Monday, January 31, 2005

General Fear Ramblings


General Fear Ramblings Posted by Hello

This is Loki, the mutatoe puppy.

Loki drinks gallons of water in one sitting, so a few weeks ago we took him to the vet for his shots and had some blood work and urinalysis done on him. Our vet was concerned because his urine was diluted (probably from drinking gallons of water), but she wanted to make sure there wasn't anything bad going on, and asked for us to bring him back in two weeks to retest.

We did... it was even more diluted. She started talking about kidney failure (nothing you can do for that in dogs), and I started freaking out, picturing the worst (of course). She suggested we go have him ultrasounded (is that a verb?) to make sure he had two kidneys, and all of his other organs, because he's a mutant paw puppy... what else is mutant?

So, today we took him to get his ultrasound. Really nice vet, great clinic. We got to stay in the room with him and hold him while they did it. The vet was pointing out things on the screen... like we'd know what we were looking at. "And here we have the gallbladder, and a pair of needlenose pliers". A friend was actually hoping for a mutant looking organ, perhaps in the shape of the blessed Virgin Mary that I could sell on e-bay and become rich.

Turns out that mutatoe has all his organs, and they appear to be functioning properly, and look normal (no Virgin Mary... crap, there goes dreams of being a millionaire) so we suspect he's just neurotic about drinking. He was found running down a busy street when he was only a few months old. We're pretty sure whoever bred him just let him go once they saw the deformed paw and figured they couldn't get bloated "papered" dog prices for him. Although that's a crappy way to get rid of a puppy, it's much better than other ways to "get rid" of a deformed puppy.

Water Main Break
I wake up sunday... ok, Meeshka woke me up at 6am on Sunday, I took the herd out and went to the bathroom. Flushed the toilet downstairs and it started making this gawd-awful noise. Great, I thought, another toilet dying on a weekend. Lifted the tank to see if the problem could be fixed with duct tape and a bent coat hanger, and discovered all sorts of muck burbling in there. Odd.

Went upstairs, and turned on the kitchen faucet to give the dogs some water, and it began spewing forth all sorts of muck in an explosive manner. Hmmm... went back to bed because these things just can't be noodled through at 6am on a sunday morning.

Got up, and sure enough, dirt and muck from the faucets. Turns out (after a call to the water department, who was actually there, and a real live person answered the phone on the 2nd ring), that a water main broke in our area. It was already fixed and the water should be clearing, he informed me. It's safe to drink, but don't do laundry. Um... ok. I didn't ask how long I couldn't do laundry, I'm actually seeing just how long I can go before hubby starts to complain.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Figure These Odds

I HATE Quicken 2005, and the U.S. Postal Service sucks.

Since 1994 I've paid bills using Quicken and Check Free (which wasn't, but it was pretty cheap and very reliable). Input the bills in quicken, hit a button, my bills were paid electronically.

Enter greedy Intuit, who decided they wanted a piece of the bill paying pile o' dough, so they bought out Check Free and created Quicken Bill Pay. I had no choice, if I wanted to keep paying my bills electronically, I had to use Quicken Bill Pay AND upgrade my version of Quicken to 2005. Intuit was nice (they should be), and sent me a free copy of Quicken 2005 Premier.

Before Quicken 2005, Quicken was a very simple program. Track your bills, track your accounts, life is good. When I installed Quicken 2005 Premier, the first thing I thought was "what is all this crap?" Charts, reports, bar graphs, annoying reminders (bill comes in, I pay bill, who needs more of a reminder), "simplistic" menus (my ass), and I can chart and track my stocks, bonds, how much fiber in my diet from the Quicken analysis of the food items I purchase at local grocery stores... ok, I can't do that, at least I don't think I can, as I haven't made it through the 3,000 page Quicken Quick guide yet.

I want to pay my bills. I want my bills paid on time. That's all I want.

The first problem with the upgrade was that it added 3 numbers to every payee zip code, then told me it couldn't pay my bills. I fixed that.

The second problem was, every time I said "pay a bill" it made it a check I needed to print out. No, I want you to electronically pay my bills... ok, I can do that... by sending a check to the payee. NOOOO, I want you to ELECTRONICALLY pay my bills. I can write a stupid check, why should I pay you 13 bucks a month to do what I can do?

So... for some reason, in October, Quicken decided to send Office Depot a check. Before that they would pay electronically without a problem, but October appeared to be check month.
On October 20th, I get a letter in the mail from the U.S. Postal Service, inside was the check that was suppose to go to Office Depot (on the 1st). The letter said: "we process 8 million letters a day, and well, we screwed up on this one, as it was found damaged and stuck in one of our machines". Nice. Ok, so you processed 7,999,999,999 letters on that one day, and hosed up mine, but why did you send it to ME? Why didn't you send it to who it was addressed to? On October 23rd I put the check in a new envelope and mailed it off to Office Depot.

Sunday I go to pay some bills. Three bills that I sent off to be paid came back and said "hey, don't forget to print me!" I DON'T WANT TO PRINT YOU, I WANT YOU TO BE PAID ELECTRONICALLY! So I demand they get paid electronically. To which one of the bills said "I've already been paid, but I'm just not going to say that." Now every time I close Quicken, it says "you have bills to be sent". No I don't. Yes, yes you do. No I don't. I'm arguing with software now. Fine, send it. "Oh, I'm sorry, but that's already been paid, but you have bills to be sent, would you like me to send them?"

Tuesday rolls around. I get the mail. In the mail is a letter from the U. S. Postal Service. Inside is THE FREAKIN CHECK FOR OFFICE DEPOT FROM OCTOBER!!!! The letter inside says: "we process 8 million letters a day, and well, we screwed up on this one, as it was found damaged and stuck in one of our machines". TWICE? THE SAME CHECK?? How is it that a check gets sent from one place, gets stuck in a machine and mauled, gets sent back to me, then I send it from another place and the same thing happens? Out of 8 million letters A DAY, how does this one keep getting caught in a machine and mauled?

The check is no good, past the 90 day expiration. I racked up a late fee from Office Depot the first time it got sent, and now... Oh, it gets better. I open up a credit card and find that they didn't get the check sent by Quicken that was suppose to post on December 24th. Everyone else got their checks, but they didn't.

By now, I'm livid. I fire up Quicken (it reminds me that I have a bill to be sent NO I DON'T!), and start firing off nasty e-mails to them, which they, of course, have not responded to. I'm sure they'll say that the Office Depot fiasco is the post office's fault, not theirs (it wouldn't have been if they had paid it electronically which they started doing again for no reason in November), that because of the holidays, and the fact that the other credit card check will invariably come back to me mangled won't be their fault either. I'm sure they'll even go so far as to blame me for the "you have bills to send" message, or tell me to upgrade to a new operating system (a whole other tale of woe).

I don't want this bloatware on my computer anymore. I don't want them to pay my bills anymore, I'll pay my bank to mess up my bills and only have to deal with one excuse generating autoreply when something doesn't get paid (instead of Quicken fingerpointing to my bank, the post office and some wino on the corner for their lack of organization). The only problem is... much like crack (I hear) it's literally impossible to wrestle yourself out of the many talons of quicken bill pay once you've started. I'm going to start cancelling my auto-pay stuff one by one, starting with our mortgage the moment the next payment gets sent (to Alaska and gets stuck in a machine there). Little by little I will get away from that bastion of incompetence, and if I have to, dammit, I'll write checks myself for the postal service to lose.

what a bunch of crap, on top of everything else going on.
Alpacas... Kansas... here I come.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Impending Sense of Doom

For several days now (maybe longer) I've had this impending sense of doom in the pit of my stomach. At first I thought it was because of the accident (can't talk about that), but now I realize it's something else, don't know what.

Hubby, out of the blue, announced today that he has an immense sense of impending doom. I took a poll of friends... they all have it.

Don't know if it's the weather, the time of year, job frustration, tax season approaching, who knows. I do know that a lot of my friends are having problems. Insurance snafus, one about to lose his job, the list goes on.

Not a part of "the impending sense of doom", but my 5 year anniversary at my company is coming up. Except for the Air Force (contractually obligated for 6 years), this will be the first time I've stayed at one company for more than 2 years. I'm looking forward to that 5 year mark because I'll be fully vested in the company, I get some money, a plaque, a free lunch, and the bonus of all bonuses... a fancy pen. Since I'm a pen freak, this really is the ultimate in cool things to get. But it is somewhat depressing that I've been doing the same thing (literally) for 5 years.

After the Air Force, I was a Marine Corps dependent spouse. We moved every 2-3 years, so having a job was sorta fun, because who cared we were moving in 2-3 years, so no real pressure. Since I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, and since there was no lasting commitment to keep, I tried my hand at a lot of things.

My First Job:
When I graduated from high school, I figured that I would just sponge off my parents and run road races. They had other ideas and got me a job at the local Die Cutting factory. My mom started working there, then moved up to the big time factory called Johnson Controls. She made thermostats. My sister, when she graduated from high school, started at Goshen Die Cutting, then moved to Johnson Controls, before she discovered that she had every known illness in every medical journal ever written, and got disability. When my mom announced that I would be starting a job at Goshen Die Cutting, well... the future looked pretty bleak. I lasted a month gluing little rubber squares to little pieces of cardboard surrounded by Avon perfume soaked gossipy older women.

United States Air Force
Since I had no money to go to college, my only way out of Goshen was to enlist. My father convinced me that the Air Force was the way to go since they were the cushy service. He was right, and I spent 6 wonderful, drunken years doing stuff I can't talk about until I'm 95.

Married to a Marine
Upon discharge, I got married. Hubby was a Marine, so that meant I was a dependent wife, and boy were we poor, so I had to get a job.

Moving Office Furniture
To make ends meet, we'd work for an office moving company after normal working hours.

Jack's Famous Corned Beef
They had a little place within walking distance of our apartment, I went in and got hired to be a cook... even though I had no idea how to cook, let alone what Kosher was. I worked there for two weeks (coming home smelling like corned beef before changing into moving company clothes to shlepp office chairs most of the night), when they announced that the store was closing and moving into Baltimore. I declined to move with them.

Homestead AFB Exchange - Health and Beauty Aid Department
I was the queen of the health and beauty aid department. Laxatives? Aisle 2. Suppositories? Aisle 2, Sitz Bath supplies? Aisle 2. I didn't recognize that on an Air Force Base in Florida that the health and beauty aid department was the most happening place until it dawned on me that every old person is required to move to Florida, and those who are retired military would shop at the exchange. I think I lasted a few months there, and the highlight was covering for someone in the shoe department.

Homestead AFB Exchange - Gas Station
I sat in a little booth in the middle of the pumps, without a cash register, and took money, primed the pumps and got pissed off when people spent $12.75 and gave me strange combinations of money expecting $15.00 in change. I was "promoted" to the drive through beverage part, which was fun except when lazy people expected me to carry 15 cases of beer to their car. One guy, every day, would drive up and get a six pack of Old Milwaukee and pop one open as he drove off. I worked inside too, learned how to order tires and junk.

Animal Hospital
After ending up a the local VFW on the fourth of July, we met a woman named Dusty who worked at an animal hospital. When I expressed interest and gave her my phone number, I never expected to hear from her again, and was shocked when she did call and offered me a chance to interview. I was a vet tech for a while, then got burned out by the stupid pet owners.

Another Animal Hospital
Lured away by a SALARY, I went to work for a small orthopedic clinic as the front desk person and anesthesiologist (what a combo). The vet was a nutcase and had two of those Spuds Makenzie-like dogs, who me and another tech had to bathe. One one occasion we had to make them extra special for their birthday party, which was apparently a HUGE celebration, which we weren't invited to. When he expected me to also drive once a week 70 miles to another clinic for surgeries, I told him to...

Answering Service
I worked the 3pm until 11pm shift for an answering service. I'm not cut out for that, as I am completely unable to put someone on hold, which is the mainstay of answering services. We answered calls for doctors, vets, businesses, and the only cable company in the Florida Keys. The doctor calls were depressing because none of the doctors ever answered their pages, so we'd have people screaming at us (and we couldn't say "look moron, if it's that bad go to the ER). One woman called and told us to ask "my daughter drank bleach, should I be worried?" One night, the entire Florida Keys cable went out with seconds left in a football game. Oh, the names I was called.

Back to the first animal hospital
I worked the front desk and computers until we moved, but only part time. Boy do I have stories, but I'll save that for another time.

Moved to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina
Animal Hospital
Got a job working at a tiny little vet office. They were total assholes, so I quit when my "two week probation" was up and they asked me to stay.

Camp LeJeune Golf Course
The ultimate in cushy jobs, I worked in the Pro Shop, and also did all the tournament coordination, and handicap recording. AHHH, what a cool job that was. Get off work, hit the course. It paid crappy, but kept us fed, and I got "in" with all the high ranking people on the base.

Moved to Maryland, Hubby is a civilian
Consulting Place
I won't name the place since they were all a bunch of cult-like people who went into HUGE companies and taught management to "listen from the heart", and "think from the future to now". The admin people were grounded, sane and cool though, and we ate sushi out a lot. Our "retreats" would include yoga at the Ritz, and drumming and chanting at the Hilton. I was there for only a few months and got a $2,000 christmas bonus. Our Christmas party was at a swank place and the bill came to about $6,000, just for the food. I went from receptionist to Project Manager in a few months. The gravy train drove away when the owner decided that he wanted to become a shamen in Nevada, so we pretty much carried everything that wasn't nailed down into our cars.

Computer Based Training Development Company
I was hired to be a software tester and ended up doing that, Quality Control and just about everything else. A husband and wife co-owned the firm, and I would have to drive to their house and pick up stuff, while the wife breast fed in front of me (THE HORROR!). The company grew, moved to new offices (where our Christmas bonus was the company buying grotesque Ethan Allen furniture for the lobby, which we weren't allowed to sit on). Consultants started coming in, draining the money, people started leaving, and I was sick of commuting to Virginia and found a closer job and bailed.

Tiburon
Oh, this place was a peach. Clueless management that would read the management book of the month and make sweeping changes. As the Admin Assistant, I did everything, including going out to buy the boss a pair of pantyhose (and since she was a rather large woman, had the horrible conundrum of either buying a pair for LARGE women, or flatter her with a pair that wouldn't fit over one calf). The highlight was when management in California Fedexed a flyer for us to hang on our bulletin board that said "save money, use US Postage". Oh, there are more stories, but I'll wait.

Where I'm at now
So, here I am now. I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up, but I would like it to be doing something where I could write what I want instead of what is required in some regulation. The funniest thing I've ever gotten to write was referencing a Tactical User Requirements Document, and since in government, everything has to be an acronym... (TURD). I'd like to be able to write what I want, not have someone tell me to write something with a certain "flavor", then rewrite what I wrote when they could have just written the damn thing themselves. I am a glorified stenographer. I'll continue to be that until May when I get my pen. After that, who knows, especially with the sense of impending doom in my stomach.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

This is Clyde


This is Clyde Posted by Hello

Since I had posted about him, I figured I'd share a picture of him, asleep in his recycle bin condo. Poor Clyde possum!

Stupid People in the News

So I'm watching CNN the other morning. They were talking about the freak weather in the west, and one section got like 16 feet of snow or something ridiculous like that. They interviewed some guy that was in the process of using a snow blower to blow the 6 feet of snow he got away from his truck. He said he was going "layer by layer, and although it would take him a few days to dig his truck out, he was going to keep at it"... AND GO WHERE?

It's 6 feet of snow? Where's he going to go? Does he plan on snowblowing a path to the store? Dude, go back inside, make some hot chocolate, spend some time with your dysfunctional kids and relax for 10 minutes.

More on Mom's Visit

I don't know when it happened, or why, but for some reason my mom has turned into a nudger. She'll say something "hey, what do you think of that?" and nudge you with a hand. "How about some coffee?" nudge. EUUUUUW! Is this an age thing? Is this the new mid-western craze? When I grew up in Indiana, you didn't come within 2 feet of a person for fear of invading their space. Hugs? NO WAY! What's up with this nudging stuff?

Oh, when she made it back to her bat infested house, she did call to say that she made it home safely... on my cell phone, after I wrote the number in really BIG numbers in her little address book. Ooh, that reminds me, I need to send pictures of the RAV to her Ceiva frame so my sister can see it and be all jealous. I feel like putting in text on the bottom of the picture: "If you get a job, maybe you can afford one of these".

Friday, January 07, 2005

Latte Tsunami

There's some serious weather-related bad mojo going on with the world lately. If its not killer waves in the far east, it's devastating snow storms in the Midwest, floods in the west, and here in Maryland, it's suppose to get to 70 degrees on Tuesday... in January... this is insane. Then... killer latte tsunami!

Thursday was the 1 week anniversary of Clyde Rav. I decided to celebrate by going to Starbucks before work (ok, who am I fooling, I go to Starbucks every morning before work), and got a latte. As usual, I say goodbye to hubby (we go together, different vehicles). As usual, I open the driver's side door and reach in to place the sacred venti latte in the cup holder... but this time, things went seriously wrong.

Like out of a Sam Peckinpah movie, the cup slowly begins to tumble from my hand. My splinted left hand does nothing to stop its fall except propel it toward the center console of the RAV. In slow motion, it strikes the console, the lid flies off, torrents of hot latte spew out and up, splashing everywhere, the cup comes to a rest sideways on the driver's side seat.

I have a total mental meltdown. I rush to hubby's truck before he pulls away, fling open his back door and scream "I SPILLED MY FUCKING LATTE ALL OVER!", grabbing a box of tissues before running back to the scene. I'm cursing now for not getting leather seats after seeing just how wonderfully absorbent the cloth ones are. Hubby tries to console me, bringing some wet cleaning clothes to help with the disaster. I'm sobbing uncontrollably, kicked the venti cup and splashing more latte on the door panel.

He suggests grabbing some napkins from Starbucks, which I do, and we sop up as much as possible. When no more would sop, we give up, I use my jacket to sit on so my work clothes aren't saturated, and drive to work, totally dejected.

Everyone at work was compassionate (not laughing at first, thank you), and a good friend even called a detailing place to see if they would come clean the mess up for me. Funny thing about mobile detailers: they don't mobile detail in the winter, you have to go to them, and the one place close enough only did it by appointment on Thursdays. Ok, fine, but it's almost 60 degrees (in January) you'd think they would see how pathetic my situation was and help me out, but NOOOOOO!

I steamed cleaned the seats and back myself this afternoon. It was pretty disgusting, sucking up latte, finding out that a majority of it ran down the drivers side seat and into the back flooring. Now my seat is all wet from steam cleaning. Tomorrow I have to take out some shamis and see if I can't dry it. I'll stand there with a blow dryer on it all day if I have to. The thought crossed my mind to go buy a leaf blower (we had one, and used it to dry the dogs after baths... they loved it, but then during the great pipe burst of 2003, it got ruined).

So now (as literally everyone has explained) the pressure is off. The "new" truck is now my truck, it's had its baptism by fire. It could have been worse I guess. A ding, scratch, dent, shattered something. I'm lucky a steam cleaner could put it almost back to normal, but still....

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Introducing: Clyde RAV


Introducing... Clyde RAV4 Posted by Hello

After many phone calls to insurance companies, banks, filling out forms, pacing, keening, and wailing, I went out on Thursday along with my co-signer hubby, and bought this stylish, ultra cool new RAV4, which I've decided to call Clyde after poor Clyde Possum. It's the least I could do after kicking him out of his swank recycle bin condo.

I've driven it twice so far: once from the dealership, once to Starbucks and back with my mom. I have to say, it's been a while since I've had a new car, especially one that I picked out and is officially "mine", so the pressure is incredible not to scratch, dent, ding, or wreck it. It drives sweet, very quiet, peppy, sporty and just plain fantastic.