Coffee heat rising

Fridge Fiasco Update….

Ohhhkayyyyy…. It keeps getting better. :-D, not to say 😮

The refrigerator repairman, who appeared to measure his IQ in the negative numbers, accomplished exactly nothing. The delinquent refrigerator continued to roar and bang and squeal and carry on. The racket it emanates is SO loud, Ruby and I have no chance of getting to sleep unless we barricade ourselves in the back bedroom behind a closed door.

I call around and rassle around and get essentially nowhere, which is about where I expected to get.

Eventually American Express, which has thrown itself into the fray, calls to announce that they’ve canceled the charge. Unclear to me whether this has already happened, so I call to confirm. It appears that probably they have done so. Meanwhile, I still have the refrigerator, which keeps me awake all night with its lovely rattling, whining, roaring serenade.

This afternoon I applied my li’l-ole-lady handyperson skills to the damn thing and discovered that…lo! It was out of level. The jerk that delivered it installed it cattywampus. Fooled around and fiddled around…got it pretty well on the level, but there’s a limit to what a little old lady with no tools can accomplish.

It now buzzes for a half-minute or so when it cycles on, and then runs fairly quietly. Giving it a whap upside its mechanical head shuts it up for quite a while.

So where are we now? (Are we out of the Twilight Zone yet???)


9:05 a.m. Found a receipt saying I canceled purchase of the HD fridge I was admiring. Called American Express. They said that yes, we DID cancel it. The AMEX rep says I have an $800 credit from the bastards at B&B Appliances. This could be applied to a new refrigerator’s purchase.

1:05 p.m.: The machine is now running almost silently! The motor/fan sound is audible, but not much more so than a normal refrigerator’s. Why???

Is it possible that whapping it a couple of times might have shaken something loose or jiggled something into place so that it runs OK now?

At this point, I was just about to launch on my way up to Home Depot to buy another unit. But….

1:45 p.m.: When in doubt, don’t. Fridge was off; just came back on. It’s rattling, but more quietly than before.

Still…as I sit my butt down to write this note (I figure I’d better take pretty close notes on what’s happening), the damn thing continues to buzz/rattle: again, more quietly than before. It seems to quiet a little as it runs, and now is operating like a normal fridge: just the serenade of a fan, no sound of grinding motor.

At 1:53 p.m., the thing is running as quietly as it gets: motor and fan noise audible, but no rattling or roaring.

* I can’t hear it in the bedroom.

* It seems pretty loud here in the family room/dining room/kitchen, but it’s not audible in the back of the house. If you were like most Americans and had a TV or stereo babbling away all the time, you’d hardly notice it.

What to do???

This runaround has been quite the little nightmare. There’s really no excuse for a retailer to sell a total piece of junk, at least not without explaining to the mark what to expect: If I’d been told that the machine would make a lot of noise for the first week or so of operation, I would not have gotten myself into this uproar.

On the other hand…

  1. If it is now working normally, I can’t really justify not paying for the damn thing, no matter how much of a runaround the incompetents at B&B gave me.
  2. If this intermittent peace is maybe the way it’s supposed to work but it in fact has something wrong with it that causes it to rattle and run noisy off and on, I should get my money back so I can buy a competent machine at HD.
  3. Its apparently “normal” fan noise is pretty loud.
  4. My level says the thing is only very slightly out of level, and so it’s hard to believe that’s the issue. The floor itself measures as perfectly dead level.

If I go back and do battle with B&B, even with AMEX behind me, it’s going to be another monumental, headachey hassle. If the machine will work quietly enough not to be heard in the back of the house (we shall see tonight!!), then the path of least resistance will be to just let it go.


What to do about the money AMEX is withholding from B&B?

My sense is to wait and see what they do. This cannot be the first such episode that’s ever occurred in the history of American consumerism. American Express will know how to proceed and when to proceed. Probably the best course of action is to wait for direction from AMEX, and if and when they get in touch, do as they advise. If they say nothing, B&B says nothing, and I say nothing, then maybe I should just hang onto the refrigerator, which at that point I may glom for free.

That seems unethical, but the weeks-long hoopla and hassle I’ve been through – which could have been ameliorated if they had told me what to expect or had just responded to me when I complained – has consumed a great deal of my $60/hour time and caused a great deal of worry and anxiety. Maybe B&B deserves to pay me for the uproar their incompetence has caused.

And speaking of unethical, as I wrestle with the thing and fiddle with the thing and adjust the thing, I find two places where it has some small but distinct dents. Whaddaya bet its problem is that it’s been beaten about down at B&B’s shop, or in transit to the Funny Farm? Matter of fact, I see a place under the front end where they’ve glued a thin piece of Styrofoam, apparently trying to fix some kind of damage or defect. Like…what, pray tell?

I find it hard to believe that all refrigerators make a noise like a wrecking yard when they’re new. This is NOT the first refrigerator I’ve bought – we got one in the Encanto house, and I believe we bought another one at the North Central house. I would remember a circus like this! Therefore it’s reasonable to think there’s an issue here that should have been addressed, either by warning me at the outset or by responding competently to my complaints.

2:17 p.m. Fridge switched on with loud buzzing; buzz shut off in less than a minute – possibly less than half a minute. It’s now running not quietly but not raucously.

I go over and mess with the freezer.. This makes the noise louder. I whap it on the side (away from the wall: its right side) and that cuts the volume of the noise. It still rattles, but more softly.

Push against the machine’s right side, giving it two or four shoves. The noise has now completely stopped except for the sound of the fan running!

Suspect the thing is rattling/buzzing because it or some component inside it is slightly out of level. That’s why there’s some sort of dap and stuff on the bottom of the cabinet: they must have tried to level it so they could unload it on an unsuspecting customer.

I’m going to ask AMEX to return my payment because I believe B&B ripped me off: they knew they were foisting a damaged or substandard product on me. This is evidenced by the obvious jury-rigged repair job at the unit’s base.

What to do next?
Persist with trying to get my money back via AMEX, since it appears likely – even evident – that B&B knew the unit was not running up to par. Keep it for about a year, if possible; then go to Costco or Lowe’s to replace it with a new refrigerator.

Moral of the story: NEVER buy local!!!!  Always buy from nationally known, nationally respected vendors.

Making Telephone Solicitation FUN….

Mwa ha ha! The idea I came up with for harassing the goddamn nuisance telephone solicitors is WORKING. And it is a bit of a hoot.

Thought I’d described this antic in a post here on Funny, but don’t see the thing in the blog’s dashboard. Must have held forth about it on Facebook. Oh well…

Here’s the gambit:

When a phone solicitor calls, instead of hitting “call block” (which, since they spoof telephone numbers, doesn’t block THEIR phone but instead blocks some innocent soul in your area code or even your own exchange), pick up the phone and speak sorta politely into it.

Let the crook begin to deliver his pitch. As he yammers on, take a deep breath and SCREAM AT THE VERY TOP OF YOUR VOICE, as LOUD as you can, into the phone. SHRIEK YOUR GUTS OUT. Give him the shrillest, loudest, earsplittingest


you can blast out.

Scream nonstop until you run completely out of breath. Then hang up. Do not speak a word. Just hang up.

Most of the criminals are probably using headphones to do their job. That means you leave not one but both of their ears ringing. With any luck, maybe you’ll burst the bastard’s eardrum.

Interestingly, this seems to have worked. It’s 10:15 a.m. just now, and I just repelled only the first nuisance call of the day. Usually they start about 8:00 a.m. — sometimes even earlier. And the number of nuisance calls has dropped spectacularly, from around 10 calls a day to one or two. Some days even none!

No kidding: I was getting up to a dozen pestering calls a day. Never fewer than eight or ten.

Within a couple of days after I started the Scream Gambit, the phone soliciting harassment dropped like the bastards all fell off a cliff — down to one or two calls, and some days even none. For those that persist: it’s strangely gratifying to know you left the SOB’s ears ringing.

So far I haven’t done it, because I haven’t wanted to pony up the cash, but part of the plan is to buy one or more recorders so I can play back the SHRIIIEEEEEEEEEK into the phone without having to strain the vocal cords. But seriously: after s few days of this, the number of calls has dropped to the point where that may not be necessary.

Silence is golden…

Hello Again, Little CPR Call Blocker! Good-bye NoMoRobo!

Hoorah! The new CPR v5000 Call Blocker I ordered to replace the one that got thrown out after the Cox dude told me the one I had wouldn’t work with Cox’s infuriating modem IS HERE! Thank you, Amazon!

When Cox forced its customers to abandon the old, steadfastly reliable copper lines, I already had a CPR Call Blocker installed on my landline phone. It was wonderful. Because it WORKED. I asked the Cox tech to install it on the damned space-gobbling, dust-collecting modem he deposited on my desk, and he said Cox wouldn’t touch anything that wasn’t Cox equipment. Besides, it wouldn’t work.


Subtext: “We get paid by phone scammers to let them blitz you with advertising and scams, and you can be darned sure we ain’t about to aid and abet your efforts to thwart the bastards.”

However, Cox was making a service called NoMoRobo available to its new VoiP customers. I’d heard good things about it and so figured signing up with that should address the problem of robocalls and live scam artists. Because I had no idea how to attach the little Call Blocker device to the damned modem (sometimes connections can be kinda tricky), I just tossed it out, figuring NoMoRobo would do the job.




NoMoRobo is a complete bust. Here’s why:

To block a call from a phone number, NoMoRobo has to let the first jangle ring through. This is how it identifies fake phone numbers. Unlike the CPR 5000, it apparently has no preprogrammed numbers; thus the 5000 numbers blocked by the CPR  device just come right through. And it seems unable to identify VoIP/IP rogue diallers, leaving you vulnerable to an expensive scam.

The first-ring feature is a deal-killer for me. It doesn’t matter whether this is a new number nuisanceaferizing you. Even numbers that are blocked are allowed to jangle you up once.

Sorry, but I don’t find the sound of a phone jangling to be conducive to work that requires my full, uninterrupted attention.

Then we have the problem that you can’t signal NoMoRobo that a number is bad with a push of a button. Ohhhhh no. You have to go online to their Website and fill out a freaking form!!!!!! You have to retrieve the offending number from your phone’s memory, report the caller’s name, say what time the call occurred…all of which adds the insult of time suck to the injury of phone scamming.

And as hoop-jumps go, it’s pointless: the robocallers simply generate new numbers, potentially dialing you from every telephone number in your exchange. Or, for that matter, in any exchange.

And we have the added problem that when NoMoRobo fails to recognize a call as pestiferous (which is often), it just lets the phone ring and ring, till your voicemail picks up. At which time the creeps fill up your voicemail with their hustle.

I get upwards of a dozen pest calls a day. Today they started at 8 a.m. sharp; sometimes they start around 6:30 or 7 in the morning. They often run through till 8 or 9 or even 10 at night.

With the CPR call blocker, you simply press the “Talk” button and then, if you’re on a wireless extension, press #2; if you’re at your desk where the device is sitting, you don’t even have to pick up. Just press the big red “BLOCK” button.

The highly satisfying big red BLOCK button….

If you miss that boat, then simply click your phone’s callback button and as soon as the number starts to ring, hit that “Block” button.

The thing has been plugged in for less than an hour, and it already has three numbers in its bank of blocked callers.

How to Read a Research Paper: It’s Easier Than You’d Think

So in response to Catseye’s question about going straight to the Academic Horse’s Mouth when researching one’s ailments and one’s doctors’ schemes — “can the average Joe understand what they’re reading? It sounds intimidating, to say the least” — I said I’d write a post on how to read a piece of medical (or any other scientific) research.

The answer to that question is YES! Most people can understand enough of a research paper to pick up on the important points. And it only sounds intimidating. It is surprisingly, weirdly easy to understand most published technical research papers.


To understand what the researchers are trying to do and what they’ve found out (if anything), you really only need to read about a third of their paper — and that is the most accessible third. What you should know is that scientific papers follow a standard format. They’re always divided into these sections:

  • Abstract: A brief summary of the project & findings — very brief.
  • Introduction: Description of the background, purposes, and design of the project. Usually contains a Statement of the Problem: an explicit, carefully worded explanation of the issue, in short. Sometimes this section will also contain what is called a “review of the literature,” in which the authors reprise the high points of previous work.
  • Methods: Explanation of their approach to the study and the tools or strategies they used in going about the research.
  • Results: Description of what happened when they applied the Methods to the research problem. This section may contain graphs and tables that summarize the study’s findings.
  • Discussion: Addresses the results and their implications in light of what is already known. This section may also contain any caveats about what remains to be found, drawbacks to the research, and what further research needs to be done.
  • Conclusion: Sometimes suggestions for further research appear in a separate section, usually called “Conclusion.” The conclusion is often presented together with the Discussion section.
  • References/Bibliography: A list of the published sources used in the paper. This is useful to you because if it contains a lot of flakey sources, you’ll know the paper itself is probably flakey. If it contains substantial sources from established researchers and credible institutions, you can base your assessment of the authors’ credibility partially on their sources.

Before you even begin to read the paper, first determine the value and credibility of the journal or book publisher that has issued the thing. Ideally, you would like a paper to have appeared in what is called a tier-1 journal — i.e., at the top of the profession. But that is not always possible — some excellent work appears in lesser publications. Look at the title of the journal. If it is well known or obviously the emanation of a highly ranked university or research organization, then you can feel some confidence in it. Examples: New England Journal of Medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association. The Lancet. The British Medical Journal. The Centers for Disease Control. Johns Hopkins University. Stanford University Medical Center.

And so on.

Here is a list of journal rankings in medicine. Bookmark this page and check your sources against it.

Be aware that the woods are full of fake academic journals. These are called predatory journals: phony or extremely low-ranking journals that charge academic researchers for the privilege of publishing third-rate (or less) work in their shoddy pages. They exist because young scholars must publish to obtain promotions in academia; often they must already have published even to get a job. Usually these frauds have convincing, official-sounding titles. Here is a more or less up to date list, based on the late, great Beall’s List.

A legitimate journal is peer-reviewed. This means everything it publishes is read, critiqued, and assessed by experts in the subjects the journal addresses. To be published in such a journal, an article must pass peer-review. In other words, it must have at least some semblance of quality, credibility, and accuracy.

Beall’s list used to keep tabs on predatory journals. One day it was yanked off the air. Gossip has it that the proprietor was threatened with a lawsuit by a combine of the crooked journals he listed. So, this valuable resource no longer exists in its full glory. For a hint at the ridiculous scamminess of fake journals, take a look at this highly entertaining article on their practices in hiring “editors.”

Sometimes if you look up a journal title in Wikipedia, the article will mention, in a mealy-mouthed way, if the publisher has ever been accused of predatory practices. But that is not 100%. Try to stick to the old standards,.

Okay. So once you’ve found an article in a journal you think is credible, here’s what you’re going to read, in this order:

  1. Abstract
  2. Results
  3. Discussion/Conclusion
  4. Tables/graphs (if any)

That’s pretty much it. If you feel inclined to plow through other sections, you can. But the information you really need appears in the sections above. Often the results are summarized well enough that there’s no reason to pore over the data in the tables and graphs.

Where can you go to find these publications?

A Google search will bring up some of them, if you enter the right key terms.

Google Scholar will bring up a greater percentage of true scientific papers. Google Scholar, however, tends to be out of date.

A college or university library has databases that contain subscriptions to journals, and so the contents are wider, deeper, and timely. Some major metropolitan libraries also provide access to these resources. You don’t have to be a student or employee of an academic institution to get access to its library’s databases. Most college and public university libraries will provide a library card — for a fee — to members of the public.

What about all those plain-English websites, the ones that often come up at the top of a Google search?

Well, for basic needs, they can suffice. The best of them are published by hospitals and medical centers. But…caveat emptor…

  • Sometimes they’re very much dumbed down.
  • Sometimes they support an agenda.
  • Sometimes they’re published by associations and nonprofits supported by Big Pharma or other self-interested parties.
  • Usually they present the received wisdom — they echo what your doctor will tell you, which may or may not be at the cutting edge.
  • Sometimes they’re…well…bullshit.

Always take “alternative medicine” websites with a very large grain of salt. If you’re gonna go in for alternative medicine, there’s really no point in wasting your time trying to understand hard science — you’re taking a leap of faith, and you might as well accept that for what it is. Faith, not science.

That’s OK, if it suits your temperament. My mother’s family were Christian Scientists. Two of them lived into their mid-90s and never saw a doctor in their lives. If that works for you, then it works for you. But…don’t imagine “alternative medicine” is based on scientific research. It is not.

Watch out for any site peddling the advice and opinions of “Dr. [Firstname].” Anyone who addresses you in this way, pretends to be a celebrity, or presents information in talk-show, folksy, People-Magazine style format is a showperson, not a scientist. Advice appearing at these sites is usually cursory, dumbed-down, and incomplete.

There ya go: that’s about all you need to know.

Arise, Costco Customers of the World!

Welp, we apparently can’t do much about the mess in Washington. But… we can make an impression on even the most mega of megastores. To wit: if enough customers complain, eventually management will get the message. Like, say, the management of Costco.

This will require a LOT of people to complain about an issue, and to do so regularly and vociferously.

What is the issue? Consumer-proof packaging. We Costco customers, as a group, need to complain long and loud about the layers and layers of landfill-jamming plastic and the hard plastic-and-cardboard clamshells that cannot be opened without a stick of dynamite. Not only is this stuff a nuisance, it’s a vast menace to the environment. None of this armor, with the possible exception of the sheets of advertising cardboard (which are permeated with toxic inks) is biodegradable. A million years hence, archeologists from the next species to inherit the earth will find geologic layers of this crap buried in the earth, in exactly the form in which we deposited it. And most of it is utterly unnecessary.

If Amazon can make its vendors present their products in packaging that the buyer can get into easily, Costco surely can do the same. There’s just no excuse for a person to have to use a wrench and an Exacto Knife to get into a stupid package. And today…jeez.

Yesterday I bought a pair of bottles of Costco hand lotion, the kind that comes in a bottle with a pump top. Tried to open the pump top on the first one, after having wrestled with the obnoxious environmentally nasty plastic shrink wrap that holds the two bottles together. No luck. When you try to unscrew it the way other such tops work, it does nothing but spin the entire inside assembly. The pump will not come open to work. Got a wrench to hold the inside assembly steady whilst trying to manipulate the handle. No luck.

Why? Really, what IS their excuse for selling products that are unusable because their packaging can’t be opened? Now I have to drag this stuff back to Costco, and I guess I’ll have to order something from Amazon or traipse to Walmart to find a replacement. Like I HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO DO WITH MY TIME!

Costco has no chat line, nor is it possible to find an email address. They force you to call one of a myriad 800 numbers to try to get through to a human: a vast time waster that will send you climbing around a phone tree like the monkey they apparently think you are. One customer remarked this morning that reaching them by phone entails a 47-minute wait!

However…you can reach them at their Facebook page. Here, they try to discourage people from commenting — especially from posting complaints. So what you do is scroll down past the “status” line where they invite you to post a comment (but then will not accept it) to one of Costco’s advertising/customer rah-rah posts.

Every time you have to do battle with their consumer-proof packaging, go to their Facebook page and post a complaint!

If you go there right this minute, BTW (9 a.m. Thursday, December 7 — ah! the Day of Infamy!), you will find customers posting that the Costco website — the one where you order things online — has been compromised. Says one correspondent:

I think your website might be compromised. I was going to order something today, and someone else’s credit card info, name, shipping address and membership number popped up. I can’t email you with a screenshot of Neil Gallagher’s info and your FB won’t let me share it with you. I can’t even post it directly on your page, so I hope you see it here. If you do have a membership with Neil who lives in Lovelock, NV and has a member number ending in 517, you might need to check to see if your website has been hacked.

Several other Costco members posted the same. Just a few minutes ago Costco disabled access to its customer sign-in. So: if you’ve ever ordered anything from Costco online, keep an eye on your credit card statements…now and evermore.

Postscript: A Costco clerk figured out, with some difficulty, how to get the darned lotion pump gadgets open and managed to get BOTH of them working. Twasn’t easy, but she did it.

Net Neutrality: Time to Act…NOW!

Net neutrality is a difficult issue to explain…just the jargon used to name it sounds geeky and technical.

It goes like this:

Right now you can access and enjoy about any content you like without paying your Internet provider for anything more than a wireless connection. This is because providers are required to treat all Internet data equally. They’re not allowed to block, slow down, or charge money for specific websites or online content, and they can’t discriminate between or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. This is the current law.

We could define it as “freedom of speech in the digital age.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is being pressured to make that stop. ISPs and other interested parties want to make MORE money on you and on your viewing habits. What will happen when network neutrality goes away is that, as with the formerly free television shows you now have to pay to view, you will have to pay to visit your favorite sites, such as Facebook. Website owners will have to pay to keep their sites from being throttled (slowed down).

Small websites, such as Funny about Money, will go away. So will many entrepreneurial projects that are founded and operated through the Internet. Competition will diminish. The free flow of information will stop. Ignorance will spread — and as you know, we already have more than enough of that. And you will have less choice — possibly no choice — in the kind of entertainment you access on the Web. Sites will load slowly or not at all, and your favorite streaming entertainment will stutter and drag and make life generally annoying, You will stop watching these sites, because you will realize you have better things to do with your time than frustrate yourself.

Personally, I no longer watch television for one simple reason: I cannot afford to pay for cable television. Nor will I: even if I won the lottery, I would not pay to have a torrent of televised drivel poured into my home so that I can watch the rare moments of quality television. The Internet also delivers a torrent of drivel. I cannot and will not pay for all of that, even though I do value the few offerings that I patronize.

Funny about Money earns, at most, around $300 in a month; over a year, its monthly income barely covers hosting and back-end costs. If I have to pay Cox Communications extra to keep the site functional, then I will have no choice but to close Funny down.

This is true for most small website operators and for virtually all start-ups. Having to pay a gouge to publish free content will stifle all those boutique-y sites and exchanges you like to cruise, and it will force you to pay for “premium” content such as the streaming music, movies and videos on YouTube and for social media such as Facebook.

Net neutrality is what makes the Internet a free marketplace of ideas and information. 

The free exchange of ideas and information is what makes America a free country. It is key to our way of life.

If this matters to you, it’s time to act. On December 14, the FCC will vote on Net Neutrality. Right now, TODAY, do these things:

Comment to the FCC directly at

Go here to send a message to Congress and to learn where to demonstrate on December 7.

Call or email your elected representatives NOW to urge them to preserve Net Neutrality.

This is a very, very big effing deal, folks. Don’t let the bastards take any more of your freedoms away.