That overly saracastic post title is an attempt to distance myself from a horrible reality that could have been my own (if I had been just a little more rich and a little less skeptical), the reality of owning a condo in the current completely frakked housing market (BSG is taking over my brain, but that’s another story…). The NYT covered it last week:

Four years ago, [Barbara Sanz] bought her first condo in a glassy new Miami tower when the building was filling up. Now nearly one in six residents in the 43-story building is battling foreclosure and their contributions to the building association are shrinking. Each of the remaining owners has had to chip in an extra $1,000 assessment and $50 more a month for cable and Internet. That is on top of Ms. Sanz’s $450 monthly maintenance fee.

So, in short, she’s 1) stuck losing value in a home she can’t sell, the kind of home that will be last to bounce back after everything is said and done, 2) forced to pay more for it than she originally agreed to, putting yet more pressure on her budget, 3) losing the services that she originally thought she was going to pay for and 4) quite possibly watching the value of her investment physically vanish before her eyes, bad in the long run and bad in the short run as living conditions get worse:

Even though she pays more, her building has broken washers and dryers and unusable exercise equipment, and her hallway is spotted with mold.

Mold is a word that strikes terror into my heart. Her building is less than five years old. To top off this suck sandwich, prospective buyers now are at least in a strong position to negotiate to avoid all of this pain, forcing more pain upon the first set of people:

His willingness to spend stopped short of $200,000 for the condo units, which once sold as high as $700,000, according to the broker, Peter Zalewski. Mr. Comoglio also wants a written guarantee that he would not have to pay more fees.

An investor like this is paying less than a third of what those first people did, and he won’t even do that unless he can get a promise that he will be exempt from the laws of physics, basically. Could this get less fair? It would certainly suck to be renting from a landlord who goes into foreclosure, but watching the home that you’ve paid for and continue to pay for, fair and square, be destroyed by others’ irreponsible behavior at the same time as hope dims for any kind of recovery for the kind of home you’re going to have to sell one day… I’m just really glad we didn’t listen to anyone who said that young people like us ought to be buying a studio somewhere as starter home, and I’m glad we didn’t have the money to listen even if we wanted to. That was bad advice, but not many people knew it yet.

Of course, people in these situations are just one group of the front line casualties, and the longer we ignore their suffering the more certainly we will suffer, no matter where we are living. I better go pet a cat, b/c this shit just makes me crazy.

I’m demoralized about many things on this Super-cranky Tuesday, so I’m just going to post this lovely missive in its entirety, as found in my inbox this morning:

Tuition and Fee Collections Information
Spring Semester, 2008                                    February 4, 2008

Dear Florida Atlantic University Student:

We would like to take a moment to pass along some important information to you regarding your tuition and fee payments that includes pertinent timeframes, calendar dates, and collection agency details. Below is a semester schedule reflecting critical dates and corresponding information with which you should become familiar.  While we are already well into the semester and some dates have passed, we feel it important to provide  you with a complete timeframe for payments, late fees/penalties, and credit bureau intervention.

Classes Begin    January 5
Drop/add deadline    January 16
Final day to pay tuition/fees without late fees attached     January 17
Final day to withdraw completely and receive a 25% refund       February 4
Last day of Spring semester    May 2
Accounts sent to collection agency if balances remain     May 19
Collection Agency sends accounts to a credit bureau ? (could affect your credit rating).    August 19

As you can see, payments made after January 17 are assessed late fees.  After May 19th all accounts with past due balances will be turned over to a collection agency.  The collection agency will process the student account on behalf of FAU and collect the past-due balance; please note that once a student account is placed with a collection agency, the account will be assessed significant collection costs (determined by the collection agency and up to 33.33% percent of the balance due).  Most important to note is that the collection agency will submit the delinquent account to the three (3) major credit bureaus credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.  Please be advised that once an account is submitted to a major credit bureau your overall credit rating may be adversely affected.  Finally a ?hold? will be placed on a student?s account once it is transferred to a collection agency.  This means that until these balances are paid in full you will be prevented from future registration, receipt of official transcripts and access to grades.  Your full balance must be paid in order to resume normal university activities.We hope you find this information helpful to you as you plan for your financial obligations over the coming months.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at Student.Collections@fau.edu.  We wish you much success this semester.
Sincerely,

[REDACTED], CPA, CBM
Assistant Vice President for Financial Affairs and University Controller

I’ve started noticing that since we the most recent student data systems switch, I’ve been getting monthly emails with subject lines like “February 2008 Billing Statement” that has a link to my February “statement” which is “ready.” Keep in mind, there’s nothing on this statement, I’ve paid my tuition already and haven’t used my student account. I thought the system worked fine before–once a semester, I paid all my bills in full using whatever funds I had arranged and I didn’t hear about it again until next semester. I never used to get reminders that I had this open account called being a student at FAU, which may or may not be subject to interest as I speak. The main change that I’ve seen in the system is that it now openly acts like a for-profit credit institution. Seeing the kind of language that I expect from a bank or a credit card on communications from my school, sent to my email before I’m even remotely delinquent is very disconcerting. Maybe it’s always been this way, maybe past due tuition has always been farmed out to a collections agency at this school. I know the transcript hold is nothing new. Still, it’s gotten a lot more in your face of late. I am very upset to see the school openly treat students like regular customers (I’m pretty adamant about students not treating schools like stores, either, but that’s another story equally upsetting in the telling), showing no sensitivity to the fact that being a college student really is one of the most vulnerable times in a lot of people’s lives. You are more likely not to have health insurance than an almost any other time in your life (although this is changing, as fewer and fewer employers offer it). You are more likely to be driving an unreliable car, living in an unstable situation, and working a low-paying job. Not all of us had/have parents paying the tuition. Not all of us had/have steady jobs. Things can happen that are beyond our control, and we are already set to pay the price for these events in plenty of ways. For our school, the institution that we have placed some degree of emotional trust in and a whole lot of economic trust, to openly tell us that they think it is fine to farm us out to the professional pound of flesh gatherers and potentially subject us to usurious practices if we are unable to pay our tuition on time is disgusting. I know it’s not illegal to charge exorbitant interest in this country, but for a school to stoop to the level of  a Penney’s card is profoundly upsetting. It’s not like we spent that money on flat screens and rims. That’s tuition money they’re going after. Most of all, I hate the tone of this email: we would like to kindly warn you that you maybe be used. And now that we’ve warned you, it’s okay to do it.

Ugh

January 30, 2008

A week of radio silence, and that’s still all I can manage. Usually Wednesday’s are so much better than Tuesdays, but…

Ugh: Florida, the take it in the ass state.

Ugh: adios to my presidential preference. Tear, for real.

Ugh: Milton was a sexist, selfish bastard. Ignorance was bliss.

Ugh: my future employability may depend upon me believing that the best way to make medical decisions is to plot “Quality of Life Adjusted Years” according to probabilities of treatment outcomes, and that I may one day be asked, so if being healthy for ten years is worth ten points, how many points would being sick for ten years be worth? Because I’m sure to come up with a valid answer for that one when I’m sitting on a doctor’s examining table in a little paper gown staring down some life-threatening condition.

Is this just what I get for starting 2008 with a ridiculously optimistic mindset? Or is this just the caffeine withdrawal still talking (I kind of gave up coffee… bad idea?)?

Censorshippin’

November 29, 2007

I know that librarians tend to revel in this kind of stuff, but my most recent American Library Association e-letter is full of censorship news. The most troubling being, this Canadian librarian reports that while outright book banning is becoming less common in liberal Western societies (is the US still included in that list? after the 20 seconds I was able to stomach of the Repub YouTube debate last night, I’m not so sure), challenges on books in public and school libraries are on an upward trend. Pearce Carefoot, author of Forbidden Fruit: Banned, Censored and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter and holder of the best Canadian name of the week prize, explained thusly: “It’s far easier for an authority to just shut down discussion than to enter into an argument.” I can pretty much back that up with personal experience–I’m not on the school librarian, I mean, media specialist track, but my mother-in-law is, and she was shocked to discover that their advice to school librarians was 1) hide the troublesome books as well as you can and 2) give in to challenges if you want your job. See, I told you librarians were practical people.

In other news, this guy apparently lost his contract as a literacy consultant after recommending a sci-fi YA novel that was, gasp, ranked by Scholastic as being for middle schoolers instead of elementary schoolers. Which is why it sucks to be you if you’re a bright fifth or sixth grader I guess. This is just particularly stupid, b/c the guy is a member of the 2009 Caldecott selection committee–I think that means he is good at picking out kids books. Also, the book he recommended sounds like something I want to read: Rodman Philbrick’s “The Last Book in the Universe.”

In more news, of course The Golden Compass just has to go, sez Catholics. This one is disappointing b/c a couple of months ago one of the teachers at D’s school sent a forwarded powerpoint to all the other teachers explaining how the The Golden Compass wants to kill God (?), and we just laughed. What a looney toon! Well…. we laughed too soon. Don’t these people have better things to do than protest books they clearly haven’t even read?

And in the last little censorship item of the day, we have this article about Claudia Hunter Johnson, author of the memoir, “Stifled Laughter: One Woman’s Story About Fighting Censorship,” who once upon a time lived happily in Lake City, Florida, until she got the crazy-ass notion that the high school ought not ban a Humanities textbook b/c it found the excerpts from Canterbury Tales and the Lysistrata objectionable. She fought the school on that, and the school won. No Chaucer for you, North Floridians! The story has a happy ending though: in the next Florida town she moved to, she was able to keep Of Mice and Men from getting banned, and she now spends half the year in Nova Scotia. Which is where I might look into spending all of my year if any of the Republican candidates I saw debating last night turn out to be our next president.

Cranky Tuesday

October 16, 2007

I think I’m going to start Cranky Tuesday as a regular feature on this blog. After reading Hazlitt’s “On the Pleasures of Hating” for creative nonfic workshop last night, I’m ready to get my hate awn. Although thinking about AH’s comment re: WTSTB temporarily buoyed my mood and got my brain on a track more productive than indulging in irrational levels of anger, a quick scroll through the NYT reminded me that oh yes, it’s still a Tuesday. So, here it is, things that are making me want to rename Tuesday as Boos-day:

  • My car is broken again as of last night. The tail lights won’t turn off. Checked the fuses, unplugged the bulbs. Now it’s a waiting game to find out just how much this one is going to cost us.
  • While D was driving me to work this morning, amidst the sea of Land Rovers and Hummers, I saw a woman pushing her son in a stroller while walking her two older children to school. Aww so cute, right? Woulda had been, if not for the fact that she paused the stroller every few steps to adjust the portable DVD player in her stroller’ed son’s lap. Yes, that’s right. A walk to school is just toooo boring to live through without your DVD on. Esp. if you are three years old.
  • Insurance companies are canceling homeowner’s policies in places that have been hit by hurricanes all of once. EVER. I guess this makes sense–more and more insurers are waking up to the fact that the best way to make a profit is to just take money and never pay it out. Could someone please remind me what use insurance of any kind is these days? I have completely forgotten.
  • In the same vein as last week’s “hey pot, let’s a pass a resolution calling the kettle black” Armenian genocide infuriation, China feels the need to berate the US for giving the Dalai Lama some kind of award. I quote from the NYT snippet: “If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world.” Hmm, maybe that’s not angry-making. That’s just crack. You gotta love wording like this: “China has solemnly demanded the United States cancel the above-mentioned and extremely wrongful arrangement.” I’m stealing that phrase for my next cranky Tuesday. UPDATE: Gary Kamiya on Salon gives as well-reasoned a thought process as it is probably possible to give re: Armenian genocide resolution. In my typical rhetorical excess, I prefer to oversimplify many large issues, BUT I still think that there’s frustrating degree of hypocrisy in the US deciding to call someone else out on genocide before we’ve used the word to describe our treatment of Native Americans.
  • This article about the football success of the Other Large State University I attend, is also wrong on so many levels. Level 1: higher education in the Fla is so strapped for cash that we have a hiring freeze and will quite possibly be cutting jobs at this time next year. What gets national attention? The football team of course, thereby validating every sell-out master plan that includes building more dorms, promoting more “school spirit” via overfed football teams, and raising the cost of attendance for all those undesirables… I mean non-traditional students who have been this type of school’s bread and butter for decades all in the name of “benefits” that they will not benefit from. Level 2: The title–“With Its Roots in a Trailer”?? Wtf. I did not sign up for southern lit this semester so I could let that one pass. Level 3: It quotes Nick Saban dishing on their admission policies. What is more disturbing about this? That it’s Nick Saban or that he’s right. I will spend the rest of cranky Tuesday trying to decide. Level 4: b/c of this article, I am guaranteed to get a few more emails from non-Floridians such as the ones I got when the OLSU won a big game against West Virginia? maybe?, saying “gosh, aren’t you proud now?” No, is the answer. Not because of that. For a mascot as endearingly original and overlooked as my Owls, I will occasionally give a hoot, but not for these guys.

Well, there you have it. Things that make me go Boo this Tuesday.

And the number one thing of top ten things you could have realized, dear Legislators, if you’d thought about it for two minutes or cared at all. Combatting the rising cost of private sector insurance by draining public coffers never pays in the long run, or even the short run. How much is the average homeowner saving? Wasn’t that like $146? How exactly does $146 dollars replace a library, a job, a fire department?