Friday, December 31, 2010

Good-bye 2010, Hello 2011!!

Dear Readers,

So what did you think of 2010?  On the whole, I thought it was a mixed bag.  On the one hand, I've been having a lot of adventures, what with relocating to Massachusetts; on the other, I've picked up some credit card debt, and I'm feeling a little behind in the career.

Today I thought I'd share a little note I posted on Facebook.  One of my friends suggested listing 10 interesting or remarkable things about your 2010 and 10 things you hope to do in 2011.  Here's my list--hold me to it, OK?  And feel free to share your own lists--I'd love to know what you thought of last year and what you hope for the new one!

Happy New Year!
Your pal,

List 10 things you've done in the past year that are remarkable, memorable, or most interesting.
Then list 10 things you plan on doing in 2011.

Ten in 2010:
1.  Successfully relocated to Massachusetts.
2.  Lots of roller derby accomplishments: Penalty tracked a Friday night bout at ECDX in June; picked to penalty track Eastern Regionals; picked to penalty wrangle at Championships.  Awesome times all around.
3.  Finished the rough draft of a novel.
4.  Made more money than I did in 2009.
5.  Did a few summer biathlons--found a new sport!
6.  Had some good run-ins with seafood (living on the coast helps -- I'm less fearful of it here)
7.  Made some new friends---and felt that I've kept in decent touch (not stellar, but decent) with the old.
8.  Learned to make a kick-ass whoopie pie.
9.  Did a decent amount of traveling:  3x to Chicago, Philly, Long Island, Portland, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, road trip to Florida and back.
10.  Got my gun license.

Ten in 2011:
1.  Make more money than I did in 2010.
2.  Edit rough draft of novel and start sending it out by end of Q1.
3.  Not worry about having children.
4.  Put photos in photo albums.
5.  Clean off the DVR.
6.  Read at least 30 books--preferably ones off my own shelf.
7.  Go to NYC and Vermont--and it would be nice to get out of the country again.
8.  Go cross-country skiing.
9.  Earn enough that I can travel for roller derby this year.
10.  Learn to bake really good bread.

Oh, and one more for 2011:  Help build a bigger, stronger officiating team for the Boston Derby Dames.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Postcard from Florida

Dear Readers,

It's been a few days since I last wrote.  We got to Florida just fine.  It took a LONG time -- we rolled in at 3:30 AM on Wednesday the 22nd, but that was partly due to sleeping in a little bit, and partly due to a little detour to Charleston, SC to see a friend of the Boy's who owns a restaurant there (fries with bearnaise sauce?  Unbelievable!).  Since we've arrived, we've had a lovely few days.  Weather at first was good enough for swimming outside, but now it's gotten a bit cold.  Santa was good to me, which was nice, and we got the annual "Jean Shepherd is an awful, awful man" lecture from Ma Jaracz.  All in all a nice holiday.

We're still "on vacation" for a few more days, but I've got a story to write before we leave, and the Boy is getting some work done as well.  Then it's time to head back up through the massive amounts of snow we missed along the East Coast.  Hopefully we'll have smooth driving on the way back, and we'll be able to get into our house.  There's nothing quite like winter, right?

I'll probably take a few more days off from the blog to catch up on some reading of regular books and figuring out some goals for next year.  If I don't talk to you before then, have a happy new year!

Your pal,

p.s. -- Is it "good riddance" to 2010, or "we enjoyed you, 2010"?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Postcard from the Road

Dear Readers,

It's time for our annual Christmas trip to Florida--only this year, we're driving (take that, TSA with your x-ray vision machines/thorough pat downs).  From Massachusetts.

We left Monday, late morning.  The plan was to drive to Charleston, South Carolina, see one of the Boy's friends, stay the night, and then finish up the drive to the Space Coast on Tuesday.

It's Monday night/Tuesday morning.  We're in Richmond, Virginia for the night.

Charleston is a long ways away, my friends.  Like over 16 hours away.  Although we should've left super-early on Monday, we didn't.  Work kept us up late on Sunday, and we wanted to get a decent night's sleep before hitting the road.  Then we hit traffic going over the George Washington Bridge in New York, and our plans changed.

That happens.  Luckily we have time, and we're in no rush.  That means we have more time to play the "how many different state license plates will we see" game (so far, 28!), more time to stop for gas, and more time to enjoy the enjoy the view from the interstate.

More from the road as time allows!
Your pal,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is More Music

Dear KISS 108 FM,

Is Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" really the ONLY Christmas song you can play?  There aren't others?  Hasn't Rihanna got a song of "S&M" holiday cheer?  Doesn't Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" have a Christmas remix about Santa drinking (a really super spiked) egg nog?  Can't you ask Justin Timberlake to bring "Christmas Back"?

C'mon, there are more holiday pop songs out there.  Why must you pound this one into our skulls?  I understand that it's difficult to have more than 10 songs in your rotation, but can't you make an exception for the holidays?

Your pal,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Complaintiment

Dear Dickies,

Let me just say that I thought I was going to have to write you a big ol' letter of complaint.  Then the Boy found a hunk of awesomeness on your website, and I have to tell you how great you are.  Call it a complaintiment, if you will.

This all started when the Boy was doing some Christmas shopping for me, and he needed to confirm what I wanted and get the right size.  This present happens to be a Dickies Eisenhower jacket so that I can put my new Boston Derby Dames patch on the back and get my derby name embroidered on the front and basically look like a bad-ass.

The Boy found the right item on your website and then discovered that said jacket is imported.  He's trying to do as much "made in America" shopping as possible, so when he saw the "imported," I heard a bit of "you've got to be freakin' kidding me, " and "mother FUCKER."  Merry Christmas, right?

But then!  He saw the Dickies Detroit 874 pant--the pants campaign that's designed to fight unemployment, where people buy a pair of Dickies' Made in the USA Detroit 874 pants, and Dickies not only gives free shipping, but also donates a pair of 874 pants to the Salvation Army of Metro Detroit.

Both of us were blown away by the awesomeness of this campaign.  The Boy's from the Detroit Metro Region, so he understands the place and just how hard it is for people there.  We appreciate the fact that you're doing something incredibly tangible, and we hope the campaign is a big success (not to mention that the Boy is kind of geeked out about getting his 874 pants).

Thanks for creating good--and spreading some good will.  I will wear my Eisenhower jacket with pride.

Your pal,

Monday, December 13, 2010


Dear Readers,

Is it just me, or does the second weekend in December seem like the busiest time for holiday stuff?  Since I'm in a new place, I'm not super-busy, but this weekend was kind of a whirlwind of last-minute shopping, cooking, baking, and....well...stuffing my face.

Sigh.  I've seen some recent pictures of me, and it's not pretty.  I've gained a bunch of weight back (though still not as totally heavy as before), and I'm kind of upset about it.  I'd say it's time to really focus on doing something about it, but I've been tracking my steps for over a month (it's amazing how much owning a car cuts back on your walking...or how forcing yourself to walk for an errand suddenly feels like a HUGE hardship).  I've also been fairly slacker in my exercising.  This is not good.

Trying to stay focused during the holidays is pretty hard, but I'm going to try to get back to a better weight--one where I can't really feel how heavy I've become.  Sadly, this will take several months, if I do it right, but hey--it's time.  I just want to feel lighter.  I've felt it before, and I can get it back.  I probably need you to hold me accountable though.

Time for a workout.

Your pal,

Friday, December 10, 2010

DirecTV Responds!

Hey--DirecTV got back to me within 24 hours--just like they said they would on their website:

Thanks for writing. 

I care about how you feel regarding the removal of G4. I appreciate being given the chance to respond to your concern and would be glad to provide you with the information that you need. 

Our agreement with G4 expired at the end of October, since we were unable to reach an agreement to continue carrying it; G4 has been removed from our lineup.

I completely understand that G4 has been an important part of your viewing experience and we are sorry that we are not able to continue offering it. We thank you for being a DIRECTV customer and will continue to provide you with the superior television entertainment that you have come to know and expect.

In addition, we provide a wide variety of programming in order to appeal to the broadest audience possible. We understand that not everyone will like each program. However, our ongoing research tells us that most customers like being able to choose from so many viewing options.

Furthermore, I would like to personally assure you that your feedback about G4 is very important to us. I have forwarded your comment to DIRECTV management, who review every suggestion, inquiry and complaint for trends from our important customers to determine what channels and changes should be considered.  

With regard to the Undercover Boss show, the experience gave DIRECTV CEO Mike White a better understanding of our company and a greater appreciation for the people who work hard to make DIRECTV a great company.

Thanks again for writing. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Jorge Ryan R.
DIRECTV Customer Service

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Loss

Dear DirecTV,

What happened to my G4?  It's that time of the year--my "Ninja Warrior" fever is starting to spike, especially now that the show is posting a lot of updates on Facebook.  I got really excited and tried to set my DVR to record "American Ninja Warrior," only to discover that I no longer get the channel.  It seems to have disappeared off my channel guide, much like a ninja stealing away in the night.  Color me not pleased.

[note:  I have noticed that the DVR has no longer been recording episodes of "Ninja Warrior" and "Unbeatable Banzuke," but I've got so much stuff to watch that I haven't investigated.  Besides, the new season of "Ninja Warrior" has become as Christmas to me as "A Christmas Story."]

Is no one on the DirectTV system watching G4?  Has it become too expensive to carry?  I mean, the channel lineup is becoming increasingly odd--RFD TV (which I hadn't heard of until today, but is apparently "Rural America's Most Important Network") is currently showing "Big Joe Polka Show."  What's your customer mix of urban vs. rural?  I'd understand if a good percentage of your customers are rural, but still--don't you want to reach the tech-savvy kids too?

I also supposedly can now play games on DirecTV.  It feels like there are more shopping and informercial channels than ever.  Who's watching this stuff?  Does it really bring in more money than regularly programmed channels?

Please let me know why I'm paying not to be able to see some of my favorite shows anymore.  If I can understand this better, maybe I wouldn't be so ticked off.

Your pal,

P.S. -- What'd you think of your boss being on "Undercover Boss"?  Has the company changed much since he was on the show?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wrigley Responds!

Dear Ms. Jaracz,
Thank you for letting us know how you feel about Five® Solstice Gum.We're happy to hear from you and truly value your feedback.  Input from customers like you helps us to constantly make improvements and ensure that we are always providing you with top-quality products.
We introduced Five to provide our customers with a fresh, new flavor for the brand they love.  We're very sorry that you didn't like this flavor, but we greatly appreciate you taking the time to try it and sharing your thoughts with us.
We'll be sharing your feedback with our researchers, who are constantly working on new flavors to add to our product line.

Barbra North
Consumer Care Representative

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Motherlode of Labels

Dear Readers,

Apparently the non-profits did not get my memo about sending me address labels, because I keep getting them.  And it feels like they're pouring in--I believe I have some for a nature-related cause, then I got some from St. Jude's , and I think some others might have come in as well.  I'm definitely going to have to start sending out more letters and cards just to get through them all.

However, the most dumbfounding batch has been from St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, SD, which is a school for Lakota children.  They sent me:

  • Address labels (at the top, it says "Wopila tanka - that's many thanks in Lakota")
  • An already-filled-out certificate of appreciation for generously donating
  • Gift tags
  • Stationary seals (at the top it says, "The enclosed stationery seals are a gift to you, and I'm sorry I am unable to fulfill additional requests," as if people are knocking down their doors to get extra pages of stickers)
  • Two notepads (TWO)
  • And....a Dreamcatcher (with a Legend of the Dreamcatcher card)
That's right--a Dreamcatcher!  Sadly, the card also notes that the Dreamcatcher is, "Not intended for use by small children," which prompted the Boy to comment, "So small children can't have dreams?"

Apparently not.

Although I'm blown away by this mailing, it seems to be nothing new for St. Joseph's -- Jonathan Kamens over at Something Better to Do discussed their mailings last year, and boy, did he get some great comments!  The BBB isn't really a fan of them either and reports that in the year ending 6/30/2008, they spent a little over $15 million on fund raising expenses.  Of course, they got almost $42 million in contributions, so apparently this massive package works on some levels.  Just not my level.  Not this year.

Anyone else hear from St. Joseph's?  Any other fun charity requests?

Your pal, 

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Taste of Winter?

Dear Wrigley,

As I was purchasing gum to have on hand for when I fly (I don't know about you, but my ears can clog up pretty easily.  Gum saves me most of the time), I saw your 5 Solstice flavor.  I couldn't help but wonder what the solstice tastes like.  I've discovered that your website doesn't help--every other flavor of 5 and 5 React has some sort of mint or fruit flavor. (except "Lush," which is described as "a crisp tropical."  A crisp tropical what???  Tropical is an adjective, not a noun!  For crying out loud--you have smart people at your company.  Nobody has noticed this one?!)

Anyway, I bought Solstice (also described as "A warm and cool winter," whatever that means).  You know what the solstice tastes like?


If you're looking to pare down your SKUs, I totally recommend getting rid of this one.  No sense in putting big marketing dollars into a crap product.  Save it for the flavors that actually taste like something.

As for me, I probably won't bother trying the other 5 flavors.  I'll stick with the Wrigley originals because my mind now thinks that every other flavor of 5 and 5 React will have some essence of ass to it.  Oh, wait.  Is that what you're alluding to when you describe Lush as "a crisp tropical"?  *Shudder*

Your pal,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Days Left!

Dear Readers,

There are two more days left in NaNoWriMo--two more days where you have to endure a fairly crappy blog post in which I complain about the number of words I have left to write to get my novel (at least a very bad first draft of one) finished.

I'm close though--so close I can feel it.  I cranked out 5,220 words yesterday to bring me to a grand total of 44,351 words.  To get to the 50,000 word prize (which I believe is basically bragging rights), I owe myself another 5,639 words.  That's a mere 2,825 per day.  After yesterday's marathon, I think it's doable.

Do I still like my book and my main character?  For the most part, yes.  I know the book needs some massive changes.  And by massive, I mean the whole first section needs to go by the wayside, and I'm sure there are some dreadful passages where I was trying to come up with something--anything, beyond going with a brand-new story in the middle--just to boost my word count.

Still, I think I have a good start.  I'll take a couple of weeks off to get some other work done and read a bunch of chick lit novels.  And get U2 and Coldplay out of my head.  That's pretty much been my soundtrack for the book, and I'm close to the point where I need to listen to something else.  Or, I need to find more Coldplay, because I've only deemed a couple of songs off the one album I own to be worthy of listening to for writing.

Overall though, I'm down to the wire.  I just need to make sure I finish the race.

See you in a couple!

Your pal,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rambling Like a Pundit--or a Nob

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I checked my blog stats, and I was amazed at the numbers--over double the number of people who usually tune into the blog.  I couldn't believe it--where did these people come from, and how had they found my blog?  It took me until today to realize, Oh, yeah, I wrote about Sarah Palin.

Technically, I wrote about "Sarah Palin and the retarded child," which actually sounds like the title of a children's book, if the book had been translated into another language, but the title couldn't quite fit into that other language, so the translator made something work, and that something--when translated back into English--sounds kind of awkward.  It's like when I lived in Munich and the movie "Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me" came out, but in German the title became "Austin Powers:  Spion in geheimer Missionarsstellung," which translates back as "Austin Powers:  Spy in the Secret Missionary Position."  I picture the same thing happening to Sarah Palin and the Child with Down Syndrome.

[Note to publishers:   Please do not consider publishing said title.  It reminds me a little too much of a children's book called Little Wu and the Watermelons, which apparently was a great book when it came out in the 1950s, but in the 1970s, when my friend J and I discovered it on our school library shelf, we found it quite hilarious.  I can only imagine that Sarah Palin and the Child with Down Syndrome would be written in such a way that might seem sensitive today, but would only be heading for a spot on Awful Library Books tomorrow.]

[Note to readers:  In looking up Little Wu and the Watermelons, I discovered that its author Bea Liu lived in a dome house.  The Boy and I still talk about living in a dome.  I now feel slightly guilty for mocking her book years ago, when it turns out that we are kindred dome spirits.  Score one for Calvinist guilt!]

Speaking of books though, Sarah is peddling her own book, and bless her heart, her tour is apparently stopping not only at bookstores, but also at the places where the normal people (i.e.--REAL AMERICANS) hang out:  Sam's Club, Costco, Kroger, Meijer, and Wal-Mart.  And that got me thinking--isn't it kind of a reverse snobbery for the people who only shop at Wal-Mart to pick on the types who don't?  I get deemed as part of the liberal media elite because I don't want to shop at a store that I don't think does good business--though I'm supposed to love it because it saves, saves, saves me money!   Well, these "Nobs" can have their Sarah Palin book signings--keep my elite liberal Massachusetts bookstores out of the hullabaloo!

Anyway, that's enough Sarah Palin talk for one day.  I'm not finished with Sarah Palin though.  Why?  There's bound to be at least one other Sarah Palin out there in America who doesn't like to be associated with the infamous pundit (do you call Sarah Palin a politician anymore?).  I'd like to imagine she's the one who claims her name is now pronounced "SAH-rah PAH-lin" and is trying to make a name for herself, even though she lives in a town full of Nobs and longs to shop at someplace other than Wal-Mart.  Who, upon learning about Sarah Palin the way we all did--when McCain picked her as her running mate--up and quit the beauty pageant circuit, even though everyone in the know had her as the odds on favorite to win Miss America.

Will the two Sarah Palins be inexorably linked forever in the way only Dominick Dunne could imagine?  Keep tuning in and find out!

Your pal,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Relishing Research

Dear Readers,

Today is a day where I feel too chicken to really write the person who's the subject of this entry directly.  See, I'm trying to do a little bit of research to help me along with my NaNoWriMo book, and I realized that I have to re-read a book I used to own--and purged from my own collection because I didn't care for it all that much.

Say what?

Yep, my own book seems to be veering toward the chick lit category, which I don't particularly mind.  I thoroughly enjoy me some good chick lit.  As I near the end of writing the first draft, I wanted to read a bunch of chick lit so that when it comes time to start the editing process, I'll have a better handle on what does and does not constitute a good chick lit book.

Sadly for me, one book that I thought of while I've been writing my own is Wedding Season by Darcy Cosper.  I got this when it first came out, based on a recommendation by Daily Candy.  It's the tale of a woman who's stuck going to 17 weddings in six months.  She and her boyfriend don't ever want to get married, but all these weddings have her reexamining her choices.

I remember being highly disappointed with this book--to me it wasn't "a witty, wicked comedy of manners in the satirical tradition of Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh" as described on the book cover.  But, in my novel, I'm dealing with a large series of events, so I wanted to take another look at Cosper's book to see once more how she handled it, and figure out what exactly I don't like about her book so that I can fix my own.  Color me unthrilled (but thankful that the library had a copy).

Luckily, I have a stack of other chick lit that should keep me occupied--two or three Jennifer Weiners, and a couple of other random ones I pulled off the library shelf.  I hope to cram in some Austen and Bronte too, as well as reread a few that are on my own shelves.  If you've got some favorite chick lit books, let me know.  I want to expose myself to as much as possible.

Your pal,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ma J's Comedy Gold

Dear Readers,

Oh!  I've forgotten to tell you the latest, greatest Ma Jaracz story!

When I visited them the last time I was in Chicago, I "innocently" asked my mother if she was watching the Sarah Palin reality show.  I say "innocently," of course, because I know Ma J is not a Palin fan, and that she'd probably have an opinion or two about her and the show.  What I didn't expect was the several minute diatribe about Palin and the fact that she was pimping herself on TV and had better not run for President because she was a quitter--but I was not prepared for how she wrapped up her rant:

And what I want to know is, who's taking care of the retarded kid?

Readers, I could not have asked for better comedy gold.  I don't mean to exploit my aging parents, but senior citizens say the best stuff!

At the time, I laughed, because, really, no one says "retarded" anymore in reference to someone who actually has mental retardation.  In fact, "retarded" can be considered a derogatory word--well, except here in Boston, where any jerk can be and is quickly deemed a "fuckin' retahd."

My mom, to her credit, defended herself--because from the way she was saying it, she did mean actually mentally retarded.  She just didn't use the phrase "baby with Down's Syndrome," which is apparently more acceptable and/or the correct way to phrase it (this I picked up from my medical editor and educator friends.  I didn't realize "Down's Syndrome baby" was not accurate).

I don't know if she'll ever change the way she phrases things, but I do have to agree with her--who is taking care of Trig these days?

Your pal,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Catching Up/Falling Behind

Dear Readers,

 I realize I didn't post yesterday.  Sorry about that.  Since I was gone at the WFTDA Championships last week, I've actually fallen behind in a lot of the extra things I do.  Like blogging.  And NaNoWriMo.

How's that going?  Thanks for asking!  If you write recommended daily average (1,667 words) throughout the month, you should be at 28,334 words today.  I'm at 15,063.  Yep.  I'm a little off right now.

I was actually slightly ahead of average going into my trip to Chicago, but then I ended up not writing for eight days, and that's had me playing catch-up.  Yesterday I cranked out almost 3,000 words in the course of a few hours.  Today I hope to do the same (or more).  Hopefully I'll catch up to where I need to be to finish on time.  Right now, my little stats page tells me that at my pace, I'll finish by December 27, and that I need to write 2,688 words a day to finish on time.  That's a lot, but I think it can be done.

How's my story?  That I'm not so sure about.  I've had people ask me what it's about, and I've mumbled some incoherent thoughts about the germ of the idea I had, to which I got silence in return.  Yeah, not a good sign.  15,000 words in though, I'm getting to know my main character a bit, and I think she's pretty cool.  I enjoy hanging out with her.  What she's going to do, I don't know right now, but I think my germ of a story will fade away because whatever my main character is up to is definitely more interesting than what I came up with in the first place.   That happens.  It just means that editing and reshaping the story might be a pain in the neck, but that's all part of the process.  It'd be nice to actually have something that's  worth reading when it's all said and done.

I'll try to keep up with you too, but I'm just letting you know that this month, you might have to take a back seat here and there.  Stay with me though!

Your pal,

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gift-Giving Conundrum

Dear Readers,

Over the last couple of days, I've realized that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means holiday shopping starts right after that.  While I'm excited about the gift-giving season, I oddly feel a bit at a loss as to what sorts of gifts to give several (read: most) people on my list.

Oh, sure, gift-giving depends a lot on your budget and the recipient's interests, but I'm curious:  What gifts are you giving this year?  What are you giving to the person who has everything?  Too many clothes?  Too many books?  Too many toys?  Too many years of food gift baskets?  Too much jewelry?  Too many tchotchkies?

What are this year's hot gift items?

What are gifts that you've received in the past that have been awesome?  Not so awesome?  A nice idea, but the item didn't work as well as you thought?

I'm starting to plow through the catalogs now, but I'd love to know what you're giving this year.  Help a sister out!

Your pal,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Quick Postcard

Dear Mucinex,

Please work.


The Boy is getting freaked out about my voice sounding almost exactly like Jeff Da Ref's.


Your pal,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ying and Yang

Dear Readers,

Well, the WFTDA Championships are over.  It was a fantastic weekend of officiating--I got to work with a great crew of officials and watch two other great crews officiate.  OK, really it was like I was on a Dream Team--the level of officiating was really high for every bout, and I was so proud to be a part of it.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  Being a part of an incredible weekend that you never want to end because just about every part of it was SO. FRICKIN. AWESOME!  Yeah, that's how it was.  I mean, nobody would notice this cool little "covering refs during the slow game" choreography that my penalty tracker and I magically came up with during a bout.  It worked fantastically, was beautiful, and totally geeked out my non-skating officiating self.  

It was just nice to be in my element--to know that I could do a good job and was doing a good job.  That I could opine for hours about best practices for non-skating positions and have everyone around me want to do the same.

I'll have to try to hold onto those feelings because I'm heading back down the slide of rejection into my writer's world.  This is a world I also love, but in which I usually don't feel so confident.  Take today, when I received another rejection.  It was actually a really nice rejection, but nonetheless, I felt a little sting, a little taste of inadequacy, a little feeling like I don't really know what I'm doing.  

However, I didn't become a good NSO by sitting on my butt and watching the action.  I only learned by doing.  I just have to keep that in mind when I'm writing.  It takes a lot of practice to write a decent piece, and you're going to have to get rejected a few times before you succeed.  I don't relish the thought, but I'm stuck with the way this world works.  


Your pal, 

P.S.--Thanks for sitting through yet another pep talk to myself.  Things have been slow, so I've felt the need to have a lot of them lately.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who's It All About?

Dear Readers,

I had a bit of a meltdown last night.  The Boy and I like being all civic-minded, so we went to a Parks & Recreation meeting.  Our town is renovating a park; we'd like a fitness trail sort of installation nearby; it made sense.

The evening turned out to be two meetings.  The first was a regular department update, and the second was about this park.

I'll admit, I don't know much about what our town offers.  I've looked up some stuff on the town website, but I haven't found much that's available for someone like me to get involved in.  Apparently, that's because there isn't.  In my town, if you're out of high school and aren't a male over 30 who wants to play on a basketball league, the Parks & Recreation Department has nothing to offer you.  That's right, every class and sports league is for the children.

I've had this rant before.  I get tired of all of our energy going toward the children.  And what happens if you get someone who was really involved with the Parks' program, then graduated from high school and maybe doesn't go to college.  He's around town still, but can't sign up for the activities he used to do.  Welcome to adulthood!

Granted, the department director was well aware of the fact that the offerings for adults were weak and wants to fix that.  It'll just take time and help from us.

OK.  I can deal with that--though it would be nice to have some sort of adult classes through the Parks & Recreation Department, because they tend to be pretty cheap.  Adults do have plenty of opportunities for continuing ed--there's an arts center in town and plenty of other adult ed centers in the surrounding towns and cities.  However, these classes can be pretty pricey--and by that I mean that a several-week class can be way over $100, if not closer to $200.  If you're on a tighter budget, this isn't doable for you.

I'm not asking for the world--just something like a 4-week drawing class for $50.  It doesn't have to be from a master--an art student would be a fine teacher for a class like this.  Just something basic so that I can try it and see if I like it, without breaking the bank.  Is that so hard to provide?

So if the first meeting wasn't disheartening enough, the second one certainly was.  This was the latest in a series of meetings about how to refurbish this park and make it useful.  The drawings presented showed a t-ball diamond, a playground, and a hockey court among all the features.  All things for designed for kids.

As the conversation went along, it became more obvious that the space was intended for children.  One woman complained because even though she didn't mind kids, she didn't want them to be so loud in her backyard.  A little while later, the Boy mentions having some fitness stations for adults, and the designer talks about those a little bit (i.e.--fitness stations work better when they're along a jogging path).  Then I can't help myself and talk about having a space for adults, and how we can't find a frickin' chin-up bar in this town (there is one in the next town over, which I happily stumbled upon one day, but I'm of the opinion that every town needs to have at least one chin-up bar).  Of course, I get that slightly emotional tinge to my voice, and I just have to shut up.

The meeting winds up, and we talk to a lovely woman who tells us that our town is made up of waves of immigrants, so they pretty much worked and reared children--they didn't have time for their own extra-curriculars, so why should the town provide them.  It makes sense, but I still didn't like it....and then as I thought about it in the car, I kind of lost it.

Not a great moment for me, but I just hit my point where I felt that once again, I didn't matter.  I'm tired of not mattering.  I'm going through a little low patch with my writing right now, and I'm dealing with a lot of rejection/no money coming in (or not knowing when the outstanding money is ever showing up).  I don't work around other people, so I don't have a ton of regular contact with the outside world.  I'm a woman, and there are times where it feels that I don't matter as much because of that (another post for another day, but you ever notice on a reality competition show that a woman will say something like, "I really want a woman to win!" and it's OK for her to say that.  A guy never says, "I want a guy to win!").  And--of course--I don't have children.  Sigh.

A few minutes later, the Boy joked me back to normal.  Or at least normal, with a hint of bitterness.

Your pal,

P.S.--I'm heading to Chicago for Uproar by the Lakeshore, the WFTDA Championships.  I may not post regularly through Wednesday, but I'll do my best to touch base.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Sure Repeal?

Dear Massachusetts Liquor Store Owners,

Congratulations!  The ballot question to repeal the state alcohol tax passed!  Now comes the interesting part--the part where we voters have to be diligent about making sure this measure benefits us too. 

The repeal goes into effect on January 1, 2011.  What I hope to see--and I think all of us who voted for the repeal want to see--is that the final receipt is lower than what I've been paying.  I don't want to walk into a liquor store in January and suddenly see that all of the alcohol is priced a little higher than what it's priced at now.  Then it doesn't matter if the tax is gone--I'm still paying the same amount.

I'm actually worried that you'll pull the whole bait and switch move, so I'll be watching the prices and seeing if the repeal actually makes the difference I voted for.  Look, you know I was on your side.  Now let's hope that you're on mine.  If not, fine.  I'll keep taking my money to New Hampshire.

Your pal,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dear Non-Profits,

I've got enough address labels now.  You can quit sending them.

Honestly, I'd considered ordering some from a stationery place when I first moved, but right away I got all sorts of fun address labels from you....actually more labels than I can use for a while.

So, you can stop sending them.  Even you, March of Dimes, who actually sent me a dime.  It's so rare that I get paid to open my mail.  Nice touch!

Really, though.  I budget my annual giving to organizations I care about.  Not that I think the organizations who send me labels aren't doing good work, it's just that I only have so much money, and it just doesn't spread out as far as I'd like.

I know you hope the address labels entice me to send you a little cash, but they don't.  I use them, sure, but that's about it.  Apparently they're an effective fundraising tool for somebody though, because you still use this tactic.

Just take my name off your list before you send out another mailing.  It'll save us both some trouble.


Your pal,

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Not-In-The-Tourist-Guide Adventure

Dear Readers,

If the Boy and I have nothing planned for the weekend, we like to have an "Adventure."  We have a lot of places we want to explore in our new home region, so if we schedule an Adventure, we're more likely to do them.

We've had some good ones so far:

This Saturday, we were talking about what adventure to have this weekend, when I noticed a scab just below my left knee.  I took a closer look--well, I went to pick at it, because that's what I do, and as the Boy was yelling at me not to pick it, I realized it was moving.

I had a tick.  A TICK!

Being a mostly city person, I've never had a tick before.  We don't live too far from nature now, though, so I've been trying to acclimate myself to becoming a little more outdoorsy, which means more walking among the trees.

On Friday, I had to drive the Boy to work, and on my way home, I stopped at a conservation area to take a little walk.  It was nice (we've had gorgeous sunny weather lately--a little cold, but the sun is so nice I don't mind), but uneventful.  I wandered through trees and a field.  Didn't run into anybody--except a 4 1/2 month old puppy who bounded up to me to say hello.

And 24 hours later, I spotted the tick, happily feasting on my blood.

I'm not going to deny that there was a little freak out on my part.  I've never had a tick, and the news around here is that deer ticks with Lyme disease are becoming more prevalent in these parts.  Nothing like the thought of a little Lyme to make the morning exciting!

The Boy got the tick out, and we quickly sent it to a boozy death by drowning it in alcohol.  The bite immediately looked like a bulls' eye, so we called the walk-in clinic at the local hospital to see what to do.

Of course, this meant that we spent a chunk of the afternoon at the walk-in clinic.  

I've had a couple of big fears since moving to Boston:
  1. Which one of us will get the first dings on the car/get into a fender bender
  2. Which one of us will have to go to the ER first?
Number two's basically been answered:  Me.  Sure, the walk-in clinic isn't the ER, but it's close enough. It wasn't an awful experience--just a wait, a look at the bite, and a prescription doled out.  The doctor didn't think it was anything to worry about, but he wanted to give me a two-pill dose just to make sure it didn't develop into Lyme (because that would be bad. Just ask novelist Amy Tan).

So far, so good.  I don't really think anything else will happen with this incident, but it does make me think twice about randomly walking in the woods without making sure a tick doesn't have an easy way to burrow in.

Hope your weekends were better!
Your pal,

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Doesn't Kill You...

Dear Readers,

For the last few weeks, I've been a little worried about work.  Things have been a little slow for me, so I'm trying to generate some new assignments.  That's a little hard, but hopefully I'm starting to master the pitch letter and will get some ideas published.

It's a little hard not to get down about this, but luckily my friend Reikko-san popped up at just the right time with an idea:  Let's do NaNoWriMo together!

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which is held every November.  It's designed to help you write the first draft of a novel--just spit it out and get it done.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  

It's a challenge, but it can be done--and many people have managed to sell their novels too, so if you work hard during the month, you can definitely come up with a sellable piece of work.  Sure, you have to spend some time editing and rewriting, but at least you've finished the hard part.

I tried NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago and didn't finish the 50,000 words.  That will change this year.  The people behind the project recommend telling people about it so that you can get a lot of support throughout the month (especially when your initial enthusiasm wears off and you've got to slog away at it).  They're probably right, so I'm telling you all about it up front.  I'll check in regularly and keep you posted on how it's going.  More about the novel next week--I'm trying to work out a few plot points, so once I have those, I can tell you more what it's about.

Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo?  If so, look me up (jilljaracz), and we can be writing buddies!

Your pal,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How Many Bags?

Dear Grocery Store Baggers,

You know those reusable totes?  They're a little sturdier than the plastic bag, and therefore hold more than a plastic bag.

I'm just letting you know because when I got home from my grocery trip today--with some of my items in plastic bags (not counting my dish soap--I appreciate that being separated from the foodstuffs) and plenty of room in the totes for groceries, I was a little peeved.  Why use the plastic, when there was still enough tote available?

Look, I'm just trying to do my part to keep my plastic bag consumption lower.  Please help me out here!

Your pal,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lack of Service

Dear Rajat Suri,

I read about your company E la Carte, which is an electronic menu board.  On paper, the concept sounds like it might be useful:  Tablet computers that serve as menus (mainly in sit-down restaurants).  Customers can place their order and pay directly through the tablet.  No more waiting for the server to take your order (especially if the server takes your order incorrectly) or bring your check.  And if you want to add on dessert, it's really easy to do that partway through your meal.  Plus, the tablet has games on it, so you can play while you wait.

Supposedly the tablet will help cut down on service errors and increase check amount--thereby increasing tip amounts.

Maybe I don't frequent the restaurants you're targeting with this product, but if I'm placing the order myself, and I'm generating the receipt, the server just becomes a glorified food runner.  I'm likely to start tipping 10% then, not the 15-20%/leaning toward 20%, that I do now.  Plus, I like interacting with my server.  If I have questions, the server can answer them.  The server can tell me what's good and what's not.  It's the server who makes the restaurant experience what it is.

Nonetheless, I can't fault an entrepreneur for trying, so best of luck to you.  One thing though--could you keep a client list on your website so I know which places to avoid?  Thanks!

Your pal,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hours, Schmours

Dear Cherry Bomb Bakery,

Yesterday I stopped by your establishment to use a Buy With Me voucher for a half-dozen cupcakes.  I was even going to buy a few extra so that I could take them to a meeting.

Except that when I got to your location, I discovered you were closed.  Closed on Mondays!

Boy, did I feel like a boob.  I'd gotten your address and directions off your website, but how could I miss your hours of operation?

Because they weren't on your site.

Really?  Really?!  Isn't that a basic thing to have on your website, the place where people will first look for you?  I hadn't thought to call to double-check, but should I have had to?  Wouldn't you get tired of all the calls about when you're open?

Anyway, I'll be stopping by later today to redeem my voucher.  No extra cupcakes though--I don't need them anymore.  It'll probably be the last time I stop in too.  My brain is full of enough random information--I don't need to retain your operating hours on top of it.  And if I don't know when you're open, I'm not going to make a special trek to Brighton for a cupcake.

Perhaps your website is missing other crucial information that's keeping customers from stopping by.  I'm a professional writer, so if you want me to have a thorough look at your site, I'd be willing to help you out.  My fees are quite reasonable.

Looking forward to talking to you.

Your pal,

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Point in the War on Celebrity Interviews

Dear Philip Roth,

Bravo!  I just read the "Out to Lunch" piece on you in November's Vanity Fair.  Good job on flummoxing John Heilpern, the writer of the piece:
Philip Roth met me at the restaurant of his choice, the West Street Grill, overlooking the Green in Litchfield, about 20 minutes' drive from his home in Connecticut.  The famously private novelist had made an eccentric condition of our meeting, however.  I was not to mention what he ate for lunch.
Not that he ordered anything unusual.  (And the popular restaurant is conventional enough.) But, still... This was the lunch that dare not speak its menu. 
I suppose Heilpern thought it an "eccentric" request because after all, the column is called "Out to Lunch," and you're going out to lunch, so why not set the scene and give a little insight into what the interview subject likes to eat?

Personally, I don't know how you felt, but I'm going to hope you feel the same way I do:  It's stupid.  I hate those celebrity interviews that always take place over a meal and mention that some famous actress had a hearty appetite and dug into a steak.  Or that a writer nibbled on a salad.  Who cares?  It's not setting the scene--it's giving the reader another way to judge the interviewee, and we could use a little less of that in our celebrity-focused society.

Hopefully you're setting a precedent for everyone else.  I'm not holding my breath, but at least this was a breath of fresh air.

Thanks so much!
Your pal,

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fashion Forward?

Dear Readers,

When it comes to sneakers, what brands do you like wearing?  Nike?  Addidas?  Brooks?  Asics?  Reebok?

How about the Gravity Defyer:

Ease your tired feet with springy shoes!  Sounds like heaven, no?  So, why haven't I heard of these before (unless I'm a compulsive SkyMall catalog reader)?  And why haven't I seen them on anyone's feet?  

Oh, I don't know.....maybe it's because of this:

I don't know about you, but I don't exactly think that wearing sperm on my shoes is very cool.  And I'm not sure "slick" is the right term either.  I'm guessing it's more "because somebody made a mistake."  Which I'm guessing could be said of some sperm as well.

Have a good weekend!
Your pal,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shooting for Patience

Dear Readers,

Today was supposed to be some other sort of entry about my and the Boy's gun license applications.  We're trying to get gun licenses because we'd like to get our own rifles and handguns for a variety of reasons.  Partly, it's so we can get our own biathlon rifles, but there are other shooting sports we'd like to try and other lawful purposes for owning a gun.

The gun licensing process in Massachusetts is fairly involved, and the requirements vary from town to town.  One of the requirements in my town is an interview with the police department, and the Boy and I went in for ours today.

It turned out to be a meeting to fill out the online gun application, turn in some paperwork that proves who we are and who vouches for us as responsible people, and get fingerprinted.  Now the department will do a thorough background check on us, and then we'll schedule another interview to talk more about our potential licensing.

This means we'll have to wait at least three weeks for this next step.  Although it could be a little frustrating--after all, we started this process in the beginning of September--it's kind of a nice exercise in patience.  We had anticipated that it would take a while to receive our licenses, but getting confirmation that it actually will take that amount of time (or longer) just gives us the knowledge that we have to dig into our personal stores of patience and wait.

Those that live in states where it's easier to get a license might think Massachusetts is a bit crazy with its laws.  However, my state has its laws for a reason, and my police chief has a responsibility to make sure that these laws are carried out in the safest manner possible.  If that means I have to wait a little bit longer, then all right.  At least I know my application is being taken seriously and that all the steps are done to make sure that the town is being careful with its licensing process.

So we wait.

Your pal,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Last Drop

Dear Readers,

Anyone have any effective way of totally emptying a liquid laundry detergent bottle?  Today I had to throw in a load of laundry, and I didn't have much detergent left in the bottle.  Yet, even when it looked like the bottle was empty because nothing else was pouring out, I could still see a fair amount of detergent in the bottle.  With enough shaking, I went from having almost no detergent for my load, to basically having a load's worth of detergent.

What gives?  Do I have to cut the bottle open to get the rest of the detergent out?  Or do I simply switch to powder?

Advice appreciated!
Your pal,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time to Quit

Dear Netflix,

Today I will do it.  I will finally quit you.

I realize I'm the type of customer you love--the one that doesn't return a movie for six weeks (unless I get on a TV jag and watch a season in a week), but I have to quit.

I can't take the guilt--"The Savages" has been sitting around since September, and I got my credit card bill with yet another charge on it for a this great service that I'm just not using.  I'm one of those persons who has a queue full of movies I should watch--and I actually do want to watch them, but just not when they show up in my mailbox. On top of that, I've got a pretty full DVR that I'd like to clean out.  That's my new queue right now.

So, even though it's an honor to be one of your favorite types of customers, I'm going to have to stop being that person.  Maybe I'll come back, but for now, I have to quit you.

Your pal,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Start It Right

Dear Restauranteurs,

Whither the starter salad?  Maybe it's a New England thing, but I'm having a problem finding a decently priced, properly portioned appetizer-sized salad when I go out to eat.  It's driving me crazy--I'm tired of spending a ton of extra dough just to get some veg in my meal!

This last Saturday was about the worst.  The Boy and I were in Portland--I went for roller derby, he came along, and it just so happened, we were able to meet up with a college friend of his, which was really nice.  She took us to a good local establishment with a nice beer menu.  The food menu also wasn't bad--bar food, with a bunch of salad options.

 I wanted fish & chips for an entree.  I know, I know--not the healthiest of choices, so why I'm complaining about salad may be a shock, but still.  I wanted a little bit of salad at the beginning of my meal.  No starter salads on the menu, so I ordered a house salad.  Cost me something like $6.99--and the Boy got one too.  On top of an entree.  And to top it off, the salad was huge--I really could've done with 1/3 to 1/2 of it (though the salad alone probably gave me my 5 servings of veg for the day, which was the only good part), but I didn't have the option.

Should I have asked if they could do a half-salad for half-price?  I'm not one to order off the menu.  I don't like to make life difficult for the staff, especially when the place is full.

Still, I've found it difficult to find a small salad on a menu.  I'm not talking the "substitute your fries for a salad" option.  I'm talking about 1 cup of greens, with maybe some carrots, a little red onion, and a cucumber slice---and those last two ingredients are icing on the cake.  Dressing on the side (and about half of what you'd typically give for a regular salad).  Charge me $3.25-$3.50.  It's not a huge portion, but it's one that helps me get a little bit of vegetables in with my menu.

If you're worried about food spoiling, start upselling.  Make it an attractive deal, creatively mention it when people order, and they may want to start with it.  What could it hurt?  Not my waistline, that's for sure.

Your pal,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Crossing Words

Dear Irene Casey, Crossword puzzle creator,

I'm normally not one of those nit-picky people who gets all wrapped up in semantics and is easily offended by an incorrect phrasing.  However, your crossword puzzle "Failing Grades" (published on 10/8/10 in the Boston Globe) really failed with me.

Take a look at 14-Across.  A 5-letter word for "What a roller derby queen throws."  What's your answer?  ELBOW.

If you take a look at the Women's Flat Track Derby Association Rules, you will see in rule 6.4 that use of elbows is not allowed in roller derby. Heck, even banked track derby doesn't allow elbows, according to the Bay City Bombers.  Maybe it was back in the day, and perhaps that's what you meant by "roller derby queen," but today's roller derby is different.  The queens of today throw BLOCKS, not elbows.

I wouldn't be so picky about this, except that I'm tired of explaining that roller derby has evolved and is different from the derby on TV that the old-timers remember.  Roller derby has moved away from the drama and the story lines and the fighting, and it's turned into a legitimate sport, where the outcome isn't pre-determined.  The roller derby queens of yesterday were fantastic, but the skaters of today are taking the sport to an entirely new level.  It doesn't help when people like you continue to perpetuate the myths that derby girls (and their officials, which includes me) are trying so hard to shed.

Next time you write a crossword puzzle, please check your facts.  Even though a crossword is entertainment, it's also a learning tool, and it should be as accurate as possible.

Your pal,

cc:  Timothy Parker, editor

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Define 4-Star

Dear Raffaello Hotel Chicago,

The Boy and I recently had a lovely stay at your boutique establishment.  However, I'm not quite sure you're living up to your billing.  Your website states:

Boutique luxury means you count at the 4-star boutique Raffaello Hotel. Personalized service blends with modern technology and luxurious furnishings to create 4-star boutique service unlike other Chicago downtown hotels.
Let's take a look at the 4-star boutique service:

Comfortable bed?  Check!

Flat-screen TV?  Check!  (even came with a DVD player!)

Rainshower head?  Check!  (pretty awesome, too!)

The guest pays for Internet service?  Check!  (somehow, mid- and budget-priced hotels can provide free wi-fi, but anytime "luxury" or "boutique" gets tossed into the description, wi-fi service suddenly becomes an extra charge.  I don't get it.)

Mini-fridge?  Check!  (granted, it was a mini-bar too, but there was enough room for our own beverages)

Microwave?  Check!

Decent toiletries?  Check!  (OK, they were Gilchrist & Soames, which is a fine label, but not one I'd really consider to be in the "boutique luxury" category of hotels.  I like G&S though, so I'm not really complaining)

One-ply toilet paper?  Check!

WHOA!  Wait a minute!  As any woman can tell you, one-ply toilet paper is NOT luxurious.  Granted, sometimes it's not so bad, but when you're trying to pass yourselves off as being fancy, the least you can do is provide some two-ply.  After all, toilet paper is one of the few amenities that a guest is bound to use.  We didn't touch the DVD player or the microwave.  We did use toilet paper though, and it was a memorable experience--but not in the type of way you'd want us to have (or tell other people about).

Is two-ply that much more expensive?  Or that much harder on a plumbing system?  I might be able to understand if it is, but right now it seems like you're willing to trim corners on service.  And if you're willing to be cheap on toilet paper, what else are you willing to sacrifice?

Your pal,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Busy Eating, Back on Thursday

Dear Readers,

It's not that I haven't wanted to blog, it's that I don't think I can squeeze my stomach underneath a desk, or perch a laptop on my belly.

One of my favorite ads from the late 90's was an ad for McDonald's, saying, "Chicago's the City of Big Shoulders, and we didn't get those shoulders by pushing back from the table."  Boy, you could say that again!  I've done almost nothing except eat during this trip--and I'm not even getting close to hitting all the places I want to go to.  There have been big dinners, huge breakfasts (can you say bacon cheddar potato pancakes and cinnamon rolls from Ann Sather?), filling lunches.  Today is another lunch, another big dinner, and I've got to try to get to at least one cupcake place.

So, excuse me while I abstain from blogging for the next day or's been an hour since I've eaten, and a hot pretzel is calling my name.

Your pal,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Postcard from the Air

Dear Readers,

The Boy and I are headed to Chicago today--it's a mix of business and pleasure.  The Boy has to give some presentations for work, so we decided to make a big weekend out of it.

So far, our big weekend mostly consists of eating and drinking.  We've got a fairly long list of our favorite establishments that we want to visit while we're there, and in the back of my mind, I have a few more that I'd like to fit in--you know, a snack here and there.  I'm vainly hoping that my stomach will digest everything really quickly so that I can fit the next course in.

When we get back next week, I'll have to find a running race or some sort of exercise challenge, just to give me an incentive to move and take off the pounds I fear I'll put on.  I can't even tell myself that walking around Chicago is going to stave off all the calories the city is going to serve me.  That's all right though--I'll just do the best I can and enjoy myself (just maybe not to the fullest this time).

Hope you have a good weekend!
Your pal,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Three Times the Credit

Dear Deb Walden, Executive Vice President, Customer Experience, Chase Card Services,

This week I received three (3) credit card offers from you--all on the same day!  I'm pre-approved for:

  • The Slate card with Blueprint.  No annual fee.  It comes with a 0% APR through October 2011, and after that, 14.99% APR.  The Blueprint feature helps manage finances.
  • The Chase Freedom card.  No annual fee.  It too comes with a 0% APR through October 2011, and after that, 14.99% APR.  Earn 5% cash back in some purchase categories, 1% cash in every other category.  Up to 10% back if you shop online at select merchants.  Plus, earn $50 cash after your first purchase.
  • The Chase Freedom card.  No annual fee.  It too comes with a 0% APR through October 2011, and after that, 14.99% APR.  Earn 5% cash back in some purchase categories, 1% cash in every other category.  Plus, earn $100 cash after your first purchase.
Whoa!  Three cards!  Two of which are the same, but for some reason, one gives a slightly better cash bonus.  Do you know the damage I could do, if you actually gave me all three of  them?

I suppose you're telling me this is a sign of what's to come--apparently the economy is good enough that I'll be getting nothing but credit card offers for the foreseeable future.  Let me stop you short:  You might as well just take my name off your mailing list--I'm not looking for a new card right now.  

And if you're going to ignore my request, how about making a smarter system that sends different offers on different days?  Because this little incident?  Doesn't make me trust you.  At all.  And why would I want to have a credit card (or three) from a company I don't even remotely trust?

Your pal,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another Example of when Online Isn't the Answer

Dear Alex, the REI clerk,

The other night the Boy and I were in your store shopping for a raincoat.  You did a nice job of explaining the two we were considering, and overall, you were fairly helpful.  Except for your spiel about shopping online.

If you didn't notice, it was raining that night.  We were there buying a raincoat.  You know, to wear immediately.  Listening to you go on about how we could just order what we wanted and have it shipped to the store didn't work--and was actually a turn-off.  After trekking out in the rain, why would I want to go back home, shop online (where you can't try anything on and see if it fits a tall Boy in the sleeves), and then go back to the store in five days (probably when the weather has cleared), to pick it up?  We need the coat now!

Isn't the first rule of selling to close the sale?  If you have a customer that's in the store and is intent on purchasing something right then and there, shouldn't you be more concerned that that customer's needs are met?  Why send him out of the store in hopes that he does, in fact, go shopping at your website?  Get your head out of your iPhone, make the sale, and get the cash in your drawer.

By the way, we took your advice and didn't get the yellow coat.  It turned out to be a little smaller all over.  The one you suggested seems like it will work nicely.


Your pal,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Build a Better Pyramid

Dear USDA,

You're one of my favorite government agencies.  Honestly!  In the "Who's your favorite government agency?" conversations I have with my friends (don't most Americans have those?), you are right at the top  of my list--all the data you collect, certain programs you have...most days I have incredible amounts of love for you.

However, I'm worried about the new food pyramid you're developing.  We as a nation have a problem with food--obviously.  Most of us are overweight or obese, and perhaps that has a little something to do with the guidelines you present.  In revamping the food pyramid, you have the opportunity to help us get back on track.  Half of weight loss is eating right, and your guidelines can really set the tone for helping us solve this problem.

But it really seems like the new food pyramid won't be impartial guidelines; it'll be guidelines set by various lobbies.  As reported in the Washington Post:
In public comments, the meat lobby has opposed strict warnings on sodium that could cast a negative light on lunch meats. The milk lobby has expressed concerns about warnings to cut back on added sugars, lest chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milks fall from favor. Several members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation also weighed in against added-sugar restrictions in defense of the cranberry.
It's really sad to know that money and business interests are going to have more say in determining what's good for us.  Perhaps if these manufacturers and industries were forced to make their products a little healthier, they wouldn't be so bad for us in the first place.  Perhaps we Americans need to have a less sweet palate.  How will we know what's right, if the government isn't being totally truthful with us?

At the end of September, Gerald S. Lesser died.  He may not have been a household name, but he certainly affected generations of children.  As a psychologist and chief advisor to "Sesame Street," he really thought about what children should learn, taking into consideration who the show was aimed at (namely, disadvantaged kids who wouldn't have resources to a lot of things, but would probably watch TV).  His team came up with brilliant ideas to get educational concepts across to children (read the obit--if you're the type who still gets a little teary because Jim Henson died way too soon, this is a fascinating read).

Most importantly, Lesser and his team tried to do what was best for the children.  They put a lot of thought into creating a great product that's really become an integral part of our culture.  You have the opportunity to do the same thing--developing guidelines for how we eat is incredibly important.  You're the government--you're supposed to set the proper standards, not standards dictated by whichever lobby's willing to pony up enough money.

Our country is in pretty bad shape, health-wise, and if we eat poorly now, that will just drain our resources later when it comes to having to pay health care costs for all the people who have weight-related issues.  Let's not go down that path--let's get a better start and make a better America.

Your pal,

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time Flies--Again

Dear Readers,

I hate how life has become "blink, and it's 11:00."  It's been pretty much a wasted Monday morning--I had a no show on an appointment; I started taking an online survey that ended up taking me over an hour (and I wasn't nearly finished with it); and now I'm a little frazzled, but I need to focus and meet a deadline.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit better--and bloggier.  If you've got a second, I'd love to hear some of your "blink and it's 3 hours later" moments.  It'd be nice to know that I'm not the only one who has time management issues.

Your pal,

Friday, October 1, 2010

Just Tell Me!

Dear Readers,

It's kind of a busy day here--dealing with a few deadlines, which frankly is a nice situation.  I'm glad to have work, and I'd like to produce some decent articles today.

At some point, I also have to send some gentle reminders to clients or potential clients who seem to have fallen off the face of the earth.  One of the most frustrating aspects of this job is dealing with a sudden lack of communication.  Past clients who won't pay up.  Supposedly current clients, who, in the past, had weekly assignments and now no longer contact you.  Potential clients who outline an idea, and when you respond with your vision of that idea and your pay rate, never reply.  

Look, I'm in the business of rejection.  I'm used to not hearing back personally on plenty of proposals/gig applications (it's like looking for a job--you mostly don't hear back from anyone.  It's frustrating, but that's life).  But if we've worked together, and you no longer need my services, please tell me.  If I'm too expensive for your project, let me know.  If I'm one of a handful of people applying for your gig, and my idea doesn't suit your project, a "thanks, but no thanks" would be nice.  

Honestly, earlier this year, I spent over a day working on an involved proposal for what would've been a neat project.  I had a question for the hiring person, and he responded right away, with a mention that he was looking forward to my application.  I sent it in and got nothing--no, "Hey, I got your application."  No, "Hey, thanks, but we're going with other people."  I don't know if hundreds of people applied for this gig, but it really felt like all the work I put into it went right down the drain.

Another gig I was shortlisted for involved another trial.  I spent several hours putting together a package of work, and while I did get a confirmation of receipt of the trial, I never heard back.  At that stage in the game, when you're only getting full-on proposals from a couple of people, have the courtesy to at least tell them they didn't get the job.  They're spending several unpaid hours trying to get this gig.  The rejection isn't the hard bit--it's the wondering if you're going to get hired.  Do you bother to set time aside in case you get the job?  Or do you keep throwing out a lot of feelers and then just deal with it when everything explodes at once and you have more work than you can really handle?

Am I being overly fussy?  Is there a way I can have better communication without being totally annoying to the person on the other end?

Your pal,