There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Catching up..

Last post was in March – wow. Certainly gives an indication of how interesting life is here in Iowa. Don’t know whether this may be a symptom of blogger’s block or not. It seems that even some of the most interesting blogs eventually either grind slowly down or deteriorate into minutia of day to day existence that really isn’t that riveting. Whatever the case, it seems that my creative juices get stirred the most when I am outraged about something. Maybe I’m calming down as I age. (yeah – right).

Now it seems that blogger will not allow me to edit and format this blog in their "compose" mode. I can get around in HTML but web technology has really progressed to where expecting WYSIWYG shouldn't be extraordinary. Blogger, I've moved this blog once, I can always move it again. But I digress.

Winter has descending on Iowa in full suck. Temperatures the first week of December hovered around zero at night while temperatures in Juneau, Alaska were in the 30s. What’s wrong with this picture? The first measurable snowfall of the season left 4” on the streets and the usual horde of clueless motorists learned all over again that this strange white stuff could ruin your plans as you selected your speed from two options – too slow or too fast. The Des Moines street department apparently uses snow as a Darwinian device to remove drivers from the roads since they steadfastly refuse to start to clean the streets until after the snow has stopped. Ten o’clock news casts become slide shows of bewildered doofuses standing beside vehicles firmly ensconced in ditches that arrived there by way of excessive speed coupled with a lack of understanding the coefficient of friction between rubber and frozen water.

I really find it ironic that the season of the year where people are in a frenzy of shopping, traveling and merry making has, largely because of climate change, become a season of very difficult, hazardous and dangerous travel. Years ago the coldest weather occurred in January and the holiday season experienced gentle snows and temperatures in the 20s and 30s. It’s been pretty obvious for some time that nature is trying to get our attention “Hey!! You people are screwing this up!” but it becomes particularly pointed as each December seems to get a bit worse. My extended family finally gave up and now celebrates the holidays in October or early November. I’m sure that there are some who would point to a deeper meaning of Christmas that now seems nearly forgotten.

Over the weekend spent seven hours rehearsing and the performing annual “sing along Messiah”. Tonight playing quintet gig at local hospice. In college I could play with a different group every day and performances most nights and still play dance jobs on Friday and Saturday. Nothing says aging quite like the fact that I need some recovery time.

So as I grind on toward retirement next June, after which I may have more time to ruminate by way of this medium, I’ll try to find more interesting tidbits to share here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Microsoft - you ignorant slut!

Last night my Windows 7 desktop informed me that it had “critical” updates available. This happens on an average of once a week since Microsoft seems unable to get their products right the first fiftieth time. The Windows 7 update application also watches out for any updates it thinks are necessary to applications other than those belonging to Microsoft, because after all, Microsoft knows more about everything you may have on your computer than anyone else including you. So when it informed me that it had an update driver for my Nvidia graphics card I was surprised but willing to give it a try since I had been having issues with the card crashing when I was playing a MMORPG.

So after a 20 minute wait – standard for any Windows update – the computer restarted (really Microsoft? Really?? After all these years we still have to restart the machine after all updates and most software installs. Bush league Microsoft, bush league!) and low and behold all the graphics settings were hosed. I couldn’t get back to my original screen resolution. I tried to open the Nvidia control application only to be told that no Nvidia card was available!

Fortunately, and I almost hate to admit this, Microsoft did something right and included a restore feature in Windows 7 that allows you to return your machine to a previous state after they mangle the settings. This of course took half an hour and another restart but now I am back to where I was after over an hour of time totally wasted. The first version of windows came out in 1983. Thirty years ago!!! And Microsoft still can’t get it right. Seen Windows 8 yet? What a mess. Can you imagine using a machine with Windows 8 for business purposes? One can only hope that this is the final straw that pushes large business users like my employer over the edge and on to Linux.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Soul Sucking - Cable Company Style

About 13 years ago I signed up with the local cable company. Since Des Moines is the equivalent of a little cow town sitting in the middle of nowhere when it comes to modern conveniences, there was only the one company. Our cable bill at that time was $30. I’m sure that by now anyone that has even heard of cable TV can see where this is going. Our cable bill last month was $80. No premium channels, no TIVO or other DVR, no cable box to eliminate punching in arcane codes to get each channel, no frills, just basic cable. $80 a month.

We’ve made several attempts to get some kind of satellite TV either DISH or DIRECTTV but we have this enormous 80+ year old oak tree in the way on the south side of the house. One installer came out and told us how much of the tree we would have to cut away to allow the dish to view the satellites. Four hundred dollars worth of tree work later the next installer told us we should have cut away more. So rather than keep pouring money into tree work and perhaps endangering the life of the tree we stopped going down that path.

So now we are trying to cut the cord by way of antenna TV and streaming internet. Our broadband connection is provided by our phone company and it has been satisfactory up to now. Service when needed has been courteous and prompt. Just last month our modem was swapped out at no cost to us either for the service call or the hardware. However this is DSL. And slow DSL at that coming in at purported speed of 1.5 mbps – when the wind is right and you hold your mouth just so. Contacting the company about higher speeds revealed they are not available because they are dependent on fiber optics and we are trapped in the 1950s Des Moines.

A couple of hours of frantic googling revealed that the only non-business route to higher speed broadband here in Hog Hollow is through (dramatic pause) our cable company! Their rates start at $29.95 the first year, but then start the periodic (monthly) increases so familiar from their cable TV service. So in order to get rid of cable and have a high speed internet feed we have to deal with the very company we are trying to escape from. This is capitalism? Who gave these guys this monopoly? This company (that rhymes with PediaPom) has a license to commit obscene acts on their customers without so much as dinner or a kiss.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tires - Give me a break!

This morning when heading out to work at 7:10 AM with temperature at 12 degrees (F) a tire was low. An attempt to fire up the compressor ensued. When temperatures are below 15 the compressor tries to start up and then promptly trips a circuit breaker. Now the house must be unlocked and a descent to the basement to flip the breaker follows. Then the compressor operates normally – every time. It’s like a ritual. Below 15 degrees? Compressor on, breaker off, reset breaker – everything returns to normal. Even when it’s 10 below zero you only have to try once. The compressor is like a sulky little kid that wants a piece of candy before doing what you want. It’s just one of life’s little annoyances.

The part that puts a burr under my saddle is the whole tire problem. Hold up your hands if you have tires on your vehicle over a year old and none of them have a slow leak. No one? I thought so. This is a case where “if they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they…” actually applies. We have had self sealing suits for our astronauts since the first space walks back in the 1960s. Is it too much to ask that this kind of technology be applied to tires? What good is a 50,000 mile tread warranty if the tire starts to leak after 10,000 miles and you are told “it can’t be repaired, it’s a break in the sidewall “ or some such nonsense? It’s a boatload of crap the size of the raft of the frigate Medusa. Just try and find a tire store that will actually repair a tire. There is always a reason why they can’t. Back when all I could afford to drive was a beater, when a tire leaked I bought a two dollar plug kit, stuck a plug in a leak myself and went merrily on with tires as bald as Uncle Fester and as old as the car itself. What changed? Now all you have to do is brush the curb and the next day you’re lucky if there is enough air in the tire to get out of the garage. We’re not talking about fly by night “Tires by Guido” black market specials either. These are Michelins or the equivalent. The tire industry seems to be the mac daddy of built in obsolescence.

Give me a break!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

ISPs, Phone Companies, and Service calls, oh My!

The Rantmaster’s castle has experienced a bumpy road of late. Things are breaking down faster than I can even call for help. Before itemizing the list of crises for your entertainment I’d like to spin a tale of technical support buffoonery served up by my phone company / internet service provider. I won’t name the company but it rhymes with “sensory stink”. For the last two months my DSL (I know – but that’s all that is available in my area) has been dropping connection at varying intervals, sometimes several times a day. The tech support line was called on three occasions. Credit where it is due, I never had to wait long for a pseudo tech (script reader) but the heavily accented ladies were unable to connect the symptoms I described to a solution. In the hopes of a fix the old hot head held his temper through some very trying conversations none of which produced any results. Finally I resorted to the internet chat support option which I had to do from work since – catch22 – I couldn’t from home because of the bad connection problem. This tech was much more knowledgeable and was able, from my description of the problem, to tell me that they would have to send a service tech out to solve it. I was told, and soon received a confirming email, that a service tech would show up the next day “between 1:00 and 5:00”.

I’m sure that you can see where this is going. There is nothing more frustrating than this type of service appointment. Essentially you are being told that “we really don’t give a damn that you have to work in order to pay for our services, we expect you to give up half a day to wait for a service call that may or may not happen in a timely manner.” But over the barrel I was. So I went home at noon to wait. At 3:00 I clicked on a link in my confirmation letter to see what the service schedule looked like. (I had learned that I could get a reliable internet connection if I took a phone off the hook.) The schedule said that a tech would arrive between 5:43 and 7:00. And that was the point where my patience ran out. I called tech support to confirm this and the heavily accented lady informed me that yes, the service call was now scheduled for after 5:43 PM. The next 30 minutes was an exercise in rantsmanship. I prefaced it by saying I understood that the lady had no control over this but since SensoryStink had no phone, address, or email available to express my displeasure, she was going to hear it and she could pass it on to her superiors. I won’t elaborate, but at the end of my diatribe – vivid and intense but free of profanity - I’m sure that the message was received that I considered the company’s service policies to be the equivalent of the throughput of a male bovine. She, of course indicated that she “understood” and that there was nothing she could do. I complimented her on her unfailing politeness in the face of raw anger and hung up.

Twenty minutes later the service tech showed up, spent 30 minutes at my house, installed a new modem and charged me nothing.

Now I don’t want to suggest that flying off the handle like Peter Finch in Network had anything to do with this outcome, but the service came suspiciously fast. So thanks to whatever got this accomplished. Problem fixed after only four phone calls, one internet chat and one service call. Should this make me happy? I am somewhat perplexed.

Now on to other concerns. The recent cascade of problems started with the cord in a drapery rod breaking. Not earth shaking, but it took a month to get cord and find resources to figure out how to make the repair. Meanwhile we have a blizzard, fight an ice dam leaking into our three seasons room, desktop computer’s on/off switch on starts functioning only intermittently, kitchen stove oven starts turning on spontaneously due to faulty repair part supplied by Sears service, garage door opener chain jumps track leading to cracking my head on the malfunctioning door, slow leak develops in tire, squirrels chew bulbs off outdoor Christmas lights, orchestra rehearsals reach new heights of frustration, doofusses at work continue to prove their doofusity daily and it’s winter! My friends and associates are heard repeating the phrase “don’t poke the bear”. Color me cranky.