Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Ok, we all know that credit card companies are snivelling spineless bloodsucking dungeating vultures, right?

I'm down to one credit card now. I paid off the one my ex ran up and let go to collections. I closed it out today, and they owe me $10. They act so surprised when you want to close it.

I paid off the last delinquent bill that my ex claimed he had paid, and hadn't.

I am down to one credit card, ONE--that one is Bank of America, in its current gargantuan-merger personae. It has a fairly high balance on it, a hair under $7000. I keep paying it down, but since all my expendible income has been going toward it, I occassionally have to use it, too. The interest rate on that sucker is 23%. Twenty-three percent. All of which is largely because of my ex letting the other bills get behind. Y'all know that if one card is late, the others will jack up their APR's, too, right? I suppose it's within their right to do so, although I am definitely being punished for the sins of another.

Here's the bitter irony. They keep sending me offers for unsecured loans to "consolidate" my debt at a reduced rate. In other words, they will loan me MORE money to pay off debts I owe to other people, but they will not give me a lowered rate on the debt I already owe to them. This too makes sense, if I remind myself that they are in business to soak me for every dime they can get.

I've applied to my local credit union for a new Visa. I can't be totally uncreditable; my car loan was at a very good rate. But even if they give me a small amount of credit at a better rate, I will keep transferring funds to the new card and paying it down as fast as possible. I expect I'll have the Bank of America card paid off by next spring, after which I am cancelling that account, too. And I hope to God that new legislation gets passed to put caps on credit card interest.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

tai chi/irritating bystanders/sewing

Suddenly, it is the end of June. And we've got 3 1/2 weeks until tai chi tournament.


I am so not in a competitive mood right now. The SP and I just want to hide in our shady air-conditioned cave, with occasional bicycle forays out in the evening for citrus fruits and tandoori chicken. We have had no time to work on the house since, oh, about the first of April. We have made small ventures into the back yard to hack down brush and reclaim the back yard--the SP cut down two 10-foot-tall junk trees this weekend--and I did a great deal of sewing this weekend.

My friend, for whom I am making the wedding dress, has decided to elope, thank Ghod. It was what they really wanted to do, anyway. That means she will need the dress somewhat sooner than planned, but not sooner than I had planned, and this means I don't have to make a dress for myself to be in the wedding. Regardless, I want to get the thing done as soon as possible, so it's out of my living room and neither of us have to worry about it anymore.

That plan, however, is somewhat in conflict with my need to practice. I believe I have made some progress in tai chi this year, only by virtue of attending class regularly and not via any particular effort on my part (This could be self-delusion). However, Sit is making noises about the SP and me doing internal form, a/k/a the taihui form, at competition. I think he may be doing that to scare us. Or possibly as a form of motivation.

I know it well enough, at least the first half of it. It's just really really ugly. I don't have a "feel" for it. My feet are sloppy, my knee is out of place, my hands are not twisted enough, I have too much hand movement. I know these things. Sit took rather a lot of time to drill me on them last weekend. Attention from the master is always appreciated.

Also, I am feeling rather fat and flabby of late so I went over to the vacant mall across the street during lunch to practice a bit. Herein lie the irritating bystanders.

That mall is nearly empty of stores. There's a Macy's at one end, a Sears at the other, and a big swath of the middle has been converted to offices. But the main promenade of the mall is still empty, the stores dark and locked up, and a great many older folks come around from the nearby retirement villages to power-walk in the relative cool. This is great, as far as I'm concerned. They don't get in my way, they're quiet, they're usually friendly, and they keep the place from being scarily deserted.

The only problem is, they want to talk. I'll be standing there at the end of an otherwise deserted hallway, moving my body in strange mechanical ways, hopefully with a frown of concentration on my face, and as soon as they get within 10 feet of me they hollar, "How you doin?" or "What's that?" or "Looking good, there, what do you call that?"

One tiny lady, about sixty, had a very strong eastern-European accent and was clearly hard of hearing. She came up very close and started asking me what it was, where I had learned it, how good I was, and no wonder I had such a great figure. "I'm practicing right now, I can't stop to talk," I said, pointedly. "Oh, all right," she said, and a beat later, "How long have you been doing this?"

Anyway. Now I remember why I never liked practicing in public. I can handle weird looks, it's the intrusion that annoys me. People act as if you're performing. Maybe I should put out a hat with some change.

In other news, Sit and his wife went to China for two weeks at the beginning of June. They have been less than enthusiatic about the trip. "It was crowded," Sit said. "And the food is bad."

He's seemed kind of depressed since he got back. I don't know if it's because the trip was a drag, or he's suffering some kind of survivor's guilt for getting out of China as a young man, or if it's related to his classes shrinking to almost non-existent status. The SP and I are the only ones who come consistently to kung fu anymore, and usually only one other person shows, but it's always a different person, and always a beginner, so we end up going over the same material again and again. Hence, Sit's pushing us to resume the internal form. I feel sorry for him, having two lazy butts like us as his top remaining students.

Still, three weeks until tournament is somewhat motivating. At the very least I can pull out a couple of old forms and brush them up. I'm looking forward to the trip, and the workshops and the interesting stuff, but I really don't feel like competing.

Monday, June 18, 2007

apparently the old adage is true

The SP bought me a bicycle this weekend. It's red and has a bell. I think he's a little envious, actually. His bike is perfectly functional but it's older and has thick off-road tires.

Mine is what they call a hybrid, with slim but slightly toothy tires, upright seating and shock absorbers. Twenty-three speeds that you shift by twisting the handles, which is a lot cooler than flicking with your thumb.

It's a little odd, thinking of myself as a bike owner. A lot of people have them in my hippified college town; we'd talking about getting me one since I moved out there, so it wasn't exactly an impulse purchase. It was just kind of sudden--less than an hour between "Hey, let's pop in the bike shop," to "Let's take that one."

Bike technology has changed a lot since I was a kid, even I can see that. The frame structure is different, the thing is a whole lot lighter than any bike I've ever tried to move around (it wasn't much heavier than a large tricycle before they put the lock on; I think the Kryptonite lock weighs as much as the entire frame) and the wheels are a good deal larger in diameter. The whole apparatus has a graceful but compact appearance, like a sturdy little pony.

And boy, can it fly. It takes so little to make it move. Granted, I am not used to bike riding and that first big hill up to the campus was too much for me, but it wasn't the bike's fault. Twenty-third gear is amazingly efficient. And I felt great afterwards. That forty-five minute ride burned two pounds off of me by the next morning, and I'm not even sore.

So I guess I'll have to be all ecological now. The grocery store is about five blocks away, and probably quicker to get there by bike than by car, considering traffic.

She needs a name. I'm considering Penelope.

Oh, and even though I hadn't been on a bike in about 20 years? I hadn't lost the knack of it. I didn't crash even once.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Joy marches on

A writer-friend caught up with me over the weekend, and happily provided me with the URL to her new blog: Joy Marchand's Particles of Light. The lady has not been unproductive since I last spoke to her. Worthwhile fiction. Check it out.

Friday, June 08, 2007

parking's a bitch, but no one's gonna steal the stereo

I guess when Hummers and Hawgs have devolved to white-collar wimpmobiles, the REAL urban commandos have to kick it up a notch.

Voila: the JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank.

The comments say it all.