A Christmas (card) story

Got lots of Christmas cards this year, which makes me very happy--I love getting them, even though I haven't sent them in a few years (too lazy). And the fact that I keep getting them even though I don't reciprocate just proves how much people love me.

But the one card I look forward to most is the one from RCAS and family, who are creative, funny, and wizards at Photoshop. This year's card arrived yesterday--It's so funny you could poke your eye out with it!

Wondering: Will the baby get a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB rifle with a compass in the stock? Or a pink bunny suit?

Also, to KK: Still waiting for yours, and it better have a picture in it.

Today I hate ...

... American Express.

Have you ever

In your life

Received a credit card bill that shows the past month's interest charges


When you pay a bill and the balance is zero after you pay it (assuming you paid on time), then the next bill should be zero, too.

But no: I paid the bill in full--I mean I paid the total balance showing on my statement--and the next month I get a bill for $42.05. The "recent activity" has just one item: $42.05 in interest. Um, interest on WHAT? My zero balance?

But here's the best part: The minimum balance due is $15.

So if you weren't paying attention, you might keep paying that bill for, oh I don't know, EVER? In fact, even if you paid the bill in full, wouldn't you have the accumulated interest on the interest to pay the next month? How would you ever pay that bill off?

I called them and got an extremely cheery woman who suffered my outrage like a saint. You have to pay your balance off two months in a row, she says, before they stop charging interest (this may be true--but it sure as hell doesn't sound right). "Let me explain how interest works," she tells me.

Let me explain, I said, that I know full well how interest works. Let me explain that American Express has a strong brand name--a company that has a reputation as being customer-centric and trustworthy. How many millions is it spending on its current ad campaign to bolster its image?

At a time where consumers aren't spending as much, it doesn't seem to be very smart to act so scummy. (Yeah, that's the only word I could think to describe it: scummy.)

BTW I thanked her for letting me rant and told her I know it is not personally her fault. But, I said, I wanted her to put two notes on my account: first, that I had been promised that if I paid this interest charge my next bill would have a zero balance and second, that I was very angry and wanted to state for the record that American Express is scummy.

It's a small consolation, but at she promised me she'd do both.

Edit: Apparently I am not alone. Check out this story on (and four pages of reactions from consumers with similar stories) on

I'm such a twit

God help me, I'm twittering now. For work, but still. That makes three social networking sites, an online weekly column, and this blog. And I'm considering Facebook, only because half my family's on there, and most of them don't communicate with me otherwise (unless they're sending me chain e-mails or I see them in person). For an old gen-xer (not that I'm old, but I'm on the high end of the generation x age range) that seems like a lot.

Read more about my first twitter experience here.

Curious: How many online sites do you actively participate in?

What do you see when you turn out the lights?

I phrase I honestly thought I'd never have to utter and a conversation I definitely never wanted to have:

Me: Do you think it's possible that there is poo on the back hallway?

Upstairs neighbor (who is watching his mom's dog): I hope not.

Me: The lightbulb is out so it's dark, but I'm pretty sure it's poo.

The bark collar bites

So I think I might have mentioned a few times that the dog barks. A lot. I took her with me to Jesse and Audrey's wedding--the hotel had dog-friendly rooms--and she barked every time I left the room and didn't stop barking 'till I returned. There are rumours that the hotel paged me at one point. "Gienna Writes: Please return to your room and stop that #&*%!@ dog from barking before we all go $%#*&^@ insane."

Or something to that effect.

I've been putting off getting the bark collar for a long time. Zapping an animal with electricity for doing what comes naturally seems so mean. OK, it's static electricity, like you get if you walk across a wool rug in your socks and touch your finger to someone's nose. So maybe it's not exactly mean. But I don't think it's nice, either.

The final straw was getting dragged out of the bar at the hotel by my uncle Richard, who was trying to sleep in the room across the hall but came to get me after two solid hours of barking. Nothing comes between me and my wine. I finally broke down and ordered the bark collar.

Since it arrived, the dog has never been so well-behaved ... But it has nothing to do with the bark collar.

The minute I put the thing on her she curled up in a ball and went to sleep. This was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. She didn't bark all day. Not once. And Sunday morning she was trotting around the house, playing with her toys, wagging her tail, licking my hand, and basically being adorable. Not one bark passed her little doggy lips.

Well, you buy a $50 bark collar you want to know if it's going to work, right? So, I go outside, shut the door, and knock. Sure enough, the dog starts barking. I'm peeping through the doorway and as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing is happening. I come in, re-read the directions, adjust the collar, and try again. Nothing.

Here's how the collar is supposed to work. At the first bark, the collar beeps and emits a low-level warning zap. If the dog barks again, the static charge gets a little stronger and continues to get stronger the more the dog barks, though it resets itself if the dog barks a certain number of times within 30 seconds. I didn't hear any beep, so I wasn't sure if the collar was working. So I take the collar off the dog and test it on myself to see what will happen.

What happens is I get electrocuted.

OK, not electrocuted, since I'm obviously alive enough to be writing this. But holy crap that was a good little sting. Shocked the hell out of me. And while I'm performing my stupid human trick, the dog noses under the blanket on the couch, snuggles up into a ball, and closes her eyes. And as she fell quietly asleep, I'm pretty sure I saw her lips curl up into a very self-satisfied smirk.