Rants

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One of the seldom mentioned perks of switching our phone service to Magic Jack that I can’t help but acknowlege and appreciate is that we NEVER recieve unsolicited phone calls anymore.

Sure, we had to change our number — which no one really likes to do — but the people that need it have it and the people that don’t, well, they don’t.

Until recently.

Over the last few nights we’ve received calls from various 877- and 800- phone numbers during what I like to call the dining hours.

You know, when all less-than-reputable telemarketing firms schedule their calls…

I usually Google “unknowns” as the phone continues to ring and, so far, none have matched anything that I might expect to be getting a call from…

My wife finally answered one last night and the person on the other end asked for a “Steve”…

Yep, pretty much what I expected…

Someone, presumably named Steve, put our phone number down somewhere and now that it’s on some list that’s being marketed all over the place…

Somehow I think this might be the tip of the iceberg…

Boo.

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Eli TerryThis post isn’t about Eli Manning or the Giants winning the Super Bowl. If I’d cared about that, I have written about it two weeks ago.

This is about a house that I drive by a couple of times per week.

It was built in 1748.

Yeah, 264 years ago.

It was once the homestead of a Eli Terry, a famous inventor and clockmaker in the late 1700’s. So famous, in fact, that he even has a Wikipedia entry.

Hey, you know you’re pretty famous when you’ve been dead for 160 years and still end up on the internet.

Anyway, the big house sat on the corner of two pretty busy roads on a large wooded hillside lot…until 2006…when the local Historical Society sold the property to a developer.

I guess the agreement was that they could develop the property on the condition that the home was “restored”.

I know a land grab when I see one and this…was defintely a land grab.

So the the house was quickly lifted from it’s foundation and up onto a device resembling the crawler tank thing that used to move the space shuttle and launch pad around.

Eli Terry Homestead

And then the blasting began.

Hillside? What hillside?

Trees? Yeah, not any more.

In a matter of weeks, the hillside looked a lot like what I’d imagine some areas of Beirut still look like — except for the big white colonial sitting on top of a tank.

The home slowly crept farther and farther from its original foundation as the developer clear cut and leveled more and more of the lot.

Then a new foundation was poured.

No, not for the home, silly, for a… wait for it… wait for it… a CVS Pharmacy!

What town doesn’t need a CVS Pharmacy?

This area has five of them — yes, five CVS’s.

Three Walgreens, at least two Rite Aids, and a handful of other more region-specific chains too.

Now I don’t know about you, but the hardship of trying to find a full scale 24-hour Pharmacy this day in age is akin to…well, encountering a stop sign during your travels in search of one.

Can you say saturated market?

Soon, even before the CVS could open (because there weren’t any pharmacists available to staff all of the pharmacies dotting the landscape), another foundation was poured.

Could it be… a Walgreen’s?

Amazingly, nope.

They built a bank.

Now, the only thing easier to find in New England besides Dunkin’ Donuts and competing Walgreen’s and CVS pharmacies on adjacent lots are banks.

As this second building went up, I’d notice each week as the the old house inched farther and farther back — like so far back that it had no where else to go…

And then this week, maybe four or five years after the “development” started, it was announced that the “historic” Eli Terry homestead would be demolished.

I saw that coming the day they lifted it off of its foundation.

Somehow it survived being lifted off of its foundation and trucked around all over the place (meandering roughly the length of three football fields or so), having rock blasting occur closer than rock blasting should occur, a snow storm from hell — not to mention 264 years — but suddenly due it its “recent move and storage on stilts, as well as abuse from vandals,” it has deteriorated so greatly that it cannot be restored.

Yeah, okay…    #sarcasm

I dunno, the minute it started moving up what was left of the hill, it was apparent to me that the developer had zero intention of saving the house.

Certainly doesn’t say much for the local Historical Society either. They could say that they were bamboozled but, c’mon… This was clear as day.

Honestly, I’m shocked that it didn’t “mysteriously” go up in flames before the developer even propped it up off of the original foundation — and I wouldn’t be shocked if that happens prior to demolition day anyway.

“Oh, what happened?”

But what really, really ticks me off is that the developer has apparently gotten away with not living up to their end of the agreement.

Dat ain’t right, yo.      #ThatReallyPissesMeOff

But, hey, now the pain med addicts have yet another place to fulfill their bogus prescriptions…

Goodbye, old house.

Boehner must live in the Sunniest part of OhioDuring President Obama‘s SOTU address he touched on something about making it easier for people to refinance their mortgages at the current bargain basement prices and today I’ve seen two or three articles about it.

I haven’t researched it (at all) but I’m assuming that this is some kind of after-the-fact reactionary federal government proposed “solution” to the housing crisis of the past few years, you know, an attempt to quell the number of foreclosures that dot the landscape.

But that’s where I lose the connection.

Refinancing at a lower rate (at best, 3 or 4 percent lower which, technically speaking, is nothing) doesn’t solve the foreclosure problem.

For instance, my newest neighbor moved in back in 2006 and paid around $275k for their home.

In general terms, it’s pretty much the same house as mine except that I only paid $141k for mine in 2002.

Following the housing “slump” our homes are currently only worth around $200k.

It’s not rocket science to come to the conclusion that my neighbors are underwater (they owe more than the house is worth) and are likely prime candidates to “walk away”.

The re-finance “solution” won’t ease their pain.

It’s not the interest rate on their mortgage to blame — it’s that they paid too much for their house.

So what’s the point of this government proposal again?

To make it easier for people who can’t afford homes in the first place…again?

It’s too soon for history to repeat itself.

This blog apparently is repeating itself…

Back in 2008 I asked, Are Home Values Important to the Economy?. That post was along the exact same line.

It was a better read, though…

I’ve lost my touch.

No, really…

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Full Disclosure: I freely admit that I benefited from the easy and available money back when I purchased my home with a tiny tiny tiny down payment.

Yes, mortgages were easy to come by and I’m fortunate enough to have rolled the dice, made a “wise” investment with the money loaned to me, and come out the other side a winner with a low rate, a low monthly payment, and a house worth more than double what I still owe.

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Angry BirdI hope they, the buttons with resistance, don’t go the way of the record player.

In the 1980’s, while I was honing my own typing skills playing games like Sierra On-Line’s King’s Quest, I used to cringe watching my dad type on a keyboard while doing whatever it was he actually did on the computer — both index fingers fully extended hunting and pecking away on the keys.

He was pretty fast but, still, who uses their index fingers for every single keystroke?

Things like Ctrl-Alt-Del were always a challenge for those utilizing the two-finger methodology.

Fast forward a couple of generations…

Of late, I’ve noticed that my 2 year old, Duncan, already “expects” a touch screen interface.

A few weeks ago he got to “play” Angry Birds on a friend’s tablet, you know, flat glassy looking thing without any buttons.

He “played” for no more than 5 minutes, max, before losing interest.

But since then, I’ve caught him, on more than one occasion, touching the television screen and flicking his finger as if that’s how we change the channel.

He even does it with my wife’s non-touchscreen cell phone. Pretty much anywhere that there’s a digital “display”, he thinks it’s for touching and quickly sliding an extended finger across.

Yet, he has zero interest in a keyboard and only a slight fascination with the mouse — though I’m not sure he yet realizes that the pointer on the screen is directly related to the mouse…

Won’t be long now, I’m sure, until he shows interest in that controllerless Xbox Kinect thing I keep seeing commercials for.

And twenty years down the road he’ll probably get a good chuckle out of how dad even owned a button-smashing Punch-Out arcade game

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Mixed in among all of the inserts that always come with my Citi statement and bill was this nifty little flyer.

Talk about spin… I mean, they’re trying to imply that they’re meeting my “borrowing needs” better than ever before by raising the minimum monthly payment.

Say what?

This reminds me of how owners of Sony Trinitron televisions and monitors in the 1990’s would brag about how they’re screens were actually better than anything else on the market when, clearly, they weren’t. They had a MAJOR flaw. A visible one?!

I fell victim to it.

Anyway, none of this really matters since I don’t carry a balance with Citi.

I just thought it was hilarious that they tried to spin a rate increase as a feature for the consumer.

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Open LetterDear Ronald,
Since the launch of your recent Smurf Happy Meal promotion, my family has visited McDonald’s restaurants in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut on ten occasions in search of a Smurf happy meal toy for our toddler aged children.

This specific promotion is what lead us to choose McDonald’s over other eateries and, as a result, spend well in excess of $100 with your company.

From these ten visits, though, only once has the location actually had a Smurf toy in stock to include in our Happy Meal.

Once.

One out of ten visits — a location in Pennsylvania being the “winner”.

That isn’t acceptable.

Problem is, we don’t want any more Return of the Jedi finger skateboards or leftover Disney movie promotions from over a year ago.

There are Smurfs adorning your windows, drive-thru menus, and Happy Meal boxes — but no toys. What gives?

I won’t even go into the quality of the food or service at a couple of the locations we visited.

Okay, I will.

Your Bethel, Connecticut location needs an entirely new staff.

You might actually want to consider bulldozing the entire building and just start over.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

Annoyed,
Brainy

Oh, and if it’s not too much to ask — please bring back your Chicken Fajitas. I miss them.

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Land RoverSo remember how when I bought the Land Rover a few months ago, I said that I was well aware that they have a reputation that comes along with them.

A bad reputation.

Lemons.

Always in the shop.

And, making matters worse, they’re super expensive to fix.

Well, since purchasing it, I had that serpentine belt and thermostat problem that set me back $1200.

Then there was that fender bender (not really the car’s fault) that cost me another $1200 out of pocket.

And have I mentioned that the “Check Engine Soon” light has been on for a couple of months?

If not, well, a couple of weeks ago I took it in to the nearest Land Rover dealership for an oil change.

Actually, I really only took it to the dealership so as to get it looked over prior to our 2000 mile road trip.

Off hand, I also asked them to take a look at the check engine light issue even though the car was driving just fine.

I dropped it off on Wednesday, July 27th, expecting to pick it up on Thursday evening — one day later.

No call came while I was at work on Thursday — so I called them and they said that I needed a new oxygen sensor to make the light turn off and that they wouldn’t have the part until tomorrow.

Fine.

Inconvenient, sure, but we’ve got four cars. We’ll live.

Friday comes and, again, no call.

I call them.

Now they say they need to replace another oxygen sensor and they’ll have it ready for me on Monday.

Hmmmm… I’m not liking how this is going…

I agree to it, disparagingly, while thinking in my head — they’re just throwing new parts at the problem that probably isn’t even a problem at all.

On Monday evening, my wife drives me out there to pick it up and it’s still up on the lift.

It’s not done.

They never called. What’s up with that?

Don’t they realize the crazy daycare preparations we had to make (not to mention, we both had to leave work early) to make this trip? Grrrr…

On Tuesday, I call them again asking if it’s ready. This time they say some sort of gasket needs to be replaced cause it’s all gummed up with oil or something is leaking — I dunno, I stopped listening — but I agreed to have them replace it because he claimed that the car wasn’t running well.

Weird, my car ran fine when I took it in for an oil change and now it doesn’t run well.

I’m really not liking how this is going.

On Wednesday, an entire week after I’d originally dropped it off, the dealership FINALLY calls me to tell me that the engine light is still on and that I need a new “engine harness” to correct the problem.

I let him do his gear-head schtick for awhile before asking how much that would cost to replace.

“Well, they’re made to order so we wouldn’t be able to do it for two or three weeks but the cost with labor would be around $2400.”

Staying calm (and thinking about my looming vacation in a matter of days), I asked, “What’s my bill up to so far?”

“$1675 after a $25 off special.”

I could not BELIEVE he mentioned $25 off on a $1700 bill like it was some sort of gift…

“Um, okay, does it run right now?”

“Yep, it’s running great.”

“Okay, then I’m coming to pick it up… now.”

So I get a ride out there and the whole time I’m thinking — did they really just try to hit me up for over $4000 on an oil change? For real? Is this really happening?

So I get to the dealership just as they’re about to close, charge my $1675 fee, flash a few dirty looks and get in the car.

Yep, check engine light is still on.

Did I just go without a car for an entire week for a simple oil change?

Yep.

And I’m $1675 poorer for nothing?!

Holy crap!?

When I get home, I hop out, and click the key to lock the car.

Nothing.

I try it again.

Nothing.

Are you kidding me?

They broke the keyless entry.

So now I’ve been down a vehicle for a week, I’m $1675 poorer, my car is in worse shape that it was a week ago, and I’m going on a 2000-mile road trip in two days.

Wonderful.

So, on Friday, August 5th, just before we embarked on our vacation, my wife took it back to the dealership to get the keyless entry fixed.

After being treated like a moron at first by being told her key’s battery was dead (and mine just happened to die at the exact same time? Suuuuuure.), and some denial that they did anything that would affect the keyless entry, they tried to “reset” things — for two hours while my wife sat there.

And they were unsuccessful.

Great dealership, huh?

Keyless Entry on a Land Rover Discovery II

So, I don’t blame Land Rover — I still don’t think it’s a lemon and I don’t think that their cars suck.

I do, however, think that Land Rover of Farmington Valley is a complete joke. We will NEVER again take the car there.

And while the lack of keyless entry is a real pain (you try carring two kids and having to walk to the driver’s side door to unlock the car when it’s pouring rain), it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve chalked it up as a $1675 mistake.

But on the bright side, 1800 miles into our road trip when, for no reason at all, the check engine light turned off, I smiled a little on the inside.

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Grainy Zapruder Frame -- See the grassy knoll?
This afternoon we headed over to a local “Extravaganza”.

Seriously, that’s what it was called.

It was one of those municipal events where they sell fried dough, cotton candy, and over priced inflatible somethings to benefit the Parks and Recreation department or something.

This one had a full blown carnival with a dozen or so rides and even some miniature horses for the kids to ride.

But the one thing that caught Duncan’s eye was the fire department’s ladder truck — ladder fully extended and spouting water from the top.

He wasn’t dressed for running through the water but we took his shirt off and set him free anyway.

As we did so, I surveyed the scene and pinpointed one kid.

He was a little too old to be frolicking in the mist and, well, he obviously had no regard for anyone around him. You know the type…basically, he was a threat.

It was one of those things where I “knew” it was going to happen — I even said as much outloud — but I wasn’t about prevent my kid from having a good time because of one moron in the crowd.

I’m not the over protective type.

But it’s not like you can take a preventative stance these days either and go up to someone else’s kid and say, “Hey, quit being an idiot and watch where you’re going…” without having their even bigger idiot parent getting all up in your face about it…

So, instead, my kid got bowled over.

Go ahead, it’s okay to watch it a few times. Frame-by-frame, even…

That’s the beginning of my reaction at the tail end of the video.

Had I kept the camera rolling, you’d have heard my expletive laden description of how I really felt about what I’d just witnessed.

No worries — I didn’t say it loud or anything but the camera microphone most definitely would have picked it up.

Of the nine or ten adjectives and one noun that I uttered, well, “little” was the *only* word that could be considered safe for this website…

To the kid’s credit, he wasn’t without remorse.

Immediately after it happened, he stopped in his tracks and just stood there looking at Duncan (who was laying in a puddle on the pavement with his hands over his face and feet in the air) as my wife ran into the fray to make sure he was okay.

As my wife picked him up, I could plainly see that the kid felt bad. He had that sort of posture that kids get when they want to say “Sorry” but don’t know how or when exactly to do it. I mean, it’s not like he did it on purpose…

I also watched him look over his shoulder to see if his parents were calling him over — which they weren’t because, well, I’m sure you guessed it, they weren’t the type that supervise their kids.

Might explain why their kids are morons.

Anyway, once the kid realized that he’d “dodged” a bullet, well, back he went to running around with total disregard.

Seriously, he’s way too old to be afraid to open his eyes when running through a glorified sprinkler. Is it just me?

I dunno, a helmet and shoulder pads shouldn’t be required for running through the hose…

Not being the overprotective type, once Duncan’d composed himself, we sent him right back out there.

As you can see, Duncan’s okay.

And in a weird sort of way, I’m pretty proud that he could take a hit like that.

I’d still be laying on the ground.

Can You Dig It?

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