Monthly Archives: November 2008

Chipping Away at the Stone of the Credit Union

While the news has been doom and gloom about the economy in recent months, and specifically this last 6 weeks, I have not noticed much change in my immediate world other than a few small signs. Bizarrely enough, clients still need web work done and are paying on time. Only one of my friend’s has lost a job and it was in a vulnerable industry (construction). So far, knock on wood, the financial crisis has been an abstract explosion many thousands of miles away that has made my stock portfolio crash significantly.
The only major change I have had to make is that I *was* planning, for months if not for over a year, to depart in two days to London for the Future of Mobile 2008 conference and my yearly trip to a northern place to experience a real autumn. Unfortunately, due to said financial crisis, the place I had stored my funds for this trip is now only worth 1/3 the amount I saved for the trip. So rather than cashing in on my air miles and hying off to London on the 13th, I am staying home. I am jealous that many of my friends will be in London next week and I will be at home in Seal Beach. Grumpily staying home.
The one thing that has effected my world in the last six months is that the Credit Union I have belonged to for over eight years is starting to behave a bit erratically after years of stellar service. First odd to do was that they redesigned their website for the much uglier in the spring. I called up a friend who also has an account with them and said, “Yikes! What do you think of _________’s new website?” “Yuck. I hate the yellow, red, and blue.” She thought it was ugly, too.
Then in late spring, early summer they changed their name for the worse.
In June, a bizarre event occurred where for no reason whatsoever the credit union decided to but a “security hold” on a largish client check that I had deposited about a week before all my automatic payments were to hit my account. They held the deposit for over 2 weeks causing all my payments to bounce. Then to make matters worse, they decided that I had attempted to fraud them with a bad check. Except the check wasn’t bad. It cleared with no problem, though it took another two weeks before I could convince the credit union that it had cleared. They had no explanation and decided to blame me. Very very very odd and very frustrating.
Mid-summer I received a letter informing me that the Credit Union was closing all business accounts to focus on personal accounts and that we had until Sept. 15th to move to a commercial bank for business accounts. Hello?!??!???
Up until the name change and the mortage crisis, my Credit Union has been a dream for me. They believed in my fledgling web design business back during the last crunch and helped me get started in 2001 & 2002. They were great when I was in Ireland for graduate school and made it very easy to do all my banking online from Dublin. When I returned from graduate school and had barely got my business back online, the Credit Union gave me an auto loan for my Prius with no questions asked. I have been faithful back to them by paying my debts on time and putting my savings at the Credit Union.
Thus, the increasingly small erratic behaviors since the summer have been more keenly felt.
After the closure of the business accounts, I moved my business account to a large commercial bank of which at the beginning of every month, I have to transfer money from the commercial bank to my Credit Union to make sure I cover my automatic payments. As the credit crisis has progressed this fall, I have noticed that the large commercial bank has honored all of my client’s checks within a day or two but when I transfer monies to the credit union it will take 3-5 days to be actionable on my account. Not just a few times but every time since September.
This is a problem. Items are bouncing or not clearing, even though I put monies in up to a week beforehand. I am getting phone calls from unhappy creditors. I am unhappy. And I am surprised that my highly rated, 1937-founded, locally large Credit Union is being stingy, holding funds beyond what is necessary, and treating all comers as if they are out to do the Credit Union wrong. This is not why I signed up with them in the first place.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that I will need to have three accounts: a business account, a personal checking, and a personal savings at the large commercial bank just to get my monthly personal financial business done until the credit crunch eases and the Credit Union decides that they are going to go back to behaving like a real credit union and not like a scared grinch.
Come on Wall Street and the Banking System, let’s get the system moving and stopping panicking. That goes for you, too. People, stop panicking. Let’s get moving. Forward.

The New Mother’s Market in Santa Ana

The New Mother's Market in Santa Ana

Sun 11.09.08 – For various reasons, my local Whole Foods market is the worst store in the chain in SoCal, I won’t go into all of it, but let’s just say 2 things on the matter : stock & employee morale. It is not fun to shop at a market where one gets guff from the checkers & baggers about one’s purchase choice and general bad attitude. On the stock issue, even before it switched from Wild Oats to Whole Foods, it has been hard to convince this local (was Wild Oats, now) Whole Foods to carry items that would be of interest to folks with multiple food allergies. Thanks for the gluten-free bread you carry, but Glutino is corn & yeast full, how about carrying a lot more of the gluten-free, yeast-free rice bread that sells out very quickly, obviously I am NOT the only customer who buys it*.
Thus due to the idiocy of the local Whole Foods employees and purchasing/stock management, I find myself driving at least 2 times a month to south Huntington Beach to the Mother’s Market to purchase a much wider and deeper range of gluten-free, yeast-free, dairy-free, egg-free, canola-evil-oil-free, and corn-free items. My local Whole Foods is less than a mile away, the closest Mother’s Market has been over 30 minutes away.
No longer, the genius’ at Mother’s have decided to do battle against the corporate bloat that Whole Foods has become and they have opened a branch in Santa Ana, that is technically farther away from me but is actually much easier to get to due to easy freeway access. All hail the nice Mother’s Market folk.
Now, our family of food allergy sufferers has been frequenting the original Mother’s Market health food store mothership in Costa Mesa since the early 1980s when we were first diagnosed. I am over the top excited that Mother’s is expanding and is now in a lovely big store in Santa Ana, just across the street from the Westfield Main Place Mall on Main St, just north of the 5 fwy and just south of the 22. Great location, big wide aisles (all the other MM stores have very crunched aisles due to trying to fit as much stock as possible into a small store), and a great selection that far outstrips the average Whole Foods in the variety department.
Whole Foods only real distinctives over Mother’s has been their butcher & fresh meat, wine department, and multiple locations. This new Mother’s is the first store that has a good selection of packaged meats and not just frozen meats. Yes, there is no wine, but I can go to BevMo. What Mother’s lacks in meat & wine, they more than make up for in vegan, raw, allergy-free, and just plain selection of multiple brands of local or health food over the ever increasing corporate organic banality that is Whole Foods.
Here is an example of what I am talking about, beyond gluten-free bread choice: My local Whole Foods only carries one brand of Japanese styled nori and seaweed products, only one brand. The BIG problem with that one brand is that it is grown & produced/made in China. HELLO! HELLO! HELLO! Wake up Whole Foods! I don’t care what you say, you need, if you want to retain your indy/organic/wholefood reputation to provide a non-Chinese grown/made brand. I don’t care if you have had an organic certification on the brand, HELLO! China is poisoning its own children in the name of profit.
Whole Foods did you test the nori and the water that it is grown in to make sure it is pollution free? HELLO! Now Mother’s Market, even in their tiny-ish, cramped Huntington Beach store, has a selection of 4 Nori brands of which 1 is made in Japan and 1 in Canada. Whole Foods in a huge store only offers one brand made in a country which is terribly polluted and has crooked producers that add plastic additives to extend food. Nice, how marvelously whole food of them.
I want more than a label that says “Organic”, I want to see that the company and the individual stores are putting thought into their purchasing decisions. It has become more and more obvious that Whole Foods is buying in bulk at the corporate level and not thinking about why they started the Whole Foods stores for in the late 1960s/early 1970s in Austin for in the first place. Additionally, I would like to go to my local Whole Foods and think that the employee type folks I interact with care enough to remember what customers want and do more than mock me, yes I have been mocked for my purchases more than once, when I get to the check out counter.
Dear Whole Foods, get your act together. Remember your roots. Do something about employee morale and attitude, while you are at it, please train your lovely college-aged employees on why insulting customers is bad and why folks would want to shop at your store.
Dear Mother’s Market, thanks for staying independent and expanding into Santa Ana. Thanks for still hiring dreadlocked, tattoo’d vegan kids** rather than well-scrubbed college kids, cause vegan kids understand odd diets and don’t mock. You rock.
Notes:
div class=”note”* The obnoxious, bad attitude employees always say to me when I inquire, “It just sells so fast.” Me, “Why not carry more of it then if it is so popular?” WF employee, (brain explodes), “ahhhh…. Well, you should check back next week.” Idiot. How to sell groceries in an upscale, speciality store & keep your job => keep popular items in stock. And furthermore, be nice to the customer who is merely making a request.
** Much like you can tell a good restaurant by who works there, a good health food store should always have an employee ratio of 60% vegan/hippy/punk/crusties/tattoo’d folk over straight/clean/oblivious folk. The local Whole Foods when it was Wild Oats had a good ratio, but with the advent of the Whole Foods takeover, the vegan/raw/hippy/crusties have fled leaving cranky CSULB students as employees. Damn folks, its Long Beach, y’all should be able to find a vegan, LGBT, crusty somewhere in town… And the fact that you can’t only puts the final nail into your corporate coffin. Or at least demonstrates the incompetence of the store manager***.
*** Who by the way has the worst attitude of all the employees at the Long Beach Whole Foods.
</rant>

Books

Either I have a box or two of books that are lost up in the further, black widow guarded, reaches of the loft in my brother’s garage or the box(es) are propping up furniture in my storage room, but I am missing books.
A box or two of books that I did not find the last 3 times I have scoured the loft, side sheds, and back shed at my brother’s for my books. A box or two of books that I have not found the last two times I took everything out of my storage room, except some of the big furniture in the back.
I have been having an itch to start at the beginning of the Charles de Lint Newford Series and work my way all the way through, as I have all the books and have read most of them at least 3 times before. I keep thinking of the the stories and having bits reverberate in my head, so it is time to re-read all the way through the Newford (loosely termed) series.
I know that “Spirits in the Wires” is currently visiting on Thomas Bertling’s bookshelf and another 4 are here at my house, but where are the rest?
There are a minimum of 12 novels & story collections, not including the young adult books, in the Newford series that should be living in one of six bookcases in my apartment but aren’t.
I can’t have loaned that many out. So a box of books must be hiding from me. It must. I hope they are findable, somewhere. Must drag out the big ladder and go through the loft again in mid-winter when the spiders are in semi-hibernation.

Mica

Sat 11.08.08 – One of the delightful bits of Dog Beach at Huntington Beach is at low tide there is a layer of glittering fool’s gold on top of the standard issue beach sand in the inter-tidal zone.
Be it mica or pyrite, the inter-tidal zone glitters and shimmies as the water pulses in and out with the waves. Scruffy, who previously hated water, has learned this past summer to love running in the low tide zone.

Happy Birthday, Scruffy McDoglet!

Fri 11.07.08 – We celebrated Scruffy’s 5th birthday at Dog Beach this morning.
Today I am going to combine my photo and text of the day into one post rather than two.
So, Mr. Scruffy McDoglet was born five years ago today in North Carolina, whether to a reputable Maltese breeder or to a puppy farm- we don’t know, but he was the runt of the litter with a few “defects” that precludes him from being AKC. The truth of the matter is that is doesn’t matter because Scruffy McDoglet is the best.
Scruffy is so full of personality, gumption, and pure sheer bloody mindedness, it doesn’t matter that he has thin hair and too many skin spots. Who cares if he doesn’t match some ideal that the AKC has set for pure-bred Maltese, as he is perfect as he is. I can’t imagine him being smaller, more hairfull, and dumber.
Scruffy has truly been a joy and after growing up with lots of dogs, he is the first dog that I have truly grown attached to.
Happy Birthday to the best 12 lb bundle of squirmy, poopy, running, barking, sleeping joy!

Standard Time, You Are Not My Friend

Usually, I don’t mind the time change in late October. Ever since I was a little kid, I have liked it getting dark early. It seems mysterious and different for SoCa, which is BRIGHT and sunny all the time all day and all evening, whereas now the long shadows start at 3:30pm rather than 7pm and it is getting dark at 5pm rather than 8pm (in high summer). Basically, standard time is a nice break.
Except this year. I am not adjusting to the time change well. In the past I have only needed a day to adjust to the fall standard time, if that. But here I am 4.5 days later and instead of fully adjusted to the new time, my internal scheduling department decided to move to Texas, as I am ready to do everything 2 hours before the normal time.
Instead of waking up at 7am, I am bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5am (waaaaaa??????).
Instead of lunch at noon or 1pm, I am ravenously hungry at 10am, even if I just ate breakfast at 8am.
And worst of all, by 9:30pm, I ready to fall over in sleep.
This is just not right. I am the lady who stays up until midnight or 1am as the quiet of the evening is my best work time. I have been forcing myself to stay up until 11pm at the least, but then when I pop up at 5am…eeeek! Not good.
If I am going to have a 2 hour offset of jet lag, I would at least like to have gone on a trip, not stayed at home.