Monday, October 31, 2011

Howling Pete

Pete doing his weird howling/kneading thing with his favorite toy in his mouth. He does this almost every single day. Usually when one of us walks in on him, he immediately stops. Not so this time!
Mrs. B

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Silliness

It's, well, Sunday! Mr. B's out puttering in the garage. I just finished throwing together a batch of Cincinnati Chili Mole into the the crock pot; now it gets to simmer 4-6 hours. I should, yes I should, be doing something productive. Like, clean. Or, go through my ever present and ever growing To Do list and knock off an item or two. Yet, probably because it is Sunday; lazy day, I'm going to Blog silliness instead; and, my favorite way to do so is to answer a bunch of random questions. Maybe they won't all be silly!

  1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4: Green Light: Lights when the system is disarmed and ready to be armed (ok, I didn't have a book handy, this is the User Guide for our alarm system).

  2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?: Nothing. Air.

  3. Before you started this survey, what were you doing?: I played one game of Microsoft Hearts (current win percentage is an amazing 71%).

  4. What is the last thing you watched on TV?: We watched two episodes of Dexter (via NetFlix).

  5. Without looking, guess what time it is: 3:15.

  6. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?: 3:02.

  7. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?: The fountain in the swimming pool.

  8. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?: I went into the garage to ask Mr. B to drain the fat off the hamburger. I stayed out with Lucy while he went into the kitchen. She promptly laid down on the mat by the door and pouted and pined.

  9. Did you dream last night?: Yes.

  10. Do you remember your dreams?: Yes. Wait, don't you want to know WHAT I dreamed last night? I was back in our (recently sold) house in Durham. I was upstairs opening up all the doors to the bedrooms, which, for some reason, were all closed. I went into what had been Cailyn's room and found a very large white cat inside. I immediately worried that it had peed and popped all over the carpet; then, I stopped to ask myself, "WTF? Why is there some strange white cat in Cailyn's room?" I have no idea what this dream meant.

  11. When did you last laugh?: Hmmm...? I think it may have been at a church (newcomers) meeting the other night. Turns out one of the other newcomers plays for the Baltimore Oriels; a very young guy with a wry since of humor. After he introduced himself, the lady next to him said she was originally from Jamaica but had lived in Rochester NY for most of her adult life. She turned to the Oriels's player and said, "Sorry, but I'm a Yankee's fan" to which he quipped, "No problem. So is my entire family". That just struck me as funny.

  12. Do you remember why / at what?: See above.

  13. What is on the walls of the room you are in?: Believe it or not, nothing, yet.

  14. Seen anything weird lately?: Some of the get-ups of the muckity muck ladies at the opera the other night. Whew.

  15. What do you think of this quiz?: So far, so good. It's killing time, anyway.

  16. What is the last film you saw?: Thor. It should have been called Thud (and, yes; you warned me, Father!)

  17. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?: Right where I'm at.

  18. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?: Maybe a new car. I don't know, I can't really think of much I'd immediately want to buy.

  19. Tell me something about you that most people don't know: I don't have many secrets.

  20. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?: Everyone would respect everyone else's religions, politics, beliefs regardless of whether they agreed.

  21. Do you like to dance?: Yes.

  22. Would you ever consider living abroad?: Probably not.

  23. Does your name make any interesting anagrams?: Yam. Is that interesting?

  24. Who made the last incoming call on your phone?: My Father.

  25. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer?: Mr. B downloaded a new version of Quick Books.

  26. Last time you swam in a pool?: About a month ago.

  27. Type of music you like most?: Depends on what I'm doing.

  28. Type of music you dislike most?: Rap. Blech.

  29. Are you listening to music right now?: No.

  30. What color is your bedroom carpet?: Sorta aqua-ish. I think it's called Sea Foam.

  31. If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do?: Put granite on the kitchen counters/island.

  32. What was the last thing you bought?: Groceries.

  33. Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?: Yes (this must be a British quiz).

  34. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving?: No.

  35. Do you have a garden?: No.

  36. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?: Yes.

  37. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?: Whether or not the dog is on the bed.

  38. If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be?: Elizabeth I.

  39. Who sent the last text message you received?: Mr. B.

  40. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?: I wouldn't.

  41. What time is bed time?: Around 11.

  42. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant?: You're kidding, right?

  43. How many tattoos do you have?: Exactly none.

  44. If you don't have any, have you ever thought of getting one?: Yes, but, I probably won't now.

  45. What did you do for your last birthday?: Mr. B made me a lovely dinner.

  46. Do you carry a donor card?: Not a specific donor car but it is indicated on my license.

  47. Who was the last person you ate dinner with?: Mr. B.

  48. Is the glass half empty or half full?: Full.

  49. What's the farthest-away place you've been?: Australia.

  50. When's the last time you ate a homegrown tomato?: Couldn't tell you.

  51. Have you ever won a trophy?: Won? No, but, I did receive several trophies for playing softball when I was growing up.

  52. Are you a good cook?: I'm a good cook, yes. Mr. B is a good CHEF.

  53. Do you know how to pump your own gas?: Are you serious?

  54. If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be?: Elizabeth I.

  55. Have you ever had to wear a uniform to school?: No.

  56. Do you touch-type?: I have no idea what this means. I can type quite rapidly and I don't have to look.

  57. What's under your bed?: Usually a cat or two. Definitely a few cat toys and sometimes an ear plug or hair elastic.

  58. Do you believe in love at first sight?: No.

  59. Think fast, what do you like right now?: Hot Tamales.

  60. Where were you on Valentine's day?: At home with Mr. B.

  61. What time do you get up?: 7:30. Oh, ok, it's starting to be closer to 8:30 these days!

  62. What was the name of your first pet?: The first one I really loved was Buda.

  63. Who is the second to last person to call you?: Who cares?

  64. Is there anything going on this weekend?: There almost always is. However, it's quiet at the house of B.

  65. How are you feeling right now?: Lazy.

  66. What do you think about the most?: There is really nothing I think about more than anything else. I'm an equal opportunity thinker.

  67. What time do you get up in the morning?: Running out of questions, are you? Around 8:45.

  68. If you had A Big Win in the Lottery, how long would you wait to tell people?: A Big Win in the Lottery? Seriously? Ok, probably a long time.

  69. Who would you tell first?: Mr. B.

  70. What is the last movie that you saw at the cinema?: True Grit (no, not the one made in the 60s!)

  71. Do you sing in the shower?: Not really.

  72. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?: Haven't we been through this already?

  73. What do you do most when you are bored?: Answer silly questions.

  74. What do you do for a living?: I am Mrs. B.

  75. Do you love your job?: Yes.

  76. What did you want to be when you grew up?: An ice skater.

  77. If you could have any job, what would you want to do/be?: Pretty much exactly what I'm doing now.

  78. Which came first the chicken or the egg?: Egg Beaters.

  79. How many keys on your key ring?: One.

  80. Where would you retire to?: Here.

  81. What kind of car do you drive?: Hyundai and Ford.

  82. What are your best physical features?: I don't know; probably the fact that I am relatively healthy.

  83. What are your best characteristics?: Organized and disciplined.

  84. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go?: A really long back to back cruise.

  85. What kind of books do you like to read?: Varied.

  86. Where would you want to retire to?: Still here.

  87. What is your favorite time of the day?: Depends on the day, meaning, what's going on.

  88. Where did you grow up?: San Diego.

  89. How far away from your birthplace do you live now?: Let's see, about 1500 miles or so?

  90. What are you reading now?: Shanghai Girls and The Sandalwood Tree.

  91. Are you a morning person or a night owl?: I can be both or neither.

  92. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?: No.

  93. Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows?: Yes.

  94. Do you have pets?: SIX.

  95. How many rings before you answer the phone?: Depends on where the phone is.

  96. What is your best childhood memory?: Way too many to write down. I had a great childhood.

  97. What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life?: Pretty much Human Resources with a little ESL teaching.

  98. Any new and exciting things that you would like to share?: There are a few fun visits/trips to look forward to coming up this month and next!

  99. What is most important in life?: Living a good one.

  100. What Inspires You?: Every day's a new day with the opportunity to be better than the day before.
Mrs. B

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Night At The Opera

Mrs. B at Mattison's City Grille 10.28.11

Last night was our first experience at Sarasota's Opera House. What a charming venue! It seats about 1,200 so it's not at all huge but large enough to garner a good crowd. We heard there were recent renovations/upgrades to the tune of several million dollars. Mr. B commented that it felt like Italy inside (he's never been to Italy, but, he's heard me talk about it enough that I guess he could hazard an opinion!) Well, he was right, it did have a look of Italia.

Anyway, let me take a step back and say yesterday-day was HECTIC, as in, I felt frazzled all day. This due primarily to the fact we were woken up before 6:30 am by Lucy. She kept jumping off the bed plus she was panting like wild. I figured something wasn't right; so, we got up to take her out for her morning walk. She must have squatted fifteen times on the walk, definitely not normal Lucy behavior. Thankfully, we'd already selected a vet (our vet in Durham, Uncle Chuck, strongly advised us to do this BEFORE we had an emergency; great advice!) so we had a place to take her. We were still somewhat undecided, though, until I discovered a little puddle of red-tinged pee in the utility room. So, off to the vet went our Goose while I went to have my hair done (BTW, I like the stylist I went to much better than the one I saw a few months ago).

As many of you who follow this Blog know, we've had our share of health problems with Lucy. So, anytime she goes to the vet usually translates to beaucoup d'argent being spent; not to mention, totally frayed nerves. Her new vet, Dr. B, confirmed that she had a bladder infection but since there were crystals in her urine, he wanted to do an x-ray of her bladder just to make sure there wasn't "something else going on". I fretted and fretted and prayed and prayed. Thankfully, she's ok; it was just an infection. When we picked her up, we got to meet and talk a bit with Dr. B, who told us what a great dog Lucy is (and in really, really good shape). Lucy's already made friends with the staff there, which is nice since she'll be returning in a few weeks to board. Oh, and we got out of there spending far less than we usually do :-) Would have been pretty cheap all in all if there hadn't have been x-rays.

Ok, so, after we got Lucy home (at 4;30!) we dashed about getting ready for our evening out. Mr. B couldn't find his tux accessories (note to self; find them before our cruise in December) but turns out he didn't really need to wear a tux; I only saw a few men in them at the opera. We made it to downtown Sarasota (which takes about 20 minutes if we hit the lights right) in more than enough time for our 6:00 RSVP at Mattison's City Grille. I picked this place primarily because it was within walking distance of the opera house. I had no idea the entire restaurant was OUTSIDE! Thankfully, the rain had turned into a drizzle and there wasn't enough wind to drive the drizzle anywhere near our table. We enjoyed a nice enough meal, but, I have to say, so far, we've not yet found a restaurant whose food blows our socks off. We'll have to keep trying, I guess!

We met our neighbors Stan and Alma in the lobby of the opera house at 7:30. They invited us up to the "muckity muck" lounge on the 3rd floor for a glass of Champagne. We ended up going up there with them at both intermissions as well; this was a great opportunity for Mr. B to meet some of the other opera guild members and start that whole networking thing :-)

The opera itself was very nicely done. Our seats were superb; didn't even need the binocs I'd brought along. Who can argue that "Madama Butterfly" isn't just one of THE best operas, ever? This was the 3rd time I'd seen it and I couldn't have picked a better opera for Mr. B to see for his inaugural. I'm really glad we went to the lecture Monday night; it added quite a bit to the experience having learned a few things or two that I didn't know. Time seemed to fly by; the opera was over before we knew it.

We ran into Stan and Alma on the way out and they invited us to go somewhere for an apres opera nightcap. So, off we went to a very loud Irish pub (about the only place within walking distance that was still open). Over Irish drinks and beer, we chatted about the performance, the guild, our neighborhood, and the possibility of us co-hosting a cocktail/dessert party sometime in December. After living in a neighborhood where we did nothing but wave and nod at our fellow neighbors, it's really a delight to make some friends in our new neighborhood.

Now it is Saturday; Mr. B's off at his favorite place (Lowes) and I'm doing laundry. We hear there's been snow in the East (and in Colorado!); here, it is quite balmy and the sun is starting to come out after a drizzly/dreary start to the day. Lucy's on day two of her antibiotics and seems to be doing fine. All the animals are sacked out; it's 1:15, so that means nap time for the pets in the house of B. Since we were out until 1:00 am, a nap is sounding pretty good to me, too!

Mrs. B

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mystical Game of Self-Improvement Week Four: Page of Cups

Ok, this is starting to get COMPLICATED! Why oh why am I not drawing low hanging fruit cards? Believe me, I have several tasks on tap just waiting for an, oh, 2-8. And, please, another Cup? Cheese. Yet, once again, I must take a step back and contemplate that there is likely a reason why I'm drawing Pentacles, Cups and (mostly) high cards.

So, recall, Pages are messengers. What are these little dudes trying to tell me? What news are they bringing? Or, what message? As in, "Change THIS, you moron!"

The specific divination for the Page of Cups is:

(Upright): "This card signifies a meditative, loyal, spiritual and sensitive person who will be helpful. A reflective situation. News or knowledge of art or culture is brought".

(Reverse): "Insensitivity to others. A flatterer and deceiver. Selfishness".

And Cups, once again, signify relationships in the game of 52.

Because I'm running the risk of biting off too much to chew, I've decided I'm going to tie the Page of Cups in with the Queen of Cups's challenge (the Queen of Cups's challenge is, in short "when in doubt, be nice, and, if you can't, walk away and let someone else deal with it") by taking it a step further.

Rather than taking the time to stew over something/dwell on it/be negative/thinking of ways to "get back" or "get even", take that energy and devote it to something spiritual, artistic, or cultural.

Maybe this is stretching it, I don't know. However, I got to thinking about how much time I spent writing that review on our Realtor; probably over two hours, not to mention the time spent attempting to figure out how to get it posted in multiple places. I ended up feeling frustrated, irritated, angry and was in a totally negative frame of mind. All for what end? It won't really change anything. We made a mistake by selecting them. They are jerks. If anyone asks us, we'll advise them not to use them. If it turns out they swindled us out of some money (this is a pending question), we'll report them to the BBB. The bottom line is, the house sold and we no longer have to worry about it. Do we have them to thank for selling it? No. But, we're thankful it's not sitting on the market still and having to continually deal with them. Does this mean I'm not going to get annoyed each time we get a request from them asking us for information (for the new owners) that we already provided? No, I'll get annoyed. But, I just don't want to get so hung up on every mistake people make; even when said people sure appear to make a hell of a lot of them.

Ok, this is a long way of saying the following. When something happens that I decide to shrug off, I'll take the time I would have spent bitching about it and put the effort into something spiritual, artistic or cultural.

On to a recap of my other chores:

Five of Pentacles
Doing great. Probably should talk with Mr. B soon about recreating the business side so I can take over. It's way too difficult trying to figure out why he did what he did. On the other hand, taking the time to do so would be decent preparation for eventually working through the muddle some potential client comes to us with.

Queen of Cups
I'm a-trying. Man, is this tough. I think adding in the Page of Cups's challenge will assist in this regard. On the pro side, I've not been nasty to anyone lately. I was a bit sarcastic with Regan & Co. yesterday morning, however. Sigh.

Page of Pentacles
I've not yet researched the patent thing. I did spend a goodly amount of time with Mr. B discussing the pros and cons of a potential business arrangement. In doing so, I thought of a lot more marketing ideas. Now, I just need to get my butt in gear and start planning.

BTW, I can't help but think these Pages in my Tarot deck look like vapid little zombies. I think I prefer the Hello Kitty version!

Mrs. B

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lovely Sunday!

The weather was picture perfect! We headed to Lido Beach, which is roughly 20 minutes from our house, maybe a bit closer but the snowbirds are back so everything takes longer now.

There were a ton of people on the beach. We took a nice walk and found a few pretty shells. It was obviously a tad breezy (check out my crazy hair) but really, really pleasant out; I'd say it was close to 80 degrees. Look at that white sand and the blue, blue sky!

Now that we've been, I'm gung-ho to go back (before it gets too chilly) and lay out for awhile. We have to go buy a few beach chairs and an umbrella first, though.

Afterward, we went over to St. Armands and to Daiquiri Deck. This is the sister joint to the one at Siesta Key. Pretty crowded there; a band was playing, the weather was great, everyone was in a jolly mood.

What did I fill my Coolie Cup with this time? Cadillac Margarita! Yum! A lot better than the Monkey-Berry concoction I had last time (banana/strawberry).

Mrs. B

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Been Sorta Quiet...But That's About To Change!

All in all, we had a low-key week this past week. About the only new thing I did was attend an opera guild meeting Tuesday morning at the invitation of my neighbor, Alma. Both Alma and her husband Stan are heavily involved with the Sarasota Opera, which, considering I truly enjoy opera, seemed like fate. Anyway, the meeting was interesting; well-run and many, many members. Although not all were at the meeting, there are over 500 guild involved. Well, they just got two more as I signed us up. I have to admit, it's unlikely we're going to go to many of their fund-raisers right now; a bit steep cost-wise. I just checked out the cost for the opening night gala next February. $250 PER. OUCH. And that doesn't include the price of the opera ticket either. But, I figure what with going to the operas and some of the cheaper events (like a lecture on Madama Butterfly tomorrow, it's only $10 per person and there will be wine :-) ), Mr. B can rub shoulders with the area's muckity mucks. Part of my master plan.

We ARE making an evening of it this coming Friday; I bought very good seats for the opening night of Madama Butterfly; partly because I love this opera, but also so that Mr. B will be able to truly appreciate it (his first opera! We'll try out one of countless downtown Sarasota restaurants prior and then meet Stan and Alma at the opera at 7:30. Since they are muckity mucks, they are able to get into the special lounge for muckity mucks and invited us to join them (you must be invited). Again, not a bad opportunity for Mr. B to get his name out there.

Speaking of getting one's name out there, it turns out it's pretty important to have calling cards around here (different from business cards as a lot of the people here are retired and no longer work). Yes, sort of a throw-back to a long forgotten time, but, quaint. I found a deal on Vista Print; 250 cards FREE; only had to pay shipping and handling. I really wish I'd had them Tuesday at the guild meeting as I was asked several time for my card! Well, we have them now.

As for the first part of the week, we plan on going to the lecture Monday. Tuesday is a meet and greet with the Pastors of a church we started attending (yes, yes, yes; this will be the subject of another Blog entry at some point for those of you who just fell off your chairs!) They are a husband and wife team and it's a dessert/coffee gathering for new members (or those still considering such as us) at their home (they live in our community). Thursday night is 648 (a one hour church service; very informal) and Friday is Madama Butterfly! There is a beer festival in Lakewood Ranch on Saturday but I'm not sure we'll be up for that after (likely) a quite late evening Friday.

Today is another totally gorgeous day here in Florida. Mr. B's doing some stuff out in the garage but we're hoping to get out this afternoon; maybe a walk on the beach followed by an afternoon cocktail or beer somewhere by the water.

Don't feel too sorry for us :-)

Mrs. B

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sunny Sarasota Homes: Just Say "Wen!"

I don't want to have only negative stuff up on my Blog. Here is the polar opposite of our experience with the agent in North Carolina!!!!!

Mrs. B

Late last year, my husband and I made the decision that, due predominantly to the fact we both have aging parents in Florida, we should make “the move”. We were initially considering three areas; Ocala, Tampa/St. Pete and Sarasota/Bradenton and, in addition to looking to buy a house, we were also interested in acquiring a CPA practice for my husband. That’s about all we knew.

I hopped onto the Internet to do some general “house hunting” in these areas. I poked around and poked around and eventually stumbled across Wendy Lynn’s site, Being a person who appreciates the ability to take care of the majority of my business on-line, I’ve seen my share of web sites. I was immediately drawn into this site; its ease of use and the amount of information it contained without being overwhelming. We later found out that the web site design and development was the brain child of Wendy’s husband and co-worker, Josh, so, a family business! Even better! Through the site, I sent an email to Wendy explaining our circumstances and preliminary thoughts on where we might want to live.

Within a day, I’d heard back from Wendy. From the get-go, her approach in working with us was an effective combination of professionalism, efficiency and genuine warmth and friendliness. Despite the fact that we had not committed to living in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, Wendy jumped right in to help us find our potential “dream home” by having us send her a list of “must haves”, “would like to have”, etc. home requirements. She signed us up for Listing Book, an effective on-line tool and resource to look at homes/neighborhoods, indicate favorites and reject others, change search criteria and post comments/messages for her to see and respond to.

In addition to assisting us while we “virtually” explored her area, Wendy located agents for us to work with in Ocala and Tampa/St. Pete, as well as hooking us up with local business brokers. Not only did she do this willingly, she went above and beyond in finding us DIFFERENT folks to work with when two of the agents were not as responsive as we would have liked.

All of this was very positive, of course, but we knew we had a winner in Wendy when we took a short trip to Sarasota/Bradenton in late January to both explore the area and do some very preliminary house hunting. Wendy made herself available for two days, showing us houses in a multitude of areas in both Sarasota and Bradenton. Many of these houses were ones we’d identified via Listing Book, although some were Wendy’s own suggestions. I should highlight that she did this even though we had not yet committed to move to the area.

Shortly after that trip, we decided that Sarasota/Bradenton was where we wanted to be. For the next several months, we continued to communicate with Wendy, check out the listings on Listing Book, and work towards our eventual move date. During this time, Wendy proved time and time again to be helpful and resourceful in connecting us with people and organizations that we would need to facilitate our move, both from the personal and the business aspects.

Right after the 4th of July, we headed back to the area to find our house! Once again, Wendy was tireless in her efforts and conscious of our timeframe; taking us to see over 20 houses our first day out and then several more, including repeat showings, the next day. Now, one might think this would be “too much”, but, you have to understand we were looking at homes we’d already been tracking on Listing Book in areas we knew we wanted to be in. My husband and I are both seasoned home buyers and know what we want and what we don’t. Wendy complimented our styles and rounded out the process by doing an excellent job of listening to what we were saying; to her, to one another, and then feeding it back to us at appropriate times, even if it meant playing devil’s advocate. After all was said and done, we ended up making an offer on our number one choice, which, coincidentally, turned out to be a bit different than what we originally thought we wanted; another of Wendy’s talents.

Throughout the offer, acceptance, inspection, closing, etc. events, Wendy continued to be there every step of the way (sometimes even when we were not); ensuring things went smoothly. She was in constant contact with us while we were packing up our home in NC. Even now, she continues to check in with us to see how things are going, provide us information on the area, tips on where to go to get great pizza, restaurant deals, special events, etc.

We would have absolutely no qualms in recommending Wendy; and, in fact, would encourage anyone who was interested in the area to sign on with Wendy. We have no doubt that she would take care of them the same way she did us, regardless of their own particular needs and circumstances.

Professionalism, courtesy, adaptability, effectiveness, warmth, humor and friendliness; if this is what you’re looking for in an agent, “Just say Wen!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Regan and Company: "We're never too busy for your referrals (but we are too busy for you!)"

Following is our review of Regan & Co., a real estate agency we used to sell our home in Durham. We hope this information proves helpful to any and all who may be considering using this firm.

Mrs. B.

Like many people in this current housing market, my husband and I were concerned about our ability to sell our home in Durham. Adding to our concerns was the fact that homes in our neighborhood simply were not selling and they were listed at prices far below what they’d originally sold for. Someone in our neighborhood told us about a house near theirs that had sold within 23 days; almost unheard of. The listing company was Regan & Co., and after checking out their website, I called them in early May to discuss the possibility of listing our home with them. I spoke directly with the owner of the company, Mike Regan. Although he was polite, he asked some fairly pointed questions and informed me that our neighborhood had really taken a hit.

We met Mike at our house a few days later. After touring our home and telling us there wasn’t much we’d have to do to prep it for sale other than to perhaps add some flowers to the front, we sat down to discuss the details. Mike had brought the typical numbers along with him and we had a very painful conversation regarding the best price point to list our house at so that it would sell and sell quickly. Unfortunately for us, the price point for our house meant that we were going to have to bring money to the table. Although we did not intend on going the short sale route, Mike should have brought up the possibility of a short sale. Much later in this process, a few weeks prior to closing, my husband contacted the bank to ask if they’d be willing to meet us half-way. The bank told my husband that, in order for that to even be a possibility, we’d have to scratch the contract we had with the buyers and, in essence, start all over again but this time with the bank being involved in agreeing to the price, agreeing to the offer, etc., etc. Obviously at that point we were not going to do this, but, it became apparent that Regan & Co. had not covered everything with us that they should have. If I had to hazard a guess, they likely would not have done business with us if we’d told them we intended to do a short sale.

Another thing that Regan & Co. stresses at the outset is that the home be properly staged. This is an issue for a lot of people because it sometimes means they have to put thousands of dollars into the home in repairs, paint, and temporary storage for overflow furniture, etc. Additionally, pets in the home are extremely problematic; Regan & Co. recommends they, and all signs of them, be removed for all showings. Going into this, we already knew our pets would pose an issue so we’d decided before we even met with Regan & Co. that we would not put the house on the market until we’d moved out. This made Regan & Co.’s job a lot easier. In fact, many of the things that Mike (and later his crew of home stagers recommended) we’d already decided to do on our own, such as power wash the outside of the house, clean all windows inside and out, have the carpets and house professionally cleaned once we’d moved out, etc. This goes a long way of saying that WE made THEIR job considerably easier.

At Regan's strong suggestion, we paid $450 to the stagers; for this we received a few (loaned) pictures on the walls and a couple of items on the counters and in the bathrooms. They also made use of an outside patio set we intended on leaving behind for our lawn maintenance man; bringing it inside into the sunroom. So, we paid them to use our things! We don’t believe the house even required staging since it was empty, it was sparkling clean, and the floors positively gleamed.

Back to the initial meeting. Encouraged by Mike’s opinion that, given the upgrades we’d made to the home and the excellent condition it was in that it would likely sell quickly, we decided to sign with Regan & Co. Although we had a figure in mind after that meeting, we didn’t settle on the final listing price because the house would be in “Coming Soon” mode for several months while we worked through the process of buying a house in Florida and moving out. What this meant was, there would be a sign in our yard but it would not be on MLS.

Regan & Co. processes their documents electronically. After digitally signing the listing agreement, my husband couldn’t get our copy to print out (after a period of time, the documents are no longer available online). This later became a problem when we saw a $395 fee to Regan & Co. on the closing statement for “Closing Assurance”. We were told it was in the agreement we signed (which we didn’t have to refer to). As of this writing, we still do not have a copy of the listing agreement.

From May-July, not much else happened; mostly because we were not yet ready to put the house on the market. We did meet/talk several times with Mike’s assistant Laura. Although Mike WAS our listing agent, he pretty much assigned all of the work associated with our listing to one or more of his employees. Unfortunately, these employees changed over the course of our involvement with Regan & Co., leading to several miscommunications.

In mid-July, we contacted Regan & Co. to discuss the final steps in getting our house on the market for mid-August. Mike came out to the house and told us that, in the two months since we initially spoke with him, the market in our area had suffered even more, and, consequently, he was recommending that we price the house $15,000 less than we’d originally been discussing. We’d been paying attention to what the homes in our neighborhood were doing so we were not totally surprised but still were incredibly disappointed and heartsick. After discussing several details, Mike left and, once again, we were in the hands of his assistant, Laura.

Over the next week or so, we talked to Laura numerous times; mostly regarding our concerns of how the property would be managed after we had left the state. For the most part, we heard “we won’t do that” or, “we can’t possibly be responsible for that”. Additionally, they were not happy that we had an alarm system; citing that a lot of agents won’t show a house if there is an alarm. I became sufficiently annoyed about this lack “care and feeding” on Regan & Co.’s part and the fact that it was taking several days to hear back from anyone regarding our questions. I sent a quite pointed email to Mike (whom, by the way, we hadn’t heard anything from other than a standard thank you note with (yet another) of his business card magnets).

After receiving the email, Mike came back out to the house for a few minutes (literally) to talk about our concerns. But, as with a lot of things to do with this transaction, we’d already decided on our own to turn off the alarm when we moved out, to have family and neighbors check on the house, etc. Mike’s primary concern at that point appeared to be that it was unfortunate we couldn’t have flowers out front because there wasn’t anyone available to water them.

We moved out Monday August 15th. That week was a whirlwind of activity that had previously been arranged between us, Regan & Co., and independent contractors. We’d been told the house would be on MLS by Friday August 19th; the weekend at the latest. We’d also been told that there would be a flyer placed in the house, along with copies of the MLS, for potential buyers to take away with them. Finally, we’d been told by Laura (who was now no longer with the company) that we’d have input into both and if there were things we wanted added or removed (in particular to the flyer), that could be done. When we finally saw the flyer, it had grammatical errors and it hardly did anything to highlight the features of the house. We recommended several changes to it and the MLS; some were made but others were not. The pictures were nice, at least.

The house officially went onto MLS on Wednesday, August 24th. Our first showing was Sunday August 28th. Early Monday morning August 29th, Mike called (the first time we’d heard from him in weeks) to tell us we’d received a full price offer but they were requesting we pay $2,000 of their closing costs. This is where things really started to fall apart. Obviously, we were very pleased to get an offer so quickly. However, we felt extremely pressured by Mike to accept this offer; he suggested we not risk irritating the buyers by pushing back on anything. Even though these were only the first people to see the house, it was very apparent he did not think we should hold out to see if any other offers might come in. He told us to review the offer and call him back. This was around 7:30 am.

When we checked our computer for the offer, we saw that we only had the first three pages. Neither of us felt comfortable agreeing to it until we’d seen the entire offer package. I called and left Mike a message to this effect. He called me back and left a message in essence saying it wasn’t all that important to see it but he ‘d get it to us, that he’d worked with this buyer’s agent before and he trusted her, and that we didn’t want to delay too long with accepting it because buyers were pretty fickle in this market.

My husband finally spoke with him (after reviewing the entire offer). He asked him why the due diligence period (when all appraisals, inspections and repairs had to be complete) was as late as a week prior to closing and requested this be shortened. Mike said 30 days was about normal, but, he’d see if he could get it pushed back a week (from October 10th to October 3rd; closing was set for October 17th) and he’d let us know. We’d also not seen proof of the buyer’s prequalification; he assured us the other agent had it and would fax it to him later that day. This phone call was around 9 or 9:30 that same morning. We told Mike to tell the other agent they had our verbal acceptance, even though, as it turns out, the buyers had given until 5:00 the NEXT DAY to respond.

From the point until closing was, if possible, even more of goat rope. Given how sloppy everything was handled, we’re actually surprised the house closed on time.

Mike assured my husband that any repair requests from the inspection would have to be things that were not functional. Instead, we received a long list of items, many of which were cosmetic and some bordered on the inane, indicating to us that Mike never even looked at it/discussed it with the buyer’s agent. Additionally, Mike did not follow up with us regarding the due diligence period. In fact, the last we ever heard from Mike (with the exception of a note with yet another of his business card magnets) was the evening of the day we received the offer. Regan & Co. never seems to have more than 15 listings and there are now at least five agents plus Mike. They don’t do any real marketing of their listings, choosing to work instead by smoozing other agents. So, we’re not entirely sure WHY Mike never had time to follow up with us/see how we were doing. His motto appears to be, “I’m never too busy for your referrals”. Yes, because he drops his existing customers like a ball of lead once they sign, so, he’s got all the time in the world for potential customers.

"I am never to busy for your referrals! However, I am too busy for YOU".

As closing drew near, we were asked for information that we’d already provided. We received forms that had to be signed in front of a notary and sent back on the THURSDAY before the Monday closing, which meant we had to pay almost $40 in FedX fees to ensure it got there in time (and then no one was around to accept delivery; we got a call from the closing coordinator, Jim Ellis, on Monday, as in closing day Monday, telling us it hadn’t been delivered. Luckily, it was later that morning).

In summary, the bottom line is this. We’d be hard pressed to recommend Regan & Co. It started out ok, but, in the end, it felt like the proverbial bait and switch situation. Plainly stated, the house sold itself; Regan & Co. had little to do with that. They gave almost zero consideration to how we were handling this difficult circumstance of both losing a considerable amount of money AND dealing with a real estate transaction from another state. We also believe that certain information was deliberately withheld and that we were pressured into accepting the first offer we received so that Regan & Co. could advertise that they sold our house in six days. After the offer was accepted to the point when we closed, it was just one thing after another that led us to be completely dissatisfied with Regan & Co. in general and Mike Regan in particular.

The Good:

Initial meeting, although painful, was informative and productive. Decent data was provided to assist us in determining the appropriate price point.

The photographer did an excellent job with the pictures for the flyer/MLS.

The closing coordinator, Jim Ellis, was mostly helpful.

The Bad

All possible options regarding listing/sale were not discussed/disclosed.

The stagers were a total waste of money; it should have been more than apparent they were not required in our situation.

Regan & Co. did not go over the listing agreement/all charges with us nor did they provide us a copy of the agreement once they found out we couldn’t print it.

There were ridiculous fees. $395 for “Closing Assurance” my foot! Given what happened later in the process, this is an oxymoron if I’ve ever seen one. WE should have been paid this as a mental health fee for all the headaches they caused us.

Negligible at best interaction with our agent Mike Regan; we were in essence delegated to his (ever changing) flunkies pretty much from the get-go.

No genuine concern for our concerns; we were made to feel as though we were being unreasonable.

Mike Regan was far more concerned about being able to slap a “Sold in Six Days” sign on our house than he was about our concerns and our best interests; in fact, after that sign was put up, we never heard from him again.

A sloppy, careless and slapdash approach to just about anything related to transactions, documents and follow-up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Mystical Game of Self-Improvement Week Three: Page of Pentacles

Here we go with the money thing again! And, another high-ish card (the Page is somewhere between the 10 and the Jack).

Unlike the prior two weeks, I'm not going to spend much time analyzing this card or writing what its divination in the Tarot is, save a few words.

But first, the update!

Five of Pentacles
Hey, I'm doing great with this one! I've put all of our personal financial information into Quickbooks. This has been a fantastic way to learn how it all flows. I have had to bug Mr. B several times, but, I believe he's learned a few things along the way as well. I'll continue to work with it and will shortly start entering business transactions as well. Eventually, I'll create a new set of books for our business and I'll take over. That's not for a while yet, however.

Queen of Cups
This was a mighty card to draw; as in, a mighty challenge, a mighty struggle, a mighty lady. Frankly, I was a bit overwhelmed with where, exactly, to head with this card since it can entail so much. Finally, since Cups relate to relationships and feelings and such, I've decided to narrow this task down to a few areas, all to do with how I PERCEIVE and BEHAVE in situations involving people/relationships:

-Take 10. Count to ten and breath before I react to anything which I perceive as an adversarial situation.

-I will be firm, not mean.

-I won't be belligerent; I'll try my Father's tack; "I'm just an old country gal trying to get along". Ok, I guess I can't use "country gal", necessarily, but, I'll figure something out.

-I will be polite, not rude.

-I will take the high ground.

-I will be thoughtful, not hasty.

-And, when all else fails, I'll pass it off to someone else to deal with if I don't think I can maintain my composure.

This is quite a tall order, I realize. I guess, too, that I probably could have assigned some of these to other cards in the game, but, the Queen of Cups IS a biggie!

How am I doing? Ok. This will take the whole year to master. However, I'm happy to report that just yesterday I "passed something off" to Mr. B because I was starting to get quite annoyed with a particular company which will remain unnamed. I asked Mr. B to take a stab at writing a reply to their customer service folks; he did, I edited it, and we in turn received something a bit more positive back from them. Not that we're done with them, I'm afraid, but, it was at least a step in the right direction in many ways.

I will add that all of this doesn't mean I'm turning into a Patsy. If someone or some organization deserves to be blasted (so to speak), they will be; but, I'll try my best to do it in an entirely professional manner. Case in point; you'll likely see a review of our experience with our real estate agency shortly here on this Blog!

Ok, on to this week's card.

Here are a few words which jumped out at me from its description/divination:

Regarding Pages, they represent messages or messengers. Their duty is to announce or be an effective instrument of information. Recall that Pentacles typically deal with money. "A situation requires knowledge or research. New ideas and opinions manifest".

When I read this, I knew EXACTLY what it meant for me!

Two things, really:

Take on a major role in marketing Mr. B/the business. I DO have ideas, tons of them. Some things have already been put into play, but, there's much to be done yet.

Patent Mr. B's invention. I don't want to say more about this HERE. But, I'm definitely going to research how to get this done.

So, with these challenges ahead of me, plus the 1st two, I'm a-gonna be a busy gal.

Mrs. B

PS I had to post this other card; when I did a search on my Tarot deck's Page of Pentacles, this one popped up, too. I was a bit surprised that there is, apparently, a "Hello, Kitty" Tarot deck floating around out there. Not exactly what you'd expect youngsters to be playing with, but, hey, all mystics have to get their start someone, I suppose!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lovely Florida Weekend!

Almost perfect weather here in SW Florida yesterday. Got to love it. No, don't "got to," DO love it!

We finally managed to get a nice size planter/plant out on the front porch. Actually, it's a bougainvillea, which I believe is technically a woody vine although you can train it to resemble a tree. Not a cheap endeavor but it does add something to the ambiance. We think we'll keep some annuals planted around the base of the vine. We opted for marigolds, in honor of fall (plus they are hearty little things).

We spent the better part of the late afternoon hanging out on our lanai. Lucy was in good spirits while she awaited her nightly olive.

I love the look on her face; pure anticipation!

Later we enjoyed a pink hued sunset as Mr. B grilled our steaks and corn. Since it was still so nice outside, we opted to eat dinner out on the lanai; lingering over our glasses of Pinot Noir while listening to Beethoven's 9th.


Today, we think we'll go hang out at one of the area's famous beach-y-shack-y places,
Hope everyone else is having as nice of a weekend as we are!

Mrs. B

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Loyalty Points and Programs: Are They Worth The Effort?

Considering the deal we just got on a cruise I booked a few days ago,


More on that in a bit.


Seriously, I'm always totally amazed when I speak with people who don't take advantages of ways to save money. Or get "free" money. Over the years, I've heard excuses such as, "Takes too much time", or, "What a hassle". One of the prime examples of this is when the topic of clipping coupons comes up. In my opinion, anyone who does not take a few moments each Sunday to go through the weekly coupons is a bit of a moron. Yeah, yeah, you DON'T clip the ones you never intend on using, I say this to address those who moan, "You end up spending more because you buy things you normally wouldn't buy". Really? That same "logic" could be applied to seeing an ad in a paper for a bandsaw on sale at Home Depot so you run out and buy it, even though you have zero clue was a bandsaw is or what to use it for. Duh! You clip what you use, just as you shop sales for things you use.

One of the jazziest moments in my life was when I had over $200 worth of groceries in my cart at a store in Colorado Springs,but, thanks to their triple coupon Sundays and the other various deals they had with their loyalty card, I paid a whopping $42. I have never reached that nirvana again, but, I keep on trying.

Let me digress a second to say that one thing I absolutely love about shopping at Publix here in Florida is they don't have loyalty cards. They have weekly specials and deals that are available to anyone who wanders into the store to take advantage of them. None of this, "Do you have your XYZ card with you?" and the hassle of digging for it, scanning it, etc. And, if you can't find it, they may or may not give you the specials, anyway. So, I'm not a huge fan of having to have a card to scan to save money, but, don't get me wrong, I'll do it if it will save me money!

Here is another no brainer. I don't know how many times I've tried to get people I know to sign up for My Points. It works in two ways after you sign up. First, you get daily emails advertising products and services from companies that have also signed up with My Points. With the majority of these emails, you click on a link and immediately get 5 points added to your account. That's it. You don't have to buy the product or service. Another way to get points is to do all of your on-line shopping through My Point's site. They have partnered with MANY on-line merchants (products and services) that people use on a routine basis. There are a few hold outs (like Amazon and Keurig) but the biggies are there, even e-Bay. Here is how this works. Say you want to send someone flowers. You go to My Points site, search on flowers and gifts, pick the vendor you want (either by you know you like them or because they are offering the most points per dollar). Say you pick the old stand-by, FTD. Well, they are currently offering 20 points per dollar spent (I know because I just checked). So, you buy an arrangement for $30 plus tax, delivery, etc. Say that all adds up to $45. Once the payment's been made, you get 45X20= 900 points added to your My Points account just for that transaction. Believe me, the points really add up at holiday time!

If a person wants, they can also take part in surveys to get more points; I did this for awhile but I did find that a bit time consuming. Especially since I never seemed to qualify after answering the preliminary questions. However, just answering those few questions generally nets you 10 points.

And the purpose for doing all of this is? You use your points to buy gift cards to merchants, restaurants, etc. Again, some pretty good ones to chose from. Barnes and Noble, (my favorite) Kohl's, Target, California Pizza Kitchen, Outback Steak House, etc. I've received gift cards and used them myself or given them to others for gifts. They typically run in $10, $25 or $50 denominations. To get a $50 card, you have to have somewhere around 7,000 points. But, hey, you got it for FREE. Go on! Sign up already!

Which brings me to loyalty programs with credit cards. Only on a rare occasion will I use a credit card when I don't get something for using it (are you listening, AMEX?) Therefore, we typically use two cards. Chase Ink for business where we get one point per dollar spent (sometimes more if the transaction was for certain things like gas) and then trade the points in for credits to our balance. I think every 5,000 points = $50 credit. You can also use the points to buy gift cards but we've decided we like this option better.

We use a Royal Caribbean Visa card for just about anything and everything we can non-business related. The points add up quickly (plus we get double points anytime we purchase anything from Royal Caribbean; cruises, paying the dreaded end of cruise bar and excursion tab, etc.)

Note: It probably goes without saying but I'll say it, anyway. In order to get the points, you have to pay your balance off in full each month. Or, maybe you get points for making the minimum payment, I don't know for sure since it's been years and years and years since I've only made a minimum payment on anything.

Ok, my grand finale here. I just booked a four night cruise in an aft balcony stateroom out of Tampa on Jewel of the Seas. After the point redemption process, the cruise fare (before taxes) is $216 per person. We had more points to use, so we also have a $250 on board credit. So, just to make it simple, apply half of that per person (we'll easily blow through $250 in four nights) and you have a cruise fare of $153.50 per person. Oh, and we're not even that high up (yet) with RCI's Crown and Anchor Society. Once we have a few more cruises under our belt, we'll save even more. As it is, they do give us a coupon book when we get on board good for a few free drinks, discounts on excursions, merchandise, etc.

Like I said. Is it worth it?

Hell, yes.

No. Brainer. Unless, I suppose, you don't have any brains at all.

Mrs. B

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Queen of Cups Runneths Over With Challenges

My Queen of Cups challenge has been most decidedly that this week. I’m not sure I’m rising to the occasion as well as I could be, but, at least I am thinking about how I am responding to situations/people and whether my behavior has been ok or something I should strive to improve on.

But, LORDY! What a week to have drawn this particular card. Or, as I wrote earlier, perhaps there was a reason that I drew this particular card and a reason why I chose to assign myself the challenge that I did.

As a reminder, I assigned myself the chores of:

· Focus on developing many of this queen’s attributes within myself:

o Sensitivity, inspiration, morals, intuition, calmness, serenity.

§ Follow my intuitions regarding people and situations.

§ Pay attention to my dreams and what they may be telling me.

§ Practice kindness and patience.

§ Lead by example.

I realize I used the word “chores”; maybe that wasn’t my original intent but it sure has felt like work this week.

Let me step back and say that I’m really trying to get at two issues here. The first is a) how I perceive/feel about a given situation and the second is b) how I react to and/or what I do about that same situation.

It probably goes without saying that “a” will likely determine “b”, so, the majority of my effort should likely go there.

An age old dilemma for me has been how to deal with a situation I don’t like in a positive manner. That seems like it should be easy enough, but, sadly, it’s not. I don’t mean something happens that I don’t like so I run off and do something negative. What I mean is, something happens that I don’t like and, almost immediately, I take a negative/heavy hearted view of it and get all worked up. This may or may not lead to me behaving towards others in a way that doesn’t jive with “queenly attributes”, but, it most definitely will set me simmering in a stew pot.

Folks, I just can’t STAND being taken advantage of OR blowing off something that I believe to be wrong. I have an extremely difficult time shrugging my shoulders and thinking, “Oh well! It’s not that big of a deal”. So, back to A and B, I suppose with the A, I have to seriously contemplate whether it is in fact a big deal or not. If anyone has some sort of trick to doing this, I’d be terribly interested in hearing about it.

Quite honestly, I do believe that the majority of the issues we've been hit with this week have been ones that had to be dealt with. You get too many of these at once, it becomes almost impossible to not take a negative view.

I was going to compile a list of things I’ve been struggling with this week but, as I’m writing this, I’m boring myself with my whining. So, I won’t. Suffice it to say, come next week, I’m betting that I’ll still be struggling with this.

Mrs. B

PS. Some humor. I went online to find a picture of "cups running over" to post with this entry. I couldn't find one with a cup full of crap, so I had to settle for this one. However, I first put into Google search "A cup full" and, low and behold, a ca-zillion pictures of boobies spilling out of bras popped up. One best be careful for what one asks for.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Mystical Game of Self-Improvement Week Two: Queen of Cups

Ought oh. I mean, seriously, OUGHT OH! Not only did I draw a fairly high card (the higher the card the more challenging the task), it had to be one dealing with relationships and a bunch of touchy-feely, supernatural, psychic-jazzy babble.

But first, an update on my progress with last week's task, the Five of Pentacles.

I did spend several hours exploring Quick Books and began taking their on-line tutorials. I came up with a list of questions for Mr. B and we went over them a few days later (he may come to regret this because I am nit-picky about keeping records). I figured out how to reconcile our business banking statement by merely clicking a few buttons. I have scheduled more time this week to continue my studies.

Back to today's Queen of Cups. Seriously, you'll understand why I'm stumped after reading these descriptions/divinations (by the way if you're having difficulty reading the print, click on Ctrl and + at the same time, this will enlarge the font):

So, yeah. Exactly. Huh? This is my stumble-bumble through it:

Ok, well, I suppose I HAD been thinking that I want/need/should/could/might better (a hold out from NC) work at being a nicer person, both in how I deal with people and in how I handle difficult situations. So, that's "relationships", right? I know, it's a stretch, but that's about all I can come up with and if I succeed even somewhat, that will be a good thing.

And, my friend and I agreed from the outset that if we managed to make even just a few of these 52 things (or 78 in my case) stick, this would be an improvement in our lives.

So, maybe it's not so strange that I drew the Queen of Cups. And, I always have preferred to get difficult tasks out of the way early; plus, I have a lot more lead time on this one, I have fifty-one more weeks to get it right.

Mrs. B

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A To Z

A. Age: OLD…to the left of 50.

B. Bed Size: King.

C. Chore you hate: Cleaning glass and stainless steel. It ALWAYS streaks no matter what they say!

D. Dogs: Lucy. My one and only.

E. Essential start to your day: Routine is this. Get up. Make travel cups of Keurig coffee. Walk the dog. After that, it varies.
F. Favorite Color: RED.
G. Gold or Silver: Mostly gold but I like silver too.
H. Height: 5’4”.
I. Instruments you play: Piano (and that was a very long time ago!)
J. Job Title: Boy. I don’t know. Mrs. CPA, maybe?
K. Kids: Furry ones: Lucy, Pete, Lily, Ares, Athena, Apollo. Human (step) ones: Cailyn.
L. Live: Lakewood Ranch, FL. Straddles the county lines of Sarasota (S) and Bradenton (N). Also known as Switzerland.
M. Mother's Name: Dina Kay.
N. Nicknames: Too many. Mark calls me “Honey”.

O. Overnight hospital stays: Boy. Long ago when I was four or five. Tonsils, probably.
P. Pet Peeves: DISHONESTY. Oh, and lazy slugs J
Q. Quote from a Movie: "This one goes to eleven”.
R. Right handed or Left handed: Left.
S. Siblings: One older sister, one younger sister and two younger brothers.
T. Time to wake up: Usually about 1:30 am. Time to get up? 7:30 am to 8:00 am or so. Heck, we are living the FL life!

U. Underwear: I have a full drawer full of.
V. Vegetables you hate: Turnips or parsnips or one of those nips!
W. What makes you run late: Not much.
X. X-rays you have: Teeth, mostly. Maybe my chest and do ultrasounds count?
Y. Yummy food that you make: Comfort food. And, great appetizers and desserts when I’m in the mood.
Z. Zoo animals: I don’t like the zoo.