The end results of Black Friday 2016

I normally skip the Christmas seasons. Sometimes, I wait to see if something I want will go on sale. Last year, I waited to buy a Fitbit and got my Fitbit Charge HR for 30 dollars off. This year, when I decided to upgrade to a Charge 2, I didn’t wait for the Christmas sales. I would have saved twenty dollars but I am quite in love with this device and the twenty dollars does not upset me.

I have been waiting for sales on electronics and computer devices. I had been using my husbands Nexus 10. A several year old tablet. The battery died on it over the summer and I’ve been looking for a replacement.

I have a laptop. An Alienware MX14 that works fine. It is from 2011 but still a strong, robust machine. It has started to experience random freezes of late. It is also heavy. Six and a half pounds heavy plus battery and mouse. It becomes exhausting to drag around and after five, almost six years of doing so, I want something lighter.

The next problem was that I want to write on my tablets. I’ve recently become invested in some writing software. I tried yWriter because it is free and my productivity skyrocketed. I’m moving to Scrivener because it is a bit more feature heavy. But, nether is cloud based and the structure of it is better for me then gdocs.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last six weeks figuring out ways to move documents between gdocs and the various programs. Conversions take 2-3 steps to get the document back to a text format. Its frustrating and irritating.

I also want to draw. I’ve been working kind of on a cartoon. My computer drawing skills are not to terribly bad. I tried a Samsung Tab A for a bit with pen. I liked it a but the OS won’t be supported for much longer and the tablet is already two years old.

That started my hunt for a tablet with a pen. From there, I expanded to Chromebooks. Samsung is coming out with a Chromebook with a pen. It sounded perfect until I sat and used Chrome the OS. That was when I learned that I am a Windows junky.

Back to the drawing board I stormed and that is how the Microsoft Surface series bubbled up. They had kept appearing on the artist sites as a great drawing experience on the high end of budget. At the time, my focus was towards replacing my tablet and not my laptop. But, I realized I could do both with a Surface. It is a laptop in tablet form and Windows 10 supports a mobile format. I was also here for the horror show that was Windows 8 on a PC when Microsoft decided that everyone wanted to use a tablet interface forever. Still, intrigued I started to dig deeper and found my solution.

A Surface replaces my laptop and tablet, lets me draw, can use my windows based writing programs, and weighs a pound and a half. A lot of research later and I was waiting for the Black Friday sales.

I settled on their main special. The middle of the road version which will suit me just fine. It is not the beastly gaming machine that my Alienware is, but I rarely play anything more stressful then Prison Architect or Civilization on a small screen.

This all led to me sitting at my computer on Wednesday night, waiting for midnight to tick around and order my new machine. I’ve never ordered from Microsoft’s online store. It went well except that the bundle they created for their Black Friday deal did not allow me to add Microsoft Complete which is an accident protection plan.

Surfaces are tablets with computer innards. They are a bit more fragile then a tablet and tablets and phones are known well enough to shatter already. Investing a pretty chunk of change into a device I will drag everywhere, the replacement insurance seemed like a good idea. Only, I could not buy it. If you do not buy their insurance package when you order from their site, you have to go to a Microsoft store with the device and order it once they have made sure that the item is not currently damaged.

That policy did not bother me if I had chosen to not purchase the insurance. But, I did. And I could not due to their website not being where it needed to be for Black Friday. They corrected it after I ordered but I did not feel that I should have to take the hit for this. The nearest Microsoft physical store is about half an hour away, tucked against the city. This is the shopping season and that particular mall is never slow.

You have 45 days to add it, but it is accent protection. Protection that I wanted from day one. I decided to call them.

Calling on Thanksgiving was not the smartest thing to do in retrospect. I hit an outside customer service line but I decided to work with it. The first one read me the script and said I could not add it. I responded that I was unhappy with that response considering the reason I had not added it upon purchase was an error from their website. I asked to be escalated, and I was. That lady said that they’d add it. She put me on hold and came back about five minutes later to say that she was incorrect and they could not add it and that I’d have to go to the store. I expressed my displeasure that they could not add the insurance policy to a package that had not yet shipped. However, I did not yell because it was not their fault.

Later that day I received a, “How did we do!” survey and I ripped it apart. I made sure to comment on the politeness of the two people I had spoken with. Still, I was not happy with the experience and I made it known.

Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from their global escalation services the following day offering to let me add the insurance before the package shipped. To my surprise, they called me on Saturday and we had the matter settled in under five minutes.

I was pleased and it points to the power of polite complaint. But for now, the doorbell just rang and UPS delivered my new toy. Time to set it up.

Twelve months of Intuition

I realized it was Inty’s birthday while I was at work. I sighed a bit. There went the whole idea to take pictures on the exact day. I need sunlight to capture him and sunlight was not something I was going to see for a while longer.

But, finally after having slept the amount of a normal person, I woke to a bright and sunny day. Sixty-one degrees (16) felt warm today. My mother gave Inty a bath the previous day so he was glossy.

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He looks majestic. I’m not happy with his shoulders in this picture. However, notice he is looking up. That is because he was barking at the decks on each side of us. The community’s landscaping company is mowing and trimming bushes. He blames all of it on the Rottweiler that used to live next door. He has not accepted that he is no longer there and it has been six months since he saw him.

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He looks up and barks and barks and barks. He is such a mouthy thing.

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He looks quite the monster does not he? But he is not in fact scared nor are his ears back. I just caught him mid bark.

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Quite the change over time. Who knew he’d grow up to be such a bodacious jerk? Right now we are still working on him learning how to slow down. It isn’t going well. But he is young still. Twelve months makes him a young adult but it does not make him grown.

We will get there. Probably with both of us still sane.

Catching up with it

Time.

Time is such a  fascinating thing. A concept that one must understand. One that is defined in a simple way. We can’t get it back. It is always before us. And it continues until some point that is baffling to understand while gnawing on a piece of pizza.

Time is something I have not had enough of. Oh, in some ways I do. My day is scheduled into chunks of time. Those chunks have importance. Work is first. Food is second. Sleep is third.

I can’t sleep when I am hungry so it has to have less importance then food. I can’t eat or sleep if I don’t work. And work? It does not care if I don’t have things like food or sleep. And sleep is elusive. I’m getting about five hours a night which keeps me running but it does not leave much for anything else. In fact, I find myself just sitting and struggling to focus on anything much less be creative and interesting.

I have run out of time because things do not go as they do. We are down a person at work and that makes the job of four people now the job of two. Before, it was the job of four on the backs of three. It gave each of us an uneven load to carry where one would get punched in the face by events and the other two would wait for their turn. In a proper setting, we’d have been given another person to fill that gap. Instead, we beg and plead and suffer because life goes on. Leave goes on. Training still has to happen and we are left covering our own gaps which often gives one person the work of four.

But, it will not be forever, even if it is frustrating now.

Garden Takedown

Since May, my year has not been quite as I planned. I have experienced three two week periods between May and October where I worked for two weeks straight. Being an organized person with an addiction to planning, these stretches of work render me behind in my day to day life. Twelve hour shifts just don’t leave a lot of time to do everything else in a day.

With this weekend being my first and only time off this month, I needed to get the garden down. I stopped watering it a week ago.

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I feel a bit bad. They are determend but it has been to cold for them to do more then make flowers.

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Many bags later we were done.

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What is left likes the cool weather. Carrots, basil, sage, oregano, beets, and lettuce.

11 months and 81 pounds

Yesterday, with the truck fixed, I was able to take Intuition to the vet for a weigh in. He turned eleven months four days ago and getting a snapshot of his weight, now was highly useful to see that is is where he needs to be when it comes to his weight.

As for our Sequoia, it was a twenty dollar fix at a small, person owned garage that we found earlier this year. This is a welcome change from the Toyota dealership that requires a hundred dollar diagnostic fee to look at the problem. The problem was the aluminum heat reflector had corroded at the connection points and needed a larger washer. It made a hideous squeak as the loose reflector rubbed against the exhaust.

My car is a two seater and Inty still gets car sick. He needs to lay down to not vomit everywhere. But the vehicle woes are all corrected and Intuition was weighed in and sparklingly healthy. He still starts drooling the moment we get into the car, but he recovered faster. He even got into the car for me without prompting. Ahh, the wonders of maturation.

Not that he is grown. There are beautiful moments when I see what is in store for me over the next decade. They are almost instantly eradicated by goofy, hyper activity and general mischievous wickedness.

Good pictures are a challenge. He is ether pointing away from me or he notices that I want to pay him attention and he is in my face.

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Why should I look at the camera?

The biggest problem is that he is too fun. He loves to eat vegetables and fruit. He is curious about everything you do. He will spend the entire time I am cooking in the kitchen with his nose over the edge of the counter watching and hoping for a tidbit. While he is in the way, he is mostly good and I wind up giving him said tidbits because he is good. That encourages him to hang out with me and we create a little positive reinforcement cycle.

One day… one day… he will be able to interact with people and other dogs in a sane and productive way that will allow me to continue his training. At the vet he climbed the tech that wanted to cuddle him and covered her in slobber as he showed exactly how tall he is.

 

Fall Cleaning

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Intuition kept me company as I started in on the fall cleaning. He has learned to jump onto the bed but not off of it. We keep non-slip bath mats by the bottom half of the bed for the dogs to use as landing and launch pads. It is amusing because our cleaners move them to a more normal position by where your feet would go. We always move them back because they are for the dogs. Our bed is high and the floors are hard and smooth. After a few to many slips and falls we installed the mats for safety.

I decided today that I wanted to clean my room. I need to arrange my yarn into something a bit more coherent. My room easily becomes a mess. I hate folding and laundry so it all piles up. This is our third bedroom and it functions as a craft room, bedding storage room, and my closet. It is not a large room and quickly becomes overwhelmed if I don’t keep up with it.

Throwing things away has been on my mind. My mother and I are about to start a major house cleaning project for her house. It is full of clutter and stuff she was to depressed to deal with. Now that we need to sell it, everything must go.

Our plans to move in 2 or so years makes me eye things such as my own clutter.  This helped to spur me upstairs with several trash bags and a mission to throw it out, even if it is in good condition. We have few charities around here that take old and worn things. I’m tired of trying to find things a home. Today, it was to the trash.

I had some things that didn’t fit, things I found uncomfortable, and clothing that has been in the closet untouched for five years. I threw it away, I cleaned the build up of clutter, boxes, packing material, and such. Over the course of the morning I hauled five bags of trash out to the curb for the trash to pick up that afternoon.

I was at my desk when the trash came. I watched as they took away my bags and then I noticed one of the guys open a bag. He pulled out a pair of shoes I had thrown away, box and all. They were pretty shoes, but they didn’t fit my wide feet as I wanted. I had tried to force it and gave up wondering why I was hurting my feet. He took these shoes and then opened the other shoe boxes and unloaded them. He also grabbed two dresses and took it all up to the front of the truck. Then they continued on.

To the web I went and a few searches later I discovered that this is normal. Now, I am familiar with people going through stuff at the curb as well as free items being left. I was just not prepared for them to open the trash bags. Knowing it happens and seeing it happen to my (ex)stuff  left me feeling a big strange, but I hope that they can be more productive with them then I have been.

 

Garden in September

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Do you see my mother picking tomatoes? She is 5’5 for an idea of the size of my plants.

Yesterday, I decided to take down some of the tomato plants that we have not been impressed with. Those were the green tomatoes and what turned out to be my second Black Krim plant that was really a cherry tomato type.

The green tomatoes have not been a sucess. My mother struggles to remember that they are green and pick them. Upon eating they are mild and not all that interesting compared to the bolder, sweeter flavors in the rest of the garden. With the outside being the wilderness that it is, removing them made it a bit less of a struggle.

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I say a bit less. That is the path through the rows. I learned a lot from this set up this year. It actually works but I need fewer tomatoes. Next year I will keep the tomatoes to the outside and deal with using the ladder later in the season. Everything else will be inside and I will have fewer tomato plants.

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This cucumbers setup worked out fairly well. However, one plant decided to reach out tot the tomatoes. It became vine vs vine and now we have hidden cucumbers.

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Now that we are halfway through September, I expect we will have some crop left. The cherry types are doing quite well. The larger tomatoes are slowing down. The days are cooler. I expect that I will start doing my take down in October. It will be to cool for ripening at that point. Until then…

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I still can’t stop my mother from filling my counter with ripening fruit, nuts, and bread. Living with other people can be quite frustrating stuff. This is why we’re looking to move in the next two years or so. Plus, bigger in ground garden!

 

Month ten

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Today is month Ten. It is quite a difference for not quite a year. On the left, he is six weeks old and about eight pounds. On the right, ten months old and about eighty.

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It is easy to see him as the adult that he will be. Sometimes. Most of the time. When I am not chasing after him or we are not discussion boundaries. He learned that he can flip up my left arm when I am at my desk. He has started to develop a deep love of being scratched and rubbed.  He still struggles to settle. I’ve spent more money on edible chews for him then any other dog I’ve had. He can’t be left with soft toys. He eats them. Shredding is fine. Eating is not.  I don’t want him laid out at the ER having toys pulled out of his guts while I sob.

The girls still dislike him.

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I can’t even blame them because he is so damn annoying to them. With his lack of off and slow down he just rampages, begging them to play. Autumn is six. Sage is about to turn 12. They do not want to play. He always wants to play. It is quite the impasse.

 

Ten Months a Puppy

It seems fashionable these days to record everything. I am quite bad it. Similar to selfies, recording myself has little appeal. I always look weird, pale, and bloated on camera. My voice sounds odd. I look like a frog. It is quite unappealing. Still. Some things translate better through video media and randomly, I found myself deciding to record an instant of Inty being good.

Drop. It is a simple command but complex in its reach. I want him to release what is in his mouth. This means to my hand or onto the floor. We have the hand part down but getting him to just spit out what is in his mouth is slower going.

Teaching a dog to let go of what is in their mouth is a major tool. From them picking up something dangerous to using it with a dog that has possessive tendencies it is a powerful tool that should be taught with trust.

I start with trading. I have a treat. He can’t fit the treat and the toy at the same time. As the toy is released, I use drop, and let him have the treat. Its a slow process. He wants to retain his toy. The lure of the treat makes it worth it. I also give the toy back OR if it is something that needs to be taken from him, I trade up for another toy or a chew treat like a bully stick. The goal is for him to never lose value in releasing what is in his mouth.

Eventually, we don’t have to trade anymore. At the start, it is fairly important. Dogs function on a, “What is in it for me?” mentality. You have to show them what that is. Depending on training styles it can be a treat, attention, a privilege. Negative reinforcement functions on this same level. What is in it for them is a lack of discomfort.

Training has a secondary function of improving a dogs confidence in their life and world. If I only take from him, he will lose confidence. He will believe he loses things and this can lead to possessive behavior. The path of possessive behavior is the path that leads to things like food aggression. Trading helps a dog not ‘lose’ in the transaction and this can help a dog with possessive tendencies or behavior develop confidence that their interaction with you will not cause them to lose anything.

Inty however, has a bold and confident personality without a bit of possessiveness. Drop has been easier to teach then lay down. Lay down he knows. He has known it since his second week home. He just hates it because laying down is being still and he is still not comfortable with being still.

I could force more on him, but he is young yet. In five days he will hit his 10th month. For a large dog, that is still a baby.

 

Read the fine print

I paid off my car this morning. Only a month early, but I am pleased that I had the extra money available to do it.

My auto loan was with Capital One Auto Finance. I have used them for my last two vehicles because they would approve you for the loan and send you a check. You then walk into the dealer with that check and after the bartering and haggling, at that moment when they are going to whip out their paperwork and get more money out of you, you instead whip out your chip and slide it over.

How much irritation that caused. There are kick backs when you finance from the dealer that is part of why they sell a car for the price they sell it. Most people finance through them. While I’d love to be a cash sale, taking control of my own loan was the next best thing.

While pondering the soon to be end of my vehicle loan and the next several years that I plan to live without a car payment, I did some reading on my auto loan bank. I read financial news. I started in the mid two thousands when my credit score was good and life was looking up. Then the financial crisis happened, all my rates got jacked up, my credit score plummeted and I was struggling. I learned what I had done wrong and what the bank had decided to do and how I was caught up in it. I followed the law changes that beat the banks back and saw my own financial pressures improve over time.

I learned about banks. I moved accounts, got some better rates, and while I am no financial guru I learned a bit about the nuts and bolts. Well, in my reading I decided to read about my auto loan company. It was interesting reading the negative reviews from people who had their vehicles repossessed for various reasons. One caught my attention. Someone had changed their auto pay and struggled with double debits that spiraled out of control. They learned that paying early did not ensure that their bill had been moved forward and when they complained they were told they needed to manage their automatic deductions better.That stuck with me. My loan has been on auto pay as it decreased the interest rate another half point. With no plan to not pay for the car, it was a reasonable deal for me.

Today, when I paid off my car, I read the big yellow warning that sat above the ‘accept button’. That warning proved to be very interesting. It said that although I had paid off the loan this would not automatically cancel any reoccurring payment. I would have to cancel that or it would still be taken out and I would wind up with a credit.

The first responses are things like, how stupid is that? Very, in my opinion. The systems I suspect are separate somehow. The onus is placed on the borrower to make sure the automatic payments are cancelled if the loan is paid off early. At least they told me, I guess.

I figured how to cancel the payment. Now, in two weeks, I should receive my car title instead of a payment withdrawn notification. That will be pleasant.