HUNTING THE PERFECT COMPUTER AND COMING ATTRACTIONS

It was our anniversary yesterday. I didn’t spend the day reading blogs and writing. Instead, I goofed off.

We went out to dinner. After we came home, I didn’t start putting together a post for today. I did put together something special for Saturday. Garry wrote it. I did most of the photography (and all of the processing … but I always do all the processing). It’s fiction and funny. It sure made us laugh. And we had a lot of fun putting it together. It took much more work than most of our posts and far more planning that either of us is usually willing to do. So it will be up solo (!!) on Saturday. Hope you like it.

It’s fiction. Those of you who know old movies will recognize bits of  Sunset Boulevard peeking through.

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I spent the rest of the day not buying a new computer. I know I’ll have to buy something eventually, but I not sure what I need or want.

I’m not thrilled with Windows 10. I’m less than happy with the road Microsoft has been taking for several years. I’m least happy with their requiring you to take all update downloads automatically. I have not had good experiences with automatic updates and I’m reluctant to  surrender control of my computer.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Apple invented the word “proprietary” and having owned lots of Apple computers and other devices over the course of my life in technology, I’m not sure they would be a better choice. Just … different.

Most Apple computers I’ve looked at seem under-powered and over-priced. The tech support people are snobs. Sorry, but they are. Every time I have had to deal with them, I wanted to whack them.

After a lot of browsing, I’ve found a couple of computers I like. One is an Asus, the other is by MSI. Neither is a company with which I’ve previously dealt. The machines are priced right and have impressive specs. Both also have well-documented issues: Hinges and build quality on the Asus, and getting too hot to handle and weird software glitches on the MSI.

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I have always found Dell/Alienware to be solid, long-lasting machines that work perfectly right out of the box. But — they are expensive. Almost all of them cost at least 25% more than equivalent machines made by other companies, yet maybe they are worth it. Every Dell I’ve owned has continued to run when other computers are buried in a landfill. Most are still running and essentially problem free many years later. I’ve moved up and on, but my former computers are running fine for people who aren’t Photoshop users. And don’t have a strong preference for listening to audiobooks while processing photographs, which is what finally forced me to get this machine. Discrete graphics makes a huge difference.

I’m putting computers on wish lists, hoping something will pop, be the perfect combination of specs, build quality, and price.

Until I find whatever, I’m looking, not buying. I’m open to suggestions and would appreciate them. Although I’m not a gamer, I’m addicted to having a computer that will do everything — at the same time. Fast. And never, ever crash.

THE DAY I (PERSONALLY) TOOK THE MACHINES DOWN

ADVENTURES IN UPGRADES, PART WHATEVER

Garry wrote how the patrons of our local grocery store went into shock when the debit and credit card readers stopped working. The lost, hopeless, dead eyes. Cash? Checks? What? I don’t understand?

Read it here: THE DAY THE MACHINES WENT DOWN

Yesterday was even more special because I personally took the machines down. With a lot of help from Bank of America. Our bank. Probably the biggest bank in the country, whose local Uxbridge branch is where we conduct business. It’s across the parking lot from our favorite grocery store.

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Hannaford is not the biggest local supermarket. Its selection tends to be a bit whimsical. Just because you could find the Asian Sesame dressing last week does not mean you will ever see it on the shelves again. We have adjusted. I think of it the way I used to think of seasonal vegetables when I lived in Israel. You could get anything — in season. Otherwise, you ate something else. Adjusting ones life and eating habits to the rhythm of the earth and its crops. Or, in this case, to whoever stocks the grocery shelves.

I awoke yesterday to the realization we were out of food and this is Labor Day weekend. If we didn’t shop today, the shelves would be empty. On Monday, the store would be closed.

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So, after the clock’s hand had slid past three o’clock when road construction in town ends, we took to the road. It’s just about 3 miles to town. Two lanes. No wider than it has to be.

I have to backtrack briefly. BOA has been “upgrading” debit cards to include a security chip. They notify you they are going to replace your card. When you receive it in the mail, you must activate it, sign it, and cut up the old one because it will no longer work.

I’m as geeky as the next techno-junkie yet I am highly dubious about “security enhancements” by banks. I have seen how very wrong they can go. Regardless, I had no choice. My card arrived a week. I followed instructions.

Garry has been spared this “upgrade.” Overlooked? Whatever the reason, he is happy to do what he has always done. It works, no problems. Bank of America has had its servers hacked several times (it was on the news, everywhere). The bank is more of a security risk than we are. But I digress (again).

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Going into town took a long time. Although the road repair guys had gone home, the people building the new fire station had not stopped work. And the school buses are back, too.

Worst of all, a cop was directing traffic. Apparently in cop school, they teach them to let every single car going one way through the construction zone until finally, when not a single car can be seen, they let the other lane start moving. By this time, there’s a mile of backed up cars to clear. When there’s no cop, drivers work it out for themselves and while it may slow down, there is no massive traffic jam.

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We finally got to the store. Parked. Went in. Fresh, local corn has arrived. Oh yum. I bought some. Bought stuff for dinner. Got some fresh veggies. Got some swordfish. Frozen shrimp. Did not buy lobster, even though they were on sale. Picked up everything on the list except frozen pizza. And headed for the checkout.

Not bad for a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. And then, it was time to pay. I took out my brand, new chip-enabled secure debit card and pushed it into the reader … which immediately cancelled the transaction and told me I had removed my card too quickly. My card was still IN the machine.

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The young woman at the register took a deep breath, reinstated the transaction, and in went my new, secure debit card. Again. This time, it cancelled the transaction, said there’d been an error and I had removed my card (still in the machine) too fast. The register froze. The folks behind me in line were pretty nice about it. No one pulled a gun.

They got other registers working and everyone migrated to other aisles. Except us. Because we were already in this register and they had to reboot it to get it unfrozen.

“It’s not my fault,” I whimpered. “They said I had to get this new card with the chip.” Which was true, so I don’t know why everyone was mad at me.

“Feel free to get mad at Bank of America. They’re just over there,” I said, pointing to the other side of the parking lot. “Tell them!”

When the machines came back up, Garry used his card, the one without the chip.

Finally, we went home. I called the bank and was put on hold. I put the phone on speaker and left it to its own devices expecting I’d eventually hear a “How can we help you.” An hour later, it was still playing drippy muzak.

I tried a different number. Same message, but different muzak. I tried the local bank site. All the chat people were engaged. They suggested I try later. Their email was also down. By now, I was getting a feeling there was more going wrong at Bank of America than a bad chip in my debit card.

Finally … almost three hours after I first called, I got a “live chat” person on line. Bianca. Hello Bianca. My new debit card with the fancy chip technology isn’t working.

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“We have a note that you entered an incorrect PIN earlier today.”

“I was never asked for my PIN. It cancelled my transaction and told me my card had been removed too fast, but the card was still in the machine.”

“I can send you a PIN reminder.”

“I know my PIN. It’s the  card. It also froze the store register. Everyone on line had to go somewhere else to check out. Take responsibility. This is a bank problem.”

“Chip technology is going to be everywhere. We are no longer issuing debit cards without chips.”

“Then send me a card with a chip that works. Like test it before sending it to me?”

We went back and forth for a while. They are sending me a new card. With a new chip. Which, presumably, will work. Given that not only did the chip fail, but BOA was unavailable for hours, I bet BOA had a system failure. Since they’ll never tell you what’s really going on, all of this was a smokescreen to avoid having to say “the bank is experiencing server problems.”

Their server problems turned this into the day I took down the machines at Hannaford. Just because I live in a small town, doesn’t mean we don’t have adventures.

I’m probably going to become a local legend.


POSTSCRIPT: Bank Of America’s servers were in fact down pretty much all day yesterday. Not the first time, by any means and very likely, not the last time, either. Why do they persist in lying about it? It doesn’t make the problem go away. Would it really make the situation worse to admit the bank’s servers are being “upgraded” (or whatever they are doing) and tell us our cards aren’t working because they are effectively offline?

IT’S OBVIOUS … ISN’T IT?

It ought to be obvious. If you deluge potential customers or contributors with email, whether imploring them for donations or reminding them of your products, eventually they will run away. Unsubscribe. Detach.

The first time this happened, I had made the near-fatal error of donating $3 to Obama’s 2008 campaign. From that moment on, each day I was buried in fundraising letters from what appeared to be every single member of the Democratic party and their affiliates.

I approved of the causes and at first, I just deleted the extra emails. It seemed the more I deleted, the more arrived. Wave after wave of causes, the DNC, pols in states I’ve never visited, much less lived.

One day I sat down at my computer and began unsubscribing. I continued through the day until finally, none were left. I will never donate again. Note to DNC: Don’t make contributors feel that giving you a bit of money was their worst-ever life decision.

Now, there’s “The New Yorker.” This is a great magazine, one of the very few I still read. The cartoons alone are worth it because  no publication has better cartoons than “The New Yorker.” I even went so far as to subscribe to it. Not only do I get their online stuff and access to their archive, I get the physical, paper magazine. The mailman delivers it.

Yet, every single day, my email is full of subscription offers from the New Yorker, and now, from affiliated news publications. They send me articles — which I mostly read or at least skim. But then, they send me the same articles three more times. I delete them. Followed by half a dozen reminders to subscribe — which I’ve already done. Why do they do this? I feel like I’m under siege by my own troops.

Amazon, from whom I buy a lot of stuff, doesn’t spam me. Nor does LL Bean. Or Audible or Zappos. To these companies, I remain loyal. They treat me as if they value my business and I spread the good word about them.

All of these companies also have great service when things go wrong. They don’t make it difficult to return items. They don’t charge “re-stocking” fees. They deliver quickly at no charge. They stand behind their products and suppliers and if something goes wrong, the customer does not wind up at the short end of the transaction.

This is basic marketing. It boils down to one golden rule for marketing:


Treat your customer the way you’d like to be treated if
you were the customer. 


I should think this would be obvious. As time goes on, I find myself eliminating companies and organizations from my world because they don’t get it.

Obvious, isn’t it?

OBVIOUS | THE DAILY POST

UNSEEN ON TV SIGNS – CEE’S B & W PHOTO CHALLENGE

CEE’S BLACK & WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE: STORE FRONT SIGNS


We live in an area that doesn’t have a whole lot of place to shop. The few malls we have are no less than 20 miles drive and they aren’t the huge malls you find in suburban areas near major cities. Nonetheless, with a little help from the internet, we make do.

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Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge Badge

SAVE THE SPARE

Spare. It’s when you need two tries to get all the pins down at the bowling alley. Not as good as a strike, but not bad, either. Respectable.

A spare tire on the road is a must. Even though tires rarely pop these days the way they did back in the golden olden days. Still, stuff happens. Nails, glass and the miscellaneous road rubble are always there to puncture a sidewall or flay a tread.

You can be spare and lean, a mean machine. All muscle and fat-free.

And then … you could be a leftover. The remaining single of what was previously a set.

Where they were purchased.

Where they were purchased.

Which brings me to the lovely green earrings I bought while we were in Arizona. I spotted them and the sales lady and co-owner of the shop said “Oh, yes. And they hang so beautifully,” which shows a deep understanding of earrings.

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I was enchanted and obliged to buy them, especially since I have a wonderful green turquoise pendant with which these dangles would go perfectly, and harmoniously blend. While acquiring them, I realized there were several other small items without which I could not survive.

So I bought a second pair of earrings plus a nicely coördinated choker too. It was off-season for tourism, so discounts were meaningful … and the jewelry looked so good on me.

In my defense, I would like to point out that these were my only purchases for the trip … a level of self-control that was aided by avoiding anyplace that sold jewelry. And I had not let Garry buy me anything for Christmas because I absolutely knew in my heart that something lovely was waiting in Arizona.

A month (two?) ago, I was wearing my lovely green earrings with the coördinated choker. When I went to remove the earrings, instead of a pair of earrings, I was wearing one of each pair I had bought. I dug around in the cache bowl in which I put my jewelry when I remove it at night and found one matching earring — but not the second green one.

I was devastated. How could I possibly lose one of those earrings? We had recently traveled for a weekend, so I checked the suitcases, all my travel jewelry pouches, then emptied out the cache dishes and both earring drawers in my jewelry chest. No green earring. I now had one green dangly earring. A spare.

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I put the single green one back in the bowl and tried to gain some perspective. While it was a very lovely earring, it wasn’t terribly expensive (but it was a “one of a kind”) and losing an earring is not the end of the world. It just feels like the end of the world.

Life went on. Yesterday, I went looking for a pair of earrings in that same little bowl … and the second green earring was there. Garry tried to blame me (“You didn’t look hard enough”) but I was not having it. I emptied that bowl. I tore everything apart,

It’s those thieving pixies. Or maybe mini demons. There’s a fair chance that Bonnie is a demon. She acts like one.

I know for sure — that earring was not there. Until yesterday, when it was.

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I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE | Spare

SHOPPING FOR COOKIES

Our local grocery stores are not bad, but there’s stuff they just don’t have. Thin Oreos — any flavor — are among the things they do not stock. So, this evening, in a fit of rampant self-indulgence, I went online. To Amazon, my one-stop online shopping choice.

And sure enough, Amazon has them in pretty much every flavor, including some I didn’t know existed. But. Either the price is outrageously over-the-top or they are available only through PrimePantry. Despite how I love Amazon (I really love Amazon), I don’t love their grocery subscription services. They won’t let me choose when they will deliver or when they will bill me. Moreover, I don’t necessarily need or want a crate of stuff.

Today, all I wanted were cookies.

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After maybe an hour of increasing frustration, I ordered 35-pounds of senior (Diamond Naturals) dog food — plus an economy-sized box of Teenie Greenies. And no cookies.

As Garry pointed out, it’s important to know what’s really important. The fur kids approve. They barked their approval when I pressed “Place Your Order.”

ODDBALLS FROM THE WILD WEST

CEE’S ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE: 2016 WEEK 3

We came back from Arizona late last night … with more than 2,000 photographs. Some of them are still on the cards in the camera. I’ve dumped most of the photographs onto my hard drive, but I haven’t sorted through them. Yet.

While Garry shot the Iron Cowboy, I bought jewelry!

While Garry shot the Iron Cowboy, I bought jewelry!

You’re going to see a lot of pictures of Arizona coming up! This is no exception.

Memorabilia at Apacheland Movie Ranch Museum

Memorabilia at Apacheland Movie Ranch Museum

For the tourists ...

For the tourists …