Friday, October 29, 2010

ComCrap/Hewlett Crappard

Can you guess what my rant is about today?

We bought a Compaq laptop 1 year and 31 days ago. How do I know exactly? Because that is the day it stopped working properly and the warranty is expired. But not to worry, I called the beyond wonderful ComCrap help desk, located surprisingly, in beautiful downtown Bangladash, India. They assure me that they can stand behind their product 100%... as long as I buy the warranty for the low, low price of $299.99. And once I pay this low, low only just slightly inconvenient fee and pack up the laptop in a big ole box, they will take 2-3 weeks (in which time you'll be without your ComCrap craptop laptop - hey, it doesn't work anyhow!) and possibly send it back to completely fixed. And the bonus??? Once they "fix" it, they guarantee it will work for thirty days. Wow, a more solid warranty one cannot find this side of India, which surprisingly, is the country I talked to several times.

We need a new laptop in our home. My guess is that it will not be a ComCrap or a Hewlett Crappard which apparently are one in the same. Hewlett Crappard didn't have enough sub-standard products in their own company, so they bought out ComCrap.

I originally bought this laptop at a box store near us. I'm not sure that you have them where you live, but it's called Worst Buy. Yes, Worst Buy for all your computer needs, well, at least until they don't work, then you're on your own. And don't forget their free 12 month financing, with no minimum payments, as the sales clerk told me. Well, apparently, that's not true as there are minimum payments and you don't have to make them. They will be quite happy when you don't actually, as then they can charge you $39 a month for a late payment. As I was told by the 12 year old female store manager, Bev, it doesn't matter what the salesman told me, I was supposed read the fine print, which has a font size on 3. The only people who can read it are the little tiny bugs installed inside your laptop, which are genetically grown to come alive at 12 months and 1 day, so they can reek havoc on the inside of your laptop. Oh, and for the record, Bev doesn't have a last name was when I got a "little" upset and asked for her last name as I had planned to write a letter or two to the CEO who would be happy to ignore my letters, once they received them. She told me, "I don't have to tell you my last name!" Needless to say, we don't shop at Worst Buy anymore. That's one box store down. And living in Vermont, we have a limited amount of box stores. We have a store that sells boxes, but that's another story.

And don't forget S-crap-ells! I love their buttons that say "That was easy!". The problem is that pushing the button is the only thing that's easy about dealing with their store.

Yes, S-crap-ells, where they offer you $100 off your purchase for your old PC as long as it has Windows XP and boots up. My old laptop did boot up and have Windows XP, but they refused as it did not come originally installed. Even though, you guessed it, that's not what the salesman told me. Also, don't forget to take advantage of their 6 month free financing program, which, just happened to expire last week, even though, once again, the wonderful salesman told me to make sure to take advantage of. It only took five people to figure that out. First, it was the pimply faced 11 year old, whose voice cracked several times at the service desk, who had never taken a credit card application. He called over the 14 year, assistant to the assistant assistant, and he also, didn't know what his name was. (I wish Dwight Schrute still worked here, he'd help me!) The 14 year old called over the assistant manager who had to go ask another manager. They both came back shaking their heads, disappointingly, which made me shake my head and wonder why I was in this store. That highly touted 6 month free financing program, which comes special today with a 29.99% interest rate, expired last week. Sorry.

As I told them goodbye, after first promising to never to visit a store who employees either lied to me or who were too stupid/dumb to know what the store policies are.

So, we are still laptop-less, but thankfully we ARE crap-top less and will continue to ignore the huge sales of ComCrap/Hewlett Crappard craptops.

And just so you know, I'm not alone, I googles compaq and one of my favorites finds is:

I'll check and see if they have free financing.

Oh, crap, we need a new laptop!

Yes, the call came down from the heavens; your desktop is dying and you need to go spend money. I hate spending money as anyone who knows me will tell you. I've have tried to secure a brand new laptop for free off craigslist and so far, have been totally unsuccessful. So, off I go, once more, to learn how much has changed about PC's in the last several years. (I hate doing this.)

So, I gather in my gaggle of experts and we all agree. We know nothing.

A Dell would be nice but I heard my friend's barber's cousin's accountant say his wasn't very good.
I've heard Hewlett-Crappard's aren't bad except for those that are bad.
Gateway used be really good back in the 90's but I think they closed the gate.
Does IBM still make computers?
You could an Lenovo but wait, isn't that economy car now?

Who knows which ones are best? Everyone has an opinion and it's basically a crap-shoot.

And don't even talk to me about the warranty!

Salesman Sam; "Well, for $4000, you get a 3 year warranty on your $500 laptop."
Me: "Salesman Sam, would you get the warranty?"
Salesman Sam: "Yes, definitely. What if you drop it walking out the store?"
Me: "But isn't this a good laptop and won't it last?"
Salesman Sam: "Oh, if you buy the coverage, it'll last. If not, there is a activated device inside which starts melting and burning wires on the day after your warranty expires.'"

This was an actual true conversation with the Salesman Sam at Worst Buy. Well, okay, maybe it was just my interpretation.

But for crying out loud, can something just work for a few years? Is everything in society a throwaway now? When we went to bought our used Toyota Sienna van last year, as we got ready to leave the showroom, they asked if we wanted the extended coverage for the low, low price of $1,950?

Now, ten seconds before this, we had the best van in the whole stinking universe. But now that we are buying it, it will be falling apart before we leave the showroom floor.

So, I'm headed off to another box store, the last one left in the metropolis of Burlington. Stay tuned. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Monday morning...

I woke up this morning, refreshed and renewed from a weekend of fun. Okay, seriously, it was pitch black out and I had just left a nice warm bed to get ready for work. It was cold out and running from the shower to get dressed while freezing, I was wondering what to wear from my ever-so expansive wardrobe for work.

I checked the thermometer and it read 44 degrees. Okay, it really said 44.8 degrees as our Lands End thermometer tells us the temperature in tenths, the barometer pressure down to the hundredth of a millibar and if you press the button on the side, Al Roker's voice tells you what jacket you should wear to work and if you need mittens.

As it was chilly out and I hate the cold, I thought how nice it would be to go back to bed. But as the Dad, you're not allowed to do that (until you earn more sick days, at least). Another one of those little flashback hit me, transporting me back in time to our home in Syracuse. My father had to get up earlier than the rest of us. He would almost always be out the door on the way to work before I got up. If I think it is hard to go to work, I think of what it was like for my Dad. He was a carpenter and had to work no matter the weather. And growing up in Syracuse, that usually meant for some pretty awful working days.

There were nights in the winter when he would return home from work with white fingers. They were practically frozen solid. I looked at them with amazement. I know I was always cold. I hated going out for school and waiting for the bus on a cold street corner. When I got in, I always searched for the seat with the heater underneath it. And in those days, everyone had long hair and I always washed it (in the kitchen sink, of course) and didn't dry it before getting on the bus. It would quite often freeze up outside.

But at least I could warm up. My poor father couldn't as he was working outside on some huge construction project. How he did it, day after day, for over thirty five years, I'll never know. And I never heard him complain about it, not once. He did what he had to do to provide his family with food and shelter. And he did it well. We weren't rich but I never felt poor.

So, on this cold autumn morning in Vermont, I got into my nice warm car, drove to work, parking inside a parking garage and headed up to my nice warm office and didn't complain again all day.

Thanks Dad.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A whittle bit goes a long way

After a weekend of camping, Thomas learned to whittle. And as we need to get him a new Boy Scout approved whittling knife, he came up with the next best thing. He made one out of Legos. He makes EVERYTHING out of Legos.

So, as I was cleaning up the kitchen, for the forty-fifth time this week, he came in to show it to me. It was really pretty cool and I told him so.

I said, "I don't know where you come up with this stuff. That is the coolest thing. You must get your brains from your mother."

And, smart kid that he is, he came back with "No, Daddy. I get them from you."

Ah, and they say you don't get paid to be a parent.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

and sometimes the PC is not your friend

We've been having some internet issues for over a week now. On our desktop, we couldn't access the internet. I called our local Internet provieder and asked for help. They came and found a short in one of the wires. He replaced it and we fired up the old PC and... nothing happened.

Eventually, my favorite IT guy, Jeff, suggested I do a System Restore and choose a date in the past where all worked well, and try that. I did and (as my Mom used to say) TA-DA! It worked! The only two days I was happier were when Thomas and Kate were born. Okay, that was an exaggeration, only a slight one however.

Thomas, the always inquisitive and verbal, asked me a question, that made me laugh and think. He said, "Daddy, if you went back in time to fix the computer, won't the same problem happen again in a couple days?"

Quite true. And as a matter of fact, it DID happen again. The rotten kid was right. I'll be back, I have to do another system restore.

I knew this day was coming

The other day, Kate and I were chatting in her room. It was early morning and we were planning out our day.

Once we made our plan of attack for the day, It was time to get out of our jammies and get going.

Kate looked at me and said "Can I have some privacy please?"

I looked at her for a second and realized we reached a different stage in life. My little girl is growing up and there's nothing I can do to stop it. So, I have to step back and watch. Of course, not while she's getting dressed though.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The ceiling fans of hell

A hot spell was upon us, as it was with every person in North America. I had just received three ceiling fans from my in-laws, Joe & Barb, as they tore down their camp to make a new home (film at eleven).

So, I, being the good and ever resourceful husband, decided to wait until mid-afternoon on the hottest day of the weekend, to install all three ceiling fans. And yes, can you guess how well it went? You're about to find out.

Removing the fans from camp was fairly easy, my good old brother-in-law, Brian, helped me rip these suckers from the ceiling. With all parts safely in the back of my van, I was ready to install them.

The first order of business was to cut the power off at the circuit breakers. Hey, at least I knew enough to do that. But, which breakers turned off the power to the bedrooms was the big question. They were all labeled, well, sort of. As I tripped one switch, it did stop the power to our bedroom but also turned off Thomas clock. Turning off another one labeled bedroom, not only did the light go out in Thomas' bedroom, but the TV as well, which is downstairs, three rooms away. Oh, this was going to be fun, I could tell right away.

I took off the old light in our bedroom and it revealed four wires: black, white, blue and green. I looked at the ceiling fan wiring and it showed: red, yellow, black and white. So, this was going to be easy, huh? Calling the local hardware store asking for help, I was told to just do my best. The worst that could happen was that I would trip the breaker or start a massive fire in the garage. Not to worry.

So, I gave it a try. Hooking up all the wires, all seemed to go fairly well. I hadn't thrown a single tool in the fifteen minutes it took to install the fan. Once done, I went back downstairs to the circuit breaker box, or whatever it's called, and flipped all the switches back on. Coming back upstairs, I flipped the switch, and the fan started running perfectly. I pulled the chain for the light and... it didn't work.

I stepped back thinking, maybe we don't need a light. We have other lights. So next I headed to Thomas' room. The wires in his ceiling light were similar to those of our bedroom, completely different from the next ceiling fan. To make a long story longer, his fan and his light worked fine. And they say miracles don't happen.

Heading to Kate's room, I had a different type of ceiling fan. We had had to take all the fins off to take it down originally and as I tried to screw these back on, they wouldn't go on. The screws wouldn't go in no matter how hard I pushed, how much I swore or how many M&M's I ate on break. I decided that maybe Kate didn't need a ceiling fan, she can keep using the floor fan. So, grabbing her old light, I tried to put it back up. I couldn't get the screws back into the old light either. After a few non-swear words, like "damage!", I sat down to watch some Oprah and ate more M&M's. A bit later, I gave it another try and somehow managed to get the old light back up.

Eventually, I realized that we really did need a ceiling light in our room and Thomas' fan was actually too big for his room, I switched the ceiling fans around. This time, the light and fan both worked in our room but Thomas' light did not.

Now, every night, Thomas yells for me at bedtime to fix his ceiling fan so that the light works. He tells me that he knows the light doesn't work but he keeps switching the switch and is getting pretty frustrated. Welcome to my world.

Anyway, it's on my list of things to do this weekend along with twenty-five other things. I'm hoping by Monday, I'll repeat another one of my Mom's favorite quotes, "Let there be light. And there was light... and it was good."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our trip to Syracuse

We had been planning our trip to my high school reunion for quite some time now. From the day I told Kate that we were actually going to stay in a hotel with a heated indoor pool, she had been counting down the days. Also, as this was our longest road trip to date with the kids, we tried to prepare them for the long car ride. We know them well as when we head to camp to see Paula's parents (a thirty minute ride), they are asking if we are there yet in the first five minutes.

The morning finally came and the van was packed up with food, snacks and drinks within easy reach. Thomas had his blanket and Kate had her Dolly, we were ready to roll. Earlier this year, the nearest bridge over to New York from Vermont had been intentionally collapsed, due to old age, so we took the new temporary ferry over. The kids (us too) were excited (nope, it doesn't take much) to take the the boat across Lake Champlain. We timed it right and as we drove up, the ferry was ready. The ferry started and we were off. Paula said quite innocently, "Is that where we are headed?" pointing to a spot about three hundred yards away. I said, yes, that's where we're going and almost before I finished the sentence, we were in New York. If we didn't have the car, I'm thinking we all could have swam across but it was fun while it lasted.

Once across, we had promised that they could watch a movie. We had borrow my friend Todd's portable DVD player for the trip, but he told me it was a bit finicky. He was right, of course, as it worked well for about an hour, then quit. I proceeded to grab my laptop and placed it (with a bungee cord) atop an upside down milk crate I had grabbed from the garage before we left. They were thrilled, as well they should. They not only got to watch four hours of movies on the way over, but four more hours on the way back, AND it just happened to be Harry Potter weekend on ABC Family network (which we don't get at home). Thomas and Paula were beyond thrilled as they absolutely love Harry. Thomas even watched cartoons thru the window into the exercise room from the indoor swimming pool. Where he gets this behavior, I'm not sure. Okay, he's just like me, satisfied?

We had a great weekend, between my high school reunion, which I'll save for another discussion as I'm still a bit shell-shocked over it being the thirty-fifth year since we graduated.

We got to visit with my nephew, Jamie, and his wife, Jodi, and their kids. Their boys are three and one so as Paula and I watched them, we remembered what is was like for us about five years earlier. I told Jamie that it would getting easier soon. He had that same tired, sand-in-your-eyes look that I had for years. Our kids now fix their meals from time to time and basically dress themselves just like real human beings. My sister, Lois (called Aunt Lodee by Thomas and Kate) also joined in all the fun.

Trying to see as many people as possible is exhausting, but we did our best. Promising ourselves to enjoy the hotel with full breakfast, indoor heated pool, and flat-screen TV with full cable, we did. Even the drive through the Adirondacks was enjoyable as we stopped near a lake in Speculator on the way back, and walked around a short nature trail.

It's good to get away and good to get back. Kate couldn't wait to get to the hotel and it's indoor heated pool but as I tucked her into bed that night, Kate said to me how glad she was to be home. The sign of a good vacation is to fully enjoy getting away and even more so, being happy to be back home in your own bed again.

Anything but that!

The kids were getting ready for bed the other night and it was my turn to read to Thomas. We have a huge basket of library books in the futon room, so I asked him to go down and grab a book for us to read. Side note: the futon room, strangely enough, does not have a futon room anymore but we kept the name.

At any rate, we were all set for bed, settling in and turning on all the lights. Thomas pulled out the book, I looked at it and shouted, "NO!!!!!"

He had picked a Scooby Doo book. I understand that there are some good redeeming social values from this series of books, as good always triumphs over evil. But, the Scooby Doo books drive me crazy. I know that it is a short drive, just ask Paula, she'll tell you.

So, I asked Thomas if we could, please, please read another book. He said he really wanted to read that book.

I came back with the following:

Okay, Thomas, here's the story. The gang all goes away to a strange, deserted place, which used to be good but is now being terrorized by some ghostly/evil person/thing. Once the gang arrives, the manager/leader/head person explains the situation to the gang, requesting their help. In the background, if one looks closely, is one of his disgruntled helpers, usually the guy who cleans the toilets but feels he deserves to own the company/fairgrounds/chocolate factory. That's the guy who will taunt Shaggy & Scooby Doo very soon. There is no need to read the rest of the book! After hearing the problem, the gang heads one way (the safe way) while Shaggy and Scooby go the other way (the dangerous/scary way) in search of the ghost/evil being. Because they love and cannot resist Scooby Snacks, while eating them, they are oblivious to the ghost/demon/monster who is now standing right behind them. They get scared to death, as the monster/demon/ghost chases them. Finally after several minutes of running around like crazy, they end up tripping over the ghost/evil/nerdy guy and manage to extract them from their costume. Then, the ghost/evil being, a tiny/weasel-like man, says, "I woulda got away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

So, we read the story and the story plays out exactly that way. We both end up laughing, which is really my goal, because it is a beyond-boring, poorly written book but geared toward eight year old boys, which Thomas is.

Now that I got that off my chest, maybe the next time he brings me another Scooby Doo book, I'll try not to say "Rut-Ruh!"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Running with Thomas

With the ladies gone to the grocery store Saturday morning, Thomas and I headed on down the bike path for a quick four mile run. Thomas was aboard his trusty bike and I was trudging along like the typical old man that I am.

I told him he was free to ride on ahead of me but to stay where I could see him as we fuddy duddy fathers tend to get nervous when we can't see our kids. But on this particular run, he rode very close to me. We ended up talking quite a bit and it was pretty cool. You can have some great one on one conversations with your kid when you're out of the house. It's alone time with Dad and they tend to chat more.

We past by one of the lookout points which provides an amazing view of the Adirondacks across the lake. We had stopped here five years earlier, while on another run. I had taken him the jog stroller, just like I use to each Saturday when we lived in Charlotte. The view was so beautiful, so we stopped and I took some pictures. We still have that picture in his room and Thomas commented on saying, "Remember the time we stopped here and took pictures?" I said that I sure did, it was a great day. Sharing memories with your kids is one of my favorite things. I remember them, of course, but when they do and tell the story over and over again, it makes you feel even better knowing that those memories are good for them too.

Of course, whenever we mention the jog stroller, Thomas always repeats another story which I don't like to remember. But I let him go over again in detail, each time he brings it up.

When we lived in Charlotte, each Saturday, I would run anywhere from eight to twenty miles with my running buddies. After Thomas was old enough, I started to taking him with me, in the jog stroller. One weekend, after recovering from one of my assorted knee surgeries, I was only running six miles while the guys were running sixteen miles. So Thomas and I went a little later, by ourselves, and would meet the guys at the end for bagels and coffee, as usual.

But this morning would be different. Along our route, they were building a large addition to the hospital and the sidewalk was barricaded. Now this is the spot that Thomas loved to run his hand across the fence, as it was covered with a green camouflage tape. He just loved the feel of the rippled tape across his hand. Because of the barricade, however, there was only a small patch where he could do so. As we were running, I tried to guide us back over to this spot only to hit a huge bump in the side walk. Thomas was jostled in the jog stroller and started crying. I stopped running and picked him up. He was inconsolable. I felt awful as I had no idea what to do. I set him back into the stroller an we headed back to the Y, where we started all our runs. He was still crying a bit so I placed him back in the van and we headed home, not waiting for the guys.

Arriving home, I explained what happen to Paula. As he still seemed to be in pain, I got him back in the van and took him to the emergency clinic, to get him checked. His pain seemed to involve his hip, so I told them that. They x-rayed it and found nothing broken. We went home and I was frustrated. Any Dad (or Mom) just hates to see their kid in pain. Thomas had only just started walking a few months ago and now he would not walk on his leg. It did not get better all weekend so we took him back to his pediatrician that week. This time, they did the proper x-rays and discovered a small crack in his tibia. As he was young, the doctor told us not to worry and that he would heal fast, not needing a cast.

However, I would have to go back to carrying him everywhere. It was very hard for me to see, as he loved his new found freedom of walking everywhere. Even though it was an accident, I felt terrible. Those few weeks involved a trip to the pumpkin patch and an animal farm, and he couldn't walk around as he loved to do.

Fast forward to a couple weeks later, I walked in the door from work and Paula told me that Thomas had something to show me. He was sitting on the floor in the kitchen and he stood up. He took a couple small steps and kept saying, "Walk, walk, walk." It brought tears to my eyes and still does, each time I think of it.

So this weekend, as Thomas and I ran down the bike path, we shared the story once again, as much as I hate remembering it. I told Thomas how bad I felt that I broke his leg. He told me it was okay. His leg didn't hurt anymore.