Friday, July 29, 2005

We Really Are Not Stupid

We bought a dining set from Jeff Bridges.

Stupidity sometimes comes from people who are not stupid. I hope.

Last night I stopped on the way home from work and picked up a dining table and chairs we bought with the proceeds from the sale of our Missouri home. When I got home, I brought in the chairs. Shannon, anxious to get something other than a card table set up in the breakfast nook (is 'nook' still the right word?), tore into the boxes as I watched after and played with Ben. That always pushes any workday stress out of my mind. Sometimes it introduces other stress, but a much better kind. Eustress. I stress. We all stress for... nevermind.

So, as I'm making Ben's supper, Shannon announces that there are no back legs for the chairs. Hmm... have you opened all the boxes? She unwraps and pulls out all the other pieces. No back legs. Okay. Let's call them. 'They' in this case are the folks at The Room Store, in Plano. Our salesperson's name is Jeff Bridges.

At this point Shannon is getting angry, because so many people have put forth incompetent efforts during our move -- people who supposedly are professionals at what they do. I walk over and look at the parts she has unwrapped. Hmm... nope, no back legs. Okay, I'll call them. It's after 7 p.m. at this point, so I'm doubtful we get any good help.

The receptionist quickly discerns that she is not familiar enough with the furniture itself to help. A man gets on the phone asks me to look at the chair backs. I look. "The chair backs are the legs; they extend all the way down in one piece." he says. What the guy might have wanted to say: "Do you still have the boxes they came in? If so, then pack them up and bring them back, because you're too stupid to own our furniture."

The guy was very polite about it and didn't even laugh at me after I laughed at myself. All the parts (made in Malaysia) were there, with a few extra nuts and screws for good measure. Dumbfounded by our collective stupidity, we assembled the chairs and the table and it all fit great in our space. My only excuse, and one I'm not ashamed to admit, is that was my first dining furniture with 'some assembly required.' So, although the box said 'Made in Malaysia,' I know that is not entirely true.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mowing Misadventure

I got out there and was ready to mow the new lawn for the first time. I had my new Black and Decker Grasshog, no-bump feed, 5.5 amp, electric weed trimmer that, with just the flip of a switch and a flick of the wrist, becomes an edger.

An extension cord was nowhere to be found. We had boxed it up for the move, and I didn't have time for a swim in the sea of boxes our garage had become. I asked my neighbor if he had one. Nope. He offered to introduce me to a woman across the street, busily pulling weeds from her front yard landscaping, because he was sure she would have it.

Turns out she did, and was very glad to let me use it. I gave her the same explanation as above, but with a lot less literary flair (probably a good thing). Otherwise, she probably would have thought I was a freak and told me to get lost. Normally that's no skin off my neck, but I needed some extension cord and I needed it bad. I told her it was very nice of her and nice to meet her, and left them talking to each other.

I sauntered back across the street to our lawn, ready to make the lawn look the way society expects it to look. I hate lawn work. Always have. Probably always will.

I got all the way down one side of the driveway, stopping the Bermuda grass tendrils' slow but steady crawl and cutting them back to the concrete's edge. Down the sidewalk to the mailbox, then back. About halfway up the other side of the driveway, the factory-loaded line ran out. Where is my extra line?

(pan quickly to the open garage)

Packed in a box.

Curses! I was so close to making some progress on this dreaded task.

Sidenote: We moved in on trash day, and my wife and her crew threw out things that didn't quite stay cold enough in our cooler during the trip. Things like frozen raw chicken breast, ground beef, and other fine perishables. These things tend to stink and attract flies, so our City-provided trash can did not stay in the garage long. Then it just stunk up the world, wherever the wind blew it. The day I was doing the lawn was the following trash day, a full seven days after all those things were placed in there. The garbage collector had emptied it and placed it back on the curb, and now I was to brave the inevitable, face the horror I didn't want to see. Without detailing it, I will just say that I have never had to wash 'those' out of a trash can before. In fact, I rarely had even seen 'those' in my lifetime. I sprayed what insect killer we had found -- ant spray -- then closed the lid to let it take effect while I mowed.

Back to the lawn.

I opened about five boxes that had the 'Garage' box checked and found no weed cutter line. I did, however, find my extension cord. So, I walked back across with the neighbor lady's extension cord and returned it, explaining how I had found mine. She said she had plenty of Weedeater line and I could use some. I grabbed her roll of gin-u-wine Weedeater brand line and headed back.

After tackling the ridiculously neglected Bermuda grass creepers and the borders around the landscaping, I cranked up my mower, in hopes it had enough gas to mow the lawn. We had left our gas can to avoid having gasoline fumes build up in the moving van. Although we already had bought another, I hadn't filled it yet.

I got almost half way through our tiny front yard before a nut and bolt fell off, leaving the left side of the mower handle hanging only by the throttle cable. Maybe my internal expression of my hatred for the whole mowing process had angered some higher Lord of Landscaping, and his approach to vengeance was a gradual wearing down of the blasphemer.

I don't give up that easily, however, and with at least six of my neighbors casually watching as they chatted across the street, I was determined to make a decent showing instead of a memorable show. I'm a ham, but I'm not a glutton for ridicule. I managed to find the nut and the bolt, re-attached the mower handle, and off I went.

That lasted about a minute. I could not find the nut that time, so I mowed the rest leaned over to hold the lower part of the handle (it is a two-piece thing that allows one to fold it for storage) with my left hand. It was a fun sight, I'm sure. The sun was getting low, and a Dallas Morning News carrier already had interrupted me twice. Had he read 'Misery' he probably would not have flagged me down the second time. The guy didn't even have a business card and did not offer to give me his contact information in any other form, so I told him I was busy.

After all that, I managed to finish only the front before nightfall. I cleaned up the clippings, washed out the putrid trash can, and went inside for supper at 9 p.m.

Now it's sinking in that we moved. I have mowed, and it's no different from anywhere else.

One good thing happened. My wife and son came out to say hello to me at one point during all this, and caught the eye of neighbors who had brought their daughter outside. They all met and had a great time on their swingset, and we have our first 'couple friends' on the street. If I had hired somebody to mow, that might not have happened. Take that, evil Lord of Landscaping.

Actual Description

Found this verbiage on a set of Dragon multimedia speakers:

High Power For Your Good Music
(picture of cannonball with a burning fuse)
For people who love their favorite music, this speaker has wonderful power output to handle your music. No matter what kind of music you like, it always tries its best to satisfy you.

These speakers came with a DYI kit I bought from Tiger Direct to build my own computer. I can honestly say that the speakers satisfy me, but I have no idea whether they are trying their best to do it. What I want to know is... what kind of power do they provide for my least favorite music? That's the trick of it. I'll never be able to test that part, because I'll never play my least favorite music. Wow. Those marketing geniuses.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

It's All... Gone

All of it is gone.

We decided that we like DishNetwork so much, and I've seen such an improvement in their customer service, that we would stick with them. Oh, and the fact that we became irrevocably addicted to pausing and rewinding "live" TV. If anything is the "killer app" of the last 10 years, that would have to be it. It's the ultimate melding of computer and media to create a product that is truly useful to people who watch TV either a little or a lot.

That is, until something goes wrong. Terribly, horribly, teeth-gnashingly wrong.

The guy from DishNetwork showed up at our house this morning, my wife and child present, and proceeded to install a dish and the necessary wires to feed our existing DishNetwork 522 DVR receiver a signal. It had served us well in Missouri, so we figured it would do the same in Texas.

I had hooked up the unit last night to make sure it hadn't got bumped too hard in the move, and I was able to pull up the DVR menu and watch a few minutes of a program. Fine. Everything looked good.

After several short phone conversations with the installer today, I was confident things were turning out just great. I would arrive home in our new house to find digital bliss awaiting me. I would play with Ben a while, have dinner, put Ben to bed, and then maybe find something to watch. If I was watching something while sprinkling the lawn, I would just pause it and go move the sprinkler, then come back and start watching again. Then, I could skip commercials for a while. What a wonderful TV-watching world it is, when one can view programs without the intrusive, edge-of-your-seat commercials leaping off the screen into the living room.

Then came the conversation that brought that to a halt, and yanked me into a chain-choked wheelie like a yard dog that tried to chase after an annoying kid. The receiver was bad, the man told me, and he had one to replace it. I explained that I had many pay-per-view movies on there that I had not watched yet, and some great stuff that could not be had on rental. Even if I could, I had paid a monthly fee for that programming already.

My frantic call to DishNetwork didn't help a thing. They just said that the installer had to leave there with either the working receiver or the non-working receiver, and I could have it replace under warranty later if I wanted to keep the bad one. I asked the installer, who told me that the received wasn't even functional enough to play DVR stuff. I'm pretty sure he did something that fried it, because I was using it fine last night. Oh well. Gotta run.

DishNetwork needs a way to back up their DVR units. I know in the grand scheme it's only TV, but it's a kick in the gut nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

There May Be a Stupid Question

Some say there are no stupid questions. That may be so, but there certainly are questions that can make one look stupid. Example. We go out July 11 to a pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Ben. It's a chewable tablet. The pharmacy tech asks us the child's birthdate, which my wife provides her. The tech then says, "We have July 11." My wife, feeling fairly confident in her memory of the day she pushed a bowling ball out of a milk jug, informs her that her records are wrong. My wife corrects her, says again that it was July 2, and then the woman behind the counter asks, "Of 2005?"

(crickets) (crickets) (crickets)

"Yes, he's a week old, so we figured a chewable tablet would be the best way to go -- here's your sign," would have been the memorable thing to say, but my wife held back. I've said things without thinking in the past, and some of those things made me look a bit stupid, but come on.

The woman probably was just a casualty in an avalanche started that morning when somebody entered him as a new record in their system, and typed that day's date in the birthdate field. Oh well.

We Finally Get to Move

It ended up a bit rushed, but we're looking forward to it. I had lined up some former co-workers to help us load the van July 16. When our house's buyer took longer than expected to secure a loan, I told the guys there was no way we would do it that weekend. They, of course, had made other plans by the time I found out July 11 that the date was a "go" after all. Oh, boy, this should be fun.

My dread for moving is outweighed by the fact that it will free us from living under someone else's roof. We've been eating some fine cooking and haven't had to mow a lawn in two months. That part, I'll miss. Also, Ben has loved being around his grandparents all the time. Even at age two, however, he has some sense of being in his own house. When Shannon and her mom arrived at our Missouri house to start packing it last night, Ben visibly brightened at the sight of it and ran around like he was more comfortable and secure than he'd been in a long time. It will be nice to be out with Ben, and mean it when we say, "It's time to go home."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Welcome to Me and Elvis

The address of this blog was just the first thing I could think of that was not already used. It's the name of a song by Human Radio, a now-defunct band formerly based out of Memphis. Now Ross Rice is the only former member I follow at all, and he still lives and works in that area. The song "Me and Elvis" does not inspire me because I'm an Elvis fan, but because I love its upbeat tempo, fun tune, and witty lyrics. Yes, I said "witty."

I might not post every day. I will post when something hits me, or when someone who touches my life does something worth jotting down. It's a journal mainly for me, really. I have so many thoughts in my head sometimes, but never manage to get them all out. This will help me do that. An online catharsis. Ah, feel the rush.