The Sunday rebate postmark

One of my latest deals was a free-after-rebate version of our antivirus software, which expired a week or so ago. It’s actually two rebates and I left it on my desk for awhile. Day 29 of 30 arrived and I sat down to process my rebate. But oh no! It’s Saturday after the post office is closed! I need a postmark by Sunday to qualify. Dang, $45 lost. Or is it?

I checked out Stamps.com to see if I could print postage. They keep advertising their deal (‘free’ if you pay shipping for their postal scale which hooks up to your computer, plus $25 in postage credits over three months, and no monthly charge the first 30 days), but their FAQ made it sound like you HAD to have the scale to use the service. I just needed to mail first class letters, not weigh packages. I decided to give it a shot and what do you know, I printed a lovely couple of Sunday-postmarked envelopes. The first $5 of postage is free with the trial (and I didn’t have to order the scale) so I didn’t even pay to send these.

The software downloaded and installed easily, was intuitive, had helpful pop-up messages to get me started (I skipped the demos and webinars), and it helped me easily configure and test my printer without wasting postage first. It also automatically posted a Monday date on the sample view, but I told it I wanted the current Sunday date. It gave me a warning but still let me do it. (It does not let you backdate before the current date, though I didn’t fiddle with the PC clock or anything to see if that would work.) The software also appears to have a way to deal with printer mishaps so you don’t lose postage if the envelope jams, but I didn’t have to explore that feature.

The downside is that this service costs about $18 per month, so I’ll have to cancel in a couple of weeks during the trial period. I wouldn’t mind reloading my postage account with a credit card and just printing from home on a regular basis, so I wish they offered a fee-free service like that. They apparently discount some postage as part of the service (I guess because the barcodes are already on the mail and that saves the physical post office time), so a free or very cheap service without postage discounts would be nice.

Well, at least I’ll get these rebates out the door. I might get unlucky and the post office will re-postmark my stuff and then the rebate people will reject me, but it was worth a try. Since I barely use a book of stamps in a year (hooray online bill pay), the paid service just won’t do me any good.

Swamped

Holy moly I have a lot of work to do this week. How come everyone else went on vacation?

Nicole and I will have to do more study halls. It’s easier to focus on working from home when someone else suffers with ya.

Thanks for informing me that my mailbox is over its size limit

Several years ago we discovered a reasonable way to manage work and stay caught up was to be ‘in the window.’ Our email has to fit on one screen in our mail program. The last time I was in the window was about three and a half years ago. I’m also at 172% of my allotted email space in the system. Go me!

Someone egged our house this weekend. It was about 90 degrees so it pretty much baked right to the porch. Fun neighborhood! I can’t help but think it has something to do with the punk kid next door. Usually his Rott jumps the fence and tears up our trash but unless the dog grew thumbs, someone else has it out for us. I was mad the other day that they let the dog (I assume it was theirs–high probability given the number of times I’ve seen him standing in our yard) leave a steaming pile in our front yard and they sat on the porch and did nothing about it. So I mowed over it and they had to smell it. Eggs may be payback?

Just got a ‘good job’ email from my manager to my boss. At least someone notices I’m trying to get a few things done. And today was nacho bar!

www.nataliedee.com
www.nataliedee.com

The list

I struggle constantly with The List running through my head: all the crap I should do. I keep written lists sometimes and then got excited when Google came up with a notes-tracking application, except my stupid work computer has an old browser which I cannot upgrade and therefore I can’t use that application except at home (nor see much flash, nor load a lot of pages, nor get the computer going in less than six minutes–but that’s more a RAM problem I think).

So I signed up for Evernote, but so far haven’t really done much with it. I would rather have a quick link from my Gmail. Is there some other application that would be better? Actually I think once I (probably) get that iPhone I’ll solve my always-available-paperless-to-do-list problem quickly, perhaps then with Evernote.

Anyway my ambitious self thinks I should do all this crap. And in the late afternoon when I want to leave work but have more work to do, I keep thinking how much stuff I’ll do when I get home. By the time I get home I’m just tired and cranky and downright lazy. I need to figure out what legal drug could get me zippy and productive in the evening but still allow me to sleep! Or something. I will say melatonin before bed has been helpful to regulate my sleep more. I get sleepy faster and it’s a whole lot easier to get out of bed in the morning–maybe that’s the miracle that will ultimately get more things off my List!

A sampling so I can feel accountable:

bond Arliss and Waldo somebody (Waldo was adopted!)
finish reorganizing and cleaning bunny room
clean pig cage
scrape brick David did it!
change Jetta headlight AGAIN
clean car
get grids, get and plant hostas from Dawn
paint front porch trim
repot mint plants
mulching
medicate Vegas (re-vet Vegas’ sneeze? and Harrison’s limp? pigs need vetting too)
more dog walking, cycling, and running
haircut
meal planning
more cooking/less eating out
pick up rain barrel at KIB
call cable company to yell about the latest price hike
iPhone purchase
TV shopping
path forward: Tivo vs DVR/other source
refill Casper’s meds
update Casper’s microchip
rehab front porch mess
canoeing
iTunes from old computer
finish video edit
desk cleanoff
laundry room reorg
de-fridge the basement
continue decluttering at home
ditch financial adviser/meet w/new one
mail passport renewal
respond to old email
send Father’s Day gift to Dad
organize recipes (still looking for advice on that) I just went with a binder with tabs for now. My elegant electronic version will have to wait
go through clothes for Goodwill
dust/vacuum hooray for paying a friend to clean!

I noticed a couple of these were still there from the list I made last year

There’s an equally long list at work, one which stresses me even more.

Earthlink update! Remember how my email stopped working in December and they were able to hang up on me but not fix the problem? This week I got an overdue bill and they threatened collections! LOL. No worries, all resolved now. And I’m happy to report they never actually got a dime from me. I hope I wasted their server space and CSR time. Navigating their phone tree was enough to make me furious all over again.

Shall I become an iPhone adoptee?

I have AT&T cell service. I actually like it, or rather, I have no problems with it and it’s pretty cheap since I don’t have many minutes or services, I get a discount from work, and I have tons of rollover minutes. I didn’t like Verizon much but that was several years ago so I don’t really have recent data. David likes Sprint. All I know is I HATE my cable provider (Brighthouse) and I’m about ready to unplug the TVs.

Also I just sold my house and made my last car payment so I have a little more cash around.

Ok, so there’s a new iPhone coming out and it’s really not that expensive since I can do an upgrade, plus the older models are pretty cheap now. I’ve been thinking my next phone would be an iPhone or Blackberry or equivalent, mostly because dang it I need to check the weather and maps and stuff when I’m out and about. I turned off the internet abilities on my current cell phone because the stupid button was too easy to press accidentally and I kept getting charged when I didn’t even get online. And of course it’s hard to surf on a more traditional cell phone (even David’s smartphone is a PITA since there’s no touchscreen and no trackball). What’s kind of dumb is that I bought my phone based on cnet.com reviews because it’s so good at mp3s and was overall highly rated on its features, but I haven’t played a single song on it nor do I do anything but make calls and take pictures!

I want to take pictures and send them to Facebook or my blog (right now I have to remove the battery and put the microSD card in an adapter and all that crap so anything will be better…but to be fair I never learned how I could Bluetooth it), check email and random stuff online, and I guess I should probably start texting. I can see how it would be convenient. I also know the next rate plan will be much more expensive, and I’m free to do whatever since I’m out of contract right now. But is there another product that is just as good? Should I wait until my phone really dies? I guess as long as I like it and I don’t feel like I got hosed I’ll be happy on an iPhone like anyone else.

My phone is a little over two years old and is starting to turn itself off randomly. I can deal with it, but with the iPhone release and some online deals, I’m thinking I might switch sooner. My friends with iPhones love them and the apps seem really cool, but alas I haven’t been keeping up with the hype so I don’t know what size phone to get (I don’t think I’ll be storing much data, but are there other considerations?), what the actual charges are going to be for a data plan (interestingly hard to get that info from AT&T’s site), how much apps are and what that means for using my satellite radio with it, what ‘unlocked’ really means and should I care, if I can use a cashback deal and how that works since I’m already a customer, can I buy it online in the first place, will I be able to dial one-handed in the car w/o looking at the phone (best part of having actual number buttons, right? but I think it does voice recognition now), can I use my Bluetooth headpiece with it, and what pitfalls to avoid in general. I know better than to wander into a store and just sign up without learning a few things online first.

So basically: is there a catch-up site where I can read a FAQ and learn what I need to know about all that is iPhone? Otherwise I’m calling Carlton. 🙂

Lack of insight

Unabashedly data-driven, I try to out-think surveys and big-picture what you’re asking me before you finish the question. But send me to a teambuilding exercise and I must summon all my inner strength, rationing my energy to last through the workshop and not poke my eyes out. I am blue, according to this course, and the people who create these courses and make me go to them are NOT.

I have been to other workshops in the past, most more painful than this one, and I attribute the lessened pain to the fact that while I’m an introvert, I’ve developed skills over the years to help me work pretty well with people. (Also, this event happened with a team I’ve been a part of for several years and we already get along pretty well, plus most of us are blue, so there weren’t any big surprises…but then it wasn’t as effective either and I think a lot of us were frustrated with missing a day of work.) The problem with personality-analyzing teambuilding classes, for me, is that it exposes how incompetent I am naturally (at least that’s how I tend to read my personality assessments) and makes me doubt all the confidence boosts I’ve had as I’ve seen my skills grow. Basically, team building takes me back a few steps. I was physically drained for hours after this event as well.

The good information from these exercises is learning what helps me work effectively, what things I can work on, and acknowledging what drives me nuts. But most of that I’ve already figured out (analyzing data, after all) and once you get a grasp of your general assessment (INTJ or blue, specifically Coordinating Observer, or CIR or whatever you want to call it in my case), you don’t really need to rehash it, and you especially don’t want to do it in a group with a lot of flip charts or *shudder* roleplaying.

A few highlights of my expensive assessment:
-I am motivated by avoiding frequent meetings, an internal desire “to do the right thing in the right way,” a job well done, and “systems” related tasks.
-I may benefit from relaxing mentally and not trying to out-think everyone, practicing initiating conversation (particularly small talk) with strangers, and an awareness of when I am acting defensively or cynically.
-Key strengths: open minded, objectivity, good memory for details (no shit!), pragmatic/rational thinker, responsible/methodical and work well with figures and procedures (also no shit!).
-Possible (more like confirmed) weaknesses: I don’t respond well to uncertainty, my modesty and reticence prevents timely interventions, I require extra time to complete tasks, I can appear too unemotional or uninvolved.
-Value to the team: I have a strong sense of duty and take my work seriously, I handle complexity well, and I carefully assess situations before acting.
-To communicate with me, accept that “reflecting time” is essential to enhance my performance, ask my opinions of other systems and projects, respect my values and principles, and give me plenty of time to think through answers to your questions.
-DO NOT be too loud and hearty, implement change for change’s sake, or comment on my appearance (this made me laugh but is pretty true!).
-I also found it funny that management should help me tolerate colleagues less gifted than myself.

Basically I need to know WHY WHY WHY and THINK ABOUT THE DATA FOREVER. And then if it’s complex enough and I’m interested enough, I’ll do an awesome job solving your problem. But it will take me forever to make a decision about it.

There’s also a section on Living on Purpose, and the first sentence is “Amy may be rather dubious about the whole principle of goal-setting.” Seriously. It says I process the data and adjust as I go and that’s very true. It also notes that I may take home the worries of the day. Wow, if I could control that better, I’d get a lot more done and feel a lot less guilty. And maybe I wouldn’t feel chained to my pager.

At the end of the whole thing it turns out that while I’m only expressing 3% yellow (my opposite color, basically the inspiring sunshiney people-people), and I’m expressing 96% blue, I’m not even in the most severe blue part of the charts and I’m quite well balanced with 69% green expression (the ‘supporters’) and even 37% expressed red (the ‘directors,’ like many people in supervision). So while red people scare me, this helps me deal with my boss better and I have some sense of how she thinks, and while yellow people make me bonkers, there aren’t any in my department so I guess I don’t need to worry about it right now!

Ok, thanks for letting me analyze that data. Since it’s processed and will be remembered forever I can move on to the next thing.

How we don’t save money

Today on the phone.
David: I bought you a present!
Me: Ok…
D: I paid too much for it, which you’ll hate, but it’s really awesome and you’ll like it.

A few hours later…
D: Your present arrives in two days!
Me: Am I going to think it’s useful?
D: Yes!
Me: You said I’d be mad that you paid too much. That means it’s probably $100-$150 and you should have paid $75 or less.
D: Wow, you’re good.

Twenty questions ensues, not because I like to spoil surprises but because sometimes his surprises aren’t exactly what everyone wanted and I feel terrible about wasting money. Usually it’s something he wants and thinks you should have and he finds a way to tie it into something you did say you wanted. For example, after I bought him a big TV he bought me an HD TiVo that is 98% filled with his programs now, and then he bought me a huge hard drive to upgrade that TiVo to store more stuff, but it was commandeered for another project altogether. I also figured out tonight that our cable/TiVo bill is about 20% of the monthly mortgage so my financial heart was breaking before we discussed the surprise.

The things the present is not: sod, windows, rain barrel, sump pump, refrigerator or freezer (there’s another story there), compost bin, kitchen cabinet doors, basement bathroom sink, key fobs to set house alarm remotely, dog poop scoop service. I discovered it was utilitarian and for outdoors. I figured out it was a hose reel.

D: A bronze hose reel with brass connectors!
Me: Where does it go?
D: On the side of the house, so you can take the hose to water flowers in the front or back yard.
Me: Isn’t someone going to steal it? (Someone stole our aluminum downspouts off the garage.) You’re going to use it to water tomatoes in the back yard too?

Here’s what we had talked about last week: the tomatoes get planted next to a spigot in the backyard and I expressed a wish to not leave that hose lying in the yard where it kills the grass and makes it hard to mow, not to mention the dog poop usually in the area getting on the hose. I said I was going to bring my giant hose hook thing from my old house to this spot. Also note there is a key-locked gate between the backyard w/tomatoes and the side of the house where the fancy new hose reel goes.

D: No, I’ll just use the hose that’s back there.
Me: Could this hose reel go back there instead?
D: No, it’s a parallel feed, and we would need to get the perpendicular model for the backyard hose.

After as careful a letdown as I could manage–I mean he was excited to buy me a hose reel, and everyone knows I LOVE utilitarian gifts when they are the right gifts–I explained I’ve never used a hose at the side of the house. I fill the watering can directly from the spigot. And once I get a rain barrel, which I tried to buy this week, I will fill the watering can from that.

Me: But I really want a good watering can!

This is true. I spent half of last summer searching for a new watering can. My old sturdy plastic one is cracked and leaks through the duct tape holding it together. I never found a can I liked and most online cans were too expensive, so I didn’t buy one. I resorted to using five-gallon buckets to water flowers last fall.

Result: David tried to change the order to the perpendicular hose reel so he could enjoy the acquisition by the tomatoes. We tried to find me a watering can online, which he was going to buy for me instead, but I ended up buying it and he says he’ll get dinner or something. The watering can was $24.95 (pretty good considering many pretty ones were $75 but this one was almost perfect from a functional standpoint), but the stupid company charges $9.90 for “Handling and home delivery” which is B.S. 40% of the order for shipping!?! I almost didn’t buy it (and this might be why I didn’t buy it last year), but I found an online code for $6 off with a $25 order. Of course my order was five cents short to qualify. So I bought a 10 pack of biodegradable leaf bags on sale, and in the end the shipping was the same and I spent more than if I’d just bought the stupid can. But I have been looking for a more environmentally friendly way to store recyclables like odd plastics that have to go to a special facility and this seemed like a solution.

wcan

See how that worked? He still spent over $100 on a hose reel and I spent almost forty bucks on a watering can and a filler item. And I still don’t have a rain barrel, but I do have a homeless hose hook.

Now for the old freezer he brought home from his mom’s tonight that he wants to put in the basement, where we have no space and it will make the electric bill go up… This in response to my already agreeing to purchase a new Energy Star fridge but he has to remodel the pantry area first so it will fit. The new fridge is supposed to solve the small-freezer problem we currently have. If that old freezer goes in the basement, I fear it will never leave.

Stranded

Yesterday I stopped my car at a four-way stop and it died. And it wouldn’t restart. Eventually a guy in a pickup failed at jumping it, so he and some other dudes pushed it into a McDonald’s parking lot where I salivated over McNugget smells and waited for my knight in a big red truck to save me.

Except while he was able to successfully get my car started, soon he was doing this to his own steed.
fixford

While I waited I read this helpful note in his door jamb. You know, in case we were going to put any patients in the bed on the way home.
fordamb

So that evening was shot, but at least vehicle #3 worked and we used it to get a new battery for my first car and a pizza. And then fought over who got to drive it to work today.

This morning Harry ate his stick while sitting on my Coroplast baseboard protector. Now I know how all the toys and hay and twigs are getting back there.
harrystick

Team Linda

Linda is my good friend Dawn’s mom. She’s a retired nurse and has been battling breast cancer the last few months. The short story here is I’m joining Team Linda at the Indy Komen Race for the Cure on April 18. You can help us meet our fundraising goal by donating to my fundraising (or to Linda or anyone else on the team!) here

Joining the team as a runner, walker, or sleep-inner ends tomorrow (March 20), but you can still donate to the team fundraising until April 4! Team Linda did achieve more than 20 members so now we need to reach our goal of $2000–we’re more than halfway there!

Here’s what Dawn recently sent us about her mom and the event and what it does for people right here in our community.

Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2008 shortly after moving Anne back to school. Mom’s diagnostic testing revealed a unifocal lesion which had spread into her axilary lymph node. Mom made the decision for the best possible outcome: chemotherapy first, followed by surgery, followed by radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy (aka chemical warfare) started in late September, a biweekly regimen, ending on January 2, 2009. The same diagnostic testing performed after treatment revealed the chemotherapy was successful, neither the tumor nor lymph node produced a signal. Surgery for tumor removal and lymph node resection was scheduled for Friday, January 30, 2009. Unfortunately Mom’s margains were not clean and she had to have a second surgery on February 13, 2009 where her margains were clean! Mom and Dad returned to Arizona on February 21, 2009 where she will begin radiation treatments daily for 4-6 weeks the end of this week! Fueled by her strong faith, Mom’s indomitable spirit has been truly an inspiration.

Rob and I formed a “Race for the Cure” Team in Mom’s honor for her Christmas present. The team will raise money to fund local breast cancer education and outreach programs for underserved women in Central Indiana, where Mom’s diagnosis and treatment occurred. We need 20 participants to be an official team.

To join “Team Linda,” go to the Team page on the Komen website:

http://race.komenindy.org/site/TR/Race/General?pg=team&fr_id=1060&team_id=26570

*To register to walk (1K) or run (5K), Click Join Team, super achievers can even pay extra to be timed

*To make a donation, Click Support Team Linda over the thermometer-looking graphic that tracks fundraising progress

*To sponsor a participant on Team Linda, Click on a team participant (or Mom herself!)

When you register, you will have your own race page where friends and family can sponsor you. Please feel forward to forward this post to others you think may be interested in participating.

I attended a Team Captain meeting on January 10th and was astonished to discover since the Komen Foundation was formed in 1994, the five year survival rate for breast cancer has increased from 74% to 99%. This is primarily driven by education and breast cancer screening, resulting in early detection. Underserved women, however, have a much poorer outcome than their counterparts with health insurance. The Komen Foundation provides underserved women access to important breast health services to eventually reverse this trend. I found out at the Team Captain meeting that Central Indiana has more requests for grants than they have available funds, which is very tragic.

One question I was asked today, where do the funds go:

http://www.komenindy.org/new.asp?p=27

“Of the net proceeds from the Race, 75% will stay in Central Indiana to fund screenings and follow-up care for underserved women. The proceeds will also help provide education about breast health and early detection as well as education and outreach programs specifically about breast cancer. For a complete list of those organizations currently receiving Komen grant funds, visit the Grants page. The remaining 25% helps fund the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Program. Organizations interested in providing or currently providing breast health services in Indiana are encouraged to call 317.638.CURE for grant application information.”

Rob and I look forward to seeing everyone we can on April 18th for the Race!

Dawn

Thanks for your support!
My race page

Today at work

1. Had to argue with someone that a pH meter couldn’t go to 20.

2. Another department, we’ll say A, took some of our workload (hooray, and we’ll be B) a few months ago by doing one of those grandiose automation projects that is supposed to give faster results but costs a lot to implement, and then they had unintended consequences that were way worse than waiting a couple hours for results from our Dept B, so we have to take the work back (boo). The process to get the work back, though, is a moderate red tape extravaganza, and we asked Dept A to put a few sentences in their document so we wouldn’t have to repeat all the red tape in our own document to support this change. Oh and we have about four days to make all this happen. (Nothing happens in four days around here.)

Everyone on board, things are cool yesterday, moving along… then today someone in Dept A freaks out about what was previously cool just 24 hours ago. Honestly, I still don’t understand what the problem was. I try to calm the parties and thought we came to an agreement after I suggested a simple but brilliant solution (wordsmithing is like lube). Then I get a page that says “Person in your dept B says they’ll just do their own document after all so we’re removing part of your content from ours.” I call back and say “well, if Person B is ok with it, I guess I’ll go along with that…” Then person A calls THAT person B and tell them _I_ said to do this document change ourselves! Then they go tell everyone else that this person B and I agreed this was the path forward! Dang, how third grade can you get? In the end it’s just more red tape and B will be delayed in taking A’s work back, so way to save some time and money. We were played.

Note that the person who runs Dept A seems to hold a grudge against me (and my Dept B) and caused all SORTS of trouble by going behind our backs to our bosses right after agreeing to our faces about a conflict that he created and was not any of his business just about two weeks ago.

3. Realtor emails, wants to do an open house THIS SUNDAY but asks me about it today. As it is I’m barely getting any sleep due to giant projects at work and I just didn’t want to go reclean another house right now.

4. I was yelled at in an email (copied to four other people, of course) for not approving a procedure that isn’t even out for my approval. I rejected it two weeks ago and it got stuck in the computer system at some point after that.

5. Big software changes are scheduled for this weekend for a system in which I’m an expert. Coordinated with these changes are user access changes, but some of them went active prematurely and now my peers lost their ability to do their work and I have to go do it. I came to terms with this new development that should only last a few days but could get hairy occasionally.

I come to my desk to find an email titled, “Software HELP!!!!!!” and then IM says
Person Q [3:11 PM]:
You there?
Person Q [3:15 PM]:
Did you get my email?
Amy [3:29 PM]:
just got back, been runnign around
Amy [3:29 PM]:
I will do them now
Person Q [3:29 PM]:
Thanks – no real rush
Amy [3:29 PM]:
except for all the !!!! after your HELP message lol
Person Q [3:32 PM]:
I panicked at first – I ve cooled since
Person Q [3:33 PM]:
Thanks again

6. Why is it that people still schedule me into meetings on days I have blocked in my calendar for all-day forums?

I also managed to squeeze in two department meetings, an oh-shit-this-is-due-at-noon meeting, an optional meeting to give myself a reality check on the software changes, and about eight trips to the lab, not to mention the preemptive emails pleading with folks to help us finish a project and I signed five protocols. I admit that I skipped the 8 a.m. conference call; something had to give. Now back to my other 13 documents awaiting the red pen. How did it get to be after five already and I haven’t gotten any real work done?