Posts Tagged 'home'

Shhh – Keep this Quiet

Shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone about this post.  I can’t believe I’m even writing it.  Frankly, I expect more out of my self, but that is often the problem.  I expect too much out of myself.  Today, I’m letting something slip, I’m letting go.

I’m going to complain in public.

Sure, I complain to friends and family every once and a while, but I don’t want to be a labeled a “complainer” so I try to keep it to a minimum.  Right now though, it’s all I can think to do.  There is just so much to complain about.

Obviously I’m not oblivious to the things I have to be grateful for.  I’m just having a hard time seeing those things.  All I can think about is the stuff I’m annoyed at, the things I don’t want to do, and the people that are frustrating me.

For example, take this repair guy that came over to my house.  His name is an odd spelling of a name that I have associated with a famous female singer, so we’ll call him Jesika.  That’s not his name, thank goodness, but that’s what I feel like calling him.

The back story behind why we had a repair man over is long and if I were to bring it up I would begin ranting up a category five hurricane.  Let’s just say we have a short in our telephone wiring in the house and we called the maintenance company for our rental home to have them send someone qualified to take a look at the wiring.

Our past experience with this company tells us that most of the time they will send out some gross high school drop-out with a bucket of paint to literally cover our problems up.  “Leak in your piping?  Let me paint that over real fast and call it done.”  So this time I called and made it very clear that this was no paint bucket job.  Someone who actually finished high school was going to have to come out and run diagnostics (something other than listening for a dial tone) to figure out where the short is and fix it.  I insisted and made myself crystal clear.

They sent Jesika.  Jesica is six foot three (or so), looks and acts like his dog (who I haven’t met, but one can imagine) and behaves just like the three-year-old child he fathered but couldn’t support.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh.  Nah, you’ll see.

He knocked on the door, then stepped away to go inspect our telephone wire box (or whatever that thing is called).  I poked my head out the front door to look for him.

Of course, he’s very polite.  “Hello sir, I hear you’re having problems with the phone lines.  Did you call your phone company and make sure everything is hooked up right in the box?  It doesn’t look like they hooked you up yet out here in the box.”

“Uh, yeah…  We’ve been living here for a year and a half and the phones have been working fine the whole time.  We only started having problems this weekend.”  I tried to cock an eyebrow at him, but I’ve never been very good at it.

“Oh, wow.  Really?  This isn’t a new service?  Oh.  Wow.  OK.”  Defeated, Jesika’s head hung a little as he carried his bag of tools over to the front door.  He unzipped it and pulled out one of those dummy yellow handsets that are used to test the lines for service.  “Show me where your phone jacks are.”

“We’ve only got two…”

“Of course you do.  Show me.”  He wasn’t listening to me at all, so I kept talking.

“…and they’re both working fairly well – we can place outgoing calls just fine.  The problem is when other people call us.  No calls are coming in.  Sometimes it rings, sometimes it doesn’t.  I called the phone company and they ran some diagnostics that said we have a short in the wiring.”

While I talked we arrived at the first jack in the kitchen and he ripped our plug out to stick his tester thing in and check for a dial tone.  “Hum, yeah.  Sounds like it’s working just fine.”

“I think I already mentioned that we can place outgoing calls just fine from both jacks.”  Of course there’s a dial tone, moron.  I really wish I had finished that thought, we could have gotten the visit over a lot sooner.  “We can’t receive calls.”

So, Jesika dials his cell phone with our phone.  Yeah, that’s right.  He placed an outgoing call.  His cell phone rang.  I really wish I had reeled back in shock and exclaimed, Oh my gosh!  You fixed it!  It works, you’re a genius!  Of course, I didn’t.  What a shame.  Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.  Oh well.  “Well, that’s my phone ringing, it’s placing calls just fine.”

“Yeah, I told you we could place calls just fine.  We can’t receive any incoming calls.”

So he whips his cell phone back out and asks me what our number is.  As soon as I begin reciting it he finds it in his incoming call log (he knew how to use his cell phone?!?) and hits “Send.”

Every once and a while a call will come through.  It’s rare (most of the incoming calls are dropped) but it does happen on occasion.  Lucky for us, his call didn’t make it through.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and his brow furled.  “That’s odd, it rang twice then went to a strange busy signal of some kind.”

Wow, really?  You mean it didn’t work?  Good thing you’re here to fix it!  “Yeah, that’s what’s happening.  Sometimes that busy signal comes on, other times the call just gets dropped and the caller gets silence, and every once and a while it’ll ring on our end but still drop the call.”

Another side note:  The day before I came home for lunch after trying to reach my wife all day and went around the house trying to figure out what the problem was.  I pulled everything out of the phone jacks, I called the house several times, plugged individual items in, and just ran some basic troubleshooting steps to see if I could isolate the problem.  At the end of all the fiddling I was able to call the house.  The problem appeared to have resolved itself, but later it reappeared.  I don’t know if fiddling with stuff fixes it for a call or two, or if the problem is an on again off again thing, but somehow it worked for nearly an hour yesterday.

Today, though, it wasn’t me fiddling with stuff.  It was good ol’ Jesika.  I followed him past our front door and down our hall on the way to the second jack in the bedroom (after our major breakthrough at the first jack).  I was explaining to him that I already knew the problem wasn’t with our phones – we got good dial tones and outgoing calls on both jacks from both devices.  I reexplained that the phone company’s diagnostic revealed a short in the wiring, which is why I had requested that a specialist come out to check all of the wiring for shorts.

I think I even went as far as to tell him that listening for a dial tone on the other jack would be a waste of time, or something to that effect.  He turned around to face me in our narrow hall.  “Well if you’re saying that the wires need to be checked I’m not going to do that.  There’s no way I’m going to rip all the wires out of the walls to check them.”

“Well, I know the jack is working just fine.  The problem is in the wiring in the walls, not the jack.  You’re welcome to inspect the insides of the jack, because the short could be there (though I didn’t see one when I opened it up earlier in the day), but since it’s working fine for outgoing calls I think the wires need to be checked.”  Electricians can use special tools to locate problems along wires in the walls, don’t (or shouldn’t) phone repair people have similar tools?

Jesika became notably upset.  “You mean you don’t want me to check the jack?  You know what, you’re right.”  He pushed his way past me back in the direction of the door.  “I guess I’m not the right man for the job.  Let me get out of your house.”  He was storming off like my son does (my five-year-old son) after I punish him.  “You want the wires checked you need to get someone else in here to do that.”

“Whoa, wait.  I’m not asking you to leave.  You’re here, you’re the repair man, please look at the jack.”  I had to calm my voice as though I were trying to soothe an angry customer, which I learned to do working at the bank for so many years.  “I’m just telling you that there is a dial tone and that there is probably a short in my wiring.  I understand you have experience repairing phone wires, but if this problem isn’t in the jacks I need the wires inspected.  You must understand, I need my phones to work.  As of right now, our cell phones don’t work in the house because the cell phone service stinks here, and our phone stopped taking in calls this weekend so while I’m out I have absolutely no way to get my wife on the phone.  Surely you can understand my situation.”

Reluctantly, like an angry child agreeing to do the dishes – but only because if he doesn’t do them he won’t get dinner – Jesika turned back around and went into the bedroom.   The rest of the visit was littered with instances of me trying to be nice and Jesika trying not to show how angry he was.

In the end he left our bedroom with no conclusion about the jack.  He had unscrewed it to inspect it, but when putting it back together he was careful to leave it in worse shape than it was when he found it.  The screws were all loose, though I had left them all tight and secure when I opened it.

He asked for the customer service number for our phone service and went outside to make the call.  A few minutes later he was calling to me through the opened door to inform me that a solution had been found.  “Call forwarding has been activated.  You need to turn it off.”

“We don’t have call forwarding, it’s not part of our package.”  My wife had set it up, and we had gone with the most basic, inexpensive package available.  No call forwarding.

“Well you do now, and it’s turned on.  She says you have to dial star, star, seven, two to deactivate it.  You should hear a beep beep.”  So I grabbed the phone, dialed the code and heard a busy signal.

By this time I was frustrated and wanted Jesika gone.  I used my cell phone (since we were outside it worked) to dial my house phone.  Partially to my relief and mostly to my horror, it rang.  I picked up and the connection was made.

If you’ve ever accused a young child of something he swore he didn’t do, then had to admit that you were wrong later when you learned the truth, you know exactly what face was beaming at me when I looked up from the phone.  “It worked?”  His inquiry was rhetorical, at best.

“Yip, it worked.”

He gloated to the lady in the phone.  “I told him I’m the best repair guy around.  He didn’t believe me, but here he is thanking me for being the best guy they’ve got.”

He was, in his view, quite congenial after that.  He shook my hand hard and eagerly retrieved a customer satisfaction survey card from his truck for me to submit.  He wanted to wait around for me to fill it out right there so he could read my praise before giving it to his boss.  I knew in my heart though that I would be writing about his immaturity, sloppiness and gloating spree.  I told him I’d turn it in later.

He left in a very proud, chipper mood.  A couple of hours later I decided to test the phones.  I sent my mother a text asking her to call our house.  The phone rang.  I picked up and got nothing.  It rang again and I picked it up quicker.  This time she was there.  I asked her what happened the first time and she said she got a busy signal after it rang a couple of times.

Oooooh.  I wanted to throw something and smash it.  Deep down inside though, I was just glad Jesika wasn’t right.  I tested it again an hour ago, and it didn’t even ring.  I heard the ringing in my phone, but no ringing in the house.  I tried that magic code again (even tried dropping one of the “stars” since it only produced a busy signal) and nothing worked.

So now, tomorrow I have to figure out what I’m going to do.  The phone company will send someone out to fix it, but I’d rather not go through them until I have determined for certain that the problem is not in our walls.  If the phone company repair guy find the problem on their side of the fence (from the box out to their company) they will fix it for free.  If the problem is inside our house, they will charge me $55 for the first fifteen minutes of work, and $20 for every fifteen minute increment afterward.  If it takes them forty five minutes to find and fix the problem, I’ll end up spending nearly $100 to have something fixed that my maintenance people should have fixed.

This isn’t the only frustrating, annoying or difficult thing I face tomorrow.  In fact, if I had a “skip one day free” card, tomorrow might be the day to use it.

Oh, if you’d like to send me condolences or your pity, don’t bother trying to call.  I’m completely unreachable at home.  Wait until I leave my house tomorrow or just send me an e-mail.

Well, thanks for reading my rants.  Sorry I’m so boring lately.  It’s been rough.  I think I’m managing to get through everything with most of my mind and a little sanity.  We shall see.  We shall see.

Childhood Dream – Video

I was feeling a bit nostalgic today, remembering such classic cartoons as “Darkwing Duck,” “Talespin,” and others with some of my peers. Perhaps that’s why I was taken back to my catalog junkie days.

That’s right, I was a catalog junkie. I used to regularly receive catalogs from several computer and software companies (junk-mail in my parents’ eyes), in addition to flipping through the big Sears catalog my mother would get. Those technology catalogs were my favorite though, and I learned a lot from them. For example, I knew all the fastest CPU speeds, how much RAM was being put in the high-end machines, and how big one could possibly get a hard drive. I noticed when the first floppy-drive-less computers began shipping, and realized that the minuscule storage on those things would prevent them from being missed.

Perhaps my favorite pastime from the catalog days was clipping or highlighting all of the components of my dream setup. I would find the most powerful graphics computer, clip it out and put it in a box or a folder. Then I would go find software that looked interesting for doing what I wanted to do, or supplemental hardware. I was in love with the 3D animations that had begun to get big and was convinced that I would become a 3D animator for movies and special effects. I found out about programs like Lightwave and 3D Studio Max. I learned that Photoshop was used to create textures and backdrops. I began learning which programs were low-end and which ones were being used to create professional work.

Eventually I had quite a collection. My collection of clippings evolved from technology alone to everything I wanted in life. There was this really cool computer desk that I wanted from the Sears catalog, as well as an entertainment center with doors that hid the TV. I even fell in love for one of the first times going through a catalog.

It was the Sears catalog, and I found her in the teen clothing section. I remember at the time I had a little crush on Anna Chlumsky from the movie My Girl. Her beauty was by far outshone by the mystery girl I found in the catalog. I am embarrassed to add that she was modeling underwear. Honestly, I don’t remember caring about the underwear (it wasn’t lingerie, it was like a sports bra or a trainer bra or something). I stared at her warm face and immaculate hair for hours on end, barely noticing the rest of her. I thought she had the most perfect eyes, the most beautiful smile… I was truly in love. I gazed so deeply into the image that I became irritated with how poorly images were reproduced in print products. I wanted a larger, clearer view of her gorgeous face (the whole clipping was only a few inches across). I often returned to the children’s section of the Sears catalog to see if she would come back, but alas I never saw her again. Several years later, just at the very beginning of my college adventures, I went to the Sears website and the rest of the web doing extensive searches in an attempt to find out who that girl might have been. I had a time frame, I knew the catalog month (but have since forgotten), I searched for several days. My efforts were to no avail. She was lost forever. Even my beloved clipping had disappeared and all I was left with was a memory. Luckily, I met my wife shortly thereafter.

That’s not why I wrote though. I am writing because I have been realizing over the last few months that one of my childhood dreams has remained alive within me (among others – they must have set up some kind of a refugee camp or something though, because the majority of my childhood dreams have long since been CRUSHED). In those catalog days, crouching over several copies of “PC Warehouse” at once, pondering the possibilities, I used to dream that one day I would have a family of my own (check, that one came true) and produce periodic family videos (using the cool stuff in the catalogs) that would have subtle, sporadic special effects sprinkled in (just to make them a little more fun). I had seen many home videos that were boring. If my family was going to make video of itself, it would need a little extra something.

Some of the ideas for CG (computer generated) additions to my home movies were things like a video of the children playing in the front yard, and in the background something crashes down from space into the house, causing an explosion (which the kids would ignore, of course, seeing as how they’re playing) and a giant robot or monster would come out of the rubble and crash around. I even thought it would be fun to have the kids participate, with me telling them to freak out and run at a certain time. Another idea was to have a video of one of the children’s rooms and have a doll or toy of his come to life in the background, dancing around and playing until the kid looks back at it.

At the time such ideas were the stuff Hollywood special effects artists were only beginning to get good at. Now, the tools exist for all of us; and anyone with the money to spare, the time to invest, and the skill to learn can do it. I’ve got the skills, I only lack the time and money (for now). Eventually, if I ever get that time and money, I still want to produce my own video. Home videos, perhaps a podcast/internet show, maybe some short films… I don’t know. The possibilities are endless. I wouldn’t want to make it a career, but as a hobby I could have a lot of fun with it. I even think my wife would love participating both in front of and behind the camera.

So, in advanced preparation for such a day, I am going to assemble and maintain a list of items to buy. I will assemble that list here and when I have a specific product, I will link to it and include it in a special list at metawishlist.com, so if you want to donate thousands of dollars to my cause, feel free.  The metawishlist keeps a running total of how much everything in the list would cost together (as of right now, over $12,000 not including the computer).

* I probably won’t link to one specific system because the “best” system specifications change almost daily.  If we ever really do this, I would simply look for the most powerful computer system available in the $2,000 – $6,000 range from a hardware manufacturer I trust.

** Adobe has ONE package called Creative Suite 3 Production Premium which contains all of the (starred**) items plus a few extras for a really great price.

That just about does it for now. If you have any suggestions for items on the list that are missing, better products than the ones I link to, or product suggestions for items I don’t have product for, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks!

Fix-it Saturday

Today we fixed some things around the house. Last night I went out to see a movie with friends. We saw Iron Man (not a bad movie, if you’re into science fiction action films). I enjoyed it because I am a nerd.

Anyhow, just after I left the house my wife informed me that the washing machine had quit working. She played around with it, checked that it was plugged in, checked the breaker… Everything seemed right, but it wasn’t working. We don’t have money for new stuff, so it’s used and it will continue to be used until we can afford something else. We don’t have money for repair people to come around and fiddle with it and fiddle with us, so I got a little worried when I started thinking about how much I don’t know about washing machines.

Well, when I got home I tried turning it on and it worked fine for me. Strange, but true. Then, before it was done with the same load, it mysteriously quit working again. So, I started fiddling with it and found some loose screws (literally). This discovery led to the finding that the switch that signaled to the machine when the hatch was opened or closed had mostly fallen from its mounting. Tightening the screws was futile – as it turned out the plastic had broken long ago. So, I found an old hair rubber band and rigged the sensor to the closed position so the washing machine always thinks the lid is closed.

You know, it feels really good to, what do they call it? – Jerry rig? It feels good to get something working with a rubber band and not have to pay someone sporting trouser cleavage from my life savings just so they can waste my time and charge me three weeks’ pay.

As a final note, we’ve (my wife and I) been working on designing some radical changes to our family’s routine to help us all develop better self-control and patience. Needless to say, we wouldn’t need to do this if we all had acceptable levels of discipline and prudence. My five-year-old especially needs something that will help him with his physical and emotional control (he tends to beat the snot out of playmates who don’t worship him and bow to his every whim). We’ve got a plan, but I’m wondering if anyone out there who reads this might have any suggestions for a program (something like a cross between yoga and some martial art form) that we could do as a family that would promote patience, self-control and some basic self-defense techniques. My only requirement is that I need to be able to do this without too much class training – we need to start doing this in our home, as a family, without paying for regular classes (we may do regular classes later, but not now – no can do).

Alright. This wasn’t the type of thing I was planning on posting here, but I wanted to take some time to write despite my creativity being on vacation.


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