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Two new link categories

I added two new categories to the links section a few days ago. The first one (yeah I know it’s last in the list alphabetically but I added it first) is “ReduceReuseRecycle!” which looks a bit odd but it was the only way the phrase would fit on one line. I was looking for a title that would describe what the category was intended to hold, and that commonly used phrase popped into my head. I don’t know if I had ever stopped to think about what it means before this… it fits well with the first three links I have added:

Reduce – as in reduce your impact on the planet. One good way to do this is to buy used items whenever it is feasible to do so rather than be a part of the treadmill of consumption, and by purchasing used items you are also saving on packaging material (a lot of which just isn’t recyclable) as a bonus. One great way to do this is craigslist. Think of it as a searchable version of that little community bulletin board you used to see in the entrance of stores, with pictures in most cases! There are local lists for most cities.  Craigslist is awesome!

Reuse – lets face it, there are some things that aren’t really worth money any more, or at least not worth the bother of trying to sell them. You just want them gone — but that doesn’t mean they have to go in the trash.  That’s where Freecycle comes in; the Freecycle network is a collection of online groups, by area or city, where people can post things they have to give away, or things they are looking for.  It keeps those items serving a useful purpose and out of the landfill. One person’s trash really is another person’s treasure sometimes, and we’ve had just as much fun giving things away as getting them! It makes you happy to see something that you no longer have a use for make someone else really happy; our favorite freecycle experience so far was probably the little girl that was ecstatic over my rubber spider collection. (Well, getting the rubber spider collection out of the house was probably a cause for celebration for Joy, in itself)

Recycle – sometimes there just isn’t a way to reuse something but a lot of things can at least be recycled, and one of the best resources for finding out what can be recycled is Earth911. Besides the things you would normally think of as recyclable, like cans and bottles, did you know you could also recycle CDs?  Batteries? Through this web site I found a way to recycle the giant mounds of polystyrene foam from my computer installs. There are also links for composting and buying items made of recycled materials. I’ll be posting more recycling links as time goes on but Earth 911 is kind of a master list where you can find most of the others.

I wasn’t sure what to call the second category we added, so I just called it ‘Futurewatch’. This is a collection of the blogs and other sites we regularly read discussing climate change, peak oil, recycling, sustainability, and other topics that impact the world. The news links in our ‘Feed Your Brain’ section have some overlap on that, but this new section contains mostly viewpoints from individuals… Joy found most of them. We’ve got a tab in our iGoogle where we’ve added RSS feeds for each one so we can see when there’s new stuff without having to go to each one and check.  We have learned so much in the past year or so, and the links in this section are where we learned some of the most valuable things.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out the new content since it might not have been noticable; our links section is a few screen-scrolls down on the blog (you can also just click ‘Links’ at the top right, for the complete list on a page by itself). I also wanted to explain what the new categories are. We hope others find these links as useful as they have been for us!

Link: The key determining factor in an election (NSFW)

This is from The Onion. NSFW = “Not safe for work” and this one is not recommended for anyone who would find the word bull$#!+ repeated a few dozen time offensive. It’s pretty hilarious, in that “funny until I stopped and thought about how true it unfortunately is” kind of way…

Every Princess needs her own unicorn


Ninja cat!

This was on Modern Cat this morning. Joy should be pleased that she’s not the only one who plays cat peek-a-boo, though she may still be the only one who ever gave herself a black eye doing it.

I know it must sound like we make this crap up

Here’s the scoop on the latest reason the blog has been crickets-chirping-silent the past little while…

On the heels of the living room flood (the landlord has replaced the roof, he is also replacing the carpet in the living room, and we are NOT moving) came the latest bit of fun and excitement — a 7:30 AM call from VISA fraud protection wanting to verify some $1100 worth of charges, which had been ran up in the previous hour on the credit card number linked to my debit card! I instantly began to (a) digest my own esophagus and (b) blurt out some words for which I had to subsequently apologize to the poor VISA phone rep.

We got the card shut down immediately, and the rest of the day was spent calling the bank, filing a police report, and trying to stop the orders from shipping. You see, you can’t dispute a charge until after it has posted; with this being, as I mentioned, a debit card, once they did post, our checking and savings accounts would be decimated. And the fun would not stop there… all of our bills and utilities are scheduled to autopay, so a cascading chain of angry utility companies and creditors would have been the next result

Besides demonstrating the sad fact that we are apparently a Motorola Razr phone and an iPod from financial ruin, this brought up the question of how the number was compromised to begin with, a question that still remains unanswered.  This also perhaps raises the less relevant question,  ‘holy crap, what kind of freakin’ phone costs $750′? was great; they had already flagged the iPod order as suspicious. Motorola Direct on the other hand said that the order for the aforementioned $750 phone had ‘already processed’ and there was nothing they could do, even though it had not shipped out yet. “Can’t someone just make a call to the warehouse and take the box out of the shipping queue?” I asked, and was informed that it just didn’t work that way. I finally made it clear I was going to make a nuisance of myself until I talked to someone who *could* do something, and got transferred to their consumer advocacy rep who did manage to get the order halted, thankfully. I also had to call iTunes and some internet provider in NJ; the jerk who got the card (Joy says it sounds like the M.O. of a teenage girl) had apparently been pretty busy in that hour.

We still ended up overdrafting our checking the next day (thankfully we have overdraft protection from savings) because even though the charges were not going to come out after all, we didn’t realize the authorizations had the $1100 on ‘hold’ and they would not expire for 3-5 days. We had to use credit for groceries which we really hated doing; we’ve not used credit cards in months and actually just paid off and closed one card last week. I could almost hear someone at Bank of America humming “Reunited” when I swiped the card. I’ve been monitoring all of our accounts for anything weird but so far it looks like a single compromised account number, not a larger identity theft situation.

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a teeny, tiny, issue with OCD… in particular a phobia of losing my wallet. I have to check for it throughout the day, even when I am in the car and have already checked, like, ten minutes before. Yes, on a rational level I know full well that it’s unlikely to jump out of my pocket and escape a moving vehicle,  but hey, who says OCD makes sense? As far as compulsive behavior goes, it’s relatively benign; I am not missing work counting all my socks or anything, right? But I digress… anyway, I have this terrible fear that I will find my wallet missing and someone will Wreak Financial Havoc with it. Obviously, this incident tapped into my biggest phobia: in spite of knowing where my wallet is every second of the day, someone did it anyway — and they didn’t even actually need the wallet to do it. 🙁

I came a little unglued the day this happened, and at first there was maybe some ranting about burying all my money in mason jars and paying for everything in cash and maybe retreating to a compound in Montana. But I actually manage money better when I have Quicken to nag me show me important financial trends. Like when it pops up and says “I see you have been to Asheville Pizza again this week, would you like me to schedule that as a recurring transaction?” …I couldn’t get that kind of passive-aggressive sarcasm from a mason jar. Besides it gets really cold in Montana, I hear.

The real lesson I think that was learned was not to use a debit card for credit transactions. We would not have been liable for the fraudulent charges, our panic was caused by the fact that in the 10-30 days it would take to dispute them, the money would have come out of our checking and savings instead of being charges sitting on a credit account.

As to how it happened… well, the card was never out of my possession (I know this because I check, see ‘wallet OCD’, above) but the number could have been stolen from a hacked online database or copied by an employee or someone else who had access to the records of somewhere we bought something. One of the online retailers said the charge for their online order had originated from Akron, Ohio but that doesn’t ring any immediate bells. I just hope that is the end of it. The authorizations finally came off yesterday and our money is once again ours. We were very, very lucky that it wasn’t worse.