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2018, I am so glad to see you! We seem to be beginning the year promisingly. Good progress on my cube tank has been made, my lone tadpole is growing daily, shaking his tail with wild abandon in the corner pond, and everything seems to be at a peaceful equilibrium around here. The divisions I took of some plants have taken well, and some of the newest acquisitions are rooting and putting out new leaves. I'm still watching my Begonia blancii, and have already pollinated two more flowers to try again. I've decided that getting a dark form out of this project is a personal life goal.

My brother called me on the first, and we spoke for the fifteen minutes allotted per call. It's $3 for 15 minutes, and I suspect there's an additional fee per call, since each time I hear my balance repeated to me, there is always more than $3 taken from my account. Thus, their incentive for limiting calls to 15 minutes. It forces us to make more of them, dinging us for more fees. The same thing happens when you load your account. There's a fee for buying minutes, and you cannot buy more than 200 dollars' worth at a time. Furthermore, each time I've tried to buy more than $40 of time, their system rejects my payment. Again, they know that if people have to buy in smaller increments, they make more in fees. I've called my credit card company each time, and the rejection did not come from them.

When calling the customer service numbers, the only thing I have ever gotten is a recording that advertises timeshares, cruises, free iPods, iPads, tablets, etc., and so forth. It asks the caller to listen to the ad while they wait, or press pound to skip it (nothing happens) and I've spent over an hour listening, just to see if I ever got to anyone. I didn't. The line goes dead. Then, weeks of telemarketers calling my phone (yes, the very ones from the ads) follow. So, no one ever gets to make a complaint about payments over $40 not going through. There is no customer service to call. The companies that handle communications have had legal troubles for this sort of thing in the past. One of them is currently involved in a class action lawsuit over the fees. Most people have no idea about these things, and having a journalistic spirit, I like to share the things I learn as I go through life. Prison is expensive for families.

So, we had our brief talk, using the last few dollars in my account, and he told me about how his holiday show went. He plays in a band there, and the different bands in the facility were asked to play holiday-themed music. He said it went well. They covered The Kinks' Father Christmas, and, "I Am Santa Claus," the infamous Iron Man parody made popular by morning shows everywhere. It made his day, and the activities director thanked his group for adhering to the thematic request. He asked what I bought with the gift certificate he arranged for me with our father's assistance. He asked if I got the gifts for his daughter I said I'd buy for him. I did. He paid, but as with everything, he needed help with arrangements. We had a good conversation, and he's feeling optimistic.

So am I. My puppy seems (mostly) potty trained, now, and she's settled in so very well with the other dogs that I'm a little afraid to say so. I mean, about the time I say something......
Really, though, I am looking forward to what comes next. I hope you are, too.
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