Saturday, January 01, 2011
Blogging regularly is a lot harder than it looks, so maybe regular random musings will get me in the habit. There's lots of stories to tell in a forum less limiting than Facebook status updates.
So let's see what 2011 brings.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Bong? What the hell is bonging?
Are the shrimp calling the mother ship asking for an emergency beam-out? Have the squid stormed the fortress and the revolution is about to begin? Is the pasta about to rise from the pot and seek its revenge, tangling all of its in its sticky tentacles as it slowly digests us over the course of dozen years?
A check of the owners manual verifies the worst. The language in the troubleshooting guide was just a polite way of saying "Ha ha sucker! Are you ever screwed!"
At least (at least, he says) it was 'only' the oven that took itself off-line, something about the appliance electronics equivalent of a dysfunctional family Christmas, with one electronic controller refusing to talk to another over something that may or may not have happened several decades ago but so scarring and jarring we'll take this argument to our graves. Or maybe something just short-circuited.
We managed to finish cooking with one finger (guess which) on the reset button to silence the cooktop's incandescent urgency and loud bobs of pain. The camp stove was quickly set up as a backup, and the meal continued unabated. But for the next week we have a stove up on blocks, the redneck kitchen equivalent of a dead truck on blocks in the front yard, as I set out to repair its faulty electronics. At least I got off cheap and knock wood it has been working fine ever since.
Fast forward to 2009, Christmas week. Family in town for an early Christmas dinner. Smoked turkey breast, a 6 pounder smoked in a tad under 6 hours. It came out beautiful, moist, and very delicious. Good food, good wine, family, stories, celebrations. We're all tired at the end of the evening. Good thing we have a dishwasher to help with the cleanup.
Or do we? The damned dishes were cleaner when we put them in the beast than when we took them out. The noises it made sounded like Satan himself was cleaning the china.
Yup, this year I now have a dishwasher up on blocks, awaiting repair.
I wonder if I should shoot the refrigerator now or wait until next Christmas?
So after its 11 month slumber, We Don't Do Windows is back, at least for the time being.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Enjoy maximum versatility in outdoor cooking with the Master 7-in-1 Smoker and Grill. This camp cooker can be used for propane smoking and grilling, charcoal smoking and grilling, as a deep fryer, and for boiling and steaming. The smoker features a durable solid-steel 19" stand, cast-iron burn...
A very nice entry level smoker
Pros: Attractive Design, Easy To Assemble
Cons: No ignitor on this model
Best Uses: Outdoors
I Am A: Family Older Kids
A friend put me on to the art of smoking meat. After a bit of a search I found this to be a well-priced entry model to try my hand at smoking, plus have the benefits of being able to BBQ and fry.
This is an entry model so the propane burner is smaller than most but for smoking this is a good thing as it makes it easier to maintain the lower temperatures required for smoking. This model also does not come with an ignitor so you need a long lighter or fireplace matches to light the burner.
The access door for adding wood to the smoker bowl is a bit small and I am not sure how to add water to the water bowl without lifting the smoker body, which causes all the heat to get lost. Keep long tongs handy for adding wood.
Assembly was not difficult and all the washers and bolts are handily marked to remove any guesswork which part is needed where
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The other day as I cast a lazy eye towards the calendar I realized the due date for my Verizon bill was fast approaching. I dutifully logged onto my account, and was greeting with the text "The biling information could not be obtained for this BTN. Please try again later." OK, what's a BTN? (Billed telephone number, but it took a little more investigating to find that out.) So much for a clear and concise error message with information on how to act on it. Welcome to Circle 1, sloppy programming.
No matter, as I had plenty of time before the bill was due. Maybe.
So later in the day I again try, only to be greeted by this same BTN message. I try a different computer and even a different browser. Same message. Tried again an hour later. Same message. Welcome to Circle number 2, a problem that does not get resolved in a timely manner.
At this point it is getting late in the day, and I want to get this bill paid before it is too late. After all, I did switch to a non-paper billing for convenience, right? Right? So I whip out the cell phone and dial *611 for customer service. After navigating the voice menu (and remember to please listen carefully, as our menu options *have* changed) I get thru to a cheerful customer service agent. A little too cheerful. What's VZ putting in the company water cooler? Maybe the same stuff Rankin-Bass was putting in theirs back when they came up with their holdiday specials. But I digress. Funny how fast you get through the queue when you hit the option that says "I want to give you money." Often so fast it can suck the dust out from under your pant legs. No matter, I appreciated the friendly demeanor of the person I was willingly going to shell out a few sawbucks to.
The friendly voice on the other end of the ether proceeds to cheerfully explain that since I am on One Bill he cannot take my money, and that I need to call this other number and explain the problem all over again to them. I suppose he could have done that before I spent a few minutes explaining the problem. He at least offers to transfer the call so I am still not being charged for air time. Nonetheless we are in Circle 3, the 'sorry I can't help you here' stage. "Is there anything else that I can do for you today?" Yeah, let me pay my bill.
After a short wait I am now talking to another very friendly agent who lets me explain the situation for a second time. The productive parts of my life are getting slowly robbed from me as I go thru the explanation in full again. Can't you read the typed notes from the last CSR? All the while in the background I am logging on and off the VZ web site to see if I can escape the vortex I am being hopelessly pulled in to. This CSR explains he can take my payment but that there is a $3.50 service charge he does not have the authority to waive. Yep, Circle 4, 'we can help you here but it'll cost you'. At least he was able to explain in a way that made sense how they are held hostage by their third party processing firm but this is stil rotten eggs. However he does say that I may pay my bill at any VZ store to avoid the fee. CSR points for attempting to save me money.
I take him up on that option since I am cheap and $3.50 these days is at least a Creamery ice cream cone, and I kind of do resent getting nickle and dimed to death. Before we terminate the call the agent offers to transfer me to VZ's e-bill department to look into the BTN error message. I am assured the wait won't be too long and that my call is still airtime free, but given the events of the day I wouldn't be surprised if the next bill (if I can ever read it) might show otherwise. After a few minutes of hold music (music to calm the savage beast?) my agent breaks back in and apologizes for the delay. He bemused that the wait should not have been more than a few minutes, and that I am welcome to stay on the line, air time free but robbing more precious free moments from my life. He gives me a tool free number to call instead of waiting and in the interest of saving my phone battery for a call that might be more meaningful than listening to muzak. So far we've successfully only grazed Circle 5 (let me connect you to another departmnt who might either help you or pass you on to someone else, if only they will pick up the phone), but my bill still is not paid, the web site is still busted, and what's left of my patience getting thinner than my receding hair line. Unable to resist the gravitational pull, or more likely like a gawker at a train wreck, I am eventually sucked in.
I hang on on hold a few more minutes before ditching the call and to try again from the land line, saving the phone battery so I could do more productive things with it like play solitaire or doodle on the note pad. The hold music isn't doing its job and attempts in the background to get my billing information still haven't produced any results. Circle 6 and descending faster than an unpowered Boeing 767 over Canada, the 'you are in this so deep may as well keep going' phase.
By this point I have essentially forgotten that I have the speakerphone on hold and have moved on to other more important things. I glance up at the phone display to see the hold time is now almost an hour. Suddenly the tiny speaker jumps to life with the voice of a customer service agent who really wanted to be somewhere else than on that call at the moment. She collects some basic information and then the whopper comes when she insists on some 3 digit account code that apparently appears on my paper bill, if only I still received paper copies. Circle 7, we need the very information you can't get . She tells me I can look it up on-line. I try to explain that is the entire purpose of this call, because the web site can not and will not display my billing information. Apparently Circle 7 includes some lecture on security features but she fails to comprehend I cannot produce what she is looking for, and oh, by the way, again this is the entire purpose of the phone call.
Circle 8 (we're going to keep dancing around and around until you are blue in the face, die, or just give up) is with exasperation in her voice as we move on to alternate security questions such as "How much did you pay last month" or "How much is your bill for this month". "What part of I can't get to my billing information do you not understand", I want to shout, again explaining how we're caught in a circular trap, because said information once again is being held hostage on the very web site I am trying to report a difficulty with. Trying to be the only sane person on this ship of fools I navigate a series of somewhat meaningless links on my account page ("We truley are sorry but no account information on this BTN is available, and will not be until the cows come home, so just give it up already") until finally I stumble across an obscure link that actually DOES display my current balance. This information is either pulled from some other database table or I just won the VZ CSR lottery.
I at least can give this information to the CSR who can now proceed to process my request. Yeah, I think, the problem will get fixed and I an pay my bill on-line and save a trip to the VZ store, where at this point I wouldn't be surprised if they can't get my BTN as well. All hope is deflated when I am told I should hear back from them within 10 days. 10 days!!! That's speedy service and we just have to have descended to the frozen hell of Circle 9, the we'll get to it when we get to it even though a more timely response is required circle. Would you mind waiting the 10 days for payment? I bet not! I am on paperless billing you know, and that should require some parts of the on-line system actually work, or at least a system that allows me to pay my bills without paying some stupid fee.
Like Dante and Virgil I now finally spot an exit from within the 9th Circle, as this new found link somehow actually allowed me to pay the d***** bill. I expect in another week they might have everything else fixed. Maybe. But honestly I would not expect to see pigs flying out my monitor the next time I access the web site.
And all this was for an operation where I wanted to actually give them money.....
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
No Tuesday lunch is complete unless there is an extended cell phone discussion. Today got out of hand with all our social technology gear on display.
Since I've ben remiss here are some photos from lunches past.
December 2008 at the BJC:
November 2008 also at the BJC:
and one from September (Cafe Laura):