Saturday, May 31, 2008

LA Event: Taste of the Nation

Tomorrow, Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation will be held in Culver City. We went last year, and it was a lovely afternoon. A bunch of great local restaurants have stalls where they offer small, but tasty treats to tempt your palate. It's not just stuff off of their menu, but a creative show of their talents. It's all you can eat with your paid admission, $115 per person ($125 at the door), $25 for kids 6-15, kids under 6 free (woo hoo!). No, it's not cheap by any stretch, but consider the following:
  • The proceeds go to a good cause. "100% of ticket sales from Taste of the Nation are granted to the most effective anti-hunger organizations working to end childhood hunger in America."
  • If you have a young child who's active or kid who's generally difficult to take to a nice restaurant, it means getting a sitter (at a cost), planning everything in advance, and crossing your fingers that everything goes well. Here, you get several nice restaurants all trying to impress your palate all in the same place, and it's outdoors. So the wee one can enjoy food, sun, and fun, all while you get a unique meal out.
  • If the price is still hefty, consider this. You can use discount code KCRW (case sensitive), provided by one of my favorite radio programs, Good Food. The net cost per ticket is reduced to $103.50 per person. Of that, $73.50 is tax deductible. Oh, and did I mention it goes to a good cause?
Some of the participating restaurants that we would would love to go, but would never consider taking MetaToddler, even on his best days:

Joe's Restaurant
La Cachette
Sushi Roku
Water Grill

There are several other great restaurants that we enjoy (complete list of participating restaurants are here and here), so the biggest challenge will be saving enough room to try everything ;-)

Oh, and don't forget to save room for dessert!!

Location: Media Park (Park is between Venice and Culver Blvd)
9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
Date & Time: Sunday, June 1, 2008 from 1pm to 4pm

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Los Angeles: Discounted Baby & Kid Gear

If you're in the Los Angeles area, here are a couple of bargain-hunter's dreams that might come in handy for keeping your wee one's closet and toy chest brimming with joy.

California Kids Consignment
May 30 - June 1 (Friday-Sunday)
Where: Residence Inn Marriott - Conference Center
25320 The Old Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91381
This sale has been much farther west in the San Fernando Valley in the past, but is now trying out Santa Clarita for a change. Sellers hand their gently used stuff over to them, the stuff sells at very reasonable prices (some toys are new in the package), and the seller gets their money. They have tons of clothes, as well as toys, cribs, chairs, etc. What's left of their stock is 50% off on Sunday. It's too late to sell for this sale, but if you're thinking about it, you might want to check it out for future sales (~4 times/year). Click through for more details on buying, selling, or just plain browsing. Warning: It can get very, very busy. Just show up with cash (or MC/Visa for a $0.50 fee) in hand and a fistful of patience.

Flap Happy Outlet Store
May 30-31 (Friday-Saturday)
Where: 2330 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404
This store carries a selection of great hats for protecting wee delicate skin from the sun. They also carry clothes, swim suits, etc., though given the ridiculously bright colors and patterned prints, they tend to work more for girls than boys. That said, I've found some great stuff for MetaBoy, and all at bargain prices. This weekend from 10QM-5PM, they're having an annual sale where they slash their outlet prices.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Around the Internet

Flying the Friendly Bookshelves - Boogie is going through an "I love planes" phase. For boys, I hear this phase lasts...forever. MetaDaddy is still in his. Me? I'm out.

Terra Cotta Warriors - We saw the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian, China during our 2004 trip. There are a staggering number of these warriors. And at their age, it's shocking that they can travel. If you're in the Los Angeles area and you can make it, stop by the Bowers Museum to check them out. Honestly, I can't imagine they'll be coming back any time soon. So you can see them here, or fly to China ;-)

Ceramic Water Stakes via Boston Gals - Plants keep dying? Need some help watering them? Get help! I must say, I'm intrigued.

Thrifty Kitchen: Use it up! - Some clever ideas on reducing your kitchen waste.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This American Life Analyzes the Housing Crisis

I heard this episode of This American Life on the radio last week, The Giant Pool of Money. It was one of the best depictions of the recent decline of the housing market, as impacted by the mortgage industry.
"We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s?"
Why did I find it so enlightening and informative?
  • It's easy to listen to, making the one hour fly by.

  • Real people tell their stories and their intentions. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

  • The stories make sense. For example, brokers wanted to lend more money because they made a mint on each deal they made, and mortgage companies wanted to lend more money to borrowers because there was little long-term liability (they would bundle a cluster after a month or two and sell the debt off to other institutions). Money was flowing.
In any event, I highly recommend listening to this if you're interested at all in how the nation got into the housing crisis, with foreclosures taking up more and more news headlines, and the credit crunch, which has impacted us all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Warning Against Mommy's Bliss Nipple Cream

Sometimes, it's hard to find out about potentially vital information unless you're reading blogs. It would be so easy to miss a little blurb here or there.

I nursed my son, and early on, it was painful. One source of relief was using a 100% lanolin nipple cream that was provided to me by the hospital. Per CNN (via Baby Toolkit), the FDA has warned women against using a similar product, Mommy's Bliss Nipple Cream.
"The cream, promoted to nursing mothers to help soothe dry or cracked nipples, contains ingredients that may cause respiratory distress, vomiting and diarrhea in infants, the agency said."
I'm assuming the product hasn't been recalled because it's not medical, hence not under FDA's jurisdiction, much like all other herbal remedies. However, the company has stopped selling the cream. Anyone who feels their child has suffered adverse effects should contact FDA's MedWatch at 800-332-1088.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting Big, Amusing the Masses

I'm getting big.

I've only gained about 10-12 pounds, but it's all in my belly area, so it's wreaking havoc on my posture. In turn, my back is suffering, as is my sleep. I'm pretty sure REM sleep is a thing of the past for me.

But ah...3 more months of quiet left. Treasure the peace...treasure the peace.

So my doctor asks if people are commenting on how big I'm getting? No, but thanks for letting me know how you feel. At my last appointment, she figured I was on track size-wise. I asked her how I compared to my last pregnancy, and she said "about the same." I gained 35 pounds last time. Oh, I so hope I don't get that big again. I feel huge now, and I look back at pictures when I was 8-9 months pregnant last time, and I wasn't huge...I was gi-normous!!

I'm going to be a circle.

And metatoddler just likes pointing and laughing at my ever-expanding middle. Glad mommy's amusing you, sweetie :-P

Another thing I've realized is that if I wear a t-shirt, I look big, but that's to be expected. However, if I wear a loose top, I look way, way bigger. It reminded me of a tip I heard on What Not to Wear. If you wear something tight, it hugs your curves. If you wear something really loose, it looks like a tent. So the next time I want sympathy, I'm totally wearing the tent. Until, of course, nothing fits me except the tent. I'm sure that day is not far off.

OK, ice cream time. TTFN.

Friday, May 23, 2008

David Gray: Please Forgive Me

Ah, good song...good video

Around the Internet

How to Trick the Autoflush Toilet Sensor in Public Restrooms - As potty training time approaches, stuff like this looms over me. So. Very. Scared.

Why Zappos Pays New Employees to Quit—And You Should Too - Such a clever idea. Bribe potential employees to see if they really care about the job. I'm all for anything that provides me, the customer, with better customer service. And Zappos...they're pretty good.

Whiten Your Teeth with Strawberries - Ah, strawberry season.

Big Feet PJs - Oh, if it wasn't too late for mother's day, I'd be all over these. Besides, they don't really do maternity sizing, so I'm not sure they'd work out right now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Santa Monica: The Good, the Bad, and the Diva

Santa Monica's great, when it isn't being an overpopulated diva.

Things that have bugged me recently:
  • I went tour a preschool. A person in our group asked "I was told to come do the tour because we're trying to get pregnant. At what point can I actually apply?" Apparently, getting on the wait list in utero is not uncommon.
  • I parked on a street where the sign said something like *no parking from 7-2, except by permit.* This isn't uncommon. It's to discourage people from parking overnight unless they're residents. Well, that's how I read it, anyway. It turns out that it was 7AM to 2AM. WTF?!? Why not just say "No Parking." That's what they mean. I mean, who's going to park there from 2AM until 7AM? So, ya...I got a ticket. I'm not the first, and I'm not the last. It's how the city makes the gagillion dollars that it uses to fund the meter maids.
  • The local community college has a public parent & me swim class. It's a nice idea, except there are 40 spots for thousands of interested residents. At least that's what the most unhelpful employee told me. He couldn't have cared less about my questions, nor about my application. Apparently, just submitting the thing was an exercise in futility.
  • How much does an annual membership for a family membership to the YMCA cost in other places? Here? $900.
But on the bright side, cherries are in season at the farmers' market. The season is essentially mothers' day to fathers' day. And the peaches...oh, the peaches are marvelous. I haven't had a nectarine since last July, and I've been jonesing for one like you wouldn't believe. It turns out it was absolutely worth the wait.

And I heard on the radio the other day that the wait list for getting a pothole fixed in the city of Los Angeles is about 85 years. I kid you not. Here, if I call and complain about a street lamp on the blink, pothole, or any similar problem, it's usually fixed within a week. Big difference!!

Still, ugh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

MetaToddler Update

Went to the L.A. Zoo. He must have had a great time since even the extreme heat (~100F) didn't dampen his spirits. We saw elephants, gorillas, flamingos, and, I mean sheep. We didn't go around the whole zoo because it was too hot and I was melting. Besides, we bought a one-year membership, so we'll just pop on over every now and then to assure value for money. The kid loves animals!!

Guess who has a favorite new word. "Uh oh." He was in his crib settling for his nap, and the hiccups started. After every hiccup, "uh oh." We went to make photocopies of a book, and every time the machine scanned the page with it's green light, "uh oh." It got kind of old after 50 pages. Every time something drops, spills, or tumbles, "uh oh." It's still relatively cute, but...well...I can see it getting old soon.

Good old eagle-eye can spot a plane way in the distance, and that usually elicits a reaction. Much like his daddy. He loves signing "plane." MetaToddler, that is.

Besides salmon, which excites him well more than chocolate or other sweet thing, his current favorite food is this quinoa salad. I can't blame him. It's really quite tasty.

He won't say hi, or anything else to anyone that he's not pretty comfortable with. He will, however, say "bye bye." He'll say it to me, MetaDaddy, stuffed dolls, lamps, chairs, the car, fire trucks, strangers, and so on.

I send MetaDaddy messages every now and then on Yahoo IM. MetaToddler now calls the computer "da."

He knows how to sign "down," and it's his current favorite spoken and signed word. The minute we walk into his room in the morning or after his nap, "down." The minute we stop the car, the backseat driver says "down."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A True Irish Lad

How do we know MetaToddler's got Irish blood?
  • When we ask him to say "da da," he says "da." As in "where's me da?" If you can't quite imagine it, just imagine Colin Farrel saying it.

  • MetaDaddy loves fish, but salmon rules in his kingdom. In fact, his entire family would happily eat salmon for three meals on any given day. When we've all gone out to dinner, you can tell those not in the original nuclear family because we're the only ones not eating salmon. It's truly entertaining.

    So MetaDaddy has some salmon spread that he eats on toast, and he's occasionally given some to our lad. One day, he gave him some, and MetaToddler started signing "more fish." He was not told it was salmon, just bread. But he knew. Oh, he knew. And the other day, we had salmon for dinner. It was wild (translation: pretty expensive), so I didn't get much. We gave him a bit, and he was ravenous to get more. He LOVED it!!

  • Fire engines in Ireland wail "mee maw, mee maw" when they're on route to an emergency call. MetaToddler now calls fire engines and other emergency vehicles "mee maw."

  • When daddy has a beer, guess who wants a taste?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Showing Your ID When Paying With a Credit Card

The June 2008 issue of Money Magazine brought something to my attention. When I purchase something with a credit card, I thought I was safer when the cashier asked for my ID. Nope. Showing your ID provides strangers (i.e., cashiers) with a lot of information that they don't need. In conjunction with your credit card number, that data can seriously impact the security of my identity. Less serious, it might be used to put my name on a mailing list. All of that sounds terribly unappetizing to me.

The article goes on to say:
"since major card issuers won't hold you liable for fraudelent charges, being forced to show ID doesn't give you any extra protection."
Here's what they suggest:
  • MasterCard, Visa and Discover forbid stores from requiring ID with a signed card, so refuse the request. Amex discourages the practice.
  • Print this clause and carry it in your wallet to back up your refusal to the cashier.
  • If they still give you a hard time, call your CC company for assistance. The rep will either convince the cashier, or issue a complaint, which can lead to a fine or suspension for the merchant. 800) MC-ASSIST; (800) VISA-911; (800) DISCOVER.
  • There's always cash.
Irish (and other European) credit cards require a PIN for all transactions, which is entered like an ATM PIN. It seems to be a much more reliable method of assuring security than signing the back of the card and crossing your fingers. I never understood the point of that, really.

We really don't get asked for our ID often these days, although IKEA did ask just last weekend. That said, having worked in retail back when, I would assume that most cashiers who ask for an ID do so with nothing but good intentions. So if you refuse, be nice :-)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Restaurant Food

As I pointed out before, food prices are going up. While we as consumers feel the pinch a lot, restaurants do, too. A lot. The battle between price increases and portion size reductions wage on, per this article via (The Delicious Life). It also references some interesting techniques restauranteurs use to help their bottom line. For example, trimming down a cut of meat while adding more low cost sides makes people think they're getting value for money. It's all about covering that plate.

On a related note, a friend pointed out this article about Sysco's monopolization of restaurant's food distribution. From cereal to dish-washing detergent to chicken parts molded to look like chicken breasts, if you want it, Sysco's got it. What's more, they sell frozen products like cakes, which restaurants can (and do) turn around and sell to patrons at...oh, let's say $9 per serving. But hey, they do toss on some berries for good measure ;-)

It makes sense, though. Restaurants only have so many resources, so they can't make everything from scratch. Most don't make their own desserts, just like most people don't make all of their desserts at home. Can you imagine making all of your own salad dressings, sauces, and ice cream. I'll take Ben & Jerry's any day. In fact, I usually do. In fact, I've got to go do something.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No Birthday Gifts, Please

I was reading the comments on this post, and it struck me as amusing that some people literally get offended at the thought of parents asking a child not to bring presents to a birthday party. My theory is either the invited child's parent wants to bring a gift because s/he (1) doesn't want to come empty handed, or (2) wants to go shopping. If it's the first, bring something that's useful or biodegradable. I'm thinking a donation to something, a savings bond (ya, I said it), or a small but really thoughtful gift. If it's the latter, get over it. You probably need to shop less in general, anyway.

I'm defensive about this because I intend to request "no presents" for MetaToddler's birthdays. Why is it so unreasonable to ask for no presents at a kid's party? The party isn't about the presents, it's an occasion to celebrate and have fun with friends. We went to a birthday party last weekend at a park, and we didn't sit around watching the birthday boy open his presents. Would that have been more fun for him and the other toddlers than running around and eating cake?

I think we need to remember the intention of the birthday party. And we need to remind our kids that life isn't about getting stuff. I don't know how successful we'll be at that because after all, we do have our materialistic tendencies. I love my computer, Tivo and stand mixer. MetaDaddy loves all things geeky, including his family ;-)

But I digress. Personally, I don't want presents for his birthday because:
  1. He has enough toys to keep him happy
  2. I'm rather particular about the toys he plays with (first time mommy). That is, has the manufacturer had recalls on other toys? Is the toy plastic? Does it ding, bing, and make all sorts of other unpleasant musical sounds?
  3. Cheap plastic toys just end up in a landfill. That makes me sad.
Is that so wrong? Before you answer that, remember that I'm a Virgo.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Around the Internet

The Tales of Beetle the Bard - I saw this link on Amazon, and I was racking my brain and quizzing MetaDaddy to see if he'd ever heard of "The Tales of Beetle the Bard." Eventually, I clicked through and found out it was from the last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Duh! He didn't read any of them, so he's off the hook.

It turns out J.K. Rowling wrote the book comprised of five wizarding fairy tales, and Amazon bought one of the seven handmade (yes, handmade) copies at a Sotheby's auction for £1,950,000 (that's around $3,810,276.62).
"The Tales of Beedle the Bard is extensively illustrated and handwritten by the bard herself--all 157 pages of it. It's bound in brown Moroccan leather and embellished with five hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones."
More airports to use 'whole body imaging' machines - A pat-down is a bit of a privacy thief, so it seems like it's a bit less intrusive to have a machine do the job, especially since:
(1) the screeners are in a remote location,
(2) the face is blurred (pixelated), and
(3) the image is not stored.
That said, I don't know if I really want to subject my body to something called "millimeter wave machines" if I can avoid it with a dehumanizing pat-down.
Dang, I've totally just doomed my next flight. I'm going to be sooooooooooo not happy.

RAKKIDDO - For Kids - How many shoes does a kid need?

Matryoshka Dolls via Cool Mom Picks - Are these not the most precious things you've ever seen? I know MetaToddler's just going to put them in his mouth or slather them in yogurt, but I'm pretty sure he's going to get a set before the year is out :-)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mom's Breakfast Influences Baby's Sex

To me, it seemed to take forever before I finally got pregnant with MetaToddler. In reality, it didn't take that long. Six months isn't that long. But when you're somehow led to believe by media and such that getting pregnant is too easy, hardly difficult, every month seems to put your reality into question. A story this week on NPR about the clash between biology and culture for women with regards to parenthood only reminded me of this. Apparently, fertility for women peaks at about age 22. Seriously?!?

After doing some (a lot) of reading, I started to understand how normal a delay in getting pregnant was. But just to be sure, I figured I'd start eating better breakfasts. That is, I figured I should gain a couple of pounds. Just a couple, though!! I've never found cereal to be a good breakfast because I tend to get hungry an hour after eating it. So I opted for eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, toast, cream cheese, fruit, and so on. I couldn't tell you what I ate for sure, but I specifically remember making an effort to eat well in the morning. I wouldn't say it impacted my day in any significant way, but over the next couple of months I gained a couple of pounds and got pregnant. Coincidence? I certainly figured as much.

It's funny reading this recent article on how a mom's diet may influence baby's sex. I certainly would not have expected my diet to impact the sex of the baby. Then again, I take in all studies with a grain of salt.

I tried to think about my breakfasts around November, and I just can't remember. Much to the dismay of some friends and family, we're not going to find out the sex of the baby before it's born, so it's a wait and see game :-)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Post Office Stuff

Just a reminder that postage increases by one cent on Monday, May 12, 2008. So get yourself some forever stamps.

On a similar note, the post office is doing their annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive on Saturday, May 10, 2008. It's a great time to clear your pantry of older food items that you haven't gotten around to use. The only thing they ask is that you not include items that have expired or those in glass containers. Personally, I like to go to the grocery store and get a couple of bags of useful non-perishibles to add to my donation. I'd feel kinda bad just donating old chili and hearts of palm. I like adding things like flour, dried milk, sugar, various kinds of beans, and so on. Essentially, foods that can provide reasonable nutrition. Hence, no high sodium chips here ;-)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Life as Art

Sometimes, shopping is hard. MetaToddler was in a rather emotional mood today, but was a bit better after his nap and a snack. In a moment of...oh, I don't know...lunacy?...we went shopping. But we didn't go to Trader Joe's or some random mall. We went to Lakeshore. We went to a toy store.

He'd pick things up, put them down. Ignored me when convenient, acquiesced when indifferent. "Come here, have you seen this?" That usually got his attention. "Ooo...stuff I haven't seen!!" He'd scamper over curiously. Early on, he picked up something shaped like a shopping bag with a handle, and proceeded to carry it through most of the store. Until, that is, he came to a little play area. Ugh...that was our downfall. After a while, I had to tear him away crying. And it was nothing special. A sofa, chair, table, and plastic food, all of which he has ignored in the past. You just never know with an emotional toddler.

Oh well. We needed some paint supplies for him and a birthday gift for a friend. We got both. The paint supplies is a scary topic. I'm afraid to let him paint at home, so we've only done it in classes so far. But it's gotta happen eventually. He's gotta do all that "art" stuff. So, I got some paint, a set of no-spill jars & paintbrushes, and an apron. They carry several easels ranging from $29.99 for a tabletop version to $149.00 for a "Mobile Art Center." I'm going to check out IKEA first because they carry an easel for $19.99 and a 130 foot roll of drawing paper for $6.99. Of course, I'll need something to protect the floor. We don't have any sheets that I'm ready to part with, so I'll likely pick up a nice, heavy cotton drop cloth used by painters. I don't like plastic, PVC, or vinyl floor protectors as they're not environmentally friendly.

So, I hope he's in a better mood tomorrow. Much to do :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Gas vs. the SUV

Have you spotted any trends lately? People downsizing from the giant to the more reasonable vehicle, for example?

Locally, gas is up to $3.90 per gallon, which comes to $52 to fill each of our cars. Fortunately, we only fill each up about every 3 weeks, so we don't suffer too much. But how about people who have large cars and use them a lot. Well, you know the story. They're looking for any way to reduce their gas consumption.

A friend of mine was dropping his kids off at day care when he noticed how many people seemed to have switched over from big SUVs to cars or minivans (e.g., Honda Odyssey). My friend, who owns an Odyssey, gets about 19 city, 24 highway. Not fabulous, but his family outgrew a 4-door sedan and they get a lot of use out of the vehicle. They thought about an SUV, but in the end, they finally accepted that they were now minivan people, so they bit the bullet. And they love it. Funny how that happens.

BMW X5 gets 15 mpg / 21 mpg, per EPA mileage estimates. Chevrolet Tahoe gets 14 mpg / 19 mpg, per EPA mileage estimates. And EPA estimates are pretty unreliable since they're derived from perfect conditions. Real driving leads to significantly worse mpg performance.

Now I don't know if you remember, but I don't get SUVs. I figure if you need a large vehicle, minivans are much more logical because of how versatile they are (e.g., doors, seats). But SUVs are big, clunky and hard to drive. They use more gas than most cars, and honestly, I find the interiors aren't an improvement on cars. I figure people have chosen them for aesthetics and because they think bigger is safer, which is just not true. If you want a safe car, buy a safe car.

And don't get me started on the SUV hybrids. That's just a weak compromise.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure there are some places, circumstances, and people who genuinely benefit from an SUV. But by and large, the masses who buy them are people who think they look cool. And now that gas is climbing, climbing, climbing, looking cool is nowhere near as important as it used to be.

I'm just saying.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Stuff on the Huffington Post

I like reading the Huffington Post, but honestly, the number of daily posts can be a bit overwhelming. I read a few in a moment of madness, and here are some that jumped out at me.

2008 Tax Rebate Checks: What Does a Bush-Hating Liberal Spend Hers On? - OK, politics aside, I think she makes some interesting and novel suggestions on how to use your rebate checks. Personally, I like all three.

Activism Made Easy: Choosing UPS - We ship very few packages/envelopes, but after reading this, I think we'll be using UPS exclusively from now on. I had no idea Fed Ex is such an evil dictator of an *employer*. They save an estimated $400 million per year by treating their *employees* as independent contractors, who then have to purchase their own delivery trucks, insurance, fuel, tires, and maintenance. UPS, on the other hand, treats all of their *employees* as...well, as employees. Benefits, social security, and a truck with gas are some of the perks they get over Fed Ex workers.

I know I've had pretty mediocre customer service and delivery experiences with them in the past, and I wonder how much the treatment of their employees plays into that. On one occasion, I was informed by Fed Ex ground that they have no way of knowing when a delivery person will actually make a delivery, but they have until 10PM (or something like was a while ago) to do so. So the delivery guy could show up at 9:30 and wake my barely sleeping infant, and that was my problem. Gee, thanks.

Sexualizing Miley: Are Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus Letting Her Be The New Lolita? - This reminds me of how much easier it was to be a kid when I was young. Maybe it's just me, but I don't remember being obsessed by confused pop idols or short, revealing clothes. My vice? Debbie Gibson vanilla (ya, ya...we all make mistakes). Personally, it scares me how obsessed young girls are with Hannah Montana, the Disney character played by Miley Cyrus. We know 6 and 7 year-old girls who idolize her, so the kind of adult behavior displayed in Vogue is jarring. These days, I'm constantly hearing from friends of how difficult it is to find non-scandalous clothes for young girls, nevermind dodging media messages. When an obviously under-aged celebrity poses provocatively for a magazine, is this something we want relayed to kindergarteners? Why didn't her parents prevent the shot from being approved for the layout? I would be fuming if someone took a shot like that of my *innocent* 15 year-old. Am I really supposed to believe that two people with such a vested interest in their child's career didn't get to approve the photos beforehand? Really?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fixing Your Credit Report

A while back I found an error on my Transunion credit report, but it wasn't on the Equifax or Experian reports. Dummy that I am, I didn't fix it right away.


So, it was an account that I did not recognize from a bank that I have had an account with. More suspicious, it was an installment account for an amount that didn't make any sense to me. I'm pretty good about knowing about my accounts, so I knew this wasn't mine. It was on my list of things to do, but dang it, it just fell clean off one day for no good reason.

I have an old credit card with Providian, now Washington Mutual. I never use it, but I keep it open because they provide my Transunion credit score for free. One day I check it and see that my 800 score has dropped by 100 points.


So, I got my 3 credit reports and saw that Transunion and Equifax now had this unknown account, and it has become delinquent. I contact the bank and ask them about it. But I only had a partial account number as provided on the credit reports. I provided my name, address, and social security number, but they still couldn't find anything. So I had to submit an inquiry, which takes about one month to complete. I kept calling to get an update from the bank, and I ended up having to submit my inquiry twice. Eventually, I got someone really helpful on the phone who suggested I submit another inquiry with them, and one with Transunion and Equifax. The credit reporting agencies, she told me, are required to provide information on the item on my credit report or, if they can't, remove it. Better yet, they have to do one or the other within 30 days.

So within 30 days, I got a notice from both agencies telling me that the item was removed from my credit report.

Woo Hoo!!

My Transunion credit score is now back to the 800 range.

Lessons learned:
  • If you see an error on your credit report, fix it right away.
  • The longer you take in fixing the problem, the wider it spreads. The wider it spreads, the more tedious it is to fix.
  • Don't just call the bank that the erroneous credit item is with. Call the reporting agencies as well, which unlike banks, are required to resolve the disputed item in a set amount of time.
  • If you see an unexpected dip in your credit score, something bad has happened.
Want some fore info on credit scores? Check out PBS. More info than you knew existed on credit scores, including it's rather biased history.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Avoid Identity Theft

Identity theft is an ever-prominent danger that people should be wary of whether they spend a lot of time online or not. Shopping with a credit card at a shop can compromise your credit card information just as easily as shopping online. That said, the more time you spend online and sharing your information, the more susceptible you are.

Tips from ABC News: How Identity Theft Happens and How to Protect Yourself - These might just be reminders for the cautious, but good to remember.
For example, only provide financial information when you have initiated the contact. And be suspicious of shabby looking or poorly maintained websites.

A Wall Street Journal article: How to Avoid Cons That Can Lead to Identity Theft - Lists some tips of a similar nature. Also a good reminder to watch out for what are now called "social engineering scams." For example, never click on an embedded link in an email from your bank or credit card company. Open a new window and type in the URL to log in and access your account.

Both are good articles worth skimming. But nothing beats just keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.

I'm just saying.