I May Have Gone Too Far With This One…

I consider myself pretty street smart. Usually, I can sniff out the con artist in the crowd. And I think I'm pretty good at knowing when someone's being disingenuous. I knew, for instance, right away that Make Mike Jason Smith was a Nigerian in a very, very stylish 20-something's clothing when he emailed and said he was interested in the room I had for rent on Craigslist. I knew that all his cronies were frauds too (though that may have had less to do with my street smarts with more with the fact that ALL the emails followed the same basic formula. Every last one of them "was into fashion design", and "was not gay, but was totally, totally cool with it".)

Something about this place, though -or maybe just this period in my life- has turned me into something of a village idiot. I have not fallen prey to one, but TWO different scams in the last year. The first one involved a teenager selling overpriced magazine subscriptions door to door this past Fall. And the second one happened on Saturday.

I'm going to make some effort to defend myself here... even though I feel ashamed and embarrassed at what was an undeniably stupid decision on my part, made in haste, and without listening to my gut instincts.

On Saturday, CLH and I went looking for houses to rent. We had seen what amounted to a whole pile of uninhabitable wrecks, with a few cookie cutter condo units thrown in for good measure. We were exhausted. But we'd seen this ad the night before that looked too good to be true (BIG. RED. FLAG. IGNORED.) and we wanted to jump on it. So, we stopped in at a local bar to see if we could set up our laptops, revisit the ad, and follow the instructions for setting up a viewing. There are a few things to consider here before I go any further which might explain why this particular scam worked on us. First, CLH and I are desperate to move. We want out BAD. Secondly, we were hot, thirsty, cranky, and had very low blood sugar when finally stopped to sit down. Thirdly, we couldn't get either of our laptops to access the wireless Internet, so we had to resort to using CLH's new 3G iPhone to access the website. And, as everyone knows, though the new iPhone can do many, many, many things, it still has a screen the size of a slice of Spam, and many things that would otherwise look suspect on a big screen look perfectly normal on this tiny screen. So you can kind of understand why we thought the request to fill out an semi-application online seemed like a perfectly legitimate request. We even asked our real-estate agent friend about it and she seemed to think it was perfectly routine.

It turns out it is NOT perfectly routine. It is also not a legitimate service. It IS a scam designed to have you fork over $15 dollars (again, not an ungodly sum- hence our willingness) and some pertinent information so that this "third party" can "pre-screen" you for your potential landlord. When you initially email the owner of the property, you are sent a message back from some ridiculous made up name (I got "Kenna Chillinskas", which I'm thinking of naming my first dog) redirecting you to a website (erentalapplications.com) that will then ask you to fill out an application. What is actually happening is this: the scam artists are grabbing ads from craigslist and the like, deleting the original owner's information, replacing it with theirs, and claiming that they have the ability to schedule a showing of the property... right after you give them some information via their nifty little website.

Somehow, we avoided surrendering our social security numbers, but the ass clowns at erentalapplications.com now have our current address and phone numbers. I did a little sleuthing this morning to find out more about the site (thank jeebus for Google), and found multitudes of information about it, including a replica of the EXACT email I was sent when I emailed the "owner" asking about the property.

The more I read this morning, the more angry I became. I eventually had to walk away from my computer because smoke was coming out of my ears and I didn't want to have to explain to the neighbors that those fire trucks out front? Yeah, those were there because I had set the couch on fire with the stream of flame that had come shooting out of my mouth.

Still, I needed to do something. So, I just wrote down the first thing that came to my mind. And then I hit "send". I'm not exactly sure where this touch of bravado (or violence) came from... though, if I had to guess, I would say it came from the gaping, gory crater in my soul where I used to house a love for all things craigslist - and which has been replaced by a blackened, hardened little rock which I now use to pelt email scammers in the groin. Behold, the writings of a woman scorned (and not just a little out of her mind):

"You have been reported to the local police as a potential scammer. The
authorities at Craisglist have been notified as well. If you don't
take down your ad, your email address will be used as a vehicle to
infiltrate your personal information, and you will be hunted down and
possibly killed. I have my people working on this. You have just
messed with the wrong folks."

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Movement II

I just had to post an Internet-sized THANK YOU to all my friends who have sent me their good thoughts and prayers in the last week here. I am so blessed and lucky to have such a supportive bunch of folks in my life. You all have sent me such wonderful bits of wisdom and all-around-wonderful good feelings; and I am feeling much better these days. I will take some time later to post about what's been happening. Suffice it to say that the more we pack, the better things become. Also, I just returned last night from seeing David Byrne in Portland, so how bad could things be really?

Thank you, again, to all my peeps out there who have kept me in their thoughts these past few weeks. If I could, I would buy you all ponies and mansions and your very own rock band as a way of saying thanks. For now, just know that you are amongst the most wonderful people on earth and that you have reminded me of how fortunate I am to have you in my life.

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I'm going to try really hard not to sound like a whiny baby in this post, but it's going to come out that way anyway. I'm just feeling like I want to crawl under a rock and not make any adult decisions right now. I have begun the house-hunt. It's official. We're moving on from this whole communal living thing. CLH and I scoured crazylist....er... craigslist this evening and came up with the usual overpriced, poorly lit, beige colored, human-sized cat boxes for rent. Note to landlords: I'm not paying you a non-refundable cleaning fee. Unlike your former tenants, I don't plan on actually shitting directly on the carpets, so I'm having a hard time thinking of why I should fork over a non-refundable $400 for "cleaning". Here's an idea: make sure your next tenants have all their teeth and that their hair isn't falling out in clumps; it's pretty much a sure bet that you won't need to call in a haz-mat team to disinfect the place when they leave.

Why don't any of the housing options I've seen tonight seem appealing to me? Why do I want to find my next home in Fiji, or someplace like it? CLH and I even started looking at boats to live on; that's how non-house-dwelling I am feeling right now.

Part of me really wants to take all our boxes, drive them out to the ocean, and dump them overboard with a ceremonial Zen Buddhism mantra about how our stuff is not who we are. And another part of me wants to donate everything to Goodwill, and start ALL OVER. Get rid of every last unmatching bath towel, every collectible fish shaped bottle, every antique nutcracker, and just buy everything new. No more remnants of my past. Just all new. Forks, plates, bedsheets, endtables, everything. All sterile and without history.

I'm feeling everything come undone- every connection to this city, to my clients, to my friends... it's coming undone. The intellectual side of me knows that this is temporary. This is what we call "having a tough go of it". This is the struggle that makes us stronger, the strife that tests the strength of our character. But I want to be done with it. The emotional side of me just doesn't have it in me to fight. I just want my life to go back to being easy.

When I moved two years ago, I completely uprooted myself. I tore myself right out of the upward trajectory I was creating for myself. I was saving money, I was driving less. I was reading more. I was paring down and simplifying. Then I bought a house. Now I find myself surrounded with all this STUFF... my life has been complicated with schedules that revolve around my commute, and what part of the city I will be in when. I'm trying to negotiate traffic schedules, and clients' schedules, and activities I want to do, and I can feel my energy being sapped every time. This is not the chaos I crave. The chaos I love involves travel and writing and the creative process. This is none of those things. I feel like I traded in a life of simplicity for this ridiculously, and unnecessarily complicated one.

I am rambling, and I know it. This is supposed to be the place I come to create clarity, to write it all out and make it all pointed and brief and resolute and entertaining. But, tonight I can't. Tonight it is all spilling out and I am feeling like it would be false to end this cleanly. I have been in a state of limbo for so long; making a decision for myself seems like a foreign concept. I suppose this is the part that I have been looking forward to for so long: being able to choose my own future... making a decision based on want and not need. But I have to admit that this is more challenging than I thought it would be. It is difficult to shake off the last 32 years of bowing down to everyone else's dreams. It is difficult to not know what it is I am supposed to be. It is difficult to not feel shame over this. I am trying to stay positive and remember that all this is passing.

There is still so much of the old me left to contend with.

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This Just In: International Symbol For “I Surrender” Doubles as “Need New Bra. Please Measure Me”

As a general rule, I detest clothing shopping. I usually do it alone, and in secret. Mostly because clothing shopping in this country has become something of a vicious sport, and I'm not comfortable being statistically capable, even for a small while, of trampling a Wal-Mart employee to death to get to the sale rack. I'm also painfully aware of the luxury we Americans enjoy in having access to so much for so little- without any mind paid to the social and environmental cost of acquiring those goods so cheaply- so I usually think twice before I buy anything, anything at all. This awareness, more than the price tag or the trendy stylings, or the need for whatever it is I'm shopping for, informs (and inhibits) my shopping habits.

That, and the fact that finding jeans in my size is a akin to trying to put a whole sea lion into a hot dog bun: some things are inherently disappointing, cause unnecessary sweating, and are better left unattempted.

Underneath my layer of consumer consciousness regarding child labor laws and the true cost of shipping formaldehyde-laced clothing in shipping containers across the ocean, there is another consumer layer. The layer that's not interested in wearing earth toned shapeless sacks festooned with peace signs and silk screens of eagles midflight just to prove a point about consumerism. There is a layer that squeals and flaps her hands excitedly over... well... shoes. I love shoes. I do. And I like jewelry. And I like the idea that I, too, should be able to change up my look every season and not be condemned to financial or moral bankruptcy in the process.

Lately I've been trying to lighten up my rather heavy approach to shopping. I'm trying to abandon my role as Rancor Filled Older Sister Who Calls Younger Sister for Fashion Advice Because She Can't Find Anything To Match Her Ironic T-Shirt Collection, and trying to be a little more gentle in my condemnation of retail therapy.

When my friend Victoria suggested last night that we go to an actual shop that sold only underthings to shop for said underthings, I tried to put aside my mixed feelings and instead embrace the reality that I would be, in less than twenty four hours, spending on one piece of underclothing -clothing that no one would see- what I would normally spend in one year on clothes.

As soon as I got to Victoria's Secret (the store, not my friend's), I realized I was dealing with the big leagues. I didn't even have the stamina for my normal hand wringing because it took all my energy to just take in the fanfare with which these bras and panties were displayed. This was not the dismally lit lingerie section of the department store I normally shop. And these were not the JC Penney clearance rack bras I was used to shopping for. No, ma'am. These were meaty, beefy bras, complete with wires and multiple hooks and names like "Very Sexy" and "Angels". These bras had names, for godssake.

Oh, and here's the other reason I loathe clothing shopping: sizing. I started this blog three years ago with an entry about my shopping for jeans (an ordeal that could have easily involved my clawing the eyes out of sales associates and setting dressing rooms on fire, so mighty was my exasperation) and not much has changed in the world of denim leg enclosures for me. Ditto for bras. Bras are designed for women with much more to work with than what I've got. When bras my size are designed, they are stuffed with all manner of foams and liqui-gels and padding, presumably so that the wearer can feel like she can compete in some pretty severe chest bumping competitions without sustaining any major damage to her mammary glands. (Or maybe to give the illusion that she has actually outgrown training bras, but I'd say the chest bumping is really what the designers were going for). I'm not much into push up bras myself. I'm of the opinion that no one should be shoving foam into various parts of their ensemble to enhance their look (I'm talking to YOU, designers of 1980's era shoulderpads). I'm small, but at least at peace with the fact that my genes have dictated that all the stuffing that should be on my chest has been stapled to my ass instead. I don't want to carry two demitasse swimming pools in my shirt just because God is horribly unfair.

I guess I've never actually been bra shopping before. The whole process is supposed to start with a fitting (and not, like I presumed, by sighing heavily and steeling oneself for disappointment). The perky sales associate asked me if I wanted to be measured out in the open. Here? I thought. Right here in the middle of the store? Well, I guess so. I mean, we're all here for the same thing, right? So, I threw my hands over my head, and the perky sales associate threw a tape measure around my chest. Then it was off to the fitting room, where Victoria informed me that the sales associate would be getting me "my drawer". I repeat: I guess I have never been bra shopping before because when I was handed an entire drawer of bras, in different shapes, for me to try on, I nearly fell over from the excitement.

The poor sales associate must have thought I'd just spent the last ten years living in a cave because it took a few seconds for me to to wrap my head around the fact that Victoria's Secret has been making the ordeal of trying on bras MUCH LESS OF AN ORDEAL via a very sexy system of streamlined organization. If I had been able to collect myself enough to form sentences, I might have grabbed the sales associate by the shoulders and exclaimed: This? This whole drawer? I get to try on a whole drawer of bras? This drawer here? Full of bras? And all of them are flattering? And none of them are filled with foam peanuts? And they've all been designed with my shape and size in mind? These bras here? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY ADULT LIFE?

I settled for a comfortable contoured bra, which is far less imposing than a bra that is so full of strange viscous liquid, it comes with its own red haz-mat disposal bag. I think the sales clerk must have known she was dealing with novice when she rung me up because she actually congratulated me on my purchase when she took my credit card.

So, to all you bra designers who are trying to make us less endowed women feel like we've got some catching up to do: I'm not buying it. I'll make you make you a deal, though. I'll wear your silicone filled bras when you start padding the backs of your jeans with bags of frozen peas. I'd call it even if you did.

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Warming the Planet One Ink Cartridge At A Time

I'm gonna come right out and say it: The people at Canon should be ashamed of themselves.

THIS is why our planet is going to hell in a handbasket. A fiery, unapologetic handbasket.

These little turds CANNOT be recycled. These are ink TANKS, not ink CARTRIDGES. These "tanks" are not hollow. They contain little sponges, sponges that soak up a good twenty five percent of any ink tank, hold it for an indefinite amount of time, and then render it useless. Something about the chip embedded in them, the sponges, and the fact they are made to be impenetrable, renders them unfit for recycling. And before you email me and say, "But have you tried..." let me state the following:

1. You CANNOT bring them to any of the major office supply retailers (Office Depot, Office Max, Staples) and trade them in. Some of these stores have a "turn an empty cartridge in, get money towards your new cartridge" program. Canon tanks do not qualify for this program. The employee may offer to "recycle" the tank for you, but they usually offer this so you'll shut your indignant mouth and move on.

2. You CANNOT ask Canon to recycle them. They have a way to recycle toner cartridges, but not ink tanks. And sure, they'll pay for the shipping to get the toner there, and they will show you many, many pictures of polar bears nuzzling their young on their website and claim that they are doing everything they can to protect the planet. But they, in fact, are not. 'Cause you know what they would do if they were concerned about the earth? NOT MAKE THESE UN-RECYCLABLE PIECES OF SHIT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

3. You CANNOT refill them. Either your very clever printer will recognize your efforts to save the planet, and tell you that it recognizes (via the memory-saving technology stored in the chip on the tank) that you are trying to re-use a re-filled tank, and the tank will not work... OR... you will have to go through a series of button pressings to "trick" the printer into thinking it has a new tank in it. And that's after you've managed to find a kit that will help you messily get the ink into the microscopic holes in the tank. (side note: One website's forum suggested I take a drill and drill a hole in the top of the tank. A drill? Like I'm just going to casually pull a POWER TOOL out of my desk at the office the next time I run out of ink?)

Listen, I'm all about getting my hands a little dirty to help out mother earth. I've filled dozens of ink tanks in my day (mostly HP tanks. Thanks, HP, for ACTUALLY caring about polar bears.) I did it because I thought it was important to NOT throw plastic ink tanks into landfills. But what about the average office worker who doesn't have either the patience or the precision to deal with such an operation? Is it fair to expect that every person using a printer is going to go to the same lengths to not throw a 2 inch square piece of plastic in the trash? Because, given the choice, most people would choose not to ruin their white dress shirts. And I can't say I blame them.

I get it. I like money, too. And Canon makes thousands upon thousands of dollars creating these "consumables" for the printing industry. And there is a whole thriving refill-kit industry out there too. So, who am I to get in the way of every one's cashing in on the impracticality of making my own ink? I just think there's a better way. Canon also claims that their printing is superior because of the whole sponge-tank technology and because its printers physically prevent you from reinstalling spent tanks. I get that too. I understand the benefit of good quality printing. I also understand that plastic doesn't EVER GO AWAY and that Canon is single-handedly creating MILLIONS of pounds of pure trash every year worldwide. What I can't understand is why we can't have both high quality printing AND responsible ways of disposing of the tanks.

I've always thought: if you're going to invent a product that has its obsolescence built into it, you ought to also invent a conscious way to dispose of it. If manufacturers thought this through, they could actually stand to MAKE money on the disposal/recycling part.

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