Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Mermaid" Around the World

With the help of many a Google search and a bunch of wonderful people, I present to you the "Mermaid" Around the World List:

Afrikaans:  meermin

Albanian:  sirenë

حورية البحر (bint al-bahr) - which literally translates to "daughter of the sea," also: "arouset el-bar," and "houria al-bahr"

Friday, September 25, 2009

CSA Adventures: "Take Another Little Pizza My Heart Now, Baby"

I've never made my own pizza before...though I've bought and eaten quite a lot of it.

With our CSA facing some opposition from some locals...oh, ya..can you believe that someone was AGAINST the farm sharing??  This older woman considered the farm share pick up as a safety hazzard and disturbance to the oh-so-darling neighborhood of Brookline.  Meanwhile, literally around the corner from where we pick up our veggies, all the college students have moved in, stirring up the vermin with all the trash they leave behind with all their moving.  But, ya....all these locals who walk/bike/scoot on down just to pick up their veggies...we're just plain old terrorists.

But, I digress.  Stillman's was lucky to have an ally with the owner of Clear Flour Bread, a fabulous bakery that borders the Allston/Brookline line.  The owner helped Stillman's fight back, AND he allowed the veggie truck and pick up to move to the back of the bakery.

Now, the boyfriend and I feel ever grateful to Clear Flour!  Last summer, they helped supply our sourdough for our kale salads.  This year, they saved our farm share.  They have some loyal customers in us now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Toesies of the Month - September 2009

I went dark.

Super deep dark blue...Navy blue...

Designed by Nina at Dana's Nail Salon, Brighton, MA
Color:  OPI - Russian Navy
Occasion:  Stress relief before Interns Arrival
September 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mercury in Retrograde + Saturn's Return = ?@&*

I'm definitely interested in astrology.  Though I don't think it's the letter of the law - just like most systems of belief - I think it can be equally entertaining and insightful.
Aries-Taurus Cusp - that's my lower back and me!

When I started this blog, I talked about Saturn's Return, which I'm definitely swimming in right now.  But every so often, Mercury goes into Retrograde...and around this time in my life, I'm trying to count the blessings where they fall and keep positive as much as I can....Not so easy when things are failing around you.

So far, the result of this combination has been interesting. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Feeling Tricked into Tricking Others

With the economy the way it is, I'm not surprised that the small nonprofit I work for is getting hit hard. Interestingly, after receiving news that we were losing funding, I receive a phone call from a recruiter. She was looking for people with Capital One credit cards to take part in some research for the company.

Sounds suspicious, right? She tells me that Capital One is looking for credit card holders to take part in a research study, and that participants will receive a $100 check immediately after participating.

Beggers can't be choosers, people. At this point, I didn't know if I'd be able to pay rent for September!

I decided to go ahead with the research study. The recruiter asked me some more questions about how many credit cards I own, how I use it, and what I use it for. I signed up for a 10am meeting in the Back Bay on September 2nd.

In the craziness of the past couple of weeks, I almost forgot about it! Thank goodness they insisted on calling me the night before. The recruiter reminded me that if I'm late, I will not be able to participate. So, as I hopped on the T, noting the time, I knew that there was a chance that I would be late. I'm always late...to almost everything.

It was almost comedic. At first, I couldn't find the building because I completely passed it. Then, of course, there was a security guard who needed to look at my ID before letting me in. The elevators were strange, very Alice in Wonderland, with multiple doors - some just for show - and pushing a button didn't mean that the one closest to you would open. Finally, I made it to the 9th floor, with 3 minutes before my scheduled appointment.

I filled out a questionnaire that featured the same "qualifying questions" that the recruiter asked me on the phone. Then I was lead to another sitting area, with coffee and Oreo cookies, that was not far from the first sitting area but was blocked off somewhat. Finally, the interviewer peeked around the corner and lead me into another room.

He seemed like a friendly man, and he talked about what his job was like, traveling all over the country to do research for different companies. He explained what to expect from the process as well as from the room, as he pointed out two microphones and the one-way mirror. I told him a little about who I was in the world, and that I was familiar with the way the interview would work.

Thus, the questioning began.

Clearly, with the research being funded by Capital One, the interviewer showed me several mock websites where I was to log in with whatever made up name and password, and I also listened to 3 different Customer Service Representative phone calls.

The first mock Capital One website alerted me to a new legislation that would take place on February 2010, which basically stated that banks and credit card companies would not be able to allow purchases if you are over your limit. I thought, "Okay..makes sense..." I clicked the "Confirm" button. The interviewer asked me about what I saw on that page, and why I clicked the "Confirm" button. I told him that it seemed like Capital One was just letting me know that a legislation was going to go through which would prevent people from spending over the limit, and that I clicked that button because I was "confirming that they told me." I also told him that I found it interesting that we were being told so far in advance, and that it perked my interest because it's clearly something important for Capital One.

He then let me listen to a Customer Service Rep phone call which spoke about the legislation, but added that we have the option to continue using our cards though we're up to our limit, and we would only be charged a $19 fee (without any mention of late fees, interest, or any extra charges). The interviewer asked me what I thought about the phone call and how I would respond. I told him that I was surprised by the option to keep going over the limit. I said that I would not want to keep that option, considering that spending over the limit is what got this country into the mess it's in now. I understood that Capital One is still a business, and they're still trying to make money, but I thought it unwise to try to spend more than one actually has.

We moved on to the next two audio files. The second one stated that the Rep wanted to share some important information with me as the Capital One customer. The phone call seemed to say that the government was impinging on my right to a nice vacation if my card was already at it's limit. The Rep also mentioned how "embarrassing" it would be to have a purchase be denied on the spot. I found that phone call quite interesting. I repeated myself to the interviewer, saying that I would still not want the option and that I would rather use my check card for things like that. Obviously, if I wanted to go on vacation, I would save up for it rather than trying to spend money I don't already have. I mentioned that I've used the credit card for travel and larger purchases, but only if I have enough on that card.

The third and final audio file stated the same message, but with more urgency. This time, the Rep talked about possible emergencies. I told the interviewer that I found it interesting that the Rep tried to phrase the phone call in a way that would scare people into keeping that option. Regardless of the way the Rep phrased the situation, I told him that I would still opt to not go over the limit.

Finally, he showed me another mock website. This time, the heading at the top of the page about the legislation changed. It read, "Keep the option to go over the limit." As I looked at the page, I realized that the bottom section with the "Confirm" button was exactly the same as the first website. I suddenly felt duped...like a complete fool. I mentioned to the interviewer that I recognized the bottom of the page, and that I realized that I must have previously confirmed to keep the option to go over the limit. But this page made it clear that Capital One wanted you to be able to go over the limit. I told the interviewer that I thought it was interesting that the headings were so different, but that the bottom of the page was probably exactly the same.

That was the end of the interview. The interviewer told me that I just had to sign out of the office and I would receive my $100 check.

As I walked out, clutching the check in disbelief, I felt this dread wash over me. I am not one to read all of the small print that you have to scroll through just to get to the next page. Why didn't I read the small print closer? Did I just help Capital One to trick millions of their customers into signing up for something that would dig them in a deep financial hole - possibly deeper than they're already in?

Perhaps...but I wanted to write this blog to alert others. We all have different financial situations. Being a social worker in the nonprofit world, I don't expect a lavish lifestyle filled with exotic vacations and big shiny jewelry or cars (well, I wouldn't mind the vacations, actually...). But I know that the limit is put there for a reason. Right now, I am the only person responsible for my debt (and in the future, my partner and I would be responsible for each others debts). I don't think I'd be able to live comfortably knowing that I have to pay back a credit card + fees + interest + my first born child.

So, be on the lookout for this legislation. I'm glad that the government is stepping in to prevent people from getting more into debt. Just watch out for the banks and credit card companies that will scare you into wanting to keep the option to go over your limit. And read and understand as much of the fine print as you can.
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