Coffee heat rising

More Days of Our Lives

Busy past few days! Haven’t had time to write much, so much has been going on.

The minute I sat down to the computer this morning, Gerardo showed up. His “8:00 a.m.” usually means “10:00 a.m.,” so I’d imagined plenty of time to get a few things done before I started to prune the roses, a chore I’ve put off now for three or four weeks. Today was my chance: get him to haul the clawed debris from the man-eating plants, instead of me having to chuff it into the garbage bins in back.

But nooooo…. Before I could even bolt down breakfast, he was on the phone, on the way casa mia. So while he and his sidekick did battle with the rest of the yard, I cut back eight roses. Then for reasons unknown he decided nothing would do but I had to meet him at M’hijito’s house (why??), so here I am, in front of a strange computer.

Probably was a wise thing. I see the lime and lemon trees were hard-hit by the frost. The lime was OK where I was able to pin sheets around it, but I’m just not big enough to sling frost covering over the top of it, so about a third of its canopy is frizzled. The lemon tree, too, oddly enough, suffered some serious frost damage. Usually lemons and grapefruit are the toughest of the citrus. Anyway, I’ll have to ask Gerardo to trim back the limbs that are obviously dead.

Yesterday I became so engaged in a client’s project I utterly forgot the evening Bach concert for which I had tickets. Recalled it about 4:00 this morning. {sigh}

A choir member gave away three tickets to Bach Festival performances. I was thrilled to get all three of them, and really looked forward to going. So was mightily disappointed when I realized that, once again, because it wasn’t written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror I lost track of it. Old age is the pits.

Sunday, though, was a full day of glorious music. We sang, of course, in the morning, which is always fun, but much more to the point, the chamber choir, which is mostly composed of music professionals and graduate students, put on THE most incredible performance. One of the pieces was just ethereal, it was so beautiful. As his finale, choir director Scott Youngs, a superb organist, played an astonishingly complex piece, the kind of thing that leaves you in awe of what the human mind and body can do. In the afternoon was the Bach concert, four sonatas played by violinist Stephen Redfield and harpsichordist Kathleen McIntosh. It was very fine. From there it was back to All Saints to join the chant choir for evensong, and that was very pleasant. At the end of the evening, Scott performed yet another amazing piece, dark, complex and noumenal. Did you know an organ can make a delicate sound like chimes? I had no idea… It can. And the effect, in a piece of music that already evoked the the other-worldly, was spine-tingling.

Monday I made a conscious decision to stay away from the computer and clean my filthy house. Actually, I intended to get to the roses that day also, but the housekeeping expanded to consume the entire day. I’ve never been fond of cleaning. It’s such an exercise in futility: the minute you finish, it needs to be done again. Didn’t do the greatest job yesterday, but at least I finally, very belatedly cleaned and oiled the kitchen cabinets and scrubbed the dirt off the floors.

The magazine article writing course is not making, and so I asked the chair for another comp course. He said he would try to arrange that, but so far no word on what will come down. Whatever, you can be sure he’ll hand it to me at the very last minute. If it’s anything other than a 16-week Eng. 102 section or a 5-week 101 section, I won’t be prepared. So I determined that I need to at least draft course outlines for a 16-week 101, a new 8-week 101, and a new 8-week 102, each incorporating my latest pedagogical strategy. Writing any of those will take two or three full days. Setting up three of them so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice represents about a week of unrelenting work. Ugh.

Of course, I should have done this over the winter break. But really, I wasn’t kidding when I said I needed a real, extended break from the 7-day-a-week, 14-hour-a-day work schedule. Nor was I kidding about bringing a halt to the unpaid labor. It’s taken almost the entire month to unwind and get back to feeling more or less normal. I could do with another two to four weeks away from the grind, to tell the truth. Next summer, maybe.

So, nothing much of import here, except for the ongoing buzz over the Tucson shootings

Turns out the deranged perpetrator had been arrested for drug use, apparently had contact with the police more than once, evinced symptoms of madness at not one but two institutions of our fine education system…and still he could freely walk into Sportsman’s Warehouse and buy a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol. Nothing like your handy-dandy Glock for picking off doves, eh?

And of course, since Arizona has done away with all concealed-carry regulation, he could have walked through the Safeway with the thing tucked into his belt. Because in Arizona it’s perfectly legal to carry a concealed weapon in your vehicle, after he was stopped for running a red light on the day of the shooting, he just went on about his murderous business.

What a place!

A new set of crazies is set to descend on us, and they are SO wacked that the viciousness has even penetrated our thick-skulled legislators’ notice. A bunch of nut cases from Kansas’s Westboro Baptist Church (“church”!) announced their plan to raise hell at the funeral of the nine-year-old girl who was assassinated. They’ve already circulated hate material to the effect that Catholicism is not a real religion, that the ceremony is devil-worship, and on and on, and they’ve made known their intention to yell this hateful garbage at the grieving family and friends burying their child. The legislature promptly passed a measure blocking protesters from approaching funerals any closer than 300 feet. But 300 feet is within yelling distance. At any rate, it was a positive sign, to see Arizona’s legislators make a move in the direction of common decency.

Let’s hope they hold that thought.


Frost on a Nettle (Netherlands). Vincent van Zeijst. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Johann Sebastian Bach im Alter von 61 Jahren. Elias Gottlob Haussmann. Public domain.
Broom, Sponge, and Towel. Chuck Marean. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Compact Glock 19 in 9x19mm Parabellum. Vladimir Dudak. Released under the GNU Free Documentation license.
Førde kyrkje ein kald vinterdag, 2000. Roy Henning Helle. Public Domain

Unemployment + Chase Bank = Hell on Wheels

LOL! I just KNEW it!

As you may recall, my beloved employer, the Great Desert University, did its level best to ameliorate the pain of the unpaid furlough days it’s forcing us all to take by entering a Shared Work arrangement with the Unemployment Insurance Service.

This sounds great…on paper.Reality is a slightly different matter.

Although UI will, in due course, direct-deposit your money to a bank account of your choice, the first payment defaults to a debit card with Chase Bank.

Can you spell sweetheart deal, boys and girls?

I don’t use debit cards; I don’t want to use a debit card; I just want to get the $48 that allegedly has been deposited to this card out of Chase Bank and into my sweaty little paws, so I can carry it to the credit union and deposit it to a savings account, where it and the promised future direct deposits can sit until we see whether I get laid off or not. So, here’s what happens when I try to extract said munificent sum:

Dear ASK HR:

The debit card from Chase came in the mail, issued in response to the request for Shared Work payment for furlough days. I called the phone number on the information that came with the card. After about 15 minutes of jumping through punch-a-button hoops, I validated the card and got the access number and the PIN number.


For a number of reasons, I do not use debit cards. I have a credit union account, to which I asked to have the payments due me direct-deposited. Yes, I DO understand that the first payment cannot be direct-deposited. So now I have $48 on this debit card, which I would like to extract from Chase and manually deposit, in person, at the Arizona State Credit Union.


I drove to the nearest Chase branch. It is in a dangerous part of town where I would not ordinarily get out of my car—it is, shall we say, a lock-your-car-doors district. Stood in line interminably at the teller’s. Explained the situation, asked to withdraw the $48 that is supposed to be on the card. Jumped through some more hoops. And then what? She informed me the card was rejected. By now I’ve spent another half-hour dorking with this, for a total of 45 minutes.


Now she wants me to go to customer service, where I will be asked to dial the phone number on the card (which is the same punch-a-button hoop-jump number that has already fruitlessly consumed a quarter-hour of my time). I explain that I have work to do, and that the last time I called that number, there was no option to reach a person.


Back at my own phone, I dial a number for Chase listed on Eventually, I reach a person in the auto loan department. He connects me with a human being: in Pakistan or India!


Okay. After waiting 16 minutes to get through to this person, I explain the situation. He says he will connect me to a person in the Unemployment Office in Illinois. I explain that even though Unemployment Insurance is a federal program, in the U.S. it is administered by each state separately and that each state’s system is different, and so it will not do me any good to talk to the Illinois unemployment people. That notwithstanding, he insists on giving me a number in the Unemployment Office in Illinois. I hang up in frustration.


This little runaround has now occupied a good hour and a half of my time, not counting the time used fruitlessly to call a phone number at HR whose talking machine hung up on me before I could explain the issue. Nor does it count the 90 minutes spent sitting in a meeting listening to ASU and Unemployment Insurance representatives explain how to work the system, nor does it count the time I spent filling out forms.


When I’m working at ASU, I’m paid about $30 an hour. Thus, it has cost $45 worth of my time at ASU’s rate to try to extract $48 allegedly due to me. To make things more interesting, my actual, real-life freelance rate is $60 an hour. So, the truth is, I have now spent $90 worth of my time in an effort to retrieve $48 that has already been paid to me but which Chase will not disgorge.


I’m going to give up and write off the $48—I just don’t have time to kill this way. However, I would like someone to know how furious it makes me. I do not like to have my time wasted, and I especially resent being barred from retrieving unemployment insurance that I have paid for with my taxes and my employer has paid for with its taxes.


HR’s effort to cut through red tape and ameliorate the pain of the furlough days was a very good try and much appreciated by those of us who feel worried about our jobs and beat-up by the economy in general. However, it appears your time was every bit as much wasted as mine was. If a human being reads this message and has any clue how to reach an English-speaking human being at Chase (NOT another punch-a-button machine, NOT a foreign national who has no clue what I’m talking about!), please advise.

Don’t you love it?

Truth to tell, the exploit in the sub-working-class neighborhood where Chase directed me to its closest bank was as nothing compared to the misguided junket to our neighborhood Albertson’s, where I incorrectly thought the branch was located (they did used to have some branch bank in there, but it’s gone now—I won’t go into that store because it’s unsafe, and so I’d not noticed the bank’s removal). Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR cop cars were lined up in front, a couple of them left with their engines running. Inside, a gaggle of police officers were huddled with a guy who pretty clearly was a vic’ and not a perp. I surmised that he must have been robbed or at least pounced in the parking lot. Charming. Asked after the bank branch and was told to proceed deeper into the slum. And so, onward and downward.

Let’s calculate how much the futile effort to retrieve my $48 really has cost.

Time consumed:
90 minutes: sitting in an informational meeting, filling out forms
15 minutes: navigating punch-a-button phone lines to validate debit card and obtain various secret numbers
30 minutes: driving to Chase branch and being repulsed
20 minutes: reaching a human being on a Chase telephone and being repulsed
15 minutes: writing the diatribe above
TOTAL: 170 minutes, or 2.83 hours

Value of my time as a GDU employee: $30/hour
Value of my time on a freelance basis: $60/hour

Value of time, at taxpayer rate, wasted while I tried to retrieve $48 supposedly already paid to me: $84.90

Value of time, at freelance rate, wasted while I tried to retrieve $48 supposedly already paid to me: $169.80

Tell me: is there anyone out there who doesn’t believe we’re living in a Monty Python show?