June rambling #1: procrastination, and tessellation

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: America’s Mozart?

waltz in
When You Kill Ten Million Africans and You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’ – King Leopold II of Belgium, who “owned” the Congo.

The Dannemora Dilemma. “‘Little Siberia’ turned out to be the prison’s nickname.”

The Weekly Sift addresses the Duggars’ brand of fundamentalist Christianity and other stuff. Plus What’s So Scary About Caitlyn Jenner?

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet and The Crystal Ball‘s 2016 Electoral College ratings. I have NO idea who the Republican candidate for President will be.

If it’s not Jeb Bush, and I have my serious doubts that it will be, then one of those people from the “he/she can’t win” category could possibly emerge.

ADD on blaming the victims of today’s disastrous economy for trying to survive it.

What Poverty Does to the Young Brain.

Disunion, The Final Q&A: The New York Times’s series on the Civil War.

Franklin Graham Calls for Christian Boycott — Here Are Some Ideas for Targets.

Rachel Dolezal and minstrelsy.

David Kalish: The Fine Art of Procrastination.

THE MARVEL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX and a follow-up.

Drawing the Undrawable: An Explanation from Neil and Amanda Gaiman, re: The New Statesman and Art Spiegelman.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 will be available on July 29. This SHOULD mean you can update from Windows 7, and I can get rid of the dreadful Windows 8.

How to create strong passwords.

Why Pluto Is a Planet, and Eris Is, Too.

Now I Know: The Lights That Almost Led to World War III and America’s Most Wanted Coincidence and Why are there so few $2 bills?

Gouverneur is a small town of about 6,000 located in St. Lawrence County, NY. But how do you PRONOUNCE it? In English and in French.

Berowne: George Gordon. Better known as Lord Byron.

Never-before-seen film of the legendary aviator Amelia Earhart — from her last photo shoot ever, shortly before she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

The origin of that Orange Church of God sign I see on Facebook all the time. Speaking of which: 6 Facebook Statuses That Need To Stop Right Now.

Mark Evanier’s childhood Christmas chicanery.

The app that identifies plants from a picture. Seriously, I could use this.

What is a tessellation? Math, and design.

A marbles tsunami.

True: Why are the Tony Awards so afraid of the Tony Awards?

Sex Pistols credit card.

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: America’s Mozart?

James Taylor’s creativity flows anew.

The Mary Lou Williams Suite, the jazz pianist and arranger. Includes the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee.

SamuraiFrog ranks Weird Al: 60-51. He also brought to mind that the birthday of Todd Rundgren is coming up, which reminded me of a 1985 album I own on vinyl that I haven’t heard in a good while. LISTEN to A Cappella, or at least the last song, a cover of the Spinners’ Mighty Love.

Bert Jansch’s Blackwaterside, first recorded in 1966. Which sounds an awful lot like Jimmy Page’s instrumental Black Mountain Side, from Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut.

DJ Otzi – Burger Dance, “based on the premise that the single aspect of American culture most readily recognizable in the rest of the world is fast food.”

This list is rubbish, but hey, it has links to Beatles songs. The most skippable Beatles cuts, from “All You Need Is Love” to “Yellow Submarine”.

Muppets: Puppetman and Kermit the Frog and Grover on The Ed Sullivan Show and Grover is Special and the 1962 pilot Tales of the Tinkerdee and some other stuff.

Legendary Special-Effects Artist Rick Baker on How CGI Killed His Industry.

Actor Christopher Lee, Dracula and Nazi hunter, dies at 93. From The Guardian and BFI and the Hollywood Reporter and Bruce Hallenbeck in Diabolique and Mr. Frog and Gordon at Blog This, Pal.

Ornette Coleman, Jazz Innovator, Dies at 85.

Dustbury notes the passing of Monica Lewis, a voice, at least, you’ve heard, if you are of a certain age.

GOOGLE ALERTS (not me)

Roger and Carmen Green of Baraboo, Wisconsin celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

UK: An illustrated guided walk tracing the route of the Nickey Line is being led by railway enthusiast Roger Green on Saturday, June 27.

The annoying DISCOVERy

Why, if someone else had my card, did she make only that one purchase?

As I have noted, I love using my DISCOVER card. It was the first bank credit card I ever owned, back in 1986. I had a few store cards, notably Sears, before that; in fact, Sears and DISCOVER were once linked financially, but I don’t believe that’s still the case.

DISCOVER is cool. They send me an e-mail saying: you want 5% cashback on this category of purchases for the next three months? Sure! They make it easy, whereas some credit card companies put you through hoops in order to get rewards. When I go to Amazon.com, usually for gifts, I often use the DISCOVER cashback feature, which can be posted automatically.

I went to Radio Shack to make a purchase on January 17 of just under $20, and of course, used my DISCOVER card. My notification to pay my bill came in late February, due on March 10, and it seemed high, but I didn’t actually look at it until the week it was due.

Included was a charge of $163.04 for Radio Shack on January 28. I didn’t remember going there a second time, so I called the store. I was told that among the purchases was a BluTooth; since I’ve NEVER owned a BluTooth, I KNEW instantly these weren’t my items.

Here’s the weird thing, though: BOTH Radio Shack purchases were allegedly made by a woman named… let’s call her Toodles. Now I DID make the January 17 purchase; I remember climbing over a snowbank to get to Westgate shopping center.

The other thing is that the purchaser had the card. Because I have been a customer so long, I have this 25th-anniversary card, as well as the regular one. I must have used the anniversary card there, then the regular card with my subsequent purchases. Bad form on my part.

So I call DISCOVER, explain this all a couple of times. The guy in the fraud unit is as puzzled as I that the $20 purchase that I acknowledge making is attributed to Toodles.

One of the things I was required to do was make a police report, so when I got home, I called the non-emergency number, and two policemen came over to my house. I gave them the information, and I could tell they were a bit suspicious of ME. Why, if, in fact, Toodles had had my card, did she make only that one purchase? I couldn’t answer that, of course. Guilt? Fear of getting caught? How the heck do I know?

I was without my DISCOVER card for less than a week, from March 6 to March 11, when the replacement cards arrived in the mail.

That previous card I had so long actually had memorized the sixteen digits. I’ll miss you, old DISCOVER card number. Yikes, I had to contact the cable company, because the autopay went on my old DISCOVER card…

DISCOVER card rediscovered me

I felt – dare I say it? – VALUED by a credit card company.

Late last year, I got a call from the DISCOVER card people. I was asked if I wanted to get a 25th-anniversary card. OK, sure, whatever, and didn’t think about it.

Then a few days later, the special monogrammed card arrived and I had to call the toll-free number to get it authorized. Instead of the automated service, though, I was transferred to a customer service rep, who thanked me for having a DISCOVER card for a quarter-century. She noted that, in the early days, not a lot of businesses were accepting the card, so lots of people weren’t carrying it. I noted that Sears, where I did a lot of my shopping in the day, was one of them, which was a prime motivation. We had a nice 10-15 minute chat.

I mean, I know she was working off a script, but it was a really good script, and she used it quite well. She signed me up for whatever cashback plan I was eligible for that quarter, which quickly paid off when I shopped online for Christmas.

I felt – dare I say it? – VALUED by a credit card company. Given the number of cards I’ve had and canceled in the interim, because of the ridiculous interest and/or fees, I’m surprised that I’ve had ANY card that long. I guess they didn’t do anything to tick me off. And I guess, in my own ungenerous way, that’s high praise.

Si, My Credit Card; No, Not My Purchases

No, I did not make a $195 apparel purchase, or any of the half dozen other charges that day.


One more story from the work conference.

I checked in to the hotel on Sunday, May 22. Although the conference, which included food as well as the room, was paid for by my office, I was required to provide a credit card, in case I made incidental purchases, such as long-distance phone calls or pay-per-view movies. Oddly, only some of us were asked for our credit cards; it appears that it very much depended on who was at the front desk at checkout.

I checked out of the hotel on Wednesday, May 25, incidentally with no incidental expenses. I went home, and my wife had retrieved a message from the fraud alert unit of the credit card company which issued the aforementioned plastic.

Called right away, talked to some very nice young lady who asked about a series of online transactions, all on Tuesday, May 24. No, I did not make a $195 apparel purchase, or any of the half dozen other charges that day. Did I still have the credit card, or did I somehow lose it? Still in my possession.

They e-mailed a form that I was supposed to fill out, but the link did not work. So I called Thursday morning, and I was told that I would get the document by snail mail as well. In any case, I was not liable for the charges. They canceled my old card and issued me a newly numbered card.

The potentially scary thing is that my billing cycle ended on May 23, and all the purchases were on May 24. This means that, had they not sussed this out, I wouldn’t have noticed until a bunch of unrecognizable charges showed up on my bill at the end of JUNE. I’m having difficulty believing that was merely a coincidence.

Not quite sure how this fraud was perpetrated. One of my colleagues read in Consumer Reports about a device that can read your card while it’s in your pocket. Whatever the methodology of the perps – and this is something I seldom say – my credit card company, who incidentally appears in this list of companies in the customer service hall of shame, did well in protecting me in this case. Although, contrary to what I was told, I never got the statement in the mail, only the form to fill out stating that I did not make the charges. So I WILL have to wait until after late June to fully resolve the issue.

I am a little sad, though; that old card had a lot of repeating numbers, and I had actually committed it to memory…
***
Ah, Citi was hacked – in May! This explains everything.

 

The Money Issue QUESTION

I took out a credit card to transfer the charges from another credit card. The latter card is a zero interest card until February 2012, which will facilitate me paying it off without extra charges.

I love money. I hate money.

After my mom died, my sister came across some letters my mom wrote to no one in particular – they’d be journaling entries, I suppose, had she put them in a diary. One in particular from November 1995, was about how quickly my father was burning through their retirement savings. My mother was very thrifty, very good with money, but my father was…not, let’s just say.

When I graduated from college, I wasn’t making enough money to pay for my student loans right away, so it wasn’t until about five years after I graduated that I was able to secure a credit card. It was a Sears card, with which I bought a clock/radio for $12.95. I lived too much on my credit cards, especially when I was unemployed or a grad student.

But at the beginning of 2011, I had no credit card debt at all, due in no small part because I won some money on a TV game show a decade ago, and the much more disciplined attitude of my spouse. And now, I can’t STAND to have credit card debt.

It became clear that the money I spent around my mother’s funeral I would not be able to pay off in a month, so right away, I did something I almost never do; I took out a credit card to transfer the charges from another credit card. The latter card is a zero-interest card until February 2012, which will facilitate me paying it off without extra charges.

Now, while I’m pretty much off desiring STUFF, I still wish I had more money for EXPERIENCES – travel, specifically. We ARE taking a trip to Canada this year. But if I were less disciplined – and in my heart of hearts, I’m really not that disciplined, I just force myself to act as though I were – I’d be going to a lot more plays and concerts.

Oh, and I hate paying taxes, not just because I can’t get that favorable GE rate, but because I’m a 1040A or 1040EZ (i.e., simple) guy, but since I’ve gotten married, I have had to deal with additional schedules involving various deductions.

So what’s YOUR attitude towards money?

***
The original version of Money, by Barrett Strong, co-written by Berry Gordy, the very first Motown hit.