Coffee heat rising


Holeee shee-UT! What a day.

I’ve been around and around and around Robin Hood’s barn today, metaphorically and literally. The headaches and the hassles have gone on and on and ON, so many I can’t even remember them all.

Phoenix is Southern California Redux. I hated living in Southern California. Hated the crowds. Hated the traffic. Hated the smog. Hated the ubiquitous ticky-tacky.

And Late Ticky-Tacky is the dominant style here. Everyplace you look here is tacky. The tacky apartment buildings, the tired cheaply built ranch houses, the brain-banging maze of surface streets, the unholy freeways: tacky, tackier, and tackiest. This characteristic strikes you most strongly when you’re weary from trudging through bumper-to-bumper traffic over bland, faceless streets that carry you past bland, faceless neighborhoods and bland, faceless strip malls.

The high point of the day was weaving my way over and through this lovely landscape, down to the Best Buy. There I was told what I already knew: my laptop (admittedly, my aged laptop) is about done for. It’s just plain worn out.

So now I get to buy a new laptop. That’ll be another two or three thousand bucks. AND naturally — yes, naturally — my software won’t run on it. The Geek Squad is going to try to keep the present incumbent running a while longer. But you can be sure “a while” represents a limited stretch of time.

How can I count the ways I don’t wanna spend hours and hours and days and days running into weeks learning new programs that don’t do what I need them to do? Ugh!

Oh well.

Speaking of things one would think have Gone Away, at Amazon what should I find but some real, old-fashioned Mentholatum! Who’d’ve thunk it was still being made, anywhere?

This, I hope, will work on the peripheral neuropathy as it affects the lips.

Then at the Walmart I found something with lidocaine in it. One would hesitate to put that anywhere near one’s mouth…but I sincerely hope it will help with the mad tingling in the hands, the feet, and the legs.

A-n-n-d in the ether that is the Internet, once again I came across evidence that my grandmother did NOT die when my mother was led to believe she did. Apparently the cancer and the suffering and the drug taking and my 18-year-old mother being made to tend her was all a show. In fact she married a prominent San Francisco businessman, had a street named after her, and hung out in Hemet.

I knew those people were weird. But this stuff takes the cake.


{gronk!} Dawdling away the day…

ohhhh B-A-A-D HUMAN! 

I’ve dorked away the ENTIRE MORNING playing time-waster computer games. Things that needed to get done?

We ain’t got no steenking things to get done! Eh?

No. The dishes are not washed. The blog post is not written. The run on the credit union and then on the d**ned Costco remains to be done.

Yes…the credit-union run, to be followed by the Costco run, two things I do no, not NOT wanna do.

For the second time in human memory, Costco refused to take my debit card.

Costco wants you to use its MasterCard, of course. And I’ve tried.

Tried and found their MasterCard service just as wanting as the service from past MasterCard accounts I’ve (not) enjoyed. All that was proven was that Mastercard’s service sucks.

Whereas American Express’s service proves itself excellent, top-flight, beyond amazing…EVERY TIME one deals with MasterCard, one has an issue.

To force you to use their MasterCard, Costco quit accepting American Express. You can pay in cash, presumably you can pay with a check, or you can pay with MasterCard. You cannot pay with AMEX.

I do not carry a checkbook around with me. I do not carry cash. The reason, as you may have perceived if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, has to do with Wild-West character of the parking lots and strip malls around here. One thing no sane woman would do is walk across a shopping center with a purse hanging from her shoulder. Especially not a purse containing anything resembling a negotiable instrument. I’ve had guys try to steal my purse as I walked into grocery stores (not once, but twice! Slow learner…). A neighbor was shot by a guy who thought she was resisting when he ripped her purse off her shoulder as she tried to shield her daughter. You would be effing CRAZY to carry checks, cash, or anything that contains ID that can be used to steal from you.

This happened some months ago: I presented my AMEX card and Costco’s machine rejected it. No one else’s machine rejects it. Just Costco’s. All the time I spent roving around in there loading up the cart was wasted. All the stuff I’d piled up to buy was rolled off to be stacked back on the shelves.

So the last time I went to Costco — last week — I whipped out my debit card and was  once again was told it wasn’t valid.

This is the second time Costco has pulled that stunt. Last time, I drove straight from the store to the credit union, where staff assured me nothing was wrong with the debit card.

I’ve about lost patience. Today is gonna be my last try. Today I will return to the CU and ask them what’s wrong with the debit card. If they say “nothing,” I will try to persuade them to put that in writing.

Then I’ll move on to the Costco up the road, and when they pull their usual stunt I’ll show them the evidence from the credit union.

Give me any more BS, and that, right then and there, will be THE last time I ever go into Costco. Well. Except maybe for their tire shop. 😉


Change…for the better?

The other day I dropped my beloved, oft-used bread slicing knife on the tile floor. The darn thing broke apart, and I couldn’t glue it back together in any functional way. So, dayum! I needed to buy a new bread knife.

It was part of a set that I got either at Williams-Sonoma or (more likely) at a department store such as the Broadway. Phoenix’s Williams-Sonoma store resides in a venerable East Camelback shopping mall called Biltmore Fashion Square. The Broadway in that mall closed, replaced by a singularly uninteresting Macy’s. We used to have a Broadway store within walking distance of the Funny Farm, if only it were safe to walk across the freeway overpass and into that district. But…


If only…

…But it’s not.

And because it’s not, the Broadway over there shut down, as did virtually every other store in and around the mall. Basically, malls no longer exist, at least not in the central part of the city. And with Amazon at my fingertips, I wasn’t bloody well about to traipse to northeast Scottsdale or freaking Glendale to buy a bread knife.

What this says — IMHO — is how much our lives have been changed by the ability to order things online. We no longer have to go into a brick-and-mortar store to get this object, that doo-dad, or another clothing item. And that is changing not only the way we do things, but the way our cities are laid out.

Who would ever have thought that Metrocenter — once the largest shopping center in the land — would become a ghost mall? Who would have imagined that one day we would feel it’s not worth the effort to hop in the car and drive over to a tony, centrally-located mall to visit a Williams-Sonoma or a Macy’s?

But there it is: the nearest mall hosting those stores is many, MANY miles away: in Glendale, in Scottsdale, in Mesa. There now just two (count’em: 2) Williams-Sonoma stores within a hundred miles of my house!

So, given this fine state of affairs, online I went.

Not because I especially wanted to buy the knife online, sight unseen. But that to get it without a noxious drive, a parking hassle, a hike, and no doubt some other annoyance, you have to.


I did find a bread knife. And a bread knife. And a bread knife.

Most of them looked nothing like the Defunct.

Many were significantly smaller.

Some looked cheaply made.

None had handles that resembled the wooden numbers on my beloved Williams-Sonoma set. Neither did Williams-Sonoma have any such things.

Obviously, stores like these can’t stay in business without a substantial walk-in clientele.

But…but…you can’t just stroll in to a store that requires a covered-wagon journey to reach! Especially if you have a job and so can’t spare the time to drive from one end to the other of the ninth-largest metropolis in the country.

Hence: Amazon.

Has Amazon has put these ole’-fashioned mall stores out of business?

Well…no. I think it’s not one way or the other, but a circular thing. Amazon exists because it’s a bloody PITA to drive through homicidal traffic to get from your home to a particular retail outlet; and also because many if not most adult women work now and can’t leave the office to junket around the city in search of a bread knife. Or whatever.

If you work downtown here, for example, it’ll take you a good half-hour to retrieve your car from the parking garage and trudge through bumper-to-bumper mid-town traffic and the crazy-making traffic signals to arrive at the parking lot for Biltmore Fashion Square or for the late, great Metrocenter. Then you have to hike from your car to the store. And back to your car. And trudge back through the traffic to your office.

That would militate, wouldn’t it, against running up to the Broadway or Williams-Sonoma to buy one (count it: 1) item, no matter how crucial that item might be.

So what’re you gonna do?

Of course, you’re gonna order online. From Amazon, because it’s easy, you have an account there, and you know 99% of the time they deliver to the correct address.


I think what gives Amazon its edge is not the quality and selection of its merchandise (which are both pretty good, if brain-boggling) or the efficiency of its delivery service (also on the high side of good), but the fact that no one of either gender has time to traipse around the city to buy groceries and household necessities.

It’s probably why Costco is so successful, too: you can get just about EVERYTHING there, from groceries to pharmacy items to clothing to tools to appliances to gardening supplies to…everything else. You can get everything in ONE trip. Albeit an overwhelming trip…but at least you only have to traipse to one store, not all over the city.

Y’know…my guess is that all department stores will be gone within the decade.

And unless we see some fundamental change, we’ll see fewer general stores, too — fewer Safeways, fewer Walmart neighborhood markets, fewer Albertsons — and more that operate like specialty stores: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, AJ’s.

These days, I do most of my grocery shopping at Sprouts, with the fancy stuff picked up at AJ’s. Yes, it’s no doubt more expensive than Costco or a classic grocery store. But the offerings are more interesting, they seem less likely to be laced with preservatives and sugar and artificial flavors, and they taste better.

In a way, that feels like an improvement over the Good Ole Days. But…hmmm…in another way, it seems like a de-provement: day-to-day shopping, as a result of this “improvement,” has become considerably more inconvenient and, I suspect, significantly more expensive.

Life in the Twenty-First Century…so fine and dandy!



The Saga of the Fridge…continued

So the AMEX bill arrived, bearing with it the single largest bottom line I’ve ever seen on a credit card statement.  Eeek!

Well, it’s because they’ve combined the current state of the Refrigerator Fiasco with a gigantic and breathtaking clerical error.

Error the first: When it looked like I might be able to get rid of the ridiculous GE refrigerator that I stupidly bought from B&B Appliances, a local (and highly questionable!) vendor, I decided I’d better acquire a new, functional fridge before the present thing goes out the door, lest all the food in the house spoil.

Sooo…I went over to Home Depot and ordered a nice new LG refrigerator. They arranged for delivery, a few days later, and we all went on about our business.

Events evolved…

The GE refrigerator eventually quieted down. Nowadays, it’s making no more noise than any normal refrigerator does — meaning that, hallelujah brothers and sisters, it can’t be heard in the back bedroom on the far end of the house. At least, not so’s it keeps you from falling asleep at night.

Observing this, I went back over to HD — in person, no less — and canceled the order for their refrigerator.

So…okay, if the matter isn’t resolved between American Express and B&B, it’ll be no skin off my proverbial teeth.

Thus thought I, until that AMEX statement came flying into the mailbox.

They charged me TWICE for B&B’s accursed fridge. And no, they never did register a credit for the piece of junk. Meanwhile, Home Depot’s charge also appears on that bill.

So now I’ve got THREE REFRIGERATORS charged up on my AMEX card!!!!!!!!!


Just now, WonderAccountant has the AMEX bill. She’s busy with other clients’ work right this instant, so we’ll have to wait or day or three to figure out exactly what to say to the factotums at American Express.

Just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?



Yesterday in an antique online copy of the old ARAMCO newsletter Sun & Flare, I came across a photo of my grade-school pal, a boy named Ennis, one of the very few kids who was friendly to me when we lived in the dreadful oil company outpost called Ras Tanura.

Ennis! What a nice kid. Last time I saw him, he and I were pushing adulthood. It was someplace north of Santa Barbara, where his parents had gone when they retired. How fun would it be to track him down and say hello?

Well. None, as it develops. I could NOT find him for love nor money. Nor could I find any trace of an obituary. So, dead or alive, he’s nowhere to be unearthed.

In fact, his tracks are so thoroughly covered, it’s hard to escape the sense that he had a professional hide his identity and location. I’m pretty damn good at navigating the Internet and finding folks who think they can’t be found — as a researcher, that little skill comes with the job. But there was NOTHING, not a single mention anywhere.

On one level it’s interesting and reasonable — how much would you pay to bring an end to the blitz of advertising and spamming email messages? Just this morning, I’ve already deep-sixed seven nuisance messages in 45 minutes or so that I’ve been reading the news, and that doesn’t count the spam that’s automatically sent to the trash.

On another, it’s alarming…why would you care enough to erase yourself altogether? Is he a federal agent? An international spy? Maybe a crime boss? Or…a nut case?

I block phone calls from most area codes but my own, by way of limiting the number of nuisance phone solicitations. But erasing your identity altogether? That’s different from blocking those who pester you.

Could he have died? Possibly. He was only two or three years younger than me. And as a male: yeah, he could have keeled over from a heart attack by now. Plus the very air in Rasty Nasty was carcinogenic: filled with fumes from the refinery, long before anyone thought about limiting air pollution. Stinking air was just part of life, back in the good ole’ days.

But there are no obituary notices for him: not that I can find. No home-town papers or remarks in the Aramco Brats pages to the effect that he croaked over. Weirdly, I found an obituary for his father Tom, which goes on and on about the family members…but does NOT mention the son. WTF?

Nor does it mention his stint in Arabia…it mentions his wife and provides her photo, so yeah: it’s the same Tom. But an entire era of his life — including mention of the son who made up part of that era — is missing. And the obit was written by his niece, who surely would have known the family members.


Update: B&B Fridge Fiasco

Just realized, whilst putting away mounds of paper and updating the calendar, that AMEX, even though they suspended the $1500 charge for B&B’s half-baked refrigerator for the nonce, in fact did not cancel it. The charge is in a state of suspended animation, being “disputed,” until May 26. If in fact B&B prevails, then yes, I will have to pay the ba*tards for what so far has been (in effect) a free refrigerator. Albeit a free piece of junk…

That’s right. The operatic GE fridge remains in my kitchen, humming and rattling to itself, while the matter is settled. And indeed I was on the cusp of buying a new LG refrigerator (handsomely reviewed!) at Lowe’s and giving B&B’s piece of junk to Gerardo for his workshop.

Somehow I failed to grasp that detail in AMEX’s workings.

Wow!  Lucky I couldn’t make up my feeble little mind while I was cruising around Lowe’s. By now the noise-maker would be outta here!

Hmmmmmmm….. Godlmighty but that sounds batsh!t, doesn’t it?

Think I’ll call American Express — or wait! maybe inquire in writing — to confirm whether B&B has until May 26 to make good on this damn thing. And then what? If they give up , what do we do with this fine piece of equipment? But if they persist, am I still on the hook for almost $1500? Can B&B be forced to take it back, despite their “no-returns” policy?

In the meantime, we have this half-baked (heh!) GE microwave that B&B peddled to me at the same time. You wanna talk about piece of junk? Lemme tellya!

My old microwave, which I should evidently NOT have dispensed with, would cook 2 thick-sliced pieces of bacon to a state of crispy done-ness in 2 minutes flat. The new thing takes exactly twice as long to do that.

True: the earth does not shatter into a a pile of meteoroids just because it takes four minutes to cook one’s breakfast bacon. I don’t do a lot of cooking in a microwave, because I eat mostly real foods — “whole foods” as they’re dubbed here in the 21st century. So really, it doesn’t much matter that the thing makes a nice noise and goes round and round whilst it does…next to nothing. But if I’d known, I would never have gotten rid of the other machine.

The new GE fridge still runs noisier than I would like — but at least you can’t hear it all the way back in the bedroom at the far end of the palace. So it’s now tolerable…if I have to keep it, I could do so without vast suffering.

Though this refrigerator was clearly damaged goods — a workman found a couple of dents on the side and noted that one its “feet” has been broken and fixed — it runs OK. Don’t think I should have to pay full price for it. But my world won’t end if the thing stays here. Or ends up in Gerardo’s workshop.

Big message here, though, is one that I should have remembered before the whole fiasco started: DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE MAKING ANY MAJOR PURCHASE. And assume nothing. Yes: that’s nothing.

Having grown up with General Electric as a major American manufacturer of high-quality appliances, it never crossed my mind to spend an hour (or less…much less was all that would have been required) in exploring consumer reviews on the Internet. By way of experiment: Google this phrase:

why have GE products gone downhill

Holeeee shee-ut!

No, I wouldn’t have thought of quite that wording. 😀 BUT if I had simply googled “GE appliance reviews” I would have known not to buy what is now a Chinese product with an American brand name slapped on it. Any search for consumer reviews of GE products brings up rant after rant after furious rant.

The fall of GE has been big financial news for the past several years, too. Truth to tell, if I’d been reading Forbes and the Wall Street Journal and their ilk, I wouldn’t even have had to look for consumer reviews. I would have known the company and its products overshot China and went straight to Hell quite awhile ago.

And also truth to tell, I was just plain stupid about B&B Appliances. I’d dealt with them before with no problem. I liked the saleslady who peddled this thing to me. It never dawned on me that they were ripping me off.

Guess the message is…always assume that everyone is trying to rip you off, and proceed accordingly!