Custom Search

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Best Deal in Chicago: Joining the Art Institute

Mr FS and I spent a bit of time in Chicago recently. We went to a conference and did some conference-like things.  We spent a lot of time in Chicago in days of yore and did all the tourist must-dos. This time, we decided to go for broke in our out-of-conference activities. Craving beauty, we joined the Art Institute! For a year. For 5 days.

It costs $23 for a ticket to the Institute. The base membership costs $90 for an adult and GUEST. We also got a 10% discount for living far away. So for $81 we had 5 days of bliss (we went twice a day, since our hotel was a short walk away.)

We also got free admission to special exhibits (only one, as far as we could tell). A chic tote bag with a zipper. Early entry into the recently re-opened modern art galleries.

And--drumroll, please--entry into the Member's Lounge, which had comfy Eames and Barcelona chairs (and other iconic designs) and FREE COFFEE and TEA. Good coffee too--Illy. Mr FS and I joked that the coffee almost covered the membership. We also got to hear bits and pieces of very cultured conversations. Treats all around.

Chicago Art Institute Museum Café lounge

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mr FS--artiste--made a sale!

Yay! Three upper-middle class ladies came over and one bought a piece. It was his smallest, cheapest, and most primitive. Now he knows.

We are rather reclusive, so we await Miss Em's return. She wants to see if she can enter the art biz and she can help her dad on teh way.

Thanks to all for your fine advice.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Just say no to working for free...CLEP

Right after reading Duchesse's post on the important issue of "precarity" in employment, I check my work email (from home) to find ANOTHER missive from CLEP, part of the massive money-making testing industry in the USA. Last time I got one of these, I replied that responders should be paid for their time. I guess they didn't get the message.

They've got to be kidding. My children took two tests from the industry last year--totaling about $400. I would do the survey for a test coupon my kids could use. What do you think Sterling Bland gets paid?

Dear Colleague,

I am writing to you today in my capacity as Chair of the CLEP Humanities Committee. As you may know, CLEP is the College-Level Examination Program, sponsored by the College Board and designed to allow students to earn credit for college courses by demonstrating their mastery of relevant subject matter. Exams are offered in more than 30 different subjects. Students who place at or above the recommended cut-score for a particular exam can earn credit for the corresponding course(s) at participating schools. For the CLEP Humanities exam, this is generally a two-semester survey course in Humanities or in literature, art, music, or the performing arts.

In recent years, the CLEP Humanities Committee (composed of faculty from a variety of institutions throughout the United States) has been working diligently to revise and update the exam to ensure that it reflects the significant, and ongoing, changes in our field. To enable us to continue improving the exam, we need the help of our fellow teachers and scholars. Specifically, we need to learn more about how a relevant survey course or courses are being taught at your institution. If you teach one or both semesters of a relevant course (or have taught it in the last three years), we would be extremely grateful if you would take the time to complete the online curriculum survey at:

The information gathered in this survey will enable us to make important decisions about what to include on the exam, about the kinds of skills that should be tested, and about whether modifications should be made to the overall test specifications.
We ask that you complete this survey by May 9, 2014. Please note that you do not need to teach at a participating CLEP school in order to complete the survey. If you do not teach a relevant survey course (or its equivalent), we would appreciate your forwarding this e-mail to a colleague who does.
Finally, survey participants may request a free copy of the survey results. I strongly encourage you to do so, as one of the more rewarding aspects of my work on the CLEP Humanities Committee during the past several years has been having the opportunity to broaden my own understanding of the work being done in the classroom at colleges and universities throughout the country.
Thank you in advance for your time and assistance.
Sterling L. Bland
Rutgers University at Newark
249 University Ave

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Advice Needed: How Much to Charge for Outside Outsider Art?

A few years ago, Mr FS, who heretofore had evinced no interest in his artistic side, began to make creatures of wood. I suppose he can be classed as an outsider artist since he has never had a lesson. Still, he has been to the Louvre and other major museums, so I suppose he's a semi-outsider. The art is definitely outside.

The creatures reside on our fence and the outside walls of our house. They have been attracting a lot of attention from dog walkers and walkers. Many ask if they are for sale. So far, we've said NO. But the creatures are multiplying a bit too fast and this morning a prominent local resident, who has been involved in the local arts community, said she'd like to buy one, and to help us sell them. She knows well-connected types, and hinted at a freebie or cut price for herself.

The prominent resident told Mr FS he would have to determine a price. (Earlier she had herself suggested something like $1,000. This seemed crazy to us!) Of course, teacher types like ourselves tend to undervalue our time and our labor. So, Readers, another question: how much could Mr FS charge for these large creatures, some of which take him more than 30-40

hours to complete?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Miss Em: Almost a Year (Almost) without Shopping

We get an occasional distress signal from Miss Em, dear daughter so far away: My boots are leaking! My shoes broke again! I'm dressed in rags!

Yes, Miss Em went off to Serbia last fall with two giant suitcases, for a four-season stay, in a country where the consumer goods are--she was warned--low quality and expensive. What an opportunity, we thought. An opportunity to stop acquiring so much.

Miss Em had succumbed to retail temptation many, many times over the preceding two years, partly as a result of youth, partly as a result of stress, partly as a result of peer pressure, and mostly because of the constant bombardments of consumer culture. She had spent way too much money.

How lucky to have an enforced time out. And lucky too to have a way back to the land of economic opportunity, which Serbia is not. 

Now things are winding down. She has given away her heavy winter coat to a friend who has helped her in many ways. It says something (what, I am not quite sure) that the coat, a faux shearling from LL Bean, was acquired for a mere $5 at Goodwill. She gave the same friend a cashmere scarf that I picked up on sale for $10. No wonder we accumulate too much! No wonder that we so seldom wear anything out (I, at least, usually donate long before there's much wear).

Soon, we will visit Miss Em in Serbia and--I hope--get to thank all the people who have shown her so many kindnesses. Maybe we'll even get to see the shoe repair guy.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dental Denouement? Comments Solicited

In the never-ending story of the dentist, another irritation. We received notice of a certified letter about a week ago. We filled out the little slip, requesting the the letter be left in our mailbox. A few days later, we found the slip squished underneath our mail. The carrier had not seen it.

OK. We clipped the slip to the box, only to find that we needed to PRINT our names in addition to signing. We did that, and....nothing. We fear the letter has been returned to sender. So angry is the dentist with us, that we assume she will take the return as a hostile action on our part!

I guess we could go to the post office and inquire, but that will take close to an hour and I forbade Mr FS from doing that. I figure the dentist will have to re-send it.

Anyway, here is a letter we are going to send to the dentist. Is this a good idea? And, if it is, do you have any suggestions for revision? Any tone problems?

We received notice of a certified letter from you more than a week ago. We signed the form left in our box and requested delivery, but have not received it. If the letter was to inform us that we were dismissed from your practice, you can take this letter as acknowledgement of that fact. If there is other information in the letter that we need to see, we request that you send it again. Thank you.

Mar 17 (6 days ago)

Last spring 2013, you recommended treatments for Mr. FS costing approximately $5000. T told you he would have to wait till January 2014 to begin treatment because he had to set money aside in a medical savings account. He did so. As I told you in our chat in January, we were eager to continue working with you because we appreciate your work as a dentist.

Tom called several times over the past few weeks to 1. get a list of the recommended treatments and cost breakdown and 2. make appointments to begin treatments. He did not receive the list of treatments or an appointment. He stopped by your office since we live down the street and were taking a walk nearby. He was hoping to get the treatment list and to make an appointment. At that point, you told him that our family was dismissed from your practice. He was quite stunned by that pronouncement. 

In addition to the list of treatments you recommended and an appointment, we had two other requests, neither of which we received. 

1. We asked Marilyn to give us the contact information from the Collection Agency so we could check on the records. Marilyn said she did not have that information.

2. We also asked for a letter outlining the events that led up to the bill being sent to collection. We told your office that we would pay Em's remaining bill in December. We called several times in December, but the office was closed. We left a message with your service stating that we wanted to pay and to call us for credit card info. We did not receive a call back. In early January, we called again to complete the payment. We gave Marilyn our credit card info, after which she stated that the bill had just been sent to a collection agency and that she would try to stop it. 

Marilyn then checked the email records from your answering service and said that she had overlooked the message about payment from December. She apologized and said that it was her mistake. We were appreciative of that statement.

A few weeks later, our daughter received a call from the Collection Agency. We were distressed to discover that the Collection Agency was given her name, since Em was a college student and the bills were guaranteed by US, her parents. We are afraid that a spot on her credit rating could have repercussions in the future, long after your office might be closed. 

That is why we requested a letter showing that we had made an effort to pay BEFORE the bill was sent to collection and that your office made the initial error. 

Even though we are no longer your patients, we would appreciate
1. a list of the treatments recommended for T.
2. the contact info for the Collection Agency
3. The letter with a timeline as outlined above.

Thank you for your consideration,

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St Patrick's Lost and Found: Geaux Saints

As we await our certified letter's redelivery, we continue to suffer dental stress and distress. How about St Patrick's Day (and the traditional New Orleans parade the Saturday preceding) as a stress-reliever? Celebrations were marked by things lost and found, but the stress of the lost was far outweighed by the de-stress and delight of the found. This is turning out to be a year of saintly interventions: I can now add St Patrick to St Anthony (the prayer of a thrift store customer to St Anthony led to immediate recovery of my grandmother's bracelet.) As the signs and tee shirts of football fandom proclaim in New Orleans:

THE LOST: The New Orleans St Patrick's Day parade is huge and noted for its throws: in addition to the usual beads and flowers, spectators vie for cabbages, potatoes, and carrots. So exciting! A frugal parade! Unfortunately, the parade was running rather late and Mr FS and I had to head home before the big floats with the cabbage-givers rolled by. Not to worry: we had Frugal Son in attendance. He wanted cabbage for his homemade kimchi, which is not a traditional Irish recipe. But Poor Frugal Son. He had a bag of seven cabbages. He walked a few steps away for a few seconds to say hello to a friend. When he turned around, the bag was gone. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

THE FOUND: As our group of four crossed Magazine Street en route to our chosen parade spot, I felt eyes upon me. I looked into the eyes of a young man. We were locked in a stare. Finally, he mouthed "Dr Frugal???" I ran over and he gave me a hug, reminding me that he had taken classes from me. I asked him to remind me of his name and he said "My name is Josh, but you always called me another name, which you said suited me better." As we walked away, I retrieved my memory from the file cabinet in my brain. Josh was a psychology major who took one of the dreaded (to many students) required literature courses. He was very smart and more interested than most. He fell in love with Paradise Lost and always vowed he would take a Milton course if it was offered while he was in school. A few years later, the course was offered and--lo and behold--there he was. He held his own with the advanced English majors too.

As we walked back from our stint at the parade, we came to Magazine Street once more. And there he was again. He came over and said "I always loved you as a teacher." And I said "I always loved you as a student." Another hug and then I remembered. I said, "Isn't funny? I always called you PATRICK."

LOST AND FOUND: A few years ago, I was whining in this very space about how I wanted a second Hermes scarf. Amazingly, a blogger with a beautiful spirit sent me one and, also amazing, it arrived on my birthday. The scarf was designed by Kermit Oliver, the only American to design Hermes scarves. When you read about him and view his artwork, it is clear that he too has a beautiful spirit. In addition to gifting the world with remarkable images, he has suffered tragedy beyond my efforts to process. Any powers of empathy I possess are not sufficient.

This scarf has come in handy. I wear it when I teach Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, whose plot hinges on the gift of a green scarf. I also wear it on St Patrick's Day. And when I looked for it in my scarf area, IT WAS NOT THERE. I looked and looked. Even though I am a certified slob, I always keep my two Hermes scarves in their place. This one is especially valued because of the giver and because of the artist.

I suffered through several hours before and after work of looking in various unlikely places. Then I found it. It had slipped from its spot (HOW???), crossed to the other side of a small closet, and ended up next to Mr FS's socks. Oh, how I hugged that precious piece of silk to me! Just like poor Sir Gawain, for whom, unlike for me, taking the scarf was a sin.

I'd say that in the LOST AND FOUND of St Patrick's celebrations, I have received much more than I lost. Frugal Son mentioned that the mom of one his friends might give him a few cabbages from her parade stash. So we may have kimchi after all.