Things I Know

You can stop the automated “courtesy calls” from CVS drug stores by calling 1-800-SHOPCVS. I did it today and I only hope it works. After one, or MAYBE two calls, it crosses the line from courtesy to harassment. You have to listen to the whole top-level menu and then select other choices, but the option is in there.

One reason car dealers and manufacturers advertise so heavily that you should give someone a car for Christmas is that December is a slow month for buying cars, since people usually spend their money on less expensive presents.

If you got a fruitcake for Christmas, I didn’t give it to you. So, please don’t give it back to me next year.

Speaking of cake, in case you’ve ever wondered, bakers wear white because it doesn’t show flour stains. It does, however, show chocolate.

I recently made two roundtrips to Manhattan by automobile, a distance of 28 miles each way. One leg into Manhattan took about 45 minutes. The other three legs, one in and two out, took roughly one hour and 45 minutes each. I have driven to Manhattan twice in the last week. Also twice in the last 20 years. If I had to go every day, I wouldn’t consider driving.

Here’s a money-saving tip: If you have two cars and one EZ Pass, make sure you don’t leave the EZ Pass at home if you should drive to Manhattan. A roundtrip through the Queens Midtown Tunnel carries a $15.00 charge for tolls if you don’t have an EZ Pass. I hope I don’t have to explain how I know that.

We took my daughter to Manhattan to consult with a prominent neurosurgeon, Doctor Jeffrey Wisoff, at NYU. It’s easy to see why he’s prominent. He was very professional, spent almost an hour with us, went over her condition with us in great detail, and in language we could all understand. If I needed brain or spinal surgery, I would certainly want Dr. Wisoff on the list of doctors to consider engaging to do it. Our visit was frustrating, however, because our daughter’s neurologist thought her symptoms could be addressed by an operation and while nobody wants to have that kind of surgery, we were hoping Dr. Wisoff could help and he said her symptoms aren’t caused by something he can address. Now, we have to explore other avenues to try to figure out what’s wrong.

One great thing about living in the New York metropolitan area is access to some of the world’s outstanding hospitals, not one, some. You’ve got Weill Cornell, Columbia Presbyterian, NYU Langone, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Hospital for Special Surgery and many more. There are superior hospitals in other places as well, but I think New York has the highest concentration of them in the entire country, maybe the world.

Speaking of health care, my mother was the kind of person who would cancel a doctor’s appointment because she didn’t feel well.

A Season of Change

My father was sick when I got out of the Army. His illness was the reason I had been stationed thirty miles from home for my last year. That Father’s Day, my sister and I bought him a room air conditioner to help him breathe during the hot, humid summer. Father’s Day was just before I was discharged, so I didn’t have the money to pay half, so I bargained with my sister. She paid 80 percent of the price. I said I would give her enough money to make up the balance of my share before she went back to college. When the time came, I renegotiated the deal. I told her she could have the money I promised her, or if she waited until Christmas, I’d give her a TV instead. The TV cost more than twice as much as the money I owed her.

She waited.

My dad, the retired cop, was a school bus driver. But when school opened, he was too sick to work. He was 61 years old and he was dying. He was basically bedridden so I bought a TV set he could watch in his room, where the air conditioner was running to help him breathe. He did die, in October, four days after his 62nd birthday.

I didn’t want to, nor did I, forget my dad, but I changed a lot of things so remembering him and being without him wouldn’t be quite as painful. Among them I bought a new car, repainted the inside of our house, changing the color of every room, and instead of Christmas dinner at home, I took my mother, my sister and my girlfriend to dinner in a fancy restaurant on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, I went to my girlfriend’s family home, got down on one knee in her living room and asked her to marry me. She said yes.

Since it happened at her family home, her family knew about it right away. She and I went to Midnight Mass where she held her diamond ring up to the lights to watch it sparkle and I enjoyed watching her sparkle. I’d say I enjoyed her reaction as much or more than anything else I’ve enjoyed, ever. We shared our good news with a few friends we saw at mass, but I didn’t tell my mom and my sister until the big Christmas Dinner.

My father’s slightly used TV became the one I promised my sister. I’m not sure if it was because the TV was used, but I also bought her a record player. Added to the stuff she normally carried back and forth to college in Chicago, she couldn’t carry a TV and a record player too. So, I put her, her luggage and her Christmas presents in my little car, picked up my fiancĂ© and all three of us drove off to the windy city.

From October to December, the end of my Dad’s life to the beginning of my lifelong commitment to my wife, I don’t think I’ve ever gone through more changes in a shorter period of time before or since. But all of that is why it was my most memorable Christmas.

Things I Know

Christmas is better with little kids around. I have adult children and no grandchildren, so if kids are here at Christmas, I have to wait for them to wake up. When I first became a father, I never thought that day would come, and now that it’s here, I’m honestly not crazy about it.

I don’t really need anything for Christmas and anything I really want costs more than the people who love me can afford to give. My camera equipment is Canon and while I don’t really have a need for the $16 thousand lens, all Canon stuff is pricey.

I love my wife, Saint Karen (who has to be a saint to put up with me), more than anything and she’s in the same boat I am. Neither one of us is big on spending extravagantly on gifts. For less modest gifts, frankly, I have bought enough of them over the years that I’m really out of ideas.

Since I have adult children and no grandchildren, one thing I could use for Christmas is a new Christmas tradition.

Just for the record, when I said I wanted a Vette for Christmas, I meant Corvette, not Chevette.

I paid Navient before the penalty date and they didn’t call me again, so I didn’t call them as I said I might either, because I don’t like to be frustrated, so why should I talk to Navient if I don’t have to?

Here, by the way, is my advice to Navient, not that they asked for it. If I were the maker of a loan and the cosigner was paying that loan, on time as required, I’d send the cosigner a monthly statement to make sure those payments continued apace.

My friend and former colleague, Wes Richards, had a nice turn of phrase in his blog last week. He said the Long Island newspaper, Newsday, is a shadow of its former shadow.

Things I Know

Today’s Patti’s birthday. We dated for a while in high school and I still have a soft spot in my heart (or maybe it’s my head) for her. Even though she hasn’t done anything influential in my life since she was 17 and I didn’t appreciate it then, she really was a big influence on me and how I grew up. Neither of us wants to drop our spouse and run off together, but I do wish her well and like to hear that she’s doing okay. I didn’t remember her date of birth from when we were kids, but I asked her years ago when we reconnected as adults. She told me, but said she would not tell me how old she was. She’s roughly 13 months younger than I am. If I could subtract one from 16 to get her age when we were dating, I can subtract one from my current age to figure out how old she is now. But I promised her I wouldn’t tell her unless she asked. She hasn’t asked, so I won’t tell. Still, happy birthday Patti, and many more.

I’m on the federal do not call list. I didn’t put myself on the list because I’m gullible and want to avoid buying anything someone calls me up and offers to sell me. I did it as a favor to myself because I find telemarketing annoying. That’s true. But I also did it as a favor to telemarketers, since there is no way in hell, and no way on God’s green earth that I will every buy something from a telemarketer, so why should I waste their time either?
Peter called me tonight to try to sell me solar panels. I told him that if he could tell me exactly how many times I had asked his company to never call me again this year, I’d listen to his pitch. He didn’t even try to guess. I didn’t bother telling him that I don’t believe his name is Peter, but I don’t believe it.

I know charities are exempt from the list, but I don’t give to charities that call me for donations either. I don’t because for the most part, I don’t know if the people who are calling me are who they say they are and I don’t know whether their charities are legitimate either.

If I want to donate to charity, I research it first to see if the charity is putting my money to a use that I approve of. Mostly, the ones that do the most telemarketing spend most of their money on more fund raising. That’s not a use I approve of.

I like Baskin Robins ice cream, but the store in my neighborhood isn’t very good at making milk shakes and despite the sign behind the counter, they don’t make malteds at all. The last milk shake I bought at that store will be the last milk shake I buy at that store, but they were good about giving me my money back when I took one sip and complained.

Navient Correction

The company’s statements do list the separate address for cosigners to send payments to. I said in my most recent blog post that they don’t. It wasn’t prominent enough for me to notice it, but the separate address is there.

Pardon the Profanity, but Navient

I’ve expounded here before about Sallie Mae’s collection practices. A little while back, Sallie spun off her student loan business to a new company called Navient. What the hell does Navient mean? Did you know that people are paid large sums of money to think up company names? But I digress. In my opinion, Navient’s collection practices are just as dumb as Sallie Mae’s were.

I find myself back in the business of paying a student loan I cosigned for. The economy is still tough for some people. Don’t cosign loans. Loan companies and banks are in the business of deciding who can pay them back and who can’t. If the loan company or bank doesn’t think the person who is trying to borrow money can pay it back, they’re probably right. They are, after all, the professionals in that business.

The statement from Navient says the payment has to be received by the 18th of the month to avoid late fees. That means, in case you are slow, or Navient (which I think is probably the same thing), that the loan payment will begin incurring late fees on Friday. So, why should I rush to pay it a long time before Friday? This is a trick I learned from mortgage companies when I was a tax collector. Mortgage companies generally pay the property taxes for mortgage holders and they generally do that on or near the last day of the grace period. I have instructed my bank’s automated bill paying program to take care of it on the 15th. So, naturally, I got a robocall on the 14th.

This is annoying for a few reasons. There’s no option on the robocall to talk to a human being. The options the robocall does offer don’t fit my situation. The robocall comes at a time when I can’t call them and talk to a human being because the human beings aren’t at work today. The website they refer you to in the robocall isn’t correct, so it has to redirect you to another website. It doesn’t say so on the loan statement, but the address for cosigners to pay is a different PO Box than the address for loan makers to pay. I don’t know if that’s going to be a problem, but I’ll probably find out tomorrow. I say that because I don’t have nearly enough frustration in my life, so I’ll probably give Navient a call then.

I just hope and pray that the automated phone attendant that picks up my call doesn’t tell me my call is important to Navient, because I’m sure it isn’t.

Things I Know

Former New York Governor George Pataki is testing the waters for a Presidential run in 2016. It’s the fourth time in the past five election cycles that Pataki has done this. He sat out 2008 when George Bush ran for reelection. In my political opinion, Governor Pataki has absolutely zero chance of gaining the GOP nomination, but his chance of becoming the Republican vice-presidential nominee are about ten times greater than that.

In case you’re wondering, I do know what ten times zero is.

The Bath Bus Company in Great Britain is running an experimental bus on bio-methane, made from decomposing human feces and food waste. I’m sorry, but that gives me a mental picture of a bus in which all the seats are toilets.

If you weigh yourself on the kind of scale they have in a doctor’s office, the kind where the weights slide across a beam, you may thing the scale is accurate, but maybe it isn’t. First, when it’s set to zero, the beam has to be adjusted so it balances. Second, the post has to be plumb and the base of the beam has to be level. The scale can’t be on a carpeted surface either. The scale in my doctor’s office said I gained seven pounds in the last two weeks. To do that, I’d have to eat an additional 1,500 calories for each of those 14 days. I know Thanksgiving was in there, but still I can’t see how that’s possible. But then, I noticed from my seat on the examination table that the scale isn’t plumb and level. I probably put on two or three pounds, but not seven!

I’m starting another effort to change American culture. Let’s all get behind it. Beginning when you reach the age of 70, instead of receiving your birthday cake at a party or a special dinner, everyone should be entitled to birthday cake for breakfast. After all, 70 is getting up there and life is short so, as the saying goes, eat desert first.

I get a kick out of seeing someplace I’ve been on TV. When the “Dark Water” episode of “Doctor Who” aired recently, showing Cybermen bursting out of the doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and head south along Sermon Lane toward the Millennium Bridge was one of those times. I understand that scene is also an homage to another time Cybermen marched down Sermon Lane during a previous invasion when Patrick Troughton played The Doctor.

Now that they have legalized pot in Washington DC, the Congress has a better excuse than it has had previously.

Vaunted Ivy League institution, the University of Pennsylvania (no not Penn State, that’s a different school) will soon offer a course entitled “wasting Time on the Internet.” Surprisingly, to me anyway. I can’t find the course available for download so it can be studied at your home or in your place of business. has a new feature for members of its paid Prime service. In addition to two-day shipping, free videos and a kindle lending library, they now offer free, on-line storage for an unlimited number of still photographs. Since I have around 500 GB of pictures, I decided to try it as a backup. It’s a good deal, but I don’t like the execution. I like the large thumbnails used to display the pics, but uploading is kind of slow. Plus in Amazon’s cloud storage, the pictures are displayed by date taken or date uploaded. Nothing else. I have organized my pictures mostly by subject or event. If I could display my file storage tree on Amazon’s cloud, I’d like it better. I have a lot of pics of friends and family and I’d like to be able to locate that folder in the cloud. You can upload pictures to Flickr too (also slow) but on Flickr, you can create sets of pictures which is better. But I use Flickr for pictures I want to share, not for general storage.