Monday, June 30, 2008

Loss

My former cycling coach was killed in an accident this weekend. Michael was an amazingly talented and kind person, and an amazing coach. At races, he made a point of standing at the last, toughest hill to cheer on the racers. Words can't describe what a profound loss this is to everyone who was lucky enough to know him.

We will miss you Michael.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pontoon-i-tude

Dear Internets,

So this weekend, I'm going out on a pontoon boat to help celebrate my friend Aaron's birthday. Normally, I would avoid the midday summer sun like the pasty little sea cucumber* I am, but it's a surprise party for Aaron, my trivia team's leader extraordinaire. Aaron is probably the nicest, most laid-back guy in the world. (He didn't even get mad when I convinced him - incorrectly - that Mars wasn't the planet with two moons**, and that it had to be one of the "new" planets.)

So I figure I will suck it up, pack my SPF 75, and brave the summer heat to help him celebrate. It won't be that hot on the lake, right?

Love,
Jane

*Supposedly, sea cucumbers are nocturnal. Also, I really do enjoy the sun. I just enjoy it slightly less when it's over 100 degrees (Farenheit) outside most of the time.
**In my defense, he was convinced that Io (my favorite moon) was one of Mars' two moons. Since I was positive that Io was one of Jupiter's moons, I managed to convince him he didn't know what he was talking about. I'm tricky like that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And now for something completely different

Dear Internets,

Hum-dee-dum...

Oh... Hello. I sure was... angry this morning, huh? Sorry about that.

In an effort to get the embarrassing post from this morning off the top of the page (my finger is itching to just press "delete"), I will share an even more embarrassing anecdote from later in my day:

A student I tutor made me a CD. I think he's probably about 16. (Yes, I feel kind of creepy.) I didn't really know what to say, so I just thanked him and assigned him extra math homework.

In other news, a pregnant homeless woman (who was - no joke - holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other) complemented me on my outfit from across the street today while I was walking downtown.

In even more "other news," I apparently won a $350 spa gift certificate at the last triathlon I did.

Maybe I just needed a little catharsis this morning... Emotional feng shui or whatever.

Let's never speak of this again.

Love,
Jane

Lions and Tigers and Credit Bureaus (oh my!)

[A warning to my lovely, sweet readers... This is a bit of a rant. While I don't want to offend anyone by getting too political, I figured I should get this off my chest - I was so caught up in thinking about this issue that I accidentally wore my shirt inside out to work today. (Bill and Jim would be so ashamed!) If you are feeling non-political this morning, feel free to go read about unicorns instead. XOXO, Jane]

Dear VantageScore,

You are officially on my poop list. I check my credit report three times a year, once from each bureau. Every so often, I pay $6 to see my credit score (and the credit bureau's "interpretation" of my credit score). Yesterday, when I pulled my report from AnnualCreditReport.com, I figured I'd check out my credit score on the new VantageScore model.

Now, I suppose I should mention that I am not actually angry about this new scoring model on my own behalf. I'm not planning on applying for credit any time soon, and my score was fine anyway, so I have nothing really to worry about. But there are a few things that bugged me, VantageScore, and I'm pretty sure that you are ageist, classist, and (after a little research) quite possibly racist as well. Also, I think you hate single people.

Sigh. Where to begin?

(From report)

"Top Negative Factors Affecting Jane's Score:

1) The average loan amount across open, recently reported real estate accounts, such as a mortgage, is too low. Having low loan amounts has a negative impact on your credit score.

Now VantageGuard, that just offends me. I bought my condo by myself*. Sure, I would have liked to buy one of those beautiful condos in a high rise downtown, but I knew I couldn't afford a huge mortgage payment with my current income. Does having an affordable housing payment make me a riskier borrower? I can't think of a logical reason why.

I can, however, think of a logical reason why this is the top negative factor on my credit report. By heavily weighting mortgage information (or lack thereof) in determining a person's credit score, VantageScore provides a way for lenders to legally justify charging young, single, or poor borrowers higher interest rates** on auto loans, credit cards, personal loans, and mortgages without violating the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (or other anti-discrimination laws), even if these borrowers have previously used credit responsibly. After all, what groups tend to take out smaller mortgages (or not have mortgages at all)?

2) The balance amount paid down across your open real estate accounts, such as a mortgage, is too low. Paying down the balances on your real estate accounts can have a positive impact on your credit score.

Fair enough, I suppose. I've only had my mortgage for a year. But again, why is there so much weight placed on homeownership? I wonder.

3) Your report shows that the available credit across your open, recently reported revolving accounts, such as a credit card, is too low. Having low available credit amounts on revolving accounts has a negative impact on your credit score."

Um, VantageScore, now you're just smoking crack (oh yes I did go all 1995 on you!)(Oooh! I did it again!). I calculated my percent of available credit used across all of my available credit lines (based on the balances on the report YOU provided), and I only used 2.5% of the credit available to me this month. I went back a few months, and my credit used never went over 3% of what's available. Even on a single card, I never used more than 10% of what was available to me.

Now, I know you use "complex, proprietary algorithms" to calculate my score (best not to get me started on how this completely undermines Truth in Lending), but how does using 2.5% of my available credit make me look irresponsible? Shouldn't it all be based on how much (or little) I use my cards? Why are you punishing me for having lower-than-average credit limits?

Wait a second... "Experts" recommend that credit limits be proportionate to income. Silly me, VantageScore. We all know that income in the U.S. is evenly distributed across different age, race, and gender groups.

OK, OK, VantageScore, I will tone down the sarcasm. It's not very nice of me.

According to the credit bureaus that created you, you were developed, VantageScore, to address problems with the more common FICO score, such as score variability between different credit bureaus, non-predictive scores for borrowers with limited credit history, and consumer difficulty in understanding credit scores. (Ha.)(Sorry, couldn't help it.) Allegedly, your creation was not just an attempt to get a piece of FICO's cash cow and suck up to banks by offering up a convenient scapegoat for the mortgage crisis.

Why should I be so upset that you provide credit scores that (essentially) factor in a person's income (and/or net worth)? Well, credit scores are generally the main factor in determining the interest rate a borrower is charged when s/he gets a loan. Thus, if more lenders begin to use VantageScore, people who are not older, white, and married will have to pay higher interest rates to borrow money. Not particularly fair in my book.

See you later, VantageScore. I'm off to go turn this into a letter to my congressman.

Not your friend,
Jane

*Remind me someday to write a love letter to the State of Texas for requiring me to sign all my mortgage paperwork as "Jane X____, A Single Woman." Gotta love community property states! (And I thought my cousins were bad.) I asked my mortgage officer if I could cross out "A Single Woman" and write "Spinst-ah Witch!" He was not amused.

**Despite (somewhat) popular misconception, credit scores are not generally used by lenders as the sole means of determining who does or does get loans, how much money is issued to a borrower, or if the borrower has the means to pay back a loan. (That is what banks hire loan officers to do.) Rather, one of lenders' main uses for credit scores is to set normalized (i.e. fair, non-discriminatory) interest rates.


According to a loan officer at my credit union, lenders used to set interest rates based on a borrower's "relationship" with the lender. (You can imagine how that would lead to some pretty icky rate-setting practices.) If you're a nerd like me, here is a really interesting article from PBS) about the history of credit scores.

The Internets are out to get me

Dear Google,

I see that you have been directing people who search for "Jane + thighs" to my little blog. This is weird. Please stop.

Love,
Jane

P.S. I honestly can't remember ever talking about thighs...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trivialities

Dear Trivia Team,

Yay! We qualified for the finals! Sure, it was only because the top four teams had qualified for the tournament already, and the two teams tied with us had already gone home. But who cares? Whee! We are winners!

I missed two questions that I should have gotten:

-What city was originally named Lutetia?

and

-What country's Latin name is Helvetica?

However, I redeemed myself by being the only person on the team to remember the correct answer to:

-What is the only winning poker hand that requires at least one wild card?

Maybe not the hardest question in the world (the rest of you were drunk by that point, I think) but I was still proud.

At any rate, it was very exciting, and I think we should all memorize Wikipedia in the next few months to improve our chances in the finals. I will start with "H."

Love,
Jane

(Fearless readers: I will write a poem for the first person/people to get the correct answers in the comments. Obviously, we're on the honor system...)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cat lady (likely crazy)

Dear Internets,

At some point years ago, a former classmate gave my name as someone who might be interested in joining some school reunion website. The website got bought out several times, and I now occasionally receive email from Classmates.com. I just got an email that said someone had "signed" my profile.

"Hmm," I thought. "That's funny. I don't remember creating a profile."

I went to the website and looked at my "profile." Apparently, I am single, "don't want kids" and have interests in "board games and cats." Wow! I'm like the biggest catch since Miss Havisham! I just wish "Chasing those neighbor kids off my lawn" was on there.

I can't stop giggling. If this is just a "random" profile, I guess they could have picked less-flattering interests (the choices include channel surfing, hunting, gambling, bluegrass music, snakes, spiders, goats, and still holding a torch for a high school love-interest). But they definitely would have had to try.

However, I'm hoping I had one too many margaritas one night and set the profile up myself. I've always said that the only thing standing between me and a life of cat-hoarding and board game playing was my darn allergies.

Yours,
Eleanor Abernathy (aka Jane)

Hungry Like a Jane

Dear Stomach,

Why do you always start growling by 11:00 a.m? I have been doing so well - eating fruit and a little protein (rather than a diet soda) for breakfast, and keeping nuts to snack on in my desk. Is this my body's way of encouraging me to beat the lunch rush?

Love,
Jane

Monday, June 23, 2008

Running

Dear Running Shoes,

Oh! Hi! Yes, I suppose it has been a while. No, of course I'm not trying to avoid you. I've just been really busy. No, I'm not trying to break up with you.

Well of course I know that running is good for my health. Yes, I'm aware of the whole stress-relief aspect. But, I've just been so -

Ok, ok. I will go running tonight. Quit naggin'!

-Jane

Friday, June 20, 2008

TGI... no, I just can't say it

Dear Internets,

You know those people who go around all week asking everyone if it's Friday yet? And then on Fridays, they go around saying either "TGIF, right?" or "Is it 5:00 yet?"

Today may turn me into one of those people... The day has just dragged. [I think it's because I'm still licking my wounds from being yelled at by a security guard this morning. (I was daydreaming and accidentally drove to the wrong parking garage.) I don't know why it upset me. The guards are a grouchy bunch that just really like to yell. But still... It didn't exactly set the tone for a great day.]

Hopefully this weekend will be better. I'm working at my second job, building a flower bed on my back patio, and possibly going to watch a bike race.

I hope you have a quiet, non-yelly weekend.

XOXO,
Jane

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spoil Sport

Dear Inner Tubes,

I like you just fine at water parks, but I have absolutely no desire to sit in you and float down a slow-moving river for hours.

My name is Jane, and I hate tubing.

Some of my friends have a hard time understanding this.

Friends: "We're gonna go on a float trip this weekend, it's gonna be awesome. You've gotta come."
Jane: "No thanks."
Friends: "No, you don't understand. We're gonna float the river. In the sun. We're taking beer. It's gonna be awesome."
Jane: "No really, I'd rather not. I don't really care for tubing."
Friends: "No seriously, you don't understand. It's gonna be awesome. It's supposed to be like a hundred and two out, no clouds in the sky. And it hasn't rained in months, so the river should be super slow."
Jane: "But I'll get sunburned... And since I don't really enjoy tubing, I'd rather avoid getting burned."
Friends: "No, silly, you wear sunscreen. Duh."
Jane: "Let's talk about unicorns. "

It isn't that I don't understand how tubing could appeal to a lot of people. It's just that it's not for me.

Top 10 reasons I don't enjoy tubing:

1. I am paler than Jim Gaffigan. After an hour in the water/sun, I will burn, no matter how many times I reapply the SPF 55.
2. All that sunscreen? Will make me break out (even if I get the noncomedogenic stuff. There's only so much you can slather on your pores without clogging them). Sure, pimples on a sunburned face may sound like a one-way ticket to hotness...
3. I get seasick more easily than anyone I know. I get carsick when I'm the one driving. I can't even watch a surfing movie without feeling a little queasy. All that bobbing up and down? Not so fun for Jane.
4. I don't really enjoy sitting in the sun drinking beer for hours on end. When my friends get back from a day of tubing, they are dehydrated and already hungover, and spend the night and the next day recovering. That's the whole weekend! One only gets so many weekends in life (especially when one has a second job).
5. I just can't sit still that long... I get antsy. Sure, drunken frat boys/sorority girls provide *some* entertainment, but if I enjoyed seeing strangers' naughty bits, I'd just order "Girls Gone Wild."
6. It is kind of expensive to rent inner tubes. And a pain to haul them around.
7. I don't really like lounging in a bathing suit around a bunch of strangers. I am not uncomfortable with my body - I just don't really like sitting around in the equivalent of my underoos.
8. "No one volunteered to be the designated driver? Wow, since I'm not drinking, I guess that makes me DD. Nothing better than driving a bunch of drunks with sand in their britches 40 miles each way." **Insert sarcasm here.**
9. Gas is expensive (see above). Sometimes drunk people aren't the best at forking over gas money. I'm just sayin...
10. If I went with my friends on all of their adventures, they would have no stories to tell. And I do love a good story, even if it's of the "So-and-so fell out of their tube reaching for a beer" variety.

So, Inner Tubes... I think we should just be penpals for now. I'll give you a call the next time I go to Schlitterbahn.

Love,
Jane

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

1986.

The six-year-old walks proudly into her kindergarten classroom. She has completed her first homework assignment ever - a drawing of a rainbow. She can't wait to show her teacher.

She spies her friend Michelle, who is holding a picture of a vibrant, if slightly uneven, rainbow. "Hi Jane! C'mere!" Michelle calls.

"I like your rainbow," Jane says. "Did you have to press really hard with your crayons to make the colors so dark?"

"Yes," Michelle replies. "I broke my yellow crayon."

They both shake their heads sadly. Broken crayons are no fun at all.

Michelle notices Jane's picture. "Wow, that is really good," she says. "It looks like it could be in the Care Bears. Did you trace it?"

"No, I was just really careful," Jane replies, trying hard not to sound too proud. She knows it is not nice to brag.

Ms. Rails calls the class to the Storytime Mat. The class sits Indian-style in a circle with their pictures in front of them. "We are going to write your name on your rainbow picture! And then we're going to hang them on the wall for everyone to see!" she says. "Won't that be fun!"

The teacher squeals over each one as she helps the students write their names at the bottom. Jane's mom calls Ms. Rails "enthusiastic." Jane isn't sure what it means, but her mom raises one eyebrow when she says it. Jane hopes she can raise one eyebrow someday. When she tries it, both of her eyebrows go up at the same time.

Jane eyes the other pictures as Ms. Rails makes her way around the circle. Some of the rainbows seem too skinny or fat, and some have the wrong colors. Some are not even arched. Hers is definitely the standout picture. Jane supposes this means that she is very Creative.

"Very good!" Ms. Rails exclaims as she makes her way to Jane's picture. "You wrote your name all by yourself!"

Jane was expecting a slightly better reaction than this. "But what about the picture?" she asks hopefully.

"Oh yes, sweetie! It's SOOOOOO pretty!" Ms. Rails says, barely giving Jane's picture a second glance. She has already moved on to help LeCedrick write his name on his rainbow.

Jane is a bit disappointed until she remembers that the pictures are going to be hung up on the wall in time for Parent-Teacher night. Everyone will see the rainbow, and her parents will know how Creative their daughter is.

Satisfied, Jane practices raising one eyebrow while she waits for Ms. Rails to finish helping the rest of the class. Both up. Both down. Hmmm... Maybe if she wrinkles her nose a little...

"Want to play Rabbits?" Michelle asks. Jane snaps out of her daydream. No one is in the circle anymore. It seems that Christina has just shown up late to class, and Ms. Rails has sent them to their Play Stations while she talks with Christina's father.

Jane can see Christina's homework picture from across the room. Her heart sinks into her stomach. She walks to the masking tape edge of the Make Believe Station to get a closer look.

Christina didn't just draw a rainbow - she drew a hundred, or maybe a million. Every square inch of her paper is covered in vibrant rainbows. The colors are dark and even. Christina had to have broken some crayons. She might have even used some up. The picture makes Jane feel like she has fallen into a kaleidescope. It will be years before Jane learns about prisms, and tessellations, and MC Escher - things Christina seems to have discovered intuitively.

Christina's father leaves, and Ms. Rails calls the class over to hang up their pictures.

Jane puts hers in the corner near the bottom. She keeps her mouth shut when Mark R. hangs his picture over hers, hiding the name "J-a-N-E" from view.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I love the blogiverse!

Dear Heidi and Louise,

You guys are AWESOME! Thanks for making my day! You are more than welcome to show up on my doorstep anytime. (Actually, we're in the middle of a record heatwave right now... Maybe I should visit you guys up in Canada.)

You guys are the best. You're blog is interesting and beautiful and funny.

Love you guys!
Jane

Shopping

Dear Internet,

Please stop making it so easy for me to buy things... Sure, I don't go overboard with the *spending*, but I'm beginning to think even the looking is becoming problematic.

Sigh...

-Jane

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wanderlust

Dear Travel Itch,

I think I'm going to have to scratch you soon.

Love,
Jane

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hungry Days

Dear Breakfast Tacos,

You complete me.

Love,
Jane

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blame it on Gravity... Blame it on Being a Girl

Dear Internets,

I guess I'd better warn you - this is probably one of the more trivial posts that I've written (this from a girl who writes love letters to bananas). So if you're offended by conspicuous shallowness, you might want to back away...

Now then. It is time for me to get a haircut, so I thought I would ask you for advice. I am thinking I'll get a haircut that I've gotten before, so as to avoid a repeat of Mulletgate.

Here are my options.

Option 1: "Just a Trim" (aka "Famous Last Words"?)



The left is how my hair looks when the weather is not too humid or too dry, and I have some time to "fix" it. The right is how it looks the other 99.7% of the time. It's also Abe's preference.

Option 2: "How Precious!" (aka "My Mom Loves it")



This (well, technically, a little shorter than this) is how my sister and mom like me to wear my hair. The left shows it after it has grown out a bit; the right shows how it looks when (once or twice a year, when I'm feeling frisky) I straighten it. I like this length OK; it's short enough to straighten before my arm gets so tired it falls off, but long enough to tie back. Unfortunately, this means I usually wear it in a ponytail. (And... If I'm being honest, I think it's a little boring.) The other problem is that it sometimes has a tendency to do this:



Gah! Triangle hair!

Option 3: "My Favorite" (aka "My Favorite")



This was the post-Mullet haircut. It usually looked pretty close to this, because it was short/healthy enough not to frizz. Downsides - I can't really straighten it without looking like Keith Urban, and I can't wear it in a ponytail or sad little French twist. Also, my sister seems to truly hate it, but won't tell me why, because she's afraid of hurting my feelings. (Is it the 20-something version of Big Dallas Hair or something and I just don't realize it?)

Anyway Internets... I appreciate your input. Please let me know what you think!

Love always,
Jane

Maybe Next Time I Should Shout it Out

Dear Pants,

The last time I washed you, I guess I had bumped into something rusty and didn't realize it. Now there are faint brown stains all along my leg. The Tide Pen I tried only made them stand out more. Jim and Bill would not approve.

Love,
Jane

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Poof! She's back!

Dear Blog,

I'm sorry I have been neglecting you lately. There's really no excuse.

News items:

- I had lunch the other day at a restaurant that puts (inedible) forks made out of potatoes in the to-go package. They can be composted, which is kind of cool.

- Tomorrow I'm going to start tutoring a kid who lives in a huge manse on a hill overlooking the city. His family has one of those invisible edge infinity pools that disappears off the side of a cliff. I feel a little Eliza Doolittle-ish.

- I went to Ikea last night, and ran into an old boss (not the psycho) and his fiancee. I really wish I could move into Ikea. Maybe they could set me up in 235 square feet with some boxes of unassembled furniture to prove it can be done?

Life is as fascinating as ever.

Love ya,
Jane

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Blur...

Dear Fever,

Please to go away now... I have two fairly new jobs (and thus, no sick leave), a triathlon coming up, and blogs to read and respond to. Something has to give, and I think it's going to have to be you.

Sorry about that, but I'm going to have to stand firm on this one.

Sincerely,
Jane

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Growing Pains

Dear Internets,

Sometimes I used to get a teensy bit jealous of bloggers who live in more public-transportation-friendly cities (and not just because they don't need to take out second mortgages to pay for gas). Riding the bus or the subway in a big city gives you interesting stories to tell. Austin isn't exactly a tiny little college town anymore, but I still think my small-city bus stories pale in comparison to things that happen in bigger cities.

However, after years of mostly tame bus rides, I finally had a really weird bus trip. It made me momentarily consider the economic feasibility of paying a zillion dollars a gallon for gas and parking (and gave me something to talk about on my blog - whee!).

It started off tamely enough - the bus driver took off while people were still finding seats, so I sat down in the nearest available seat to avoid falling. I realized my mistake when the man in the seat next to me immediately began talking.

I wasn't sure if the man was talking to me at all; he seemed almost like he was practicing a monologue. He talked about his difficulty in finding a job since hitchhiking into town, his recent arrest for selling stolen goods (they let him go without charging him - apparently his co-conspirator was on parole for murder and considered a more prosecutable suspect), and a motorcycle he had "found" that he planned to start riding instead of the bus. About halfway through his story, he pulled out a giant knife and began cleaning his nails. I realized he indeed had been talking to me when he shoved a slightly bloody, nail-less finger a few inches from my face and laughed. "I don't have to cut that one anymore," he chuckled. "I messed up cutting it last week and cut the whole damn thing off. Shot blood all over the bus, too."

I suppose my trip wasn't that bad (after all, I could have been a witness to the finger-maiming), but my little city grew up a bit in my eyes today.

Sigh.

Yours,
Jane

Monday, June 2, 2008

Happier Days

Dear New Job,

I like you so far. I think I'll like you more once my fever goes away.

Love,
Jane

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Saturday Night (and Thursday-Sunday) Fever

Dear Random Virus That Has Had Me Out of Commission All Week,

Please go away.

Thanks,
Jane