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. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Beer Party!

Standing in the line at the grocery store the other day when my wife surprised me by picking up a big beer.  And, I do mean big: one of those massive Australian lagers that took both hands to pick it up and hand it to her.  Now, I hear what you're thinking:  my lovely wife, buying beer. Double Ewe Tea Eff!

That night, she took the massive can of brew out into the garden and returned with it empty.  So, I'm thinking my wife has a drinking problem.  Well, actually there's no problem, she drank it without spilling so there's that.  In actuality, my wife was after snails.  That's right, snails. 

A couple of months ago, we replanted the front garden (yet again) with new plants.  Unfortunately, they began getting chewed up by snails almost immediately. Zounds! I shouted. Get the salt! Get the chemicals!  Get the garlic butter! (Oh wait...)

My wife, the consummate natural gardener, eschewed chemicals (and garlic butter) for the more natural approach.  Beer.  You see, the snails are attracted to the beer like a college freshman to a kegger!  (Though not for the cheerleaders they hope to see, but for the yeast in the beer.) My wife positioned 4 shallow dishes in the garden and then filled them each with beer.
(Green and red dishes...very festive!)
In the middle of the night, the snails crawl toward the beer, fall into the pool of brewski goodness and drown.  (A moment of silence for the snails.)  The only bad part is that once the snails die, they attract flies by the boatloads, so the dishes have to be switched out regularly.  

Took my wife 4-5 nights of beer parties for us to finally see fewer and fewer snails in the dishes come morning. It also took a second trip to the store for a three-pack of tall boys.

Ain't no party like a Beer Snail Party!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Adventure Science Center Adventure

This last week, my lovely wife and I hosted two of our grand-kids while Mom and Dad went off to Mexico for rest, relaxation and Margaritas. Heavy on the Margaritas. With this onset of this blasted heat in the last weeks we've all been stuck indoors, so we've been looking for things to do that are, well, out of the house, but not in the heat. Also they have to be geared to the youngsters so a night out at the Wild Horse Saloon is out. Pity, that. 

If you search the Internet for things to do, you'll come across any number of things to do in Nashville, but most are the heat, which is not what we were wanting.  We decided to try the Adventure Science Center. Described as a multilevel museum with hands-on exhibits & a planetarium that teaches kids about tech, health & ecology. I'd been to the place when my youngest was a kid, and we had a great time and I even remember some of the things we learned together. I envisioned great bonding moments aplenty. 

Upon entering, I noticed a lot of changes and not all of them good. To begin, the pricing was a bit high at $14.95 for adults and this counts anyone over the age of 12.  Only slightly less for younger kids, but to tell the truth, the younger ones are the ones who enjoy it the most. There are additional fees for the moonwalk exhibit and the planetarium shows.  We opted out of both extras.  

The biggest change is the exhibits.  Lots of lights, buttons and noise.  In addition, the exhibits were bigger and better laid out.  Where before the exhibits were like pods placed at random across the floor, the exhibits now were large and incorporated the walls, ceilings and more. There is an ambulance that kids can climb into and see all the equipment up close. 

Lastly, when we first visited, the only food available was from vending machines. Now, there is a full service Subway Sandwich Shop right inside the center! Nationwide standardized pricing, too!

And now the problem:  So many other people had the same thought as we did. So the place was overrun with kids.  This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the attitude of the parents which was basically just follow along with the running screaming kids while they watch their phone.  The kids run up to an exhibit, punch the buttons, twirl the dials or just grab it and see if it moves.  Then, without seeing what part of science the exhibit may be demonstrating, they run off to the next one.  Lots of noise and voices and more noise.

It was difficult to try to read the exhibit and then figure out what the exhibit was teaching and then impart this to the grand kid in an entertaining way.  Successful? No. Nothing else to do but just punch the buttons and let's move on.

All in all, we had a nice time. However, should we plan this again, I would go on a weekday and I intend to check the parking lot for overcrowding as an indication of a problematic day. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lay's Potato Chips - Southern Biscuits and Gravy Flavored

When I was a kid, I could go through a king sized bag of Lay'e Potato Chips (what they now call their 'Classic" chips) watching TV after school.  I still  love those golden, crunchy classic snacks.  You can imagine my delight and surprise when the lovely Mrs. discovered this new flavor: Southern Biscuits and Gravy. The mind boggles...the mouth waters...

A quick search of the internet reveals that this flavor is the winning flavor from Lay's annual "Do Yourself A Flavor' contest. Southern Biscuits and Gravy was the 2015 winner.  

Now, to be sure, I still crave those classic taters.  They fulfill a special roll in my all important snack-choice menu, but this new idea pings my also important Southerness.  (Yes, Southerness. It's a word, and if it isn't, then it should be!)  My afternoon snacking will take on new heights as I look forwar to trying these and the nice thing is that they will remain on the shelves for the foreseeable future.  Taste a bit of the South with me, boys and girls! 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Returning to Post

In the last couple of weeks, almost a month, I've been unable to post. It's not you, it's me. You see, last September, we lost our 17 yr old Grandson. It was sudden and we're still reeling. Then, this last month, we lost another, our 21 yr old Grandson. My wife and I are emotionally devastated. It seems all we try to do is get through each day. Posting on here just didn't seem to be as important as it was before. I hope to get back to it, and hope you'll bear with me in the doing.