Third Time’s a Charm for My Debit Card?

Soon, I’ll be receiving my third new debit card of 2014.

Yes, that’s right. Numero tres. The second due to my number being used for a fake debit card in another state.

Ever since Bob Dole blew my burgeoning adult mind with the idea that I could one day pay for things out of my checking account without a check, I’ve been a debit card user. In my days of youthful folly, I used my overdraft protection frequently. In my recovery from living beyond my means, my debit card has gotten a significant workout because I know I can’t be trusted to pay a credit card balance in full every month and I try to pay “cash” for everything.

But now I’m reconsidering this move, since I’ve had to replace my card so often. Earlier this year, my bank called me to report a small charge, typically used by data thieves to see if the bank will flag the card. Then because I’d used my card at Target, the bank sent me another card. Yesterday, I got the dreaded voicemail from Santander fraud protection.

It’s a monumental hassle in so many ways that this keeps happening. I pay for myriad bills through my debit card, including things like Birchbox or the New York Times. There are so many things I don’t even know I use the card for until my inbox is filled with notices that an attempted payment has failed. Then there’s the fact that it takes Santander more than a week to mail the new card to me. If I want to get cash outside of banking hours during that time, I have to pay Visa’s exorbitant rates for cash advances on my credit card.

It is absurd to me that banks are dragging their feet to use the type of debit cards that are less easily hacked. These cards are in wide use throughout Europe with largely positive results, but US banks aren’t going to roll out the new cards because the cost of the technology is as much as 10 times the cost of a card with a magnetic stripe.

The customer service rep I spoke to this week was lovely, and helpfully suggested that the cause of my repeated security issues was due to somewhere where I use the card. It’s a herculean task. I buy coffee from a slew of different shops. My lunch spots vary. I had the card to servers regularly. I buy gas every few weeks. I use strange ATMs. How the hell am I supposed to narrow it down? The banking industry encouraged me to conduct my transactions this way. Now it’s my fault their security is subpar?

One of these days, I’ll go through my bank statements to see where I used the card before both times I was compromised, since it’s likely my card is being skimmed. And then I will break the fingers of the punk who’s causing me this hassle. Until then, I guess it’s time to start hiding cash under my mattress.

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Why I Would Bring a Child Into This Fucked Up World

On days like today, with planes being shot out of the sky and what looks like wars erupting around the globe, it’s easy to get down on this whole “being alive” thing. Why do we keep going? Why did our parents bring us into a world in which little boys meet their death by being bombed on a beach?

Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan asked the question directly this afternoon in a post titled “Why Would I Ever Want to Bring a Child Into This Fucked Up World?” It’s a valid question, and one that I’m sure most parents consider before choosing to conceive new life.

My mother told me that my father was skeptical about having children for the same reasons. Life was complicated. War. All the jerks that abound and who may make life a living hell for his potential progeny. Why make another human suffer through a turn on this crappy planet? While I’m not quite sure how they resolved it, it’s clear they did because my brother and I are here.

I won’t lie; the thought of “God, can I really bring a child into a world that has days that hurt our hearts this badly?” crossed my mind around the fourth heartbreaking news item I read today. But then I thought about it. Why bring a child into this fucked up world? Because, odds are, your child will be a source of light in a dark world. And not sure while he or she is young and adorable and makes strangers smile on the train just by being there. But because, if you do your best to raise the child right, he or she will be a force for good.

Not in an earth-shattering way in that he or she may cure cancer or find a solution for peace in the Middle East, although it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. But in the way that matters to all of us insignificant specks that just try to get through the day. Think of those people that bring you love. The friend who knows the right thing to say or the right bottle of wine to pick up when you’re feeling blue. The mentor who teaches you what you need to know to grow into the career and life you’ve chosen for yourself. Those who fix a broken wheelchair for a veteran.

Without a doubt, the world can be a horrifying place. But part of being a parent is teaching your child how to rise above it, to look for the small, good things in the world and to be one of those good things for someone else. They will fail at it some days. They’ll have phases in which they bully and are cruel. But you keep teaching them that the light is stronger than the dark, they’ll give it up. They’ll find that light. And that’s exactly what this fucked-up world needs.

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Buddy Cianci: Third Time’s A Charm?

buddy bow downLike most Rhode Islanders, my family viewed the half-hour drive to downtown Providence as “too far” to travel. Why struggle to comprehend the labyrinthine streets when the suburbs had plenty of food and a couple of half-decent theaters and concert halls? My mother was loathe to even drive through the city, opting to take I-295 around Providence when heading north for family vacations.

Therefore, my knowledge of life in Providence is limited to my experiences in high school when I had a driver’s license and started driving to “the City” to get a change of scene. I caught productions of Shakespeare in a then-new Waterplace Park, as the skeleton of what would become the Providence Place Mall rose behind the performers. My friends and I moshed at WBRU summer concerts at India Point Park, which was then located across a glass-strewn pedestrian footbridge. Thayer Street still had dozens of locally-owned small businesses that put the suburban mall stores to shame.

I’d grown up hearing stories about Providence’s colorful mayor, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci. Like the schools in Foster/Gloucester closing every time it snowed, Buddy was one of those things Rhode Islanders both loved to joke about and were slightly ashamed of. Sure, he assaulted a guy. But he played a part in saving the now-gorgeous Providence Performing Arts Center from the wrecking ball. The Providence Place Mall was getting a Nordstrom. We were all pretty sure the guy wasn’t operating above board. But he didn’t physically hurt anybody (except that one guy who got him kicked out of office the first time) and good stuff was happening in the capital of the Ocean State, which has struggled longer than many other cities in the Northeast since every industry that had created it has since moved abroad.

Alas, Buddy got nabbed on a federal racketeering charge, and spent a five years in a “federally funded gated community.” He’s worked a talk show gig like so many other, shall we say, displaced politicians. And now that he’s fulfilled the terms of his sentence (he wasn’t allowed to run again until this year), Rhode Island is reeling from the news that Cianci is running for mayor for a third post-conviction stint.

Many political watchers didn’t think he’d have the stones to do it. He’s currently battling cancer and is 73 years old, as well as making money hand over fist for his media jobs. Why go back to civil service, where every reporter in a 100 mile radius will have their noses in the city’s finances, looking for signs of malfeasance?

Because he’s Buddy Cianci, that’s why. He LIVES for this stuff, like a certain other New England mayor who kept his nose much cleaner than Cianci ever did. Why do you think Cianci started that radio show in the first place? So he could go on the record against what the mayors who came after him did while elevating his profile and staying front of mind to Providence voters.

And I wouldn’t underestimate his ability to win. Yes, Providence has changed dramatically since Buddy’s incarceration. But people remember how Providence looked when Buddy was mayor. A new mall. Rebranding it as the “Creative Capital.” A super maudlin network TV show bore our capital city’s name. How do people think of Providence now? Every time I say I’m meeting friends, my Mom begs me not to get shot. That’s why Buddy talks about the past in such glowing terms and mentioned crime and drugs in his announcement today.

Not to mention so many other Rhode Island politicians are having much worse problems. The state’s Legislature is in a shambles, dealing with a scandal involving its House Speaker that is only now beginning to unfold in public. 38 Studios is still an albatross. Cianci lines his own pockets a little bit while construction picks up in Providence? It seems almost quaintly comforting to return to the feel-good era of machine politics then, doesn’t it?

So, I can’t wait to see how this unfolds in my home state. And kudos to Buddy, the greatest troller of them all.

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Derjue Taps That: Maple Water

Growing up in the ’90s made me a sucker for a well-marketed beverage. In my later years of high school, there were so many empty Sobe bottles in my backseat it sounded like an alcoholic trucker had taken up residence in my Ford Taurus. I experimented with a wide variety of Nantucket Nectars. Don’t even get me started on the Coolatta.

In my adult years, most of the beverages that have separated me from my money with the promise of improved health and mental clarity have been sold in cardboard boxes. I tried unflavored coconut water, but since I’m not a fan of coconut-flavored things, I loathed the flavor, even when cut with flavors I do like.

It's so cute!

It’s so cute!

I’d read about the maple water product craze. If it’s good enough for triathletes with a fetish for unprocessed foods, surely it would make me feel better after a workout? Like all good New Englanders, I was raised on real maple syrup. I love maple-flavored things, from pancakes to ice cream to this amazing milkshake I used to drink at the Hopkinton State Fair in New Hampshire. After a particularly strenuous recent workout, I spied a tiny container of maple water at my gym. $2.83 later, I was walking down the street, sipping and waiting for… something.

While the maple water has a light maple flavor to it, it was almost too faint. I wanted more in my initial few sips. Where was the sweetness? That syrupy cling to the tongue and lips that indicates you’ve partaken in the glory that is real, sweet, delicious maple syrup? Not in my water.

Alas, much like chugging an actual glass of straight maple syrup, the flavor became overpowering while still being unsatisfying as I reached the end of the container. I felt like my breath was turning sour as I drank it. Once I’d finished the package, I was still parched and felt none of the effects of the well-advertised nutritional benefits. Disheartened, I tossed the empty container into the trash and headed home to enjoy what is perhaps my favorite and most effective post-workout drink: a tall glass of cool tap water.

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15 Reasons to (Really) Date a Reporter

(Post inspired by this.)

1. Reporters have a great B.S. detector. When you tell your reporter you don’t care that he/she doesn’t make any money, he/she won’t believe you.

2. If you’re free for lunch on a Wednesday, your significant other might be able to join you, due to a reporter’s flexible schedule. However, if he/she is on deadline, you’re eating a sad desk lunch alone at your office. And are probably on your own for dinner too.

3. I’d like to see the science that says reporters are better at Scrabble than the general population. If you’re dating a copyeditor, sure.

4. Reporters meet deadlines. Usually, this means they’re several hours late to an important social activity you ask them to attend.

5. Your reporter date will be up on all the local news and current affairs. Because he/she won’t get off Twitter long enough to get behind.

6.  Successful reporters (like the one you’re dating) are ambitious and aren’t afraid to take risks. It’s why they almost never have health insurance.

7. Your date may make the first move on you. When his/her cellphone is dead and there’s nothing else to do.

8. “Reporters make great dates to parties and family events, as they’re great at asking questions and engaging others in conversation.” Did this person base this entirely on TV and movie reporters? Reporters hate asking questions or engaging unless it’s getting them paid.

9. Your date will always have interesting stories to tell. You will read them in his/her newspaper.

10. Remember that time your ex forgot your birthday? Your journalist is going to do the same thing. Deadlines!

11. Reporters are passionate communicators. They have a special talent with profanity.

12. When dating a reporter, everything is off the record. Which will drive your S.O. crazy if you have a good scoop.

13. Reporters can act fast, redirect questions and problem-solve on the fly. They can also bullshit all day long. 

14. “Reporters get invitations to swanky events.” No, magazine writers get invitations to swanky events. Reporters hop around to various community events. If hanging around a church basement with a package of Chips Ahoy and some Kool-Aid is your idea of a party, you’ll be living the dream.

15. Making a living as a journalist in the modern media world is tough, and those who do it are truly committed to their work. And, for the right kind of person, that’ll outweigh all the minor frustrations.

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Turning in My Blue Apron

Recently, a friend of mine gifted me a free week of Blue Apron. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a service that sends you a box full of groceries and three recipes to cook in a given week. Since I’ve been terrible about wasting food recently, I figured it would give it a try.

Maybe it’s that pesky Yankee upbringing, but after this first week it seems like the most wasteful, pointless service geared towards millennials like me who want fresh food with a minimum of effort.

photo (4)Trying new food is one of life’s great pleasures, and it’s great that Blue Apron encourages less experienced home cooks to get familiar with new ingredients without investing in a lot of expensive spices. But I couldn’t help but feel guilt about the amount of packaging used to to send the ingredients along and break up the amounts for each recipe. This was only part of the packaging from tonight’s meal. Most of this isn’t recyclable in my area. Someone, think of the birds!

If I’m going to spend a half hour or more preparing food, it should last for longer than one meal. Why not roast an entire squash and eat for two days? Make a veggie casserole and eat off the leftovers later in the week. For all the chopping Blue Apron requires, I could make enough veggie salads to feed a crowd.

Thanks for the free food, Blue Apron. But I’m not interested in continuing. And I hope you reply to my email asking to cancel before you ship my next meal despite your “high email volume” so I don’t have to put a stop payment order on your charge.

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Patriot’s Day 2014

At long last, it was all over but the running.

After a week of memorials and tributes to those hurt or killed at the 2013 Boston Marathon, it was time for the runners to take to the streets and spectators to take to the bars for the 118th Boston Marathon. On the one-year anniversary of the bombings, the entire city of Boston felt quiet as we remembered what happened. But as Marathon Monday dawned clear and crisp, the city came back to life. It was time to restore the Marathon to what it’s always been; a celebration of spring in Boston.

Anticipating large crowds, I met my friends at the Pour House at shortly before 9am. The bar was already packed with people preparing to attend the Red Sox game. After a short wait, my friends and I grabbed a table. We ordered countless cheap mimosas. We chatted and watched the Marathon coverage. Instagram pictures were shared. Runner updates started coming in. The Red Sox mounted a comeback (even if it ultimately didn’t lead to a win).

mimosastrong It was just like Patriot’s Day should be.

Once our runners got close, we paid the hefty tab and took to the sidewalk just outside the Pour House, cheering on the runners. My eyes swam as I scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Just like in 2013, we moseyed down Boylston Street, soaking up the late April sun and cheers from the crowd as a steady stream of runners bolted for the finish. We saw Kate on a patio and joined her for a drink. Her friend Sarah had just told her Marathoning husband the gender of the baby they’re expecting. We decided to end the day on Annette’s roofdeck with a six-pack of Narragansett Summer. We made friends with a fraternity member who was taking his pet snake out for some air.

I was out too late for a school night. I spent too much money and ate too much and drank more than necessary. But, just like the marathoners vowed to return and take back the Boston Marathon, it was our way of restoring Patriot’s Day to a celebration of life and community.

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