Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No More Banana Flips (and other critical news)

We were out wandering around a week or so ago, looking for something else when we happened across one of those Hostess Bake Shop clearance places. There was one of these near where I grew up and I remember my parents buying car-loads of Wonder bread for something like 20 loaves for $1, then carrying sandwiches made with freezer-burnt bread until Thanksgiving when whatever was left got made into stuffing. Mmmmm. Good times.

Anyway, we're both big fans of Banana Flips (yea, yea; just stuff it, will ya?) and we hadn't been able to find them for several years. So we head in and no Banana Flips. We asked at the counter and were informed that Hostess had discontinued Banana Flips about three years ago. What?!?!? Holy crap! I must have stood there with my mouth hanging open for a full minute. How could a company that continues to make those disgusting, pink, coconut-covered balls of glop discontinue the very food of the gods? I don't think I said anything for the rest of the day other than mumbling "What in the.... How in the.... Who in the.... WHY!!"


Hurricane Isaac completely missed us. It rained for three days straight and we've had some wind gusts that were barely strong enough to ring our largest Arcosanti bell. The highlight was a flood warning that came over the Emergency Broadcast System for some minor little creek. (Most likely a man-made drainage ditch dug by some developer literally selling swamp land in some real estate scam, but I digress.) As always, these things break into the TV show right at the most critical point of the whole thing. So we're squinting at the TV trying to read lips while this guy drones on about how many feet above flood stage this immaterial body of water is. Then he goes on some tangent about "normal" flood stage vs. some other kind of flood stage. Then he launches into the entire flooding history of this creek, yapping on about how many feet above flood stage it was in 1957. Dude! You're not on some frackin' PBS special! Shut! the Hell! Up!

So that was the extent of our suffering and drama related to Hurricane Isaac.

It does look like Isaac is going to test whether anyone in Louisiana learned anything from Katrina. Isaac seems to have stalled just off-shore and is beating the living crap out of the coastline. We'll see now if any of the federal tax dollars that were supposed to repair and improve the levees actually did any good, or if it all ended up in Swiss bank accounts like most of the pre-Katrina levee money.

We're still in various stages of unpacking and trying to unload furniture on Craigslist that won't fit in our 600 square feet. Craigslist doesn't seem to work in Florida, likely due to the high percentage of con artists and grifters that live here (approximately 98% of the population). So far we've managed to unload exactly one thing. We'll try some other avenues and we always have Restore if all else fails. At least it won't end up in a landfill. We still need some major plumbing work done and the electrical is becoming critical. We talked to the park manager yesterday about getting our power pole upgraded, but she wouldn't commit to anything definitive other than having "someone look at it." Bottom line, instead of new windows and doors in the Florida room or a bathroom redo, we'll be rewiring and replumbing. woo. hoo.

And I'm still pounding on the new scanner. The hardware seems solid, but the software was written by coked-up chimps on a Friday afternoon. The automatic mode seems to do a decent job, except when it decides that negatives are slides. There is no way to override without going into one of the non-automatic modes (Home, Business, Professional), and at that point, gods help you because not even something as simple as a check box works correctly, and the scan results SUCK. So far, I've been able to work around the glitches, but they seriously slow down the process. I'm still trying to get through 1986. Only about 18 years to go.

Well, back at it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, RIP

The first human to step foot on any planet other than earth is dead. Nothing really to say other than, "Godspeed, Commander Armstrong."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dealing with Idiots

My life has been reduced to dealing with people who are in obvious need of adult supervision.

Case 1:

A few months ago, we were informed that our check for our gas royalty payments would no longer be coming from the company that had been handling them for the last decade or so. Chevron had taken over everything. Awe crap. We all know what that means.

We filled out the new forms with all our info for taxes and setting up our payments to go directly into our money market account. The last money we were supposed to receive from the old company dropped into a different bank account as it always had. The next payment would be from the new company and would drop into our money market account. A month later, money is deposited into the old account. I call Chevron and ask what's up. "We no pay you money," says the annoying Chinglish voice at the other end. "You check bank; money someting else." I check bank. Money from Chevron. I call Chinglish back. This time her story was, "We Chevron USA; money from Chevron Michigan. We no Chevron Michigan. We Chevron USA." Fine. But if the money is coming from Chevron Michigan, then why in the hell am I talking to you? "Chevron USA pay you from now on." Ah.

Next month, no one pay us money. I call Chevron Michigan. "Sorry. We don't handle disbursements. You need to call Houston. Here's a toll-free number. No one ever answers. Just leave a message. Good luck." Thanks. I call the toll-free number. It rings a dozen times, then a robot comes on the line. "The party you are trying to reach is not answering. Sorry it didn't work out. This call will be disconnected." Click. Dial tone. Sweet Mother of God.

We were leaving for Michigan the next day anyway, so I just threw everything on the pile of crap to deal with later and tried to forget about it. When we got back, one of the pieces of mail waiting for us was an EFT Statement from Chevron USA stating that they had deposited our money into our account. Only there was no money in our account. Now I'm pissed. They screwed up our direct deposit and either our money ended up in someone else's account, or it bounced back and the ass-clowns didn't bother to contact us. I try the toll-free number again and this time get the answering machine. "Leave a message; we'll call you back." I leave a message. No one calls back. Next day, rinse and repeat. All last week, every day, I leave a message and no one calls back. Monday, I start being a smart-ass on the messages, talking like Richard Simmons; "Hi!!! It's your good ol' buddy Richard calling you AGAIN!!!! Here's my account number!!! Here's my phone number!!!! I'd really like to hear from you guys!!! I really do miss you!!! .... Asshats."

Yesterday I finally made contact with Mario, who barely speaks English. It wasn't so much an accent as much as it sounded like he had his mouth full of peanut butter sandwich the entire time he was on the phone. Like it was just too much work to move his lips. He strung out the longest and most incoherent line of corporate bullshit that I have ever heard. "Computer problems blah somthin' working on it blah crap blah accounting blah blah your account shows we owe you money somthin' somethin' blah Friday." So I'll get my money Friday? "Processing on Friday crap blah somethin' not payment blah blah 28th." So I'll get all my money for two months on the 28th? "I'll confirm somthin' blah I'll call you crap blah you can call me anytime." Sure Mario. No problem. Now go drive you're damn cart off the Rainbow Road.

And I don't believe for one minute we'll see anything in our account come the 28th.

Case 2:

Our car insurance is due, so one of the things I did while out-and-about Monday was to stop by AAA and change our address and renew our policy. I checked in at the front desk then took a seat to wait for an agent to be available. I get Mario. No, seriously. You can't make this shit up. Mario is another English-as-a-second-language person, but at least he's been here long enough that I can mostly understand him. I tell him we've moved and we need to renew, so he goes through the entire quoting process which involves 20 minutes of detailed questions that have little or nothing to do with driving or owning a car. Finally it's over and the answer is: our insurance went up nearly $200 from last year to this year mainly because we moved from a high-crime area to a low-crime one. Um... wai... what? One problem is that we don't get the renter's credit because we own the trailer, but we don't get the homeowner's credit because we rent the lot under it. The other is that the insurance company considers old people to be a bigger risk than gangbangers.

OK, Mario. Whatever. Lets do this. I hand over my credit card, Mario does some type-type-type and tells me I'm all set and that my receipt will be e-mailed to me the next day. He could print it out right away, but that would take about 15 minutes. I don't bother to explain that 40 year ago, he could have written out a credit card slip by hand and run it through an impress machine in about 30 seconds. I just accept that millions of dollars of automation has resulted in a situation where I cannot get a credit card receipt in anything less than a quarter hour. Mario stands up. "We're all done here! Thanks for coming in!" Um, where's my policy? Where's my proof of insurance that Florida law says I need in my car? "They'll e-mail it to you! You should have everything tomorrow!"

So I walk out with nothing other than Mario's business card. I just spent $1,200 and have nothing; I couldn't even prove that I was ever in that or any other AAA office on August 13, 2012. You've probably already guessed what comes next. Wednesday morning and no receipt, no contract, no proof of insurance, no nothing other than a $1,200 crater on our credit card. I e-mail Mario telling him I have yet to receive my receipt, and asking if my contract and proof of insurance will be coming via e-mail or USPS, and when I can expect them. E-mail response #1: "I sent it. Check your junk mail." Follow shortly by e-mail response #2: "Travelers will e-mail you a copy of your policy."

Free tip. When I tell you I didn't get your e-mail, assume that something went wrong on your end rather than implying I'm too stupid to have checked my junk mail when I don't get an expected e-mail. It's called customer service, Mario. Of course, no sign of anything in my junk mail either, so I send a response to e-mail #1: Nothing in my junk mail; could you resend it? And a reply to e-mail #2: When? And will it include my proof of insurance? Our current coverage expires in three days. No response to either of those messages. Later Wednesday, Debbie logs into her e-mail account and lo and behold, there is our receipt, contract and proof of insurance in her inbox. I have no idea what sort of automated hell sent everything to her when the only e-mail address I gave them was mine. I'm sure at some point in the last decade we gave them her e-mail address, but why dig that up when all the current forms have mine? I sent another message to Mario saying we found everything in the wrong e-mail account. Mario, the King of Customer Service, never responded to any of my e-mails. Thanks for the giant middle finger, Mario; we'll be sure to keep that in mind next time our insurance is due.

There's oh so much more, but this is already getting long and you get the point. This is what I've been doing all day every day instead of unpacking and figuring out where we're going to put everything.

The one fun bit I've been playing with the last couple days is our new scanner. Debbie needed to be able to scan documents for work. The reason would probably qualify as Idiots Case 3: There are various forms she has to fill out, some of which are PDF's. Some of them can be filled out on the computer, but the dipshits have disabled the save function meaning they can't be attached to an e-mail and sent to the main office. So they have to be printed, then scanned back into a PDF file which can then get sent off to the accounting people. As stupid as that is, the upside is that we now have a scanner. The strange part is that straight-up document scanners start at around $300, while hi-res photo scanners that can also do documents, can be had for less than a hundred bucks. After poking around a bit for reviews and such, we settled on the Epson V330. About the same time the scanner was delivered, I had unearthed all our old photos shot on 35mm film. So I've been using the slick little negative holder thingamabob to scan up to five photos at a shot. Works pretty well and the results look good enough on a computer screen. While I'm sure a professional place could do a much better job (at enormous cost), this works good enough for family reunions, weddings, etc. I may flag the occasional negative for a good scan at some point in the future, but for now, this will do.

And I really need to wrap this up. Later.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Earth from Space

Just because I haven't done one of these in a while.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Home for a While

We're back in Zephyrhills to stay for at least a few months. Maybe that will give us enough time to empty at least some of these bins filling up the entire Florida room. Yesterday I finally had a few minutes to haul off all the scrap metal that has been piling up with all the renovations we've been doing. Thanks to the metal thieves, that is now a long, drawn-out process. I had to show my photo ID not once but twice, give make/model/year and plate number of my vehicle, be photographed, thumb-printed and have a complete physical description recorded in the scrap company's computer system. All for $10.51 and a tee shirt. Damn metal thieves. I started joking around with the scrap guy about how it was easier to open a new bank account that it was to sell off a few pounds of scrap metal, but it's only funny in a sick sort of way.

Today I had an early appointment for some more lab work for an up-coming doctor visit. I just about screwed the whole thing up royally. See, I still have some lingering doctor appointments and such back in Sanford trying to figure out some weird things that showed up in a couple of my routine blood tests. I'm keeping those appointments because of that whole not-changing-horses-in-midstream thing. But when I made the appointment for the labs, I decided to just use a local Labcorp office instead of driving 100 miles on Death Highway. The problem was that I had completely forgotten that I did that. For the last couple weeks, we've been making all sorts of plans for things that I would be doing this morning while back in Sanford. It finally hit me last night while setting my alarm for 4:30am cussing myself out for making the appointment so fracking early in the morning that my appointment was only 10 minutes from our house. I'm certainly glad I realized that before driving across the state.

Unfortunately, the 10 minute drive turned out to be more adventure that I thought possible due to the World's Worst GPS, otherwise known as a Magellan. I hadn't done a Google map like I usually do because of all the chaos with moving and traveling around the country, but I shouldn't need to: I paid a bunch of money for a crazy lady in a box. I'll use that. I would have had better luck throwing knuckle bones to determine my route. It tells me to make a left turn. I make a left turn. It screams at me to make an immediate U-turn. So I do. The screen literally spins around a full 360 degrees, then takes a full minute to re-orient itself, then crazy lady starts screaming at me to make a U-turn. So I do. More spinning around followed by the little arrow that's supposed to show my location going cross country through some woods. Meanwhile, the crazy lady is screaming at me to make random turns down non-existent roads. I decide that it will be easier to just drive to the general area where I think the place is, then call for directions. But the screen finally catches up to where I am, and after I start screaming back at the crazy lady, she finally shuts up. Maybe now this stupid piece of crap will work? At least the green line looks like it's going where I want it to even though crazy lady is now sulking and fails to verbally inform me of the next two turns. The problem is, the green line doesn't take me to Labcorp, it takes me past their road, then a boulevard left, dumps me in a Bealls parking lot, then out the truck entrance, back across Labcorp's road into their parking lot and finally crazy lady stops sulking long enough to announce that I have arrived at my destination. Good God. At least the blood draw was uneventful, as was the ride home with the crazy lady in a box safely unplugged, turned off, and stuff under all the other useless junk stashed in the Durango's armrest. I'm so glad we have all this technology to make our lives simpler.

Speaking of technology, I'm a little late with this because of all our traveling, but here it is:

The most complex landing ever attempted and it went off without a hitch. Sweet.

Meanwhile, mostly forgotten on another part of Mars, Opportunity continues to collect data and take fantastic photos:

Looks like the ol' girl needs a bit of dusting. But not bad considering she was only supposed to last 90 Martian days and just clocked in day 3,038. I wish I had that good of luck with cars.

In any case, I need to scream at stupid people on the phone, get some furniture on Craigslist and unpack what I can while Debbie is working. And trim the grass. And do some raking. And dumpster more useless crap left here by our predecessor. And... well... yea.