July 2008

Update

I managed to download a trial version of Retrospect Express (the backup software for my external hard drive), and was able to restore a great deal of the stuff I was so afraid of losing.

There’s still some pain in losing things I’ve done recently, but the things that were irreplaceable are now restored.  For several months, there will be a few "do-overs," but it’s not so bad.  My star shrugged off yesterday’s insult and we’re still breathing.

Installed the backup software on HWTFM’s laptop, and now am restoring all of his data.  He called to see if he can bring anything on the way home, so I told him that wine, roses, or chocolate might be appropriate.

On the other hand, skip the chocolate.

Technical Difficulties

I have no idea what star I was born under, but seems like it must have been hit by a meteor in the last 24 hours.  It’s been that unlucky.

Yesterday afternoon about 2 p.m., the hard drive in my laptop inexplicably died.  No funny noises, no warning signs, no blue screens of death… one minute it was working fine, and the next, it insisted that it didn’t have a hard drive at all.  At 4:30 (after getting back from getting Gamma’s drivers license) I called Dell — purveyors of the most awesome, idiot-proof warranty in the business — and they agreed to ship me a new HDD asap.  It arrived sometime before 10:30 this morning, as it was on my front porch when I returned from running errands.

I’ve been in the process of rebuilding it for the last four hours.  I’ve located most of my software CD’s, though I may have to re-purchase a few things that I’d bought via download.  I might have some of it on the backup drive, but unfortunately, one of the CD’s I can’t locate contains the software to run my backup/restore system.

I’ve lost a good bit of work, and a whole lot of personal stuff (pictures, family tree back to the 1600’s, etc.), but I’ll survive.  I can reconstruct most of it.  If nothing else, I’ve cleaned a lot of extraneous junk off my system.

*  *  *
If that wasn’t enough, yesterday’s post came up blank, except for the title.  No idea what was going on there, but I’ve reconstructed it as best I can remember.  It was probably because I wrote it from HWTFM’s old lappy, which has considerable problems of its own.

and then there were three!

… licensed teenage drivers in my household, that is.  Gamma passed her road test with a perfect score yesterday at the Roane Co. TDOT TDOS office.  I dread getting the next insurance statement, though it could be worse:  they’re all girls, and they all have clean driving records.

We had to go to Roane County, because the backlog for appointments in Clinton was more than two weeks.  ‘Twas a good thing, though; the state trooper who served as her license examiner was the nicest fellow — calm, easygoing, just what a beginning driver needs.

Now, she’s on her first venture out without a parent in the car; she took her little sister to the pool.  How wonderful to have a child who is willing to take a younger sibling along!

It’s a new degree of freedom for me.  No longer will the "mom’s taxi" be running up the miles.   Delta will get her license just a couple of months after Gamma leaves for college, and I have two years before that happens.

33 Days

In 33 days, Beta will move into her dorm room at UTK and begin her college career.  I can’t imagine a 6-year old exuding more excitement than this child has.

Yesterday — in between helping her father reassemble the engine for her vehicle — she spent hours agonizing over whether to enroll in both honors calculus and honors physics in her first semester.  Without question, either one will be hard; two will be quite demanding.  Fortunately, since her older sister is already there and acquainted with a number of people in the math and physics programs, a quick call to Alpha yielded some useful information.

On the UTK Physics website, Beta noticed a couple of Alpha’s friends in one of the pictures that rotate across the department’s web page.  She also noticed a student in a t-shirt proclaiming "I survived Soren’s honors physics," which made her a bit nervous — Soren Sorensen, the department head, is teaching the class in which she enrolled for the Fall.  So, she had Alpha place a quick call to one of her friends that is a physics major and ask whether the honors course would be too much.  The friend hadn’t taken it, but said it was his biggest regret to date.

So, it’s settled.  She’s starting off with a pretty hefty course load, but I think that’s probably best for her.  She needs to learn from day one that school comes first, and material that really challenges her is most likely to keep her engaged.  She’s planning to pick up her physics book this morning while she’s in Knoxville on another errand, so that she can begin getting familiar with the first few chapters.

Beta is a difficult child, but one with great potential.  I’ve always said that the traits that make her hard to parent will make her a strong, capable, confident adult.  She doesn’t give up easily (though having her cell phone disconnected has proven to be rather effective as a catalyst for behavioral change).  She has the intellectual ability to succeed in a difficult major; I hope that I haven’t made a mistake in encouraging her to stick with a tough first semester’s course selections.

There’s a whole lot that I hope I haven’t done wrong.  But, it’s almost time to let go.  33 more days.

Gem of the City

Downtown Hardware is the most amazing store.  It’s tiny and unpretentious, but tucked into the nooks and crannies is the most incredible variety of really useful items.

The PROJECT continues to consume our evenings and weekends; at this point, we’re re-assembing parts that attach to the new engine before we put the engine in the truck.  All of the old parts have been thoroughly cleaned, or replaced if they couldn’t be scrubbed clean enough.  The oil pickup tube was one of those.

Yesterday, we put the crankshaft pulley back on.  The crankshaft pulley has a Woodruff key that keeps the pulley from spinning independently of the crankshaft, but we missed that piece somehow when we took the crankshaft off the old engine.  We looked at each of the three auto parts stores in town and they all carried them, but not the size we needed.  What we needed is about the diameter of a penny, and about three times the thickness of a nickel.  We called two different Ford dealers — this being the most popular engine in the most popular vehicle they’ve ever produced — but the nearest one they could locate was in Memphis.  Would be about Wednesday before we could get it.

We were on our way to Downtown Hardware for something else, when someone suggested that they carry Woodruff keys in a variety of sizes.  Although we couldn’t find one that was an exact fit, we did find one that was just a little too big, so that HWTFM could machine it down to the proper size without too much difficulty.  And, while we were at it, we needed some Sevin Dust for the tomatoes anyway.

Later in the afternoon, we made another run to replace a bolt that had stripped (one of 25 holding the oil pan in place).  If my tomatoes ever get ripe — there are a lot of green ones — I’ll probably make another trip down there because they also carry the sealing ring for my antique pressure canner.  It belonged to my grandmother, and is of a vintage that is hard to find parts for.  Except that Downtown Hardware must have some magical stash — it’s like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Wal-Mart can’t do that.

Technical Difficulty

So, why hasn’t anyone alerted me to the fact that the links are broken in everything I’ve posted since upgrading to Firefox 3.0?  There’s apparently an incompatibility with my Chenpress plugin; I’ve upgraded, but messed up more than I fixed at this point.

My blogroll has disappeared, along with my links.  And the background is wrong.

I needed to practice some anyway. 

*  *  *

Links and stuff are back.  Chenpress is upgraded.  The links button is still broken, but I do know how to fix them manually (it’s just slow to do it that way).

 

Customer DISservice Rant

I’ve owned a Husky Powerwasher for a few years, and I really like it.  It can be set gentle enough for the car, or tough enough to clean mildew stains off my sidewalk.  Unfortunately, just about the time i really needed it to clean some of the engine parts from Beta’s vehicle that we’re rebuilding, it failed me.

I must have let it freeze with water still in the pump, because the manifold assembly is cracked.  After weighing the cost of the replacement part against the cost of a new power washer, the replacement part won.  It’s not that hard to take apart and put back together.  So on June 26, I ordered one.  Expected to have it by July 3 or so, since it’s just coming from Illinois via UPS.

After almost two weeks, the order tracking system on HuskyPowerWasher.com still says "billing information received."  Unfortunately, their website doesn’t have any contact phone numbers, just a "live chat" that is sporadically manned.  Yes, they have posted hours, but it’s been my experience over these two weeks that they don’t monitor the chats anywhere near the posted hours of operation.

Here’s the transcript:

Please wait for a site operator to respond.

Chat InformationYou are now chatting with ‘Adolphe’
Adolphe: Hi.  How may I assist you today?
Netmom: I placed an order for Part Number: 7000174 Description: Manifold Assembly on June 26, and the payment cleared on June 27. The order tracking still says "billing information received" after almost two weeks! When can I expect this part to ship?
Adolphe: full name please and phone number
Netmom: [my name and phone number]
Adolphe: ma’am sometime UPS delay things like that. I will ask you to contact us monday in case you don’t receive it
Adolphe: it was shipped on june 30
Netmom: Can you provide me with a tracking number?
Adolphe: Tracking Number: [1Z …]
Netmom: Thank you.
Netmom: UPS says that the billing information has been sent to UPS, but the package has not been shipped.
Adolphe: Billing information has been sent to UPS. Check site later for updated shipment status or contact shipper for more details.
Adolphe:    
Adolphe: Tracking Number:  [1Z …]    
Adolphe: Type:  Package    
Adolphe: Status:  Billing Information Received    
Adolphe: Shipped To:  OAK RIDGE, TN,    
Adolphe: Shipped/Billed On:  06/30/2008    
Adolphe: Service:  GROUND    
Adolphe: Weight:  1.00 Lb  
Netmom: Yeah, that’s what it says. "Billing information received" means that they’re expecting the package, but it hasn’t actually left your facility yet. Is there a phone number where I can speak with a supervisor?
Adolphe: ma’am just wait till monday.allow 10 to 14 business days for delivery
Netmom: I cannot do that.
Adolphe: 8473481547
Adolphe: is there anything i can do for you today?
Netmom: No one is answering at that number. Is there a number directly to a supervisor or manager?
Adolphe: that’s it
Jacky: That is the manager’s number
Jacky: customer service number is 630 789 7601
Netmom: The recording says "you have reached the sales department."
Netmom: Is there any phone number where I can get a live human being to help me?
Jacky: We have a high volume of incoming calls, your patience is appreciated
Jacky: what is your phone number?
Netmom: (865) [nnn-nnnn], but I’ve left it in e-mail and voice mail messages repeatedly, and no one has ever called back.
Jacky: Will call you in a few minutes
Adolphe: I am calling you

After two phone calls from Adolphe — I have no idea where he is with that accent (Sudan, maybe?) — he finally figured out that the part has not shipped at all.  It’s on backorder, and isn’t expected to ship for "at least two more weeks."

In summary, first he blames UPS.  Then he wants me to wait until Monday and check back.  They gave me two different phone numbers that go directly to voice mail (I know by now that they do not return voice messages), then finally, he actually checks with the shipping department and finds out that they don’t even have it in stock.

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Unfortunately, the part will arrive AFTER the main things I needed it for are over with.  As much as I like this product, the service experience has soured me so much that I’ll absolutely buy a different brand next time.   I also plan to contact the company president, but that information isn’t easy to find; I had to go to the Network Solutions WHOIS to find out who owns the domain.  I guess I’ll have to do a little more sleuthing to get to the top of the food chain.

Forewarned is forearmed.  Bad customer service is the worst thing a business can do to itself.

PS: The internet is grand.

ketchup time

I’ve been gone for a week, and busy beyond belief both before and since.  So, this will be less than eloquent, but a catch-up of events to date:

  • Robertsville TSA had a great time at Nationals in Orlando, scoring several trophies and a number of finalists.  Delta was not among them, but she did learn a lot.
  • Gamma got home safely on Wednesday night.  She’s still on German time.
  • Delta and I left Islands of Adventure at 9 p.m. Wednesday, arriving at home about 7 a.m. on Thursday.  Yeah, I drove all night.  Alone.  Was tired.
  • Brother-in-law PJ arrived with his two kids about two hours after I got home on Thursday.  No rest for the wicked.
  • Although HWTFM lived alone for several years before we married, he apparently forgot how to do dishes.  Or even where the sink is.  The house was a mess.
  • We spent two days on the lake with RealtorChick and family; she is a saint for putting up with my extended crew for that long.  The fireworks were lovely from the middle of the lake.
  • PJ and pals left about 1 a.m. to head back to Maryland, but got seriously sidetracked along the way when he lost his wallet sometime in the middle of the night.  Trying to get two kids home with no cash, no cards, no driver’s license… just a checkbook and a work ID, must have been incredibly stressful.  It was stressful for me, and I wasn’t even in the car.
  • Beta’s cell phone has been shut off following repeated defiance of her curfew — by several hours each time, three days in a row.  Thursday night, she didn’t come home at all.  I’ve totally run out of ways to discipline her — no car, no cell phone… she just doesn’t care.  She’s still 17, or she’d be evicted.
  • That said, she did score a 5 on the Calculus AP exam.  Nonetheless, I’m not in a celebratory mood.

There — now that all that’s said, we can move on.

Spending five days in a luxury hotel with three young teenage girls (Delta and two classmates who needed close adult supervision) was both fun and exhausting.  The Rosen Shingle Creek is a great place for a student convention because it is secure and not within walking distance of anything (deterring kids who might be prone to wander off), but it’s definintely part of the top-of-the-line luxury mindset, where they’ll nickel and dime (and quarter) you to death.  Why is it that at any Econo Lodge (or similar budget accomodations), parking is free, wireless internet is free, and even breakfast is free?  Not at this place, though.  Parking is $8/day in the cheapest spot, internet (wireless or wired) is $10/day, and breakfast is about $20.  It’s about the same gig as the Opryland Hotel in Nashville — really nice, but there’s an extra fee for everything that others provide as a courtesy.

Given my choice of the matter, I’d always stay at Embassy Suites — comfortable, with all the amenities (usually free), and a free cocktail hour every night.  Okay, not suitable for school field trips perhaps, but still where I’d rather be.  The fact that it costs about half as much (or a third as much, if we’re talking about the Opryland) is just a bonus.

All of our separate travels are over now (except Alpha, who’s still at UGA), and our only remaining trip for the summer is to the farm.  We’ll live in the camper, cook on an open fire, and time will be largely immaterial.  Time to sleep, time to read, time to fish, time to roast marshmellows.  Time to pick fresh cherries.  Time to visit Grandma.  I’m looking forward to that one.