Extremely Bad Advice – Parental Finances

Dear SJ: I learned recently that my mother’s retirement funds are gone. She has been scammed by the home health agency she hired a few years ago. Apparently they got her to sign a financial power of attorney form, authorizing one of their company employees to make withdrawals from her accounts. They drained over $200,000 in just the past 6 months. The employee posted Instagram and Facebook pictures from her trips to Cancun and Ireland, which I’m certain were taken with Mom’s money. (When I confronted her, she said “Prove it”. Ugh!) Not only retirement – that was supposed to be my inheritance!

I asked a lawyer, and he said that the forms are legit. Police can’t do anything. Better Business Bureau doesn’t really care about these small businesses – they sent my mom a flyer called “How to Avoid Senior Catfishing” after all the money was gone. What should I do? FRUSTRATED WITH FINANCES

 

Dear FRUSTRATED,

All right, I’m going to do the hard work that nobody before you has cared enough to do. Frankly, I don’t really care about you or your crusty, “she-had-it-coming” mom, either, but I do get a bit of a chubby when thinking about people respecting my brain, so I keep doing it.

Here’s the deal: you’re the one at fault here. If your mom had 200k in liquid assets that this flimsy mooch could access at the stroke of a pen, that’s a big black mark on your abilities as a responsible child. I mean, what intelligent, forward-looking heir leaves an aging, senile, incontinent grandmother in charge of her own money? Old broads like that should have a debit card with like a hundred and fifty deposited every week, just enough for a half-dozen cups of coffee and a couple of bowls of “medicinal” marijuana down at the VA. Access to any more than that is just stupid. Why? Well, I think the fact that you’re asking me this question should be Prosecution’s Exhibit #1.

Anyway. Too late to get that back now. Money’s spent, tan’s faded, hangover’s dissipated, the Irish bartender has returned to folding towels instead of folding his lips over some sweet health care aide’s nips. Sucks to be you, because for 200 large you should have at least gotten to watch.

But – you want to get something for your efforts, don’t you? Warning: you’re gonna have to play the long game on this one.

First, you have to find a dirty insurance agent. One that will allow your mother to buy a huge policy on herself at such an advanced age. You’re gonna need about a half a million, to do 2 things.

You’re replacing the 200k that should have been your inheritance, and you’re covering her living costs while she stays with you over the next two years. Yes, this has to happen. Suck it up and deal with it.

You are probably going to have to second mortgage the house in order to make the premium payments while this is going on. Ask the agent if you can gross up the policy to cover this amount, too. If he’s as dirty as I think he is, he’ll be all over it, because, remember, more premium = more commission!

Then, all you have to do then is wait out those 2 years. That’s the usual length of a suicide exclusion. And when time’s up? Make sure you get a “terminal illness” rider early withdrawal approved by your doctor, who should also be on the take already. Then you can use that money to pay for some fake test results to convince her she’s got cancer, or liver disease, or some kind of “heavy metal poisoning” that’s gonna just leave her bedridden and shitting herself on the daily. Then all you have to do is offer her a chance to do the right thing, go out “on her terms”, and call the good doctor for one last ‘script.

And if she doesn’t? Remember, county medical examiners don’t really know how to distinguish “suffocated under a pillow” from “died peacefully while sleeping”, anyway. I’ve seen the handbook, they’re not that competent.

Hopefully some of my other readers take a lesson from your imbecility and start their financial planning a hell of a lot sooner. Best of luck, I hope never to hear from you again.

Writing Practice – 3/27/2018

(Today’ s writing practice session did not begin with a prompt. I simply started to write.)

To start a writing practice session, I always do two things, though not always in the same order. I review the Rules for Writing Practice – keep your hand moving, don’t think, don’t get logical, lose control, go for the jugular. And I imagine myself inside my own brain, a flat bottom and a half-oblong dome above me, grey, and I have a paint roller in my hand. I dip it into a bucket of white paint and use that to cover the inside of my a brain with whiteness, blankness, cleanness, renewal, readiness for the experience of writing. Once all of the surface has been covered, strip, strip, along the bottom – working my way from the middle, next, next, next, out to the edge, along a Mohawk strip on the top, next, next, clear around to the curve to the edge, when it meets the floor, painting, covering, all in white a canvas, in preparation.

Then I am ready to write. To burn through to first thoughts. To offer myself to my Muse, wherever he is that day, if He will choose to show up or not, if he will deign to stoop down and place a soft, reassuring touch on my shoulder, if he will whisper, warm, tickling breath in my ear, “Yes, go, get that, follow that thought, chase it, don’t let it escape, pursue, continue, persist, never, ever, ever let go, find it, fight it, kill it, master it, turn it, transform it, tame it, succumb it to your power, to your authority, to your will, do not relent, do not release, do not avoid when the subject turns delicate, or embarrassing, or insecure, for you are to know that you are the one in control, you are the one from whom all these blessings flow, you are the god in this world, this world you have created, this universe at the tip of your pen, you are the Alpha and the Omega, what you bring about here shall live in mythology and archaeology and your subjects’ anthropologies for as long as they exist, for you are a deity far above all others, you have the power to build up, to tear down, to keep, to preserve, to destroy, to eliminate, to mould and fashion and to remake and to evolve, you are the thing in this world that all other things are subject to, and so therefore with such great authority comes great responsibility, an awareness of self, an introspection of your power, your ability, your authority, and your standing in this world, that world, that experience, you have power and authority, yes, so choose wisely, choose judiciously, make with circumspection and introspection and valor and virtue, for what you make, what you destroy, what you build and what you tear down become your legacy, your history, to the universe above you, the god who sits judging you for your godhood shall weigh your actions, your perseverance, your perversity or magnanimity and he, she it, they too shall judge, with the same measure as which you used to judge, so take care, be wise, be well, and do good work.”

Extremely Bad Advice – Office Interactions

Dear SJ:

My boss at work has been giving me a hard time about a new hire recently. I was assigned to be her mentor and “show her the ropes”. Since I’m a thirty-something married man, I’ve tried to keep my distance from the young, naïve, pretty little girl who could almost be my daughter. But my boss keeps insisting I spend more time with her outside of the office, to “build rapport”. I think it’s dangerous; especially since she has hinted that maybe she doesn’t have the best of morals. One time she let slip that she would “do anything” to get ahead in this company. And she admitted to me that she cheated on some tests and bought essays instead of writing them herself so she could get better grades. Oh, and another thing – my boss is another guy even older than me, and I suspect that he might have hired her simply for her looks. What do I do? Should I approach HR? Call out the boss? Just go with it?

HESITANT HARRY

Dear HESITANT,

I don’t get it. I mean, I really don’t. You’ve got a young, attractive girl practically throwing herself at you, you’ve got your boss’s approval, and you’ve got permission from HR to get close to her. Yet you haven’t yet gone for it. Why not?

You know HR isn’t really bothered by this kind of thing. Why else would they assign you to be her “mentor”? Everyone who’s anyone knows that “mentor” is just code-speak for “hit your quarterly sales and profit goals and you can do whatever the hell you want.” Including banging in the office. Especially banging in the office. Happy employees are productive employees, am I right?

I know it’s on your mind, since your letter concluded with “Just go with it?” I mean, if you were serious about not having sex with this girl, you’d have asked me, “How do I say no? I don’t want to cheat.” But, clearly, that’s not your angle. So we’re working under the following assumptions.

One: she’s DTF. Two: you’re DTF. Three: Your boss is down with you making the beast with two backs. Hell, he’s practically throwing her at you, encouraging you to “build rapport”. You’re going to have to get over whatever performance anxiety or antiquated guilt trip still holding you back in order for this to happen. Unfortunately I can’t be there to smack you upside the head and knock this kind of sense into you. You’re just going to have to man up on your own and decide to do this thing, for your own good, for her good, for your boss’s good, and for your company’s bottom line.

So here’s what you do.

Start with an early “performance review”. This should happen, ideally, on a Thursday afternoon, after most of the work is done for the day. [Why Thursday? Because I want another story to get me excited when I open up my e-mail on Friday.] When she comes in to your office, make sure you’re sitting behind your desk with your pants pulled down. You don’t have to be spanking it or anything, but it would be good if you had a hand in your underwear.

Mention how good she looks. Be specific – don’t just say, “You look nice,” use a direct compliment. “Your blouse really makes your eyes sparkle,” or some other drivel that women love to convince themselves is true and not just an inroad to her panties. Tell her, “Here in the office, things have been going good, but I think they can go better, don’t you think?” And use your eyes to indicate your crotch. Based on her reaction, you can decide whether the banging happens on your desk or in the bathroom at the local dive bar. If she starts touching herself and complimenting you, it’s on like Donkey Kong. If she is a little bit shy, that just means you’ll have to “take the meeting offsite” and call your cousin Jagermeister to wingman for you.

And as this is corporate America, they like to have documentation of everything. Make sure to wear your Google Glass and get some POV videos for your boss. Like you said, chances are good that he hired her for her looks and her willingness to sleep her way to the top. So you’ll need to have adequate evidence for your official written review coming later. Best would be if you save the condom too as evidence of your participation – they’re going to want to match the semen and the vaginal secretions later to make sure she’s not conspiring with a competitor. And when it’s all over? Don’t forget to “cycle back” with regular “action items” about every two weeks.

Best of luck, we’ll look for the resultant bump in your company’s performance to push you guys into the Fortune 500 in the near future.

Writing Practice – 3/20/18 – Bad News

Write about bad news…

It’s worse when the delivery is poor, too. It’s easy to hear when it comes from someone who loves you, who cares about you, who will be there to hold you after the revelations sink in and your heart has disintegrated into the void in your chest at the announcement. Because then you have someone to be there while you stumble through the next few moments, the next days, as you struggle to understand, to experience; as you fight to perform the monumental task of keeping on, keeping going, when all you want to do in the face of such insurmountable odds is to walk away.

Bad news is not the opposite of good news. Good news makes you happy. It’s on a spectrum, an axis, a dimension. Sad on one end, happy on the other. So good news drives you along the happy-sad line from less happy to more happy. It’s maybe linear, maybe exponential, maybe logarithmic, maybe discontinuous. But at least it’s on that path, that pattern, a graphable subset of the whole.

Bad news, though, that shit is a different breed. It doesn’t do the opposite as good news. It doesn’t drive us down that axis, doesn’t make us sad, doesn’t make us less happy. Bad news is an altogether different bitch.

Bad news incites feelings of revolution, of betrayal, of hatred, of incompetence. It is not on the happy/sad spectrum – it is not on any axis at all.

Not perpendicular – not even a dimension at all. Bad news brings feelings completely uncorrelated to the news itself. It brings inspires installs turbulence within the spirit.

It enlightens destructive tendencies, destruction to self, destruction to environment, destruction to imagination, destruction to hope. Bad news irradiates the possibilities of future happiness with ultraviolet, emotion-destroying, logically-consistent-and-yet-absolutely-incomprehensible emotionless arguments.

Bad news fucks you up. And not in ways that can be protected against. There is no “bad news life preserver.” No “this is gonna fuck up your head, so grab an emotional prophylactic” condom. It is not random, not linear, not predictable, and yet also not incomprehensible.

Bad news is bad – not for the outcome, but for the period in between, that space, that time, those days or weeks or months from the time when you first hear it and the last acts are complete. “Oh, he’ll die in 2 months.” Well, then, my life is a shitshow for 2 months and for twenty years after, as the echoes of that bad news reverberate through the empty chambers of my heart forever.

Bad news. It’s bad news, man. It’s the torture that just keeps giving, long after it should have stopped, long after the events unfolded. Long after the “healing” is done. Long after the heart has moved along, the society has moved along, long after your counselor says “I think you’re good here,” long after the surface scars have healed. Bad news is a poison waiting, slowly working, beneath the surface, eating out the insides in a perpetual, relentless destruction of the body from the soul outward.

Watch Review – Mocelli.com

A couple of months ago I saw a Facebook ad for Mocelli.com – they would send me watches for free, I just pay shipping ($13.00 each). This is to “get the word out” about their brand, in the hopes that people would see what I was wearing, ask me about it, and then they’d eventually get more paid business.

So, after browsing around a little, I ordered 3 – the DaVinci watch, the Business Classic watch, and the Luxury Fashion Rome. I didn’t do this until after I ordered, but eventually I found lots of Google results for “is Mocelli a scam? YES!” Eh, we’ll see. At least I’ll get a blog post out of the review if they’re not that bad.

I just decided, “Hey, I know I need a new watch, even if it’s not that great, how bad can it be? It’s probably worth as much as I’d get if I went to Target and bought a $13 watch there.”

The DaVinci

da_vinci_watch_image
Looks great, don’t it?

This one was ordered first and arrived last. Not sure why, but it was. I’ll get to the review of this one later, because I want to give my impressions as I remember them happening, and I received (and opened) the other two first.

The Business Classic (BC)

business_classic_watch_image

Who doesn’t like more dials?

The Luxury Fashion Rome (LFR)

luxury_fashion_rome_image
Sweet! Check out those guts.

I ordered these two as “add-ons” to the original order, so they were  shipped together. They arrived in a plastic grey package, no box, no instructions, nothing. Maybe that should have been my first clue.

Next clue – they have the “Val s(USD $)” on the package. The LFR had a value of 0.47, while the BC had a value of 2.42. Just a bit under the $79 advertised. Uh oh – what have I done?

Opening it up, each watch is in a plastic bag with a cushion around it. No box. Eh, what should I expect for free? It’s not like I thought these were going to be Patek Phillipe or anything.

The Luxury Fasion Rome review

The LFR looks nice. It’s got a gold-tinted edge, a pull-out knob for adjusting the time, the second hand is sweeping around … wait … does that say “IV” at six o’clock? IT DOES!

Further inspection reveals this: whoever put this together clearly doesn’t know how to use Roman Numerals appropriately. Instead of “IV”, they wrote “IIII”. And for 6, they put “IV”. Which is actually 4. Some little nugget of truth must be buried in there somewhere, because for 9 it’s “IX” and 11 it’s “XI”, so at least something must be getting around in that forced-labor camp. If only they’d been consistent.

Next thing I notice while trying to put it on is that the leather on the band is extremely stiff. Almost impossible to bend it back to slide the pin through to hold it. I wouldn’t want to put it on or take it off more than once a day because of this. Not a good thing in my –

Hold on – let me look at those gears a little more – HOLY SHIT! Those aren’t gears at all! This isn’t a “skeleton” watch like what you see advertised by Rolex, or even Stauer (I see those in the SkyMall mags when I am afforded the luxury of airline travel – hint hint). Nope, those gears right there? Those are a single piece of metal, stamped into the shape of gears. They don’t move, they don’t oscillate, nothing. Just there for eye candy and to deceive the simpletons. Well, call me Charly, because it worked.

Next – there are also statements on the product page as follows:

  • Brand Name: Susenstone     I highly doubt this. There is no brand name written anywhere on the watch. I did a search on amazon for Susenstone, and there are a number of watches, but this one did not show up.
  • Feature: Back Light, Rattrapante, Auto Date            I have no clue what a Rattrapante is supposed to be, but clearly there is no Back Light or Auto Date. There isn’t even a manual date on the thing anywhere. False advertising? Clearly. Worth shouting about? Eh, probably not.
  • is_customized: Yes              Uh, no, that didn’t happen. Nothing at all is “customized” about this watch.

Overall – probably pretty fair advertising to give it a value of $0.47. Had I looked a little more closely at the image before buying, I probably would have noticed the flaws. But, it was on a cell phone, it was cheap, it was an impulse buy, and so I’m not sweating it.

On to the next!

The Business Classic review

I’m expecting a few different features with this one. The buttons at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock, on a watch like this, are most likely starting, stopping, and resetting some chronometer (stopwatch) elements. With the three inset dials, surely one of those is “hours” and another is “minutes” and the last is “seconds”. Plus, the word “tachymeter” on the rim should be able to be used to find an average speed. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) So there has to be some kind of stopwatch feature, right?

WRONG, bitch! Pulled this watch out and I see three four things wrong with it right away:

  • 1 – the top and bottom buttons DON’T DO ANYTHING. They don’t even push in, to give you the illusion that you’re doing something. They’re just nubs, pips, stand-out things even more useless than nipples on a silverback gorilla
  • 2 – Those little inner dials? Yeah, they DON’T DO ANYTHING either. They just sit there, with fixed “hands” that don’t move. They don’t even rotate on their own, to give you the illusion that they’re doing something. They just sit, pointing at 26, and at half past 1, and at 60. Not sure what they were intended to do, but they’re clearly not achieving that part of the mission.
  • 3 – the little hour markers, with the white rectangles outlined in silver – yeah, those are bogus as well. How can you screw that up? Well, so far 2 of those little silver rectangles have fallen off. They’re now floating around inside the face, and potentially gumming up the works. I wonder how long it will take the others to fall off, too.
  • 4 – Tachymeter is spelled wrong on this one. They put it as “tachymetre”, as if it is paralleling the differences between British and French spellings of “meter / metre”.

I think this is supposed to be copying this one:

yazone_mens_quarts_dress_watch_img
Yazole Men’s Quartz Dress Watch, $20.98, SRJ Galleria

That one, in fact, may have actual moving parts inside, and therefore have a value of something like $20 listed. However, even this is sketchy, as that website has a total of 0 reviews for that product. Another scam? Perhaps.

At least I overpaid for the BC. I mean, I could have gotten the same item for either $10.45 or as low as $4.10 (free shipping!). I know, because my Amazon search for “Susenstone” turned up at least 3 hits for this same watch. Looks like I could have saved enough for a large Starbucks. Oh well, at least I’ll be redeemed when my last watch arrives and is actually a $79 value that I practically stole from them for just the shipping.

The DaVinci Watch review

As I said, it took about a week longer for this one to show up. No idea why, it just did. It was packaged separately, again in simple grey plastic bag and a cushion inside. No box, no insert, no instructions. I guess the description on the Mocelli page showing the watch INSIDE A BOX was intended to be “hey, this is what it won’t come in, don’t get your hopes up”. They must have just forgotten that caption.

This is a bracelet clasp, not a buckle and hook type, so it’s going to need to be adjusted if I ever get around to it. The band says “stainless steel”, but it feels more like aluminum. I’d be shocked it it really was stainless. At least the face really doesn’t have anything to get wrong. There are little dots at all the hours, and even the 6 is written in the correct Roman Numeral, “VI”. Yay!

It’s a little heavier than the others, but not nearly anything like a comparable watch with actual stainless steel band and intricate machinery inside. I’ve held and worn those before, and you know they’re on your wrist. This one feels as light as the other two, comparable with my exercise wristwatch which is a plastic band and little digital readout. So nothing extraordinary here.

But would you look at that? My Amazon search an hour ago also shows this same watch as a “Susenstone Fashion Watch”, with a retail price of $4.98 + FREE SHIPPING! And again with the no reviews. I really ought to do my homework better next time.

A quick Google search for “da Vinci watch” turns up this same item on a few other websites, with prices at $14.99 or $19.99. So, yeah, I overpaid, but at least not as much as I could have!!! [Incidentally, other “DaVinci” watches on that page cost thousands of $$$. Don’t buy me one of those. If you do, I’ll return it for the cash and give you only half of the cash back. Maybe 30%.]

Oh, and looking at the “Val s(USD $)” on the outside of this bag, looks like the DaVinci has a value of 2.00. Which is about right for something that should retail for $4.98 without shipping cost.

As I said, this one needs to be adjusted before I can wear it comfortably. However, when I look at the band edges, it doesn’t look like there are adjustment pins so I can take a couple of links out of the band. If they’re there, they’re hiding pretty well. I’m kind of expecting that if I go to the Watch Stop in the mall I’ll get laughed at. And maybe I will – but that can be an addendum to this post.

In all, I think I could wear the DaVinci watch once a week, the Roman once a month, and the BC one not at all. It’s just not the kind of image (Hey, I’m a big phony!) I want to present when I wear a watch.

About the only good thing I can say about these three is that they’re reasonably accurate on keeping time. They’ve been set for about a week now, and all are fairly maintaining the hours and minutes. I suppose I could track it over a year’s time, but that seems like a lot of work for very little benefit.

Ultimately, the ratings are as follows:

Luxury Fashion Rome:  1 / 5 stars.

Could have gotten to 2 if they’d not pretended to make a skeleton watch and then just stamped out a pattern. And had the correct numerals. Still would have been overpriced at $13, because comparable are only $5 all over the web.

Business Classic:  1 / 5 stars.

Nothing more to say here – they’re a cheap knockoff, and it shows, and I even got overcharged at that.

DaVinci: 2 / 5 stars.

This one has a little potential due to design. Non-deceptive advertising in the “stainless steel” on the band would have given it at least a chance at respectability.

Mocelli Overall: 5 / 5 stars

They did their job. They got me to buy their product without returning it. Their delivery was solid, hitting on all the trigger points that led me to a sale. They managed to do it in a manner that got me to buy without doing any kind of due diligence about the product or the company. And they managed to get me to do it without a product return and, ultimately, with a 5-star review. [APPLAUSE] Well done, Mocelli. You deserve the minimalist profits you’ve skimmed from me this week. [APPLAUSE]

Writing Practice – 3/18/2018 – Concerning Happiness

Prompt: How far would you go to achieve your happiness?

I admit- this may be limiting me. But I won’t push past the boundaries of another’s satisfaction or happiness in life to achieve my own. If it requires me to leave a wake of destruction in my path to achieve that “happiness”, then I have the wrong idea of happiness or the wrong idea of the ideal.

I should not have to go to such great lengths, either. I should be able to find happiness wherever I am, whenever I am, without needing to search and seek and journey. I should be able to get to a level of happiness by my everyday interactions – by the things I am doing for myself, for my children, for my community, for my nation, for my world.

I should not need to look far. I am and should find happiness in the alarm clock – in the running shoes. In the dirty dishes, that transform themselves under my great care and safe tutelage into sparkling clean ones.

I should find happiness in a well-folded shirt. In an empty e-mail inbox. In a to-do list completely crossed off. In watching my son hit a double. In reading a story my daughter has written. In throwing crusts of bread, in throwing the whole piece out for the squirrels and the chipmunks and the sparrows and chickadees.

I should find happiness in the pen – in using it dry from my words on the push. I should find happiness win a well-covered page. I should find happiness in a well-read book. In a philosophical insight. In a historical lesson I can only now understand.

I should find happiness in ladybugs – in empty wine glasses – in watermelon rinds and runny noses on a winter’s morning. I should find happiness in a lit candle, burning to fend off to ward off to beat away the darkness of night.

I should find happiness in a hug from my mother. In a smile from my brother. In the touch of my lover. In the morning wind, in the stinging rain, in a subway car too full for me to squeeze in. I should find happiness in an evening newscast, and in laying my head on the pillow at night.

And – I should – So I Do.

Writing Practice – 3/14/2018 – Describe revelry

Describe revelry…

It is laughter and dancing. It is shouting with excitement. It is hand-clapping, and hand-slapping, and hand-waving, and hand-wringing. It is dancing in the streets, arms and shoulders and knees and ankles keeping a disjointed, “I-don’t-care-because-there-are-more-important-elements-to-enjoy-than-rhythm” unfocused pattern.

It is eyes sparkling with joy. It is kisses on cheeks, kisses on lips, kisses blown to the crowd, kisses caught by the crowd and returned, a hundredfold, a thousand times, an simplification far greater than any microphone and speaker set the finest money could buy.

It is a celebration with a complete stranger, hugs and camaraderie together at once, a moment, a moment which stretches for minutes, an hour, a moment which becomes an era, a moment that transforms the timeline into “Before” and “After”.

It is a transition, it is a celebration, it is a new way of seeing the world, through not only my own eyes but the compounding effect of a myriad like-minded persons, pooling our experiences together in this one instance to become something more than ourselves, something greater than ourselves, something richer and fuller than the aggregation of individualities.

It is a transsubstantiation, a making of something old out of something new. The old, being togetherness. And the new, the individuals coming together in the experiencing.

It is an overwhelm. It is a superposition. It is a phase change, a sublimation from one state to another. It is a world of difference, encompassed in the minimality of space; it is a universe of symbiosis metamorphosing into one. From the many, to the unity. Unity of purpose. Unity of experience. Unity of vision. Unity of life.