Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It shouldn't be this hard

This is a bit of a rant, so read at your own peril.

So….end user wants to buy a surface pro and after getting requisite approvals, I go online to buy it.

I end up on the Microsoft.com website and they have some sort of deal where you get a free sleeve for it.

However, there’s no way to send through a tax-exempt purchase.  So I call the help phone number that is on the screen.

And it turns out that because I called and I’m part of the University, I get 10% off.  
(So, if you were considering buying something like this, you might want to consider that into your purchasing decisions.)

And they sent me a code in an email from <verifyme@microsoft.com> to make sure they had the correct email and that I was part of the UW.  And that all worked.  

We did the actual purchase over the phone like in the old days, and I have to email a PDF of my tax exempt stuff to an email that they set up for this purpose, so I can get a refund of the $117 they are charing me in tax. 

(Amazon and NewEgg manage to not charge me tax and remember not to charge me tax when I buy stuff.  Yeah, I’m looking at you, Microsoft.)

Anyway, the guy who did all this for me said he was going to send a follow up email with the receipt so I can, you know, give the receipt to the powers that be to prove I did this according to regulations.   I didn’t receive the email.  Now, I got the verification email I mentioned before from <verifyme@microsoft.com>, but no receipt email.

So….I called today.  And I asked to have the email resent.  And again they verified my address with verifyme@microsoft.com, and again they said they sent the email receipt.  Na da.

I should point out that my two customer service reps were very nice and did everything by the book.  This isn't their fault. 

So...I have some access to our systems that others don't.  I checked my spam filter and I checked the email server logs.   I have nothing except the verification emails.  I posted something to the local technical persons lists asking if anyone else experienced this. 

And then... I got the "how did we do?" email.  Which is NOT a receipt.  And it had a link to a survey where I could rank my experience.  

So I did.

I filled out the survey, and even copied my notes above to detail the problems.

And then I tried to hit submit and got this:  (7 second movie)



Sunday, June 08, 2014

Grapes Expectations

We have been planting grapevines for sometime, and this year, the are exceeding the trellises.

So the logical thing is to try to create a place for them to go.  I added the twine between them to allow the vines a little room, and they have gone with it.

Maybe we'll end up with a grape vine arbor yet.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Don't you care about the environment?

I have this grocery store semi-near to my work.   I often go there on my lunch break for their rocking salad bar, and to pick up a few things.

And as I was crossing the street (in the middle of a block, and climbing over a snowbank), I noticed someone standing on the corner outside the store.  She was wearing a heavy jacket and then a green reflective vest over that.   And I thought...."is she directing traffic?  what's up with the green vest?".

She caught me looking at her.  She waved me over.

"Hi, I noticed you climbing over that snowbank."

"Yeah, well, it wasn't difficult."

"I'm with Greenpeace and I'd like to ask you, do you care about the environment?"

What am I supposed to say about that?   Of course, I care about the environment.  

She went on and on, and I do agree with a lot of the very good work that they do.   They work with vendors to improve their sustainability and they protect areas of the Indonesia rain forest that are largely unprotected.   I remembered a documentary about the decline of Indoneisan orangatangs due to overlogging and it just made me sad.

"And so, why don't we just fill out the paperwork to make you a member?"

She flipped over her notebook and I scanned the paperwork.  I didn't want to pay a monthly fee.   I didn't want to give anyone my credit card number.  Especially since it was the same day the huge Target credit card breech was announced.

"Don't you have a form or brochure or something I could take instead?"

"It will take 60 seconds.   We can call the call center and then you give them your credit card and it goes really quick, I promise."

"Do you have a website?  I'd really feel more comfortable with a website and I don't have a lot of time."

I'm not going to dig out my credit card in the middle of a street corner and use a stranger's cell phone to talk to someone at a phone number that I haven't dialed myself and fill out a committment to give money to anyone, especially a monthly payment.

What the hell was Greenpeace thinking?   We've moved beyond this sort of thing.   Even if it is legit, it's dumb from a security standpoint.  If you are freaked out that Target might have spilled your credit card numbers to a hacker, think about all of the ways that hackers can get your credit card numbers in other ways, including things like this.

I made my "I'm out of time" excuse until she left me alone, hurried into the store, was completely discombobulated, bought a bunch of stuff without bothering to grab a basket, lost my gloves, checked out, tried to find my gloves, thinking I might have not brought them, and then retraced my steps and found them.   When I snuck out, she was accosting another person.

Greenpeace, really.    It's Madison.   We like you.  Get with the program and give us some security and we'll give you money.    You just can't do the hard sell.  Not anymore.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Influx

Each year, about this time, are state football championships.   And if you are out walking around, you'll notice crowds of high school kids walking around the big city.

I did it, when my high school came down to "State" for basketball.  I made sure to dress "cool" because I wanted to fit in.   I didn't realize how futile that is.

And what I'm sure they don't realize is how easily spotted they are.  Sure, they put on their best jeans and sweats, but they just don't blend in.

  • the UW students walking around are by and large alone.  There are probably a couple people talking and walking, but class change means "I need to get somewhere."
  • the UW students walking around either have a cell phone to their ear or a pair of ear buds in.   
  • the UW students wear a backpack, or carry a bag, or are laden with something.
  • the UW students don't care what they look like.  They've got on whatever they've rolled out of bed in.   
  • the UW students are wearing clothing for the elements.  By this time in the semester, it's getting cold, and that means you can't just wear anything you wish.  It's 2nd midterm time, so they are tired, cranky and just want to get to Thanksgiving without flunking their calculus exam.   Comfort is king.  That means mittens, hats and appropriate jackets.   
  • the UW students aren't hanging out by Camp Randall.   
  • the UW students don't wear high school sweats and letter jackets.   
  • there's a lot of glazed looking drivers trying to find parking. Oh, that could be anyone, really, but they are extra confused.  If it says no parking, but then it says 2 hour parking, but then it has a number on it, can I park there?  Yes, say the city folk, but no, you probably shouldn't.
Don't get me wrong; I welcome our visitors to our fair city and hope their team does well.   It's just that you've been spotted.   We know you aren't from around here.   We will smile extra wide at you and give you directions gleefully.   Enjoy your stay.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


When you find yourself with a dead tree, don't break out the saws quite yet!

You can inoculate it with mushroom spores instead!  Now, don't look at me like that.  It is dead simple, and all you really need is a freshly dead tree.  We happened to have a dead spruce that did not recover after the drought last year, and it totally died this year.  It so happens that there is a type of mushroom that loves spruce, called Chicken of the Woods.

Hen of the Woods
 When J and I first visited a friend's cabin up north, and we found a beautiful hen of the woods but were scared to eat it.  But when you inoculate the dead wood around your home, you know what you are getting.  

Of course, the "domesticated" version of this is a bit odd....it is orange.

So if successful, we might be having some orange mushrooms on our pizza!

First you need your gear.

And you will need your dead wood.

It needs to be recently dead, with no other mushrooms on it.

Yup, that is dead.

Then you drill some holes.  Dead wood is sometimes a little punky, so it takes patience.

The plug spawn are just dowels covered in white goo.  That
white goo is mushroom gold, I tell ya.

Pound 'em in.

Gaze upon your handiwork.

Instant Mushroom!  (Well, in about 9-12 months or so.)

Hopefully, it will be more successful than my beets!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mashup in my Head

For some reason I have a mashup of these two songs in my head.


Weezer: Island in the sun


Cheap Trick:  Dream Police

And in my head it works.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Up to...


That's composting with worms.  I got a worm compost kit for Christmas from J.  It's okay, that's what I asked for!
the compost bin, shoved into a corner in the workshop. What you feed the worms in the compost bin. So what does a tray of composting materials and worms look like?
This is what a compost bin looks like...a commercial one anyway. This is what you feed your worms; they like most compostable material with some exceptions like citrus. This is what a sea of worms making compost looks like. Note that it's okay to use your shredded junk mail as fiber. Woot!

...making grape trellises.

This is a work in progress. I've got 3 more wine grape vines coming and 3 eating variety vines coming, so sometime I've got to have 9 complete trellises. Not for a while though...the first year is spent getting roots in the soil.

I planted 3 last year, and those trellises are my winter project this year, along with 4 more raised bed frames.

...playing nurse to my sick dog. Maggie's favorite pastime.

Maggie's got cancer. She's on a lot of pills right now, and they make her alternatively sleepy and thirsty. So there's a lot of sleep, get up and drink, sleep, get up and drink, pee, sleep. She doesn't eat much, so I've been making her absolute favorites, like chicken thighs and liver. I made her bacon rice even, trying to get some calories into her.

I think we've settled that we'll be making her comfortable until I can bear to walk by the dog food aisle at the grocery store without bursting into tears. Then we'll have to do the right thing by her. So sad, but she is old. All I can hope is all that time sleeping is full of her dreaming of catching bunnies.

That's what I've been up to.