Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Want My Mtv

When Melanie and I first moved in to our current apartment approximately two years ago, we discovered we had cable television. We were under the strong impression that our apartment did not come with cable, but there it was—roughly 80 channels to choose from. Initially, this made me nervous. Had the people who lived in our apartment before us simply failed to turn off their cable? Even worse, did the previous tenants have illegal cable from which we were now benefiting? Would it catch up with us if we did nothing about it? All I did was plug my television set into the wall. If 80 channels were available to me, what fault was it of mine?

As time went on, my anxiety subsided. Surely, I thought, our apartment just comes with basic cable. It is just one of the amenities of living in a self-proclaimed “luxury apartment complex.” Nothing about this seemed far-fetched. I’ve known several people whose apartment complexes did include free cable. I figured I must have misunderstood the leasing office when they told me what I needed to do if I wanted to get cable. Presumably, they were just talking about fancier cable packages, what to do if I wanted to upgrade and get things like HBO and Showtime.

Such was my thought process. Naïve? Perhaps. But I really believed it, especially after a few months went by. Fast forward to this afternoon, and guess who should knock on my door? An employee of Comcast.

“Yes?” I said, peeking out from behind my front door.

“I just need to know if you want to keep your cable,” the Comcast employee replied. “It was never requested that it be turned on, so if you want to keep it, you just need to pay $30 and fill out some paperwork.”

I was baffled. “You mean, I’m not supposed to have cable??? I’ve lived here for two years and have always had cable!”

“Nope, it was never supposed to be turned on. Do you want to keep it?”

I was stunned. Nearly 24 months of cable television and now that my apartment is filled with moving boxes, someone is showing up and asking me if I want to pay $30 to keep it? “Um … well … no, I guess not. I’m moving out in a week and a half.”

The Comcast employee looked me over momentarily before putting a pen to his clipboard. “Tell you what,” he said, jotting down some notes as he spoke. “Since you’re moving out so soon, I’ll just keep it on until you’re gone. But I’m telling them that I’m turning it off today.”

Humbly, I stared back at the man. “Okay. Thanks, man. Have a good night.”

I almost wrote about the mystery cable when I first moved in. Now I wish I had, just because it would be funny for those who might have remembered it. Of course, I know there are those who are thinking, “So why didn’t you just ask your leasing office about the cable in the first place?” Perhaps that would have been the smart thing to do. Or, if not smart, at least honest. And the honest response is that I probably didn’t want to lose the cable any sooner than I had to. And there was that tiny chance that I had simply misunderstood, a tiny chance that seemed to grow bigger and bigger by the week. 102 weeks later and I never would have guessed that I wasn’t supposed to have cable.

Fortunately, I won’t have to lose cable anytime in the near future, thanks not only to rule-bending Comcast employees, but to the fact that Melanie and I have applied for a Tallahassee apartment that includes free cable for the first year. Looks like it will be August 2009 before I’ll have to look for new ways to steal it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thesis, Part 2

Second draft of thesis just submitted. Several old pages cut, several new pages written. Final page count? 49, identical to the last draft. Hopefully of a much better quality. As long as this time around my thesis advisor doesn’t respond with things like, “I’ve attached my comments on your draft. I’m afraid they are not very encouraging” and “I hate to have to be so negative,” I’ll be relatively happy.

Countdown to Tallahassee: less than 18 days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How High Gas Prices Breed Irresponsibility

Melanie's and my car gets approximately 200 miles per tank of gas. The last time we filled up our gas tank, it was over $40. Luckily, we only have to fill up the tank about once every three weeks. Still, it's a sobering thought to realize it's costing us $.20 per mile to drive. I remember filling up for $15, and though I am young, I needn't even go back as far as my high school days to have such memories. With the same mileage I am getting now, a $15 fill-up would have been equivalent to paying just seven-and-a-half cents per mile driven. Wow.

My library is located 2.5 miles from my home. That means it costs me a buck to drive to my library and back. In contrast, the late fee on overdue books is $.15 per day. Hence, if ever I have plans to visit an establishment that is located near the library (e.g. Wal-Mart) within six days of a book being due, it is in my best interest not to return the book on time, but to wait until I am going to that nearby establishment and to return the book as part of the same outing. Even if I wait the maximum six days, I will have saved myself ten cents by being delinquent in my return of the book than I would have spent returning the book on its proper due date. The more books that are due, the less leeway I will have, but under typical circumstances, procrastination stands a good chance of being a financially viable option.

Sad news for libraries, eh? It seems a $.15 fine will no longer be adequate for encouraging those of us who live more than a couple of blocks from our library to be responsible patrons. It may even result in people frequenting the library less and less often, and before you know it, literacy rates will be plummeting. All because of the price of oil. Crude, indeed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Going for Broke

So it’s now been 10 months (give or take a couple of days) since the car crash. I still limp, and it’s quite possible I always will. All of the time and money put into physical therapy couldn’t bring me back to normal, but my doctor had told me as much from the very beginning. He said that I had sustained a “career ending injury.” Bummer.

But here’s the good news. The surgery and follow-up treatment (not to mention pre-surgery treatment) of my foot was enough to put me well over my “maximum out-of-pocket” (hereafter “max OOP”) insurance expenses for the year. In other words, I got jacked up enough that my insurance was eventually covering my expenses 100%. Of course, I had to reach my deductible and pay 20% of much that came after that, but eventually they were contractually obligated to take financial pity on me.

I’m bringing this up now because, a few months after my last physical therapy session, I have learned that a decent-sized reimbursement check is on its way back to me from the physical therapists. The physical therapists had made me pay my 20% up front, and it was only when I got my report from my insurance company that I realized my insurance should have been (and indeed was) covering the therapy at 100%. So, the 20% I had paid was unnecessary. Of course, the slowness with which these things get processed did not allow me to prevent shelling out the money in the first place, as I was unaware that I had met my max OOP.

Melanie and I consider ourselves quite fortunate. July and August are always a bit more financially straining, due to the fact that the previous year’s school loans have been depleted and nothing more is coming in until September-ish. It doesn’t help when you have unexpected medical bills as we did, all of which resulted from a car crash that happened on the same day we found out we were going to have another baby (which in turn brings more expenses). It also doesn’t help that we have to move to Tallahassee in a few weeks. Fortunately, because I am set up on school insurance, my insurance “year” goes from August to July, so my September 2007 surgery and my January 2008 (and beyond) physical therapy both worked toward the same deductible, OOP, etc. If we had been on traditional insurance, I probably would have had to meet my deductible again just a couple of months after meeting it in the first place. The only downside to our insurance is that Melanie and I have separate max OOP’s, so even though I reached the cap, Melanie did not. Otherwise, I guess we would have had a free baby! Shucks.

Lesson of the day – when you get injured, try to make it expensive. Try to sustain maximal harm, and try to do it as early in the year as possible (based on when your insurance considers the year to begin). You then needn’t worry about any more injuries occurring during the year, because if they do, you’ll be fixed up for free. And who doesn’t like to get things for free?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thesis Peanut Butter Cups

Forgive the nonsensical pun that is the title of this post. It doesn’t mean anything, and I can’t even pretend it means anything, but it’s what came to my head as I set out to write this. As you may be able to guess, I am writing about my thesis. Hence, “Thesis Peanut Butter Cups.” There is absolutely no connection. I haven’t even had a peanut butter cup since I began writing my thesis.

You are being treated to some random jabber, stream-of-consciousness “la la la la la la”-ness because this post is being written by a man whose brain is fried. Which reminds me of a song McGruff the crime dog used to sing to my fourth-grade class back when I was the privileged kid in the class who was allowed to move McGruff’s mouth. (He was a puppet.) I don’t feel like writing out the lyrics to that song though. It was about cocaine frying your brain, as you could have guessed. (Eggs!)

So, I just sent off a complete draft of my thesis. Complete as in it has a beginning, middle, and abrupt end. Not complete as in “not much room for improvement.” It will need a substantial overhaul, I’m sure, but I had to send in a completed draft by tonight in order to have any chance of getting my M.A. degree completed before I move to Tallahassee. Two weeks from now I have to have an even completer version of the thesis sent out to my entire thesis committee, who shall then proceed to intellectually defecate thereupon, and then about a week later, I’ll have to defend my thesis, hoping the big gaping hole I realized my thesis had as I finished writing the last few pages will not occur to them. (Not really, but kind of really sometimes sort of.)

Guess how long my (!) thesis is? 49 pages! OK, not a novel, but easily the longest thing I’ve ever written. Uberfun.

Can you totally tell that this is the most random stream-of-consciousness post I’ve ever written? I can. I’m hardly even allowing myself to stop typing. I just keep going, like my high school creative writing class when we had to write without stopping and see what kind of geniusistic gems would pop out of our minds. Jeepers, non-stop writing sure isn’t making me look creative today is it? What a waste that class was! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

Posted without re-reading or editing. Yikes! LOLOLOLOLOL!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Picture Books Not Included

At the end of January, I was quite surprised to realize I had already read over 1,100 pages of books during 2008. (See here.) Well, 2008 is now halfway over, and while I cannot say that I’ve maintained the reading intensity that January offered, I’m pleased to report that I’ve now read 4,801 pages. And counting.

It’s interesting to look back at my monthly statistics. After a knockout first month of the year, you can see the numbers taking a steady dive. February, the shortest month of the year, still managed to accumulate 1,070 pages, but as we hit the midterm of the semester, everything changed. March came in with 833 pages, while April, the last full calendar month of the semester, churned out no more than 449 pages. It’s obvious that as the semester progresses, the time I have available for reading quickly dissipates. Instead, I find myself writing papers for the classes I’m taking while grading papers for the classes I’m teaching. It’s time-consuming.

I managed to read 628 pages in May, a respectable amount given that I had a baby at the beginning of the month and spent three weeks of the month teaching five days a week. Teaching so frequently probably helped me, really, because it meant I was spending roughly two hours per day on public transit. I think the fact that I am now finished with teaching and am working on a thesis almost exclusively from home explains why my numbers haven’t skyrocketed back up since school let out. June brought in an additional 700 pages, but surely it would have been more had I spent a few more days on the train.

This makes me question what will happen to my reading habits when I move to Tallahassee. No matter where I live in Tallahassee, I don’t expect my commute to school to be very lengthy. It’s sure to take a toll on the amount of reading I do, and oddly enough this almost makes me wish I could have a longer commute to look forward to. Of course, I could just invest that same amount of time into reading without being in transit. But somehow that’s not ever the way it works. When you’re on a bus or a train, you can’t help but have time to read. If it’s a matter of choice, though, reading for pleasure always gets low priority. Sad, but true.