Friday, June 29, 2007

Customized Service

Finally we have had a sort of Vulcan Mind Meld between the mortgage company and our homeowners insurance company and their agent. We will close on our longer-term-but-lower-monthly-payment mortgage tomorrow at 11:30. I think that the mortgage company finally got their act together because if we close on June 30, they can book this sale in June...amazing how the calender makes things happen!

This is one of the things that we needed to complete since my unemployment. The next thing was getting a short term Golden Rule catastrophic health insurance policy for the F.O. and Kid1 and Kid2. I sent my previous employer the COBRA sheet and will decide if I should buy the insurance for myself ($580/mo). I'll decide in 45 days. Today I received an additional 56 days of medication in samples from my GI doctor for my Ulcerative Colitis...It is an expensive prescrip, but I've been out of work enough to ask (grovel?) for samples from a doctor for pricey medicines.

As for service, I went to Home Cheapo looking for bags of pine bark nuggets for basic ornamental fill around shrubbery (reminds me of Monty Python's Holy Grail). Of course I needed help to get the bags and loaded in the van. The very nice sales clerk called for help, and a guy named Sal showed up. He was what you might say 'slow', but I saw something. he left and I mentioned to the clerk that he will help me. She asked how? I said that being in sales and purchasing I can see that he wants to help (maybe a bit intuitive). He came back with a cart and picked seven non-opened bags of nuggets, and placed them in my van as I requested. I was so impressed. Perhaps the 'slow' disabled person, being disabled but ready to work, is a great worker. Being disabled, I notice good service. Give me a 100 Sals to work in customer service, and make the customer satisfied. Boy, what a concept: take care of the customer without complaint.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gratuitous Airplane Stuff

Everyone knows that I like planes, flying, aviation, etc. I am adding this (maybe) unnecessary yet really cool shot of two flat tires on United that blew upon landing at Minneapolis in 1983. Happily, I had my Pentax K1000 in my carry on. The right side tires are flat, hence the plane was leaning starboard...


I think that what's the bigger issue post 9/11 is that I could take a picture while on the tarmac then, but now would probably be totally verboten today...Security, you know. I like airliners, but you can't be this close to real planes very often, and it must be chronicled...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Get a Job?

It is the second work day without work. It's working okay, I am doing the usual practical stuff, securing a temp medical insurance policy for Patti and the kids. The mortgage re-finance should close next week. With my new found time, I have been cooking today. I simmered nine chicken thighs and make enough broth for two pots of soup, five fajitas that were grilled this evening, and enough left for chicken salad tomorrow (with celery!). So it's been a good day.

I have been doing the usual online work stuff, you know, sending the resumes to Monster, Career Builder, Hot Jobs, etc. although I want to work, I'm not sure I want to do much of what I did in the past, especially purchasing. Nothing about that position that I don't like, but after 20 years of that, I'd like a change. My last job in sales administration was interesting. But maybe it is a time to go beyond a manufacturing environment. I have had to take jobs for the practical reasons before. and I may have at this time now.

A Tired Mama had noted that I might think about a new career where I could train or teach people, maybe I have a knack. Maybe not, but I really want to be able to consider something different. The income considerations are important, but I really need to work with Patti and her numerous contacts and fans in the Valley...none of them are in manufacturing, but are in service industries, non-profits, education, etc. The next position I take might be for practical requirements, but a career change? As they say, stay tuned!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Well it has happened again, another job died. This is of course typical of much of the aerospace themed businesses I have been involved with since college (Pratt&Whitney, Lycoming, and Norden). The place I worked was a contractor to Pratt, but with Pratt slowing down deliveries of castings to us for machining and large quantities not to arrive again for two months, 10 people were axed...I am trying to take the high road here, for I have seen the feast-famine cycle, and things were slow for a while. However, I have learned so much about quoting parts, machine rates and overheads, cost analysis of manufactured parts, etc. Of course, it helps to actually like gas turbine engines and machined parts (I do, I do :>). The high road is to note that I have learned as much as I could in the Sales Administration position I had, there was no more to learn. I want to take my new found knowledge and apply it to something else (the upshot is that I am not driving 57 miles to/from work every with those $65 + fillups every week).


I have rewritten my resume this morning and re posted it on Mosnter.com. Obviously, two things do work against me with some employers, my age and of course the wheelchair. But so what, I have such a good resume, I can get interviews. So we will see.

I am reminded of the song by the Silhouettes Get a Job

Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip Mum mum mum mum mum mum Get a Job

A classic song! Well, Saturday Night Fever Grilling is upon us, and a London Broil is currently marinating in Adobo spice, crushed red pepper, and dried Oregano. The matchlight charcoal will be lit shortly, and it is beautiful outside at 74° currently. I am not grilling to forget! It is Saturday, and Ralph's Steak House is Open. And Disco on 107.9 begins at 19:00 hours…

Is a chilled Duff a good patio beer?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer's here, and the time is right...

I am happy that the season is officially changing to Summer. I am happy that the challenges that I faced when it was cold, such as Snow/Cold, Social Security problems, and Ulcerative Colitis)have gone away (except for the SSA - Federal Govt., you know, not gone but the nice weather negates their stupidity). In fact, here it is going to be 75° F today, tomorrow and 80° F Saturday and Sunday. Excellent summer weather for outside cooking (Kabobs, Kielbasa, Steak, whatever grills up). And of course, we need to pick our week in August for Cape Cod...and make reservations ASAP! I think up north people who are tired of cold weather tend to play harder when it is warm out. Stop on by, the shade starts to cover the patio around 3:30 PM, and the hilltop breeze starts and pop open a cold one and have an hors d'ouvre of Bruschetta and watch the planes fly to Europe over our patio. I know that I have to work, but a simple relaxing day off in the Summer on the patio can't be beat

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Service with a smile???

Customer service, indeed just doing one's job, sure isn't what it used to be. Of course, I am a tad cynical, considering that my most recent lack of service was with the Social Security Administration. Of course, the issues with them only go back seven years or so, and are still not resolved...but I certainly didn't expect quality service from the Government...

Well I don't think that you get any better service from private business, either. This time it is refinancing our mortgage, and I haven't decided who the most egregious offender in dealing with this customer. To start with, I went to a .com and they supplied my name to four mortgage companies. One of these is Quicken, a nationally known mortgage company, and they have been okay in some respects so far.

This is where things get more interesting. In March, we received a letter from the homeowners insurance company that told us that our policy was cancelled due to non-payment. We were surprised, because of course, the policy was to have been paid from our escrow account. (I must tell you that the offending holder of our mortgage is Countrywide...they have a bad reputation, and it is deserved, IMO). So Patti called the insurance agent and paid the policy by credit card. In April, we received a check from the insurance company for the same amount, and we assumed that Countrywide paid the policy. Wrong, we were cancelled in March! Now, I despise these automated response phone systems that companies use to not speak with a customer. After five calls with no way to speak with a real person, I called a number for them in Fort Worth. I didn't get the correct office, but the person I spoke with did say that to get around the automated phone system, I should just answer 'NO' to every question, and I got to speak with a real person.

Big quacking deal. The Countrywide person said that they weren't informed about the bill in February. Paying the insurance out of the escrow was part of the mortgage, why do I have to remind them to pay? So we did not have insurance coverage for nearly three months on our house! This rep did contact the insurance agent the next day, and Countrywide agreed that they should have paid the premium, and finally yesterday, we our insurance was reinstated I was told.

However, Quicken did say that we had to increase the policy replacement value for the house for a higher value. Fine, our house has increased in value, so okay. Because we won't get the declaration page for the policy for weeks, can Quicken talk to the insurance company to obtain proof of insurance. The conversations went like this:

Quicken: Our underwriters say that we need your new declaration page to schedule the closing
Insurance Agent: We can't give you this proof without a closing date
Quicken: We need your new declaration page to schedule the closing
Insurance Agent: We can't give you this proof without a closing date, etc, etc, etc

Finally today I sent an e-mail to my Quicken rep saying, not in a mean way, but a pointed way, that they have to call the insurance agency to get a proof of insurance...she replied later that the underwriting department is contacting the insurance people. Where did these companies decide that the details don't count:
  1. Countrywide: Why didn't you pay the insurance bill? Why do you feel that we have to tell you to pay our bills on time. I wonder if they missed the property taxes, too.
  2. Quicken: You knew 3 weeks ago the loan we were applying for, and knew what our insurance coverage we had been carrying...why didn't you inform us then that we needed to increase our coverage? As well, You are going to make a pile of money off this transaction...why should I be making phone calls for your underwriting department?
  3. The insurance company: Why does it take a month to issue the declaration page?
Customer service, as a general rule these days, does not exist. Grandpa told me to never do a half-assed job. A fine philosophy, maybe these so-called consumer businesses should adhere to

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all! I am a happy dad today. there are plenty of challenges in my life but with the support of my lovely wife and children, the tougher things in my life are made easier. As a parent, I know that we have two great kids. But there are times that we have to drive them harder to meet our expectations that they always do their best. And those efforts will always pay off if we are consistent. Kids1 & 2 are great, and this is a happy Fathers Day for me!

Kid1 and myself went to the Shelton Historical Society old car show at the homestead earlier today. She likes old cars, and the admittance for me was a mere dollar. I was taken to my childhood by the 1962 split-windshield VW microbus (loaded with surfboards...there aren't any waves in CT), we had one when I was a kid. Kid1's favorite car was a 1969 Chevy Malibu SS396 in orange, mine a yellow 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440 parked next to it. I like old cars, and enjoyed having our daughter with me.

I was treated to dinner at the gorgeous art-deco Milford Athenian Diner by the F.O. and crew. It's wonderful to be together, especially dining on such diner fare as club sandwiches smothered in fries! Today, as well as every day, I enjoy fatherhood!

Friday, June 15, 2007

More Fur


With the loss of our furry friend the other day, we have to rely on our imagination and memories. If you would, expand the pictures here and get the common view of our friend Humpo (a nickname). He is a comfortable and cool cat. This is the cat as we could see him about 16 hours per day some days.

I noted the other day that I often substituted 'Humphrey' for some lyric in a song. This change in lyrics is appropriate to our late pal. In the Northeast, there is a chain of bedding stores called Sleepy's, and the Radio/TV tag line song is:

Trust Sleepy's for the Rest of Your Life
We're the Mattress Professionals Doing It Right

My change:

Trust Humphrey for the Rest of His Life
Hump's the Mattress Professional Doing It Right


And he was a pro! And if you woke him up while on the bed, the price you had to pay for that was a belly rub, a Midskritch as I say. A small price! The only downside these days is that that ad runs on all local TV, local cable TV and radio a lot...It reminds me of Mr Humphrey, or if you prefer, SeƱor or Monsieur or Signore or Herr Humphrey. I don't know about international cat languages, but he was quite fluent in Meow!

Is there another pet in our future? I think so, but don't quite know when. I like that there isn't really an owner-servant relationship with a pet, but they are a really part of the family. They really don't have to pull their weight as a family member, it is quite rewarding to allow them to tell us what to do...

It's happening agian, I hear a song: Trust Humphrey for the Rest...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Remembering a furry friend

We lost Sir Humphrey today. It was sudden, and it was quick. Just like that, the furry member of our family was gone, at the young cat age of 9.

Humphrey looked very much like a Maine Coon, although at 12 pounds, he was considerably smaller than average for that breed. For a mutt, he sure was a pretty animal. You saw the gray right away, but in the natural light, a lot of brown showed as well. He was well behaved. Of course, I referred to him as ‘Felinus Obnoxious', which is a term of endearment in my offbeat way. He could use any of his cat weapons to get what he wanted: First, he would rub his jowls against corners, then a cute chirp, then a fake purr, and then, as a last resort he would insist, an loud ME-OW! But this was no worse than a small child who was not able to open the refrigerator door requesting the same.

I had fun replacing the name ‘Humphrey’ in the lyrics of songs, which the other humans in the house found extremely strange. You might too, but Hump offered no opinion either way. One example is The Commodores Brick House:

“Humphrey’s a Grayyy Cat
He’s Mighty, Mighty,
Just Letting it all Hang Out”

I had more, but you get the idea. I think that the idea that a cat is useless is wrong. Sure they lie around, but Hump really liked to have his belly rubbed. His fur underneath was luxuriously nubby and thick Maine Coon style. You know, an animal in the wild would never expose themselves in this way, but it is a trusting cat (or dog) that would allow a family member to skritch away. Actually, it was therapeutic for the human as well.

Finally, he liked to hang around the family, sitting on the hope chest in the dining room when we ate dinner. Not just for table food, but he liked to be with the family. He was a jealous cat in that he probably would’nt tolerate another cat in the house to get the affections he felt were rightly his! In the picture above, he is relaxed and has the look that might have said, “I’m comfortable here on the bed, and very content. How’s your day?”

Goodbye buddy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Labels

I was reading on Empress Bee's site about the negative opinions that snobs have regarding Rednecks. I think about labels because I don't care for them, as I think that mis-applied terms applied to anyone sort of diminishes them....As someone who uses a wheelchair, maybe I am more sensitive to being judged on the externals. With the chair, it is what I can't do as opposed to what I can do (I can't walk, but I can think, speak and write reasonably well). Much as Bee noted, Redneck is not used as a term of endearment to many people, but really closer to an insult. When I was a kid, a common insult was to refer to someone who was slower as a retard, a terrible insult...

I am as far from PC as you'll find, but labels designed to diminish and put down an individual or group are just plain wrong. Really it is the difference between right and wrong, not PC. Because of my disabilities and other disabled persons, I see how society can really devalue some group by labels.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Living In The Past


No, not the Jethro Tull song ("Oh, we won’t give in, We’ll keep living in the past"), but I have been archiving again and found a few gems for living in the past. My big sister Michele is giving me a kiss...awwww! Michele is really a wonderful person, and this may be where it started.
To the right, If I ever said anything untoward about the outfits that Phil and Marty wore for their photo that I wrote about in April, I take it back...check out my 1961 Easter outfit if you dare! The only difference in dorkiness between is the fact that I am wearing a sea captain's hat (sort of), and Phil and Marty were were the vaudeville straw hats. I think that my grandparents must have taken me to Alexanders (the Bayside girls might remember that store). Michele is dressed in faux fur, and it looks like Claudia's hat has ribbons on the back.
I'm in 3rd grade here, 1964. I have a sort of cool look in my Columbia single-speed, 24" wheel bike, the houses were still new (no landscaping yet) , and neighbor kids are jumping rope. What a different era. Of course, I'll offer gratuitous car notes for you non gearheads. Far back is the family VW Microbus, with the giant VW emblem in the front. My dad was ahe
ad of the curve, as we drove the original minivan. Behind the jumpropers was our old SIMCA (a junk French car), and the old Rambler American next door...
I'm in 12th grade, and check me out...shoulder length hair, a Marine jacket and much less weight (only 145 then, and I could eat anything I wanted at no cost...until I was introduced to beer in college, but that's yet another story). Alwa
ys fought with Dad about my hair, but that was 1973 for you.
There was a time in the 1970's when plaid was the fashion statement in men's wear. Really (as Dave Barry always said, "I am not making this up") and now we have the proof...Grandpa loved plaid, and bought me the jacket because he liked it. Here we are. When going into the past, I have pictures of college fraternity brothers in plaid everything, including three-piece suits in plaid! Unreal, but like I said, I have the proof...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Springtime

Tonight, all of us are going to Kid2's spring concert at the High School. He will be pounding the maillots on the marimba. we enjoy these things, and think that Kid1, although in her college pep band, misses these events as well. We have always enjoyed all school events with our offspring, and look forward to Kid2's other musical events, playing At this year's graduation, the piano recital this year and next and the Christmas, early spring and late spring concerts. We are happy that our kids have an appreciation and enjoyment of music.

Kid1 planted the tomatoes in the pots yesterday. These are the Jet star variety, a medium sized, round hybrid that will taste great in my favorite summer salad, written about more than once by me I'm sure. The cayenne peppers were planted as well, and when ripe, I will seed them, dry them in the sun, and grind up for Mucho Caliente heat in chili, etc. Finally, the basil, oregano and rosemary are potted as well. Some plant food, water and a sunny exposure all day long will, as always, be a success. 90 Deg tomorrow and sunny, perhaps London Broil on the grill, marinated with fresh limes and oil? (A grocery run, perhaps, my dearest?)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

So-called Security

I saw another field worker at my local Social Security office in an effort to try to settle the issues I've had with my overpayment situation. I am aware that I have been overpaid, but have had for the past year nothing but grief from SSA about how much I actually owe them. It would take hours and too much bandwidth to fully explain this seven (that's right, 7) year saga dealing with them. I have been working with a clueless person with copious amounts of ineptitude...I have appealed the SSA decision twice, and in my meeting today, the appeal is going forward, I guess. The local field service representative assigned to you can help alleviate the worst of your problems or ensure that you will have endless amounts of problems...I have learned that all of these cases are decided at headquarters in Baltimore, but the correct prep work by the local person can help, I'm sure. The new person seems sharper than the dope (you heard me right, I said dope) I had to deal with. I have been told that a decision should be made in 60 days, although my particular issues began in the year 2000! Hope springs eternal I've been told...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Post wedding bell blues?

Nah, the wedding and reception were great! The ceremony was held at St. Bernadette's Church on the east shore of New Haven, a beautiful neighborhood church with wonderful stained glass and stunning woodwork. This particular church is known for the Five Satins recorded their famous 1956 hit In The Still of the Night in the basement. To prove the sort of urban legend myself and the F.O. have been perpetuating about this wedding, please gander a look at the beautiful bride, Katie, being escorted down the aisle by her really good guy father. The ceremony was really nice, and the bride was not upstaged by anyone!

I went to this affair dressed up in a suit, etc. I haven't decided which pose best represents my personality - the hit man in a wheelchair pose (L) or the unassuming wedding guest on the veranda (R). Either way, the reception was one of good eats. The appetizers included very large shrimp cocktail and crab legs, a pasta bar, great bruschetta, a raw bar (I didn't partake, as I only eat shellfish that has been cooked)...everyone was stuffed by the time the entrees arrived. Far more important were the very interesting people I was introduced to. We went with Patti's mom who was her usual elegant self, and I met many of her cousins, some I knew (the bride's mom and her brother) and some I had many years ago and the many years ago bunch are very literate and were very nice people as well. And the DJ played so many great dance tunes (Brick House, Night Fever, Disco Inferno, Picking up the Pieces, etc) that the floor was packed for most of the night. I even danced (in a wheelchair you ask? It has happened before :>) It was a great time, and I stayed up as late as I did in college, falling asleep about 12:45 AM, generally 2 hours past my bedtime...what a radical concept, staying up late and having a good time!

And I must say that Patti looked absolutely stunning in the outfit she wore. I expect that she will reveal herself in said outfit. There is a picture that I took that really shows off her beauty and elegance. Stay tuned!