28 February 2009

Debt Free: The First Step

Today I canceled my cable. I met up with Nikos at Mayfair Mall and waited in line for about 20 minutes and turned in my cable box. When asked by the Time Warner employee why I was doing it, I recited that all of the shows I watch I can find online for free. He gave a somewhat-knowing half-nod and began asking me for my account information. 5 minutes later, I was cable-box free.

But not so fast. Right before I left, the TW guy pointed out that I was still subscribed to Road Runner "Lite" which is not suggested for viewing streaming video online. (I would like to note that I have had very little trouble using it so far, and attribute most of the problems to my 8-year-old computer and not to the speed of my connection.) So I asked the price difference - it is $19.95/month to stay with my Lite connection, or $46.95 to upgrade to the "standard" Road Runner service. Of course, as an existing customer, I do not qualify for any 'introductory' rates, so I told him I'd stick with what I had. Heh.

At any rate, This will net me $80/month extra (or $50/month extra if I upgrade to 'standard'), which can be used in one of three ways:
  1. throw at my debt snowball, of which I expect to have the first credit card paid off in about 4 months;
  2. save up for my upcoming Euro Trip this June (details to follow)
  3. save up for a new (and sorely needed) computer
Of course, the most logical would be... the first one. Although it is the least amount of fun. I guess I'll see what I do with myself.

Additionaly, the cable-cancelling was supposed to help me clear my mind, read more, write more and spend more time keeping my apartment/life/closet in order. However, I got home and plugged the cable linr in to the back of the TV and discovered... that I still have about 100 channels of basic cable. I do miss the DVR and the "guide" option, but maybe I'll have to stick with the "step down" program. And maybe I'll have to wait and see what happens if they DO actually decide to cut the cable that I will no longer be paying for.

All in all, I'm optomistic about what lies ahead. Wish me luck!

24 February 2009


At work, two of my cube mates are Jewish. As you may imagine, this sometimes leads to very interesting conversations. I asked one colleague how she teaches her young daughters about Hanukkah even though media outlets scream "Christmas" for 3 months a year, and they explain to me all about the Jewish naming traditions and how their perceptions on a variety of topics differ from the mainstream.

In return, I get to answer all sorts of questions about Catholic traditions that they don't understand. This encompasses everything from Advent (not just a way for kids to get candy) to fish fries (they actually have nothing to do with Wisconsin and/or beer batter) and most recently, Ash Wednesday (and consequently Lent, Easter, etc.) (I referred them to Jesus Christ Superstar for a decent synopsis of the whole Passion story.)

This brings up my own personal feelings on the 40 days of Lent. I was explaining to someone yesterday that the main reason that I participate in Lent is not (really) to fast or and reflect on my relationship with God or any of that other stuff, but more for me to get a "redo" on my New Year's Resolutions.

Yeah, I know it's not the true meaning of the season, but it works for me. Besides, my fellow Catholics make it easy to stay on track, because conversations frequently arise about the status of our Lenten resolutions, and updates are easily made. I can't think of a time (other than perhaps within the first 10 days of each year) where folks discuss, even in depth, their progress on their new year's resolutions.

When I refuse a soda or some candy or whatever it is I have chosen to give up, while stating that "I gave that up for Lent," no one questions me or tries to push the evil candy bar on me; whereas if I was offered the same candy bar on January 14 and politely declined, I would be harassed into eating it.

Oh, and that good old Catholic guilt is a pretty good motivation too.

But, in staying with the tradition of Lent, I am able to remind myself that the for this fast is to attain the goal of renewal and self-betterment. Catholics don't just give up candy bars or TV so we can be miserable for 40 days (although some will have you believe that is why); we give it up because we will be rewarded in the end when we realize that we are better for it. We are stronger for withstanding temptation, and our lives (and waistlines?) have improved because of what we learned by going without some unnecessary treat.

So, before I get too preachy (though I fear I already have), below is what I'm giving up for Lent:

1. Eating crap that is bad for me. This may or may not be limited to:
  • ranch dressing
  • excessive alcohol intake
  • deep fried anything
  • things made with lots of sugar
  • things made with lots of cheese
This is going to be rough.

2. Doing crap that is bad for me, such as:
  • Spending too much time in smokey bars (Meghan, I might be with you on the giving up smokey bars thing)
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Procrastinating (work, home, wherever)
  • Spending $ on lots of stuff (at last, an opportunity for me to save up fro Paris!)
3. Not making enough time for myself. From here on out, I can only "do stuff" 4 days a week. Since Wednesdays are Trivia night, that means I am only socially available 3 nights a week. Book your dates with me now, kids, before my calendar fills up! (I'm hoping this tactic will help improve several things, including the cleanliness of my apartment, the amount of clean clothes I have, the amount of dishes sitting in my sink, and the amount of blogs I am able to post. Oh, and hopefully I will regain my sanity too!)

So, dear friends, wish me luck. And be nice. It's going to be a long 40 days, but I am looking forward not only to the challenge, but to the kind of person I will be at the end of it.

17 February 2009

Not Even Safe In My Own Building

So today I had to do a load of wash. I went down to the basement and threw my stuff in the washer and started it up. I turned around to go back upstairs when I noticed a neighbor's clothes hanging on the line drying. In particular, I noticed a conspicuous green sweater that was hanging inside out.

Now, this was not any green sweater. This sweater looked strikingly similar to a green sweater that I own. I went up to it to investigate further. Sure enough, Old Navy, size medium.

Now, I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with the clothes from Old Navy, The Gap and the like, but many of the shirts/sweaters/tops from these stores have a RFID tag sewn into the seams.

While I understand the purpose of these tags, I am often annoyed by them, because there is no "good" way to cut them out so that they don't itch one's skin incessantly. Which brings me to my next point: I recalled that when I purchased this green sweater, I tried desperately to manicure the tag in such a way that it would not provide a constant annoyance when wearing the shirt. (I failed.) At any rate, this attempted tag-carving left a very distinctive tag remnant still sewn into the seam.

Well, I think you can see where I'm going with this. Of course, it was the tag-chop-job that I had recalled. I also at that moment went through my entire wardrobe. I usually have a pretty good idea of what is in the wash and what is in its proper place in the drawer/on the shelf/on the hanger. At this moment, I recalled that the green sweater in question should be in the 4th drawer in my dresser. I left the sweater on the line and went upstairs and searched through the 4th drawer of my dresser. No green sweater. I also looked in the 3rd drawer, 5th drawer, 2nd drawer and 1st drawer. No green sweater. I checked the shelves. No green sweater. I checked the hangers in my closet (even though I NEVER hang sweaters). No green sweater. I checked in all of my suitcases, all of my backpacks and any other place in my apartment that a green sweater may dwell. And of course, no green sweater.

So now, dear friends, I am at a crossroad. Do I steal the green sweater back? I was 98% certain that it was mine. At the same time, I'm quite creeped out. My neighbors are now apparently going through my wash? EWWWW!!! In about 4 seconds, I have accepted the fact that I will never be able to do wash in the basement again, and will instead have to drag everything to a laundromat where I can keep an eye on my stuff (because you and I both know that I'm not going to sit in my basement for hours while my clothes are being cleaned). I then begin to think about collecting quarters to use the laundromat, and which one would be the best based on time of day and season, and then think of all the pre-treating and sorting that would have to be done at my apartment, and so on...

So, I took the sweater. It was actaully quite easy for me to rationalize. My $300 bike was stolen from the basement about 1.5 years ago. It was CHAINED TO A STEEL POLE. It had to take quite a bit of effort to remove the lock from my glorious (also green) Trek and remove it from the basement. So I figure that anything in the basement, locked or otherwise, is fair game. Apparently everyone else thinks so.

But of course, now I need to go rescue my grill-out gear from my storage locker before someone steals THAT too. I don't care if they take the fake xmas tree or the (also green) sofa that I found on the side of the road after move-out 4 years ago. But the grill... that's what's important.

15 February 2009

The Weekend In Review

The past 2 days have been relaxing, but I'm still not ready for work tomorrow.

On Friday I went snowboarding at Tyrol Basin. They have $12.50 lift tix on Friday nights, which is a welcome change compared to the rest of places around here. It was quite a hike, but worth it, especially after 9pm when the school groups cleared out (they're open till midnite). Greg let me borrow a pair of his strap bindings to try out instead of my Flows. They were a lot lighter and I liked the way they they held my ankles in place compared to the Flows. I think I'll probably get a pair of those soon. Also, it was snowing, which was super nice. The snow was kind of loose, but overall it was enjoyable. And I went off some jumps! I'll be cool yet! I got a sweet new pair of pants, they're brown with pin stripes. And it only cost me a 6er of Bell's Two-Hearted Ale!

On Saturday, I met up with 10 other folks for breakfast at The Red Dot. While I recognize that we were a large group, there is no reason that it should have taken 2.5 hours for us to get our food. The quality was also lacking severely. I think I'll go back to the Red Dot, but probably just for drinks and not for food.

After that, I met up with Nikos my Grecian Valentine for a romantic trip to Target. Then we went to Alterra and had Valentine's coffee, and then we went to Whole Foods to buy Valentine's spices so Nikos could make me Valentine's Curried Chicken. Then I took a Valentine's nap and went to see Cynthia, my other Valentine. We ate Valentine's puppy chow and drank Valentine's riesling. Then we watched some Valentine's bad movies, followed by some Valentine's YouTube clips, and then I went home. I had a good time with my wonderful Valentines.

I would also like to say that I'm glad that Valentine's Day is over, and I'm quite excited that we won't have to worry about any more of those lame commercials for jewelery for another year.

As for this week, work is going to be rough. I'm not really looking forward to it. I'm going to see my sister's basketball game tomorrow - the first one this whole season (I'm a bad sister this year), and on Tuesday I'm having dinner with JT. Wednesday is Team Trivia night and Thursday is the Ad2 Birthday party. It should be a good time! Hopefully I'll find time to update with something slightly more insightful than how I've spent the last 48 hours. Hopefully.

11 February 2009

A Brief Thought on the Recent Lack of Cold Weather

In my last post [look at me, only 3 posts in and I'm already referring to previous posts!] I described several of the reasons for my deep-seeded love for the glorious season of winter.

However, now I would briefly like to point out three reasons why I appreciate spring [or at least, the perception of the season of spring, as winter will probably fall back upon Wisconsin in ... a few hours]:
  1. Street parking is now more abundant. There are approximately 15% more parking spaces available because said spaces are not being taken up by heaps of snow pushed out of condo-dwellers' driveways.
  2. [Most] cars look happier, because they are clean. Yesterday's cleansing rain rinsed off layers of salt that have clung to Milwaukeeans' cars for the last 3 months. To me, the cars look less stressed and less worn down. (Yes, I notice the personalities of cars.) (I would also like to point out that this rain actually makes my car look more sad, as I realized that the paint on the roof of my car will be 50% gone by the end of summer; more so if we get a decent hail storm.)
  3. I noticed, as I was driving up Prospect today that while I was traveling in the left lane, I didn't find myself partially merging into the right lane every 1500 feet or so to avoid an inappropriately parked car. Why? because the rain melted all of the snow banks that previously prohibited folks from parking within 2 feet of the curb. That's right, Prospect Avenue was comprised of two completely unobstructed parking lanes as well as 2 completely unobstructed driving lanes. (And a bike lane.) It was a small miracle that I had come accustomed to being deprived of.
At any rate, I would also like to point out that the melting of the snow also displays the clumps of mud, road tar, litter and other debris that was once covered by the now-missing snow banks. So while I am thankful for the increased availability of street parking, I'm still bummed that it's ugly outside.

This post was brought to you by the letter 'p' and the mathematical concept of percentages.

10 February 2009

Why I Love Winter

Yes, I know you all think I'm crazy, especially given today's record high. But those of you who have been around me since the end of baseball season know that I am quite fond of the December thru February months.

With that being said, I have been woefully mournful of this premature end to Winter '08-'09. Why, do you ask? Why am I walking around with puppy dog eyes and a pouty face in this gorgeous weather? It is because last winter, I did something that I had wanted to do since I was 18 - I learned to snowboard. And because I didn't completely hate it (in fact, one might say that I love it), I purchased a gorgeous snowboard. And boots. And bindings. And they all look so pretty together. A 13-year-old even told me that my board was "pretty sweet" whilst in line for a lift at Cascade last season.

And I have had the opportunity to use said gorgeous board three times this winter. Three. That's it! And one of the times hardly even counted, as I got 5 runs in (plus 3 hours in the lodge bar... [lift tix + beer / runs ratio = $8.89]). And that was the day that Christy got hurt while rescuing me from the saber-toothed zebra gator and we discovered that my bindings, although slick and shiny, can be less than reliable at times.

At any rate, part of my thought process in purchasing the gorgeous board set-up last winter was the rationalization that I would be able to "earn" the value back by using it 10 times in one winter and thereby saving $ on rental fees (that can run $30-$50 per day) . BUT when the board sits in my apartment, leaning against the wall and collecting dust and making my eyes water whenever I look at it, I cannot 'earn' back any of the money I have put towards this aesthetically pleasing investment. Darn it.

Why snowboarding, you ask? Well, I have never been one for sports. Ok, I have never been one to consistantly stick with sports for a prolonged period of time. I have a bike and rollerblades that I use somewhat frequently in warmer weather. I was part of a softball team this past summer. I'm always up for a pick-up game of football (mud or otherwise). But I've never had one sport that I enjoyed enough to commit myself to, until I tried snowboarding. I now want to do things on a snowboard that I never thought I'd be able to do, like go off jumps (without getting a concussion). It's quite strange for me, as I cannot recall many things I have felt such a passion to learn.

A few of the other reasons I love winter: Snow is gorgeous. It makes everything look clean and new. I don't mind driving in the snow. I LOVE to shovel the snow (really)!

One of my favorite times is right after a big snow, when the city is quiet and nobody is really going anywhere, and those who do choose to travel usually do so by walking down the middle of the road, because the sidewalks haven't been cleared yet. It is at this time that people are neighborly and greet each other with a smile. It is on days like these where we realize that there still are things left that are beyond our control, no matter how much we try to fight them.

So there you have it. [I apologize that the ending to this post is a bit abbreviated, perhaps I will fix it later.] A friend pointed out to me today that tomorrow's forecast is for rain/snow mix, and it will be in the 30's again by the weekend, with flurries predicted for Sunday. This helps a little, but my longing for the 99 inches of snow Milwaukee beheld last year can hardly be quelled. And so, I will wait. (At least I have 21 Brewers games to look forward to in not too long...)

09 February 2009

And the Winner Is...

Mr. Benjamin Butz. Please see me at your leisure to claim your prize.

And now that I'm finally here, well, what to say? I've been thinking about this for a very long time. This represents a step in my, well, what shall we call it? For lack of a better term, I'm going with the 'reawakening' that has been a part of my Quarter-Life Crisis. I first mentioned the Q-LC as a joke when I turned 25, and didn't really think anything of it. But since 2009 rolled around (and, according to my gchat logs, maybe a week or two before), I've had this insatiable desire to create a change in my life. I've sought to change my demeanor, my health, my financial situation, the organization of my apartment and my overall mindset. I have made all of these my New Year's resolutions in one way or another and, surprisingly to everyone (but mostly me), it's over a month later and I'm still with it!

This is quite possibly the strangest thing I have ever felt, this desire to improve myself and the ability of my mind to overcome my laziness (and affection for fermented beverages) to accomplish things on my to-do list. This is quite possibly the most unusual thing I have ever witnessed from behind my two eyes. It's almost like a bad (good?) reality show, where I tune in each day, wondering what will happen next? And I still manage to surprise myself.

So, we'll see how this goes. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, lest I get sick of doing this and fall off of the bandwagon yet again.

Wish me luck!