Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Good Morning for a Rant...

My first experience with the so-called "credit crisis": I received a letter yesterday saying that a credit card I've had since college had closed my account due to "inactivity." What?! Last year, I paid off the rather high balance and put the card away for emergencies. It was part of my attempt to get my finances together and use my credit cards responsibly. This is how I'm rewarded? Had I known this was a possibility, if they'd, oh say, sent a letter warning me this could happen, instead of just a letter saying the account was closed, I'd have made a small occasional purchase to keep the line of credit open. Instead, my credit score will take the hit. What a crock! I called to tell them so, and the representative's response was "Because this is mentioned in the terms of your credit agreement, there's nothing that can be done." Oh, the fine print in a document I haven't seen in 10 years. How could I have not noticed that?? What gets me is that they were way more into me when I was drowning in debt. When I was almost maxed out, they were more than happy to give me more credit, more rope to hang myself with. I was a "good" customer. One that would make them money, whether I survived or not. Now, ironically, I'm a "bad" customer, one who doesn't spend more than she makes and keeps her cards paid off. As far as I can tell from my online searches, this is perfectly legal under the current system. I really think that needs to change. It feels like all the laws protect the banks but less so the consumers. There's no neat conclusion here. I'm pissed! I don't know who to write angry letters to first. But first things first, I suppose: I'm off to buy a pack of gum on my other two no-balance credit cards...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Breaking new ground

I've been running consistently for about four months now. I started out small, running and walking my way through a couple of miles. Lately, I've been doing about 4 miles (including a 10 minute warm-up walk). I plan to do a couple more 5ks in September, but my latest goal is to run in a 10k in October. 6.2 miles is a looooong way for someone like me (someone who has to talk to themselves the whole time they run: "Don't stop, make it to that tree before you stop, okay, try to make it to the water fountain" get the idea). So, in preparation for this 10k goal, I decided I needed to up my mileage. I had some free time Saturday, so I headed to Forest Park (St. Louis's answer to Central Park) to run the outer loop that runs around the perimeter of the park. According to the Forest Park website, the loop is 6 miles. According to the St. Louis Track Club website, it's really about 5.65 miles. It also says there are "moderate" hills. I'd like to say that for a novice runners, this course has heart-may-explode hills. Either way, I told myself I was going to give it a shot, that I didn't have to run the whole time, but I did have to finish. About 75 minutes later, I returned to my starting point. I ended up walking about a mile and a half, but I ran a heck of a lot more than I expected. 10k here I come!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Show Me the Info!

When I started this whole "get healthy" thing, I started keeping close track of how many calories I was putting in my mouth every day. I started looking up the calorie count and portion size for foods I made at home and tried to do the same for meals I was eating out. Many of my favorite fast food places had pretty extensive nutrition info available online: Starbucks, Sonic, Wendy's, Arby's, etc. And, after seeing exactly how much of my daily allotment would be wasted (or even exceeded) on a Sonic burger and fries, I stopped going. Knowledge was power. I was able to pinpoint the thing that had kept me from losing the extra weight before: severely underestimating my calorie intake.

It got harder when we'd eat out, as our group of friends does frequently. Most of our favorite restaurants are locally owned and, therefore, don't provide nutrition info. I think it's ridiculous that they're not required to have this information on hand, but because they aren't chains, I can sort of understand. What gets me is the fact that so many "sit-down" restaurant chains refuse to make their nutritional information public. I assumed they'd be regulated by the same laws that force fast-food restaurants to publish their info.

Not so. Restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, TGIFriday's, Applebees, etc. don't offer any nutrition facts on their website. You have to rely on third party diet websites with estimations, if any exist. These places make excuses like different restaurants using different food distributors that might cause difference in calories between dishes made at different restaurants. Another, Chevy's, said that they change their menu to include seasonal items and local food and, therefore, can't maintain a nutrition list. Bull. There are a few restaurants I've found that do have their nutrition info online, like Houlihans and Ruby Tuesday. And, the facts they post aren't all that flattering to them...1200 calories for one burger?? The others are just hiding the fact that many of their dishes are worse for you than a Big Mac Value Meal.

I want restaurants (chain and locally owned) to be required by law to produce nutrition estimates for their food. Even if there could be variations between individual stores, I think those variations would be fairly slight. I already assume that there could be difference between what nutrition facts say and how an individual cook might prepare it (as in using more butter or oil in the prep process than they're supposed to, etc.). I just need a ballpark. Maybe if they're so embarressed by the poor nutritional quality of their food, restaurants would be compelled to create healthier dishes or find ways to prepare their current menu items in healthier ways. I realize that some people don't want to think about how bad the food is that they're eating. But some of us do. These places need to at least give consumers the option of making health choices that are informed by calorie/fat content numbers rather than personal guess work.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Hate SmartPost: A Mini-Rant

SmartPost, is in my opinion, the worst thing to happen to online shopping since regular USPS shipping. The worst is when the store slips it by you, and you think your package is being serviced by an efficient shipping company.
For those of you who haven't experienced SmartPost (yet), it's when a regular shipping company like FedEx carries the package to your town, and then, instead of bringing it to your door, they drop it off at the post office distribution center where it will languish for a few more days away from your greedy little hands going from distribution center to local branch to finally finally finally your front door. If possible, this takes even longer than when the post office handles the whole thing (with the exception that FedEx faithfully updates its status and the USPS can't be bothered).
Last week I ordered a few items from GAP on sale. It appeared FedEx was handling my order, and I saw last night that although the estimated arrival date was 7/24, the package had arrived in Earth City. Usually that means it'll be here the next day. Nope. SmartPost strikes again. Lots of government agencies suck, but the post office has got to be one of the worst, where the employees really truly don't give a damn about you or your precious mail. Remind me to tell the story of our beloved mail delivery person.

Why Do We Care?

I signed up for Twitter this morning...For quite awhile now, I've been a one social network kind of girl. I deleted the old Myspace site and moved it all over to Facebook. Then my brother tells me I must join Twitter b/c he doesn't do facebook. He made quite a case, capping it off with "Basically twitter is pre-election Obama and facebook is Sarah Palin." How does one argue with that? One doesn't. One signs up for Twitter.
What I don't get is why are we so fascinated with the minute, constantly updated details of each others lives? Why do we feel the need to comment on them or "like" them? I don't know, but I know I visit a select group of blogs every day, I can't resist clicking on the links people put up of their latest cooking creations, and I love watching drama unfold via status updates and comments. I'll waste untold amounts of time on this. In bumper-to-bumper traffic (to avoid road rage), in the waiting room, when I'm supposed to be working, while I'm allegedly watching tv, while I'm waiting in line at the coffee shop.
I can't speak for the rest of humankind, but maybe I like it b/c I can't just sit still...Social networking is the post-post-modern equivalent of needlepoint.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Things That Make You Go "Hmmm"

Anyone else find it ironic that most of the people who are "concerned" by Judge Sonya Sotomayor's statement about a wise Latina woman making better decisions than a white man are...white men? Wouldn't it be horrible if their interests weren't the top priority of the entire establishment for the first time in centuries? I can only imagine the panic in the old boys' club.