shannon_a: (Default)
No, I don't really do "relaxed" weekend.

And no, I still can't write a journal entry within a week of time.


Saturday was a gaming day. It's my Burning Wheel campaign, but the idea has always been to vary it up with other games that expand the overall world. So we started off with three sessions of Microscope over a few years time before getting into the regular Burning Wheel groove for almost ten sessions.

Then, this Saturday, I decided that I didn't want the stress of story prep intruding onto the holiday weekend, so I offered up the first of my interludes, a game of Kingdom. We learned about the Alchemist Guild deep in the past of Eligium. It went well. The roleplaying was more intense than usual, which caused some tension, and we were all pretty tired by the end. But it was an interesting game, and we definitely learned more about our history.


Sunday was a hiking day.

It began with my usual inability to find a sandwich in south Berkeley. I had found a sandwich-making place I hadn't found before called Tivoli Caffe. So I visited there to pick up a sandwich before I walked up the hill. But, they were closed for the whole Memorial Day weekend. So was Cheese & Stuff. IB Hoagies was closed and not opening until noon. Top Dog was closed. I finally ended up at Taco Bell again. Ah well.

Afterward I walked up Panoramic Hill to the fire trails, then up to the top of the hill. It was chilly and overcast, and I was literally walking up into the clouds. By the time I got to the top of the hills, I was in then.

I took a break at a bench on the Bay Area Ridgeline Trail, just over the top of the hill. It's got a beautiful view of the Siesta Valley Recreation Area, down to the teeny super-rich community of snobs in Wilder. I stopped there to write for a while, but that was about when the sun came out, and it soon became too bright to really read my computer. So I walked down through the EBMUD trails until I got to Orinda.

I'm always shocked by how short that walk is, from Berkeley to Orinda. About an hour and a half up the hill and about an hour and a half down the hill. I always think about walking the St. Stephens Trail on to Lafayette afterward, but Google Maps inevitably shows it as another hour, and I inevitably decide it's getting late and I get on the BART in Orinda instead.

So it was on Sunday.



Monday was hanging-out-with-Kimberly day.

Unfortunately, the Labor Day Salsa "block" party on the next block, which attracts huge crowds of people from Oakland to Richmond, and which results in hours of loud music shaking our house, has spread like a disease to also be a Memorial Day Salsa "block" party. So, we were definitely desirous of fleeing the house, but K. is too tired currently to want to go with far.

So, we waited until about noon and then headed out to grab some lunch (Taco Bell again!) and take it to campus.

Once there we ate, then read-aloud from Fool's Assassin, then did our own things for a while. (I had my computer, full of work, as usual.) Eventually some hellacious almost-inaudible buzzing noise settled onto the entire southeast side of campus, and we moved on.

There was then yogurt and drug stores and a haircut for me. Unfortunately, we still had a few hours of Salsa when we got home. K. and I both went to our offices to hide, but my office turned out to be not protected. It has windows on three sides of the house, and though the Salsa party was on the opposite side of the house from my office and windows, it still boomed through the room like a panel truck with its roll-up door flapping all around.



Monday was also the day we said farewell to our exercise bike.

Pretty much, Schwinn sucks. They manufacture crap.

More precisely, we got it a few years ago. It didn't work when we got it: the wheel had no resistance. So a repairman came out and fixed it and it worked. briefly.

Unfortunately for the next year, K. didn't really use it because she wasn't doing well and I didn't really use it because my doctor was keeping me off bikes.

So some 10 months or so after the repair, one of us sat down ... and found the wheel had no resistance.

Though the parts warranty hadn't expired, the labor warranty had, and Schwinn told us this was clearly labor, and so we were on our own.

But, it was an easy repair, they said, taking only a phillips screwdriver. The kind Schwinn liar even told us what pages in the manual to use to repair things.

So Sunday night we finally sat down to look at the instructions, which had been sitting around for a few months. And, they were horrible, and they had little to do with the bike we actually had. I fooled around with it for about an hour and came to the conclusion that a pedal wrench was actually needed to get things open.

We'd already decided that the bike's poor quality control meant that it wasn't worth bringing to Hawaii. Rather than having a non-functional bike in the house for a few years, we opted to drag it out on the street Monday afternoon with a free sign (and a clear statement of its condition and all the supposed "instructions" attached). Our theory was that we could at least benefit from the annoying Salsa party because there'd be people leaving and heading to their cars and one of them might pick up the non-functional bike and take it home.

Sure enough.

Mark that as our last purchase ever from Schwinn, once a sign of quality, now a sign of horrible manufacture and poor customer service.




That wasn't our only experience with crappy companies over the weekend. The other was Jack Richeson & Co., Inc. K. bought a very nice easel from them, and we tried to set that up on Sunday night after our failure with the exercise bike.

The instructions were atrocious. Worse than 10 IKEA books. There were no illustrations of many of the parts and very minimal explanations of what to do.

But, we figured it out and did fine until we got to the last part ... which required a bolt that they had not included.

So K. sent them mail and requested our '2 1/4" bolt'. They sent back the requirement that we fill our a four-page warranty form and send it back along with a receipt and a declaration of where we'd purchased it, in order to get our $2 bolt.

I did so, but I wasn't very happy about it, and I very politely told them their ridiculous bureacratia made me think poorly of the company.

So the next day, one of the owners mailed me back and apologized, but also explained why it was really wonderful that they had a system where I had to fill out and scan four pages in order to get a 2 1/4" bolt. Nonetheless, I was mollified, especially when they said they were sending the bolt priority mail, to arrive on Friday, along with some nice paint brushes for K. as way of apology.

It's Friday. No bolt. No paint brushes.

Crappy companies.



Don't even get me started on the self-righteous asshats at Spamcop, who darkened my door late in the week.

Suffice to say: I've learned that they're now buying dead domains and reusing previously valid email addresses as spam traps. Which is all kinds of morally and possibly legally wrong. Their excuse is that the domains are really old, but if they think data on the internet has expiry dates, they're fools.

(They're fools.)

So, if you're not a spammer, and you ever find the need to sue Spamcop for defamation and/or prior restraint of trade, I'm your man. I now know where the bodies are buried because an arrogant Spamcop engineer explained to me what they're doing as he tried to bludgeon me into believing he was right and I was wrong.

(And this complaint will just have to serve as a substitute for exposé that I want to write but don't want to get involved with.)



My goal in any holiday weekend is to revitalize myself for the wear, tear, and work of everyday life. I quickly discovered that I failed, because my Tuesday or Wednesday I was at wit's end about a variety of problems.

But that was due to the problems (and the ongoing stressors in our life currently) as much as anything.

Maybe this weekend.

I just plotted out a really cool hike.
shannon_a: (Default)
My second Fitbit Charge HR died last week. And I really mean died. The two arms just popped right off the central watch and when you looked at it afterward, you couldn't see any indication that they'd been affixed in the first place.

It was no surprise and no shock. That Fitbit's arm bands started bubbling and getting loose a year ago, and even though it was slightly out of warranty I got Fitbit to send me a replacement at the time because it was just several months after my first Fitbit Charge HR did the same thing. But then B. over on FB suggested buying a sleeve for it. So I got one, and it kept the peeling armband from looking bad, and perhaps it kept the vulnerable components under from totally breaking, like was the case with my first one. And I got an extra year of use out of it.

So now I'm on my third and last Fibit Charge HR. Experience says it'll start falling apart in 5-9 months. And I'm sure I won't get them to send a fourth Fitbit because we're now like 14 months out of warranty.

I have really conflicted feelings about Fitbit. Their software and gamification are all spot on, but the manufacture of that Fitbit Charge HR was just awful. One of the worst consumer electronic goods I've ever bought, since two fell apart to the point where I asked for warranty replacement with 15 months or so.

Ah well. K's Charge HR II seems to be holding up, so I may be thinking about one of those come Christmas-time. If #3 lasts that long. I wish these devices could have held out for a Charge HR III though!



After work last night, I went out to buy some shoes.

I've got some gray tennies that aren't worn through all the way, but they've always been a little bit tight. And, since I started having some dull pain in my right foot lately that seemed (maybe) to get worse when I wore the gray tennies, it seemed like a time to replace them.

I biked up to El Cerrito to the discount shoe store there ("DB Shoes"). As I told K. at the time, I'm not going to get to casually bike out for this type of light errand when we live in Hawaii. But, there are pluses and minuses to every locale.

DB Shoes has been my primary location to purchase shoes for a decade or so. And, I was distressed when I got there to see big "Going Out of Sale" signs. Fortunately, the sale didn't seem to have been going on for long, as the shelves weren't yet picked clean. But everything was in complete chaos. Apparently, the sale brought in all the Ross and Wal-Mart shoppers, because they threw everything on the floor when they were done.

The chaos made it hard to find shoes, because the boxes on the shelves had little to do with the sample shoes nearby. It also looks like the tennis shoes of a year or two ago were going heavy on nauseating colors because I opened some boxes to see what they had and found florescent orange, puke yellow, red-white-and-blue, and other grotesqueries. (A few all red shoes actually caught my fancy, but not my size.)

I spoke with an older gentleman when I was there. He kept talking about how kids-these-days were ruining old fashioned retailers by buying everything on Amazon. And he could get shoes cheaper here! He told me a few times how his daughter had gotten him shoes for $70 off Amazon and they were $50 at DB Shoes. I agreed that sounded pretty dumb (and stereotypically lazy Millenial). But I said I really didn't know how you buy shoes online because the sizing is so inconsistent. He agreed with that too.

It's often hard to figure out the price at DB Shoes because they have marked prices, then marked discounts. It was even harder last night because there were multiple levels of marked discounts, and it was obvious many discount signs had gone missing and many shoes had moved. I finally found a pair that fit well and I liked, but it was marked $110. That felt like a no-go, even if the nearby 40% off sign was correct, but I brought them up to the register to check, and they were actually $40. Good enough.

I actually wanted to stock up with more pairs, both because of the sale prices and because I don't know where my next shoes will come from. But I couldn't find another acceptable pair in the whole store even with a fair amount of looking.

Farewell, DB Shoes. We sorta knew ye.
shannon_a: (Default)
Well, based on comments from other folks and that I've seen on forums, the Fitbit Charge and Fitbit Charge HR are awful products that I'd never recommend due to severe physical defects in their manufacture. (The rubber on the bands appears to pretty regularly begins to peel and come apart after just 3-6 months of use.)

But, Fitbit has agreed to send me a second replacement despite being two months out of warranty, after the previous replacement that they sent in February started to fall apart this July.

So, boo to them for continuing to sell a product with unacceptable physical problems (6 months for a $150 product, with a regularly recurring problem? I don't think so), but for the second time in a row their customer support has been painless and efficient. So yay for that.

At Ben Monroe's suggestion, I've also ordered a couple of "sleeves" for my Charge HR. We'll see if they extend the lifetime of the one already falling apart and/or its replacement.

And if you have a Fitbit Charge or Charge HR, be *very* aware of when it runs out of its 1 year warranty, and if there seem to be any physical defects, seek a replacement before your warranty ends.
shannon_a: (Default)
K. and I have decided for once not to wait a year to see the new season of Game of Thrones (when it hits DVD).

So I looked into HBO Now, the streaming, on-demand service that you can buy ala carte. Except Tivo doesn't support HBO Now, and that's our main entertainment center.

No problem, I figured, I'll just order HBO for a month through Comcast, then watch it through HBO Go on the Tivo. That's their connected-to-your-account HBO streaming service. I mean, I hate to give Comcast any more money because they're one of the scummiest corporations in the country. But it'd be convenient to watch on our Tivo in our living room. Except (1) Comcast makes me waste 10 minutes talking to a chat operator to sign up for HBO; (2) then they can't even get it to work, and with my experience with Comcast and Tivos and Cable Cards in the past, I'm not sure they ever will; and (3) While wasting my time chatting, I discover that Comcast is the only major cable provider in the US that isn't supporting HBO Go through the Tivo. (Discussions imply it's because they tried to get a bribe from Tivo, and Tivo refused; I don't know if that's true, but it sounds right to me from what I know of Comcast.)

So that order got canceled before it ever worked. It's like Comcast is begging you to cut your cable.

Next up I guess I dig up the Roku we could never get to work reliably and see if it supports HBO Go. (The internet says yes, unless we have too old of a box or something.)

And I hope I don't have to fight with Comcast in a month; they claim that canceled the HBO service at no cost, but I have no faith because Comcast's customer support is full of liars, in my past experience.



Meanwhile, the bathroom. After the leak last week, we didn't use our downstairs (nicer) shower for a few days, then I tested it out on Tuesday night and running the water didn't make it leak.

So we started taking showers. Wednesday, no leak. Thursday, no leak.

I come to the conclusion that the problem is actually in the way our tile is sealed, particularly some broken caulk next to the tub. And I'm being really careful to make sure no water is getting out of the tub. The plan is to get a handyman out to recaulk and seal.

Then Friday morning there's water running down under the house again. Despite the total lack of water outside of the tub. In fact, I look carefully under the house and in the bathroom and I really have no idea where it's coming from, though it seems roughly in line with the outer edge of the tub.

Dammit.

(My guess is that I ran the shower hotter today and that's unsealing something. But I have no idea what. So I think we're going to have to call out a plumber to do expensive investigation before expensive ripping out of walls or something to get to whatever's leaking. I'm really sick of this year costing extra money, while the jacked-up stock market keeps our emergency funds in the doldrums.)



Our deck refinishing of the weekend seems to have gone pretty well, but there are a few spots where apparently the finish got put on too heavily, resulting in tacky wet spots. I tried to fix it quickly during the week by reapplying, letting that eat up the old finish, them wiping it off. (Multiple sites on the web told me this was what to do.) And that slightly improved things, but didn't fix them.

So Sunday I may have to do something more drastic like sand and reapply.

But I'm not sure that we actually have enough finish; I think there might be too much pigment and not enough oil left.



While bitching, I suppose I should bitch about health.

My plan with my doc for my chronic problems was to try some increased meds for a few weeks, then try a new one this Wednesday if things weren't good yet. And they weren't, so I did.

And the first couple of days it seemed to crank up my symptoms and give me a pretty horrible dry mouth. I was on the verge of calling it quits, but today seemed better. So we'll see how it goes.



Two steps forward implies one step back, and therefore progress, but I'm not convinced it hasn't been two steps forward, two steps back.

Except for the deck. That's clearly almost all done.
shannon_a: (Default)
As I wrote yesterday, we started looking into changing our tickets to Hawaiian this year due to drug side effects and other medical issues. In fact, we decided to do so. Hawaiian Airlines made this an awful experience that now makes me hate them. For $300, they turned very loyal customers into absolute haters who will try to avoid their airlines as much as we can without losing frequent flier miles or having to pay notably more elsewhere.

(Good job, guys!)

Here's what else I learned.

1. Either Hawaiian's staff is incompetent or Hawaiian is a malicious gouger.

Three times different reps rang up prices for me, and even though they used different numbers every time, the totals came to suspiciously similar amounts.

Attempt #1, the rep found me tickets in late March, which turns out was expensive because of Spring Break. She very clearly told me that there was no change fee, but the tickets were a bit more than $250 extra each, plus another $100 for Kimberly, because they refuse to carry forward our frequent flier discount. Total cost: $600.

Attempt #2, I gave the rep dates that I'd researched myself. She said she could get me the tickets for just $75 extra each. Huzzah! One of two times I was sure we had the problem solved! No discussion of not being able to carry the discount forward. Then she hit me with $200 each in change fees. Total cost: $550.

Attempt #3, I got them to drop the change fees to $150 each, but now they claimed that the tickets were $100 extra each (though they were the exact same tickets from attempt #2, the previous day), and they couldn't carry forward the discount. Total cost: $600

2. Hawaiian's tech apparently sucks and disallows consistency.

To start with, Hawaiian reps were very inconsistent about whether they claimed to be able to find me low rates or not when we chose a new date for our tickets. One guy explicitly said he could, one gal explicitly said I had to go and look on the web site if I wanted to find their cheaper tickets. At which time I nearly broke down crying because their system refused to let me update our flights online. Because of that freaking frequent flier discount. (It was one of many Catch-22s offered by the fine bureaucrats at Hawaiian.)

The frequent flier discount (of $100) may actually have been the source of all my troubles, as it was what drove me to talk to these jackasses in person.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian's phone menus kept saying there wasn't any change fees for online tickets, and ours were purchased online. I could never get a rep to admit to having heard of such a message, let alone what it meant. It sounded to me like there never should have been a change fee, since I bought online, but perhaps it was just that if I changed my tickets online (which they would not allow me to do), then they wouldn't have charged me a fee. Or it could be that they have a totally erroneous message on their phone system.

3. Hawaiian purposefully disempowers its employees.

I talked at some length with Hawaiian staff today. Some of them seemed genuinely moved and to want to help me. (But, maybe they've fooled me; some of the most sociopathic liars I've ever talked with worked for Comcast's customer service, so maybe it's a job skill.)

In any case, they seemed genuinely unable to help me, because they were so bound by Hawaiian's rigid rules that they literally had no discretion to help the customers. Not even the customer advocacy department, which is supposed to help customers. Unless I was being lied to by people who seemed very genuine, they totally can't.

There's apparently one deeper department because the customer advocacy department called the consumer affairs office. However, they literally refuse to talk to customers. You can fax them, send them a web form, or email them. You cannot talk to them in person. And, believe me, I tried. They promise a response in 30 days.

I told someone that I wasn't convinced that Hawaiian was any worse than any other airline in the United States ... then in any corporation in the United States, most of which seem to have lost their way as companies that only exist to serve customers. But, maybe they are, because the bureaucracy, the inconsistency, and the purposeful attempts to avoid customers that I outlined above ... are insane.



As I said, I changed our tickets to when I should be well over my antibiotics. I also sent in a request for a medical waiver to reimburse their ridiculous change fees, but given no one has been hospitalized, I have no faith it'll be agreed to. We made the decision assuming that would be the case.

So I guess we're mainly trying to decide if Hawaiian is a grossly-profit-driven corp run by scumbags or a totally untrustworthy, grossly-profit-driven corp run by scumbags that should be avoided like the plague.

(And perhaps I should be going to the Better Business Bureau next. But my white hot fury will probably be a simmering resentment by the time Hawaiian screws me again by refusing a medical waiver.)
shannon_a: (Default)
Cipro. Day 11. Cipro is a nasty antibiotic. I've taken it once before and had it make me feel crappy for most of the two weeks. This time, same deal, except the doc wants me to take it for at least four weeks.

Combine that with the big scare that Cipro can possibly rupture tendons. It's a big scare because I already have tight tendons, particularly my achilles tendons, which is where Cipro really causes problems. Worse, Cipro seems to cause muscle aches. For a week, I thought I was just hyper aware of my leg tightness, but I've since heard from multiple people that Cipro causes exactly this sort of ache. (And it explains the occasional knee aches I get.) Put that all together and I've had aching leg muscles for almost the whole time I've been taking Cipro, and I have to frequently ask myself, "Is there any inflammation? Do my muscles just ache or is there pain there?" So far, just aching.

And the Cipro is a pain to take because you have to avoid all sorts of things (milk, yogurt, antacids). I just learned that no one bothered to tell me to be careful with my multivitamins too, because they have zinc. So I've probably been lowering the efficacy of this hellish medicine for the first week and a half.

Oh yeah, it's been upsetting my digestion too. I've upped my normal probiotics with a second probiotic with a lot more strains and yogurt every afternoon (all far away from taking the antibiotics), and I haven't been feeling horrible, but I have been feeling sick every morning for the last six mornings in a row.

Good times.

Blue Cross Sucks. And of course Blue Cross would only dispense 14 days of the 30 days my doctor prescribed. Not that I really want more, but there you go. Tomorrow I get to call in the refill, then on Wednesday I see if I actually get the rest or not.

Hawaiian Airlines Sucks. But Hawaiian Airlines was the bane of my existence today. K. and I have been using them for our yearly trips to visit family for several years, ever since a disastrous trip where United messed up almost every leg of the flight. Hawaiian has been much better, except that time someone died on the plane, but that can probably be excused.

But they're apparently fair weather friends.

With all the problems that the antibiotics are causing me, K. and I decided that maybe we should put off this year's vacation. So I called up Hawaiian to talk about it and see the cost.

Try #1. The customer service rep and I pick out a new day. We run it all through. Then she tells me that there's no change fee (she's very clear about this), but that the difference in price will cost us an additional $650 for our tickets. I lose my cool a bit, and say no thank you.

Afterward I look over the pricing on Hawaiian's flights and realize that we were picking dates in the middle of their price gouging for spring break. Thanks for telling me, service rep, and suggesting alternatives. No biggie, I don't care when spring is breaking, so I decide maybe if I call again we can figure out a date that is more comparable to what we paid for our tickets. I know it'll still cost some dosh, because I usually get good prices by ordering well in advance, but I'm willing to foot a bill of a couple of hundred dollars for a more pleasant trip, just not 75% of the cost of the tickets.

Try #2. After researching through the Hawaiian site to find the cheapest dates, I tell the customer service rep the precise flights we want. She lays them all out, and tells me the price difference is just $75. Per ticket presumably, but $150 is as reasonable as a modern-day airline is going to be. Then she tells me there's a change fee of $200 each. Total cost: $550. Probably $650 after they don't carry over the "companion fare" discount we get from our credit card.

I remarkably don't hit the roof the second time, despite (1) the first agent making it very clear that there was no change fee -and- (2) the phone message at the start of the customer service line also saying there's no change fees for tickets bought online. I eventually get a "customer advocate" number from the agent who can get me a waiver for the change fee. Maybe, we'll see. I no longer have any faith that Hawaiian is anything but another money-grubbing, profit-driven corporation that can't see its customers past the bottom line.

Try #3. Tomorrow.

And that'll be the last one because my patience is goooone.

Most likely K. and I will just keep our current reservations, have a somewhat subpar trip, and hate Hawaiian Airlines with a white fury like a supernova.

Good times.
shannon_a: (Default)
RICHMOND, CA 94804 - April 15, 2012, 9:18 pm
Processed through USPS Sort Facility

CASTRO VALLEY, CA 94546 - April 16, 2012, 6:32 am
Arrival at Post Office

CASTRO VALLEY, CA 94546 - April 16, 2012, 8:08 am
Sorting Complete

CASTRO VALLEY, CA 94546 - April 16, 2012, 8:18 am
Out for Delivery

OAKLAND, CA 94615 - April 16, 2012, 8:19 pm
Processed through USPS Sort Facility

OAKLAND, CA 94615 - April 16, 2012
Depart USPS Sort Facility

OAKLAND, CA 94615 - April 17, 2012, 4:24 am
Processed through USPS Sort Facility

BERKELEY, CA 94704 - April 17, 2012, 8:47 am
Sorting Complete

BERKELEY, CA 94704 - April 17, 2012, 2:21 pm
Delivered
shannon_a: (Default)
My office (and nearby areas) has been getting cleaner recently, which is always a plus.

Yesterday, I finished up my long-term project of sorting and organizing Skotos' files from the last several years. I did most of it last summer, and then had the last 20 or 30 things to file, which sat through fall and into winter. But it's now done, which means that all of the older files have been moved to storage. Yay! Floor and desk space in my office!

Today I hauled 2 bags of comics 1 mile to downtown Berkeley's Half-Price Books. This was mostly stuff that I'd replaced with collections over the last couple of years, but I also pulled out a few things that were just junk, since I was planning the outing. Even with a cart, hauling 2 bags of comics takes some work! 

So, this was an experiment because the last couple of bags of comics I gave away and before that I left them out with a free sign. Since downtown Half-Price sells individual comics and even bagged sets of individuals, I figured it was worth a try. I know that the store totally low-balls offers, so I figured out a price that would be acceptable before I left, and that was $10/bag or $20. I had to wait 40 minutes, but then they offered me $40. So that was probably worth the waiting and hauling. I bought a copy of Sandman Mystery Theatre volume 2, as I've wanted to replace my single issues of that series, and volume 2 goes for silly prices online because it's out of print. I pocketed the other $29.50 and will probably use it to buy new comics next week.

After lunch I hauled my cart over to Ace Hardware, where I bought 3 plastic bins, which I then hauled home on my cart (That's efficiency!). They're for storing stuff in the garage. My most immediate goal is to get games into the bin that I intend to sell at the auction at Endgame later this year.

I also hauled some priority mail boxes up out of the garage when I got home, as I am sending some more books and games off to an eBay seller on the East Coast, who'll get rid of them for me. 

Whew! Spring Cleaning indeed!


And I have a new arch nemesis in the world of crappy companies. It's usps.com. This week, or sometime recently, they stopped delivering things in a timely fashion. Instead I find USPS records showing things setting at the Berkeley post office for 4 or 5 days before making it the last .5 mile to their destination. And this is over several different packages for both Kimberley and me (most of which still haven't arrived!).

When they finally arrive, it's days after they were supposed to.

Here's the one package I've actually gotten since they fell apart last week or so:
January 27, 2012 02:44:00 PM Berkeley CA US Delivered
January 26, 2012 08:50:00 AM Berkeley CA US Out for delivery
January 21, 2012 11:35:00 AM Berkeley CA US Arrival Scan
Note not only the 5 day hiatus at the Berkeley Post Office, but also the fact that it took two days to get delivered! It went out on a truck on the 26th and didn't arrive for something like 29 hours later!

Ay! This is why the US Postal Service is slowly going out of business. Well, that and the fact that they think getting rid of Saturday delivery and overnight deliveries is something that's going to make people happier to use them.

But ... this is actually worse than typical USPS stupidity. Someone at downtown Berkeley USPS should be fired, as our delivery is suddenly totally unacceptable.
shannon_a: (Default)
For the crappy companies file:

Dear Roku,

I am writing this letter to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the Roku player that I bought several months ago.

The main purpose of the Roku was to stream Pandora and Netflix to a TV. To be honest, it's never worked well. From the start, it'd usually lose its connection to Pandora after several songs, halting play. The Netflix experience was a little better, as it only lost its connection to Netflix every 10 times or so we watched a TV show. We very nearly returned our Roku within our 30 day trial, but the annoyance of doing so combined with the fact that it worked at a barely acceptable level for Netflix led us to keep it. (We did, however, stop using it for Pandora due to the frustration level there.)

Unfortunately, in the last month the Roku's performance has degraded immensely. Lately, we've found that it *never* connects to Netflix first time when we sit down to use it. Even having it retry the connection tends to fail. Instead, we have to reboot the Roku. Sometimes we have to reboot it twice. Sometimes it still doesn't work. Last night, after we rebooted the Roku twice to get it working, it then lost its net connection about 10 minutes into the show. We rebooted it again and there was still no luck.

I'm not looking for technical support. This is not a problem with our setup, with worked mostly adequately for a few months. This is not a problem with our wifi setup, as the Roku is 10-12 feet from our hub and everything else in the house works fine. This is not a problem with our internet connection, as nothing else has problems connecting to the internet. This is not a problem with Netflix, as I sat down with an iPad last night while our Roku was refusing to connect, and it popped the exact same show up fine.

This is a problem with the Roku, which was quite frankly our worst purchase of 2011 and probably our worst technology purchase *ever*. If you think that somehow we're experiencing an aberration and you'd like to make it right, we'd be willing to let you try. As is, we're ready to retire our Roku, which if you'll excuse my French, has proven itself to be a worthless piece of crap. We've also already begun to tell our friends and families about our experiences with the Roku.

Shannon A.
shannon_a: (Default)

Ah, the vacation, she is gone. Which is a shame, as I got very relaxed, calm, and comfortable after a week of worrying about very little. I'll just have to try and hold on to that. (So far, fairly good.)


Jason & Lisa. Last night we had my brother & sister-in-law over for a games night. I'd been wanting to do this for a while, but Jason actually was the one that suggested it, as he has time off before going back to classes (which I suppose makes it still vacation from his point of view). I suggested a handful of possible games, and Lisa somewhat excitedly said that Teamplay Ticket to Ride Asia sounded fun. So, that was what we played.

It was my second experience with the team play rules, and if they weren't as amazing as they were the first time, it was only because they weren't so wonderfully and surprisingly novel. It still was a totally great way to play the game. Lisa and I lost to Kimberly and Jason. Tactically, it was because Kimberly took a chance and drew tickets on her last turn, which gave them the 14 points needed to win (10 from tying us for most completed tickets, 4+ for the ticket), but strategically it was because they had a superior train route that hit three corners of the board.

Overall, good fun.


With real-life running again, I'm reminded that I've been wanting to write about a few ongoing things ...

Cobweb. Our faithful grey tiger-stripe is still with us. It's been 10 months or so that we've been giving her subcutaneous fluids on a daily basis and that's been enough to keep her system going. If anything, for me at least getting her to eat is the larger battle to be fought every day, as we tend to lock her up with food for an hour in the afternoon, then feed her again in the evening. And, it's not just the battle of placing her back in front of the food several times, but also figuring out what she'll eat on a weekly basis as she's constantly tiring of one food or the other.

Despite all that, Cobweb is either continuing to lose weight or else has landed at a lower weight than I'd like, I'm not sure which, but her ribs are relatively pronounced again. We're trying not to worry about it too much and to continue on with life. It works for the most part.

Trees. So I've written very few updates about our exciting trees out in front of our house. Sadly, the windstorms in December stripped them of all their leaves. I just hope they return with the Spring. Because of our unusually dry Winter I've been out watering them once a week, which I didn't expect to have to do for several months. Go figure. I've also been doing my best to keep all grass/weeds a foot or two out from the trees. (I'd hoped to keep the whole front strip clear of foliage, but now I must laugh at that; in any case, the care guide for the trees said to keep this amount of space free, so it should be good.)

Games. Went to Endgame today, and had a good time. It marked the start of my new gaming theme for 2012. Not as exciting as the Year of Knizia, the Year of Alea, or the Year of Wallace, but in '12 I plan to "PLAY OR DIE". Basically, I want to get old games to the table to be replayed. If I don't really like them when I replay them or if I don't manage to replay them at all, then I'm going to consider really hard about putting them into the '13 Endgame Auction.

(OK, some will be saved because they're great games or they're set aside for my RPG group when appropriate or they're tiny card games, but there are lots I'll be applying this criteria too.)

Tonight I actually played two games from my shelf. Streetcar was probably never in danger, as I play it at least once a year and love it. Atlantis might have been. Surprise, surprise, I rediscovered that I really like it too. So, two games that won't DIE.


And finally, a special holiday editions of companies-that-suck.

Roku. Our Roku was our worst tech purchase of '11, and really one of my worst tech purchases ever. For those who aren't familiar with it, it's a box that you put on your TV to pick up streaming. I wanted it for Pandora streaming and Netflix streaming into our Family Room. The problem: its networking SUCKS. In our first weeks, I found that it usually dropped off of Pandora after just a few songs. I was about ready to send it back (as it was still in its trial period), but then we started watching some Netflix TV shows and that mostly worked OK.

Well, except about 1 time in 10 when it'd totally lose its networking and we'd have to reboot it to get it working again.

That's gotten considerably worse lately, now that we've used it for 6 or 9 months. Lately, 1 in 2 times we try and watch something, it just locks up during some point of networking. Sometimes it can't find the wireless hub (about 12 feet across the room) and sometimes it can't connect past the hub to the internet. And, even worse, I can reboot everything and it still doesn't work sometimes. 

Very frustrating.

I'm about ready to toss the piece of crap out of window to see if it'll explode when it hits the street. More notably, we're also considering dropping our Netflix streaming since we don't have a device that adequately shows them (actually, we have several, but they're all computers, iPhones, and iPads, not really conducive to group viewing).

(I should see if I can get our Tivo linked up to Netflix, but I was having problems with the wireless [again], though in this case it's more understandable because it's on a  different floor.)

Westfield Comics. These guys have been in mail-order for a long, long time. I remember ads from them in Marvel Comics from the '80s or so. So, I'm surprised how tone-deaf they are about Internet orders. Basically, I tried to order a big omnibus from them a week ago, on the 29th. They waited a full week to process my order, then told me they didn't have it. Which is pretty unacceptable in itself. But the cherry on top was the fact that they took my money (which may have been illegal, as they did not actually have the item to sell), they did not issue a refund, and instead told me they'd given me credit at their store.

Fortunately, I always pay relatively unknown companies with Paypal if I can, and thus I have no doubt that I will be getting a refund, if the idiots at Westfield Comics like it or not.
shannon_a: (Default)

So Netflix came back crawling on its hands and knees to its customers a few weeks ago, promising not to inconvenience all of them by splitting their queues in two. The severe ignorance which they show about their products is very troubling, but at least it's something. However, it wasn't enough to make me stop thinking about finding a new streaming media provider, since I'd already looked down the path and gotten pretty interested in Amazon Prime, which had a much more limited selection, but probably enough, for cheaper than Netflix streaming, and with free 2-day shipping from Amazon.

Since that first announcement, Netflix has been stepping up announcements of new streaming TV shows, which is my main interest. After adding CW, AMC, and a bit more, they might have won me back.

But unfortunately we continue to have problems with Netflix's core services too. Their subaccounts (where Kimberly and I can have our own queues) have continued to barely work since their "upgrade" of their system earlier this year. And today I confronted another very annoying problem.

I've been watching through all the Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who serials, but unfortunately several weren't in print as DVDs when I started the project. That's slowly getting better and this year both Time & The Rani and Paradise Towers--the first two McCoy episodes--came out on DVD, the first in June, the second in August. But wait ... 2-4 months later, Netflix still says the DVD release date is unknown.

After patiently waiting for a while, I finally got annoyed and sent an email to Netflix's customer service line today, asking them to please order these in-print DVDs (something I should never have to do, but something that I've had to do previously for something else).

The result:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

     netflix@email.netflix.com

A beautiful metaphor for Netflix's customer service over the last year.
shannon_a: (Default)
In the news today was an "apology" from Netflix for their badly-managed price hike.

Mind you, I didn't care at all about their price hike. The wife and I were in the process of moving to a cheaper subscription package because we were using less DVDs because of streaming content ... so it made sense that Netflix was going to have to change the pricing of that model. They just managed it like Wizards-of-the-Coast/insert-your-favorite-big-company-bad-at-PR would: badly.

But in today's announcement, Netflix also announced that they were splitting their DVD and Streaming services totally into different companies. And this was something I do care about. As I told K., "Those idiots at Netflix don't understand that a lot of their value comes from the fact that they hold a ton of data for their customers: what we've seen, what we've rated, what we want to see." So, when this data is no longer connected for our Netflix and "Qwikster" accounts, I'm going to care a lot less (particularly if the data doesn't make it to one of the two web sites). Let alone the fact that going to two different web sites to manage what I as the customer see as the exact same thing (content!) is one of the stupidest things imaginable!

I told K. that it was all making me consider dropping the streaming, since their selection is so crap and it's going to lose many of its benefits. She said it'd made her think the same thing.

So, congrats Netflix: those customers that you didn't drive away with your badly bungled price increase are now thinking of leaving because of your even-worse bungled decision to separate the data that your company is built on into two parts. And that's why you're today's crappy company and the next company that we might (probably will, I suspect) be giving even less money to. And we'd been members since July '01. Good going.

Well, it's not like your web site has worked correctly since the "upgrade" earlier this year, which has left it so that we still can't search in subaccounts something like 3-6 months later (or queue instant content or ... a few more problems that slip my mind).

PS: Comcast sucks too. No particularly new reason. What is it with media distributors?
shannon_a: (Default)
I was just forced to file a complaint with the BBB about DirecTV (DirecTV rating with the BBB: D+). Since we cancelled our service with them a bit more than two weeks ago, they've called us almost a dozen times trying to get us to renew service. They've been told *NOT* to call us at least a half-dozen times. And they keep fucking calling and calling and calling.

We already knew their DVR sucked eggs. It was actually the main reason we left. We already knew their satellite dishes were as fragile as eggs. Ours wasn't aligned right in the first place and went out of alignment once over our two year contract. We didn't know, however, that they were stalkers who would obsessively and constantly call us to try and get us back into our bad relationship with them.

According to California laws, it looks like the DirecTV assholes can keep calling us for 30 days after we told them to stop because of our pre-existing relationship. So, at this point I just need to make sure every telemarketer who calls from DirecTV gets to hear about what scum their employers are.



Other people that suck:

Comcast. Always. But at least their equipment works. Though we certainly saw the ever-expected incompetency during our recent re-signup.

Congressional Republicans. Who are trying to drive our country into bankruptcy, led by chief asshole Boner. I can't even comprehend their stupidity.
shannon_a: (Default)
Kimberly's ma and brother were in town, starting Monday evening, but now the three days of family are done.

Oddly enough, my main interaction with them was eating. They unfortunately choose to come during the week (because of plane ticket prices) and I wasn't at a point that I could take time off work, as I have a release due tomorrow. So on Tuesday and Wednesday, I worked during the day, then got together with Kimberly & her family in the evening. And we also got together for dinner after they got into Berkeley, around 7pm on Monday.

So there was Nation's on Monday, then Nation's on Tuesday. On Wednesday, for some variety, we had virtual pizza. Kimberly and her family went to North Beach Pizza for a very late lunch, and then pizza was brought home for me. So I didn't actually share that meal in person.

Overall, it was nice to get to see Kimberly's ma and brother again, but I'm a bit tired out after bouncing from work to family for three days.



This evening, I went out for a bike ride in the early evening to quiet my head & relax. Over to the South Berkeley branch of the library (since they're too lazy to pull books that you request), then down to Black Oak Books, then over to Emeryville so that I could loop through the Aquatic Park before heading eastward toward home.

Nice ride. Bright and sunny, but a bit windy.



Tonight I finished getting our Tivo integrated with Comcast. We even successfully watched a show off the TiVo. Kimberly is now going to discontinue our Directv service tomorrow, just a week or two after the expiration of our two-year contract.

In the end, Directv didn't offer up a single reliable piece of hardware. The way-too-fragile satellite dishette had gotten flaky again, resulting in the recording quality of our programs getting so bad again that some were unwatchable. The remote control had long ago stopped working well for fast forwarding (and pretty much only for that). The DVR always sucked. And that's pretty much why we'd leave them behind and go back to Comcast despite them being one of the worst companies in the universe.

After Kimberly gets the Directv crap hauled out of our house, we just need to watch our Comcast bills with eagle eyes for the first month or two, to make sure that they don't try and slip in more charges we didn't agree to ('cause, you know, it's happened more than once before). Then our transition will be over.



Everyone should say comcast comcast comcast comcast in all their posts to give the little Comcast spies on LJ like [livejournal.com profile] comcastcares5 hives.

Comcast cares .... ABOUT THEIR PROFITS.
shannon_a: (Default)
So after two years, we've decided that we don't want to continue with the DirectTV satellite service. The biggest problem has been the fact that their DVR totally sucks. It sometimes randomly doesn't record, it has a horrendously bad interface, and that same interface is very slow. Oh, and its remote has gotten less and less accurate over the years for no particular reason (and having nothing to do with batteries).

Following two years of frustration, we decided to go back to Comcast, despite our seething hatred of them. Because, you know, we have a pretty limited set of options for TV service.

(Though you'd think that those limited options would be getting more polite to their customers now that people are actually turning off their cable and satellite, because they can get the content they want from the internet and from Netflix.)

We haven't been talking to Comcast for more than a couple of days and [i]waddaya know![/i], they're lying to us again. K. talked to them and they told her we could do the installation ourself for no cost. Great. Then she talked to them again today and discovered that no, they always had to send a tech out for this type of install at $25. Oh, and they had to send another tech afterward to place a cable card in our Tivo. $25 more.

Yep, $25 for placing a card in a slot.

I was ready to tell them to go screw again, but then when I called them today they said that we could pick up a cable card and install it themselves. So, fine. Despite the bait-and-switch we'll still give these liars a shot. Again.

I can actually never decide it Comcast's service representatives purposefully lie or if they're so incompetent that no two ever give the same answer. I gave them the benefit of the doubt last time, but the lies started to stack up so much, and some of them seemed very deliberate (like a guy claiming that he'd set digital cable up to his mom's Tivo, when he absolutely could not have in the way he said).

So, whatever. I'm hoping that they're not going to "accidentally" screw up our billing and that we won't have to talk to these fools again after this new install is done.

For more on Comcast's terrible customer service and terrible attitude to its customers, click the "crappy companies" tag below and scroll back just more than two years.

Edit: Got our Tivo all hooked up tonight, in preparation for that install tomorrow. I wanted to make damned sure that we had an output device ready because I didn't trust the Comcast cable guy to do the install right if he didn't have a way to test it. Guess what? Cable is already correctly running. That's right, the asshats at Comcast tried to make us pay for not one but two installs that we don't seem to need. We still don't get the "extended" basic channels, but I wouldn't expect to before we get our cable card. Kimberly's going to call in the morning to say "Hey!" and make sure we're not hallucinating or seeing some half-installed service.
shannon_a: (Default)
I've been feeling fatigued for at least the last couple of days: just generally worn down all day long.

I'm sure it's largely Cobweb-related stress. The worst part is that we continue to have to torture her three times a day: two pills (which have gotten better with the pill shooter) and one subcutaneous fluiding.

We have to continue to pill her twice a day because our vets office continues to be a COMPLETE fuck-up. It's now been 11 days since we placed our most recent order for Cobweb's chews. When they're not screwing around, it takes 4 days from order to delivery. Now ... well the last we heard was yesterday when they said they'd absolutely be here today. Today: not only are they not there, but the incompetent employee at the vet's office who deals with these medicated chews didn't bother to call us. (Who knows: maybe they're there and their part-time-chew person didn't bother to come in.)

Once upon a time Berkeley Cat & Dog was a good vet. I don't know what's absolutely destroyed them in the last four months, but at least for the ways we interact with them--which has been chews and test results lately--their performance has decreased from great to unacceptable. A to D-, if you prefer.

So, very, very tired and frustrated and sad and annoyed.

Cobweb at least has started eating again. She's increasingly scrawny, and we're still waiting for word on her current tests, so that they can hopefully find the right antibiotic for her, but at least she's not losing weight at a huge rate.

And at least I don't have that book still ongoing. When I need to veg--and I do need to veg--I can veg.

Also on the bright side, my current Skotos project, Modern Art: The Card Game is sufficiently far on that I have very clear goals to meet. So it's been relatively easy to keep going and making progress during my daytime hours, before nighttime collapse.

Agh.
shannon_a: (Default)
Our neighborhood cat hospital has unfortunately been turning increasingly sucky this year. We used to be able to order Cobweb's formulated chew medicines and expect them to arrive as regular as anything 4-5 days later. Now, for the second time this year, we've discovered that the vet's office sat on the order for a few days before sending it on to Texas. So, we're once more giving Cobweb pills. This is not a good thing.

Last night we first had first had to figure out how we were going to interrelate our two-ways-to-torture-Cobweb: the pills and the subcutaneous fluid. We decided fluid, then pill. I don't know if this was necessarily the wrong choice, but it turned out poorly.

Like the OJ Simpson Case, giving Cobweb a pill has always been a bit of a trial ... but nothing like last night. She yowled, she gnashed her teeth, and she spit out the pill again and again. She'd hold it in her mouth and refuse to swallow. Finally we got her pill down (the first of two for the day) only because most of it dissolved, I think.

After that Kimberly and I went to get some ice cream to make us feel better, as we were probably more traumatized than the cat. Well, she got ice cream, and I got a cookie. We also picked up a "pill shooter" at the vet, which is supposed to help get the pill to the back of the cat's mouth. It seemed to mostly work for the second pill of the day. She only spat it out once or twice.

Still no medicated treats today, so we'll be giving her another pill at lunch.



Our vet also failed to get us the results for Cobweb's newest kidney test yesterday. They finally got them back today and I learned that she still has a kidney infection and they want to send out a test to a lab to find the precise type of bacteria she's picked up, so that they can apply a more precise antibiotic.

It's a bit of money, but we're probably still willing to pay for it. Hopefully her cat insurance will end up picking up some of the recent costs, in any case. But she needs to go back to the vet for her 4th or 5th visit in a couple of weeks. (She fortunately hasn't been very traumatized by recent visits and Munchkin's hissing has likewise been minimized.)

On the worse side, she's largely stopped eating (again) lately, which is pretty bad given her weight. I assume that's the infection returning too (though until the vet phone call this morning, I was thinking she was once more bored with her food choice). And it's going to be a couple of days before they get results back from the labs, added on to the day that they just sat on the tests, it's all time that our increasingly scrawny cat can't really afford. Hopefully she'll be able to get a new antiobiotic by the end of the week, but I have little faith given the recent performance of the vet's office*.

* I carefully say vet's office, because this all appears to be administrative issues. Our actual vet is great.



I was annoyed by some other company yesterday where we were also having to work around their crappy procedures, but I can't even remember who at this point. Not Directv, who we're abandoning when Doctor Who season 6 is over because their DVR sucks. Not Berkeley's recycling, who missed our recycling last week and took days to pick it up. Not East Bay Parks, who removed the bench we always sit on at the dog park. Someone else. But it pales before kitty unhealth that looks like it's going south.

Fortunately I could mostly zone out yesterday evening, following my day of programming & administration. That's much my preference when things aren't going tops, but it wasn't possible during the long period of book writing ...
shannon_a: (Default)
The Turkey Day. After heading over to Andronico's in the morning to get the rest of our Thanksgiving fixings, Kimberly and I decided that it was such a beautiful (if cold) day that we'd bike down to Point Isabel to watch the dogs. So, we did, and there were fewer dogs than usual, but that gave Kimberly and me more time to voice the inner thoughts of the dogs and their owners--cracking up as we did--without anyone being close enough to be offended.

The funniest was a marmalade cocker spaniel who lunged at each of Kimberly and me at different times, growling fiercely, for no reason. Later its owner tried to wash it and she was sorta dumb, 'cause when it kept twisting and turning and retreating whenever it got wet, she didn't grab it by the collar. So by the time she was done, K. and I decided that she'd washed its feet.

Afterward we catsat I's cat Caruso a bit, reading him a chapter of Harry Dresden as we did. He was freaking out a lot, and we finally figured it was because he was locked inside (him usually being an indoor-outdoor feline), but we didn't find out until we got home that I. thought he was OK going out again. So, he had to suffer staying indoor overnight, and apparently he mainly crossed his little kitty legs 'cause he didn't like using the indoor catbox for somereason.

Finally, when we got home we cooked up a ham and then had that and much Andronico's fixing (mashed potato, gravy, green beans, cranberry + crescent rolls which were not Andronico's fixing) before calling it a day.



Today. Our builders were back out going at the garage this morning. They've been told by our architect about what to do for new foundation work (and will be charging us a ridiculously small amount to do so). During the morning they were going at tree roots. I don't know how much further they got, because K. and I headed out at around 12.30. So, we'll be surprised to see what's happened to our garage in the morning.

Our first stop was more catsitting for Caruso. We chatted with him a bit, then opened his door for him to get out and poof he was gone. We read Dresden in solitude for about twenty minutes more. Then it was into The City.

The main purpose of the trip was to see the Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gauguin exhibit at the De Young. It's the second of two special exhibits that the De Young is having in from the Museum of Orsay. There were lots of beautiful pieces. The most stunning was Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone which K. and I gazed at for long moments. I was somewhat disappointed that there was less than a full room of Van Gogh, but I happily devoured everything they had.

The rest of the exhibit was very nice. There were several other artists that I quite liked, but so many names went by that I lost them. What I found very intriguing was how many art styles quickly came out of impressionism in the late 1800s and early 1900s: pointillism, divisionism, cubism, synthetism, symbolism. Whew. It was really cool to see the evolution of these styles. Between the previous "birth of impressionism" exhibit and this "post-impressionism" exhibit, I really feel like we've gotten a wonderful course on the rapidly changing art forms of about a century ago.

Funniest art of the day was this Gauguin, which was labeled "Self Portrait with Yellow Christ". We decided that if they were being so literal, maybe it should be "Self Portrait with Yellow Christ and Red Sheep". Then we went to the next next piece and were amused to read that critics thought the red dog it contained was confusing. So, lots of red. Coloring was actually an important part of Gauguin's synthetism, which simplified color to evoke emotion, but though I liked some Gauguin, the more it got simplified, the less I liked it.

And that was it for the day. Well, you know, we got home after that.

(And I was just very disappointed to learn that ACT is greedily using their upcoming "Tales of the City" musical to drive subscription sales without making it available to the general public. Bad capitalists! No San Francisco cookie! Maybe we'll remember to try and get tickets next year when they choose to make them available to us churls.)

But nonetheless, a good day in San Francisco. And a good two days of holiday. Now back to work! There are adventures to prep and history articles to edit!
shannon_a: (politics)
I don't think there can be any question that the latest crazy TSA regulations regarding x-rays and aggressive groping have crossed the line (I mean, that is, if you didn't think they crossed the line when they started making us taking our shoes off for no particular reason years ago). When we enter an airport, we now leave the supposedly free United States of America and enter a police state.

The pilots were giving the American public a lot of support on trying to turn back these fascist policies ... and then they got paid off with a no-pilot-groping policy. Which decreases the chances of anything happening with the rapid erosion of air rights for everyone else.

This is my favorite note on the issue:

"Rez [an ASU physics professor] agrees the odds of getting cancer from the scanners may be low. But he calculates it's about the same as the chance of being on a plane blown up by terrorists."

(From SFGate.)

Great job, guys. And, this being the TSA, they haven't actually decreased our chances of dying any, as they're reacting to the last terrorism threat, last Christmas. So it's like we now have 2x the chances of getting blown up: once by terrorists, and once by the x-ray machines.

Great post from EFF on how to report complaints with the fucked-up new system. Currently the TSA is claiming that their complaints haven't increased since the x-ray machines went into use. I'll have to get that bookmarked on my iPad, so I can complain after getting felt up come my next trip to Hawaii.

PS: Until writing this, I hadn't noticed how the TSA and Chertoff have managed an Orwellian switch of language, calling these x-ray machines full-body scanners, to make them seem less ... carcinogenic.
shannon_a: (Default)
Building. There's been a constant drumbeat of hammering, sawing, and powernailing from next door for the last couple of days. Our neighbor, M., is getting the place reshingled and doing some other outside work as well. Fortunately, the workers are either lazy or else M. specifically asked them not to start early, because they never seem to be going until 10am or so, well after I'm awake ... which is a nice change from years past when other neighborly construction led to 8am cement mixing--which I can't fault them for, but was still unpleasant.

I hear an occasional smattering of Russian from next door. That's also a nice change from when our previous neighbor, J., got work done 3 or 4 years ago, and I'd hear an occasional smattering of either Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly, I forget which now. J. was just mortified when I told her that her workers were blasting hate speech to the whole neighborhood--mortified by the hate speech, not the blasting.



Caulking. Speaking of working I finished up my caulking of our dining room window earlier in the week, but not in a good way. I was trying to fill a vertical gap between the window and the sill and it turns out that caulk (or at least the caulk we got) just doesn't have the strength to stand up vertically like that. I tried for a while. I decided I might not even be using the correct substance. Even aside that problem, I discovered it was very hard to caulk evenly. I got caulk all over and I finally decided that I didn't know what I was doing. The caulk got mostly cleaned up.

And then I added it to our list of things to get a handyman to do. Fortunately, the next 2 or 3 things I want to repaint won't have this issue.

There is painter's tape back over the gap now, to avoid rainy problems until a handyman happens.



Cobweb. I haven't written about Cobweb in months. It's still very clear that eating makes her sick sometimes, and as a result she has to be particularly tempted to eat. She stopped eating her wet food ages ago, then she stopped eating her new dry food. So most recently we got some kitten food which is both tastier and more fattening (and fortunately all of our cats are pretty slim, since they're all eating the kitten food).

Given extreme variety, Cobweb is mostly eating most of the time. Whenever she begs for wet food, she gets it, and she usually eats a decent amount. I now have regular food and kitten food sitting in bowls next to each other. Cobweb prefers the regular food, but will often go back and forth between it and the kitten food.

Whatever keeps her eating. But I'm now certain this will be a continuous problem for as long as she's around.



Traveller. My Traveller campaign ended a week and a half ago. Last night I finally finished my Traveller AP which reported the whole 20-session saga.

I'm still working on reading the Pathfinder rulebook for the next campaign. I hadn't realized quite how hefty it was!



Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam. These weeks leading up the elections have definitely increased the amount of political spam I've been getting. It appears that the couple of political groups I'd given my name to had passed it on to a couple more and all of them started sending a mail a day or so. So, I've removed my name from all the lists but one. Good going, guys. That ain't the way to retain mailing info.

In other spam, I've started to get "Christian" spam from Christian stores who think that the way to reach believers and get them to purchase crap is by email spam. I took the time to tell the last one (and their IP providers who might actually put a stop to their hypocritical bullshit) that spammers were beholden to Mammon.

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