April 19th, 2004

krazy koati

You'd better get started, now's the time

I wrote and mailed out a check today. This interests me because I have peculiar interests, and because -- based on the carbonless copies in my book -- this was the first check I've written in sixteen months. Granted I've never written many checks -- I believe my nearly ten-year-old HSBC account is up to check number 187 -- but I'm amazed how completely my need for them has collapsed.

Part of the collapse is electronic checking. I started doing that my first jaunt to Singapore, when I figured it'd save several useful days; I assumed the process of getting bills forwarded to my parents, them checking the amounts, and telling me would add irritating delays, and it has. Now I just have student loans as regular payments demanding U.S. money.

Here, my rent's automatically deducted. Water and power is charged through something called a Giro system, in which they send me a bill and I have two weeks to dispute any charges; if I don't, payment's automatically deducted. I could set up the same thing for my cable and phone, but prefer to pay them at automated stations -- using my bank debit card -- since at least one of the competing automated stations is throwing a contest every month, and I want to feel like I have some involvement with my bill-paying process.

The thing I still can't get over is my US debit and credit cards work fine in Singapore -- the H in HSBC stands for ``Hong Kong'' -- and my Singapore bank card works fine in U.S. ATMs. Until this year they didn't even charge for using a non-bank ATM, and they still don't charge for the currency conversion. I still remember my first international trip spending a good half-hour signing traveller's checks and spending days wandering around West German or Swiss hotels looking for a place to trade them for local money. I'm amazed how seamlessly it all works.

I signed the wrong date on my check of today, though. I don't know why I do this, but I feel better if I date any faintly legal document incorrectly. Odd? Yes, but not really odder than my habit of keeping toothpaste in the fridge; it just has less logical reason for it.

Trivia: The last Byzantine historians known to record the present-day goings-on were Nikephoros Gregoras and the Emperor John Cantacuzene, who wrote after his abdication in 1354. No contemporary records from the Byzantines of their last century are known to exist. Source: The End of the Byzantine Empire, D.M. Nicol

Currently Reading: Military Errors of World War II, Kenneth Macksey.