August 29, 2015

Sasquan, Exit Stage Left

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:08 pm by otherdeb

Complaints such as Meg’s ALWAYS need to be taken seriously. Writing a SWATTING off and refusing to see how it could affect the larger group is just short-sighted on the part of the concom.

Previously Unexplored

Up until a week before Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon, I was the Events Deputy Division Head and the Co-Director of the Hugo Ceremony. Resigning was a very difficult and painful decision. I did not do so lightly. Doing so left several of my friends in the lurch, and while I don’t regret walking away, I do regret the position I put my boss Jill Eastlake, and my co-director David D’Antonio in. They were both endlessly supportive during this entire situation and have taught me a great deal about how to make Events happen for a Worldcon.

It is common knowledge at this point that Lou Antonelli wrote a letter to the Spokane PD. It is also known that he went on Sarah Hoyt’s podcast and bragged about it. While many were rightly focused on David Gerrold’s reaction, the simple fact is that he wasn’t the only person harassed and…

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August 27, 2015

Is Donald Trump the new Lenny Bruce?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:18 am by otherdeb

My friend Gary wrote this, and he nails it, including a few good surmises as to why Trump is saying the things he’s saying, who he is pandering to, and why his strategy is working so well.

Source: Is Donald Trump the new Lenny Bruce?

March 21, 2013

Planning Ahead – Redecorating the Front Room

Posted in Organization, Uncategorized at 7:26 pm by otherdeb

Hmmm — I just found this from a journal entry I started in January, but never finished.

“My sister, she of the good intentions, wants to help redecorate the front room, but her ideas all include things that would break the space into two, which neither the roomie nor I want. Therefore, I will stand my ground. I know how I want to demarcate the difference between the two areas of the room, and my plans do not include having furniture jut out into the middle of the room.”

Well, my sister is not talking to me these days, which is kind of a good thing, because it means she is not calling me every time she forgets her computer passwords. Further, it means that I don’t have to fight with her over how my front room should look.

The roomie and I are very happy with the room being nice and spacious. Yes, we need new furniture. Yes, we need enough chairs for company to have seats. Yes, we need to do some serious rearranging of the furniture we do have.

What we don’t need, however, is my sister’s kind of decorating.  In her house, every surface is covered with gewgaws. It’s all very pretty, and very Victorian, but it’s not me.  I like things being nice and with some family type stuff around, but with enough space for people to feel like they aren’t going to knock over something irreplaceable if they breathe too hard. Further, I am NOT the only person living here, so any decorating has to take into account the roomie’s likes and dislikes.  Fortunately, we are similar enough that this is not a major issue.

Anyway, the roomie and I have been discussing what we want the room to ultimately look like, and we are beginning to work towards it.  We each have a lamp or two we like, and we will work out a decor that fits both of them in.  We also like fairly neutral colors, so picking a color scheme should be easy enough.  If we want anything wild, we can each do it in our bedrooms.

So that’s where redecorating plans are at the moment. Given our budgets, we are proceeding slowly and thoughtfully, since whatever we pick, we will have to live with for a long time.

January 31, 2013

Link to an interesting Blog Post on Decluttering

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:56 pm by otherdeb

The lovely artbeco just posted about her adventures in decluttering, centering around getting rid of things that one is attached to. It’s a somewhat different take than I have (not the least because she has an actual family while it’s just the roomie and me here), but I found it interesting, and thought others might, too.

October 4, 2012

How to Avoid being Victimized over Old Debts

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:37 am by otherdeb

Most of the readers of this blog know that part of the reason I started blogging was frustration with my roommate’s inability to deal with things financial (and the other part was my efforts to get out of debt).

Saturday morning, my roommate came over to me and said, “I’m not a happy camper.” Knowing that this usually prefaces some major financial misstep on her part, I sighed and asked what happened this time. She told me that she had been paying an old creditor according to their agreement for several months, but that this month said creditor had taken $500 from her account, so that while we have money for the rent, paying other things, like the electric bill, the gas bill, and the bill for our internet will mean using my overdraft privilege, which will mean I will accrue overdraft fees.

While I’m not thrilled about this, I can handle the fees. What is really bothering me is that the roommate and I have had several discussions about this, and she seems totally unable to grasp how not to get into these predicaments.

There are several things happening here.

There is a statute of limitations on most unsecured debts. If you have old debt, you need to know what the date is that your debts will, effectively, expire.

You also need to take advantage of the law that permits you to download and print out all three credit reports for free once a year (even if you really don’t want to see what they say). Further, if you are turned down for credit, you are permitted to pull a free credit report from the agency that supplied information to whoever you were applying to.

Now, the way debt works: After a debt has not been paid long enough that the statute of limitations is passed, that debt becomes uncollectible, with one very big exception. If the creditor (or an agency who has bought the debt) calls you, and scares you into making a payment, it not only reactivates the debt, but it starts the whole cycle again, so that the “clock” of the statute of limitations starts ticking again, with the date you agree to make a payment as the start date.

Greatly Simplified Example: You owe $BigBoxStore $500, that you charged in, say, June 1998. The statute of limitations on this debt runs ten years. Therefore, the debt expires in June, 2008. In August, 2008 an agency calls you claiming you owe this money, using all the scare tactics that they are not supposed to (but do anyway). You panic and agree to pay this off at $50/month. That debt is not only now active again, but the statute of limitations is also reactivated, and now won’t expire until August, 2018.

That said, there is a very simple way to not get caught by this. First, when the agency calls, write down whatever information they do give you. Most importantly, see if you can find out who the original creditor was. Second, DO NOT AGREE TO MAKE ANY PAYMENTS OVER THE PHONE. DO NOT EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE THE POSSIBILITY OF THE DEBT BEING CURRENT. Third, politely but firmly insist that the agency send you a letter regarding the matter (99 times out of 100, they won’t, because they know they are not entitled to this money). Once you hang up with the agency, check the information they gave you against your credit reports.

The other thing that goes on is that an agency will collect the amount of the debt, but sell the debt to another agency. When this happens, you can end up paying the same bill over and over again. Again, DO NOT PANIC. Get what information you can from the caller, insist on getting a letter before you agree to anything, and compare what they are telling you to what is on your credit report. Quite often, when you do so, you will find that this is a debt that you have already paid.

For example, the roommate was being harassed by an agency for a debt of $600. She got some information from them, including the account number, although not the name of the original creditor. Looking on her credit report, she found that the creditor was an eyeglass company, where she had missed several payments, but had eventually paid off the bill almost a decade ago. The next time the agency called her, she told them this, and sent them proof a copy of the report showing that the bill had been paid. They stopped calling her.

However, her normal reaction when these creditors call is to panic. She has no clue as to whether or not she paid the bills, because she does not regularly monitor her credit reports. So, in a panic, she agrees to pay. And she ends up paying the same bills, over and over, because the agencies sell the notes to other agencies, but do not provide the new agencies with records of payments that were made to them.

Several years ago, I was paying down a debt and the agency sold it to another agency, but did not give the new agency information about the two years’ worth of payments I had already made. Fortunately, I had built up a good relationship with the woman in charge of my case at the first agency. She was able to send me a record of my payments on their letterhead. But the second agency persisted. I actually had to go to the professional organization for collection agencies, to the Better Business Bureaus in both my state and the second agency’s state, and to the Attorneys General in both states to get the matter settled, but I did get it settled.

When you send information to an agency, showing that either you have paid the debt, or that this is a debt where the statute of limitations has passed, make sure you do so in a certified, return receipt requested, letter. This will provide a record that you did notify the agency properly. Also, if you write to any governing agencies about the situation, do the same. Believe me, the few dollars you spend doing so will more than pay off should you have to eventually retain counsel to deal with the agency.

What I really want people to take away from this entry is that, providing they do not panic and give in to whatever the yahoo on the other end of the phone is saying, they do not have to be victimized by agencies that are exploiting the holes in the system that they figure most people don’t know about.

Honestly, the odds are that if you are getting these kinds of calls, you already know that the worst they can do is mess up your credit report or a few years, and have probably already survived that having been done a few times. You know that this is survivable, and that, if you don’t panic, you can outsmart them at their own game. You know that all it takes is getting past the panic, marshaling the resources you have at hand (your records, your credit reports, and a few well-placed letters to the right agencies), and a bit o patience.

And the biggest part is the first part — getting through the initial panic. We all panic when threatened. It’s a reasonable response. Where many of us go wrong, however is that, like my roommate, we let the panic drive our next steps. What we need to do instead is to step back and look at the situation. Tell the agent, “I can’t talk now. Please send me a letter so we can discuss this at another time.” If they don’t send you the letter, it’s all good. If they do, get your proof together, and write them a certified, return receipt requested letter, enclosing a photocopy of your proof. That will generally work to get them out of your hair. If it doesn’t, write to the regulatory agencies and professional organizations, including copies of their letters and your proofs of payment.

You can prevail, so long as you maintain a level head, and the willingness to delay action long enough to get past the natural panic reaction.

November 23, 2011

R.I.P. Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:18 am by otherdeb

Anne McCaffrey has passed on after suffering a stroke.  This just caps a couple of weeks of losses.  First came word that an online friend, Chris “Keris” Croughton had been killed in a three-way collision near his home in England.  Second was the news yesterday that a Real Life friend, Dorothea (Dea) Nillson Phillips had passed away in her sleep (from a heart attack) while on a cruise with her husband.

Like many of us, I discovered McCaffrey’s writing as a teenager.  At the time, her Dragonrider series had only two books, and I devoured them, and then (as they came out) almost everything else she had written.  Her characters were friends, sometimes in ways other characters in other books were not.  Her books found me just at the perfect time in my life for that to have happened.  I still have the ones I owned (as opposed to the ones I borrowed from the library).  And I still treasure them.

Sigh.  I want a “do-over” for this month.

April 29, 2011

Oh, and because I just can’t leave well enough alone…

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:57 pm by otherdeb

  I found some yarn that matched the pansies on the teapot, so this got made extemporaneously.  No real pattern, although I could probably write one if anyone wants it.

April 26, 2011

A Simple Cup of Tea

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:50 pm by otherdeb

I am not a tea fanatic; that is, I do not get bonkers over which exclusive, break-the-wallet brand is the best.

That said, I do love tea.  Nothing is more relaxing than a nice cup of tea.  It makes the workday go better, makes life seem more civilized, even when it’s at its craziest.  Mostly, I have been making tea one mug at a time, because my tea gear was all packed away from when I moved here (yes, that long…).  Today, I cleaned out two boxes of stuff from the living room, and one of the boxes contained my tea things.

Among those tea things was my eight-cup teapot, and its two matching cups and saucers.  I had been missing that pot for a while — so much so that Marc attempted to replace it with a lovely teapot from the local Chinese market.  And that pot is wonderful, but it just wasn’t “my purple pansy teapot.”    You know how it is…certain things symbolize comfort.

I love Chintzware, modern or old, and this was the first modern Chintzware pattern piece I acquired.  Back when I was living on East 4th Street, this pot was almost always in use, and I’ve missed it.

Now that life has changed, and I will be in this apartment for a while, I decided it was time to start going through the boxes cluttering up the living room.  I’m not getting crazy and trying to clean them all up in one fell swoop.  Space here is limited, and shared with Sue, so things have to be gone through slowly, and places found for the things I am keeping.  This is not a bad thing; I firmly believe in going through things every so often to see what is still relevant to my life, and what I no longer want to carry with me.

The main thing is that I now have my favorite tea things again, and it’s so much nicer to have my teapot and teacup sitting on my desk with me as I work.

(Oh, and the pic is of one of the teacups and saucers from the purple pansy set.  It’s a fairly sturdy set, and is part of the Baum Bros. Formalities line.)

February 16, 2011

It’s Been Way Too Long…

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:49 pm by otherdeb

In the past year and a half, I have lost 77 pounds, gained back 40 pounds, retired from my job, become a freelance writer, lost my fiance (he lost his battle with leukemia), lost my oldest friend (he lost the battle to keep his lungs working), gained several thousands of dollars worth of yarn, (thanks to a wonderful newish friend who was destashing), completed NaNoWriMo and signed up for WriYe2011, signed up for theYear of Stash Socks 2011 challenge, survived the “Snowpocalypse” (there has been snow on the ground here in Brooklyn since 26 December 2010), had a bunch of opportunities open up out of having done NaNoWriMo that I never expected, and gotten back into debt thanks to my sister, the roomie, and my own poor choices.

So, here I go again.

Primarily, with regard to the weight and the finances, I feel broken.  I have been half-heartedly trying to get back on program, but it’s just felt like too much.  Until my pension kicks in (all $157/month, or so the union tells me it will be), I am dependent on the roomie and the writing.

I hate being dependent on others.  The ex has agreed to suspend my paying him back what I owe him until after my pension kicks in, which is very helpful, but I am afraid that I am going to have to apply for food stamps.  Part of the problem with applying for food stamps is that the city wants to know the income of every person in the apartment, and my roommate is unwilling to provide that information, so I either have to lie and risk getting caught, or do without something that could enable me to buy proper food for staying on program.  I have the papers filled out for free meds for two of my three prescriptions, but I don’t know what to do about the third, since it’s a generic.  I know that once I am more established as a freelancer, there is insurance I can get through the Freelancer’s Union, but it will cost me.

I am not feeling sorry for myself, here.  I am just catching up before going forward with this blog again.  Am I happy?  Mostly, but not entirely.  Am I moving forward?  Yes, but way too incrementally for my taste.  Am I going to survive?  Most likely.  I am not given to failing at that, after all.

The good thing is that the job stress is pretty much gone.  I no longer wake up dreading a two-hour commute to a job I had grown to hate because of the administrators (I loved, and still love, most of the kids).  I am building a good reputation on the site I am picking up clients from.  I am learning new skills that I will be able to apply both to the freelancing and to my personal writing.  I’ve sold two articles to an online writer’s magazine.  I am working on figuring out how to counteract the getting broken with regard to weight so that I can get back on track.

So, things are not looking too horrendous.  And there is progress.  I can see it with every article that gets accepted on a platform such as Associated Content/Yahoo!Contributor Network, and every pair of socks/scarf/hat/pair of mittens/shawl I complete.  Now, I just have to stop sabotaging myself in the areas of weight and money, and I can really soar.

March 6, 2010

Saturday is for sitting and thinking.

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:37 pm by otherdeb

I was answering a comment from a friend on LiveJournal, and was thinking about how I came to do WW this time around, and why I seem to be succeeding so spectacularly when the other times I tried it (this is my fourth time), I failed faster and sooner.

The first time, I was about 15, and was dragged there by my mom, also obese. Neither of us got to goal, and after a while it became just too much to schlep from the almost-Brooklyn end of Queens way the hell out to Great Neck, so we gave up. Also, the diet was much more stringent in those days than it is now.

I tried it again in my 20’s, and even had the same lecturer (she lectured in Forest Hills as well as Great Neck). My failures had nothing to do with Helen’s leading; she was fabulous, I was not ready.

I tried it a third time after I met my fiance. That time, I lost 50 lbs in about a year and a half, but crashed and burned (and gained it all back), after I moved in with my roommate. The good thing is that I don’t blame Sue for it. I did it to myself. I had lost the 50, then got cocky. I figured I knew what to do, so I didn’t need to go to meetings or track food. Well, the upshot was that I gained back the 50, plus 10 more.

When I went back this time (last May), I was angry and disgusted with myself. I hated the way I looked; I hated that I could barely walk 100 steps a day, even after the surgery and after the anemia got treated (I really had been hemorrhaging to death, though the surgeon refused to believe me about it!) I hated the way I looked, and felt it was unfair that I would have to do things differently to look the way I wanted to. I had a magic number I wanted to get to, and told myself that if I could only get to that number (which would have been realistic if I was still 18 or so), my whole life would magically change. But I hated that I would have to work to get there. It wasn’t fair, I whined, that so many people didn’t have to go through all this to maintain a reasonable weight. It wasn’t fair that there was no magic to turn my life around. It just wasn’t fair (imagine me stamping my feet and throwing a full-blown tantrum — not pretty)!

Well, I’ve been getting over that. Losing the weight won’t magically change my life. What it will do, however, is give me skills for coping and living that I can apply to other areas of my life. I have let go of the magic number, and changed my goal to a much more realistic one: having a body that truly represents who I am. I’m learning to not give a damn about whether it’s fair or not, and to acknowledge that if I want what this goal I have to do the work to get there, no matter how effortless it seems that others have it…and they really don’t. It seems to me that almost every woman I know — and some of the men, too — are constantly going on about fighting to lose or keep off between five and twenty pounds. How could I ever have thought they had it effortless and easy? It’s about learning that we all have our own places of ease and places of struggle, and that I have some power over which of those choices I see things as.

The result is that it has been almost ridiculously easy to lose the 64 lbs. I have lost. And that loss has happened in nine months, not the year and a half it took me last time. I track religiously, and while some of my friends joke about it, that’s fine with me. They are very lucky that this is not part of their path, but it is part of mine, and it works for me, so I will keep doing it.

Would I recommend this path to others? Hell, yes! It is still one of the safest, most reasonable ways to lose weight out there. Is it easy? Depends. Are you willing to honestly face yourself, or are you still looking for that magic bullet or fairy dust that will make your life different?

The thing that is making the difference for me this time around seems to be that I am willing to do the work to make the changes — not just in my habits, but in looking at where my thinking is faulty, and where I BS myself, and where I blame others for my shortfalls. Easy, no, but neither was being 271 lbs, and watching my world grow smaller and smaller as I could physically do less and less.

There are great things about this program — I can eat ethnic foods (and why the hell live in NYC if you can’t). I can do things that keep me from feeling deprived (dark chocolate, anyone? Lemon pound cake with mandarin oranges and fat-free ReddiWip.) Does it mean effort? Hell, yeah. I am relearning how to cook. Hell, I’m cooking again. I’m not falling into the easy old “What can we nuke tonight?” syndrome. Even better, I’m learning to plan a bit. When I cook on the weekend, I try to make something with many portions. Then, instead of just dumping it all into a quart container or two, I divide it into portions, freeze some and fridge others. That way, I build up options. I get home I can pick and choose, rather than just having, say, crocked beef, 12 days in a row. I have, further, made a new decision this time around. I will, going forward, be trying to use meat, poultry, and fish more as “just one element” of a meal, rather than as the focus, in order to reduce the amounts of them I eat.

See, WW is a points system, and as you lose weight you lose points. I currently get 24 points a day, with an additional 35 points I can use throughout the week if I want to do so. Now, I can spend those 24 points any way I want to, but…meat (and even poultry and fish) are much higher in points than veggies and fruits. Now, I can’t say this would work for everyone, but I happen to like fruits and veggies, so I think it will work for me to start shifting my meals to include more of them. Given that I have mostly learned standard assimilated-NY-Jewgirl-raised-in-the-1950s-cooking (i.e., meals where animal protein is the main component), this mean relearning cooking at the age of 57. Is it an adventure? You betcha. Am I having fun along the way? Yeah. Is it scary as hell? Yes, but so far the good has outweighed the scary. Finding out that my roomie loves beets and asparagus (two of my favorite veggies) was a delightful surprise. So was last night when Sue yelled to me from the kitchen to find out if we had used up the beets and stewed tomatoes because she wanted some for dinner (we hadn’t). So is the joy of watching my roommate go down in size along with me, even though she is not formally on the program.

If I had it to do over? Yeah, I’d love to have been born one of those for whom weight is not an issue. I won’t lie about that. But the thing is, worrying about what might have been, or what went before, or what I could have done differently way back then is not gonna change my life going forward. Doing this, and doing it one step at a time, and doing it no matter what the short-term scale number says, will. So I’m taking it on faith that changing what I do will change what I get as a winning outcome. And I will keep doing it because I know it works, and I have seen results not only in the area of weight loss, but in how people treat me, and in who I am becoming (not to mention because I’m a stubborn b***h, which those of you who know me in RL already know).

I used to hate myself. I used to think I was substandard (hell, I was told that most of my childhood). I like myself now. I like who I grew up to be. I like who I am growing into being. Can I credit all of that to WW? Maybe, maybe not. A lot of that came from them asking me to look long and hard at myself. But the bottom line is that I am now willing to do the work necessary to become who I want to be, and knowing I have the tools to accomplish it. And that is the bottom line here, folks.

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