Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Blessed Thanksgiving to All

"The First Thanksgiving" (1915) by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you on November 22, 1963?

Okay, so a whole lot of you weren’t even born yet…

But I remember vividly the shock and disbelief. It was my junior year at Central Michigan University. I was strolling along the corridor of the student union looking for an empty study alcove when a guy approached me. It was someone from the popular and overpopulated Play Production class whom I did not know well. Actually, he was in a social strata well above mine, so I have yet to know why he singled me out.  His eyes were dazed but intense as he stopped me with a hand to my shoulder. “President Kennedy has been shot,” he said simply.

I froze, staring at him. It was like the news had dropped from the ceiling and struck me in the face. We clutched arms for a moment; then he moved on.

Left standing in the middle of the hall as the students flowed around me, I watched as the news slowly caught up to them. It wasn't long before everyone began scattering to the various TV rooms to watch a heavy-eyed Walter Cronkite explain what little was known at that point.

Of course I've been following all the retrospectives of this horrific event, but this memory didn't strike me until my step-bro posted his impressions as a 12-year-old on Facebook. The flurry of comments that followed, each one a brief memory of where they were when the news hit, brought it full front and center.

I’d like to hear yours.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Yes, extended warranties can save you money

BUT the hassle can be a serious investment of time and effort

Back on November 1st the unthinkable happened: a fire broke out in the dryer. Aside from a vague burning odor, I was clueless until the buzzer went off. Opening the door I was immediately greeted by a billow of smoke and a torrent of wispy still-burning ashes.  

So what to do? Panic, of course. My first impulse was to get the situation rectified before Husband woke up from his nap. Fortunately he was really tired from yard work. I had time to do some online consumer research and poll the nearest stores for the desired model. As fortune would have it, Lowe’s had it on sale. It was in stock and could be delivered the next day. I gave them a card number. It was over. I started to breathe again.

That evening, realizing I could never hide a major appliance delivery, I confessed. Husband was astonishingly calm. The dryer was, after all, on extended warranty. It would simply be replaced. Wha-a-a-a-t?? OMG.

I called Lowe’s to cancel everything. Not that easy. I had to show up in person and have my card run before they could credit it back. Off and running.  The guy in appliances remembered my frantic phone call and directed me to the service desk up front. The clerk there was clueless, but after a bit of back-and-forth with Appliances, it got handled.

Then, since the place where we bought the now-smoldering dryer (Best Buy) would still be open for another hour, I next dashed over there. And that’s where it started.  

At this particular Best Buy, the Major Appliance Dept. is managed by a wholly owned subsidiary but run as a separate company. And they had absolutely no idea what to do. Customer Service, however, gave me a number to call to schedule repairs. Couldn’t we skip that step? The dryer was obviously beyond all help. Perhaps, but they needed to hear that from an authorized representative. Okay.

Bright and early Monday morning I was on the phone. The first opening available was Tuesday. A week from Tuesday, that is. Between 12 and 4. My hamper runneth over.

By 4:45 on the appointed day, the man finally showed and pronounced the dryer dead at the scene. So what’s next? He’d make his report. I should get a call sometime tomorrow.

The call came. I was issued a confirmation number to take to Best Buy along with the sheet of paper the repairman gave me. Off and running.

Again, blank stares at the major appliance dept. So I got in line at Customer Service. When it was my turn, I discovered I should’ve been in the Geek Squad line. When my turn came again, the agent took me back to Customer Service, explained things to a girl who was still helping someone else. I waited. 

When my turn came, she called back the Geek who then called someone from Major Appliances and the three conferred. Ah! First, they needed to pick up the remains of the old dryer. Then I could get a new one ordered. Are you freakin’ kidding me??

Another hasty conference. Ah! I could go to another store where appliances are handled directly by Best Buy. They could exchange the new for the old on the same day. Road trip.

The line at this store was only 5 deep, but when it was my turn I found the agent had never handled anything like this before. He called the supervisor, who was also training everyone else manning the counter. Bit by bit, the procedure got pulled together. Soon I was sent off with an appliance salesgirl to select from models deemed comparable to our burnt up Whirlpool.

So here’s the thing: what you get is a credit equal to the price of the old dryer.  Said charred hulk was purchased in 2003,  so guess what. Still, you don’t get a clothes dryer for just under $200 these days, though you must also consider extended warranty renewals which totaled $170. Anyway, another Whirlpool was chosen and delivery scheduled for Friday – exactly 2 weeks after the fire.

Bottom line:  (finally!) The deal is worth it if (A) you have sufficient time and energy at your disposal, (B) there’s a laundromat within 5 miles, OR (C) you have an ample supply of underwear.

But don’t think I didn't have many a fond thought of the Maytag that Lowe’s could’ve delivered immediately.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith

(Of course, we all know by now that’s just an ill-advised pseudonym for J. K. Rowling…)

Hulking, disreputable-looking private eye Cormoran Strike is pretty much at the end of the road. His gorgeous girlfriend has kicked him out for the final time, he’s out of clients, he’s deeply in debt, and his prosthetic leg is giving him hell. As he contemplates living in his office, up the steps to his door comes comely and competent Robin, sent by a temp agency that assumes he wants to replace the departed secretary. Strike neglected to tell them he simply can’t afford one anymore.

Unnerved by the unexpected appearance of a pretty girl eager to work for a private investigator, Strike excuses himself to the back office. After pulling himself together, he marches back out to explain the mistake. But in the meantime, Robin has organized the desk, straightened the reception area, taken a few phone calls, and ushered in a well-heeled client.

Robin continues to make herself indispensable as Strike launches into his new case: the death of a supermodel, known informally to her cohorts as “Cuckoo,” that the police have ruled a suicide. Her brother hires Strike to prove it was murder.

J. K. Rowling
And so we enter both the glamorous and seamy side of London’s fashion scene. Interwoven subplots carry us off in all directions: family secrets, legal conflicts, suspicious friends and fans, scandal, etc. Rowling, as we well know, knows how to blindside her readers!

But the end is satisfying, even though issues remain unresolved with Robin’s fiancé. After all, it wouldn't be realistic if things were too tidy!

I would have to say that it’s a romping good read, even though the magic is missing. I never felt as pulled into this adventure as I was into Hogwarts. But then, there will never be the equal of Harry Potter.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Honoring Our Veterans

It began as Armistice Day on 11 November 1918
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France. This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect.
It was a day that marked the end of World War I, the most widespread and destructive “war to end all wars” ever known.
Capt. K. J. Fagan, USMC

Then came WW II, which saw even greater mobilizations of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen. (Pictured are my father-in-law and uncle, both of whom served in the Pacific.) So in 1954, as yet more aggressions were fought in Korea, the word “Armistice” was replaced by “Veterans” and it became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Of course more conflicts followed and are continuing with no end in sight. By now we understand that the only war that will end all wars would require the annihilation of all living things!

You can supplement this bare bones history on the well-written webpage of the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You’ll find this holiday went through many more twists and turns than I’ve recorded here.
Cpl. Ralph T. Odle, USMC

But the point is: it seems that it’s always the best of us who die for the rest of us.  Young, strong, brave, disciplined and highly trained above any normal standard, they serve and suffer while we bake our apple pies, tweet, and idolize sports figures and Hollywood stars.

But this is the day to honor our warriors, and indeed we must. Now and forever.

Don’t forget to put out your flag.