Saturday, January 27, 2007


When you move into an old home that was completely rebuilt, the temptation at first is to put everything back the way it was before the disaster. But along the way, and in the course of the rebuilding process certain decisions are made which affect the decorating choices.

The old house started out with the TV on one wall (shorter one) and the couch on the opposite and longer one. Then I succumbed to the lure of a dish system, and that necessitated moving the TV to the opposite wall to be nearer to the only telephone outlet in the living room.

After a few months of dish, I realized it was not a great decision after all and gave it up, but kept the layout the same - the TV and the cabinets it sat on were just too heave and bulky to move. But then the flood came, and now I have a new, and much lighter TV, sitting on a new and much lighter TV stand, and aside from the power cord and the cable outlets there is no reason why I can't move the TV back to where it was originally.

So that is my task for tomorrow, and maybe next week. I also want to rearrange the various electronic boxes (VCR, tuner, CD player, DVD player and Cable DVR/tuner) into a more functional arrangement. I may also eliminate the VCR because --- I no longer own any VHS tapes, nor do I see myself buying or renting any in the foreseeable future.

I wish I could eliminate one or more of the remotes but that doesn't seem to be in the cards. It is almost easier to eliminate one of the boxes.

I am slowly getting used to the DVR, which is sort of like a TiVo. Unlike some who record shows and store them forever, I just record shows when two I want to watch conflict with each other. Well, it is 5:30 on Saturday night and I have a few more minutes left on this shift before I can head on home. Then again I have another shift tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM so it might just be easier to sleep here (yeah, right!!!)

I wonder whether my Internet connection will be working when I get home. It was out when I left and had been out all morning. I think I burnt it out. Last week in a moment of weakness I was fiddling around with my system and managed to build a mail loop into my system. That is one account forwarding to another, and the second one forwarding to itself. By the time I figured out what had happened I had exceeded my mail storage allotment. Thankfully the ISP/web hosting company has lots of storage and is very generous so they increased my space until I had it fixed. But when I finally started to receive mail again, I had 2163 messages in the cue (18.9 MB worth) It took a half hour for it to download and funnel through the spam and junk mail filters. End result, three messages finally got through, and all three were for the new Oprah diet. Talk about junk mail and spam clogging the system. It seems that once someone comes up with a new sure fire way to get rich quick, or lose weight fast, or increase your sexual potency, they farm them out to thousands of folks who spam the world with it, so each one is the identical message but it has a different sender.

Modern ingenuity.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snow Day

The weather people have been telling us about the heavy snow falls in other parts of the country (I am in Northern Virginia) and about the ice storms, lack of power etc. Depending on where live you learn to live with the snow and life goes on, albeit a bit more slowly, and a bit colder, or you succumb to the snow and collapse under its weight (well maybe figuratively not literally).

Here we are not used to snow, and when the occasional storm hits everything shuts down, schools, offices, roads, etc. Most of the local suburban roads are the responsibility of the local community association, and so the plowing and sanding is somewhat erratic. It is a bonanza for anyone with a pickup truck, or SUV, or other such vehicle that can have a snow plow attached to the front end. Those folks are out there at the first flake fall catching them almost before they land.

But the main roads are state and county responsibility and they are not as quick to respond. I was at the office yesterday and the morning news had predicted that there would be snow, but later in the afternoon. My desk duty shift ended at noon, and I stopped at the local big box store (OK so I stopped at Costco to also sample the freebies at the kiosks set up at the ends of the aisles) for a few breakfast groceries - eggs and OJ.

In any case it took all of twenty minutes and I was back on the road for what is now a ten minute trip from the office to my home. By that time the roads had become more than a little dusted with snow, and the cars rolling over that fallen stuff caused it to compact and thus form ice. Driving was not fun. Because of the snow, traffic was moving at the posted limit which was about 35 MPH. No one was speeding. All the cars, the big SUVs , the minivans included, were moving very cautiously, not changing lanes and keeping a respectable distance between themselves and the car in front.

All was going well, and I was congratulating myself on having survived the first snow fall. As I pulled into the turn lane at the intersection between the road I was on and the road that would take me the last mile or so home I had to slow down and stop because there was a red light. So, already going slowly, I innocently put my foot on the brakes and nothing happened. Oh, the brakes held alright, but car was on a sheet of ice and just kept sliding forward. I could see it going to happen but could do nothing to stop it, there was only about two car lengths between us, and not enough time to react, or even think of what to do. Do like bumper cars, my car rolled into the back of the SUV in front of me, and that car reacted by sliding forward itself.

There was no damage to the car I hit, and only minimal damage to my car but it would have been better if it didn't happen at all. I have an appointment with the GEICO adjuster next week to see what it will take to get the damage fixed. It isn't restricting the car's ability to run, and it isn't terribly unsightly, just annoying

Friday, January 19, 2007


When something disastrous happens, or we are assaulted, or deeply wounded the first emotion that hits is shock, then anger and frustration, and a deep sense of personal violation. When my home was destroyed by water last summer, I was somewhat calm, maybe too calm, very analytical, and trying very hard to be objective, in what was a very subjective situation.

As time wore on and the repairs were made step by agonizingly slow step I thought I was beginning t feel better, trying to put it all behind me. In the past week or so I have come to see that the shock, anger, frustration and sense of personal violation is still there, just below the surface boiling and churning like a volcano waiting erupt onto someone, or something.

When I went for my meeting with Margaret my office manager she pointed out that I was probably still in shock, and probably needed some quiet time by myself to collect my wits and get over the shock. Until she said that I hadn't really realized that I actually was in shock - trying hard not to remember what happened, and trying equally hard to overcome it. I am pretty sure I haven't done that yet. I think staying with my daughter and her family helped me from snapping, but the tension was, and is, still there.

Last night at my first Board meeting as a non-Board member, and as a past President, I was going to comment on what I believed was an ill-conceived policy they were holding a hearing on. I had done my research, and had all my notes, and had all the points I wanted to make written down, and we discussed them, actually I made my points and they listened as if waiting for me to finish before they went on with what they were going to do anyway. The look of condescension was unmistakable.

At some point I let loose, pointing out, on a very loud voice, that they had lost complete sight of their task. Their job wasn't to determine who was going to pay the deductible, nor to fix blame. Their job was to supervise and manage the restoration of the owners home in a timely manner, and push the claim through the insurance process as quickly as possible. Once that was underway then they could discuss who owes the deductible, but that discussion shouldn't and couldn't hold up the restoration process. They seemed stunned by that revelation. You mean we are responsible for supervising and managing that process. We don't know anything about it, nor does the property manager. Well we will just hire someone to do that and charge the unit owner. Wrong!!!

That is covered in the by-laws - it is a Board and property manager responsibility, not a homeowner one.

I left at that point, having vented some of my anger, but there is lots more under the surface. I wonder when it will come out again. I wonder whether I need or want to find one of those Anger Management classes.

So now belatedly I realize that, yes, I am still in shock, still angry, still frustrated, and still feel personally violated, but I think that realization is the first step in starting to deal with it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Living in a condo is like living in in a commune, except sometimes it is not. In most condos the association owns the buildings and the unit owners own the interiors from face wall to face wall. In other words from the paint in.

The condos have a master policy which covers the structure and the condos also take care of exterior maintenance. In our condo for some reason, the owners own the buildings just as if the owned a non-condo townhouse but we still have a master policy.

Under most circumstances the Master Policy would take the place of the normal homeowner policy an cover any damage to the structure. Ours it appears does not. As a matter of fact I am doing some research to figure out just what it does cover.

Tonight is the first regular Board meeting that will attend as a homeowner and not as either a Board member or as its President. Should be interesting - the topic - insurance deductibles, and who should pay them.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Service or the lack thereof

It is strange. There are some things that are so common that we hardly notice them until they are not there. Take the phone for instance, not the actual instrument but the service itself.

I had a morning appointment today and as I was driving there I noticed that almost every other car was being driven by someone with a cell phone in their ear. You can almost tell one of those from a distance, the car drives slower than the rest of the traffic, usually on the slow lane which is understandable because most folks can't walk and chew gum at the same time, much less drive and carry on a cell phone conversation, but they try, yes, they do try.

Since I didn't need my Realtor's lock-box access key I left it home., plugged into its cradle. The key has an internal code which expires each night and must be updated. The cradle is connected to the phone line, and sometime during the night, the cradle dials the update center and updates the key. If the key has been updated it carries the message "updated for mm-dd-yy". If it hasn't been updated it bears the message "Expired, please update," When I returned I happened to notice that the key bore the message "Error code 06." Not having a clue as to what that meant I just assumed that there was a problem with the cradle and the phone jack it was attached to.

So I unplugged the cradle, the power supply and the phone line, and plugged it into another outlet. When I came back an hour later (it only take 10 minutes to update under normal circumstances) I decided that maybe something got wet as a result of my flood, so I took the key down to my office to call the support site. Imagine my surprise to pick up the phone and hear... nothing, no dial tone, just silence. So I tried a different phone, still nothing. I have four phones in my home (exclusive of the cell) and none worked. The good news was that my key wasn't necessarily broke, the bad news was my phone service was non-existant.

So I called the phone company. By the time I worked my way through their menu system the agent's first question after I told her I had no service or dial tine, was are you calling from that phone now. No stupid, I am using a cell phone, I just told there is no service on the regular phone.

They are coming tomorrow to fix the problem. Good thing I didn't need the phone between now and then

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I have lived in my home for over 8 years and barely know most of my neighbors. There are various reasons for this, one being they are mostly commuters traveling back and forth between here and their jobs in Tysons Corner, Arlington, Alexandria or DC. The second being the fast rate of turnover. You see people move in, and before you can get to know them, they have moved on again.

But there are a few neighbors who I have gotten to know. One is a drug rehab treatment center employee, another is an internal auditor for the IRS.

Several are police officers in either Prince William County or neighboring Fairfax. One however is very interesting. I don't see him much because he travels most of the time. I don't know what his exact title or function is or who exactly he works for but he is a technical supervisor for a broadcasting company. He has the unenviable job of supervising the technical aspects of such evens as the NIT, the NCAA, the Superbowl, the world series, the Masters, etc. He also does political conventions. I saw him the other day as he was packing up his pickup to head out for yet another assignment, actually two assignments, the first being the inauguration of the Governor of Pennsylvania and the second being the Superbowl.

I asked him if he was in the broadcast credits and he acknowledged that he was. I asked him if I would see him on screen, he said yes, ground level on the fifty-yard line, but he didn't say which side of the field.

He has a very tough life, and being the inconsiderate fellow he is, he didn't even offer to take me along with him. Ah well, I will have to find some way to ingratiate myself with him, so that maybe next time he will extend an offer. Yeah, Right!!!

Friday, January 12, 2007

You get what you pay for

Today I received the check from the company that was supposed to verify that my scanner was in working order (it wasn't, and they had to reimburse me themselves)

I also received a deposit from Paypal. I am still waiting for the money from Amazon. This, in and of itself is probably not newsworthy, or even mildly interesting to anyone by myself, if it wasn't for one fact.

I spent some time creating the text for and taking pictures of the three remaining items I would like to sell. Two of these little goodies didn't sell on eBay, possibly because the price was too high. But I torn between trying eBay again, trying Amazon, or trying Craig's list.

For those who don't know about it, Craig's list is free listing site for things and for jobs (they actually charge a small fee for job listings). It is set up by state, so you can sell to your immediate area, but really can't sell nationwide. They do have an international sales are but I haven't checked that out yet.

The last time I used Craig's list I was listing a house for sale, and a couple of rental listings. The properties didn't sell, but then again the listings were free.

This is the first time I was attempting to sell a thing. When I signed on, what struck me almost immediately was the big bold warning from the site master, warning that there are large numbers of scammers out there and sellers should only consummate sales face-to-face. Do not, under any circumstances, give out bank account numbers or Paypay information, or anything similar. Also be very wary of bank checks, postal money orders, Western Union checks, etc. as there are a lot of counterfeiters out there as well

Apparently there are lots of very creative thieves out there. It made me realize how good both Amazon and eBay are. They charge for their services, but you can rely on them to guarantee monies they collect.

Much as I would like to use Craig's list the idea of meeting face to face with a buyer doesn't turn me on.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Talk about fast action

Yesterday I took a load of boxes and packages from my week-long eBay sale to the Post office for shipment.

When I first moved here, the Bristow post office was down the road and just across the railroad tracks in a small, I mean teeny, tiny, small building that was probably a single car garage in another incarnation. It was little more than a single room with a small entry foyer for the counter. I guess when the built it that was all they needed. The Post Mistress told me that it was the smallest post office in Northern Virginia, and the next-to-the-smallest in Virginia. It was kind of cute in a way, it it was almost fun going there. BTW the carrier folks sorted the mail in an annex down the road, where they had more room.

Then they started building in this area and they needed a bigger building so the PO bought a piece of land (naturally it was further from my home than the old building) and built a new larger facility. That was bout five years ago. Well, over the years, the local population has just kept on growing, and they had to add more and more carriers. At the end of 2006 they ran out of space again and moved the carriers (and the mail sorting facility) to a new, and even larger annex in nearby Gainesville, which is about six miles from me, in the opposite direction from the Bristow facility.

All this is by way of lead in to my trip to the PO yesterday. I got there about 9:15 and the parking lot, which was usually packed with customer and carrier cars and delivery trucks, was empty. My first thought was maybe it was a holiday I forgot about. But no, the PO was open with just the counter personnel there and a few stray customers, and of course now me, my car and my pile of packages.

Last week, I purchased two bookcases for my living room, to give me some place to put my speakers (bookshelf speakers need a bookcase, right?). They were supposed to be delivered yesterday, but unlike most deliveries, that was all I knew, sometime yesterday probably between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. I was able to get out to the post office and back by 9:00 so I was pretty sure I didn't miss the delivery (because last time they called me before they came)

So I waited, and waited, but no delivery. Finally at 4:45 PM I called to find out was was happening. They said they would look into it and get back to me. The delivery truck rolled up to my door at 6:45 PM, and the staore called back at 8:00 PM to ask if the delivery had been made.

This morning I was back shipping off more packages. When I got home I continued yesterday's project which was to compose text for a couple of listings on Craig's list. As I was working on the listing for the Rosetta Stone software, I decided to check with Amazon to see what they were listing their copies for. Obviously they had no such restrictions on listing this kind of product because they had several for sale, new and used.

Amazon is price for this kind of thing, their sales commission is way higher than eBay's, I mean way, way, higher. But I figured why not give them a shot. They allow you to list for 8 days, and you don't pay if you don't sell. So I listed my copy with a rather high price (compared to what the other used versions sold for).

Three hours later I received an email from Amazon that the package had sold and payment had been credited to my account. Wow!!! Talk about fast service.

Monday, January 08, 2007

eBay for fun and profit

My project for last weekend was to list a whole bunch of stuff that I no longer need or want around, or for that matter have room to store. As is usual with stuff sold on eBay, it was too good to throw out and not good enough, or useful enough to keep.

I listed seventeen items, ranging from a used cell phone, to some used Spanish language tapes, etc. Aside from two items, a set of painted plates and a leather day planner binder, it all sold. I didn't include the Rosetta Stone Spanish language system, which was pulled by eBay.

All in all I sold a lot of stuff, and made some $$$ in the process.

Yesterday and today were spent packaging stuff up for shipment and transporting to the local Post office. Four items went in priority mail flat rate boxes, three went by first class mail, and three went by media mail.

I still have two more packaged ready to mail, and two others waiting payment. Two items were bought by the same person, so that is why it doesn't add to fifteen.

I still have four items (including the Rosetta Stone software) to sell on Craig's list - that is free and you can basically keep it there until it sells.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


The nice folks from Best Buy (actually Magnolia their installation division) came and spent some three hours setting up my new TV, and hooking up the DVD player, the a tuner, VCR (yes I still have a VCR and even use it sometimes), the CD player and the new speakers.

They tested everything and it all works fine.

I now have a small pile of remotes, some have overlapping functions, some have unique functions, some control multiple devices and some control only one device. It is confusing for now.

One thing that bothers me. The wall where I have my chair, now and later as well, has no direct lighting, and that makes it very difficult for me to see the legend on the buttons. It is almost as if I have to use braille to find the right one. It looks as if I will have to buy a lamp for that area.

This new service has lots of options, some of which I suspect are for a trial period only, such as HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ and CINEMAX on demand services. It would be great if they weren't but I have to wait until Monday to find out. - They are closed on the weekends.

I purchased a pair of book cases yesterday - they sort of match the TV stand, Black metal with glass shelves. They will be delivered on Monday.

I think I will be getting another similar unit for holding all the remotes. Right now they sit on the couch next to me, but... the couch is going out with the salvager on Tuesday, so I need something to hold the remotes, other than my lap.

Last night I finally hooked up my Birthday gift from my daughter Jessie and her family. She
got me one of those motorized massaging pads for my chair. It has upper and lower back massaging motors and a pair of massaging motors for the thighs - it is also heated. Talk about relaxing -NICE!!!!

It is Saturday morning and I have the first shift on the phones at the office. Not that the phones have been busy, but someone has to answer them, and we have no weekend receptionist, so the agents take turns - they call it opportunity time. That is, you get all the business that walks, in or calls in during your shift. Normally I would bring in the crossword puzzle from the Sunday Post (usually delivered on Saturday morning) but for some strange reason, this week they omitted the magazine sections (which has the puzzle.) Now I have to find something else to occupy my time.

Today and tomorrow the auctions on the items I have listed on eBay end. So far 9 of fifteen items have bids, and three more may sell as well - the easy part is packing it all up for shipment

Thursday, January 04, 2007

One step more

They are coming to install my new HDTV today. I can't wait. In preparation I put up the art work which finally came back on Tuesday. When I got it all back, I had to decide where to put it. The first time up it went up around furniture and other things. Now the walls are bare, and they will probably stay that way. I expect to keep the place much more spartan than before. No reason other than that it is more comfortable that way.

My items on eBay are doing well. Five have bids which means they are sold, several other have watchers. My auctions end tomorrow so hopefully I will have some packing and shipping to do.

One, the biggest one was removed by eBay. I had listed a package called Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) Levels 1 & 2. This was an expensive package, costing me over $380.00 new. I bought it, but could never quite get into it so I decided to sell it.

I asked $250 as a starting price and had ten people watching it. Then apparently the folks who produce the package saw it and complained to eBay and they (eBay) took it down and notified the watchers that it was being removed. Not nice. I have sold tons of used software on eBay, and never had any problems. This is the first time an item has been removed for "intellectual property infringement."

I am having second thoughts about taking that cruise this spring. For those who don't know about it, my cousins are going on a 15-day "repositioning" cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Lines Jewel. It is a free style cruise that leaves from Miami, crosses the Atlantic, lands in Portugal (1-day) goes on to Rome and Naples (one day each), the cruises to Crete (one day there) and then on to the final port of call Athens. They then fly us home (I assume to Miami)

I had planned to go along with them, even put down a deposit, but with the flood and all, I really don't have my heart in it. More and more I think I am going to cancel. Besides I will be going alone, and they haven't found anyone to share my cabin, and its cost so I would have to pay for a double cabin as well. It seemed like a great idea back last summer when they proposed it but now as we get closer it has lost most of its appeal.

I don't gamble, I don't drink, I will be alone (yes, my cousins and brother will be there but that is not the same thing) and for the most part it will be non-stop eating, which is something I definitely don't need.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007

Let me be the first(?) to wish everyone reading this a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. For those of you who stayed up late last night to usher in the New Year, for those who actually went out to New Year's Eve parties, and to those hardy souls who braved the elements, crowds and noise to stand with the multitudes in Times Square, NY or other similar mass gathering, my condolences.

Me, I watched the very meager offerings on TV until I got so sleepy I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, so I went to sleep. I am pretty sure I didn't miss much. As far as the body is concerned one night is pretty much the same as another, and when it gets to be bed time, it doesn't make any difference what day it is.

Between Saturday and yesterday I listed some 16 items on eBay. Half of them have multiple watchers and one has a bid. Nice - it is a fun project, will get rid of some stuff I no longer need or use, and maybe make some $$$ in the process.

Today is football day, and a day to watch all sorts of TV show marathons in case you don't like football. I will probably do a little of both.

This week should be interesting. My daughter Hillary and her husband have a very early morning appointment on Wednesday, in Baltimore, so Grandpa gets to sleep over Tuesday night so he can get the kids t school Wednesday morning.

Thursday they will be coming to install my new TV - it would have been nice to have it this past weekend, but then again I probably wouldn't have had the enthusiasm to list the stuff on eBay.

I didn't accomplish much in terms of polishing the Brass bed, but that was not because it was difficult work, but because I made a mistake many years ago which is coming back to haunt me today.

When I lived in Miami, the salt air and dampness did a job on the brass, causing it to tarnish much faster than normal. I spent time polishing the bed and it looked almost new when I was finished. Of course I wondered what I could do to keep it looking that way, and after asking friends, relatives, and at various stores I was told that the best way to keep it shiny was to spray it with a lacquer-like preservative, which I did.

Over time, unfortunately, the coating wears off in places and the brass begins to tarnish again. Unfortunately, the tarnish also creeps under the parts still covered by the spray and over time it gets really bad. Now trying to get the coating off to polish it again, is proving very difficult. The bed is made from brass pipes with ball-like ends used to join one pipe to another. These are very difficult to polish especially where the balls meet the pipes. I will get it done, but just not as quickly as I first thought