Let Down

I’ve been on vacation from work for the last week.  And I’ve been rather purposefully sedate, almost to the point of being lazy.  But then again, I don’t usually do much on my vacations, normally because I work so hard on the weeks when I’m on the job.  Too, neither my wife nor I are big on traveling.  Sure we’ll make little forays out of the house for shopping, going out to eat, appointments and the like, but we don’t normally travel all that far from home base, unless it’s a special or unexpected occasion.  We’re homebodies, for the most part.  Always have been.

Even so, we’ve been discussing off and on about going to Rochester, NY for a shopping trip together.  It’s about 2 hours distant, and there’s an Italian bakery we’ve been going to for many, many years.  It’s the bakery that made our wedding cake 26 years ago, and they make the most delectable butter cookies you could imagine.  On more than one occasion I’ve mentioned that if that place was closer, I’d easily creak the floorboards at 500 lbs (or more).  Yes, they’re that good.  Last year we both bought a Groupon for $30 worth of baked goods for $15.00 (USD).  A nice bargain and we’d done the same thing a couple of years back.  Of course we both spent ours on cookies.  They freeze well, if they make it to the freezer that is.  The deal expires at the end of March, and since I had vacation, we figured “why not?” and decided to make the trip.  The wife checked their website to be sure we’d be there at the right time, and yesterday afternoon we set off for the city.

We’d considered going the day before, but the weather report was saying that it was snowing in the city, even though it was sunny where we were.  Personally I don’t mind driving in the snow at any time, unless it’s really a white-out or blizzard.  Even so, driving with the wife can be a little more problematic, since if the wheels start to slip, she has a tendency to go into full panic mode.  And no one wants someone to have a screaming fit in their ear when they want to concentrate.  So we postponed the trip.

The trip was uneventful, though when we reached the area, we decided to eat at the local Olive Garden, so when we got to the bakery, we wouldn’t have the urge to buy everything not nailed down.  Dinner at OG was very nice, we had a very engaging waitress, enjoyed our meal and tipped her accordingly.  When she asked about dessert, I mentioned casually that we were going to the bakery (mentioning it by name) and she recognized the name and said that she loved their baked goods.  Leaving the restaurant, we continued down the highway looking for a suitable place to turn around, since the bakery was in a plaza on the other side of the road.  As we passed the plaza, I noticed something rather odd….the sign that advertised the bakery was missing on the building.  Or at least I thought it was.  Perhaps I had the wrong plaza?

After turning into a small strip mall and making our way to the right plaza, my worst fears were confirmed.  The sign was indeed missing, and the place looked like it had been closed for several weeks.  The windows weren’t boarded up, but you could easily tell that it was no longer in operation.  There was a computer printed sign on the glass door that announced they were “now in California!” along with a website to check out.   Might as well call it what it was.  We were both dumbfounded that the people who have been operating this bakery for the last 105 years could be so callous with their loyal customer base.  Taking out my phone, I did a quick web search and sure enough, a month back there was some local news coverage of the bakery’s closing and moving to the West Coast.  However, they never bothered to update either their website or social media presence to reflect that.  As a matter of fact, they went so far as to purchase another website to reflect the new location, registered a new Facebook page as well as an Instagram account (all the while leaving the old ones up and not updated) to advertise their new business.  And to add insult to injury, referring to their new bakery as having been opened in 1914.  Um, sorry people, you’re new to California.  While the bakery has been in your family for 105 years, that’s false advertising.  Better to say that you’re starting from square one.

Needless to say, we came straight home.  What we probably should have done was seek out another Italian bakery in the city.  As it turns out, there are several.  But we were more than a little crestfallen and decided to head for home and call it a day.  Even so, on the 90 minute trip, we discussed the discovery and lamented about how we were going to have less of a reason to go back to the city now, it was pretty much the last reason that either of us ever needed to go there.  Once arriving back at the homestead, I went to my couch and started searching YouTube videos about how to make the cookies myself.  My wife decided a more direct approach was in order and emailed the new bakery, informing them that it would be nice if they had done a little due diligence with their website and inquiring if our Groupons were still good.  Apparently it depends on who you ask.  The new bakery Facebook page suggests that they’re not being honored, as they’re being described as a ‘one time sale’ and since the old bakery closed, the new bakery isn’t going to honor them.  Which is a sucky way of doing business, but given what we’ve learned, I guess we’re not terribly surprised.  Suffice it to say, with the comments on their old Facebook page, we’re not the only people who were caught unawares.

I suppose in retrospect it was a good thing they moved across the country.  Pissing off your client base isn’t the best way to engender repeat business.  No matter how good your product is.

Doldrums

Doldrums (n.) – a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression.

January is a generally a month where one regroups after the hectic ‘go-go-go’ of the Thanksgiving/Christmas season.  It’s a New Year, but it’s also a time where things slow down considerably, before ramping up towards the holidays of Valentine’s Day, and then Easter.  I’ve always equated it to the term above, remembering about when I learned of the other definition of the word.  IE: an equatorial region of the Atlantic Ocean with calms, sudden storms, and light unpredictable winds.

It’s more of the ‘light unpredictable winds’ I’m referring to than anything else.  How to keep yourself motivated, when everything around you is stagnant.  It’s a difficult time of year to create change, like many people attempt to do, with their resolutions of this, that and the other thing.  Generally, I’ve given up on making New Year resolutions, because it ends up being a wasted effort, since the desire to ‘change’ doesn’t tend to stay in the forefront of my brain for more than a couple of weeks, at best.

Change is difficult under any circumstances, to be sure. But forcing the issue on yourself doesn’t make it any easier.  Things like weight loss, like quitting drinking, or smoking, or some other habit has to be done when you desire to do it, not on some schedule, either self-imposed, or due to peer pressure.  The argument ‘Well, everyone else is doing it‘ doesn’t work any better as you get older, than it did when you were younger.  The old argument ‘if everyone else jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you as well?‘ definitely applies.

Here we are, 2019.  Hopefully it will be a good year.  There’s always that possibility.  Time will tell, of course.  Should be interesting if nothing else.

Cheers.

Repurposing

For many years, I was going through a lot of cellphones.  A lot of it had to do with cellphones coming out with new doodads, new bells and whistles and wanting to be there to take advantage of them.  Only not necessarily the ‘new’ ones, the ones that people were reselling because they wanted the brand spankin’ new ones.

At present I have about 8 or 9 old cellphones here at the house.  Many of them are unusable because they’re just so old that connecting them to a carrier would be cost prohibitive, at least for me.  One of the less ancient ones is a Samsung Galaxy Note 5 that I purchased from somewhere.  I had another one, but I’m fairly certain that I sold it on Swappa.com a while ago, so obviously that one was no longer available to me.

As I have every year for the last couple, I asked my girl what she wanted for Christmas.  I remembered that she had been coveting an air fryer, and I had already been looking for one at retailers off and on for several months, but not really finding the right one for my preferences.  None of the ones I’d been looking at had the right features, or doodads, and I’d been remiss in just buying one at random.  Which is a good thing, since she informed me that she would very much like a new cellphone for her holiday present.

Oof.  That’s a bit of an outlay if I was to purchase something new or even used, but I thought back to the pile of old cellphones on my desk and got to thinking.  She uses StraightTalk, and if I could get the right SIM card, perhaps she’d have the right type of phone, with the right coverage as well as a stylus, which she’d been coveting.  So, I went shopping and investigating online to see if this was possible.  We’d tried something similar before, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work.  Swapping the SIM card from one of her phones to a Note 4 didn’t connect to the network, so we gave up on that enterprise.

I did happen to (finally) go to the Straight Talk website and used the chat portal to speak to one of the assistants. I informed them that I had a compatible GSM phone (unlocked) and needed a SIM card for a location that was not my own. I didn’t go into detail why, I just made sure they understood it was a former AT&T phone and I needed the appropriate card that would connect where my girl lives. Otherwise, they would have sent me a card that would have a phone number that’s more local to me. Even so, I should have remembered to look at the actual phone, because when I powered it up, I re-discovered that it was actually a SPRINT phone, not AT&T. Since it was unlocked, either I at one point had used it as my own phone, or had simply forgotten that it was a different carrier.

The SIM card arrived a few days after I ordered it. After futzing around with it a few times, it finally connected to the network and began running updates. It works just fine now and I need to be able to ship it to my girl so she can be using it for the length of time before the one month no-contract contract expires. Doesn’t do much good sitting here on my desk.

But it works! Go me.

Trash Can Roulette

I just missed the trash pickup.  Again.  And it’s ironic since I’ve been up since 5:45 this morning.  Plenty of time to get the cans and recycling out, only I’ve been doing other things, and a little procrastination since getting up.

Since moving here in 2001, we’ve had 2 different trash haulers.  The first one was sort of the ‘big dog’ in town, pretty much the one almost everyone uses.  They have multiple trucks, they expect you to separate your recycling (paper, cans, plastic) and pick up different parts of town on multiple days.  Of course, since they are the one most often used, they charge a bit more than anyone else.  They provide the bins that you use for trash, and if you use a different can, bin or box, they won’t empty it.  In that, they’re preferential.

About 5-6 years ago, my wife found someone else that’s also local, but they were just getting into the business and needed customers.  They just happened to be friendly with a former co-worker of my wife’s, so we switched to them.  They’re cheaper, they’re not so picky about what can or bin you use, and they (a bit maddeningly) even though we separate out our recyclables, they toss everything together into the back of the truck.  I’m thinking it may not make a difference at this point, that it’s entirely possible at the local landfill it’s all sorted, so this method is acceptable.  I never bothered to explore further, figuring if it wasn’t kosher, they would have been called out on it by now and we’d have gotten a message with our bill saying ‘please separate’.  Which we still do habitually regardless.

The only thing is, they don’t really pick up at the same time every week.  It used to be they’d come at 9, then 10, then within the last six months they’d show up at 11 or later.  Since they’ve become a bit lax, I’ve been allowed to do so as well.  Except for days like today, when they showed up early.  I only knew that, because having finished gathering all the trash and stuff to put out, I heard a large truck coming down the street, and peering through the blinds, I spotted their truck passing us by and turning the corner.  So we missed out again.  Fortunately, its cold outside, so going another week with 2 more bags of trash in the cans isn’t going to be a hardship.  In the summertime…different story!

Need to get back in the habit of putting out the trash earlier.  Or the night before.

Recycled Nostalgia

I have a hard time throwing out things.  Especially if they can be fixed.  Or at least if I think they can be fixed.  Consequently, I tend to have a lot of items in the house that are in the process of being fixed.  Or if someone I know has something they’re considering discarding, I’ve been known to ask if I can have it.

For example:  My department manager at work has a tendency to throw out things if they don’t work when he wants them to.  He’s been known to throw away computers and buy new ones, rather than have them fixed.  I know…I know.  WTF?  Fortunately, he doesn’t do his banking online or anything of that nature, but if someone was to mine his various hard drives, there would be a good amount of info in the browsing history, if nothing else.  But try as I might to impress upon him the need to be more careful, he does what he pleases in that regard.

Last week he informed me that he was trying to use his nostalgic stereo console that he’d purchased a couple of years ago, but the turntable wasn’t moving at the right speed.  So instead of having it fixed, he went to the local Kohls and purchased a new one.  Which meant, what to do with the old one?  His solution was predictable, he was going to pitch it.  Throw the whole thing away because one component wasn’t working (the CD player/recorder, radio and cassette player worked just fine btw).  I asked if he’d be willing to give it to me instead.  He was more than happy to do so.

So on Sunday, he presented me with his old stereo.  I brought it home, looked up the manual online and managed to repair it in about an hour.  So now I have a really neat looking stereo and it didn’t cost me a thing!  I’m pretty stoked.

nostalgia

Lensa BS

On Saturday I got my new glasses.  I’ve never been one to desire splashy frames or specialized much of anything when it comes to my spectacles.  Honestly, I would rather have a pair of frames that just change out lenses every couple of years, therefore there wouldn’t be a tedious breaking in period where I need to get the frames continually refitted.  Fortunately, there’s no cost at the place where I get my glasses.  I can go in anytime, wait my turn and get them adjusted.  It’s all part of what I pay for when I get them in the first place.  Even so, every 2 years when I get new ones, I always ask the same question, and get the same answer.

“Can I just get new lenses for my old frames?”
No.

The reasoning the staff gives is that the frames that I have are now discontinued (convenient) and they cannot guarantee getting replacement parts should something go amiss in the following 2 years and the frames break.  The likelihood of the frames breaking is pretty low, so they’re just covering their own collective asses and charging me more for their convenience.  Of course, I have a vision rider on my medical insurance, so it’s mostly covered.  I think this time out-of-pocket I paid about $300 for the glasses that I have.  I’m older now, have astigmatism and bifocals.  Since I also prefer not to switch out to sunglasses when I go outside, I also to the lengths of getting Progressive lenses that have Transition coating, so they’ll darken in sunlight.  I find it helps as well with flourescent lighting, since I have blue eyes and sometimes I get headaches from exposure to them.

This time, I thought I’d be a little smarter at the end of the transaction.  As we were packing up to leave, I asked Ed, the fellow that we normally work with if I could have a printed copy of my lens prescription.  I don’t remember getting it when I ordered the glasses, and I didn’t wish to clue him in on why I wanted it.  My brainstorm was that I would look up online how much a new pair of lenses would cost, and perhaps I can have my cake and eat see it too, to paraphrase a phrase.  Ed was more than willing to do so, and I got the printed copy before we left.

Last night, I did a little spelunking online, going to Google first, then to a couple of different websites that do that specific thing that I wished; ie, creating lenses but not selling me a pair of frames.  I was pleasantly surprised that such places exist, and they’re super easy to navigate.  The only wrinkle was, when I inputed all of my information and clicked on ‘calculate’, the number that was returned was less than appealing.

$530 for a pair of replacement lenses.  Oy vey.  I just checked the receipt from the eyeglass place, and without insurance, my new spectacles would have cost me close to nine hundred freaking dollars.  So perhaps the previous number might be considered a bargain.

I’m glad I’m sitting down.

Music of the season

I love Christmas music.  Always have.  When it comes to this time of year, I like to immerse myself in the music that I grew up with.  Yes, some of it is secular, and I’m an avowed (and sometimes proud) atheist, but it doesn’t make the music any less wonderful.  Just because I don’t agree with the story behind ‘Away in a Manager‘ doesn’t mean I won’t sing it lustfully loud in the shower (there are times it’s good that the wife is a bit deaf, I can sing as loud as I want in the next room and she can’t hear me!) regardless of the words or the meaning behind them.  The same goes for standards like ‘What Child is This?”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and others.  They’re music. They’re good singing music, and just as nice when you listen to them as much as you want to.  So there.

Even so, whoever decided that elevator music should include Christmas ballads needs to be hung up by their gonads and beat with a truncheon.  I can’t count how many good solid standards have been maligned or downright destroyed by a smattering of electronic sounds and a beat so fast that it completely destroys whatever intent that the originator of the music had in mind.  Too, when you play the same some 5 times in a 2 hour period, someone needs to have a little talk with the one that’s programming the playlist.

I use Spotify for my music nowadays.  It’s the most recent tool/program that I’ve come to, having utilized a cornucopia over the years. (Napster, iTunes, iHeartRadio, Pandora and a few others that I can’t remember right now)  I use the paid version, so there are no ads, and create playlists for my various electronic devices.  I like Spotify in that they at least give the creators of the music their deserved royalties, and yes while I have to pay $10/month for the use of the service, it’s a necessary and acceptable outlay.

In the last few years I’ve been reminiscing over some of the holiday music that my family played when we trimmed the tree, and kept the silence at bay during the holiday season.  During the 1970s, vinyl records were the norm, since CDs and MP3s were decades away from being invented, cassette tapes were just becoming available and 8-track tapes were rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  When my mother was shopping at the local A&P (Atlantic & Pacific Co, in case you were wondering what the initials meant) she found a compilation album of Christmas music and bought it.  It was added to the playlist of albums that we used at that time of year and I fondly remember the music even now, 40 plus years later.  Somehow in the time of moving from one house to another, I lost that album, but I still have all the other albums that my family had, but rarely use a stereo (the one my family had is in storage) to listen to them.  With the advent of Bluetooth technology, I’ve been contemplating digging out the stereo, setting it up and connecting it via Bluetooth so I can control it remotely.  And of course using the stereo in the house for it’s intended purpose.  During the various moves from one house to another, I kept the speakers from our stereo, and within the last year bought a 40 watt amp and hooked them up to my 42″ LED tv in the den.  The speakers may be 40 years old, but they sound just as good as they did back then.  At least as much as I remember.

I did happen to find another copy of the aforementioned A&P album on eBay in case you were wondering.  When I get the turntable and stereo out of storage, get everything set up and acclimated, I hope it sounds just as good as it did back then.

ChristmasAlbum