Monday, June 26, 2006

Magazine Billing Services - not so bad after all!

I called up Magazine Billing Services today when I got home from work in hopes of straightening out the 10-year subscription issue. I was ready for a fight. I had my pen and paper on hand, ready to take notes and names/ID numbers of CSRs who wronged me. Aaaaaaand, I didn't need these things at all. When I called, I talked to a CSR named Sharon who was very friendly and helpful. She explained why cancelling the subscriptions was difficult and had a charge associated with it (because they have already paid the publisher for these subscriptions and wouldn't get refunded for them), but suggested that we transfer the payments I'd already made to other magazines (which I hadn't even thought of). So I ended up renewing Cooking Light for 3 years, and Games magazine for 2 years (as well as keeping one of the three year renewals to World of Puzzles). When she asked if I had other mags I'd be interested in transferring the subscription to, I couldn't remember how much I had left on the subscriptions I already had, and she said she'd find out and call me back. Which, she did. Promptly. Everything was quickly sorted out, and now I've got a reasonable number of years on all of the magazines I already get, not 10 years on one (that may not even be around in 10 years - thats what happened to me with World of Crosswords, which I used to get and loved. It disappeared halfway through my subscription and was replaced with a far crappier monthly crossword magazine).

It was such a strange and unusual customer service experience, that I'd recommend that anyone handle their subscriptions through Magazine Billing Services. Wow. I totally did not imagine yesterday that I'd be saying this today.

Oh, also - I did ask that they remove my name from the mailing list to prevent this from happening again, and she did that too, happily. Love!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Magazine Billing Services - a total con (mostly)

This is an FYI for everyone, so that you don't get caught like we did. Okay, this is not a TOTAL con, because I mean, I do get the magazines. It would be a total con if also, I got no magazines. But here's what I mean...

I have subscriptions to several magazines. Occasionally in the mail, I get something that looks like a bill for renewal. I never know whether Brian has done this or not (even though I've gotten them before), so I leave them out for him. And I keep getting the magazines, so I'm guessing it gets renewed. Yesterday he checked back through the checkbook and saw that he had renewed one particular magazine FOUR TIMES in the last year, three of which were for three year subscriptions. One of the years is up this month, but I still have NINE YEARS remaining on my subscription, to the tune of about $200. The hell? The bills are coming from Magazine Billing Services, and evidently they just indiscriminately send these 'bills' to you (4 times this year? And thats only the ones we paid. I'm pretty sure we've gotten more than 4 of these.) regardless of where you are in your current subscription. On the back, if you turn it over, it does say that "This is a magazine subscription offer not a bill or invoice. You are under no obligation to buy or renew at the time". On the front though, it looks very much like a legitimate renewal form.

Okay, so I can just see a story like this going up on some website like The Consumerist, and every commentor saying "Moron. This is totally your own fault." Which, it totally is. We should have kept track of when we had paid for subscriptions and how long they were good for. Brian probably should have twigged that he had paid for three year renewals three times already this year. The thing is, he sits down with a pile of bills and goes through and pays them. And I'm sure thats what this company is hoping for: you'll just blindly sit down and pay them, because it sure looks like a bill.

I haven't gotten to call the Customer Service phone number yet because they're only open M-F, but I'm going to call tomorrow. I don't expect that they're going to do anything for me though. On the back of the "bill" it says "All orders are fully cancelable by calling our toll-free number within 168 hours from the time the order is placed (which is pretty arbitrary I think, considering that you mailed your payment in. 168 hours starting from when?). After that, in most cases, cancellations will not be accepted. If a cancellation is accepted, it will be subject to a $20 processing fee (so, basically, the price of a 1 year subscription)." I'm thinking I'm not going to be able to get any of these subscriptions cancelled, but I can at least verify that I have NINE YEARS remaining on my subscription, and tell them to TAKE MY NAME OFF THEIR MAILING LIST, FOR GODS SAKE.

Hello, I'm pregnant!

Up until now, I didn't really look all that pregnant. On Friday, I woke up looking not so pregnant. On Saturday, however, hello! All of a sudden, I look a little bit pregnant. Thats a little bit exciting, because its nice to have some confirmation that something is actually going on in there. In between doctors appointments, I get a little bit worried because there's really no outward indication that there's actually a baby in there. Herryn's wedding is coming up at the end of July, and I've got to get my bridesmaid dress altered. I took it in last weekend, but I thought it was a little bit early to do so, especially since things were just beginning to pop out a little bit (although it still only looked like I was fat). They told me to come back in a couple weeks instead, which, in light of this weekends events, was probably a good idea.

We also heard the heartbeat this week at my doctors appointment, which was very exciting! My next appointment is the big ultrasound where we'll find out whether its a boy or a girl (at least, we think we're going to find out. I don't think we're 100% decided). Oh, and also make sure everything else is forming okay. My mom is going to come down for that, which will be exciting!

In other pregnancy news, I'm trying to learn to sleep on my side, which I'm not super keen on. Oh well. Aaaaand, thats about it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Card tricks

I totally love card tricks. Totally. In college I taught myself a few. One of them was really cool and I was good enough at it to really surprise people, but I can't remember it anymore. A few weeks ago we had gone out for pizza with some people I work with, and I left early because I was still secretly pregnant and not feeling so super. Brian and I had driven seperately (meeting after work), so he stayed to pay the bill. When he came home he told me about the awesome magician who had performed at their table, and I was really bummed that I had missed it. So tonight we went back so I could see him.

Oh. My. God. He was awesome. It was this guy. It was like David Blaine when he used to do actual tricks, except way less annoying. He did two card tricks and a quarters trick at our table, and I was totally gobsmacked. Even when I kind of had an idea of what I should be looking for, I still have no idea what he did. Totally awesome!

Also, a fancy new template!

I got a fancy new blogger template here. Loves it!

Our godawful building - aren't we lucky?

Eve brought up some bad memories when she mentioned the Frank Gehry building built at my college/grad school. It is hideous, and I hate it. It seems as if the architect was thinking: "Hm. What would happen if a building could actually become ill and throw up? Eureka! A building would vomit metal out of its roof! Thats it!" Not sure what I mean? Check out the pictures here. I thought it was just ugly, but I didn't know it was also dangerous in the winter. Although I did always wonder why those barricades were there. I actually thought it was related to another issue this building has had: a disgruntled ex-student gunman. Boy, was that an exciting weekend to be on campus!

One thing that I liked a lot about Duke is the fact that there is some sort of unifying architectural style on the campus. CWRU was all over the place - partly because it is actually a fusion of two colleges, and partly because they just didn't care when they put up new buildings. We've got this building (the control tower at a very feminine alien airport) next to this building. And right down the quad is this building (which, to be fair, I think they've torn down, although its still on the campus map) next to this building. We did have one pretty part of campus, the Mather Quad, which has buildings like this and this. But, god forbid we keep the pretty part of campus unscathed, because the barfing metal building is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from Mather Quad.

I'm not sure if I'd hate the barfing metal building as much if it were in another location, preferably one where you could step back from it a bit. Where it is, it is literally right on the street - only the sidewalk seperates the building and the street - and then there are buildings right on the other side of the street too. You can't get any sort of perspective on the barfing metal building because you can't get far enough away from it to try to take it in.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

And in music news...

You've got to be kidding me.

Also to note: I know I'm behind the game here, but I only recently got The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and its really good. I never paid much attention to the Lips because 'She Don't Use Jelly' was a little irritating. Now I see I've been depriving myself. I know they have a new album out, but I've been trying to curb my iTunes Store addiction a bit.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Jeez. 'Oh, Britney' is RIGHT.

Everyone's been talking about Britney Spears' interview with Matt Lauer. I DVR'd it and I just got a chance to watch it. And... oh. Oh, no. What. Has. Happened. To. My. Britney?!

True, her slide into trashiness has been going for a while. First she had that quickie wedding in Vegas (and an even more quickie annulment), then she married skanky K-Fed, they had that stupid show... ugh. I get queasy just thinking about that show. I do think that the tabloids have been overly harsh on her lately, especially with regards to the baby. She's screwed up a few times, but I'm sure that most new mothers have also made mistakes (I'm sure I will!); they just don't have cameras on them 24/7 to capture the moment. But other than that? She's not really doing much to help her cause.

Speaking as someone with an um... ample bosom, I know that wearing a shirt with an open neckline is flattering (makes you look less like your chest and chin are one, as Trinny and Susannah would say). However, boobs practically escaping from the shirt - not so flattering. Also, hot pink bra totally escaping the shirt? Also not flattering. Also, see thru shirt + hot pink bra + escaping boobs? Triple unflattering. Between the outfit, and the hideous overbleached hair, and the gum (I chew gum obsessively too, but generally not when I'm being interviewed by Matt Lauer), she came across more like a clerk at our local Eckerd than a wealthy entertainer.

Also, I was really sad to hear that she's 'happy' with K-Fed and that she thinks its sad that people want her marriage to fail. Because I totally do. If she was married to someone say... worth being married to, I would totally want her to be happy. When she's married to a greasy, skanky scumbucket, I kind of want that to go south. I keep hoping that getting divorced will snap her out of this trailer-trash rut.

I agree that I can't understand why she doesn't have like, a publicist, or a stylist, or something, to get her shit together before she goes out there for an interview. If her image is in the trash, wouldn't this have been a good opportunity to dust it off a little bit? She totally blew it, and I'm totally bummed.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What good can come of baked beans?

My parents went to Philadelphia this weekend to visit my cousin, her husband Mike, and their new baby. My mom told me an exciting story from this trip that I thought would benefit from a few of my special diagrams.

(This is an artist's rendering of the events that day - I wasn't there so, this is also the artist's interpretation)

Here's a set up of Mike and Denise's deck/patio.

Mike is up on the deck with the grill (Okay, that big gray thing is the grill. I know, its hard to tell. Give me a break.), making grill stuff. My mom is sitting at the table on the patio below the deck. Mike's grill is obviously fancier than ours and has one of those side burners so you can make stuff. Like, say.... baked beans. In a big pot.
Whoops! Looks like the baked beans are getting overdone, or something. Mike lifts the pot off of the burner and sets it on top of the grill while the rest of the stuff is cooking.
Now Mike needs to check on the stuff on the grill, so he opens the lid... with the pot of baked beans still on top. You can see where this is headed:

The pot of beans goes flying off the top of the grill, landing on the chair below, right next to my mom. A mom-covering-in-beans was narrowly averted, thank god. It would have been too bad, and yet totally hilarious, if she had been sitting in the baked beans chair though.

My mom called me on Monday morning as they were leaving town (in fact, they were in the parking lot at Pat's King of Steaks because my dad is a Pat's addict. Enough of an addict to require a cheesesteak at 9:15 am) but I didn't get to talk long because I had lab meeting. So, she didn't get to tell me this story until Monday night. I emailed Mike on Tuesday morning to tell him I was craving baked beans, and his response was 'I figured I'd hear from you about this before now!' Haha. Mike may not be our actual flesh and blood, but he knows us all well enough.

In the interest of fair journalism, two items should be presented in Mike's defense.
1) When we grill corn, we often melt the butter in a dish on top of the grill. On multiple occasions I've had the butter dish up there and opened the grill, flinging the dish of butter over the side of the deck, much in the same way Mike did with the beans.
2) Mike pointed out that this story is still not as embarassing as one concerning my own dear husband, which will go down in family history. And, in the history of anyone who hears that story actually. So, I think Mike's safe for a loooooong time as far as family stories go.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Crazy cat lady

If you ever had any doubt that I was the Crazy Cat Lady, we can now confirm this. Today we brought home our new kitten, Jasmine! She's a long haired calico (an X inactivation cat! I always wanted one!).

Here she is sleeping on the shelf.

She's 6 weeks old and very very small. We got her from the vet's collection of Stray Fund kittens. She came in when she was two weeks old, with her brother (an orange tabby, short hair). They had been found in the grass collection bag of someone's lawnmower.

Here's a picture of her with Brian's hand, so you can get an idea of how small she is. Also, my GameBoy is behind her head.

We're happy to have another cat. We've been thinking about this ever since Smokey died. And besides: two cats = three cats = four cats. Once we got a second cat, adding another one is like nothing. And anyhow, Beamish is like the Invisible Cat. Really, its like we only have two other cats.

A very tiny bug

I forgot to post this picture I took a few weeks ago. Brian and I were sitting out on the deck one night when Brian noticed a very tiny praying mantis on his beer bottle. I tried to take some pictures of it. Here's one:

If you click on the image, it will open up larger. You might be able to see the bug better.

Monday, June 12, 2006


For our sixth anniversary this weekend, Brian and I decided to take advantage of our last months of kidlessness and go on a little trip out to Asheville, NC. We hadn't been out there yet, and I was really interested in seeing the Biltmore Estate. Asheville is a cute town. Very sort of crunchy-hippy, which worked out well for me because there were a large variety of vegetarian (or vegetarian-friendly) restaurants. On the first night we walked around and ate dinner at the Laughing Seed Cafe, which a friend had recommended. It was FANTASTIC. I had a tempeh reuben, which is like my favorite thing ever. I used to get that all the time at Tommy's when we lived in Cleveland, and I missed it.

On Saturday we went into the Biltmore.

Its right outside Asheville, so only about a ten minute drive from the hotel, tops. It really was beautiful. The house, like any other mansion like this, is full of crazily ornate furniture. I couldn't take any pictures from inside the house though, so too bad for you. It was neat though. I wish we had gotten the headphones with the audio tour though. I was thinking there would be more information in the house, in the form of a book, or signs, or a docent, or something, but there wasn't.

Even more exciting than the house were the gardens. There was a pretty flower garden and greenhouse where I got to take a lot of flower pictures.

It seems I need to go back and read the instructional book that came with my camera, because I'm having trouble getting the focus right on macro images. I've got 5 and a half more months before I need to become an expert baby paparrazo.

(Speaking of which, I totally wore some maternity pants this weekend. No, I don't really need to yet - in the course of gaining one baby I also lost about 8 lbs, so it equalled out and pants are all still fitting just fine. But, I don't really own any shorts, and I got a cute pair of bermuda shorts in the maternity clothes shopping spree my mom took me on. I'm a real pregnant lady now!)

Right. Also there's an azalea garden, totally not blooming. When do azaleas bloom? All I've got is: not right now.
And some foresty walks and a pond which theoretically contains trout. Or something. Was it bass? I think it was bass actually. We didn't see anyhing bass-y. We saw a lot of things that were bluegill-y though. There was no need to bust out the Bass-O-Matic. I've got some pretty pictures from this part of the Biltmore too, but I'm getting tired of uploading them. Bleh.

Also, there's a winery at the Biltmore. I wasn't really going to drink any wine, but I did hope to do the sip and spit version of the wine tasting. Only, I forgot my stupid ID. And despite the fact that I am 31, I look 15. Also, they were totally ID'ing everyone. So anyhow. I got to smell the wine.

Even more importantly, I got to eat ice cream TWICE this weekend. Once in Asheville at one of those crappy-ass Marble Slab Creamery things (I just don't really like that stuff all that much), and once at the Biltmore, where I got black cherry ice cream in a WAFFLE CONE. OMG. I really needs me some ice cream now. I don't know if its pregnancy alone, because I usually develop this craving in the summer (esp. here in rain forest hot NC). Our Lowe's is right near a frozen custard place, and really, Brian can't take me to Lowe's in the summer without starting off a serious whine fest. But I think its a little teensy bit worse now. The whole thing is marred slightly by the fact that my stomach has shrunk to the size of a thimble (along with my bladder. I swear, peeing is a full time job these days).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Well, now I'm paranoid.

Now Nathan's made me paranoid about blogging about work, so I've deleted that last post. Anyhow, you probably already read it. And if you didn't, ask me about it!
There are enough examples of people losing their jobs because they've blogged about work. I think thats ridiculous, but whatever. I like my job, so I'd like to keep it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Photo contest update

I got an honorable mention for my picture of the yellow flower (down towards the bottom), which totally wasn't even my favorite (the butterfly was)! The butterfly was in a harder category though, I think.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Everyone on the road is a moron, part 2

I wouldn't say that I really have road rage problems or anything, but people on the road do annoy me sometimes. I hate people who are so impatient that they have to drive three millimeters behind you, even if everyone in front of you is going exactly the same speed as you are. What do they think I'm going to do? I'll tell you what I'm certainly not going to do, and that is move over so you can pass me. In fact, I'll probably make it as difficult as possible FOR you to pass me. I'll slow down to pace the car beside me if I need to. If you're going to piss me off, I'm not going to make your life easier.

So I like to watch when asshole drivers get screwed by their asshole behavior. Yesterday I was driving home from work and was driving one way on a 2 lane road. Coming the other direction were two cars stopped - at least the first car was turning left, but was waiting for oncoming traffic to pass (i.e. me). There was an SUV behind them who obviously couldn't possibly wait for the two seconds it was going to take for these people to turn left, so he attempted to go around them on the right shoulder. Which would be fine if there were room for him to do so. Which there was not, so he ended up in the ditch instead. Ha! Moron. So he wasted infinitely more time trying to get out of the very steep ditch (and really, is lucky he didn't roll over, because it was looking pretty precarious) than he would have waiting for the people to turn.

I totally laughed and drove off.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

For the cat who has everything

Our cats are begging us for this stuff.
Actually, its totally cute. But the cats do not look psyched.


Eve linked to this article on her blog, and I just skimmed over it. I wanted to point out a few qotes from the article:

Kanazawa's perhaps controversial perspective is that of an evolutionary psychologist. "Men conduct scientific research (or do anything else) in order to attract women and get married (albeit unconsciously)," he says. "What’s the point of doing science (or anything else) if one is already married? Marriage (or, more accurately reproductive success, which men can usually attain only through marriage) is the goal; science or anything else men do is but a means. From my perspective, scientists are no different than anybody else; evolutionary psychology applies to all humans equally," he adds.

Wha? Whaaaaaat?!?! If men are conducting scientific research in order to get a girl, they obviously skipped the class where they were instructed what women go for. And I like 'em dorky, people. This is a geek-o-phile telling you this. You're barking up the wrong tree.

Last month, when I attended a writers' conference in New York, one of the speakers was Sreenath Sreenivasan, an assistant professor and dean of students at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A scene he described from his marriage evoked a vivid image in my mind. He was sitting against his pillow in bed with his laptop in hand. His busy, multitasking wife (a management consultant and mother of twin toddlers) was also working on a laptop, seated right beside him. The two were tending electronically to their demanding jobs, but they were also instant messaging each other, obviously on the same emotional "bandwidth" in their devotion to both career and marriage.

Okay, please. I remember once in my freshman year of college when I was hopelessly addicted to IRC, Nathan and I were sitting in the SAME ROOM on TWO DIFFERENT COMPUTERS IRCing TO EACH OTHER. And mostly, I think we just thought it was hilarious (and we weren't even drunk). But COME ON. If you are sitting right next to eachother in bed and you're IM'ing each other? This does not imply being devoted to your marriage. This implies being REALLY LAME. It takes longer to type what you're saying than it does to just say it, for gods sake.

Many scientists complain that the very nature of a science career limits opportunities to find a partner. "Much of science is disproportionately male," says Chad, an engineering trainee. "There were weeks during graduate school where I literally did not speak to a female. I also remember attending parties of 50 people or more, yet you could count the women on one hand; all of whom were taken."

Where we work, I think there is one reasonably attractive single man, and every single woman is vying for his attention. Its sort of amusing. So hey guys! Come work here!