Archive for category Life

USPS Customer Service Scam

I am a planner. I plan things way in advance, almost to a fault. This year, I was especially prepared for the holidays. I had most of my presents bought before Black Friday, wrapped and in boxes to be shipped across the U.S. Then I came down with the flu so that set me back a few days. But, on December 10th, I proudly walked to the post office where there was no line and attempted to mail my packages. And here is where it gets interesting.

I had a padded envelope and a box. The box weighed a little over 6 lbs and the envelope was a few ounces. The envelope went first-class because it was under one pound and got there in 3 days. That’s what I’d expect. The box however had to go Priority Mail for over $30+ or we could go cheaper, “standard post” for $18, and I was forewarned it would be much slower. I thought that was fine since it was more than two weeks ’til Christmas, no big deal.

photoThen the postal worker asks me, “Is there a card in there?” And being the honest and thoughtful person I am, I said, “Of course there is a card in there.” Then he said, “Well that’s an additional forty-six cents.” WTF??

So I didn’t want to make a scene over the principle of $0.46 since there was a line behind me now 8 people deep. HOWEVER, here are a list of my grievances:

  1. I am paying by weight, so theoretically, I am already paying for the weight of this card in my total bill. This cannot be legal. Can it??
  2. The package was scheduled to get there by December 17th, but, IT STILL ISN’T THERE. In fact, when I checked the tracking number it says that it is still being sorted at the “sorting facility.” Which means, that my friend is NEVER going to get her package on time now. Clearly, I could have walked it there and got it to her sooner.

To file a grievance with the post office about a package, it says, that most packages take 2-8 days to arrive at their destination, but only contact them after 14 days to inquire about your package. Well, that would be too late. So I filed my customer support ticket anyhow and surprise-surprise I have not heard anything.

Next year, I’m switching to FedEx!

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Before You ‘Lean In’ or Sit at the Table, You Need To Nurture the Seeds You’ve Planted

lean-in-by-sheryl-sandberg_originalAfter seeing Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg speak at BlogHer ’13 back in July I was annoyed she didn’t take questions/comments for I had a few of my own. But, I also felt like I couldn’t really voice my opinion until after I actually read her book, Lean In. Well, I finally got around to reading it this week. The book addresses gender inequality in the workplace and asks women “what they would do if they weren’t afraid” and tries to advise them how to and why they need to “lean in and sit at the table”.

Sheryl’s book achieved what it set out to do which was get people to acknowledge that we still have gender gap issues and that we need to keep talking about them and educate others in the workplace on what true gender equality means not just for women, but for our economy. It probably has inspired many pregnant women to ask for that parking spot close to the building too and to sit at the table instead of in the corner at the next big meeting. Her book was ballsy, but not for re-raising the issues of which many women long before her have raised. Rather, for someone who ranked fifth on Forbes Most Powerful Women (in the world) list, it was a ballsy move to write this book and expose her vulnerabilities for the sake of all other women.

However, let’s be clear: being ballsy isn’t the same as leaning in or sitting at the table (but it’s a good start).

My biggest issue with the book was the same I had with Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic (Jan 2012, Why Women Still Can’t Have It Allwhich was that society, both men and women alike, have contributed to the gender gap with unrealistic expectations and  stereotypes about women. To be fair, Sheryl addresses the female side of the issue encouraging women to speak up and not be afraid of consequences when going after things they righteously deserve. She also addresses how women can be their own saboteurs by not helping to promote or advocate on behalf of other women. However, in the part where she aims to appeal and educate a small male audience about how they need to change their behavior in the workplace, she never addresses the most important issue of the affect the male role model has in the home. To me, this is what drives little boys who become men with a gender bias, conscious or otherwise.

Most men emulate their fathers or become the antithesis of their fathers. But in either case, they learn how to be like a man and how to/how not to act from the male role model in the home starting at a very young age. “The human brain is wired for imitation. Every boy loves his father and wants to be able to do what he does, both to honor him, to earn his praise, and to compete with him,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D., host of the PBS RAISING CAIN documentary. When men start to be better men at home, setting better examples on how to treat women not just in the workplace but outside the workplace, then they’ll inevitably emulate that behavior. Arguably it’s the same issue we have with racism and homophobia. Where do children learn those behaviors? They learn it from their parents. Sure, some children learn from other kids, but those kids learned it from their parents. And some kids learn it from the media, but again, if the parents don’t step into correct the behavior, how can we blame a boy who grows into a man and unconsciously promotes gender inequality when he know no better?

If we taught our sons to be better men from birth, taught them to respect women and recognize that women are just as smart and can do many of the same jobs that men can do, then we’d narrow the gender gap considerably.

I appreciated Sheryl’s willingness to expose her vulnerabilities and her anecdotal stories to inspire future generations to narrow the gap. I just wish she had added one more chapter on parenting and elaborated on how men get these crazy ideas of superiority in the first place and how we can change it.

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Chocolate Appetence

New Android KitKatBy age eleven Dr. Gersh had done what he promised to do and I was free and clear of any asthma and 99% clear of the allergies that I had acquired with it.  I could eat everything except large quantities of milk, which I had to drink in moderation. Frankly, I didn’t really like milk anyway. It tasted bland. But now, and perhaps one of the most pinnacle points in my childhood, I could eat what I had longed for in all of my first eleven years of life – chocolate!

Growing up and being allergic to chocolate left me with distaste for holidays that involved candy. I hated Halloween. My brother and I would go trick or treating with our plastic pumpkins or pillow cases and at the end of the night we would dump all of our candy on the kitchen table. My mom, protective as ever, would diligently sort through the candy and separate it. She would separate all of the vanilla candy into one pile and all of the chocolate candy into another. My brother would wind up with a large stock pot of candy and I would wind up with a pasta bowl sized candy conquest. It never seemed fair. Especially since I put just as much time and effort into the evening and in my costume as he did.  But I knew if I ate the chocolate I might risk having another asthma attack. And my Mom would fearfully remind me that I didn’t want to have a set back and wind up back in the hospital again like I did when I was a toddler.  By the time I was able to eat chocolate without any risk, I pretty much outgrew Halloween.

For all of the same reasons I abhorred Halloween, I wasn’t a big fan of Easter either. My parents would usually substitute a big stuffed bunny instead of the chocolate one like my brother would get in his basket. But then they also felt the need to make my basket as full as his basket in order to make it seem “even” and the amount of jelly beans they put in my basket was unreal. In fact, I wonder if they knew that I didn’t even like jelly beans or any jellied candy whatsoever. But it was cheap and it was the thought that counted.

Before I fully outgrew my allergy for chocolate, my mom would put a miniature white chocolate bunny in my basket. It couldn’t have been more than four inches tall. It was tiny. Even though I think she knew it wasn’t really chocolate, I still was only allowed to have one piece at a time. There was no over indulging in the faux chocolate bunny. I would always start off by breaking off the ears but then I had to wrap it back up.  I usually put in the freezer to make it last for months because to me, this was a privilege and this ‘chocolate’ was a special treat.  I was going to make it last for as long as I could.

But then the moment came. I remember it like it was yesterday, the moment I had my first candy bar! I was eleven years old and the doctor gave me the go ahead to eat chocolate with no limitations. I couldn’t wait to get home and have my first piece of the decadent treat that I had longed for since I could remember.

My mom gave me one dollar after dinner and sent me around the corner to the 7-Eleven store. When I walked into the store I headed straight for the candy aisle. Now, instead of only looking at the vanilla flavored candy which was usually on the top and bottom rows, I had to take in the whole buffet of chocolate in the middle rows in front of me. It was such a hard choice to only pick just one. How on Earth was I going to decide? I was overwhelmed. There were so many options.

At first I contemplated a $100,000 Grand bar that my friends on the street would sometimes taunt me with by taking a bite and letting me watch the gooey thick caramel and chocolate drip from the end of the candy bar into their mouths while they grunted Mmmm and mumbled that it was good. But I didn’t like caramel all that much so I ruled that out and moved to the Reese’s Peanut butter cups.  But I wasn’t sure if I would like it. I knew I liked peanut butter but it seemed awfully small and I wanted to get the biggest piece of chocolate as I could for my dollar.

So after long deliberation, I finally settled on a Kit-Kat bar. I was fascinated by them anyway. While I was allergic, when waiting in line at the checkout stand at the grocery store with my mom, I would fondle the Kit-Kat bars and break them in fours so that each stick would be separated. Something about feeling them break apart through the foil wrapper between my fingers felt neat and powerful at the same time. Similar to that feeling you always get when you crumble a piece of tin foil in your hand.

When I finally made the decision to purchase the Kit-Kat bar I searched for one that hadn’t been broken. I didn’t want my first experience to be ruined like I had ruined it for other people. I found one, purchased it, and ran home with it as fast as I could. Mom and Dad were sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me with big grins on their faces, excited to see what I selected. My mom asked,

“So what did you decide on kid?”

I pulled the Kit-Kat bar out from the bag and handed it to her.

She exaggerated ever so slightly for my benefit.  “Wow! A Kit-Kat bar! How about we start with just half for now since this is your first one? You don’t want to overdo it.”Overdo it? I have eleven years to make up for here, I thought. But that was absolutely fine with me because I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin from the anticipation.

She broke it in half and gave me two sticks.  I broke the two sticks in half and ate one by one slowly, savoring every little bite. This was serious business. I started by biting each end off of the stick ever so carefully only to eat just the chocolate and leave the wafer in tact. Then, I started nibbling the sides off, again just the chocolate, until it was just the wafers with chocolate in between the crisp flaky layers. Finally, with no mercy, I munched down the rest of it. It was everything I imagined it would be. It was creamy and delicious. I was in chocolate heaven. There was so much more to explore in the world of chocolate. I could hardly wait until my next trip to the grocery store.

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Rant: Vacation Mani-Pedis

20130504-093404.jpgVacation is supposed to be full of rest and relaxation (R&R). Most of the time, we’re so busy in our daily lives that just even a couple of days of R&R, away from the noise of everyday life, is enough respite for us to get our juices rejuvenated. If we’re lucky enough to get a few days, it usually requires prepping for the trip by thinking about what to pack so that we optimize our relaxation time. Sometimes that prep includes shopping for a new bathing suit or new dress. Or in some cases a little pre-grooming, like a bikini wax. But when it comes to massages or facials we tend to want to indulge and pamper ourselves because after all, we earned it and we’re worth it.

Although I avoid facials when I travel, because most aestheticians feel the need to criticize your skin and then try to sell you a boat load of expensive products for which they get a commission, massages  on the other hand, I feel are worth it. This is also why I always try to get my mani-pedi prior to arriving at my vacation destination. Because, while massages and facials run the range of $150 and up in most fine hotels or resorts, a mani-pedi should be way under that price. Yet, it’s always ridiculously expensive, and which is the subject of my rant from my most recent vacation in Maui.

I realize I am lucky that I live in a city where nail salons are a dime-a-dozen and because of that they are cheaper than in other parts of the country. That being said, I normally get a mani-pedi in San Francisco for $25 plus tip and it includes an arm and foot massage. And because the women are Asian, I don’t have to talk to them and make bullshit small talk conversation. So after looking up the prices in the hotel room amenities book, I realized it was going to cost me $135 for the basic mani-pedi and it was my own fault since I didn’t have  enough time to “prep” for my vacation among life’sNailArt other responsibilities.  Now, I know that you pay for convenience and when you stay at a nice hotel, you can expect to pay a little more for beauty services. But what I also expect is more than what I would get if I were to get the same service at home.  It also didn’t help that while in the moment I was tempted to get some nail art on one of my big toes. I had never had it done before and wanted to try it. Realizing it was an additional charge of $15 per toe, since it was hand painted, I felt it was worth it to get at least one toe painted.

When I went to check out I expected my bill to be $135+$30 (because before I noticed she had already started painting the other big toe), but instead I had sticker shock. Not only did they charge me for the more expensive mani-pedi (which they did not ask me), but there was tax and tip which was not included that I didn’t account for because at home, it’s included in the price. When it was all said and done, it was $233 and did I mention that I brought my own organic non-paraben nail polish? Did they discount anything off the bill for that? No.

Let’s face it, I wouldn’t even be writing this blog if it had been the best mani-pedi I’ve ever had or even a close second. But it wasn’t even close. The manicure was mediocre. The hand massage was about 90 seconds, and they acted like it was a big deal to put my rings in some jewelry cleaner solution. But it wasn’t like she scrubbed them with a tiny brush. They just sat in the solution for the three minutes while she was massaging my hands and forearms. The manicure was $60 and frankly, my eleven year old niece could have done a better job. The pedicure was much better but I thought $98 plus the nail art was a little over priced. In the end it cost me $200 more than it would have cost me in San Francisco for sub-par over-priced services.

That’s what I get for not prepping before my vacation I guess. Lesson learned! Thankfully my massage was scheduled for the next day to relieve the tension I had over being overcharged for shitty services. And it was well worth it!

Has this happened to you?

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Playing Sports Makes You Exempt From the Law and Apparently, Morality

Should they be exonerated just because of their talent?

Pete RoseIn the past few years we have witnessed some of the most atrocious immoral acts and crimes coming from perhaps, some of the greatest sports players in their genre and yet, we forgive and forget so easily. Why do athletes get a free pass at committing immoral, unethical and sometimes criminal acts? Surely it can’t all be about money, can it? Do we enable their self-righteousness by objectifying them to be some sort of heroes?

I remember back in the mid-eighties when my Dad spent $100 to buy my brother, what he’d hoped would be a collector’s item one day, a Pete Rose rookie card. But then in 1989 Pete Rose was put on the permanent ineligibility baseball list after accusations arose of him gambling on baseball while playing for and managing the Reds. And in 1991 Rose was formally banned from ever getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2004 after years of public denial, he admitted to gambling on baseball, although never against the Reds. It’s been a contention among baseball fans that some think he should be re-instated and considered for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but gambling on baseball when you play for or manage a team is kind of like insider trading in the stock market. He had inside information. Just because he’s sorry, doesn’t really make up for the crime he committed, does it? Plus he lied for over a decade and that’s what made it even worse.

Now some would argue that the recent confessions of Lance Armstrong, who raised over $400 million dollars for cancer research, should exonerate him and allow him to compete again in the world of cycling. Admittedly his contribution to cancer is unprecedented and would not have been possible had he not been famous and won 7 Tour de France competitions. However, he too, also got something out of it. Besides fame, notoriety, and money, he also got the reputation of a humanitarian. In fact, he’s still generating publicity with his most recent exclusive interview with Oprah.

As you watched him apologize to the world in the Oprah interview, you couldn’t help notice how insincere his body language and eyes looked. He didn’t seem remorseful perhaps because in his mind he feels he contributed almost half a billion dollars to cancer research and therefore he feels justified. He apologized to everyone he bullied over the past two decades and admitted to doping. But it was never about the doping. In fact, according to his interview with Oprah, the majority of the cyclists  back then participated in doping, so he felt “he was competing on a level playing field.” So who cares about the doping; that’s not really the issue here. The issue is that he led a life based on a lie for twenty years and ruined people’s careers and bullied them all for selfish reasons to maintain his lifestyle and integrity. Should he get a free pass just because he raised money for cancer research? What if he had raised that same amount of money for sustainable farming or the SPCA, would this still even be up for debate?

Then there’s Notre Dame quarterback Mante Te’o who recently played on the sympathies of the NFL and the public even after he supposedly found out that his faux girlfriend, who supposedly died from Leukemia, was a hoax. Yet, he didn’t tell the NFL for 20 days that he was a “victim of a hoax” and he talked about her as if she ever existed in not one, but two subsequent sport interviews after he knew that she didn’t really exist. Being a Mormon you can understand how believable his abstinence was, but to not ever Skype with her or ever see her in person over a four year relationship leaves skeptics wondering if he didn’t do all of this just for publicity. What should the NFL do if he’s found guilty?

There are so many cases like this in professional sports as well as in college and high school sports that it really leaves a sour taste in your mouth about all sports. However, you can’t help wonder if the public is to blame since we forgive and forget so easily. For example, somehow the world has forgotten and forgiven Tiger Woods’ for his massive counts of adultery and has put him  back up on a pedestal. And even though Michael Vic served hard time for his dog fighting crime, he came back as the Eagles starting quarterback and led them to the NFC East Championship. Why was he ever allowed to come back to the sport at all? Why was Tiger Woods allowed back to play golf? Perhaps it’s because we expect and want to see the best people play their best game. It makes being a spectator more enjoyable if you have someone great to cheer for or someone you despise to root against. No matter the sport, it makes it  exciting.

No matter where you stand on it, the question still remains: Should sports players be exonerated for immoral or criminal behavior because of their talent or gifts back to society? 

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My Call With Barack Obama

Today I had a call with President Barack Obama. Actually, many of us had a call with him. It was a call organized by his campaign leader Jeremy Bird. It was organized by Bird for the supporters of Obama’s 2012 campaign. He wanted to talk about the recent debate and what we needed to do in the next twenty days.  He said that although he had a good night the last night, Romney had a good night two weeks ago. That’s how it is in politics. You’re on top one minute, and in second place the next.

What was so cool about this call was that the POTUS actually did speak on the call. He even took two live questions from people who were on the call.  One guy from Ohio asked, “What one thing can I tell my friends who are going into the polls to vote?” Obama said that if they want a democracy that is not paid for by super PACs and lobbyists, an education for their kids,  and to rebuild America from the middle outward rather than the top down, then he’s their man.

I thought it was super cool that the POTUS took 20 minutes out of his busy schedule to get on a call with probably thousands of supporters.  I mean, this guy is very much like one of us. His speech wasn’t polished or prepared. He talked frankly and off-the-cuff. He seemed…like a normal guy you’d want to shoot hoops with or have dinner with some time, and he seemed tirelessly passionate about how he believes that we need to continue to move forward.  Simply put, he truly cares about the American people.

I will tell you that I am on the mailing list for the Obama campaign and I get hit daily with emails about pitching in and doing my part, because after all, together We Can, right? The one thing that resonated with me on this call and what should resonate with you is that this country has long been run by lobbyists and super PACs. It’s the mistake that every politician makes. You take the money, but it comes at a price. Obama learned that lesson the hard way with a Congress that wouldn’t budge. That’s why this time around his campaign is very grassroots. It’s about not taking the lobbyist and super PAC money, but having the campaign paid for by the people, for the people. So he doesn’t have to do things the lobbyists’ way.

But Barack Obama is not perfect. He makes mistakes like everyone else, however, he never ever said he’d clean up the mess that was left behind by the Bush Administration in one term. In fact, he said quite the opposite. He said that “we may not get it all done in one term, but we’ll get there.” And if we look back at what the POTUS has achieved this term, he’s done quite a bit that has made quite an impact now and will also impact our future. To name a few:

  1. He captured and killed one of the biggest terrorists the United States has ever seen, Osama Bin Laden.
  2. He got ObamaCare passed, which whether you like it or not, you shouldn’t knock it because horrible diseases like cancer don’t discriminate no matter how much money you do or don’t have. Besides, you never know when you’re going to find yourself or a loved one on the other side of that fence paying tens of thousands of dollars out of your own pocket because insurance didn’t want to pay. Believe me when I tell you that I speak from experience on this and you’ll be grateful if it happens to you or someone you care about.
  3. He got the U.S.  unemployment rate below 8% (7.8%) —  finally. Sure it wasn’t as quick as we would have liked, but it’s not above 12% where it was three years ago. And don’t think that the financial crisis happened over night. It took years for that to build up, it just happen to burst when Obama took office, but he wasn’t the cause of it. He just has to clean it up.
  4. He revived and strengthened the U.S. auto industry which provided jobs, reduced oil usage, and will reduce emissions that are responsible for climate change.
  5. He got our troops out of Iraq. Yes, the war probably went on for longer than it should have, but the man came through on his promise.

And sure you could counter that there’s a list of things he hasn’t done yet. But, again, he never said he’d do it all in one term. The most important thing to think about this election is, who do you think is going to fight for you, the American people,  in the Oval Office?

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Warning: PA and FL Mitt Romney Doesn’t Want You To Vote

Photo credit Backyard Skeptics

You know I only write on this blog when I get super pissed or passionate about something. Well, this morning I woke up and in my Inbox I saw a video from (below) about how this video might stop Mitt Romney from winning the election. I thought, might? You mean Americans are still contemplating voting for Romney – a lobbyist backed candidate who represents the epitome of our wretched economy?

In the video it states that the Romney campaign has started (2) two voter suppression campaigns. Having been a former Pennsylvanian, I couldn’t believe the first one where they show PA House Leader Mike Turzai state that the new voter ID law “will allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Huh? There are 750,000 voters in PA who do not have proper photo ID so even though they are of legal age and have earned the right to vote in this country, they won’t be able to do so? Is this whole election really only about not allowing Obama to be a 2-term President? The bottom line is that photo-ID laws make it more difficult for minorities, the elderly, and the poor. Shouldn’t everyone have a right to vote? If you don’t have a voter ID, you can get one by calling the Committee for Seventy who is a nonpartisan Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition at 1-866-OUR-VOTE. For more on the new PA photo-ID voter law, you can view this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The other voter suppression law passed in Florida is targeting African Americans. The new law restricts the number of early voting days from 12 to 8 days.   There are 67 counties in Florida, and five  that are covered by federal voting law did not pass this new law. However, that leaves 62 counties that are covered by this law. And in an election that is more important than 2008 where African Americans and other minorities utilized early voting privileges more than whites to vote for Obama,  discriminating against 62 other counties in Florida may give the state of Florida to Romney. For more on this law, see this article from PBS.

What can you do? If you live in Florida, make sure you don’t let the cut back on early voting days affect your right to vote by planning ahead of time. If you live in PA, make sure you have photo ID and if you don’t, call the phone number listed above.

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