One Year of Credit Card Solicitations

You know how, through confirmation bias, you will believe something is true even though it objectively is not?

For myself, one of these beliefs was that I was receiving hundreds and hundreds of credit card solicitations a year. It seemed that every second day there were two or three of these pieces of junk mail plugging up my (physical) mailbox.

So, beginning October 24 of last year I started to count the number of credit card solicitations we receive in a single year. I set aside an old milk crate and took pictures as the solicitations arrived. And, even though I was slacking off a bit toward the end (the last few pictures were for multiple days worth of cards) I did manage to get through the year as of October 23 of this year. You can check it out here.

The final tally was a surprisingly small 87 solicitations to both myself and to Michelle (I found I had miscounted a piece of normal junk mail as a solicitation when I was tallying things up) . Don’t get me wrong, it is still silly to be receiving an average of over 1 1/2  of these solicitations per week. But it is what it is.

Broken down by sender the zealots are:

Solicitor Number of solicitations Percent of total
American Express 33 37.9%
Emigrant Direct 18 20.7%
SunTrust 8 9.2%
Citi 8 9.2%
Chase 7 8.0%
Capital One 5 5.7%
Discover 2 2.3%
Fifth Third Bank 2 2.3%
Barclays (Black Card) 1 1.1%
Williams Sonoma 1 1.1%
FIA 1 1.1%
Home Depot 1 1.1%
Total 87

So a little empirical evidence disabuses me of a misconception.

I actually have dealings with about a third of these institutions where they may think they have some kind of relationship with me, including American Express.

However, I think American Express deserves a sound raspberry  for their non-stop efforts in sending us an average of 1 solicitation every 11 days.

Merry “Cat”-Mas

Michelle was out shopping last week and, on impulse bought one of those little hats and beards for our cat Phoebe. You know, the ones that you see in the store, look at the person next to you, roll your eyes and say “Who would be weird enough to actually buy something like that. Now you know.

I personally harbor the suspicion that cats mark all of the indignities heaped upon them in daily life and then, when you least expect it, exact payback at a time of their choosing.

Phoebe Santa MontageIf I’m right, our little photo session with Phoebe should result in retribution of Biblical proportions sometime over the holiday season.

For your enjoyment, here is the finished product. The top center picture is the best of the pictures we managed to snap of Santa Phoebe. The one under it is one that I constructed from a simple portrait of her and about 30 seconds of searching for hat and beard images across teh Intertubes.

The surrounding images represent the majority of the shots from that photo session. They *do* make her look worse than she was. They remind me of the Hairless Cat episode on “Friends”.

Karaoke Party Pictures

Karaoke Party 2010 0051Had a great time at Michelle’s office party on Saturday. We did a quasi-Karaoke theme this time. “Quasi” since we realized none of us could sing so we didn’t bother with the monitor with words or silencing the actual singing on the music tracks. This works out MUCH better than regular karaoke!

We even had an “American Idol” themed judge panel with past and present judges Simon, Randy, Kara, Ellen and Paula.

Special kudos to “Ellen” who bleached her hair and wore blue contact lenses to fit the bill.

Peruse through and enjoy!

Back on the Grid – Post Bike Accident

PICT6710Sorry to have dropped of the grid like that for a few days.

I took this past Friday off for a “me” day and went cycling along the Silver Comet Trail near Hiram, Georgia.

Around 23 miles into a 31 mile cycle something, I have no idea what, happened and I found myself dazedly staggering around the trail with a couple of very nice ladies offering me antiseptic wipes. I have no idea what exchange occurred between us because when I had finally achieved some degree of coherence, I was alone on the trail. I assume I must have switched to automatic “guy mode” along the lines of “No problem.. I’m fine… Thanks for stopping but I’m OK”..

I got back on the bike to finish the last 8 or so miles of the cycle, fortunately it did not seem damaged at all except for some scrapes on the top of the aero bars. My bike was off to the side of the trail facing as if I was cycling AWAY from Hiram. Somehow I managed to figure out that this was incorrect.

I gave Michelle a call and told her to expect that I would not be looking too great.

After getting cleaned up and bandaged from my newly replenished medical kit (literally I’d refreshed all the old supplies in that kit a month prior) we then sat back for a while to make sure that there were no neurological issues (uneven pupils, slurred speech, that kind of thing).

The next morning I awoke to bed spins so we headed off to the Northside Urgent Care facility to get things checked out.

After a couple of mis-steps with the X-Rays (got a lot more than I wanted) it turned out that my concussion was not neurologically worrying. And my ribs appeared only to be bruised (no punctured lungs or any of that kind of excitement) and nothing broken in my hand (I was thinking that was only a mild sprain anyway).

But I’ve been out of it for several days now, mostly sleeping and staring vacantly at the TV (which is probably the normal way of watching it anyway, so no harm no foul :)).

Just yesterday (3 days after) I started feeling like my old self but I was tiring very easily. Today, very groggy but can still sense improvement and am remoting in to work to try to get back on top of things.

You can see my mildly cracked helmet (thank you helmet!!) and my “battle wounds” here. If you do not like the sight of blood, please don’t click through.

Carnival Legend Cruise through Western Carribean 2009

*Note to Facebook folks – there are a lot of pictures that won’t make it into the facebook note. Please click on the link to see them.*

It took me a while to organize the pictures that I wanted to post along with this blog entry.

Back in November Michelle and I took a cruise with our friends Polly and Stu. As luck would have it our cruise departed November 8th and just missed Hurricane Ida on our way out to the Grand Cayman islands. In fact our departure was delayed by a couple of hours I believe for exactly that purpose. The folks that had just come off the ship had said that they had encountered very rough seas.

DSC_3336Our ship was the Carnival Legend, cabin 5281, and we shared a balcony with Stu and Polly (cabin 5277).  The first night was VERY rough. I absolutely loved it. The tops of the waves were being torn off by the wind and looked like that fine icy snow you see blowing around on a crisp day up North. The ship was rocking so intensely that it was difficult to read in bed with your knees up ’cause of the force you had to exert just to keep them from falling over!

DSC_3350The ship was well appointed and we marveled at the cabin facilities. Everything was functional and just worked as it was supposed to. Our room steward (Natalia) was very pleasant and did a top notch job of keeping our cabin clean and stocked.

Another great surprise was that the mini bar prices were nowhere near as outrageous as I’ve seen in the past ($2 for a soda, $7.50 for a mini-bottle of booze).

The shows and activities on board were OK, but not spectacular (‘though I rather enjoyed the Monday night Jazz show) of note was a pretty bad balancing act (not naming it) that I would have thought was an SNL parody if I hadn’t known it was serious.

The dining room offerings seemed to go between extremes. The Caesar salads were uniformly bland while the potatoes were excellent, the ribs superb and filet mignon  was tough and lackluster. The offered dessert of melted chocolate cake was excellent and the hot chocolate was always inspired.

There was an ongoing language issue with staff unable to understand basic inquiries or not knowing the answers and making something up so we would be on our way (in the wrong direction usually). This is something that Carnival needs to work on.

Grand Cayman Island

PICT0021We did not schedule any excursions in the Grand Cayman Islands, preferring instead to just lounge around on the ship and then head out to shore for a late day drink and meal. We found a great little place called Rackam’s Bar that was close to the port but relatively quiet.


We elected to do the “Ruins of Tulum” as our shore excursion. I heard after we had booked this trip that the “ruins” tour in Belize was better than this one. Even without experiencing the Belize tour first hand I have to say that I’m confident that it’s probably the way to go.

DSC_3353We started with a 40 minute boat ride from the port which featured a great guitarist / singer who kept us entertained, we then spent about 20 or so minutes on a bus where we met our guide, Raul. He was very engaging, kind of like a Mayan Robert Deniro. Really, he was one of the high points of the trip. This stopped briefly at a little artisans place where I picked up some shot glasses. I really am a sucker for shot glasses…

DSC_3383_edited-1The ruins themselves were modestly interesting. Everything was roped off and sealed so you could not touch or really experience anything.

If you have ever wanted to climb a Mayan pyramid then this is definitely *not* the tour for you.

DSC_3420_edited-1There are some interesting lizards and I’m pretty sure that every tour group that goes through there gets an entirely different story from what I heard listening to some of the other groups going through there.


From everything that I read Belize was the place to go. It’s not nearly so tired as Mexico and it’s way more mature than Isla Roatan.

Bak a bush 001 (98)_edited-1We decided to do the “lost world canopy tour” in Belize. This involves 5 zip lines and 2 rappels at a location that is about a 40 minute bus ride on smooth road and about a 20 minute ride on one of the bumpier roads that you’ll ever ride on. Surprisingly, and I kid you not, the bumpy bus ride is pleasant, almost invigorating.

The canopy tour was a lot of fun, made so not only by the obvious professionalism and care for safety taken by the crew there but also by their easy going and frank manner whenever we had a chance to chat.

This trip was a little pricey at about $100 per person but I think it was worth the investment. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Bak a bush P3210073If I could have my ‘druthers, I’d have spent all of our shore time in Belize. There were many other excursions that appealed and all of them seem to get a thumbs up from folks who took them. Polly and Stu elected to go Quad Vehicle riding that day and they had a great time too.

Isla Roatan

We had a catamaran excursion planned for this port that we ended up canceling at the last minute since it was raining that morning.

Instead, when the rain let up later in the day we went into the port to wander around a bit. There is a quaint cluster of shops and restaurants immediately within the port grounds. We elected to head out into the village to see what it had to offer and were immediately assailed upon leaving the port by offers and solicitations of all kinds. Everybody leaving the port ended up with an entourage of children – usually about 3-5 who would hover and attempt to cajole you into each establishment that they had a deal with.

It was a little unnerving, though Michelle commented afterward that it was a worthwhile experience to see such naked capitalism. But we quickly ended up retreating back to the port for drinks and conversation. This is one place where I’d only trust the cruise line shore excursion offerings instead of trying to work out something in port. The folks here need the dollars the tourism brings, but they are far too aggressive in trying to get them.


PICT0010All in all I really enjoyed the cruise. I would definitely visit Belize again any time to explore what they have to offer. I like the cruise lifestyle and being able to just relax on the ship. There is always food available and room service is part of the deal if you prefer to spend time in your cabin. As we were cruising with friends, we often got room service in the morning and breakfasted together out on our balcony. The balcony, by the way, is something that I will be sure to get on any cruise I take in the future. It was great to be able to just hang out there and chat or think with nothing to break the reverie.

PICT0041_edited-1And, when you tire of being on your own, you just head out to the public parts of the ship and enjoy the sights and sounds of the other cruise passengers. As always, we bumped into some odd and interesting folks that add color to the experience and make it that much more memorable.

Putting together our *36* year-old artificial Christmas Tree

Yep, the tree is old enough that you can still see some damage where those ancient 7-Watt Christmas bulbs had melted the fake pine needles.

Michelle would much prefer to have a “real” tree.  The center pole is pretty warped and nobody would ever mistake this for the real thing but I’m pretty attached to this one and it really looks fine once it’s together.

Taken in 2009 This is the assembly of our venerable artificial tree.
Taken in 2009 This is the assembly of our venerable artificial tree.

A rare snow in Marietta

It snowed today, which is a relatively unusual event for those of us who live in the South.

It was supposed to be pretty spectacular so I thought I’d take a time lapse series of it to show how it progressed.

Well, it wasn’t all *that* spectacular, but here are the pictures nonetheless:

Click on the animation to see the individual images.