Saturday, November 26, 2016

End of the Everlasting Living Room Project.

For just a few minutes, I'm going to be a bit insufferable as I brag on myself.  Two and a half years ago, I started a project - correction, I was FORCED to begin a project - my living room. For those new readers who have not read my trails and tribulations, back in May of 2014 we had major infestation of termites come marching across our living room rug.  Much wailing and gnashing of teeth and not a few tears. We ended up cutting out a 12 x 12 section of our house down to the foundations, spraying termite killer the entire time. We couldn't afford to hire professionals to do either part of the job, so it was my wife and I for the entire time.

The real problem came in that I'm not retired, so the whole amount of time I could devote to the project on a weekly basis was one to one and a half days - and those days usually were less than 6 hours due to my own stamina - or lack thereof. Couple that with my total lack of skills in such things as laying a floor, tiles and drywall and you have quite a learning curve. Separate projects included creating a affordable chimney cap and building a mantle from existing parts saved from the demolition.  

What you see above is the near completed living room. To keep the house dust free (and to keep the cats out of the project) we erected a temporary wall between the living area and the 'Everlasting Living Room Project.'  The weekend before Thanksgiving, the wall came down.  It was a momentous occasion and I'm very disappointed in the city for not having marching bands, ribbon cutting, and long-winded speeches for the unveiling.  

My readers also need thanks, for putting up with my constant crying, wailing and self promotion in releation to the Everlasting Living Room Project - which I guess now needs to be renamed the Not-So-Everlasting Living Room Project.  

Anyone wanting pictures can message me direct. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Shock and Aw in the Election of 2016

The US Election of 2016 is over and I don't know whether to be sad or elated.  Sad that such a man was elected and scared for the future of both the US and the world. Elated to be glad that the Election Ads are now over (for 4 years anyway.) 

At the heart of the debate over what the election results mean is the feeling that we, as a country have taken a large step (or maybe a huge leap) backward.  Where PC - politically correct - were the words of the day, we now have a man  who says what he wants.  People are afraid this means violence is just around the corner.  In fact, we've already seen demonstrations and calls for both impeachment (he's not even sworn in yet!) and succession from the Union by more than just a couple of states.  

It is really too soon to tell.  But for the life of me, I can't see things spiraling down to such a degree and to where things become too ugly to go on.  Perhaps I was raised differently.  We were taught to smile at adversity, tolerate differences and support our elected officials.  My mother grew up in the age of FDR. To her, he was more King than President.  The only president to be re-elected twice (this means three full terms, or 12 years.) In my life I've seen 11 different presidents, now 12, and there will be more.  Perhaps that's what we need to keep in mind here, that the man elected today may not really be in office 5 years from now.  I take solace in that, I really do.  

There is also something else.  At its heart, America isn't that type.  We're not all misogynistic, intolerant, haters.  We really do want everyone to be happy, live a good life, be prosperous.  We are a melting pot and there is little one man can do to upset that pot.  

As you know, I ride the bus.  Riders come and riders go.  A couple of weeks ago, I took note of a woman getting off the bus right behind me.  She had a toddler in tow and a baby carriage with another riding in it. she had her purse, a diaper bag and her lunch on one arm and was working the carriage out onto the sidewalk, about a foot drop.  I'm carrying my briefcase and a bag with my lunch and a few things.  Even without much thought I reached back and with a 'Here let me help you with that..." I  took the carriage front in my hand and lifted it down.  She smiled, I smiled and we went on with our day. 

As it turns out, she and her two little ones got on the bus at the same bus stop I did early in the morning.  Each  time I saw the little group, I smiled, she smiled and her oldest gave me a wave.  We were merely riders on the same bus. A couple of times when she had the buggy folded, I'd help her get it off the bus. I knew she needed help and I was willing to give a hand where I had it.

Then, without warning, one morning she came up to me in the pre-dawn light, to say that she was not going to be riding the bus anymore, at least not from here.  She was moving and wanted to say goodbye on her last day.  I wished her well, asked a few questions about her move and future and we parted ways.  The little ones gave me a smile, too.We didn't even exchange names.

Why do I  bring this up? Not to toot my own horn, but to mention how this interaction was so dissimilar to what our new president would represent. Me, an older man, riding the bus and taking just a moment out of my day to help a young woman with her two little ones whom she had to take with her every morning to get to day care and then to work.  Why so dissimilar?  As I said, I'm older, employed in a white collar job and she younger working a more menial job.  Oh and if it matters to the president, I'm white and she's black.  

Tolerance is really what's missing in our new president; but I feel that the country can continue as we were without becoming what we fear he is or wants. We can continue to grow and be tolerant of each-other's differences in spite of what we see in our leaders. 

This is not to say that hate and intolerance don't exist, I'm sure they do. It's up to each and everyone  of us to keep this next four years as we have striven to be: tolerant. Color, sexual orientation, religion.  It's all such an arbitrary distinguishing factor; but regardless of these factors, we all deserve respect. We all deserve happiness. We're all humans. We should continue to act like it.  I know I will.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The CMA Awards 2016

The CMA Awards were this last week (I swear it's like every year!) Wednesday night as a matter of fact which means only one thing to someone like me...traffic getting home would be a bitch.  And to top it off, as if that weren't enough, on a Wednesday night, when my wife makes her famous Chicken Fajitas.  (Yes, every Wednesday. Yes, I know you're jealous.) One of my favorite meals, postponed due to a bunch of rich folks patting each other on the back for making a music video which made them more money.

Here in Nashville, you'd think that most employers downtown would let their poor employees off early to get ahead of that traffic, but you'd also be wrong, at least at my office. This is nothing against my boss, it's just that Country Music is nothing new and this is a usual occurrence in Nashville, so we learn to roll with it. Expect late buses, postponed dinner (rats) and hot tempers.  

So, I left work at the usual time, and made my way to Music City Central, the main Bus station which is just a couple of blocks from my office.  Oddly, no traffic.  That's ok, I says to myself, all the traffic must be a few blocks the other direction from work, over at the Bridgestone Arena, where the CMA Awards are being held.

Now, things take a strange turn. The bus, usually late due to CMA Traffic, is - on time? Our bus is known to be late because someone had a hangnail on the I-24 corridor (and no, it goes nowhere near the I-24 corridor.) We get on the bus and leave - on time! Getting through downtown only takes a few minutes extra and I'm home only about 5 minutes later than usual. Even the traffic along the way seemed ...well...normal.

It's enough to make one wonder at the strangeness of it all.

And then, after dinner, things get a bit stranger as my rocker-chick wife with the skull tattoo on one leg says we should watch the opening of the CMA awards and I'm really wondering if I've entered another realm. My wife is not one for Country music. She says it makes her want to drive her car off a cliff, so this was a  monumental moment.

And it was surely a moment to watch.  You see, this was the 50th Anniversary of the CMA awards and they brought out a seemingly endless parade of country legends and contemporary chart-topping stars to sing a massive medley of country classics.

Vince Gill was the first to take the stage, and he was joined by Ben Haggard, son of late country icon Merle Haggard, to sing the immortal "Mama Tried." After that, Roy Clark and Brad Paisley paid homage to Buck Owens, who died in 2006, by singing "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail." Over the next few minutes, Carrie Underwood sang "Stand By Your Man," Charlie Daniels delivered "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," Dwight Yoakam sang "Guitars, Cadillacs," Charley Pride crooned "Kiss An Angel Good Morning'," and Reba McEntire sang "Fancy". But that wasn't all. There were song segments from Alabama ("Mountain Music"), Ricky Skaggs ("Country Boy"), Alan Jackson ("Don't Rock the Jukebox") and Clint Black ("Killin' Time"). At the end, they all took the stage together to sing Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever, Amen." Travis himself -- who suffered a stroke in 2013 -- took the stage to massive applause and sang a line of his 1987 classic. If you know anything at all about Country Music and it's stars, this was the medley to see.

And when that opening medley was over my wife said change the channel, that's enough of that!  Ah, good, all is right with the world.  My world anyway. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Get the King to Marry You.

When my wife and I were married, we joked about going to Las Vegas and getting an Elvis Impersonator to perform the ceremony.  We never really were able to carry through on that, but I recently found this new business in down town Nashville that really bears some scrutiny.

Ok, so it's a wedding chapel located in the center of downtown, in the center of The Arcade, but more than that, there's an honest to goodness Elvis Impersonator (gold rimmed glasses and all) performing the weddings. I'm not trying to advertise the business but I just find it so incredibly southern.  
It's apparently quite popular with tourists (who don't realize that Elvis is really more well known in Memphis) and though I took this picture with the intent of showing off the 'store front' I noticed that the sign holds one more oddity. "Lunch Hour Specials."  Now there's a thought.  Quick bite to eat at one of the many eateries in the downtown area, and stop by to get married. 

Then again, it might be a good idea to call first...make sure their open....

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Blanket Invitational

There is a family down the street which are the epitome of Southern.  He is rarely in a suit, wears Titans' jerseys most of the time and works in his garage - literally, he works out of his garage. At work he wears mostly grease stained camouflage. His wife wears pink camouflage and cowboy boots and their kids have such thick southern accents I'm not sure they speak English at all.  

But beneath all that they are some of the greatest people I know. They'd give you the shirts off their backs.  They are always volunteering for church dinners, city clean-up drives and school fundraisers.  They are nearly perfect.  I said nearly.  

You see, they have this policy of never 'inviting' anyone over. They just expect that if you want to see them, then you'll make the effort to drop by their place and see them.  They also seem to complain a lot about how no one ever comes to see them - especially family.  

I blame the Beverly Hillbillies.  

Yeah, that's right, the 1960s TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies."  The show ran 9 seasons here in the US and has been seen across the globe.  The story of a poor Suthun Man out hunting who discovers oil on his property is the 'rags to riches' story we'd all like to live.  There's a catchy theme song too.  (The Ballad of Jed Clampett)   The song was written and composed by Paul Henning, and sung by Jerry Scoggins, who was accompanied by bluegrass musicians Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. At the end of the show, there is an instrumental reprisal of the song and, here's the hook, at the end, Scoggins says "Y'all come back, now, Y'hear?"

This is the 'laid-back, come-on-over-anytime' attitude that everyone attributes to the South and to Southerners. "Hey, my door is always open. Just come on by any old time!" You visualize people dropping by non-stop, every night a different friend or family member, the sweet southern tea flowing and kids running wild in the yard. And in fact, it may at one time have been so.

Today, sorry, this just doesn't  work.  I know, I've dropped by my neighbor's house several times just to chat and found them not at home! (Reference above mention of church functions, school fundraisers and city clean up drives.)  In fact, anytime I want to go by and see him (outside of business hours,) I know to call first and see if he's home AND see if he's up to receiving guests.  Most often, the answer is no.

This whole "if you want to be  part of my life, you'll make the effort" is not only impossible, it's just lazy. Yes, Lazy.  You want to see people, but you don't want to go to the effort to call them and set up a time to see them. Let them play the 'are they home' game and hope to catch you.  Lazy AND disrespectful. Southerners are not that lazy or disrespectful.

This is why it's better to set a time and INVITE someone over specifically rather than just some blanket "Y'all come back, now, Y'hear?" Due to the complexity of our lives, (yes, even in the laid back south) the idea of inviting someone over for dinner, or to sit a spell and visit may seem old fashioned, but there is a deeper reasoning that needs repeating.  RESPECT.

When you go to the effort to set aside a period of time and invite someone over to visit, you show them more respect than just "Yeah, we'd love to see you, but you'll have to drive by our house and catch us at home knowing that at any time you drive by we could be at church, or the school, or grocery shopping, or some other people may be visiting or heck, we may just not be in the mood for company."  Who is going to do that 'hoping' they might catch you at home? Thanks to this, my neighbor and I rarely see each other. And people who live further away than a "let's drop by since we're in the neighborhood" are just not going to spend the time and gas to 'hope' you're home - and up for company (regardless of what your 'open door policy' says!)

Inviting someone says "We want YOU to come by and we can ALL enjoy some time together."  (The unspoken part says 'yes, we will be home, no church, or school, or shopping and yes we are in the mood for company, but not just any company, we want YOUR company.') Yes, it's also takes some work, and yes, you may need to reschedule some church or shopping trips, but if you want to see people, this is what you have to do. You don't' have to cook dinner and you don't have to have a reason other than just "We'd like to see you for a visit on this date." Respect.

My neighbor is stubborn and says  he really doesn't understand the difference (he breathes car exhaust all day.) I have to admit, however, that at my insistence, he recently called and set up an afternoon for his parents to drive across town and see the kids. Lots of smiles all round and I heard they had a mess of fried chicken his mom had made and brought along. It was a great afternoon.

But then, as the parents were leaving,  I heard him shout, "Drop by any time!"
I gotta work some more with that guy. 

I hope you'll all take the time to invite someone over soon, maybe even me.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Modern Fossils

Stepping out of my office the other day and found this on the sidewalk.  I've monitored it for several days - nearly a week now and the things are pretty much permanent.

What are they, you ask? (That's a very good question...)   It appears that someone has dropped a few birthday candles (pink, blue and green) and between the heat (yeah, it's the South, remember?) and people stepping on them, the wax and wicks have been embedded into the brickwork there on the sidewalk. They look like fossils, Modern Fossils.  (Go with it, ok?).

I would imagine that someday in the future, the maintenance people from the building will clean the sidewalks with a high pressure cleaner and these modern day fossils will be gone, but for the moment we can all enjoy them. I only hope that whoever had the birthday didn't miss them. 

Yeah, been a slow week for me.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Tivo Tango

Tivo Series 1
In this blog, I don’t usually spend a lot of time on subjects that have little to do with The South (requisite capital letters) and only rarely do I write a lot on Tech.  This last couple of weeks, however, got me in touch with my home Tech on a new level.  You see, I’m not one to constantly have L&G (Latest and Greatest) when it comes to Tech. You know, TV's, stereo, even my home computers are older than most. If my old tech is working, and working fine, then there is no need to replace it with ‘oooo new and shineyyy’ tech.  If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it. 

Case in point: My Tivo.  (For those not in the know, the Tivo is the original DVR.)  My Tivo is a Series 1, which means it came out in 1999. (We’re talking old tech here.  Imagine, if my Tivo were a kid, he would be able to drive now.) There are now 6 series of Tivo.  (I, II, III, 4 Premier, 5 The Roamio & 6 The Bolt)  The Tivo was a gift from my brother (no, not Brother Bubba, my other brother who is also not Southern, but he is generous.) The Tivo S1 also came with a Lifetime Service Guarantee (very spendy- even by today's standards) again thanks to the generous Brother. The Tivo has worked beautifully for 16 years.  I have it attached to our home network where it calls in daily to get guide information.  Let me reiterate, it is working PERFECTLY. 

About 2 weeks ago, a rather official message popped up on my Tivo saying a lot of nothing, but in effect, telling us that the Tivo (Series I, II, and III) would no longer record after September 29. The reason for this is that the people who write the code for the guide (that’s the information that the Tivo downloads every day) are changing the guide and the older series would not be able to read said code.  (Cue much internal screaming and cursing.)  My wife and I use our Tivo every night.  There is just no way to see all the shows we want to see without conflict, so nightly I sit down and go through and set up the shows on the Tivo, usually getting them all recorded thanks to cable shows being shown more than just once a night.  (Thanks Cable TV Channels!)  Without the Tivo, our TV watching just about ends!

So, of course, I call Tivo. They have a special 800 number for Series 1 users to call.  The first person I talked to told me that my Lifetime Service can be moved to a new unit, if I purchase a new unit. So, my wife and I begin perusing the Internet looking for the best deal.  I call back the next day, ready to complete both the purchase (they had the best deal) and said transfer only to be told THIS time that I CANNOT move the service to a new unit because it was purchased after some arbitrary date.  (Again cue internal screaming!)  He offers to transfer me to a supervisor, but I really didn’t see the use of that.

Time Passes.  A week goes by and my ire has bubbled over. The Lifetime Service Guarantee was not purchased paired with the S1 unit and even if it were, MY unit is working fine. The only reason it’s not going to be working is that as of Septemer 29, Tivo will stop supporting it. No Lifetime. No Service, no Guarantee.   I decide to call in a third time, and Yes, I will speak to a supervisor, thank you very much!  So, I was halfway through my oral dissertation on the dictionary meanings of ‘Lifetime,’ ‘Service,’ and ‘Guarantee’ as they pertain to Customer Satisfaction and he stops me to say that they WILL transfer the new service to a new unit.  So, we complete the purchase, during which I ask him at least 6 times to say again that the unit will come with the Lifetime Service Guarantee.  He says yes, all 6 times. 
The Tivo Bolt

Though the shipping is ‘standard,’ we get the our new Tivo Bolt in record time, 1 day.  We open and begin reading and discover that, before we can make the Tivo work, we need something called a Cable Card.  It's Friday night, but we know the local Comcast office is open so we run on over only to discover they have no Cable Cards in stock and don’t expect any until at least Tuesday. (We could order one to be mailed to us, but I want to get the thing working NOW!) On a whim, the next morning, I find out that there is a Comcast office across town open all day (even on Sunday!) so across town we go and we get the cable card and after a long morning shopping, we head home to install said Cable card  Which. Doesn't. Work!  I even called Comcast tech support who assesses the problem immediately (the store gave us the wrong type of card) and thankfully the office is still open so across town I go again, where they each look at the card I was given and shake their heads because, yeah, they knew by looking at it that it was the wrong card. (Thankfully, the guy who gave us the wrong card was out, or he might have gotten an earful.) Home again, Home again and the card is installed and the Tivo makes its first call. 

But –

As fate would have it, now that the Cable Card is installed, we can see that the Tivo had no service attached. The Lifetime Service Guarantee that I was told (6 times) would be with the new Tivo was not transferred.  I check the website and find that there is a page to transfer service, but it won’t work, probably because it’s a S1. Too late to call Saturday, I call Sunday. I'm transferred around a bit, but finally get someone who agrees, that the service will be transferred. They promise me that Yes, the Service is set to be transferred and it will be transferred hopefully by the end of the day.  TWO DAYS LATER, the service is transferred and all is well in Marvinator's Tivo-Land.

In fact, it’s more than well.  The new Tivo has things on it we hadn’t really expected.  The old Tivo had one channel recording. There New Tivo has 4 Channel recording. It also has Netflix, YouTube and several other streaming apps!  Lastly, just the other day, I was browsing shows and found myself on channel 1207, which is HD.  WHAT? (Yes, I said this out loud, which startled the cat.)  That’s right, the new Tivo allows us to get all the HD Channels we’ve been unable to get with our Standard Definition Cable box!  (Yes, more exclamations!)  This means our big flat screen TV no longer has a black border around it.  The picture fills the screen! I will now do the dance of JOY! 

Ok, no dancing, not at my age. 
Nothing more to see here….move along….I got shows to record.....

Added 09/29/16 WHOA!  There buckaroo.  Not so fast.
Seems we were a bit fast there on the uptake.  It's been a few weeks with the Tivo and I'm discoving things I never knew they could do.  (You can set up recordings online!) BUT we found one more problem. 

We rarely watched Xfinity Video OnDemand because their interface was so slow and clunky and the videos disn't always load properly.  In attempting to find a NEW show that we had missed the first episode, the Tivo found it available OnDemand.  BUT when I pressed the button to play said video, we got this error:
Grey Lines obscure personal info. 

A quick search on the internet showed that this may be because the Cable Card is not properly "Paired' with the new Tivo.  There is a special number to call just for this error.  I call.

I ended up calling three times because each time they'd tell me that the information is showing correct and they re-enter it and yet we still get the above. 

The third time I call, I finally get transferred to Tier 2 Support and - as soon as he picks up the phone, I again call up the VOD show so that I have the error in front of me, and - THE TIVO STARTS TO WORK PROPERLY!  I was actually speechless. You see, I'm a computer tech and I can't tell you the number of times someone has called and when they try to duplicate the problem, the unit begins working properly.  I explain this to the guy and we both have a good laugh.  What probably did happen is that the first two calls did not properly input the information or click the finalization button to actually PAIR the card with the Tivo. 

Either way, be sure you check all streaming services before you say things are set right.