The Week’s Tweets (2010-04-25)

  • Always a mood boost to listen to NPR opera shows-but only because I'm so glad I'm not like the people who host them. #
  • Sutton Stokes, one of the world's foremost practitioners of asides set off by em dashes. #
  • Funny comment on Facebook: Tea Partiers "are out to do away with everything they flunked in school." #
  • My inner amateur detective is chastened to learn fed's erroneous anthrax investigation kicked off by amateur detective. #
  • Funny how people who are-at least in their own minds-creative, original thinkers all comply with the orthodoxy of "artist's statements." #
  • Ohio GOP shocked SHOCKED to learn people find this sexist: "Let's take Betty Sutton out of the House and put her back in the kitchen." #
  • Tea Party a rebellion against GOP? Then why does it want what the GOP wants-tax cuts with no reduction in spending? #
  • U.S. gov. wrongly insisted for years that Hatfill was guilty of anthrax attacks-but don't worry, everyone at GITMO definitely "terrorists." #
  • RT @johncr8on: Assessments will matter when used as a tool to support student goals rather than score an institution. #els2010 #
  • New overnight baby-response schedule reminds me of port/starboard watch sections in the USCG. Ah, memories that I'm too tired to remember. #
  • In honor of Conf. History Month: "Thank [George] for taking the pistol away from you when you were shooting at me." #
  • What is this "NFL draft" thing anyway? #
  • Why on earth does NPR think anyone cares to hear book recommendations from Tina Brown? #
  • More #USAA #fail: my wife has to pay double life ins. premiums bec. 2 lbs "underweight"-after 15 hrs' fasting & height measured in shoes. #
  • Coen is an enhanced interrogation technique. #
  • Any suggestions for a basic PC netbook that can run Word and PowerPoint? #
  • Bizarrely written article makes it almost impossible to understand which video shows what and what's missing. #
  • GOP's definition of "judicial activism": the refusal to reverse GOP legislative defeats. #
  • Oprah will render her verdict after these messages. #
  • Before Oprah can grant Octomom the absolution she seeks, she must shame her. #
  • Oprah's career has now reached its zenith. #
  • Who do I know in Missoula with Mac Boot Camp or similar? Thinking of buying but want to test a very specific scenario first. #
  • Working on shrinking my income so my son can have health insurance! #
  • Trying to remember it is better to be the twig that bends in the wind than the strong branch that snaps off. #
  • I need a cheap/used PC. Only needs to run Word, PowerPoint, Visual Basic, and a web browser. Any ideas? #
  • But really, why should having been a Mob lawyer keep you from elected office? #
  • My latest Went West column is much easier to understand than an EOB from your health insurance company. #
  • Rather than walk the hundred yards to the state capitol, he rides in an SUV, air conditioning on full blast. #
  • Babies get cases of the Mondays? #
  • If you really can't understand/accept the need for gay marriage, I challenge you to read this shocking story: #
  • Cut off the head and the body… won't die? Well, yes, because jihadism is a movement, not an organization. #
  • The financial reform bill "bails out" Wall Street the same way car insurance "bails out" people who've crashed their cars. #
  • Protestors to utilize Obama-granted right to carry guns in national parks as part of protest against Obama. #
  • Coen is basically trying to stand. He can't really stay there, but he gets there. Should we be afraid? #
  • Speaking of speed traps, although not Hungarian ones…. #
  • "I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it." Happy birthday, Mae West! #
  • Easy way to tell if your news sources are lying to you: they call financial reform a "bailout bill". #
  • I wonder if Mitch McConnell's brain ever starts hurting from constantly obfuscating, or if he's just used to it. #
  • Do I know anyone who follows news about Hungarian traffic laws, or who was ever caught in a Hungarian speed trap? #
  • My latest Went West column: Why don't insurance companies care about clear communication? #
  • Translating from the Hungarian-to-English translation. #
  • "A thorough appreciation of literature allows no shortcuts": it's the birthday of the man who invented CliffsNotes. #

How to avoid shark attacks

It’s amusing, somehow, that-among the dozen or so tabs I have open in Safari right now-one contains the lyrics to the Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing” and another a New York Times article about fighting back against the illegal tactics of debt collectors. It’s just a coincidence, of course, but one that might seem telling to the many people who unquestioningly assume that people with debts in collection are simply deadbeats who deserve what they get.

I wonder if there is much overlap between such people and those who think that health care reform is about giving “insurance for nothing” to deadbeats, as opposed to giving everyone an equal right to give their money to a private corporation in exchange for moderate protection from financial disaster resulting from chance and accidents of birth-but I digress.

Just like no one can safely assume that they’ll never be homeless (even the one percent or so of us who have enough in the bank to outlast some months of unemployment, although by using “us” there I don’t mean to imply that I do), having a debt in collection is a circumstance we are all probably much more likely to experience than we might think.

Come to think of it, I experienced it, once-or, at least, a collection agency thought I did. Turns out the real debtor was someone else with a vaguely similar name who had an unpaid bill at some hospital in a state I’d never visited, and it was relatively easy to clear up.

Still, what with the state of the economy and the rampancy of identity theft, even people who make good-faith efforts to discharge their debts could still end up on the receiving end of the kind of threatening, obscenity-laced phone calls that plagued my family when I was in elementary school.

Now, let me hasten to point out that I have no problem with companies seeking out the money that is legally owed them, and boy did my family legally owe some companies some money back then. Nonetheless, there are laws enumerating what debt collectors can and can’t do, and threatening prison and/or levying shocking insults against the family members of people who have fallen on hard times and are struggling to pull their heads back above water aren’t among the former. At various low points of my own, there have been a lot of unpleasant jobs I’ve been willing to work, but debt collection-in which job openings are advertised frequently enough to suggest that it’s both a booming field and one that has difficulty retaining people, and gee, I wonder why-ain’t one of them.

So, partly to aid my own memory when the hammer falls, and partly for your own enjoyment, here’s the article lede, describing a man who seems to take personal pleasure in helping people make debt collectors follow the law, a personality that honestly feels pretty similar to my own.

Among debt collectors, Steven Katz is known as a “credit terrorist.” For years, he has run what he calls the Steven Katz School of Bill Collector Education, otherwise known as the “credit terrorist training camp.”

Mr. Katz, a 58-year-old accountant in suburban Tucson, spends his free time schooling debtors on the finer points of consumer protection law to help them turn the tables on debt collectors. On occasion, he thumbs his own nose at them too.

“How many times can I sue you? Let me count the ways…”

The article offers some practical hints about resisting collection efforts (prime among them: demand proof of the debt, because apparently a lot of times there isn’t any, just a notation that you owe money in a spreadsheet somewhere). But for the real deal, you probably need to visit Katz’s website (“website” as opposed to “Web site” AP-approved, by the way).

For comic relief, I enjoyed reading about this guy, even if this particular bit of color doesn’t exactly help improve the image of the category of people who might also find themselves resisting a collection attempt. Still, you have to draw the line somewhere:

“Mr. Scroggin, who provides price estimates at a body shop, said he was the type of person who refused to be taken advantage of, even for petty offenses. For instance, years ago, he said he joined in the class-action suit against the pop group Milli Vanilli, accused of lip synching, and collected a $1.25 check.”

The Week’s Tweets (2010-04-18)

  • Why not grill pork two nights in a row? #
  • Reporter at small rural paper spends 13 months combing financial data, wins Pulitzer. #
  • "Some of the most important reporting needs to happen in rural places where you don't have powerhouse media outlets." #
  • Tea Party funded by Soviet money? Well, sort of: #
  • Someone please sink the Pea Green Boat! #
  • I think I'm going to enjoy watching Mitt Romney pretend to be a Tea Partier for the next two years. #
  • At the park with a 7 month old. #
  • Yay for CHIP! #
  • "Is there an IQ test you have to fail in order to adopt a pit bull?" #
  • #FF: John Quincy Adams! (@JQAdams_MHS) #
  • First call to Poison Control went well. (Apparently a little Desitin snack is nothing to worry about.) #
  • Has the furor over health care reform distracted us from the real danger? THERE IS FLOURIDE IN THE WATER, PEOPLE! #
  • People still wear herringbone chains? #
  • Tax party. #
  • Do I know anyone with some real skills/deep knowledge concerning health insurance, COBRA, CHIP, and stuff like that? #
  • Oh, great, COBRA doesn't really help you if you move out of state. Sometimes it seems like health insurance might need to be reformed. #
  • The more I watch the Steve Wilkos show, the more I think, "I could do that." #
  • If GOP returns to full power, what will they give us? Another prescription drug benefit … or No Child Left Behind? #
  • If conservatives pay attention to people like Conor Friedersdorf, they just might save themselves yet. #
  • Great to get preapproved by USAA. Sucks that they mistakenly recorded that I make twice as much money as i actually do. #fail #USAA #
  • Massive fail by USAA. I take back every positive thing I've ever said about them. Absolute amateurs. #fail #USAA #
  • So it turns out that you get what you pay for with third-party printer-toner cartridges. #
  • Rubik took a month to solve his own Cube. (I never have.) #
  • "Nothing took place worth noting": Twitter similar to semi-public "pocket diaries" popular in 18th, 19th centuries. #
  • In poll, Tea Party wants to have its tea and drink it too: "I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” #
  • Coen keeps farmer's hours: asleep before sundown, up before dawn for the first milking. #
  • J. Raban: Why aren't people just as upset about "socialized money" (i.e. FDIC-backed banks) as "socialized medicine"? #
  • Oh, wow, Friendster still exists and my profile is still up? #
  • Great lesson that I really need to learn: it's all about what you expose yourself to. #
  • GOP is "against" Wall Street, so it's opposing legislation that Wall Street doesn't want, either. #
  • GOP: "mainstream" SCOTUS nominees = those who agree that health care reform is unconstitutional. #
  • arizona #
  • Guilty secret: when email lists don't have a one-button unsubscribe option, I just mark them as spam and let Gmail run interference instead. #
  • Wondering why diaper-changing tables don't come with restraints. #
  • Before you buy the whole liberals = progressives/therefore fascists argument, try reading up on the actual history: #
  • I wonder why Apple doesn't look at how Firefox works and copy it, so that Safari can you know, work too. #
  • If there is a crappier kind of laptop than a Dell Latitude D630, I hope I never have to use it. #
  • Just subscribed to the ProPublica blog. ("independent, non-profit investigative journalism in the public interest.") #
  • Daughter of anti-anti-discrimination activist comes out of the closet at city council hearing. #
  • If John Edwards's career is over, why does Newt Gingrich still have one? #
  • My latest Went West column: the box is always more fun. #
  • Comments are never the best part: #
  • Missoula house hunters: 2 bdrm on the Westside. Open house 2-4 today! #missoula #realestate #
  • Missoula house hunters: 2 bdrm on the Westside. Open house today! #missoula #realestate #
  • Missoula house hunters: 2 bdrm on the Westside. Open house today! #
  • Out of my hundreds of Gmail contacts, there are exactly two of us doing anything with Google Buzz. #

The Week’s Tweets (2010-04-11)

  • "Russian officials said they assumed the adoptive mother was joking when she asked about their 'return policy.'" #
  • "How to Defeat Someone Made Furious by "How to Defeat a Pit Bull with Your Bare Hands"." #
  • Missoula house-shoppers: open house at my 2-bdrm slice of the good life tomorrow (Sunday), 2-4. #missoula #realestate #
  • Ratzinger personally denied a bishop's petition to defrock a rapist-priest for fear of scandal. #
  • Mark Heyka says "hwhy". #
  • "1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" much better than I expected from the title. #
  • “What audacious criminal, what mystifier, what maniac collector, what insane lover, has committed this abduction?” #
  • Writing is ruining my body. #
  • "It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening." #
  • Party of business competence and acumen: "Young Eagles" pumped GOP for cash, rarely donated any of their own. #
  • Hoda Kotb's job apparently is just to drink all morning on live television. #
  • Thinking that the Wikileaks video is probably just what war looks like. Don't like it? Blame the war, not the soldiers. #
  • Republican governor makes back-room deal to battle back-room-deal-tainted health-care bill: #
  • Blasting George Lewis and gardening. #
  • Yet more evidence that ACORN "buster" James O'Keefe played fast and loose with the truth: #
  • I like the thought of the responding officers attempting to "console" this man. #
  • Looking forward to reduced–price candy, ham, and flowers tomorrow. #
  • House shopping in Missoula? Open house today, 12-2. #missoula #missoularealestate #
  • Is there a holiday this weekend? And is there some new Apple product for sale? #
  • My latest Went West column: What I'm looking forward to about small-town life. #wtcomm @wtcommunities #
  • "[C]orrupt officials and morally absent financiers built a device that converted s*** into billions for Wall Street." #
  • Breaking: president is black. #

My series of essays about moving to a small town

Over at Went West, I’ve been relentlessly analyzing and parsing every imaginable aspect of our upcoming move from Missoula to Elkins, West Virginia. Here’s what the series is looking like so far:

The Week’s Tweets (2010-04-04)

  • These are the TSA's "new" screening protocols? What were we, just guessing before? #
  • I need a tool belt with a baby holster. #
  • You with the loud pipes: everyone thinks you're a tool, but the guy trying to walk his baby to sleep? He actively hates you. #
  • Dubious about the absurdly G-rated explanation of the origins of "in like Flynn" on today's "Christy the Wordsmith." #
  • Can we stop using the "woman enough" analogue to "man enough" and just switch to using "adult enough" for everyone? #
  • Does anyone have a completely empty room where I can spend the day with my octopus-armed seven-month-old? #
  • Remembering J.F. terHorst, a public official with strong enough principles to resign over them. #
  • Indeed: "I come here and watch the traffic. I thought I had problems, but look at these poor people." #
  • Epidemic of "mean girls"? Nope. The middle-aged are out of control, though: #
  • If someone is going to call business owners "job creators," shouldn't they have to call employees "profit creators"? #
  • "The last pope to step down from the post was Gregory XII, in 1415." (So don't hold your breath.) #
  • In the living room, this is Petty Officer Stokes. I have the deck, conn, and baby. Make all reports to me. #
  • Want to live across the street from a park with splash play and playground? Then buy my house. #missoula #
  • Loving Carbon Copy Cloner for backing up my MacBook (10.4, so no Time Machine). I have tested to confirm that I now have a bootable clone! #
  • Looking forward to when doctors routinely install USB port in newborns' heads for sleep controller interface. NO IDEA it was this hard. #
  • Freelance writers and editors, check out the valuable services offered by The Writer's Bridge (I'm a member). #
  • "Why should I and [the] noble Lords trust the Executive to deal with mice when they cannot deal with the economy?" #
  • Work in downtown Missoula? Buy my house, and you can walk to work in 15 minutes. #
  • Wow, it's illegal to voice your religious convictions on the streets of Scotland? #
  • How to defeat a pit bull with your bare hands. (Yes, I only found this because I was looking for Savage Love.) #
  • "Never let yummy little kids anywhere near unleashed pit bulls." #
  • Can anyone explain Ross Douthat to me? #
  • "Globish": a highly simplified but still comprehensible form of English without grammar or structure. #
  • "First article about Twitter that references Wordsworth, Hammurabi, and Greek mythology": #
  • Berube, contra Chomsky: "crucial …not to normalize [U.S. torture] by saying … nothing new to see here. " #
  • Sarkozy: "Welcome to the club of states who don't turn their back on the sick and the poor." #
  • Forget ideal outcomes, be realistic about how politics will warp a policy and build more resilient reforms. h #
  • Disappointed to learn that an advertised "ghost blogger" position would not involve blogging about actual ghosts. #
  • Corn syrup is to corn as cocaine is to coca? #
  • Apparently there is some technical sense in which the world did not know Ricky Martin was gay until today. #
  • Thanks @aaronwatkins and @westoftheloop for kind words about my latest Went West column on living far from family. #
  • One year after jettisoning my old backup solution (Mozy), I'm finally implementing a new one. #
  • My latest Went West column considers why so many of us are willing to move so far away from home. #wtcomm #