Archive for April, 2004


Friday, April 30th, 2004

It’s difficult to express in textual form my feelings about the fact that I will be away for 7 weeks this summer. It’s time to pay the piper for not having done any actual archaeology during my first 5 years of studying archaeology as a graduate student. I’ll be spending June and half of July at the site of Ashkelon in Israel, during what will probably be the site’s last season of excavation. The prospect probably would have seemed exciting when I was single, now I’m just upset about missing half the summer here with Andy. I’ll have to miss our first wedding anniversary and our good friends’ wedding, which makes me sad.
I’m hoping the time will pass quickly, and I’m pretty sure that they will keep me busy so I won’t have much time to brood. I still don’t have an answer to the all-important question of whether I”ll have internet access there. They spent a lot of words describing the kind of trowel I need to bring with me, but left out an important piece of info like that!


Tuesday, April 27th, 2004

My analysis of the phone bill in the last installment caused me to once again ponder the age-old question of why I have to have a phone anyway. I really don’t use it much, and of the calls I do get, the ratio of junk calls to calls from actual friends is probably about 80-20. Sadly, this ratio reflects the situation even after the Do Not Call List and our phone number change increased the odds in favor of our friends.
For those who missed out on the latter exciting chapter of our lives due to my remissness in blogging: our old phone number was, seemingly, inextricably associated with a Michael Flowers, a gentleman neither of us has had the pleasure of meeting, much to the disappointment of the many and various individuals who called here looking for him. The phone co. finally admitted that they were unable to remedy the situation and issued us a new number, so far Flowers-free.
So we are now rid of many of our telemarketer friends and the elusive Michael Flowers, but we find that the following are still more frequent callers than our friends and relations:
1. Pre-recorded voices, informing us that we’ve won fabulous prizes in contests we did not enter.
2. SBC, to whom I must explain for the nth time that we get internet access for free, hence to make a change worthwhile to us, they would have to pay us to take internet access from them. Not that I’m averse to that.
3. A loud buzzing noise.
4. People who want to talk to “Amy.”
I’m beginning to get curious about this Amy person. Today a recorded voice called to remind me of a doctor’s appointment, which was not for either of us. When I called the doctor’s office to explain that the call had come to the wrong person, the nice lady first asked me if I was sure I wasn’t a patient, then asked “Is this–Amy?” No, I replied, but she sounded a little skeptical. I don’t blame her; I’m beginning to believe that Amy is more real than I am. At least, she gets more calls.
One of these days, things will start turning up in places where I never put them. Then, things will begin to appear that I don’t recognize–articles of clothing in my dresser drawers, kitchen utensils that I don’t know how to use. Finally, one day, I’ll round the corner into the living room and there she’ll be: lounging on the couch, looking not unlike me but not me; and reading a book, but instead of an Agatha Christie mystery it’ll be The Five People You Meet In Heaven or something.
And that’ll be the end. Suddenly this blog will be the source of vibrant yet scathing reviews of art and literature, and brilliant and incisive political commentary, instead of the current muddle. I don’t know what will become of Andy as a result of this metamorphosis; but if I start getting calls for a Chad or an Alfonse, then I’ll know.

my phone bill

Monday, April 19th, 2004

Never look too closely at your phone bill. It will drive you mad. Here is what my phone bill looks like this month:
Economy Local Solution
[Hey, it has the word “economy” in it, so it must be a bargain, right? It’s local, we know that…and it’s a Solution! To…something… Officially the most overused word of the 90s, still meaning nothing well into the new century.]
-Call Plan Unlimited [Unlimited what? The Call? The Plan?]
-Caller Identification [So if I had a caller ID, I WOULD KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!]
-Calling Name Display [Wait a second…isn’t that the same thing as Caller Identification? What’s going on here?]
-Call Waiting [We don’t want it, we don’t use it, but they make us pay for it anyway.]
-Saver Pack 30 Plan [Whoa! In addition to the Economy Solution above, we also have a Saver Pack 30! Oh, the savings that have been Packed and Planned for our benefit!]
-LINE-BACKER (R) [Hmmm…I have no idea what this might be. But somehow, it gives me a strange sense of security…and it’s a Registered Trademark! These SBC folks are truly on top of things.]
[A friendly note follows:] By choosing Economy Local Solution (SM), you are saving $6.38 over the cost of the same services purchased separately. [Economical, indeed. What ever will I do with the $6.38 I have so cleverly saved over the individual prices…which are set by the phone company itself…hey, wait a minute!]
-Non-Published Service: $4.95 [It costs the phone company $59.40 per year to not publish our names in the phone directory. What back-breaking labor must that involve?]
-Federal Access Charge [I have accessed the Federation.]
-State Access Charge [Likewise, the State.]
Local, State and Federal Charges [My access to the Federation and State apparently does not exempt me from various Charges levied by the same.]
9-1-1 Emergency System [It looks different, with dashes between the numbers like that.]
Billed for Kent: .26 [Wow, a bargain, compared to say LINE-BACKER (R).]
Federal Universal Service Fee: .46 [For a mere 46 cents, the Universe now serves ME. At least, the Federated portion of the Universe. Who knew universal domination could be achieved so simply?]
On to the long-distance side of the page:
Taxes and Surcharges comprises 3 lines, as follows:
-Federal Excise Tax [“Excise: 1. An internal tax levied on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of a commodity within a country. 2. Any of various taxes on privileges often assessed in the form of a license or fee.” Now you know.]
-State & Local Taxes
-Federal, State, and Local Surcharges [Ah yes, Surcharges; to be clearly distinguished from Taxes.]
It seems my Calling Plan includes something called Nationwide Instate, which costs me $5.95 per month. I think the name is designed to make us puzzle over how something can be Nationwide and Instate at the same time, thereby distracting us from the question of what exactly is costing us $5.95 per month.
Also, there is a Billing Option Fee, costing $2.99. I pay the phone company $3 for the privelege of, ah, paying the phone company. Sigh.

thought for the day

Monday, April 12th, 2004

It is impossible to overuse the word “poseur.”
Go ahead, prove me wrong.

Michele’s blog: with new lo-carb menu!

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

When I saw Russ’ was advertising a new low-carb menu, I decided that this trend has officially gone way too far. I read a book a while back (called Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating) which said that one reason that the food pyramid emphasizes eating low-fat foods, rather than distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy fats, is because the people who made it thought that Americans were too dumb to understand that concept.
At first I was annoyed, the concept didn’t seem too difficult to me. I thought Americans could hack it. But now I’m beginning to worry that not only can Americans not grasp the idea of different kinds of fats, they are only able to focus on one nutrient at a time. The prevailing mode of dieting over the last 2.5 decades seems to have been to cut out one of the three basic nutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates). In last couple of decades everyone tried to eliminate fat, now it’s carbs. Simple indeed, but not very healthy.
I liked the above-mentioned book because it admits that we don’t really know much about what foods are healthy because it requires long-term studies to determine lifelong health effects of different types of diets, which are only now starting to be available. Also, it says that many of my favorite foods are good for me after all. However, many of the recipes included in the book don’t sound particularly appetizing (asparagus, tofu, shiitake, and cashew stir-fry), and call for ingredients that normal people can’t afford, and don’t know where to shop for. Ah well, can’t have everything.

taxes, nobody likes them

Thursday, April 8th, 2004

but they just won’t go away. I learned of a fiendish new wrinkle on the tax thing recently: city income taxes. I’d never heard of such a thing before. Why would a city do this to its inhabitants? This in itself is a good reason to move away, or not move to the city in the first place.
Also, the Michigan tax return is the most complex and irritating of the 3 state returns I’ve filled out over the years. It was more complex than the federal return. We had to include 3 supplementary schedules with the return, for the same information that Illinois managed to cope with in one short return plus a reasonably comprehensible partial-year resident schedule.
Somewhat disturbing is that many questionable points about taxes don’t have very clear-cut instructions–it seems to be open to interpretation, so no matter what you decide to do the IRS could potentially take exception to it. Very subtle.
Complaining aside, ours are almost done. At least it gave me something to do while I wait to find out where this school thing is going.