Long time, no update. Things have been quiet around, partly due to the economic downturn. We’ve had to let our production designer go, unfortunately, along with the copy editor and most of the writing staff. Well, okay, all of the writing staff. This little web site is down to just me, typing the occasional entry from my cozy red-walled office. However, aided by the power of cappuccino and rock-and-roll, I will soldier on to present … this update.

1) Standing around last weekend while waiting for Blues Traveler to hit the stage at the Rialto, Heather and I had a good chat about where my dissertation is potentially going. I’m loathe to call is “my dissertation” yet, as if it’s a real thing, but on the hope that it eventually will be something that I can hold in my hands and read, I’ll let the name slide for now. It would be neat to carry on with the wilderness medicine project, but I’m not yet sure if it has enough body to make a dissertation out of. Always helpful, Heather suggested that I broaden its scope to include something appropriately sociological sounding, such as “the commodification of risk.” Sounds promising!

The Blues Traveler show, by the way, was awesome. Lots of fun, and there were far fewer frat-boy types drinking Heinekens than at the show last fall. I met and chatted just a bit with the band’s bassist before the show, but only after embarrassingly mistaking him for somebody else.

2) The holiday season brings Silk soy nogg to the grocer’s dairy case, and for Heather that means it is officially the season for non-dairy decaf egg-free eggnog lattes. They’re actually very tasty, enough that I even make one for myself occasionally.

3) Identify theft: It can happen to you! If you were reading our credit reports, it would appear that Heather and I have been spending money like it was going out of style, and doing it a thousand miles from here, to boot. But it’s not us, nor even a doppleganger (which would at least make a more interesting, X-Files-style story); instead, it’s a scumbag who was either a tenant of our previously-mentioned capricious landlord or simply someone who passed by, and who in either case took mail from the mailbox of our previous home. Did you know that you can get credit cards with high limits from various department stores with nothing but a stolen social security number (and that your social security number, despite its important connections to things like, oh, credit ratings, is about as carefully guarded as the holiday fruitcake that nobody wants)? To get instant in-store credit, you don’t need a picture ID or even a billing address that matches the permanent address on a credit report. Fascinating, and aggravating. The credit industry appears to be pretty poorly-regulated in additional ways; while most major retailers have well-established departments ready to handle fraud claims, others are far less professional and require the victim of identity theft to do all the legwork in the filing of a fraud claim. So we’re writing letters, making phone calls, and documenting in detail every conversation with creditors, credit bureaus (also another big scam; there’s no opting out, they own your credit information, and you have to pay them to see what it is!), and agencies like the FTC, who has a warehouse full of information on identify theft and credit fraud.

If it happens to you, here’s the general procedure: File police reports (this may be difficult when the fraudulent credit activity is taking place in another jurisdiction; nobody wants to take a report!); call the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans-Union), who are obligated in instances of fraud to send you a free (but abridged) copy of your credit report, and place a fraud alert in your credit file; watch the account statements roll on in, and imagine where you might put the $2,500 sofa, purchased in exotic locales like San Antonio (where, by the way, you’ve never been), for which you are being billed; start making phone calls.

Fortunately, we’re not currently doing something that involves unblemished credit, like trying to buy a house—we took care of that last winter. All the same, when you have your fair share of legitimate credit card debt, dealing with fraud is a stressful hassle.

4) I’ll be teaching complex organizations over winter session this year. Designing a syllabus for a class that’s just 13 days long is pretty difficult. The class needs to be demanding enough that students really earn their three credits, but it’s hard to ask too much when class meets every day—there’s just not enough time for the kind of reading and writing assignments that would ideally constitute a regular class. At the same time, I can’t carry three hours of class per day unless my students are adequately prepared to talk about the subject. This will be interesting.

Enough updates for now. There is leftover pie and stuffing to be eaten, and I am ready for the challenge.