e-mail me to try to get the new CC#), and I'm guessing it was a pimply-faced teenager, as you'll understand in a moment, hacked into a server to get credit card information and used MY credit card to subscribe to an Internet video porn service for $39.71 a month.
Here's what I don't understand: if you're smart enough to hack through a company's high-tech security system, you are surely smart enough to figure out how to get porn off the Internet for free. Even my mom could figure that out, if she wanted to. And that's why I'm certain this little phracker is probably a pimply, scrawny little punk who deserves a good a**-kicking because only a stupid, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging kid could think no bigger than spending a piddling little amount of dough on porn—which, let me repeat—you can get for free! God, kid, where's your imagination?
So, even though I'm getting all my money back, I'm still pissed that I wasted three hours of my day and now have to memorize a new credit card number. Oh, yeah, and I've got an entire house to clean, a tri-fold to put together, a four-mile walk, lunch with a friend, and grocery shopping to do all in one day tomorrow. Thanks, you little bastard.
Moral of the story: Check your statements thoroughly.
May 26, 2009: I Badly Needed a Drink This Afternoon...
But it's only 2:30. And it's a weekday. Not that either of those facts has ever stopped me from having a little drinky-poo before. But today is unique. And I was thinking a few shots of tequila are in order—and that's generally not my style.
So let me tell you why I was almost driven to drink (excessively) on this particular day. I hate filing. I hate filing so badly that the three "sort-of" stacks of paper (they had more or less started to coalesce into one giant heap), which must have been 100 reams tall, imploded from my desk at home just as I was about to finally get started putting each piece of the heap away in a nice orderly fashion into one of the two filing cabinets I own. As the piles imploded (trust me, I saw it with my own eyes—they imploded, not exploded), they took out the pencil holder and all my pens and pencils, a flashlight, a hanger, a spool of thread, and other flotsam and jetsam (you know, you move it to one place, and it magically appears back in the place from which you moved it) that should have been recycled or thrown away long ago. Not only that, but there were several dead spiders revealed among the stacks that fell to the floor. Poor things probably died of suffocation.
If the implosion itself weren't bad enough, there are now a few items—you know those trifling little annoyances—I can't find. In fact, it was these little bits of trivia that had prompted me to finally tackle a labor that would have brought Hercules to his knees: "Just send me to Hades and punish me for all eternity! Anything but this!" One example of this trivia is the jovial notice from the IRS that says, "YOU OWE US $477," but then in fine print says, "Actually, you probably don't, but you forgot to file a 2007 Schedule D. So if you'll just print one out from our Web site and fill out the accompanying form (which I can't find due to the implosion), we'll be happy to forget the whole thing." I may also have lost a silly bill for my husband's interim health insurance (he was laid off in April, and I'm not sure which is more cruel—losing one's job of 17 years or the amount of mail one receives as a consequence), but I did find a notice threatening to cancel the coverage if he doesn't pay up by, like, today.
Additionally, I have no idea why there are a gazillion Explanation of Benefits (EOB's, as the insurance companies like to call them—just to confuse the rest of of us) for the same bite-wing x-rays taken in October that the company, let's just refer to them as "DD," refuses to pay $50 for. I suspect my dentist's bill coordinator (she's 10 kinds of awesome, believe me) is fighting them over it, and I've got news for them: she'll win in the end. So they might as well save some money on paper and postage and leave me the heck out of it.
One good thing about this implosion is that I found 1) the stapler, 2) my keys, 3) a good pair of scissors, 4) two checks made out to me and The Hubs which totaled over $3500, and 5) Buddy, our cat, who's been missing for two weeks (I'm kidding about that last one). The other good thing is that I bopped over to the bank to deposit the checks, and the teller, who I had already heard giving a sales pitch as she waited on the customer before me, started her pitch with me (which I was going to blow off because I already use online banking) and said the magic words: "Do you have our online paperless statement service?"
Me: "Um, no, how does that work?"
Teller: "Oh, well it's free, and there's no paperwork involved at all. Basically, if you're interested, I'll go ahead and sign you up right now—you don't even have to stay for me to do it—and you'll get all your statements online."
Me: "You mean I'll never get another paper statement?"
Teller: "Yes, that's right."
Me: "Oh, my God! That would be so wonderful! Yes, yes, I would REALLY like this service"
Teller: (a bit surprised by my enthusiasm) "Well, then, I'll get that done right now."
And then, guess what I did. I came right home and went to the Web site of every company's account I hold—electric, gas, credit cards, insurance—and signed up for paperless statements. What a marvel of human engineering: the paperless statement. I mean, all of my bills are all automatically paid, anyway, why have I been wading through these mountains of paper for so long?
Ah, well. Instead of filing, I now have a lot of shredding to do (because, when you go paperless, each statement is available for at least 13-months online, depending on the company) and a little IRS form to find. I think I'll have just one shot of tequila before I get started.
Update: June 9, 2009: I found the IRS forms and happily mailed them on June 1st, well before the June 10th deadline. Hooray!
Dad Alert™: The material contained herein may not be suitable for all audiences, particularly if you're my dad.
TMI Alert™: My guy friends may not want to read this either.
So, I went on an overnight shopping trip to Branson, MO with some of my BFFs this past Monday and Tuesday. Our ages ranged, and I'm guessing here, from 41 (with me being the youngest) to somewhere in the late 50's. One of my first thoughts was how cool it was that I have friends from all different generations: Baby Boomers, Jonesers, and, of course, me and the one other Gen-Xer on the trip. And I thought about the fact that I've also got close friends from the Silent Generation (my folks and their siblings, namely), but also from the Millenials.
One of my later thoughts was how focussed our discussion seemed to be on becoming elderly—and it wasn't the Baby Boomers who were talking about it the most, either. It was the Jonesers and the Gen-Xers. S. said she couldn't stand the thought of being put in an old people's home. L. said we wouldn't have to worry about it because we had focussed so much on exercise and eating the right things, getting the appropriate tests at the appropriate ages, etc. And each time this conversation would come up, I would imagine my grand-aunt Jewell living alone to the ripe old age of 94 way out in Bee Branch, AR, where doctors and hospitals are miles away. But then I would remember, dear God (whom I don't believe in), I have my first mammogram on Friday. Ugh. And I would say, "How about this awesome weather? Could we have gotten anything better for our trip?" In other words, changing the subject seemed like a really good idea at the time.
It was on the way back home that I announced I was in the midst of a full-blown mid-life crisis. The other Gen-Xer was certain mid-life crises occurred in one's fifties. I let it go. But the first thing I did when I got back to the house is look up average life expectancies on Wikipedia. For the U.S., the average is 77-80. Mathematically speaking, this means I'm already on the downward descent of the hill. And then there was the damn mammogram looming over my head: if there's any indicator of a woman being in the middle of her life, it has to be this one test—and I was one year overdue for it. I tried to console myself with the fact that in some parts of Africa 20 is middle age. But that's hardly consolation, is it? In fact, it's down right depressing.
I put it out of my mind on Wednesday, prepping for a soiree with a few Millenials (I made a salad and chose a wine—phew, that was exhausting). But Thursday, I went for a four-mile walk with and made lunch for another Millenial, and all that walking and being in the kitchen got me thinking again. So I spilled the beans: "I think I'm having a mid-life crisis, and I don't know what to do about it." Poor A. As if, at the ripe old age of 22, she would have any advice for me. She offered, "Well, don't guys buy new cars or something?" And I replied that I wasn't a guy. Then she suggested, "Well, you could become someone's mistress, " and I could tell by the look on her face that she was not only grasping at straws but highly doubtful about the prospect. So I said, "Too stereotypical." It was then that I decided, out loud, that I would make a list of all the things I would do to get myself through my mid-life crisis...and possibly beyond.
But before we get to the list, the mammogram, despite all the paranoia certain kinds of people inflict on the naïve ("Oh, it's so painful!" "Oh, it's so embarrassing!" "Oh, it takes forever!") was a piece of cake. In fact, it was about as painful, embarrassing, and long as the Land Shark skits from early episodes of Saturday Night Live:
Land Shark: (knocking three times) "Mrs. Gevorshghe...*mumble,* *mumble,* *mumble*?"
Woman: (through the door) "Excuse me?"
Land Shark: "Plumber."
Woman: "I didn't call for a plumber."
Land Shark: "Mammogram."
Woman: "I'm pretty sure they don't deliver mammograms. You're that crazy Land Shark who devours women, aren't you?"
Land Shark: "Flowers."
Woman: (gets out nine millimeter and shoots Land Shark through the door, killing him instantly.] "That'll teach you to scare innocent women!"
So now for the list. In this middle decade of my life, I will do the following:
Here's to mid-life crises!
I teach; cook; write; hike; read; dally; canoe; eat; write; rock 'n roll; eat some more; tumble and fall; dawdle; complain; bento; write; organize; watch movies; ignore e-mail; renovate; write; curse computers; brew my tea dark and bitter; herd cats; live in Arkansas; Plato, Derrida, and rhetoric (yes, those are verbs); remain overly cautious; persuade; imbibe; GTD; and oh, yeah, I write a little.
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Abigail, She Wrote
The Old Sans
Netflix Movies at Home
Next up: season one of The Paper Chase and season one of Little Britain USA
The Many Shades of Sans
Books I'm Reading (Trying Hard to Polish Off Some Unfinished Ones)
Opposite of Fate
Book of the Werewolf
Guide to My Ratings
Ø I haven't finished/watched it yet.
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2004-2008 by Jennifer Deering. All rights