errands


7
Nov 19

I made do

I decided I would visit a few stores after work today, so I picked two stores that were seemingly at random.

Seemingly at random because you didn’t know where I was going or why. And seemingly at random because I haven’t told you they were both places I’ve been before — at least one of them frequently. And seemingly at random because you did not know, until this precise moment right here in which I am telling you this part that is very important to the overall story in absolutely no way, that both were between my office, where I spend a lot of time, and the house, where I spend the rest of my time.

I walked through several sections of the first store and found some things, but nothing I had to have. This was really just an excuse to be somewhere, you see. I get in these circumstances and begin to think OK, if you find one thing, two things more you sorta like, you can buy them all. There’s no logic or rationale for this. But if you have some things you’re thinking about getting but you don’t need in the moment, it is a good way to avoiding extraneous purchases. If, that is, you don’t put too much effort into your secondary rationalization skills. And, really, you shouldn’t, because you’ve already built up a credible argument for why you aren’t buying this thing. (e.g. It is only worth it if you find more things.)

So I went to the second store, where I did have a purchase. I needed to buy a picture frame. And not just any, but one that is a random size. It isn’t random, it’s just a standard that applies only to the continents of Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and most of South America. This is a real thing, and we, the Canadians and paper and photo connoisseurs of Mexico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines are the outliers.

And do you know how hard it is to find an internationally accepted frame size in a Hobby Lobby?

I found one. One. The guy was making his patient announcements that the store would close in 15 minutes, and so please bring your purchases to the front and thank you for shopping at Hobby Lobby, where the store will now close in 10 minutes … and don’t you know I waited until the last possible second to go to the register, because if that patient manager sort was going to make his staff work the full shift, I was going to do my part, for them, to see that he did too.

Hobby Lobby is a fascinating place, really. There’s all kinds of carefully distressed things that I would appreciate if they were authentic. But I’m afraid most of their offerings have more attention to the detail of manufactured shabbiness and not enough in overall quality. But it is hard to do much better than Hobby Lobby for a picture frame. Unless you need an A3. And if that’s the case you should go back to the collage frame section, where there is always a miraculous 50% off sale the day you are there, and hope you find something close.

I like the nomenclature of the international, or ISO 216, system. It is only odd if you’re not accustomed to it. But if you think about it. It is a standard defines the “A” and “B” series (and a secondary C series) of paper sizes, which are the most commonly available paper size worldwide. If you’ll round to millimeters, they all have the same aspect ratio. And, while this is more of a paper feature than a photo feature, if you cut or folded a page in half along the width, those halves also have the same aspect ratio. These are great for design elements. And the naming system is simplified. I’ll have an A3, please.

If you, like me, need a 16 1/2 inch by a 11 10/16 inch frame, you might be making do. I made do.

But here’s the thing. I found this frame that some frame maker designed would be great for a matted triptych of 5x7s. It was my only option, so I got it. I liked it a little, but I wasn’t wild about it. I got home, put the print inside the frame. It didn’t fit perfectly, I have a little under a quarter of an inch on both the left and right showing an extra black background, but it fit well enough.

And the look of the frame perfectly complements the print.

You can do worse than making do.


1
Oct 19

About that

I had yesterday off. And unlike the last two times I had an off day, I did not go into the office for a meeting.

So I went to the tailor instead. New suit pants need sizing and that guy is the man for the job. It would be helpful if the tailor’s name was Taylor. Once, in some parts of the world, names were tied to vocations or locations. It had its conveniences, not the least of which was that it bound people into one place and role. Why, some ancestor of mine worked in metals, I guess, and look how far I’ve come since then.

Well, I’ve just looked up the other five of my most proximate family names. They are all English, or diminutive of German, or maybe Greek, or just rare and relatively unknown to the Internet. One site says there are 242 people in the U.S. with that rare name. Surely that’s an underestimate. But I didn’t even know I had that name until well into adulthood and I don’t think I’d ever heard it around the ancestral haunts, so I’d agree it is rare. But it, and the rest of the family names, seem to be without detailed insight and description. Not like “Smith,” I guess. Not all names, it turns out, are terribly patronymic. But names ought to mean something.

Anyway, the tailor did his measuring and marking. I went to the store, where I saw this this scarily detailed poster. Despite it’s insight, it leaves off some important suggestions: after counting money, before and after performing surgery, after high-fiving your mechanic, after pulling a double-shift in the infectious diseases laboratory and so on.

Also, the instructions are missing. That’s a deliberate choice by some germy Batman villain, I’m sure. But we’ve all been to a restroom and where people demonstrate poor hand hygiene. Warm-to-hot water, soap, 20 seconds. Sing Old MacDonald song to yourself if you must.

MacDonald, by the way, is a common Scottish patronymic surname meaning “son of Donald,” meaning “world ruler.” So Old MacDonald was one of the less ambitious members of the clan, one supposes. Anyway, the Internet goes on — oh, how it goes on — to tell us that MacDonald is from the Gaelic Mac Dhamhnuill.

Anyway, I’m sure the merchant has noticed the problem with the poster. It’s not the dirtiest restroom you’ve ever been in. Nothing that a coat of paint and some better lights couldn’t fix. But here’s my worry. If your initial read, as the merchant who placed that poster, is that you should tell people when, you are absolutely right, and you should tell them how.

At home, sanding wood this afternoon. I’ll be sanding wood into my golden years, but it’s going to be a nice project, when I get through with the sanding in 2024. (There are 10 pieces still to go on the sanding. They are substantial pieces. I’ll get three or four done before next week, I hope.) So there I am, sitting in a chair in the garage, in between the cars, taking down some western pine from milled and kiln-dried lumber, into the dimensions required for the project, and then through sandpaper of 100-, 150-, 220- and 400-grit. The end pieces will then get a few passes with 600-grit. Then I have to somehow de-dust 24 large pieces of wood, condition, stain and seal them. And then I can assemble the finished product. It’s going to be awesome.

In 2024.

Oh, also, welcome to Catober. You met Poseidon earlier in the day. You’ll meet his sister, Phoebe, tomorrow.

They’re neat. OK, she’s neat. He’s a complete and total handful. That’s the first picture I took of either of them, and it almost perfectly encapsulates his personality. We got them midway through the summer and they are now getting good and settled in. We’ve more or less learned their styles, they sometimes acknowledge us.

We’ll do the photos throughout the month. I just couldn’t do it in September. Maybe, I hope, it’ll be a bit better here.

Poseidon got his name because his original one was not good, and he also loves water, so now he’s named after the god of the sea. Phoebe, on the other hand, came to be associated with the moon in late Greek mythology, but she was originally a Titan with gifts of prophecy and calmness. Names ought to mean things.


11
Feb 19

The iPad story

Oh look, more snow and rain to run and play in …

That was at the end of this evening’s too-cold-for-a-5K neighborhood 5K. I’m now writing fancifully self-indulgent mini-essays on Instagram about it. The theme is: I’m ready for it to be warm. And, if we’re lucky, in six or seven weeks, it might be!

Yesterday looked like this, all day:

It was an almost-bitter cold on Saturday, but it was sunny, which was nice. And we took the day to take a trip to Indianapolis. Another trip, incidentally. Do you want the whole story? You want the whole story.

The week before last I finally said aloud that my iPad, which is now five years old and a refurb, was having trouble charging. We took it to a local place, where we have had the occasion to spend too much money for minor repairs. They looked it over and could not help.

So I called on Friday, a week ago, to set up an appointment at the genius bar at the Apple Store in Indianapolis. That Saturday was much like this one, cold, with stubborn snow piles everywhere, but dry, so it was a good day to take the 70-plus mile trip north. At the Apple Store we met a guy named Scott. At first he thought my iPad had died, so after I convinced him that it was the glare and the brightness turned way down, Scott ran his diagnostics. I’m having trouble with the charging port, but the battery was pretty much toast. He said as much, and showed us the diagnostic results. Scott said it is a batter problem, then, and not a charging port problem. The solution was a new replacement iPad, for $99. Same model, but a new battery and no charging port problems, and a 90-day warranty.

Great! Good deal! This is what I want to do. Of course they don’t have this particular model in the back of the store. It’s several generations behind and it would be unreasonable to expect they have it on the shelf.

So the solution, to avoid having to make another trip up to Indianapolis, is to have them mail one to me. This is how that process didn’t work.

On Sunday, right on time, someone from Apple Support called me. She consulted the file, and I had to explain everything. (Why do they maintain a file if it can’t be seen by others inside the customer service organization, anyway?) Kim was her name, and she was lovely. I was her first call that day, we talked for 40 minutes. She is a retired school teacher out west and was just upbeat about how this whole experience was going to set up her shift. She had an even better solution than the mail procedure. It turns out there is an authorized service provider here in town and only slightly removed from my regular route. She set up an appointment for Tuesday morning and I could go and do this whole thing. They’ll get the replacement iPad in, $99, I can transfer everything and we all go about our day. Wonderful.

On Tuesday morning, I went to the local authorized service provider. The time for my appointment arrives. They open my file. I have to tell my story again. (Why do they maintain a file if it can’t be seen by others inside the customer service organization, anyway?) The guy says “We can do that, but it will be $149 because our prices are — ” and I said I’ll just work with Apple instead then, thanks for your time.

So I call Apple Support again. I didn’t catch the name of the lady I spoke with on Tuesday, but she opened my file and I had to explain the whole story for a fourth time. Turns out Apple can’t do the mailing option in the way that was described to me in the Apple Store or by her counterpart at Apple Support. That’s if you’re under a warranty. I am not. The method she can offer me is for me to send mine in and they send it back. Well, that might fix only half of my problem. And why is it that every person in this take has a different solution? And why do I have to keep explaining this story to every level of the organization?

The lady on the phone asks if I’d like to talk to the senior supervisor. No, I said, but if you could give me a direct line to the Apple Store in Indianapolis that’d be great. I’ll just deal with them. I don’t want in the national system, I want the local store. She tries to forward me, but no one answers. OK, fine. I ask her if she could just give me that number. She can. I ask her if she can email that number, because I am walking across campus at this point and I don’t have a pen. She can’t email me the phone number.

You know what? I’d like to talk to the senior supervisor now. Without a fuss she says OK. And I’m put on hold until Wade comes on the phone. Wade has been briefed a bit. But I have to tell Wade the whole story again. (Why do they maintain a file if it can’t be seen by others inside the customer service organization, anyway?) Wade agrees this story is now ridiculous and should have been resolved.

So Wade gets me the direct Apple Store number, and after two tries, Amber answers. I explain the whole story one more time. She sends me to the repair shop in the back of the store, where I speak to someone who also wants to know the story, which is amazing because I’m bored with it myself now. This person orders my new iPad. So nonchalant was she that I spent most of this week wondering if they’d actually, you know, done anything.

Anyway, during Thursday’s tornado warning the Apple Store called. My iPad was in. They also sent two emails. And on Saturday we went back up there, the thing I was originally trying to avoid, for the second time in eight days, and did the swap. I made sure my machine was backed up. I met Randall, who was easily the least cheery person in this story, but maybe he was just having a long afternoon. Nevertheless, he got the new iPad, we restored my old device to it — like not missing a beat, after eight days of watching Apple miss beats all over the place — reformatted the old one and managed to not get emotional about handing it over. And it cost the $99, as I had been promised. (Take that, authorized service provider!)

Also on those two trips we stocked up at Trader Joe’s and failed at one other errand. On the second trip we saw Bohemian Rhapsody. On both days it was sunny and I was with The Yankee. Easily the best part of the deal.

Incidentally, my father-in-law bought a new iPad online Monday. It was delivered on Tuesday. The lesson? Buy new.


11
Jan 18

Winter is actually coming

It is going to snow tomorrow. It is raining and will continue to rain and then the rain will turn into snow. We are properly provisioned. We have visited the stores and braved the crowds. I saw a Cadillac parked in a handicapped parking space at the grocery store. The driver had cared in equal parts about driving the right direction up and down the parking lot lanes, parking in the actual space and in displaying a handicapped sticker or hangtag, which is to say not at all.

I have laundered all of the clothes. If the power goes out and never comes back, my wardrobe will be in decent shape for a while.

We are prepared to salt the driveway. For not the first time I wondered if they colored this salt a blueish-green to keep people from trying to eat it. Fortunately the cars are already set for cold conditions, which we’ve been in for … oh some amount of time not yet approaching demoralizing.

But there’s no need to worry about all of that. We’re going to have a weekend of peacefully reading and doing nothing and loving every bit of that.

We won’t wake up to a winter wonderland tomorrow, it is going to appear all around us as we work and play.


10
Jan 18

Things you write in and on

I bought some new notebooks the other night. I have many notebooks and notepads, you see. Some I use. At the office, I work from a stack of legal pads, with each one corresponding to a different role or set of running concerns. At home I have a nice stack of old notebooks and pads and things that I’ve accumulated over the years — and years isn’t overstating it. None of them are of an special high quality, they were meant to be scribbled and written on, but for whatever reason I find I seldom use them. And when I do find a need to write in one, I have the worst time deciding which one I’m going to mark up.

But when I’m on the go I’ve found that I enjoy the one-subject, 100-page, seven-inch by five-inch spiral notebook. They fit in my bag, they are inexpensive, they come in many colors and so I can use one for each subject and they are spiral bound, which is just easier somehow.

And so, having purchased a new handful of those to compliment the two older ones, I can pare some stuff down. I have lecture notes and interview notes and random notes to myself and scribbles between me and whoever I was sitting next to at the time and all kinds of things in those two notebooks. Some of that information is still useful. Some information really needs to be separated, which I spent a bit of this evening doing. (My life, now featuring a notebook of things that just needed to be separate unto itself, in a notebook that might one day see eight percent of its pages put into use.)

While I was leafing through the pages, trying to decide if I should keep this section, or tear it out or transcribe this specific page into a new book, I ran across this page:

I’ve no idea what I was going for here.

As ever, the web helped me figure it out:

I thought that, somehow, someone’s guess might jog my memory, but I’m still at a loss. Leave your theories on what this note could possibly mean in the comments!

I visited the surplus store this evening. This is where the entire university system sends its gently and heavily used products when they’ve reached the end of their time on campus. You can find deals on clothes to cleats to sheets to desks and chairs to high quality picture frames there. So it is good to visit every once in a while, and they have later hours on Wednesday, so I can stop in on the way home and, tonight I was going with a purpose. We basically needed a computer stand and I thought I’d start looking for something I could halfway modify.

And wouldn’t you know it, they were having a half off sale tonight. And wouldn’t you know it, right by the door:

So I consulted with HQ, we took some measurements both of this lectern and of where it might need to go and, long story short, we now have a lectern at home.

What, you don’t?

I was standing in line, beating out some random rhythm with my fingertips and the couple behind me called me out on it. I thought they were trying to get me to stop, but they were just making idle talk while they stood in line with me. They were a little surprised a random guy would purchase a lectern. And they were pretty close to buying my story that I wanted it so I could practice classroom lectures at home.

In retrospect, if I’d told them about the notebook thing they would have absolutely bought that story.