Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Thanks for your support, suggestions and comments on my fraud post! As it turns out, Mr. Darling and I found out the answer to the fraud question at the same time - he did it by calling LifeLock, and I did it by finding this article online. So, I thought I'd share the answer with the rest of you, just as an FYI, and hopefully to also inspire you to send nasty letters to people.
Here's what happened: Apparently, lots of companies that get money from member subscriptions (including LifeLock, IdentitySweep, and Lingo Internet phone service, all of which are services to which Mr. Darling was fraudulently subscribed) use affiliate companies to do the actual dirty work of signing up new customers. These affiliates get incentives or bonuses to sign up lots of customers, or they're required to meet a certain quota of new customers every month. See where this is going yet?
In order to meet the quota or get bonuses without having to go through the hassle of actually finding willing customers, unscrupulous affiliates will use stolen credit or debit card information and stolen identities to sign people up for services that they don't actually want. They meet their quota, they look like stellar performers, they get a bonus, and then people like my husband get stuck with $600 in fees for services they never wanted in the first place.
Here's the part that makes me mad: the point of Life Lock and Identity Sweep is to keep people from stealing your identity. However, by using affiliate companies and assigning new customer quotas and then obviously not doing nearly enough to ensure that all of the new customers are people who really want to sign up for these services, LifeLock and IdentitySweep are indirectly providing affiliates with an incentive to steal your identity. I mean, hello, these companies are supposed to keep your identity safe, and yet they don't notice that it's slightly odd for a new customer to sign up for LifeLock and IdentitySweep (not to mention three other subscription services) in the same day???? Customers are supposed to trust these companies to keep their personal financial information safe, yet they can't even keep it safe from their own employees???? Way to go, LifeLock and IdentitySweep.
I will be raising a ruckus over this. I'm sending angry letters, making angry phone calls, and (obviously) posting angry blog entries. I encourage you to do the same! Don't feel like writing your own post about it? Feel free to link to my blog. Also, take a moment to email firstname.lastname@example.org and express your concerns. The scariest thing is that as soon as my husband called LifeLock and told them that he'd been fraudulently signed up with them, they knew exactly what the problem was, because it had happened lots of times before. In other words, they know this is a problem, yet they haven't fixed it. When Mr. D spoke to a LifeLock representative, they had his name, his phone number, and his address. Translation? LifeLock's and IdentitySweep's affiliates are using my husband's stolen identity to pay for LifeLock's and IdentitySweep's identity theft protection!
If we can't trust identity protection companies to take precautions to avoid having their own affiliates steal our identities (and as a result, fraudulently taking our money themselves), then it seems to me they can't be trusted to protect us from anyone else, either.
Are you intrigued yet? Good. Here's the scoop:
A week or two ago, Mr. Darling noticed that there were like $600 in strange charges on his bank account, even though he had never lost his debit card. (He has a separate bank account for when he travels on rotations. When we were using our joint account, we were getting stuck with overdraft fees when he traveled, because neither of us knew what the other was spending while he was in a different city. Not sure why I felt the need to explain that.) Anyway, he called the bank, they canceled his debit card, mailed him a new one, and refunded the charges. Problem solved, right? Wrong!
Yesterday, when Mr. D came home for Thanksgiving break, he was opening some mail, and he had a package from some company that does home phone service through your computer. They had sent him a computer part to use to hook up his computer and phone. Except, he hadn't ordered the part. And he'd never heard of the company. So after some investigating, we looked on his online bank statement, and saw a recent $75 charge (recent as in, after his old debit card should've been deactivated) to this company. Then, we realized that some of the previous fraudulant charges were to companies like LifeLock and IdentitySweep, which are identity theft protection companies. Companies with which Mr. D absolutely did NOT sign up. And... the confirmation letters for these services had been mailed to Mr. Darling. At our home address.
As Mr. D continued to open his mail, he kept finding more things related to the fraudulant charges. For example, one of the charges was to some weight-loss company, and Mr. D opened one envelope to find six "women's weight loss patches" from that company. (I weigh 125, so don't blame me for that one.)
So, basically, someone has been using Mr. D's card number to sign him up for services and to buy things and have them sent to our house. In other words, the criminal is apparently gaining nothing from this fraud (what could you possibly gain by signing someone else up for identity theft protection?) What the heck??
Now, keep in mind that Mr. D's debit card has never left his side. And, we've now connected most of the charges to things that have either been mailed to our house or services that Mr. D has been signed up for. All without his knowledge or consent. For some reason, I'm kind of freaked out by this. But also really, really confused.
Hours of internet searching has failed me, dear readers. Does anyone else have any idea what might be going on here? Seriously. This is absurd.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The winners of the gift contest who I will receive the ornaments (that I swear exist, even though I haven't gotten around to photographing them) are...
Candy for suggesting matched luggage! My current luggage cost $30 at Kmart for five pieces, so, you know... it's not super durable. Plus, this is an awesome idea, because if I pick a really expensive set and only ask for a piece at a time, I'll have gift ideas for the next few Christmases! Score! Now I just have to find a set I love...
Kim for introducing me to the Kindle! I'm a fast reader, so when I go on vacation, I pack like... 10 books. That takes up a lot of room. Getting a Kindle would mean that I could carry smaller luggage! (Which would be good if I'm picking out really expensive luggage.)
Moi (no, not me, that's her blog name) for suggesting Burberry London perfume! I actually went to the mall and smelled it, and... yum!
And... Cora! Because I'm considering getting one of her gift ideas (a signed picture of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi) for Mr. Darling - he's a huge Seinfeld fan!
So, winners, drop me an email at tovadarling (at) gmail (dot) com, and let me know where you'd like for me to send your ornament!! I'll send it to your house, your mom's house, your gym, your local police precinct... whatever makes you feel most comfortable. I'll probably be sending them in two weeks, as Mr. D is out of town on a rotation, and I'll be going to visit him, so I can mail them from a different state and preserve my secret identity that no one is really trying to guess anyway. Yay, anonymity!
Monday, November 17, 2008
In honor of all of your amazing and creative suggestions that you've already submitted, I will now tell you about the best and most creative gift that I ever gave to Mr. Darling.
Everybody ready? For our first wedding aniversary, I gave Mr. Darling...
A book of boudoir photos! (Which is really just a ladylike way of saying that I gave him a book of softcore porn pictures of myself. Think Maxim with a touch of Playboy.)
That's right, while Mr. D was out of town for school, I had a (female) professional photographer (who was also our wedding photographer and who I've known for years) come to our house and take pictures of me in lingerie and less. My very favorite picture was of me on Mr. Darling's motorcycle (sport bike, not a Harley), wearing a black bra, a black thong and stiletto heels. It's a hot picture. :) Of course, that particular picture had to be taken outside, on my driveway (we hung up a sheet to block the view from the street), and I almost scarred some young children for life when they came around to sell cookies for a school fundraiser... Luckily, they came by just AFTER I had put some more clothes on, otherwise, the title of this post might've been "How I ended up in prison for corruption of minors."
The pictures turned out very hot, and Mr. D loves them. I had the best ones made into a book and also gave him a cd of the 300+ pictures the photographer took. As I told him, now he'll always be able to see me when I was young and sexy, even after I'm old and wrinkly. If any of you wives are looking for a good gift idea, let me just tell you... in my personal experience, that gift goes over really well.
So, what's the best gift you ever gave to someone?
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Here's what I mean: as my coworkers and I were discussing the Twilight series and how romantic and thoughtful Edward is in the books, one of them said "I think all husbands should be required to read Twilight so that they can see what they're up against and what we're comparing them to." And I realized that as women, we do sometimes compare real-life men to fictional characters in books, and it's really unfair! Because of course, Edward Cullen is not a real person. He's unrealistic, not only because he's a vampire, but also because he is a fictional man that has been imagined, created, edited, and given dialogue written by a woman. So he's not even a fictional male acting like a real male, he's a fictional male acting in a way that a female writer thinks that men should act. And expecting real men to act the same way that a female-created fictional character does is doing men a huge disservice.
It's unfair in the same way that a man comparing his wife to a Playboy centerfold is unfair. Playboy centerfolds are chosen from among tens of thousands of women who have spent thousands of dollars on plastic surgery in order to more closely fit society's ideal of what a woman should look like. Then, trained professionals spend hours doing the models' hair and makeup using abnormally expensive makeup and hair products, at which point, highly paid professional photographers take HUNDREDS of pictures of these women using expensive cameras, special lenses, and extremely flattering lighting. Of these hundreds of pictures, only the very best and most flattering are chosen, and then these pictures are airbrushed to remove any possible flaws that might still be showing despite plastic surgery, professional makeup, expensive lighting, and professional photography. So, if I were to roll out of bed after four hours of sleep, with no makeup on, while I had the flu, and my husband said to me "Why can't you look more like a Playboy centerfold? They look perfect!" no one could blame me for knocking him unconscious. Because by the time a photo makes it into Playboy, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone into making sure that the woman in the picture looks better than any woman (including the model herself) could ever look in real life.
And while most intelligent people can understand this about Playboy, sometimes as women, we don't realize that we are holding our husbands (or boyfriends, or random men on the street) to similar ridiculous and impossibly high standards by expecting them to behave like fictional men in books. The kind of high standards that, if they were used on us, would infuriate us. Any guy could sound romantic if he had a professional female author writing his dialogue. Any guy could make a woman melt if the author of a New York Times best-seller was in charge of coming up with all of his romantic ideas, and then a team of editors, proofreaders, and publicists examined his life with a fine-toothed comb and suggested thousands of changes. Mr. Darling does not have those things. Neither, I expect, do any other husbands or boyfriends, and yet we expect them to act like they do. I've totally been guilty of this at times, but no more! Am I going to stop reading romantic novels? Heck no! But I am going to be perpetually thankful that I married a real, live, amazing-but-not-unrealistically-perfect man instead of a fictional character, and I'm no longer going to compare him to men in books. By doing so, I'll be giving him the same respect that he gives me by not expecting me to perpetually look like I've just stepped off of the pages of Playboy. I'm encouraging all of you other fabulous wives and girlfriends (both current and future) to join me on this. Who's with me?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The problem is, I can't think of anything that I want!! But when I told him that, he said that unless I want 10 sweater jackets (which was one of the few things I could think of to put on my list, and which he already got me for my birthday), I'd better think of something.
So, help me! Please! I've been on findgift.com. I've been on etsy. I've been on ebay. And I can NOT find anything else to put on my list! Here's what I have so far:
Season 4 of The Office on dvd
Picture frames (How generic is that? I'm so out of ideas!)
A pearl necklace (get your minds out of the gutter) to match the bracelet he gave me as a wedding gift
So, I'm officially starting a contest. Give me ideas! Great ideas! Unique ideas! What's an item that you can't live without? What was the best, most creative Christmas gift you ever got in your life? Do you know of something gorgeous and charming and totally Tova-esque that you think will suit me perfectly? If so, let me know! If you can provide links to websites where Mr. Darling can actually buy these gifts, that would be extra appreciated! (Remember, he's a full-time med student, so online shopping is way easier for him than going to the mall.)
You can enter as many gift ideas as you want (seriously, I need lots of ideas). I will pick the top two (or three, or five, if I'm feeling generous) gift ideas as winners. In the spirit of Christmas, each winner will get a Christmas ornament! (Unless of course, you don't celebrate Christmas, in which case, tell me what you do celebrate, and I'll find you a different gift.)
If Mr. Darling actually buys one of your suggestions for me for Christmas, I'll even post a picture on my blog and give you full credit for your creative gift-giving genius (I can't guarantee this part of the prize, obviously.)
Tell your friends, your favorite bloggers, your mom, your readers, and encourage them to participate! The contest will last for one week (because Mr. D is really getting after me to give him my gift list), so get your gift ideas in by Wednesday, November 19 at 9:30 pm.
Now get shopping, everyone! Mr. Darling is waiting!
(Get it?? It's funny, cause "poet" and "know it" rhyme! See? I'll take a moment to allow the delicious cleverness of that joke to sink in...)
Ok, moving on...
I got a really nice compliment yesterday from a complete stranger, and it made my day!
Now, as background information for this story, let me just say that between the ages of 6 and 16, I was one of those insufferable people who thought that they could write poetry and who wrote a ton of poems and then forced others to read them. I filled notebooks with bad poems. I was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of my own poetic genius. I was made no less insufferable by the fact that in second or third grade, I won second place for my age group in a city-wide poetry contest and was invited to read my poem aloud to a large crowd which was composed entirely of parents of other children who were also reading their poems (and my parents, of course). My name and picture were in the local paper. It went straight to my head. What I obviously failed to realize was that writing better poems than other seven and eight year olds isn't exactly the same thing as, say, being Robert Frost. So, I thought I was a poet. A great poet. A fantastic poet. And then I turned 17 and took AP English in high school and read poetry by people who actually could write poetry, and I suddenly realized that my poetry was pathetic in comparison, and I burned it all. (No, just kidding, I save everything. It's probably in a box somewhere.) Anyway, after my sudden and painful realization that my poetry was mediocre, I stopped writing poetry completely, until I needed another creative writing class for my writing degree, so I signed up for a poetry class during my senior year of college.
I wrote all the poems that were assigned to me, and not a single one more. As my final project, I assembled the requisite chapbook of a dozen or so poems, and the first poem was about how I couldn't write poetry. I printed the required number of copies of the chapbook, got reasonably good reviews from my classmates and my professor, and then didn't write another poem again. In fact, the dedication page of my chapbook said "This book is dedicated to my boyfriend Mr. Darling, my poetry classmates, and Dr. (Name of Poetry Professor), who will be the only ones who will ever read it." (Quick side note - I dedicated a poetry book to Mr. Darling, and then he ended up marrying me! Coincidence? Yeah, probably. He's not really into poetry.)
This all took place four years ago, and I haven't thought about it since. Except for yesterday, when I got a Facebook message from someone I didn't know, and the subject line of the message was the title of my poetry chapbook from senior year. Apparently, this guy is now a senior at the same college I attended, and he was in my old professor's office discussing poetry, and my old professor was showing him various chapbooks from former students, and when he read mine, he liked it so much he asked if he could keep a copy of it. So he sent me a message to let me know that he loved my poetry, that contrary to what I'd assumed in my dedication, other people were actually reading and enjoying my chapbook, and he actually thanked me for writing my poems. (He also congratulated me on marrying the guy to whom I had dedicated my chapbook. Haha!)
So, in summation, I'm still no Robert Frost (and I promise that I will not convert this to a poetry blog and subject you all to mediocre poetry from now on), but I thought it was a really nice compliment, and it made me feel good about myself and about my writing, so I felt like sharing. Also, I think I'm going to start following this guy's example and go out of my way to compliment people on things I really like, even if I don't know them.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I would like to introduce you all to one of my very favorite websites. http://www.snopes.com/ It's an urban legends reference website that addresses all of these ridiculous email forwards that clog up our e-mailboxes. If you are reading this sentence, your homework is as follows: before forwarding any emails about a little boy with cancer who wants business cards, or greeting cards, or letters so that he can get into the Guiness Book of World Records; before warning all of your female friends about attackers in mall parking lots knocking them out with fake perfume samples and then stealing all their money; before giving your friends yet another copy of the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe that supposedly cost $250; before refusing to buy Tampax Pearl tampons because you think they will cut your cervix; before passing along a stupid email where people are supposed to put a star next to their own name for a fictitious school project; before boycotting Exxon and Mobile gas stations because you think that will lower gas prices, go to this website! (For the record, all of the examples I listed in the previous sentence are indeed examples of urban legends that are completely false. If you want to know more, follow the links. I must confess that I actually believed the cookie recipe one until I checked it out on Snopes.)
Let me clarify that I am not picking on anyone here. This is simply a public service announcement. These emails are annoying, and since most of them don't have even a shred of validity, they're a complete waste of time. Frankly, I don't have the time to read or even delete these emails. (Oh, who am I kidding? If I have this much time to devote to a blog tirade, I have time to read these emails... I just don't want to.) These emails are often less than "harmless." Don't believe me? Click on the "Guiness Book of World Records" link above. A family and an organization have had to relocate because people just won't stop sending cards and letters for a "dying child" who is now a healthy 29 year old man who doesn't want any more greeting cards, business cards, letters or anything else.
Bottom line? The fact that you've heard a story a hundred times or that it was forwarded by a "very reliable source" doesn't make something true. I will leave you all with a fabulous quote from a girl I knew in high school (who shall be referred to simply as "Girl"):
Friend: "Hey, Girl, did you know that the word 'gullible' is not in the dictionary?"
Girl: "I know, ok?? Why does everyone keep telling me that?? I already know it's not in there!!"
Friday, November 7, 2008
Now, I realize that what I'm about to say is not a popular opinion to express in today's society, especially for someone of my generation. And I'm hoping that it doesn't offend any of you. If it does, I genuinely apologize for hurting anyone's feelings.
I can certainly sympathize with people who get divorced because of infidelity or abuse or because one spouse is secretly a serial killer. To me, those are all understandable reasons to divorce. But (here comes the unpopular part), I don't think that not being "happy" is a valid reason to divorce. In fact, I think it's a really, really crappy reason to divorce someone. I can't speak for anyone else, but my wedding vows did not end with the words "...as long as you make me happy," or "...until I no longer feel like being married to you." Mine ended with "...until death parts us." They also contained the words "...for better or for worse, in good times and in bad..." In other words, my (and most other people's) wedding vows made a point of saying that there are going to be bad times, there are definitely going to be times when one or both of us is unhappy, but I am promising, in front of God, and our families, and our friends, that I will still love, honor, and cherish you, even when I don't particularly feel like it, until I am dead. Those words are the most significant, meaningful, important promises that have ever left my mouth, and I don't think that fleeting feelings should have any bearing on them whatsoever.
I think Dr. Laura sums it up best in her blog when she says:
"That’s why we have such chaos in our whole society - because you think “happy” at any one moment is the highest value. I think honor, sacrifice, and commitment are a higher honor than taking your daily “happiness” temperature, because a man staying true to his wife, who has terminal colon cancer, instead of dating is not happy. Is he happy? Then that can’t be the highest quotient!
If you want the world to deal on “happiness,” then you have to understand that your man will leave you any day you don’t make him happy, and will not honor you or any vow, because he doesn’t have to! You’ve already taught him that if you’re “happy,” that’s the only thing that matters.
I don’t think firemen are happy to run into burning buildings. I don’t think they’re “happy” doing that. I don’t think police are “happy” to surround a building where somebody says he’s going to shoot everybody. I don’t think they lay awake in the morning and go “Gee, that makes me happy!” They have honor and sacrifice and duty and commitment to something higher than “feeling good” in and of themselves. Don’t have children if you’re going to teach them about “happiness.” We have enough chaos in our society because people are doing what they “feel” like when it has no meaning and no projection into the future." Amen, sister.
And I know that the inevitable question I'll get is: "So, do you think your friend should just stay in a miserable marriage for the next 50 years?" and the short answer to that question is: Yes. Yes, I think she should keep her promises. Yes, I think she should honor the most important vow that she ever made in her life. Yes, I think that respecting a lifetime commitment is more important than allowing temporary and fickle feelings to dictate your major life decisions. I think she should work on her marriage, I think she should seek counseling, I think she should aggressively and proactively try to make her marriage better, I don't think she should be resigned to being unhappy forever but rather take decisive steps to help herself have a great marriage, but yes - I think she should stick it out.
The funny thing about the fact that this particular opinion is so unpopular is that it's totally normal in every other aspect of society. If a mom stops feeding and caring for her infant child because doing so no longer makes her happy, we call it child abuse, and she'll end up in prison. If the police suddenly decide that they are no longer happy enforcing laws, society will succumb to utter chaos. If a member of our armed forces decides he's no longer happy being in the military so he just up and quits, he'll be court-marshaled and probably do jail time. If in the middle of performing open-heart surgery on you, your surgeon decides he's not happy with his profession and leaves to become an astronaut, you're dead, and he's going to be facing a major medical malpractice suit. If you decide that you're not happy paying taxes, or showing up to work, or paying your mortgage, or driving on the right side of the road, or doing any one of the other thousands of things that make society run smoothly, you can expect major consequences if you act according to that "unhappiness." Heck, you can't even cancel your cell phone contract if you're unhappy with it without paying hundreds of dollars to the cell phone company. In NO other area of society is being unhappy considered to be a good excuse to just up and abandon your responsibilities or renege on your promises. In every other societal arena, you are expected to fulfill your obligations regardless of whether or not you're happy about it. But for some strange reason, our society thinks that being unhappy is a totally acceptable reason to break the most important vow that most of us will ever make in our lives.
This is one of the reasons that I think people should be very, very sure about their choice of spouse before they get married. 99% sure is not good enough. It's important that you know your future spouse well enough that you have a very realistic idea of what the "for worse" is that you're agreeing to when you say "for better or for worse." Because those words aren't just something you say because they sound poetic. They mean something. And once you've said them, simply changing your mind isn't a good enough reason to break your promises.
Agree with me? Disagree? Think I'm a raving lunatic? Want to nominate me for sainthood? Bring on your opinions! Niceness preferred, but not mandatory.
Sorry this is so long. If you actually read all the way to the end, you deserve a cookie. Go buy yourself one!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
A few people have told me that in my wedding pictures, I look like Audrey Hepburn, but I have dark hair which I was wearing up, so it's possible that the resemblance ends there.In order to give you a more accurate description of me, I obviously turned to the internet, which knows all and tells all. I ran several pictures of me through face recognition software on MyHeritage and the following matches came up consistently with all of my pictures:
and Katie Holmes
If you think that I actually look like any of these women, you'd be very disappointed if you saw me in real life. I mean, I'm not unattractive, and my husband, my family and my friends think I'm hot, but they're somewhat biased. The similarity between some of these women and me is that I have dark hair, full-ish lips, arched eyebrows, big-ish eyes, and a heart/ovaly shaped face, I suppose.
Now, for comparison purposes, I entered this picture of Nana Zibbs into the website:
and one of the matches was Gillian Anderson (I'm not joking):
So, you all may decide for yourselves how accurate this website is. (In fairness to the matching software, Gillian Anderson was eighth on the list. First on the list was Norman Mailer.)
I love, love, love them! Thank you!
Now go find your celebrity twins!
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
- Sinusitis (yeah, I had both. It was a blast.)
- An antibiotic that made me feel both dizzy and nauseous, despite the package's promise that "less than 3% of patients" experienced those particular side effects. (You know me, I've always gotta be different.)
- Mr. Darling's sister was in town. That was actually a whole lot of fun, but it would've been more fun if I'd been healthy. I took a few days off of work to hang out with her, go to the doctor and cough a lot.
- I have a new irrational fear of blogs. Clicking on a strange blog while at work was what caused my computer to nearly self-destruct. The virus that I got during the four seconds that I spent on that blog actually un-installed my anti-virus software and then uploaded all kinds of crap, which made everything stop working, and our IT guy had to re-install just about everything onto my computer. Good times.
- I'm basically a slacker.
Other than that, though, life is pretty great! Yes, I plan to vote after work today. (I went to the polling place before work only to find a really long line stretching out of the building, so I had to wait.) Yes, I know who I'm voting for, and no, I'm not telling. I have an apolitical reputation to maintain.
One of these days (maybe sometime this week, if you're lucky), I'll get back to posting about my thoughts and feelings about random, unimportant things instead of talking about how sick I've been. So, that's something to look forward to. Also, I will be commenting on all of your blogs. And responding to all of your awesome, supportive comments. (You guys are wonderful.) And maybe thinking up a good story. And sharing my unsolicited opinions. But probably not remarking on the presidential election (unless something interesting happens while I'm waiting in line to vote, which isn't unlikely, because random things seem to happen to me a lot. One time, for example, I was Christmas shopping, and I was hit on by a star from a popular 1970's television sitcom. No joke. So, if I run into any famous people in the voting line, I'll be sure to tell you all.)