Monday, December 07, 2009

Annoyed with Toshiba

On Thanksgiving morning I went to Toshiba's website to order some new RAM for Shawn's laptop. Her computer, a light weight Portege model, came with a mere 512MB of RAM and Windows XP. She wanted to upgrade to Windows 7, but that required a memory upgrade. Just as well as her PC was getting a tad sluggish.

The Toshiba website worked pretty well. I looked up her model number and up came the available accessories. I checked the memory link and was told that a 2GB card was available. Great! I made the purchase and we got it in the mail last Thursday.

Shawn backed up her laptop at work on Friday. Sunday morning, I set to replacing the old memory with the new. It was an easy operation. Rather than lifting the keyboard out I just had to unscrew a hatch on the bottom, snap the old one out, and insert the new one. The operation took less than 2 minutes. When I went to boot, an alarm sounded and the laptop would not run.

To make a long story short, her PC isn't equipped to handle anything more than a 1 GB card. So, why was Toshiba even offering a 2GB card associated with her model number? Sure, I could have looked it up in the specs before I made the order, but I figured this was Toshiba's website and they wouldn't steer me wrong, right? Wrong.

But that's only the beginning of my annoyance. It continued when I made the call to their customer service this morning. Yes, they provided me with a return authorization number and the address and so forth. Yes, the person was kind enough on the phone. However, when I asked if Toshiba, upon receipt of the wrong product they sold me, could then just ship me the correct product and then credit my account the difference I was told that they were not set up to operate this way. In other words, Toshiba's computer software couldn't handle that. I would have to wait for the account to be credited and then go online and re-order the correct product or I could have a second charge applied to my account and get the correct product ordered right away and then they would credit the account when the wrong product is returned. That's where I went off the rails. That's crappy customer service. In fact, it's not customer service. After their website steering me wrong that's a poor way of handling this.

Now that I have the correct information, I think that I'll re-order the part from someone else. Even if I was willing to order the RAM to have it rushed out and just wait for the credit, I wouldn't do that from Toshiba. They aren't willing to go the extra step and I'm not willing to give them my money.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cheese balls

Cheese balls
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Rest of the pictures from the cheese making party here:

Monday, September 07, 2009

Canning Season 2009

Canning Season 2009
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
We had forgotten this basil vinegar. It's made using Purple Ruffle Basil, hence it's red color.

Canning in Progress

Canning in Progress
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Lots of work done; lots more to do.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Customer relations

Had a young guy as a customer today wearing an Oregon State University t-shirt. I said to him, "I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that the Oregon Country Fair is in the next week or two?"

He replied, "Really? Are they going to put it in this parking lot?"

I said, "The Oregon Country Fair?"

He said, "I know that they have a fair in this lot once in a while."

"That they do! But I think the Oregon Country Fair is probably held in Oregon."

He looked at me, paused, considered the wisdom of my reasoning, then stared into the air above me scratching his chin. "Oh, yea, I can see that."

"You borrowed that shirt, didn't you?"

"Yea, how did you know?"

"Lucky guess. Have a good night!"

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Open Source

Hard economic times force changes in behavior, even in Washington State's government. It was announced last week that the Liquor Control Board's help desk was switching from a costly ticket tracking system to an open source solution. In house testing had been performed, the training needed was minimal, and the cost was right, so we're making the switch. Other open source solutions may be implemented if they offer a reasonable cost savings, according to our IT folks.

Now, this may seem to be A) sensible and B) no big deal, but consider that Washington is the home of Microsoft, Adobe, Nintendo, and many other software vendors...and the state is looking into open source solutions. If they find one that they like, then they may look to others and once they switch, then what's the rationale for going back to a paid product for those items?

It's possible that the economic downturn is churning up changes not glaringly apparent, but that may have long term consequences not currently recognized.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


My overlords at work have determined that an inexpensive way to improve the customer service experience is to implement a dress code policy. "Inexpensive" is naturally defined as "it costs the state nothing" to implement even though it takes money from the pockets of employees.

Now, I'm not terribly against their minor dress code policy. It's pretty loose. I do disagree with the idea that we shouldn't be allowed to wear jeans (hey, we're a liquor store/warehouse - we do a LOT of stock work daily and it requires heavy lifting as well as getting on our hands and knees), especially on load days. But, be that as it may I'm not even passionate about that requirement.

What I am passionate about is poverty and the lack of understanding of the situation. Most people don't see poverty. They drive right past it and don't notice it. They think it's just for criminals, drug thugs, and prostitutes. They may have a mental picture of a "slum", but I can tell you that A) that picture is better than many, if not most, such buildings and B)they don't even recognize the poverty that may be around them that doesn't fit that stereotype.

I've seen poverty. From the hills of Kentucky to the farmlands of Indiana to the inner city of Detroit, Pontiac, Louisville, LA and beyond. To East St. Louis to San Francisco, NYC, and even Seattle (though they like to deny it like most). Hell, just outside of where I live now there is an American shanty town filled with farm workers, many, though not all, Hispanics living on a river's bank that floods at least once a year.

So, yesterday, I find myself on a phone conference with my manager and other managers at my level. The dress code topic comes up. There's some juvenile griping about it for a bit - the banter being very old and boring to me..."I've had this conversation since high school", I thought. Then someone speaks up and says that she has one employee who says that she "cannot afford a whole new wardrobe." Her comment was met with a combination of giggles, exasperation, disbelief, and condemnation. "She doesn't need a 'whole new wardrobe'" was one typical comment. "Tell her to go buy a pair of pants for $10. I drove to an outlet mall [way outside of town] and found a pair for just that price. She could go back each paycheck until she had 3 pairs to switch through." This from an organization that spent thousands of dollars on vests last year that make us look like formal ice cream parlor attendants and now has no money to buy any new ones for new employees or to replace the ones that have been torn on the job. The irony, but I digress.

Employees for our organization get paid better than minimum wage. They don't do badly on the face of it. But most clerks at our stores are not full time either. Hell, I struggle to get my clerks between 10 and 18 hours per week. My assistant manager isn't even full time. So, yea, they may be paid, say $12.50 per hour, but when you're only working 10 hours per week, have 2 young children at home, no health benefits, and the state takes a percentage away each week for mandatory "retirement", you're not exactly swimming in dough. Add to this that you may not own a car and therefore use bus fare or, if you do, you're driving a junker with high fuel costs and maintenance.

So, how is this person supposed to afford 3 pairs of pants and 3 to 4 new shirts? Is he supposed to choose between food for the children and the clothes? Is he supposed to take a taxi to this outlet mall? Is he supposed to quit and then cost the state more money to support his family? Is he supposed to beg at the food bank and borrow from his co-workers? WTF?!!?

This shit makes me angry. It's idiotic. We're a fucking liquor store for goodness sakes; not some software vendor and not some group pushing digital TVs onto the world. Professionalism comes from customer service. Sure, clothes can help. But no clothes in the world will help poor service skills. There needs to be a balance. In the meantime, I'm taking care of my staff and trying to help them as best as possible.

Just, please, people open your eyes to poverty. It might even live next door to you.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Tell me lies

Tell me sweet little lies.

This week at work I've heard 2 people tell me the following: "I hear Obama wants to tax our health care benefits, now." I'm not sure where this tidbit of misinformation came from, but I imagine it was Rush or Fox or some equally deceitful media.

Fact: Obama never proposed any such method to fund his health care initiative. Indeed, he has a totally different mechanism. The proposal was made by Senator Max Baucus this week to Obama and the President said that he's open to discussing that option, but preferred to stick to his original plan. Indeed, Mr. Baucus' proposal is idiotic beyond contemplation as it would surely deep six any health care changes and it's regressive.

Another fact: This proposal would only tax health care premiums; not actual costs. So, for instance, the elderly man in my store yesterday whose wife had a rare condition that cost $100,000+ to treat would not pay taxes on the $100,000, but rather on whatever premium he and his wife paid to their insurer. The difference is significant.

I doubt this proposal will make it into any version of the final bill. Obama would be wise to let the Senator know that this is unacceptable. His folks would also be wise to get out in public ahead of this lie and let the people know that it's unacceptable. I am not a fan of Obama's health care plan in that I don't think it goes far enough. I'd prefer a single payer system as it's the only way that I can see to reduce costs, expand coverage, and provide modest comfort to the aging boomer population. I think the patchwork being considered is ridiculous and is doomed to failure. However, I don't need lies to debate it either.

RIP, Koko Taylor

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Economy fail

I've noticed the economic problems in the store. Sales are off slightly and that's to be expected. People are still buying, but they are scaling down in quantity and quality. We're selling a lot more "airplane bottles" than we used to and low end booze is moving faster than we had seen in the past.

Add to that is the number of people who have come in looking for jobs. In the past month I've spoken to 3 people about it. Two of them had already put in applications on our website and were just doing follow up work (smart). In the prior 6 months I probably haven't spoken to that many people about needing work.

Yesterday, two friends of mine were laid off. One lives in Minnesota; the other lives in South Carolina. I feel bad for both of them. They are both good people and good workers. Later in the afternoon I was walking to my mailbox. My neighbor was working in his yard and I stopped to compliment his efforts. He got laid off on Friday afternoon. I spent extra time listening and chatting with him and it's clear that he's a little shell-shocked at the moment. I loaned him a ladder so he can work on some projects around his house.

Word in the newspaper is that some economists and some members of the Obama administration think that we're seeing some light in the economic problems. I would like to think they are right, but I have my severe doubts. There's still too little transparency and not enough regulations to protect the average person. What may look good right now is an optimistic Wall Street trying to stave off further regulation and, in their minds, further punishment. From the perspective of someone out in the rest of the country that light is non-existent. Hoping for it won't make it happen.

Monday, April 20, 2009

berry patch

berry patch
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
I bought fence posts at Dell's and some wire. Our berry bushes have gotten so large that we need to pull them off of the ground. To the left are our 2 red raspberry bushes. Towards the right is a black raspberry, a tayberry, and 2 quince bushes.

Scott's tulips

Scott's tulips
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
These are the tulips that Scott gifted Shawn last year coming up in bloom. Really lovely and a nice reminder of him.

garden bed 1

garden bed 1
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Plants that did survive the winter: bee balm, strawberries, and thyme.


Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Our rosemary bushes that formed a hedge in front of our front porch all died this winter. In fact, that's a common tale around Seattle this year. Even old, well-established plants died. We're replacing them with these azaleas which we hope will be more hardy. Two of them will bloom in purple and one in white.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Our cherry tree is just getting to the end of it's blooming season. I snapped this photo before it bloomed out.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I love to dance the tango with Love.
This is not a metaphor.
I refer to Love as a being, an entity that fills our universe.
A powerful force, this Love.
It moves me across the dance floor exhibiting fierceness and sensuality.
It shares a rose to my teeth and I bite.
Love taps it's feet hard against the floor
Love's arms move in swift, exacting manners.
Love's hips, so precise in their sway.
Love moves me and I follow it's calculated steps.
It's a never-ending dance.
Ooooooo, yeaaaaa...

Let me break it down for you:
I love to dance.
Tango is the dance of love.
Tango is a demonstration of fierce passion, sensuality, and the beautiful rhythms of two souls in synch with each other's movements.
Tango is a metaphor for Love.
The whole thing is self-referential.
Love itself is so BIG.
It surrounds me. It surrounds everything.
I can only hope to glimpse pieces of it by bringing moments of it into my life.
Through dance. Through Tango. Through love and fierce sensuality.
Flow with it, baby.
You've got to flow with it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Song fragment

If I were to call your name
Would you turn and face me again
If I were to follow at a rapid pace
Would I get to see your face

All I want is one more look at you
I know it's selfish, but what can I do?
I want to see the pain and tears on your face
Then, I'll know it's over...

*was driving into work and the words entered my mind from the ether

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
We went on a short holiday to Ocean Park on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington. We found a room for $54/night with kitchenette and ocean view. This is the view from our balcony on our last morning there. We had the best weather in the state with 50 degrees and sunny, calm skies.

The rest of the set is here.

Note our idea of roughing it with the dinner photos.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


I've had the homemade stuff. Pretty decent, if not an exact copy. I think the appeal is more the high alcohol content which should be cut with water. I also think that the real reason that people like Van Gogh had problems with absinthe is because he was a drunk who didn't cut the alcohol with water. Absinthe is typically 120+ proof. Not 151 firewater, but potent in any case.

I have not tried any of the newly permissible products (the U.S. government recently ruled that they were never illegal). We carry them in the store, of course. I carry Lucid and the original Pernod. Licorice is not my favorite flavor so I tend to avoid alcohols flavored that way.

Absinthe is still riding the wave of the curiosity seekers. We get customers in who are intrigued by it simply from it's mysterious history. They are seeking a different high. Of course, there isn't anything psychoactive in the potion other than the alcohol, but that doesn't deter the interest. As such, absinthe commands some hefty prices in the marketplace. Lucid runs $55 and Pernod runs $64 and there are no mini bottles to be had.

Eventually I expect the allure to wear off. At that time prices will fall and minis will be offered. Consider current buyers to be early adopters. As in television sets, they are paying the big bucks to get the newest and best while those with patience will reap the rewards of their efforts down the line with lower prices and better quality. I can certainly wait.

The NY Times had an article today on the topic. It had this funny passage:
If absinthe were a band, it would be Interpol, third-hand piffle masquerading as transgressive pop culture. If absinthe were sneakers, it would be a pair of laceless Chuck Taylors designed by John Varvatos for Converse. If it were facial hair, it would be the soul patch. If absinthe were a finish on kitchen and bath fixtures, it would be brushed nickel.

The absinthe available over the counter nowadays is neither dangerous — in fact, it’s debatable whether it ever was — nor illegal (and whether it ever was is also unclear, but that, apparently, is a really long story).

In 2007, 95 years of prohibition ended, but instead of giving us Rimbaud and Baudrillard, modern-day absinthe has given newspaper editors the opportunity to assign articles on the drink’s mysterious, romantic history — drawn, perhaps to the opportunity it presented headline and caption writers for J.V.-level wordplay (“Absinthe of Malice,” “The Greening of America,” “Going Verte-ical”).