Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Expiration Date?

Dear Gas Station in Central Massachusetts,

I stopped in this weekend to grab a Coke and a Sprite, and I noticed that prominently displayed on your main counter was a box of Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs.

Um, it's August. Are these eggs really old or really new?

Because even though I love a good peanut butter egg, the idea of one in August is frankly a little disturbing.

Your pal,

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Internal Gender Wars

Dear Readers,

I hope you've been having a good summer. I'm obviously doing something (work and roller derby would be two good guesses, though I've gotten in some good summer playtime too), since I haven't been posting lately.

My lack of posting could also be the fact that I'm now dealing with a slight case of gender identity. This is something I never thought I'd personally have to consider--I've always been a female, always felt like a female, and have a pretty feminine name that doesn't lend itself to mixups.

However, the other week, I learned otherwise.

I'm blogging over at Avisian publications, this trade magazine group that covers identity and authentication, and biometrics, among other things--if you watch "Burn Notice," and Michael Weston talks about how difficult it is to break into some computer system because you have to have two forms of identity to be able to log into it, that's the kind of thing I'm writing about. For blogging, I generally rewrite press releases and recap news stories. It's interesting, though I'm still struggling to understand some of the technology and how it works.

The other week I had to recap a Washington Post story about fake IDs in which authorities are starting to be able to spot the fakes because they're absolutely perfect. A quote from one of the sources:
"About 89% of genuine driver's licenses don't comply with their own specifications 100%" --Steven Williams of Intellicheck

This led me to whip out my own driver's license, and guess what? The Commonwealth of Massachusetts thinks I'm a man.

Yep. The RMV messed up the gender when inputting my data onto my driver's license.

I've been in this state over a year now, shown my ID a fair amount, and no one's ever noticed. It makes me think that either people just understand that licenses can be inaccurate, or that at my age, all of this security is a bunch of whistles and bells. At least, I hope it is.....I've got to fly a lot this fall, and I don't really need airport security to stop me because of a mistake.

That said, I'm kind of excited to see what life is like as a man. Jill Jaracz: White Male in America. Get ready for the adventures, folks!

Your pal,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Much Do You Recycle?

Dear City of Cambridge, MA,

Today I got an e-mail newsletter from a green-products shop in Cambridge, promoting Cambridge's efforts to become a 50% recycling city. It noted that currently, the good folks of Cambridge recycle about 35% of their garbage, but they could do better.

I'd agree with that statement -- the Boy and I were just talking the other day about how easy it is to recycle around here (we're not Cantabrigians, but we're big on recycling), and we wondered why people don't recycle everything they possibly can.  It's easy, it saves on trash disposal, and we don't have to spend as much money on trash bags. Win-win!

However, as much as I admire your campaign, I don't think it'll be effective for two reasons:

1.  Self-enforced pledges don't always mean that much. I don't know if they had this in your high school, but mine participated in Red Ribbon Day, a day where pretty much everyone had (or maybe was strongly encouraged) to sign a piece of paper saying they'd never abuse drugs or alcohol (including caffeine). Needless to say, I'm not sure how many of us actually stayed true to this pledge. I know I didn't, but then I pledged before I knew what a finely-crafted cocktail tasted like.

Anyway, my point is that if I (a) lived in Cambridge, and (b) took the pledge, would you recognize me without checking up and seeing if I'm being true to my word?

2.  It needs a cute character. I would've included "catchy tagline," but you do have "Recycle More. Trash Less." Which works. Kind of. It's not quite as catchy as "Get hip to the hep," a hepatitis-C awareness campaign from the late 90's that I still remember.

Nor is it as catchy (to me) as "L.E. Jack is back!" a Chicago Transit Authority campaign also from the late 90's that promoted the reopening of the Green Line. But then, it also incorporates a cute character, one L.E. Jack. The name stood for "Lake-Englewood-Jackson Park," the 3 main junctions of the Green Line, and the character was from a route realignment that took place in the early 90's. I liked Jack--he was cool. I think he helped the cause.

Seriously though, a mascot makes all the difference--it's something people can connect with. Just look at all of the Japanese corporate mascots. People love Domokun--and buy all sorts of Domo stuff--and this guy's the face of a satellite broadcasting company. You guys can't come up with Binny the recycling bin, or something?

These points aside, I do hope your campaign goes well, and I look forward to reading about its success (and hopefully not about any sort of disappointment). I'll even try to do better with my recycling to help out my community as well.

Your pal,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Dear Readers,

A few weeks ago I got an acceptance letter for a story that made me so happy I started crying. See, I haven't been concentrating a whole lot on creative work, but I managed to write a humor piece last month and shipped it off to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, which is one of my dream places to be published.

I've tried to get into McSweeney's a couple other times but have been rejected. This time, though, they took my piece and published it today! Wooooo! That's a nice little feather in my cap!

Please take a minute to check out "Business Plan for Slutty Dresses." This was inspired by my recent trip to Vegas, and I'm pretty pleased with the way I tried to capture the feel of the Strip while I was there.

Your pal,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Horrific Discovery

Dear DVR,

Why is your default recording setting "record 5 episodes"? Don't you realize by now that I (and I would imagine many, many DVR owners) don't tend to watch all of our TV in a reasonable amount of time?

Case in point:

As of this afternoon, I still had a good 20 episodes of Oprah left. I flipped on the DVR because I realized that it was the beginning of July, and to be 2 months behind on a syndicated talk show was not really good form. So during my lunch, I turned on the episode with the Obamas, only to discover that this was also the day after Osama bin Laden had been killed (it's been 2 months, folks! Can you believe it?), which meant that the local news had preempted Oprah to discuss bin Laden (note that Ellen did not get preempted. Who's more powerful in television now?).

No big deal, I thought. I'll just start taping the summer reruns and see if the Obama episode would come back on.

I set the DVR to tape the season and then flipped on the next episode in my queue: Shania Twain. I watched part of it, then went back to work.

Fast forward to this evening, when I want to see why Shania lost her voice. Except that I can't--I've gone from 20 episodes of Oprah in my queue to 5.

Say what?

Oh yeah. If you want to record a TV series with my DVR, the default setting is "keep the 5 most recent episodes." When Oprah recorded this afternoon, it started the Oprah cycle all over again.

In a sense, it's not a shame -- I should've kept up a little bit better -- but it's a sign that I probably shouldn't watch so much TV. Still, it's the final few episodes (20's a few, right?!), and it's fun to watch the end of an era.  I guess I'll just have to see what else I can catch this summer on reruns or through the Oprah: Behind the Scenes show (you're watching it, right?!  It's excellent!  I love seeing how shows get put together!)

Anyway, I've certainly gotten today's lesson on checking and doublechecking. Whenever I'll learn that lesson is a different story.

Your pal,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Brewery Service Update

Dear Readers,

I got a nice little e-mail back from the GM at Cambridge Brewing Company. The Boy had also written in and had heard back pretty promptly. The GM apologized and said that they'd made mistakes that night and it ended up in customers getting lousy service, which was totally unacceptable.

Here's what he told me:

Thanks for understanding. We do genuinely care about our customers here. But, alas we do screw up from time to time:-) I’m so glad you’ve decided to give us another chance. We certainly owe you at least a beer on the house!  Next time you’re in just ask for me or Laura (The AGM) and we’ll definitely get you one on the house.

Very nice reply that made me feel really good. I realize we all make mistakes, but it's nice when you run into a person that owns up to them and makes amends.

Chalk this up to good management 101!

Your pal,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There She Is--on the Podcast

Dear Readers,

This is a couple weeks old, but it's pretty cool.  I'm one of the "tens of listeners" to the TBTL podcast, which is basically 2-3 people (Luke Burbank, Jen "Flash" Andrews and Sean DeTore...Sean isn't there every day) talking about what's going on in the news/media.  It can get a little navel-gazing, but then, so can I. [and let's face, don't we really like people who are a lot like us?]

Anyhow, I was listening to one of their podcasts where they were discussing the outgoing Miss USA and mentioned that they didn't know the difference between Miss America and Miss USA.  This, of course, is nearly blasphemous to me, since as a child and teenager, my friends I would religiously watch Miss America (Miss USA is not nearly as exciting -- the talent competition makes the pageant).

I had to write in:

Hey Luke and Jen,

I'm a few days behind, but I felt the need to write to tell you the important differences between Miss USA and Miss America (especially since we're going to be blessed with a new Miss USA soon):

Miss USA
  • Owned by Donald Trump
  • Winner goes to Miss Universe
  • Pageant is based on "fitness" -- competitors have to do evening gown, swimsuit, and interview
  • Miss Teen USA is the little sister pageant of Miss USA (much like Barbie's little sister Skipper)
Miss America
  • Pageant is for SCHOLARSHIPS.  This is super-important!  Miss America gives out a bunch of money for scholarships, which, you know, legitimizes it.  
  • Contestants have to have a platform, and Miss America is expected to do events around her platform for the year (whereas apparently Miss USA's platform was a levitating bed by a pool in Vegas....or whatever Luke said)
  • Contestants compete in evening gown, bathing suit, and TALENT. This is also another HUGE difference--and that's when you learn that if you're beautiful but don't have any well-defined talent (concert pianist, deaf ballet dancer), you sing.
I realize this isn't life or death information, but I felt the need to set the record straight.  I'm no pageant girl, but I have a soft spot in my heart for them.  I mean, when you were in high school and couldn't yet drive, didn't you get together with your friends and eat junk food while watching Miss America?

Have a good weekend!

Their response?

we read this on the show today
hope you enjoy

And by "read on the show," they meant "this was an entire segment."  Take a listen!

More audio at

Your pal (aka the Educator),

Monday, July 4, 2011

Brewing up a Lousy Experience

Dear Chris Punis, General Manager of Cambridge Brewing Company,

Tonight was my second visit to CBC. As my four friends, husband, and I stood in the courtyard of 1 Kendall Square, a man hurried his child out of one of the restaurants and on to the square, where she promptly threw up.

That's pretty much how I felt about my experience at CBC on Sunday evening.

About a year ago, I was at CBC and felt fairly underwhelmed about my experience then. I mean, it wasn't awful -- if I remember correctly, we had a good, friendly server, but the food and the beer were just all right. I didn't feel the need to go back, and I figured you wouldn't miss me.

Then a friend suggested going to CBC tonight. At first our visit seemed normal. Met 5 friends at the bar; my husband got a beer; the hostess was really nice and seated us right away. Our server got our drink orders in a fair amount of time. She took our food order in a fair amount of time.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And we cursed our friend for ordering a "very well done" steak.

And we waited some more.

And we wondered just how the medium rare burger was timed to match the very well done steak and just how long it took to bake a couple of pizzas. I mean, I know you're going to have a "slow food" event next month, but is your current service an indicator of what that event will be like?

And then the food finally came.  Great food is worth the wait, but was this worth it? Well, I had the pizza of the day, and it was pretty tasty, but nothing that I would remember--except for breakfast the next day, since I had some leftovers (and speaking of leftovers, does your kitchen not have any aluminum foil in it? I asked for tin foil instead of a container because I only had two slices of pizza, and I wanted to wrap them flat and slide them into my purse. I didn't want to deal with a container. I had to deal with a container because the server said the kitchen didn't have anything smaller).

While we were eating, we got the standard check-in from our server, and I managed to get another beer ordered. No one else did -- and we had some empty glasses at the table. Any other checking in was done on the move. If we really needed something, I'm not sure we could've stopped her because she was busy.

In fact, everyone looked busy, and looking around the half-full back dining area where we were, I couldn't understand it. Where was everyone going? Why was the hostess busing glasses?

Eventually the server came back to see if we wanted dessert, and we opted to split a strawberry whoopie pie. This whoopie pie took a good 10-15 minutes to show up. It's not like it was fresh-baked or required some sort of special preparation. This was a huge whoopie pie that was refrigerated, wrapped in paper, and put on a board with a carton of milk on the side. Why did it take so long?

Perhaps the wait wouldn't have been as bad if we didn't have empty glasses. No beer, no water, no hope of getting anything because our server was too busy elsewhere. My husband had to ask the bartender for a pitcher of water. Our server didn't even notice the pitcher on the table when she brought the dessert. Needless to say, we asked for our check right away, and our server was lucky she got a 15% tip.

I don't expect or want anything from this letter, but I want you to know that I won't be back, and it's not because the beer and food aren't acceptable. It's because the service is so bad that it brings down any quality that's in the product you offer. Not that it matters -- CBC has plenty of fans who don't mind being ignored.

Your pal,

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lazy Summer Days (Not Happening Here)

Dear Readers,

The number of times I've been posting here has been abominable to say the least. I have tons of excuses:

  • No ideas 
  • Feeling down
  • Too busy wallowing to blog
  • Roller derby's taking up my time
  • Oh wait, I meant online mah-jongg's taking up my time
  • Busy doing paid work (I realize you have to look at a lot of Google ads when you read this blog, but those don't pay the bills. I think I've racked up nearly $18 over the life of this blog)
Anyway, these excuses have to go. I've been wallowing way too much in, "How did that person get a book deal?" (while I don't work on the mess that is my novel -- remember that?  The rough draft that I finished in November?  Yeah) or, "How come I don't have more publishing credits?" (Answer: I don't put myself out there enough)

I don't quite know why I let myself get into these cycles, but it's not good because it's slowing me down. Watch for a lot of bad writing to hit this space (or maybe you should be the judge of that) -- I need to test out some creativity and get myself back into practice.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to write more about my trip to Las Vegas, but I didn't want to do it in a travelogue sort of way. I thought about it and came up with a piece that ended up being accepted by a really sweet outlet (it's not published yet, but when it is, you will definitely hear about it). I had such a good time writing it too -- sometimes when I feel like I'm really on with my writing, I feel totally giddy. I need to have that feeling more often because it's so satisfying to be able to work in a way that makes you feel great.

Anyway, enough with the bitching (for the umpteenth time), and on with the writing. I'm not promising any great shakes here, but I appreciate you being along for the ride!

Your pal,

P.S. -- Did you like the homage to titles with parentheses?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jill's New Game

Dear Readers,

Sorry that I'm still seemingly MIA.  I've been working a lot this week -- I've got a new gig blogging for some trade publications about smart cards, NFC, RFID, identification technology, and other things of that vein. Don't ask me what exactly these things are--I'm going through this steep learning curve about the industry, and it's a very complicated, technical field.

I'm getting there though, but it's not without a fair amount of playing a game I like to call, "Is this English?" In this game, I read a story or a press release, and even though the words are apparently written in English, the content is so beyond me that it makes absolutely no sense (well, reading any press release is like this -- how people are content with putting out paragraphs of no content, oftentimes poorly written, is beyond me).  It's not the world's most exciting game because it hurts my head.  It's not fun when your own ineptitude causes your head to hurt.

Today I interviewed a really nice guy about digital certificates (don't know what they are? Um, they're um....yeah), and he said it was a complicated field and that you have to learn by osmosis.  Read something, put it aside, and when you reread it, things start to make a little more sense.  Unfortunately for me, I'm in the "read it 6 times before it makes sense" camp.  Hopefully by the end of summer it won't be quite that bad or take that long....I'd like to get back to blogging (or at least knowing what I'm complaining about).

Your pal,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oh, Canada, Indeed!

Dear Canuck Rioters,

You need to turn in your Canadian cards right now. There's no way in hell you all are really Canadian.  Canadians don't riot!  Canadians don't send each other to the hospital!  Canadians don't loot!

Apparently this is not the first time you Canuck fans have done this, which is totally shocking.  Canadians on the whole are quite awesome, and this is not awesome Canadian behavior.  In fact, I'm surprised that Vancouver's hockey fans aren't called Canuckleheads.

Is your team losing the Stanley Cup really worth destroying a city?  Your country's image?  Other people's lives? Seriously--you're not even the ones playing the hockey game. Why are you getting so wrapped up in watching other people do stuff? Why don't you become the doers for a change--and then maybe when you get disappointed in the outcome, you won't take it out on your city, eh?

I realize you're not the face of all Canadians, but isn't it sad that you're ruining a good thing for everyone.

Your pal,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Growing Older, Not Getting Older

Dear Readers,

I've had a couple of assignments writing about senior citizens, Baby Boomers, and exercise.  Pair that with doing summer biathlons that are organized by a 75-year-old, and I've been thinking a lot about getting old.

I don't want to.

The research I've had to do for the exercise articles really makes me want to work out.  Exercise does all sorts of good things for you, like protecting your bones and helping you with balance.  After reading about exercise helping to combat falls more than a few times, I was sold.  The idea of falling and breaking a hip just does not appeal (not that it really appeals to anyone, but if being stronger gives me a better chance, well, then I'm doing another set of squats).

Finding out how old our biathlon organizer is was another wake-up call.  Dude's 75 and acts like he's in his early 60's, if not younger (the white hair ages him).  Every time we go to a biathlon, he talks about different shoots he wants to organize and different instructional schools he helps out with.  He just doesn't slow down.

I want that kind of life--one where I'm jetting off to the other side of the world in my 80's.  One where I'm 96 and contemplating giving up my driver's license.  One where I'm 105 and talking about my secret to longevity being regular walks, some light weightlifting, eating reasonable quantities of bacon, and enjoying my daily gin (or beer).  Doesn't that sound like the life?

Your pal,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Vegas, Baby.

Dear Readers,

I've fully recovered from my trip to Vegas over Memorial Day weekend.  Sadly, it wasn't because I had wild time--it's just that my flight out there was delayed, and instead of landing at 10PM local time, I got in around 4:30AM local time.

I flew from Boston to JFK where flights were delayed due to weather west of us (this was not long after the Joplin, MO, tornado, so needless to say, heavy weather was not something anyone wanted to deal with).  We got on the plane, we taxied a bit, but then we hit that FAA rule that says you can't be on the tarmac for more than three hours, so we headed back to the gate.  Waited some more.  Had to get more fuel.  Around 11:30 PM, we finally pushed off, and after a bit of taxiing, heard some words you never want to hear from your pilot:  We're 40th in line for take-off.

40th in line means you taxi for another hour.

I only got a couple of hours of real sleep that night, and acted like a zombie for a good chunk of the first morning.  Plus, like many conferences, you're so busy doing stuff, that you really don't get enough sleep the entire time you're there.  Having a bad start to the weekend didn't help.

The conference itself was great.  I learned a ton and met a lot of people.  Vegas, on the other hand, wasn't so great.  I know Vegas is supposed to be all cool and exciting, but it's really overwhelming, and if you don't really love Vegas--or you're with a group of people who don't really like Vegas--you're in a horrible place.  Enormous gaudy casinos.  Lights and noise.  Girls walking around in the shortest dresses you've ever seen.  Pools that don't stay open--I'm serious about this.  Our hotel's pool stayed open until either 7 or 8PM.  We saw pools that were closed by 6PM.  When you're at a conference, there's simply no time for hanging out by the pool, and when you can't participate in one of the major draws, it's a big letdown.

Instead, friends and I wandered around the Strip, gawking, and not gambling. Yeah, I didn't bother--even with the penny slots that were in our hotel.  The fear of losing what little money I did have outweighed the possibility of winning a couple of bucks.  I did spend crazy amounts of money on other things--I bought some bulk candy that was something like $12.99/pound -- I about fell over when my small bag cost over $9.  But then, I didn't have to learn the hard way that this same store sold $25 lollipops.

Cheap buffets?  Where?  My friends and I tried to go to the Wynn buffet because the vegan among us heard they had vegan options.  They did--but the buffet was $45.  No, thank you.  On our last day, we broke down and had the hotel buffet for lunch ($17).  The unlimited bubbly was a bonus, but I don't think there was enough of it to make me eat the worst bacon I've ever tasted in my life--and that's when you think that $17 was a little too much money for a buffet.

Needless to say, I don't feel the urge to go back anytime soon.  Not even on a hot day when I've got nothing to do but lounge by the pool--because at some point I'd still have to experience everything I don't like about Vegas.  In my book, what happens in Vegas can stay there--because it's not quite worth writing home about.  Or is it?  You tell me.

Your pal,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Closet Cleaning

Dear Readers,

I remembered a couple more things hanging in my closet that I should get rid of:

  1. Oprah.  Is the show over?  I think it's over--to you, perhaps.  Not to me.  I decided to DVR the last batch of new episodes, and boy, am I behind!  Oprah's going to live on in my book for a good 20+ epidsodes.  Then we can discuss.  Perhaps I'll get that done in June.
  2. The newspaper delivery.  Believe it or not, I did not get my Sunday paper this week (I've put it on hold for 2 weeks), and nothing's shown up this week either.  Somebody finally got the message!  Have I talked to the local delivery manager?  Um, no--never heard from this person.  Apparently they've fixed the glitch though.  I am going through a little newspaper withdrawal, though I still have a Sunday magazine or two to flip through.  
Closet's definitely looking a little cleaner now.....

Your pal,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Actually Online

Dear Readers,

In the unknown amount of time I have on my home internet connection today, I'd like to, in the words of the great Jen "Flash" Andrews, "clean out my closet" a little bit.

  1. My lousy internet connection.  I never got a chance to send my choice words to Verizon because my connection went out again.  We got our new set of filters late Monday, and everything was going swimmingly....until Tuesday morning, when our connection was down again.  I spent a nice chunk of time on the phone with Verizon, and we couldn't get it to work, even if just the modem cable was plugged directly into the phone jack.  Something is obviously really wrong, so a technician needs to come out--but no one's available until tomorrow morning (and Thursday is really not a good day for me to have a repairman at my house, since I'll be heading to Las Vegas for the WFTDA Conference).  After I hung up with Verizon, I tried the connection one more time, and it worked (of course)---for all of 3 hours, and then I was kicked off without warning.  No more internet for us...until this morning.  When I went to check on our connection, it was back.  I assume it will go away again at some point in the near future.  
  2. What I can't do online is download podcasts AND surf the web at the same time.  Downloads really suck all the bandwidth.  Forget trying to watch a video.  And a typical 1 hour podcast takes a long time to load--probably a good 15 minutes.  I mean, I'm trying to download a podcast now, and it's saying about 40 minutes.  That's not quite accurate, but you get the picture.  If I'm trying to download more than one, watch out!  There's nothing quite as scary as seeing "8 hours" when you're trying to download a 55 MB file.  It's as if I'm on a dial-up 28.8 modem.  Anyway, I'm running low on my podcasts and I need to stock up.  It'd be nice to do that before I leave.
  3. Cleaning house.  Since I have the Verizon guy coming over tomorrow, I have to clean up my office, which frankly, hasn't seen a duster or a broom in months.  This will not be pleasant.  I also have stacks of books all over the place, since one of my bookshelves is starting to pull out of a wall.  Magazines have also apparently come here to die, though I like to call them my "sample issue collection." So what if they're in piles, right?  They're research!
  4. Vegas!  Yep, I'm heading to Las Vegas for my first WFTDA Conference.  I'm excited to see old friends, make new ones, and talk roller derby for a weekend.  I haven't been to Vegas since 1993, and I've heard it's changed a little bit.  I don't know what I'm in for, but I hope it'll be a good time.
That's about it from's been quite the week in terms of not being able to work, and I'm getting tired of that frustration.  Hopefully next week will be a bit easier.

Your pal,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Customer Care" of a Certain Kind

Dear Readers,

I don't mean to get all, "I'm irritated by customer service representatives" on you.....oh, wait.  I guess I do.

Today, for some strange reason, my wireless connection stopped working.  I reset the modem, I restarted my computer....nothing helped.  Sigh.  Time to call Verizon customer service.

Now mind you, I've been in a decent mood lately, especially when dealing with customer service reps, retail clerks, etc. When I talked to the Boston Globe today about my delivery problems (which, to me are really dumb.  You generally complain because you don't get your paper.  I've got to complain because I am), I was nice and peppy, asking to give my delivery person a little "come to Jesus" moment but trying to be really nice about it.  The local delivery manager is supposed to call me within the next couple of days to discuss my situation.  I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, back to Verizon.  Once my problem was solved, I received a little popup survey asking for feedback on my experience....except I didn't complete the survey within their 20 minute window, so I haven't sent it to them.  Yet.  Much more fun to tell you first.  So, for your enjoyment, here's my additional feedback on today's Verizon experience:

The customer support person did solve my problems as quickly as possible, but boy, was he a bit snippy with me.  I'm sorry that I don't know what a filter looks like or get confused because my phone line has two splitters and one filter.  I'm sorry that I didn't have my modem password at the ready or can remember how my modem was initially set up 13 months ago.  Don't sound irritated because I have to open up my bill file to try to locate my modem password.  Don't sound irritated because I'm describing something as "the long rectangle."  If I'm describing the filter (I think) as that, it also means that I'm not going to automatically know that "plugging the modem directly to my computer" means "use the 'PC/ethernet' plug" because I'm using a Mac, and Microsoft's responsible for me thinking that "PC" = "Windows," not "personal computer."  
I don't know whether to continue to apologize or relish in the fact that I was probably "moron of the day" for this tech support person.  If it's the latter, please tell him that I look forward to receiving my certificate of achievement.
And that's how I feel about this experience. 
Don't worry--I'll send this to Verizon too. If there's a certificate to be had out of this deal, I want to get my paws on it!  Seriously -- an official "Moron of the Day" certificate would come in so handy!  Whenever the Boy feels I'm doing something dumb, I can just whip it out--and instant excuse!

Somehow though, I don't think that awesomeness is coming my way.  I'll manage somehow.

Your pal,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Means No

Dear Newspaper Carrier,

I believe we need to have a "come to Jesus" moment.  Look, I appreciate the job you do--all winter long, no matter how much snow we got, I received a newspaper everyday.  That was amazing.

Problem is, I'm still getting a paper everyday.  Even though I switched to Sundays only a few weeks ago.  I  did that for a couple of reasons:

  1. I need to save some money.
  2. I haven't been able to keep up with my newspaper reading.  
Reason number 2 is actually a little more troublesome.  I like reading the paper, and when I can't get through them, they start stacking up.  I mean, Bin Laden just got killed, according to the stack on my dining table.

Sure, I understand that when the pile gets too big, I can just dump it into the recycling bin.  When I get to a breaking point, that's what I do.  However, a part of my brain feels that when I do dump a stack a week's worth of paper without looking at any of it, I'm wasting money.  I don't like wasting money.

This past week I knew I wasn't going to have time to read the paper, so I called circulation to put a hold on it.  The man who helped me asked "how many Sundays" did I want to stop getting the paper.


Oh, yeah.  I stopped getting the daily paper.  Except that it keeps coming.

I told the circulation person that I was still getting the daily paper and to ask my carrier to stop delivering it.  I don't know if you didn't get the message to switch my subscription, or you think you're doing me a favor by giving me the paper everyday.  It's got to stop.  At this point I'm cheating the Globe by not paying for my paper.  Newspapers are still having a hard go of it, so I really don't want to cheat the Globe.  Please don't add a new layer of guilt onto my conscience.

I'm getting to the point where I want to fully cancel my subscription.  I can't deal with the paper showing up on a daily basis--at least for a few weeks, until my schedule clears up again and I have a little more time to read it.

You'll get one more chance though--I'm going to put one more vacation hold on.  If I keep getting the paper, then I'm going to have to cut you loose.

Thanks for your understanding.

Your pal,

p.s.--I still got my Sunday paper, the one I put on vacation.  What's up with that?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Karmic Merry-Go-Round

Dear Readers,

Call it karma, call it the Golden Rule--no matter how you slice it, what goes around comes around.  Seems like I've been on a karmic merry-go-round the last few days.

After my little post mocking the Boy and his low glycemic lunch, I got my own come-uppance that night.  The Boy and I have different pillows--mine is soft and squishy (and super comfortable), and the Boy's is thinner and not so comfortable--in my mind, and perhaps the Boy's, because he likes to swap pillows every once in a while and stick me with the lousy one.

That evening, I was trying to fall asleep, and my pillow just didn't feel right.  I tried to sneakily determine whether or not it was mine--I ran my hand between the pillow and pillowcase to feel the stitching, and I was just about to spring an A-HA on the Boy when he asked what the heck I was doing.  I admitted I thought he stole my pillow, and to show me, he quickly swapped them out.  I was wrong---and was stuck with a crappy pillow and a case of mocking.

Great.  Serves me right.

But then I was absolved!  The next morning, the Boy missed the commuter train, so I had to drive him 40 minutes to work.  It was a lovely day, so on the way home I stopped for a walk in the woods, and I stopped at a nursery to get some herb plants.

As I was paying for my plants, my phone rang.  It was the Boy, saying he'd forgotten his work laptop at home.  Oops.  I dashed home, grabbed the laptop, and headed back out to his office.  And I didn't even say anything--I mean, what am I going to say that's going to make him feel worse than he already did?  It was a nice day for driving, and I got to catch up on my podcasts.  No big deal.

I think that makes us even now.  At least I hope so!

Your pal,

Friday, May 6, 2011

What I'm Not Allowed to Share on Facebook

Dear Readers,

This week the Boy said something that sounded so bizarre coming out of his mouth, I couldn't help but laugh at him.

He wasn't pleased.  "You'd better not put this on Facebook!" he warned.

"No, I won't put it on Facebook.  I'll just blog about it," I replied.  To be quite honest, this is actually a safer bet.  I have considerably more Facebook friends (who may or may not read my feed) than I do blog readers, so it's highly likely that no one will see this and call him out on it.

Or they might.  But that's the chance I'm willing to take.

Anyway, the Boy's been on a big health kick lately.  Now, the Boy is of the very tall and naturally thin body type.  He's the kind of guy who can eat pretty much anything and not get fat.  Lately, he's been worried about getting older and putting on that middle-aged paunch, and he really doesn't want to be that guy.

To fight the middle-aged spread, he's been really diligent in keeping a food diary, going so far as to figure out how many calories are in one of my homemade empanadas.  He's been good about eating lots of fruit and veg, and he's cut back on the snacks.  It's starting to show--weight's down a little, and he's losing a little bit in terms of inches.

This week, he was proudly cutting up some broccoli and salad to make a "low glycemic lunch."

Low glycemic lunch?  Did that phrase just come out of his mouth?  Out of the mouth of a guy who probably never has to worry about getting Type 2 diabetes because he could never possibly put on enough weight or stop exercising enough to trigger it?

Of course, I started laughing at him.  My husband, the dietician.  Finding his way around the refrigerator.  Making his low glycemic lunch to enjoy at work.

Which I think he did--until he came home and needed a snack.

I can't remember if I was this much fun when I was trying to lose weight.  You know, you're really focused on forming new, better habits, some of which may involve lingo that the average human wouldn't say.  Or maybe I'm just trying to get back at him for picking a fight with me in the grocery store a few years ago because apparently not everybody calls it "shelf-stable juice."  Either way, it was nice to be on the giving side of the mock.  I know the pendulum will swing the other way at any moment, so I'd better enjoy it while I can--perhaps with a side of glucose.

Have a good weekend, everyone!
Your pal,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

We Auto Stop This!

Dear Women of America,

Today while I was driving around town, deciding if the closest gas station to where I was actually had cheap gas (it did!  $3.89/gallon!), I saw something that made my jaw drop:  A powder blue Mercedes Benz SUV with eyelashes on the headlights.

Say what???  Eyelashes?!

Oh, yes.  Well, they weren't really eyelashes, they were "Carlashes" (TM) (Patent pending).  But they were car decorations all the same--car decorations that made me weep for this country.  Why does anyone want or need fake eyelashes (or crystal eyeliner) on their car?  Just to make it cute?  For reelz?  You've got nothing else to spend your money on?  Is the recession over?

I mean, like, I really, really don't get why you'd want this on your car, so if someone could explain it to me, I'd appreciate it.  Then I would appreciate you sitting through my lecture on why this product should not exist--especially on your vehicle.  I'll even give you a preview of said lecture:

  1. I can't imagine that many guys would want to be seen in or near your car.  This product cannot possibly help you in the dating world or improve your marriage (though I can't really answer to the lesbian or gay reaction).
  2. If you already have a bra on your car (and I won't even tell you what I think of the car bra either), you absolutely cannot add the lashes.  Boobs don't have eyes in real life, and if you're outfitting your car in such a style, your car boobs shouldn't have eyes either.
I know--this is a free country, so if you want to doll up your car with crystal gimmickry, you should be allowed to.  But should you do it?  Should you really give the terrorists new reasons to hate our country? I realize we've dealt them a pretty big blow recently, but I bet they're trying to regroup and are looking for targets to hate.  My guess--and I say this as the best counter-terrorism expert that's currently sitting in my home office--is that Carlashes will send them over the edge.

Unless, of course, the terrorists have car burqas, and don't really mind the extra adornments. 

Still, I'm just sayin'.  Do what's right, ladies.

Your pal,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Morning Alarm

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I was on deadline, so I didn't get a chance to blog.  Big news day though, huh?  I mean, Osama Bin Laden finally tracked down -- what a surprise!

Sunday night we actually went to bed early.  We're perpetually going to bed at midnight, and we're zonked all week long (there's no real good reason for our late bedtime -- probably just a little too much time on the computer).  On Sunday I shut it down in the 10:00 hour, and we had lights out around 11:00.  Boy, did we sleep well!

This means I missed the initial "big news conference on late" Facebook posts -- the ones that evolved into something like "We got him!" No, I woke up to the top-of-the-hour announcement on NPR to have my mind properly blown [surprisingly, I didn't even have any NPR dreams about it either].

Sometimes it's like that -- you go to bed one night, and when you wake up in the morning, the entire world has changed.  That happened for a lot of people on 9/11/01, when Bin Laden's minions launched their largest attack on the US at the start of the day in the East, but much earlier for most of the country.  It kind of seems only fitting that this chapter of the story should end in a similar manner.

Bin Laden's capture and demise doesn't necessarily solve anything, but I hope it makes the future better.  Hopefully this will deal a big enough blow to terrorist factions so that we, nor any country who's been struck by a terrorist attack, will never have to deal with such atrocities again.

Your pal,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming Out Ahead?

To the man who's digging through the recycling bins, looking for deposit bottles:

I kind of admire your chutzpah.  It's recycling day, and you're driving up and down streets, collecting the deposit bottles that people have opted to recycle rather than haul back to the grocery.  It's kind of like found money.

But when I think about the time it takes to go through said bins and haul the recyclables to a redemption center, I start thinking that you're doing this out of necessity, and that makes me sad.  Hopefully I'm wrong, and this is just one of your many hobbies.

However, your actions disturbed me on a different level today.  While you're going through the bins, you're letting your car idle.  Um, gas is close to $4/gallon now.  Are you really making enough money off your deposit bottles to offset the amount of money you save on gas?

I really hate to see you working so hard for a few nickels, only to put that money right back into your gas tank.  Maybe if you just park your car and walk up and down the block with a big trash bag for your collecting, you won't have to spend this extra cash so quickly.

Just a thought.

Your pal,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Packed in China

Dear Wolfson Casing Corp,

I picked up your product at our local Stop & Shop so that we'd have some fresh casing to make our Easter kielbasa.  I was pretty surprised at the price--only $5.29 for a 5 oz. package.  Just under 7 oz. cost me over $9 at a fancy butcher shop several months ago.

Initially, the sausage stuffing process was going well.  I was in charge of rinsing out the casing so that my husband could put the sausage in it.  While he waited for me to finish, he took a look at your packaging and saw something that horrified him:

Product of U.S.A.
Packed in China
Really?!  My mind is boggled.  How can shipping casing all the way to China to package it be more economical?  I mean, this is casing, packed in salt, and placed in a resealable bag (much like a package of shredded cheese).  What do the Chinese do to it that causes enough value add to warrant the environmental effects of shipping and the loss of jobs (both at your own company and at companies that supply the bags)?

I understand that if you're a global company, you want an international presence to make shipping to other countries easier, but does everything have to go through China first?  Why not have a US packing plant for the US/North American market?

Needless to say, we won't be buying your product anymore.  China doesn't have a great track record with packaged food (see: milk tainting, bean sprout tainting, pork taintingfake sweet potato flour, steamed bun scandal, etc.).  We can't fathom why a food company would willingly ship their product to a place that's not necessarily tops in food safety and fully believe it will come back OK.

Oh, I'm sure you've vetted your packagers--your website even says your plants are USDA-certified.  I'm sure not every factory in China is bad/cuts corners.  But let's face it--I've seen enough exposes of Chinese factories to see what making a cheaper product entails.  And when it comes to the food I put in my body, I like to be a little careful of where it's come from.

Next time I need casing, I'm heading back to my butcher.  The peace of mind is worth a couple extra bucks.

Your pal,

P.S. -- Do you really supply the Johnsonville Sausage Company, or are they just a "friend"?

P.P.S. -- The link to the Linx game on your site is broken.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Dear Readers,

Think I'm posting in the afternoon because I'm hung over?  Well, you'd be wrong!

I did enjoy a decent of amount of prosecco yesterday during my Easter celebrations.  Lent's now over, and I kept up my end of the bargain to not have booze during it (save the one day in Maine at the beginning of April that God and I discussed when we made our agreement).

I have to say that the last couple of weeks weren't so bad.  Sure, I wouldn't have minded a beer here and there.  Passing up a mimosa at brunch this past Saturday was also tough, but during the second half of Lent, I seemed to have turned the corner of "this is not so difficult."  That was pretty nice.  I even dropped a couple of pounds--though I don't know if that was due to not drinking, or it was due to the Boy's starting a food diary, which made me a little more conscientious about what I was putting into my mouth.

Still, I'm glad it's over.  I'm a little comforted by the fact that I now know I'm able to give up drinking if I had to, but it's much nicer to say, "Oh, I don't feel like a drink tonight," than, "I can't drink at all."  Besides, I have a list of cocktail places to hit up, so it's time to get a move on that!

Your pal,

Friday, April 22, 2011

All I Need IS Now

Dear Duran Duran,

Well, my favorite band, you've done it again.  I got the new album ("All You Need Is Now"), and it's been playing on a continuous loop all week.  I'm not even listening to my podcasts because I like the new album so much, and that's saying something.  I think the Boy might thank you, because I believe he's pretty tired of listening to Adam Carolla and Too Beautiful to Live; however, after I listen to "Meditteranea" for the third time in a row, I'm not so sure.

I'm just glad you've been able to put out another good album.  I was a little worried after "Red Carpet Massacre," which I really did not like.  Oh, I understand you wanted to try working with new people like Justin Timberlake and Timbaland and try something new with your music.  It's good to try new things and stretch yourself.  It's just that I didn't really like the final product.  Duran Duran + hip hop beats does not equal a good thing.  You're better with actual music.

Which is why I like the new album.  It's got a lot of traditional elements in it (yeah, you could say there's a callback to "Save a Prayer" in some of the music), but it also has a lot of really catchy songs that I would love to hear live.

Keep up the good work--I'm so glad you're still around as a band and keep bringing new music to my life.

Your pal,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Yearly Dilemma

Dear Readers,

Oooo, it's been a while.  I've been off in roller derby land and am just now coming down off my high.  We had a bout this past Saturday, and my team of non-skating officials did a really nice job.  We got all kinds of praise from our head ref, so I've been more than a little proud of what we accomplished.  Most of our officiating team is new this season, and they've really stepped up to become a formidable little crew.  Quite pleased, I am with them.

Anyhow, while I still have derby on the brain, I need a little advice from you.

I'd like to apply to work some of the WFTDA "Big 5" Tournaments.  These are the four regional and one championship tournament that determine who's on top in the women's flat-track roller derby world.  They're a lot of fun to work -- I did the North Central one a couple of years ago, and last year I did Eastern's and the Championship.

This year, I'd like to apply for Eastern's, North Central's (it's in Indy, so it's also an excuse to visit some friends), and the Championship.  However, North Central's lands on my wedding anniversary.  My question is, do I apply to work it?

The Boy says I may, but that gives him more fuel for the fire.  On our 2nd anniversary, he suggested ordering a pizza (it was a Monday; he'd just gotten back from a business trip).  I replied that pizza was for "special occasions."  Yep, I'm never living that one down.  Should I add another to it?

I'm not much of a romantic, and the Boy and I aren't big on celebrating other milestones.  I mean, I can calculate when we had our first date if I had to.  I could probably look up the day we met.  He sometimes has to confirm when we got married, but I don't think too much of it.  Can't we just celebrate the fact after it happens?  Wouldn't a belated anniversary be just as sweet?

A friend in Indy asked if it was an "important" anniversary.  It's not a big milestone, so she basically said to apply and come to Indy.  She's not much of a romantic either.

What do you think?

Weigh in and let me know.  The application's not due for a little while, so I have time to make a good decision.

Your pal,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Extreme Blogging (a 2 for Friday)

Dear Extreme Couponers,

I have three words of advice for you:  Pop goes bad.

The "Extreme Couponing" show on TLC portrays a bunch of people who love a bargain and get a lot of product for next to nothing.  I know you love your stockrooms full of groceries that you paid pennies for.  But seriously, if you have 40 bottles of soda*, can you drink it all before it goes bad?

In Massachusetts, there's been a little controversy about serving school lunches made with frozen food that's past its expiration and/or "use by" and/or "best by" dates.  Many of us know that "use by" and "best by" are guidelines, that this food isn't necessarily spoiled, but it may be losing its nutritional value.

That's not the case with carbonated beverages.  Ever have a two-year-old Coke?  The Boy did once one spring when my mom pulled a bottle of Olympic-labelled Coke out of her stockpile in the basement for him.  I commented that it seemed a little early in the year for the Beijing Olympic labeling to be out....and then we noticed that the bottle was from the Torino Olympics two years earlier.  The Coke tasted pretty bad and had to be dumped.

I just wanted to let you extreme couponers know that factoid.  Use up that product in your storeroom before it really goes bad.  If you waste product, did you really save money on it anyway?  If you have to throw out 20 bottles of expired BBQ sauce that cost you 50 cents a bottle (after coupons and sales), well, you've just thrown away $10.  Seems a little extreme to me.

Your pal,

[* Note to readers--Am I losing my Midwestern roots?  That should be "pop."  POP!!!]

Dear Readers,

Madgal alerted me to the new TLC show "Extreme Couponing," which of course I ended up watching--with my mouth open in shock for most of it.  It profiles some people who really really really love to use coupons -- and have piles of food and other products to show for it.  One guy has deodorant for years.  Someone else bought over two dozen bottles of Maalox (I'm guessing you need all of that because you're also using your coupons on food that's not all that great for you, so you get a little acid buildup).

That's not the only crazy thing about the show.  People spend hours and hours walking through stores, creating super-detailed shopping lists, breaking up their five-shopping-cart haul into 18 distinct transactions in order to maximize their coupons.  One couple even shopped early in the day, then called friends into the store to act like they were buying the stuff because a store coupon was limited to one-per-person (note to friends:  If you call me before 9 AM to go to a grocery store and pretend to buy food so that you can save an extra $5, you will be put on my shit list.  I don't care if said food is going to be served at a party I'm attending.  That's beyond the "above and beyond" I like to do for my friends).

Luckily, the couponing world is a bit up in arms, so it's nice to see that not everyone with a coupon insert is like this (I'm certainly not....while I do use coupons and sometimes manage to get some pretty good deals, I'm in no way a master of the game).  It's just the magic of reality TV + extreme anything = good TV.

What I would love to see is one of these families living off their massive stockpile until it's gone.  What happens when these extremists aren't allowed to go to the grocery store?  Can they survive without their habit?  This, unfortunately, probably doesn't make good TV....though it might make a good blog.  If you see a "recovering extreme couponer" blog, let me know!

Have a good weekend!
Your pal,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Drop and Give Me Ten (Pages)!

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow is D.E.A.R. Day - Drop Everything and Read Day. Celebrated on the birthday of one of my favorite kiddie lit authors Beverly Cleary, it's a day to celebrate reading...and making sure you set aside time for it.

I love reading--I love getting lost in other worlds and reading about other people--so I'm ready to celebrate by taking a chunk of the day to do just that.

I hope you decide to celebrate too--leave a comment, and let me know what book you choose to read!

Your pal,

Friday, April 8, 2011

Who Do You Know?

Dear Readers,

I'm in a bit of a bind, and I could use your help.  It's money-related, yes, but I'm not looking for PayPal donations or anything like that.  I'm looking for story ideas.

See, last year, I was profitable as a writer, which is awesome because it seems like my little writing career is going well.  However, it means that I'm paying my taxes quarterly this year, which is a rather frightening prospect.  2010 taxes + 2011 Q1 taxes + accountant fees (worth every penny) + paying for a desperately-needed new computer have pretty much wiped out both my account for setting aside my tax money and my general savings account.  I have to come up with a nice-sized chunk of change by June 30.

You might think I have a whole three months to do this, so what's the big deal?  If you're a freelancer, you know that's not a lot of time.  I have clients who pay me within a month of the work.  I have clients that pay me within a couple months of the work.  And I have clients who pay me only after I've bothered them for a year -- and then the check bounces.  It's the downside to this job.

Although it would be great to have story assignments just come to me, the system doesn't always work like that.  I need to find story ideas and pitch them until they get accepted somewhere--by a paying publication.  The pitching process can take a while too, so I need to light a little fire underneath myself and generate some work so that I can have money coming in not only next month, but six months down the road.

That's where you come in.  Even though I have a short list of story ideas, I need more.  Do you have any unusual hobbies--or even, what are your hobbies?  Own a small business that's doing something interesting?  Work for a big business that does things a little out of the norm?  Fight for a worthy (and not-well-publicized) cause? [and by that I mean, something that's story-worthy.  It's nice if you're doing the marathon to raise money for charity, but so are thousands of other people.  What makes your story unique?]

Let me know what's going on in your world - either comment, or shoot me an e-mail [jilljaracz AT yahoo DOT com], and I'll follow up with you.  I can't guarantee anything, but I certainly would appreciate the help!

Your pal,

Monday, April 4, 2011

Raising My Glass

Dear Readers,

As you may recall, I gave up booze for Lent.  Not the most brilliant decision, but I'm managing.  It helps that in what the Boy refers to as "my contract with Jesus," I gave myself an exception for April 2.  Before Lent, we'd made arrangements to see some friends in Portland, ME (where I'd be officiating a little roller derby action), and we planned to go to a brewpub or two while we were there.

It was a small fact I remembered as I made my Lenten resolution.  Hence, the exception.

Let me tell you, the drinking was fantastic.

Well, backing up a minute.  We went to two beer joints: Sea Dog Brew Pub, and the Lion's Pride, which is a big Belgian beer place.  At Sea Dog I had two beers, a blonde and a blueberry wheat.  Both were tasty.  Both were <5% ABV.  Both went straight to my head.

Food helped a little bit, and I managed to finish a Stillwater Of Love and Regret, this really tasty herby beer that I'd love to drink again.

However, by the end of the evening, I was fairly crocked over a small amount of beer, and I didn't really like that feeling.  I enjoy a beverage at the end of the day, should I feel like one.  I don't like seeing my tolerance slim down to nothing.  I don't like getting silly over nothing.  It's not fun--I feel like less of an adult when I can't manage a couple of drinks.

The good news is that I only have a few weeks left in my Lenten adventure.  Then I can resume enjoying beverages the way they should be enjoyed.  Do I think this experiment is silly?  No.  If anything, it's taught me that everything in moderation is good.  Drink too much, and you'll have to stop drinking for life.  Enjoy a little bit, and you can savor it forever.

Your pal,


Friday, April 1, 2011

What Size Picker-Upper?

Dear Bounty Paper Towels,

When you were deciding on the sizes for your paper towels, did you conduct focus groups of children to help you with this process?  I'm only asking because yesterday I stood in Target in the paper towel aisle, a little perplexed over whether I should choose:

  • The "Giant" roll multipack
  • The "Huge" roll multipack
Both are amazingly bigger than the "regular" roll (but then, I can't tell what "regular" is anymore, since finding a "regular"-sized roll in the store can sometimes be tough), but "giant" and "huge" tell me nothing about how big either of them really is. 

It took me far longer than it should have to choose my Bounty, and that was kind of frustrating.  Usually I'd think it'd be harder to figure out which brand would be better, but no.  I had to do some math and figure out what was the better deal in terms of square footage and what I was able to afford.  Then it dawned on me that I should purchase the roll that wouldn't get stuck in my paper towel holder, and that turned out to be the Giant roll.  Yep, because "huge" is bigger than "giant" in Bounty's book.  

Thanks for the frustration.

Your pal,

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Special Delivery

Dear USPS,

I just wanted to send you a quick note of support while you contemplate halting Saturday delivery.  Now, I like my mail just as much as anyone else, but I understand that lower mail volume = lower income for you. At some point you have to cut back on something.  If we're not sending enough mail, then definitely, cut a day of delivery service.

I think people are complaining because they don't like change.  I've lived in Germany and Austria, and they don't have Saturday delivery.  It works fine.  Worried about a deluge of mail on Monday?  Offices with Monday-Friday mailrooms already deal with that.  They learn to manage.  We'll learn to manage.  Even the people in rural areas who will supposedly be at a disadvantage will learn to cope with having a full two days with no mail delivery

It's a tough choice to make--and it may not solve all of your budgetary woes, but it's a step in the right direction.

Good luck!

Your pal,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mass Mailings

Dear Ford,

Hey, we got yet another mailing from you yesterday.  Cool to hear about the 2011 models; however, I wanted to remind you:

We bought a new car last year.

We're still paying it off.

Therefore, we do not need another new car this year.

I would think that somewhere in your massive database system you know that last year we were first-time car buyers (i.e.--we had zero cars when we bought our Ford).  I'd imagine that you probably also know that since we bought one of your cheaper cars, we probably did that because that's all we could afford.  We're not the type of people who buy a new car every year--and how many of those do you have in this economy, for goodness' sake?

I realize you're excited to share all the new model info with us, but can't you tell we're just not in the market?  Please stop it with all the mailings.

Thank you!

Your pal,

P.S.--We do love our Ford--it's been an awesome car for us!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Creative Constipation

Dear Readers,

I'm feeling guilty for not blogging much--though one might say that there are too many blogs out there anyway.  I've just been in my monthly funk of not feeling productive/creative/worthy, and I haven't wanted to pass the funk on to you. Add the general crabbiness I have about not drinking (that "no booze = weight loss" thing is really starting to look like a big ol' myth to me...either that, or I'm eating more to compensate, or I never drank so much that it affected my caloric intake in the first place), and you get a person who's not so pleasant to be around.

Granted, you might think that crabby Jill is a fun Jill who pokes at general stupidity, but I haven't even been able to come up with that lately.  It's as if my creativity is completely constipated--it's stuck somewhere inside of me, and I'd really like to find it and move on.

I'm trying to not dwell on the problem--and I'm trying to find ways out of it, like other creative pursuits:  baking (cookies and pretzel bread were on the docket today), reading books (working on Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, Rita Rudner's Tickled Pink (which is totally enjoyable), and a stack of other random chick lit), and trying to stay active (watching "Heavy" helps motivate me there).  I'm also hoping to start having more adventures again--get out and explore, and maybe that will inspire me.

I also hope it will make me more regular here too (pun intended).  Thanks for tuning in and sticking with me!

Your pal,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Counting Down

Dear Readers,

I don't often give up something for Lent, but this year I decided to participate--to see if I could jump start some healthier behavior and see if I could stick with a short-term project.

I've given up booze.  All of it--beer, wine, liquor.

It's not fun.

At first it wasn't too bad, but after a week, the Boy and I had a hard workout day.  Last week was the first time the Boy could really walk to and from the train station without wading through somebody's unshoveled walk, and in an attempt to get some exercise, I walk with him to the train station and then I meet him there at the end of the day.  This means I went from almost no movement to a minimum of 4 miles walking a day (it's a mile to the train station). On Thursday I also walked to and from my volunteer gig at the library, which is another 20 minute walk that involves a pretty steep hill on the way home.  Plus, the Boy and I did a run at the track near our field (which involves running home up that steep hill).

Needless to say, I was wiped out and really wanted a recovery beer.  Since then I've thought way more about booze than I normally do.  I'm not going through massive withdrawals or anything (thank goodness), but man, do I enjoy a good adult beverage!

The Boy is doing his best to help me out and is systematically drinking all the beer that's currently in our fridge.  You know, so I don't get tempted.  We're not cooking with wine, since that would mean opening a bottle and having to dump 2/3 of it because he won't drink the rest.  Thank goodness liquor is easily measured, which means I'll let myself cook with it (hello, bourbon pecan pie!).

Still, it's not an easy task, and I hope I'll manage to stay on track.  Should I succeed, there's a bottle of bubbly with my name on it, chilling in the fridge.

Do you give up anything--or do anything special for Lent?  Let me know!

Your pal,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Postcard from Vermont

Dear Readers,

Last weekend, the Boy was out of town, so I wrangled some friends and went to Vermont for the day.  Vermont's the last state in New England I had to visit, so I was excited to cross it off of the list.  The day involved two breakfasts, two factory tours (Cabot Cheese and Ben & Jerry's), and some snowshoeing.

And it involved me learning how to pronounce "Montpelier."

Montpelier's the capital of Vermont; however, with less than 8,000 people, it's the smallest state capital in the country.  We drove through the city fairly quickly and saw the pretty golden dome on the statehouse, and once we were out of town, I brought up the pronunciation.

See, I was traveling with a German, a Brit, and a Japanese (there's a joke somewhere about us walking into a bar...if you can come up with a good punchline, I'll send you something good, like whoopie pies or something) and we all pronounced it differently:  The German pronounced it very French (Mon-pell-ee-AY), the Brit pronounced it almost the same, but less French and more "t" sound.  The Japanese...well, wait a second--I don't think she ever said the name of the city.  Hmmmmm......

Me?  I said, "Mont-peh-LEER."  To various peals of laughter.

Well, I had a mystery to solve!  Soon thereafter, we arrived at the Ben & Jerry's factory for a half-hour of snowshoeing on the grounds, plus the factory tour.  Almost immediately after we got on our snowshoes, our guide asked if we have any questions.  I responded, "So, how do you say the state capital?"

Granted, I think I was supposed to ask about snowshoeing, but our guide was pretty game. "MONT-pell-ee-er," she replied.

"Oh.  OK," I said.  To more laughter.

Then I had to get all Midwestern defensive on my friends.  See, you learn things from your parents or at school.  Ma Jaracz is not the most accurate enunciator in the world--she occasionally slips up and says things like "worsh" ("wash"), "Worshington," or "wauship" ("worship").  And since Vermont is a small state far from the Midwest, it's probably easy to mispronounce it.

My German friend was sympathetic.  She'd gone to school in Carbondale, IL.  It's near Cairo, IL (pronounced "KAY-ro").  She got it.

Still, that didn't stop my brain from repeating "MONT-pell-ee-er" on a loop for the rest of the day.  Now I'm determined to go back there for a proper visit--with proper pronunciation.

Have a good weekend, everyone!
Your pal,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Wee St. Patty's Day Story

Dear Readers,

While it's still St. Patty's Day, I'd like to share a little blarney about the life of the great St. Patrick.

Before Patrick became a saint, he was a slave.  A slave to a hard-drivin' lord o' the manor who had some pretty rotten teeth (so rotten that when he cried for "Patty"--Patrick's least favorite nickname--it actually sounded like "Paddy").  Now a lad of nearly 16, he'd been a slave on this manor since he was 4.  He'd worked his way up through the various levels of child slavery, from digging potatoes out of the ground and feeding the herds, to shoveling up dung in the road and cutting bricks of peat.

Slavery wasn't a pleasant lifestyle, but it was all Patrick knew.  Being a fairly cheerful boy, he tried to make the most of his dire situation, and that's where he stood out from all the other slaves.  Patrick was a rare breed called a Neatnik.  He loved order and despised chaos, which unfortunately for him, was pretty much par for the course in 399 AD.  Homes were haphazardly built, dirt went everywhere, and the basic organizational system included piling your goods together (if you had a lot of stuff, you separated your household goods into piles and heaps).

Patrick took it upon himself to set his master's manor right.  He washed the buildings.  He got the planting slaves to sow their seeds in nice rows.  He put animals in their own pens and made sure they were groomed.  If something was broken, he either repaired it or purged it.  It was a lot of work for a boy his age, but as he put it, it was better to make a clean sweep of one's possessions than to live in a cluttered manor.

The lord of the manor soon noticed his propensity for tiding things up and said, "Paddy, I'd like ta ged me fields organized so thad tha sheep don'd go astray."

Patrick took a look at the fields, where the flocks of sheep and cows were randomly milling about.  He noticed that his lord's herd was mixed in with other herds, and that come sheering and slaughtering time, there would be one big fight among the animal owners over whose flocks these actually were.  He took on his master's challenge to create a more organized grazing area.

Patrick's first step was to properly mark each one of his master's animals, which he did through a gruesome, medieval variety of ways--some so heinous that they can only be shown in hideous medieval torture museums.

Once this task was over, he set about securing the fields.  Back then, fields were marked off by huge boulders--the bigger, the better.  Landowners could see the boulders from miles away, so they knew how the fields lined up.  Unfortunately, the boulders were well-spaced apart....sometimes markers would be a quarter-mile apart.  Naturally, sheep and cows didn't respect the boundaries, so they just wandered wherever they pleased, creating all kinds of chaos.

Patrick knew he had to make a better barrier, and large boulders weren't going to cut it (let's face it, he could barely move one by himself).  That's when Patrick noticed the abundant supply of smaller rocks and stones all along the property.  He realized if he stacked them up properly, he could create a solid wall that no animal could get through or hop over.

Over the next several months, Patrick created stone fences all along his master's property.  They worked just as he hoped, which pleased his master very much.  Other property owners took notice too and asked to hire Patrick to help him design stone fences for their properties as well.  Patrick's owner gladly hired him out--and even allowed him to keep a portion of his earnings--and Patrick soon had erected his stone fences all over the western part of Ireland.

Patrick's work caused great peace throughout the land.  For the first time, herd owners didn't fight and kill over who owned which animals.  The herds stayed safely behind their own fences, with plenty of room to safely graze.  And Patrick, with his little nest egg, was able to buy his way out of slavery, paving the way for his future work as a snake-rousing priest.

Today when you visit Ireland, you can still see some of the fences St. Patrick built snaking across the country, bringing civilization to an untame land.

Your pal,

p.s.--If you liked that story, let me see what I can whip up for the upcoming holidays.  My "Cinco de Mayo Sisters" is sure to please!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's Time

Dear Neighbors,

Today is March 8.  You can take down your Christmas decorations now.

Now, I can imagine what you might say--the lousy weather kept you from getting at them.  I understand that--to a point.  I mean, the neighbors who have the green garland with big red bows wrapped around their porch pillars have had a clean porch for some time now.

For the rest of you:  We've had balmy weather for a little while, and the piles of snow that have plagued us all winter are just about gone.  Please get out to your yard, take down the lights/ornaments/deflated inflatables, and put them away until next year 9 months from now.

Please and thank you.

Your pal,

Friday, March 4, 2011

Update on American Airlines

Dear Readers,

Thanks to the ever-astute madgal72, we have an update on American Airlines' voucher-redeeming procedures!  The US Department of Transportation is fining the airline $90,000 for not disclosing the fees.

Compared to what AA makes in a year, this is chump change, but it is the cost of at least one decently paid employee (with benefits).  In my book, it's at least something!

Thanks again, madgal!

Your pal,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Today Is the Day!

Dear Apple,

Thankyouthankyouthankyou for releasing the new MacBook Pros! I've been babying my poor little six-year-old PowerBook G4 for a few months, waiting for the new release. My skills in patience have finally paid off. The last time I bought a computer, I believe the editions with the Intel chip were released a few months later.  Doh!

This time, I read the rumor sites to figure out when a new release would come out. I waited. I saved up money. I waited some more. But I don't need to wait any longer.

Today I will have a new laptop.

Today I will not see the "spinning wheel of doom" every time I try to load a website.

Today I will be able to work at speeds that will blow my mind away. I won't know what to do with all my free time!  [Oh, wait....maybe I'll blog more.]

Thanks again, and warn your stores that I'm coming!

Your pal,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shut the E-mail Down, America!*

Dear You, the Person Who's About to Reply to All in an E-mail,

Stop!  Before you hit send, is that e-mail relevant to everyone on the list?  Are you just talking to talk, or are you adding to the conversation?

If it's the former, please (PLEASE) think long and hard before you hit "reply to all."  Yes, sometimes joking is fun for everyone to read.  Yes, sometimes it's good to make the joke and let off a little steam, if you need to.  But if you're a habitual reply-to-all joke maker, maybe you should cut it down to maybe one joke every few days, instead of a few jokes every day.

Your recipients' inboxes will thank you for it.

Your pal,

*Giving credit where it's due: This phrase is slightly modified from one used by the awesome people at TBTL.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flying High on a Response

NOTE:  I got this e-mail a while ago, but it's been buried in my inbox.  Still, it's great news!

February 1, 2011
Dear Mrs. J---:
Through the courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation, we've received a copy of the complaint that you filed with their office. We appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concerns of ticketing a reservation with the transportation voucher you received.
In reading your message, we appreciate your inquiry about using a paper transportation voucher to purchase a ticket. While service charges are allowed, I am pleased to tell you that the service charge we previously assessed for this type of transaction did not apply at the time of your ticketing. Our customers told us time and time again that this service charge was especially objectionable when applied to redeeming a transportation voucher. Consequently, we found a way to modify our internal process and eliminate this particular service charge for these transactions. Customer feedback about any of our policies and procedures is especially meaningful to us.
Still, we regret your belief that the collection applied. Accordingly, we reviewed the reservation transaction to ensure a mistake was not made. The original voucher held a $300 value. The new fare was a total of $216.44. A residual voucher of $83.56 was mailed to you. No additional collection of $20 was processed or deducted from the value of the voucher.
Mrs. J---, we appreciate you and your husband for volunteering to take an alternate flight last October. We are hopeful that this opportunity to expound upon some of our policies and procedures will help as you travel with us in the future. We look forward to welcoming you aboard again soon, and thank you for flying American.
Wendy Scott
Customer Relations
American Airlines
cc: U.S. Department of Transportation

Monday, February 14, 2011

Your Not-So-Great Pal

Dear Readers,

Perhaps you're thinking, "What happened to my pal Jill?"  (Perhaps you're not.  That's OK too).  I honestly don't know where the time has gone....well, I think I have a couple of ideas:  Shoveling and roller derby.

We still have piles of snow outside, and it's still difficult for me to see around well enough to make turns at some intersections.  However, they're slowly melting (in fact, I think it's about time for me to chip some ice out of the driveway), and I hope that they'll be going away for good soon.  I hit the wall on winter this past week, and I'm ready to experience my first mud season in New England.

Roller derby's been my other major activity.  We are quickly coming upon our first bout, which is a doubleheader on the 26th:

Boston Massacre vs. Montreal New Skids on the Block
BDD Home Teams:  Nutcrackers vs. Cosmonaughties
This is going to be an awesome, awesome bout.  Montreal is a ton of fun to watch, and they've become a really competitive team (recently upset Rat City).  Boston is gunning to get back to the WFTDA Championships--by placing 4th in last year's regional tournament, they missed out.  This year they plan to be back.

My preparation for the bout has been a lot of training, organization, and stocking up.  We have a bunch of new officials, which is fantastic, not only because we have a lot of them, but also because they're excited, dedicated, and all around sharp.  They have a ton of great ideas and really want to improve our league and officiating team.  Every time I think about them, I get excited.

However, they all have to be trained, which takes time.  I've had to buy officiating supplies, which takes time.  I've had to try to get prepared for not only this first bout, but the entire season.  It's amazing how many details go into producing a roller derby bout.  My head spins just thinking about it.

I'm trying to generate new work too, which has been an ongoing learning process/ego bruiser.  Today I realized that I have to get back in the saddle and make something happen.  Nothing really just falls into your lap--it has to be right place/right time, and I have to get myself into those places.

Unfortunately, that means that the blog has taken a back seat, and I have to get myself back into the place of making this world a more sane/common sensical place.  It won't happen on its own--I need to do a little prodding.  If you've got any suggestions/have noticed some weird policies, let me know, and I'll look into it.  Or if you just want to let me know what you've been up to in the meantime, I'd love to hear it.

Your pal,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowy Wisdom

Dear Readers,

On this week's edition of "If It's Tuesday/Wednesday, It Must Be Snowing".....

We've had a serious amount of snow, and honestly, every week we have a big storm that involves spending major amounts of time shoveling and figuring out where to put the snow.  By now I feel like I'm supposed to have acquired some sort of sage wisdom that I can impart on all of you--wisdom so wonderful that even people in warm climates would wish they had snow storms and could gain this knowledge.

Sadly, I haven't.

But after another typical two-hour stint of shoveling during a storm, where once I've finished doing a pass, it doesn't look like I've even shoveled at all because the snow is coming down so hard, I do have one thought:

If I'm shoveling for two hours, I can eat and drink whatever I want.

That counts for something, right?

Off to eat a bit of whoopie pie.  Stay warm!

Your pal,