The Week It Rained and the Future of Umbrellas

gene kelly knows

Ester: Omg invisible umbrellas! Did you see this?

Mike: Apparently it’s dumb? I think it lasts for 10 minutes after it’s charged.

Ester: I kind of love it though! Magic sticks.

Mike: Hah, well you can love it for 10 minutes.

Ester: There’s also this origami one.

Mike: My favorite umbrella is no umbrella.

Ester: That’s great, Mike. Hey apparently Joan Rivers was super rich.

Mike: Well, she did never retire. She was always working and always on TV. Did you watch the documentary? Her house was so nice.

Ester: Her house was insanely opulent and garish. It was like Versailles blew up in there. READ MORE


Fighting Back Against Craigslist Money Order Scammers


Who here has had a run-in with the Craigslist Money Order Scam?

A quick recap of how this scam works: Seller puts a sale listing on Craigslist. Scammer responds (usually via email, although occasionally via text, as we’ll see below) showing interest in the item. Scammer offers to send Seller a money order for more than the cost of the item. Seller is supposed to deposit the money order, subtract the cost of the item, and wire the remaining amount back to Scammer.

The money order is fake, but it’ll take the bank a while to figure that out. This means that, essentially, Scammer has sent Seller 0 dollars and Seller has wired Scammer real money. If Seller didn’t have enough money in his/her bank account to cover the wire transfer (assuming the money order would cover it), Seller gets stuck with even more problems. To top it off, Seller can also get in trouble with the bank for trying to deposit a fake money order.

Well, today Rebecca Watson at Skepchick writes about how she fought back against this scam.



Intern Deluxe: The Rise of New Media Fellowships

My first unpaid media internship was in the summer of 2010. Like most college students, previous semesters spent whiffing on applications made landing one feel like a reward, regardless of pay—I’d move to New York and even have the chance to write (mostly) professionally. The “unpaid” part always loomed, but my friends and I made it work through varying levels of cost-cutting and couch-crashing. Besides, we were all believers in that age-old internship axiom: As stressful as working for free was, we’d be getting the experience and exposure needed to compete for real, paid jobs. The problem with “climbing up to minimum wage” as an employment strategy never really crossed our minds.

Unpaid internships, long a due-paying rite of passage for college students, became entrenched as a stopgap solution for employers with spots to fill but without the money to properly fill them.  This was (and is) very bad. In cases where full-time work was carried out under the auspices of internship programs, it was also illegal. And, as the ways that many unpaid internships violated labor laws became common knowledge, former interns began taking their employers to court.  The earliest lawsuits, filed around late 2011, challenged the argument that interns weren’t technically employees and didn’t qualify for protections like minimum wage because they were getting educational or professional benefits by being in the office.  After a federal judge ruled that Fox Searchlight Pictures was illegally using unpaid interns on the movie Black Swan in June 2013—the first major ruling against unpaid internships—a wave of lawsuits followed against media companies like Conde Nast, NBC Universal and Gawker Media. (A similar case against the Hearst Corporation, filed in 2012, is currently under appeal.)

The media industry adapted swiftly: Slate began paying its interns in December 2013; Conde Nast shuttered its intern program entirely; and the Times ended its sub-minimum wage internships in March. But other high-profile employers have turned to a new way to temporarily employ students or recent grads: fellowships.



Here Is Your Open Thread


At a time when surveys show many Americans are worried about their jobs and research shows that long hours of face time in the office are highly rewarded, workers at Patagonia set their own hours. And the company signals that it doesn’t want those hours to be excessive; The child development center closes at 5 p.m. The headquarters buildings are locked, with everybody out, at 8 p.m., and on weekends.

Outdoor companies like Patagonia have a business incentive for making sure their employees have time to pursue sports and try out new gear. But in its 41-year history, Patagonia has taken it a step beyond, ensuring, for example, that even workers in its Reno distribution center have free yoga, an organic cafe, free scooters and skateboards and hiking trails out the back door.

— From The Washington Post, examining companies that have policies geared towards work-life balance.

Photo: Sam Beebe


How A Sticky Note Helped Me Get Out of Debt


It did not take the newest financial planning app to get me out of debt. It did not take a large cash windfall or death of some mysterious, wealthy relative who I’d never met. It was a lot more low-tech than that.

My crawl into consumer debt wasn’t unlike that of most people in their 20s. I had a lot of student loan debt for a liberal arts degree. I worked at a lot of rewarding, but low-paying jobs (thanks, liberal arts degree)! I was unemployed twice. I lived in a city with friends who had far less student loan debt than I did, and I spent money I didn’t have due to a fear of missing out: I kept with their weekend trips, Friday night drinks, and clothes shopping excursions. It all added up to more than $10,000 in credit card debt.

In 2012, I was lucky enough to land a job that paid $10,000 a year more than the one I’d lost before being unemployed for a summer. I muddled along, paying as much as I could toward the balances. But I still felt like I wasn’t making any progress. It required a new strategy. Enter the sticky note. READ MORE


Your Friday Jam: Arlington: The Rap

After Ester shared that list that claimed one of the best neighborhoods for Millennials living in the DC area was Clarendon, I had to pull out this classic Millennial rap about “life in the Clizzle-Dizzle.”

(It’s “classic” because it went viral in 2009.)

If you haven’t seen it before, make sure to watch the whole thing, because the end’s worth it.


Good Enough Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $525,000

everyone loves an old house Tara Gone With the WindThe Gray Lady takes us on a dreamy tour of New Hampshire, California, and Arizona today as she shows us what “you” get for $1,500,000. This week’s selection could be subtitled “A trout stream runs through it”:

Built in 1773, the three-story house retains original pumpkin pine floors, horsehair plaster walls, hardware, wainscoting and six fireplaces. … Through the front door are an entry hall and staircase with recessed paneling, a newel post and rounded balusters. Both the formal living and dining rooms have fireplaces with 10-foot mantels and beehive ovens, as well as three sets of original, nine-over-six windows. Also on the first floor is an office, and a library with a Rumford fireplace and an original corner cabinet. Lower, plaster-and-lathe ceilings open up in the kitchen, where ceilings are vaulted and accented by skylights.

Also there’s room for oxen.

Vocab words include: horsehair plaster, wainscoting, balusters, newel post, nine-over-six windows, Rumford fireplace, plaster-and-lathe ceilings. I did pretty well on my SATs and SAT IIs back in the day, but if the verbal section had been Real Estate focused I realize now I would have flunked.

Let’s fire up the Good Enough Homes generator and see what you get for the more reasonable price of $525,000! Sesquipedalianisms not included.

Des Moines chateau




On My Own: Figuring Out How to Pay for College After My Parents Cut Me Off

Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California.

Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California.

The only good financial decision I’ve ever made was choosing to go to a state school.

I’m a rising sophomore at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which has an approximate yearly price tag of around $24,800. That, along with its good reputation, was why I decided to attend Cal Poly instead of an exotic, $60K-a-year-with-no-aid-package East Coast private school I had envisioned for myself since sixth grade.

But as I’ve mentioned, that’s the only time I’ve ever been wise about money.

To understand what an irresponsible spender I was (past tense—I’ve reformed!), all you need to know is that this summer, while I was working as an unpaid intern in Boston, I spent $36 a week at the grocery store … on kale chips alone.

Before leaving California I had told my parents, who were financing my summer internship, that I planned on spending around $210 a month on food. But with the kale chips and other over-priced impulse buys like dark chocolate goji truffles and vegan butter pecan ice cream, this plan was not put into practice. I had to call my mom at least three times asking her to put more money into my bank account. READ MORE


A Non-Grouchy Oscar Update!

In the most surprising thing that’s happened to me lately, I received a call from a strange number and during the weekday and got good news. Here’s how it went down.

PHONE: Buzz buzz!

ME: Hello? Subtext: Please make this quick, I’m eating lunch in my bathrobe, reading about Wonder Woman. 

LADY ON THE PHONE: Is this Ester?

ME: Yes? Subtext: Unless you have anything stressful to tell me.

LADY ON THE PHONE: I’m calling from Oscar, your health insurance company, about a claim submitted by [your local pharmacy]. Can you confirm your address and birthdate for me?

ME: Yes …? Subtext: Oh god, they’re coming to take all my money, aren’t they. I’m going to have to bury my valuables in someone else’s yard since I don’t even have a yard, maybe the downstairs neighbors will help?

LADY ON THE PHONE: Great! Well, we understand that, because of a mix-up, you paid a co-pay for your flu shot. You shouldn’t have had to do that; that flu shot should have been free. We are going to reimburse you for that copay by sending you a check.

ME: Wait, really? That’s great, thanks!

LADY VIA PHONE: Yes! Subtext: with liberty and justice for all!

I just checked the amount. Fourteen smackeroos will be coming my way. Not enough $$$ for a new sweater; still, a respectable mini-windfall. Thanks, Oscar health insurance, for being proactive! Seriously, I expect so little from health insurance bureaucracies, especially where money is concerned. It took me nearly a year and seven phone calls to get a refund from Empire BCBS. Maybe this is a ploy and tomorrow cossacks will arrive at my door but for now I’m feelin’ fine. PSA: EVERYONE GET YOUR FLU SHOT, DON’T DIE.


Friday Estimate

dog paradeGood morning, it’s Friday! Time for some estimations.

This weekend I was planning on going to a friend’s dog halloween parade (yes, it exists; yes it’s in Brooklyn), and then grab lunch with a friend and her husband, but my friend works for the city health department and will be busy working on the ebola case that has just popped up here in the city. So it’s all kind of up in the air right now. I’m not planning on spending much money beyond that since I’ll be going away next weekend and rented a house, so my estimate will be around $75, mostly spent on groceries.

What are your estimates?

Photo: istolethetv


How to Play the Airline Miles Game

Originally published April 30, 2012.

I am a 30-year-old woman with an arts degree and some geographic commitment issues, so for much of my adult life, I’ve been in situations where I’ve earned unimpressive amounts of money, but have needed (or wanted) to fly to places semi-regularly. As a result, I’ve become a sort of unabashed, salivating fangirl for airline miles, and something of an expert when it comes to accumulating them. I offer here a primer on how you might join me in this rewarding hobby.

Not to be a scold right off the bat, but this method involves credit cards, so it may not be for everyone. You’ll need to have good credit, and pretty high levels of self-discipline for it to work right. If you’re the type who sees access to credit as an invitation to spend recklessly, I’m sorry, but this is not for you. You know that show on TLC about “Extreme Couponing” that is both inspiring and repulsive and you don’t know whether to pity the couponers or to cheer them on? This advice is going to be kind of like that, but for airline miles, so if you’re squeamish, don’t read any further.  READ MORE