Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hell Hath No Fury

Like a woman referred to a collections company when she should not have been.

I wrote earlier about my being granted charitable assistance from Texas Health Resources Presbyterian Hospital in Plano. They granted me my assistance on February 14 (but did not send the letter until February 18).

They had my paperwork for a month before they reviewed it.

A week after I am mailed the letter, stating that my application for charitable assistance has been granted, I receive another letter from a credit collections agency - with the new lower amount posted - stating that I am past due and must pay immediately.

Whether or not this has been reported to a credit reporting agency, I don't know, but if they screwed up my 810 credit rating, I'll be one pissed off unemployed architect.

I had already vowed to myself that I would not return to their emergency room, because their visits end up costing in the range of $700 after my insurance has paid, and I can't afford that even when I am employed. So my neurologist can tell me to go to the ER at her home-hospital, but I can't.

I haven't told her, yet, about the impossibility of using her ER, but it's sure to come up at some point.

Needless to say, right now - running on 30 minutes of sleep - I'm about to explode with anger.

Texas Health Resources: you are dead to me.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Oops, I Did It Again... Sort Of

I would like to apologize for the Britney Spears reference. I actually don't remember how the song goes, except for that line, just that she sang it.


What did you do again, Ms. Strainedconsciousness? you ask, probably dreading the answer.

I knocked my washing machine's tub out of balance.

If you remember, I flooded my apartment a while back, and the apartment complex gave me a brand new washer/dryer unit because of it. The reason my apartment flooded was because 1) the screw/leg was stripped and so it wouldn't sit straight; 2) I put a couple of pairs of jeans in that shouldn't have been added to that load.

This time, I did not flood my apartment, or anyone else's apartment. Also, I did not overload the washer, per se. I put in a towel and a bathmat.

I think it's the bathmat that killed the deal, because it's heavier than a towel. But still...

I have read my washing machine's user manual, and it states that I should - in theory - be able to wash 9 bath towels at once, or 6 bath towels, 3 hand towels, & 6 washcloths.


My washer has a 1.5 cu.ft. capacity. How the heck can you fit 9 bath towels in 1.5 cu. ft?

No, seriously: I want to know. If you can, then that's some crazy quantum theory 1.5 cu. ft. and I want it nowhere near my apartment.

On the other hand, now I know why my socks disappear: They're there, but they're somewhere else, too! Or something.

I probably need to brush up on quantum theory.

So now, I have to call my apartment and say, "Hey, you know that brand new washer/dryer combo you bought for $1100 for my apartment? Yeah, it needs a $95 part, and about 1.5 hours of maintenance, so could you get on that, please?"

I kind of wonder if it isn't the floor beneath the washer that's causing the problems. Upper story floors tend to flex, and in this case, the problem might be solved by a simple 3/4" plywood board under the washer/dryer.

Whatever is causing the problem - bathmat or floor - I don't look forward to letting my apartment manager know that, hey, I'm having issues again, and I need this to be fixed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

I just finished reading Books I & II of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy. I would go ahead and read Book III, but it has yet to be released.

I love Margaret Atwood's writing. The Handmaid's Tale was riveting, in a disturbing way. Alias Grace was compelling and thought provoking. Moral Disorder careened from joyful to mournful, exactly as the title suggested it would. The Blind Assassin was spellbindingly mysterious and haunting.

I'm usually okay with books other people find "disturbing." I know a few people who were unable to finish Steig Larsson's The Girl Who... trilogy because of its graphic descriptions of rape and torture, and the emotional torment suffered by the eponymous Girl. It's not that the descriptions don't bother me, or make me shudder. Rather, I am so obsessive about finishing books that I feel I must soldier on, because I have to know what happens next. And then next. And then next.

Strangely, stories with ambiguous endings don't much bother me.

The MaddAddam Trilogy is disturbing, though, in a way that Steig Larsson wasn't, and I almost quit reading halfway through the first book in the series, Oryx and Crake. There are some descriptions of child abuse that not too graphic but descriptive enough that you get the point, and the character who suffered the worst abuse has a way of dismissing what happened to her that is deeply unsettling, although understandable from an emotional survival point of view. It's frankly horrifying to think about the mindset and the fictional environment that leads a child to respect his/her abusers because, hey, the abuser fed the abused, which is better than nothing, and the garage s/he was locked in? It was dry.

As usual, though, I kept reading, because the story and the premise were so compelling. None of the characters in the series have had "easy" lives, but so many of them have had such traumatic life experiences that it's a wonder they've survived.

But then, a central them of the books is survival against all odds.

If you're a fan of future dystopian fantasies, and you have a strong stomach, and you can wait until the next book is issued (I personally don't want to wait, but it's out of my hands), then I suggest reading it.

But make sure you have nerves of steel first.

I only do because of all the physical therapy.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Two Big Accomplishments

First big accomplishment (okay, not that big):

I finished reading Shantaram.



It took me a while to get through, but it was worth it. And it only took me a few weeks because I got bogged down with the 15 design magazines I had not read in the past two months, and the needlepoint, and my own creative writing magicalness.

Magicalness: officially a word since... today.

Second big accomplishment:

I finished my income tax amendment forms and am now ready to ship them off to Austin, where some poor schmuck can... crud, I didn't sign them. Okay, time to rip open the envelope, address a new envelope, and then whisk them off to Austin.


Okay, now they're signed and dated, and that Herculean task is finished. I swear, every year it gets harder and harder to file my taxes.

Granted, it's my own fault that they're hard to file, but I'm investing for my future, here, IRS! Give me a break! That whole "simplification of the tax code thing" the people on Capitol Hill keep talking about? I am right there with you! Please, simplify!

It makes the idea of hiring an accountant really attractive, right now. Except I'm unemployed, so I can't afford to hire an accountant.

Them's the breaks.

(SEE? It's so terrible that my grammar is breaking down. Seriously, they must be stopped!)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Let the Fun Begin!

I received my new needlepoint canvas on Wednesday. The poor mailman struggled all the way up the icy stairs so he could leave it on my doorstep, and seemed relieved when I answered the door because he didn't want to leave it in the snow.

Today, I went and purchased my first wools for the canvas.


The ladies at the needlepoint store were incredibly helpful, and now I have something to do when I want to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory followed by Neverending Story and then Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

I like to mix things up at the end, okay?

I'm still working on one of the three books I bought right before the snowpocalypse. I finished Alias Grace (which was wunderbar) and My Life in France, and now I'm reading Shantaram.

It's fascinating. The guy who wrote it escaped from a maximum security prison in Australia, fled to India with a fake passport, and after a year living in a Bombay slum, became involved with the mafia. The book is essentially a thinly fictionalized version of the guy's life, presumably so people won't say, "Hey! You continued to be a criminal! You covered up a murder (or four-million)! We're going to arrest you since you've confessed to all this stuff in your book."

Granted, he served out the last ten years of his prison sentence when he was caught and returned to Australia, but still.

The book is wonderfully written, and for a former heroin addict/armed robber/accessory to murder, the guy can sure as heck turn a phrase. I'm not finished, yet, but it's still a worthy read with wonderful characters and descriptions.

And this is the dude who wrote the book:

Seriously, how can you NOT want to read it?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"My Life in France" by Julia Child (and that other guy)

Quick note: the rent payment reversal was reversed. Bye-bye money.

On to the book review!

One of the books I bought during my kind-of-not-really date at Borders was My Life in France. It is credited to Julia Child, but another guy actually wrote it all down and prepared it for publication. Julia dictated the book, wrote snippets, and culled the information from her personal archives (date books, letters, etc.).

It was a wonderful book, hilarious, and so vibrantly told. The co-author kept Julia's little quirks intact, so you get the Yuck! and the Ouf! and the Merde! that she added at the end of passages. Reading the book, I could hear her voice dictating, in that high lilting way she has, and I could picture her doing the things. There are tons of photos in the book, scattered throughout the pages liberally and sometimes illustrating exactly what's happening in a passage, but sometimes just as a little bit of "oh, look at this funny picture" thrown in for laughs.

Part of the interest in it for me was the discussion of the diplomatic work the United States did throughout Europe following World War II. Julia's husband, Paul, headed up departments that organized art exhibits to educate Europe about America and Americans. It was part of an exercise to strengthen relations with other countries.

If you want a good, funny, ohmygodIwantcrepesrightnow kind of read, then I highly suggest it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What the Heck

I just checked my bank statement to see if my unemployment benefits were paid out. Yes, they were, but not as much as I thought they would be.

Instead of being paid for two weeks of unemployment, I was paid for one week. The Workforce Commission has changed things up since the last time I played this game, and now you don't get that first week of benefits until you have been unemployed for four weeks.

So let's get this straight: I have been unemployed for two weeks, and was not given severance pay, and I didn't actually get paid for any of the weeks in January, but they're only giving me $415. To pay for all the bills I've accrued during the past two weeks, and whatever expenses come up during the next two weeks, I have $415.

This makes no sense to me. But then again, I'm not a bureaucrat, so...

So although I thought I'd have plenty of money to get me through the next two weeks (when I can reapply for my next payment), now I'm not so sure.


And I also have to figure out why my rent payment was credited back to my account. I paid it well before the first of the month, but now... It's all right back where it was, with a note that says "Payment Reversal" that must have been done by the property management company. Alas, no one is in the office, today, so I have no idea why there's an extra $775 in my account.

For once, I kind of agree with the "mo' money, mo' problems" thing: hopefully my "mo' money" won't get me evicted (haha).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Entertain Yourself!!!

It is 20*F outside, as I write. Nope, sorry, it's 19*F. What the heck, Texas? It was 70* only a couple of days ago!

Monday night, I had the terrifying realization that I had nothing to read at my apartment if I ended up stranded in my apartment for the next 48 hours.

Forget food. I can subsist of Apple & Cinnamon oatmeal and frozen curry forever. No, really. It's my new diet plan.

But no books? Aw, hel- um, heck no. Ahem.

So Monday evening, at 8:45 pm (when it was still 54*F outside), I got in my car and dashed to the Borders down in the West Village. Nevermind that it meant losing my covered parking spot: I needed a book to read! Priorities, people!

I had decided to buy just one book, but then I remembered who I was and realized I would need at least two books to get through the wintry weather.

So I bought three books (Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, which I'm currently reading and loving; Shantaram by some escaped Australian convict who lives in India now; and My Life in France by Julia Child, but not the movie edition so I don't have to look at Amy Adams every time I pick it up or pull it off the bookshelf) and had the closest thing to a date that I've had in six months. Namely, I did an awkward dance with a good-looking guy while we tried not to get in each other's way in the Fiction & Literature section and pretended that we weren't sideways-staring at each other and checking out each other's legs.

Romantic, baby.

And now I'm happily ensconced in my warm bed, drinking Dr. Pepper, listening to the wind whistling by the broken weather-stripping around my windows, and reading The Frenemy's latest post on how to seduce a lady. The Frenemy is one of the blogs I read every day. She's wordy, and kind of has a filthy mouth, but she's funny, and she mocks Cosmo like it's going out of style, and she's a girl after my own heart.

"Just because I’m hanging out with your henley-shirt wearing ass doesn’t mean I’m going to hop in the sack with you. That’s the truth. Sure, we may both like Jurassic Park but that doesn’t mean that..okay I’ve chosen the wrong example. Jeff Goldblum explaining chaos theory is basically my Boyz II Men Soundtrack."

Really, how could you not want to have a beer with this girl? But at a kind of skeazy bar, so her cursing wouldn't be out of place.

And now, I'll probably go on to editing/revising the fairy tale I've been writing. I had it printed at Kinko's and picked it up yesterday. I did the math, and figured out that - since it would take me at least 30 minutes and a new ink cartridge to print it at home - it was cheaper to have it printed and spiral-bound at Kinko's. I feel so professional and all writer-y.

And now, a picture of Jeff Goldblum, for your viewing pleasure.