Guido is coming to break your kneecaps and offer a credit card

Debt collectors are either getting really lazy, or someone is using my address or phone number in a very weak attempt at identity theft — weak, I claim, because although we've been getting random calls from debt collectors for a matching last name (but a first name not even close to anyone in this household), my credit report is still clean.

Anyway, I just got an interesting letter in the mail from a debt collector, another matching last name but a random first name on a debt that of course I never incurred. (Seriously, how hard would it be to look up in a phone book and see if a name and address matched?)

Dear <random first name> <my last name>:

company name has been engaged to pursue collections on your above referenced account.

company name is pleased to provide you with an opportunity to satisfy this debt and allow you to qualify to receive a new Emblem® MasterCard® credit card.

The letter goes on to explain how this phantom member of my family can conveniently have his debt charged to this brand new credit card. The borrower must make payments that equate to 36% of the original debt amount within the first year before the credit card becomes active, at least, and there's no interest on that original debt amount; but apparently, defaulting on a debt is now a criterion for obtaining the means to incurring more debt. Genius.

Is it any wonder this country is in a crisis of sorts with people incurring vast amounts of debt, when companies are all-too-willing to offer newer, shinier shovels with which people can dig their own pits deeper?


The passing paradox

I could probably fill a whole blog by itself with annoyances in relation to being on the road.

As I was driving across some of the western states with my family, I experienced a phenomenon that one would think would be statistically unlikely, yet somehow happens all too often. I can be on the interstate, cruise control locked at the speed limit in the right-hand lane for dozens of miles without encountering a single other car. And yet, it's just as I start to come up on a truck or RV that I need to pass, that suddenly, another car going slightly faster will be passing me on the left, timing it just right that he's right beside me as I'm right behind the truck.

It's almost as if somehow it was orchestrated, that the vehicles were positioned and timed just so, such that all three of us would converge on this single, seemingly random point on the interstate in the middle of nowhere.

Somewhat related, it seems that no matter how many unoccupied miles I pass through, if there is a "construction area" where one lane is blocked off for a few miles (which is another rant; why do they block off 10 miles of road when they are only working on 50 feet at a time?), I will invariably have to go through it stuck behind someone who feels the need to go 30MPH under the posted speed limit.

And somehow, this improbable convergence seems to occur consistently at the very start of the lane closure.

It's almost like I'm stuck inside a video game, the way these events that I would think statistically unlikely to occur as frequently as they do, happen with almost scripted regularity. Except that I can't drop the pedal down and reach unreasonable speeds, crash and respawn, and outrun cops until an indicator on my heads-up display disappears.

Although that would stand a greater chance of keeping me awake driving through the Nevada desert.


Fresh or frozen?

I have a corn snake. She's about 12 years old now, something over six feet long. When she was little, I used to feed her on frozen "pinkies", baby mice that had not yet grown fur, pre-frozen for convenience. I tried to keep a small supply in the freezer, so that I wouldn't have to rush out and get some for feeding time, and have to figure out when the stores got their supplies in. I would thaw them by microwaving a cup of water, then taking a frozen pinkie in a plastic bag and submerging it until it thawed. She'd eat them right out of my hand.

When I moved to Colorado (smuggling my tiny serpent on board the airplane in a folded handkerchief, a move that I don't doubt would probably get me arrested post-9/11 — and yes, I suppose one could accurately say there was a bleepy-bleepin' snake on that bleepy-bleepin' plane), I was unable to find a store that carried frozen pinkies. In fact, I had a hard time finding pinkies at all, live or dead. But when I did finally track some down, they were live; and, for the next 11 years, my snake ate live mice. (Except for one time when the mouse died on the way home; but that's still a far cry from frozen.)

Tonight, though, I had a problem. I needed to feed my snake, and the local Petco was not going to get any live mice for a while. But, to my surprise, they did have frozen mice in stock. Individually wrapped and costing a little less than live mice, I was able to bring four home. The clerk suggested I try one, and if she didn't eat it, then I could always bring the remaining three back, still frozen, as everything in the store is guaranteed for 30 days.

I thawed out the first one in a sink of warm water. Using a pair of metal tongs, I picked it up by the tail, opened the feeding tank — and the mouse promptly slid out of the tongs and dropped on the floor. My snake started to climb out of the tank, but I managed to prod her back in. She saw the mouse on the floor, sniffed it, and then proceeded to eat. So dedicated to this task was she, that I was able to push the rest of her body back into the tank and close the lid.

The mouse still felt like it had a cold spot on it, so I heated some water on the stove and dumped that in the sink to thaw the remaining three mice. After some time, when I opened the next mouse package, a wave of warm mouse scent hit me. And I heard a *whump* from the feeding tank. I guess she smelled it, too. The remaining three mice, she ate without a problem. I even dropped the last one, and she found it quickly and started eating.

Part of the reason I was so desperate for mice that I tried frozen, was because she was overdue for her feeding. That may be a contributing factor for her eating anything she could find that smelled like a mouse, alive or dead. But I hope this means she's open to the idea on a regular basis, because it'll be so much more convenient to keep a supply of mice in the freezer for her.