Friday, July 31, 2009

I Want a Lake House

I'm in Michigan spending the weekend at a friend's lake house. It's small, furnished and decorated many, many years ago, and most importantly, just sitting on the shores of a small lake.

I want one of these. Not here, but somewhere closer to where I live, where I can drive far enough to feel far away and close enough that I won't be annoyed to get in the car to drive somewhere. (Even though to get here today took 75 minutes on the El, 2 hours waiting at Midway, 37 minutes in the air, 20 minutes waiting to be picked up and then another 75 minutes driving out here.)

There's nothing to do out here unless you like swimming or boating or sitting in the sun. Fortunately, I like reading, which technically can be done anywhere, but is particularly nice when sitting along a lake. I'm sure it will also be nice tomorrow perhaps sitting on the dock or in a boat. But it will probably be nicest sitting in the shade.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Button on my Box Won't Work

The title here is for a friend who, when I said this, told me that I could write lesbian porn with that line. For the record, what follows is not lesbian porn.

I finally stopped working around 6pm tonight and decided to finally read the morning's paper, eat dinner, and do it all in front of the television. Now, keep in mind that while we've had cable for a week, I've maybe watched all of 2 hours of television in the last six days. And I think it was mostly on the Food Network Tuesday night. (The LOST episode of Ace of Cakes and Chopped, if you were curious.)

So I sit down with the paper and my dinner and hit the "all on" power button on the remote control. The television goes on and I realize it's the Home Shopping Network. This in itself was strange because it certainly wasn't the last channel I watched, but I figured, maybe I hit some random button when I turned everything off the last time.

And then I realize that the actual cable box isn't on since the "power" light is still red, and not the blue it should be when it is on. (I almost wrote 'turned on', but I don't want to be accused of writing sordid tales.) So I press the cable button and then power. Nothing. I try this three more times. Nothing. I change the batteries in the remote control. Nothing.

All I have is the Home Shopping Network and they are selling non-down comforters made of Egyptian cotten and have a 440 thread count that really feels more like 5 or 600. And evidently they are soft enough to use without a duvet and they can be thrown in your home washer and dryer. I did find a second station that was broadcasting in Spanish. This may have been more interesting if I understood any of it.

So I got up to look at the cable box. It's actually not a cable box, it's a dvr. It's a big, shiny, silver box that has one small black panel in front with the word power that either lights up in red (off) or blue (on). The light is clearly red. I notice that there are no panels to open on the box, nor are there any buttons.

I feel like I've entered the robot-built space ship on I, Robot (a must-read if you haven't, or a re-read if you've haven't in a long time). There are no buttons on my box. It is, just a box.

So I call the cable company. After wading through voice-mail hell and then being on hold for 10 minutes, I finally reach a human being. But not a trained customer service representative. Ultimately, he tells me I can either exchange my remote control or have a technician come out. I opt for plan B. At which point I get disconnected.

Seriously?! Yes, it's true. So I call back, wade through voice-mail hell again, and am on hold for another 10 minutes and this time speak with a woman who at least hears how frustrated I am. We have a technician coming out tomorrow afternoon and she credited our account for the time we are without cable. And if I call back tomorrow, they'll credit me another day.

Post script: Ronnie got home and turned on the television. He also got the Home Shopping Network but by now they were on to selling make-up remover which I don't need (and neither does he). But he started playing with the television remote and realizes that if you punch in station numbers (as opposed to use the channel up and down buttons), we have access to cable stations. The only station number I've learned so far is Versus (75) because they are broadcasting the Tour de France. We found the channel just as Andy Schleck was beginning his time trial.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I'm really amazed at how much people spend on coffee drinks. For a variety of reasons, I'm working from Starbucks today. I brought in my own mug and got plain coffee.

It's a small shop, but consistantly busy this morning, and all sorts of people are walking in and ordering so many different kinds of drinks I can't figure out how they learned to order them.

They are also offering extra shots of espresso in drinks today, I'm not sure why, so listening to the staff call out the drinks has been a whole education as well.

And, they are raking in the cash. My drink was less than $2, and because I'm using my Starbucks card I get free refills (although I have yet to test that theory). But everyone else is spending a lot of money - the largest size macchiato (I have no idea what that is) is $4, and that's just the plain one. I've heard a lot of those coming through the line so far this morning.

And, if I didn't have so much work to get done, I'd be able to focus more on the people-watching.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And it's not even 7:30am!

I just set up our wireless network. It's actually fairly simple, but if you don't know how to do it, it doesn't matter whether it's simple or not. And, as a reward for setting it up, it works.

This means I can work from home and not jump from Panera to Starbucks, back to Panera and then to the laundromat (yes, the laundromat around the corner from us boasts wireless access).

Our cable television is also now working. To be fair, all I had to do was let Bernard into the house - I didn't actually have to set that up! I have probably not watched television in any kind of intentional way in almost two months. Maybe more. Without LOST, there's really no point, anyway.

But... the Tour de France is on, and that is my sport of choice. And save for about 45 minutes at a friends house the other day, I've seen none of the coverage. So if you call this week and we don't answer, we're watching le Tour.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Laptop

My work computer is a relatively new laptop. Two weeks ago, I found the blue screen of death, shut my computer down and it then refused to boot back up.

Thankfully, I was headed to DC the next week and the folks in IT worked their magic and now my computer works. Except when it doesn't.

It turns out that they fixed my hard drive but had been testing random batteries and left me with one that has no life. Literally. If I unplug my power cord, I have 5 minutes of life before everything shuts down. Before, I had 2+ hours. Needless to say, this makes access to outlets imperative at a coffeeshop.

We're having cable and internet installed in our new place tomorrow. Until now, we've been borrowing wireless access from our neighbor, Kevin. We've never met Kevin, and truth be told, we don't know if Kevin is his name, his dog's name, or the name of their favorite band. We're not picky though and as long as Kevin allows his network to be shared, we're happy. Until we're not.

Last night and today, Kevin's network is visible but not accessible. I'm not sure what we did to offend him, nor do I know how to find him were I want to apologize (which I am not, just for the record). But it has made working from home more difficult than anticipated.

So this morning I went to a coffee shop to get some work done. I plugged in (again, access to an outlet is still an imperative) and got nothing. Well, that's not exactly true. I got a message that said there was nothing available to boot up. It had been working just fine several hours before and I couldn't believe that the IT magic was already losing it's shine.

I rebooted. Nothing. I rebooted again. Nothing. Not even the blue screen of death. Nothing. Just a message that said I was SOL.

So I unplugged my computer, put the cord in my backpack and started to put the laptop in it's padded compartment. Where it hit something at the bottom. The only think I ever keep in that section is the laptop, so I couldn't figure out how I had that drastically misplaced my phone charger or sun glasses. But you never know, so I reached my hand into the padded section and pulled out... the hard drive.

Yes, the hard drive had fallen out of my laptop. Which meant that the message I'd received about having nothing to boot up, was actually correct. Who knew?!

And now things are working fine, in case you were wondering.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Obstructed View

Fireworks tonight began at 9:15 at the lake front. So at 8:30 or so, we set out for the beach. We were clearly not the only ones with that idea. There were hundreds of people streaming east. At least we knew we were going the right direction!

We got to the park and decided walk two more blocks up to the beach. There were people with blankets and chairs set up all the way to the water. And there were a good number of boats in the water. There's the tiniest of boardwalks that runs from the street to the water, and we decided to find a place to sit there rather than the sand. Again, we were clearly not the only ones with that idea.

By 9:25 the fireworks started and from the first blast, we knew we were in trouble. There was a tree line between us and the beach where the fireworks were being launched. The bursts went mostly over the trees, but not the huge, very tall tree that was in the middle. So mainly we saw funky colors behind the enormous tree, heard the booms, and occasionally saw the higher bursts or the ones that were just a little to the left or right of the biggest tree. Almost all of us had the same problem, so at least we didn't feel dumb individually...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Waiting for Kenny Y.

I put an ad on craigslist today to get rid of our wardrobe boxes and whatever other boxes we managed to empty. I've gotten 18 or so calls. The first one said he'd pick boxes up at 5:30pm. He said he's shipping off to Iraq for two years in an administrative position but he needs boxes for him and his younger "boys".

He just left with two wardrobe boxes, about 60 smaller boxes, and 6 large bags of packing material. His name is Kenny. He is tall and bald and when I asked what branch of the service he's in he said, "the marines... the only real branch."

When I met him at the front door he said he'd just been putting in a playground at a synagogue. I never would have pegged him as a member of the tribe, but as it turns out, he's got dual citizenship with Israel and is also a colonel in the Israeli army.

Ten minutes of chatting as we loaded boxes, part of a life story, and he drove off...

Packing (and unpacking) should be a four-letter word

If for no other reason, I will never move again. Forget that I have already made that promise to my husband - I will never move again.

IF.... you have a month to leisurely pack and go through things and make sure you don't actually bring things that you haven't used in the last 10 years but who knows, you might want tomorrow, then packing probably isn't so bad. And even if you do decide to bring things that are still in their original packaging from many, many years ago that you (or someone you live with) thought you absolutely needed and couldn't live without but clearly you could, unpacking them and figuring out where they go is a problem.

Enough said.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summer in Milwaukee

We're known for our summers here in Milwaukee. Everyone is outside, all the time. Biking, walking, going to Summerfest, playing volleyball on the beach, going to festivals - it's just a really nice time to live in Milwaukee.

But today, not so much. It's raining, which does happen sometimes, but it's also in the low 60s, which is just not acceptable weather when it's also raining at the end of June. And since we are moving, we have packed every coat, jacket and long sleeve shirt because, hey - it's summer in Milwaukee, we won't need those things until Labor Day weekend.

Evidently I was wrong....