Home Improvements

Over the last week of my vacation, I decided that it was high time to start another home project. Over the past year I’ve done some very minor projects, like painting a wall with some of that suede paint from Ralph Lauren, building some bookcases for my second bedroom, and changing a bathroom faucet. You have to have known me for a while to see the humor in such things, I guess, but I can tell you this much: I’m useless for home improvements. I have some sort of mental deficiency when it comes to things of a biological nature (don’t even attempt to ask me what any of the medication I take is called or what it does; I just do what I’m told) and of a home improvement nature (I had to call my support group of friends to perform surgery on the bathroom faucet.) I can build you a computer in under an hour However, given that I own my place (or at least the first four payments of it after this round of refinancing) I do try to do what little things I can.

I guess a Happy New Year is in order – I’ve always believed that happiness is relative. Given that I’m back on the train and on my way to work after a two week “vacation”, I’m trying to see just how much happiness there is in this first full week of 2003! And I’ll call it a “vacation” because of the six days that were my vacation days, and not company holidays, I was called on all but one of the days – not quite a “leave me alone because I need time off” holiday for me. Well, at least I can get back to Ranting. To those people that read my blog regularly and have been at work all this time, sorry for leaving you stranded for so long – I can honestly say that I hate taking away people’s distractions at work. I’d be lost if Yahoo! ever started charging for their games! And lastly, cheers to The Siren – I love being in “style” when I go out for some Bean! *wink* You rule!

For this week, I decided to give cable modem a whirl, so I had them scheduled for Monday morning, some time between 8am and 1pm. Of course by 1:15, when I give my cable company Tele-Media a call, they tell me “huh?” Not to be discouraged, I tried another “Any ideas when they might be here?” and was told “soon”. To their credit, they showed up at 1:30; a bit out of the original window of time I was given, but ok. The two guys were there for about 1/2 hour; given that all of my PC’s are geared to run off a router/switch for DSL, there was no PC install for them to worry about. Their sole purpose was to plug in the cable modem, get it to work, and leave. I guess two out of three isn’t that bad, but still, I was left with a blinking and unconnected cable modem. Just before the boys left, they told me that “sometimes it would take hours for the modem to initialize;” new one on me, but OK, I’d wait and see what happens. They also mentioned, after a trip to the basement, that I had some strange cables coming in from the outside; they even wanted to know who did my digital install. Given that I’ve had digital cable for about a year now, I had no clue, but they gave me every reason to be concerned that my installation sucked and that I might have on going problems with the service.

By 8pm on Monday, still a no go on the modem, and it continued to blink. Since one of the guys that originally came by was still in the area doing installs, he stopped by again at 8:30, but he gave me the same solution: give it time. Tuesday morning, when I still had a blinking modem, the cable office got a call at 9. Then 11. Then 1. See, they kept telling me “someone will be by” and after sitting at home most of the day, they never showed; since it was New Year’s Eve day, they shut down early, so maybe that forced the no show. Either way, at this point, I was greatly annoyed, as I had blown two days and had blinking lights to show for it. For New Year’s Day, they were closed, but I had a call into their office on Jan. 2nd at 8am. And 9am. Followed by a 10am call ; a guy showed up on Thursday, while I was on hold, so at least that saved me the full waiting time on hold. Also, since every time I mentioned “modem” to the people answering the phones they tried to push me to the ISP that runs the cable modem service for Tele-Media, I decided to give them a call. After the average hold time of 40 minutes – due to unexpected call volume – I had a good long chat with an ISP tech support team, who confirmed what I had originally thought: it’s the cable wire and/or connection. I also now had the trump card whenever I called cable: “Hah! They told me to call you first! Hah!” Anyway, the guy that came out also confirmed what we all had thought: there was a signal deficiency and they would send out a line technician, but I didn’t have to be home for them since it was an outside fix.

Now that I was freed from the hell of cable-wait, I went out for a few hours. Here’s where I compounded my problems. I learned a long while ago that if you are having a “bad technology karma” day that you shouldn’t start any other projects of any kind – there are just some times when I forget what I’ve learned. Enter Home Depot. I needed a new screwdriver for work (I’ve put it off for about six years and a day, at least) and some light bulbs. I walked out with these items and a new kitchen faucet. Consequently, I spent the next six hours, folded up like the little Chinese guy from Ocean’s Eleven. If a talent scout wandered by, I’d be in Vegas, performing at the Mirage show. I got the faucet installed though. Got it all hooked up. Got it good and leaking too! I was able to lock down most of the leaks, save one and that one didn’t want to stop leaking for anything or anybody. I tried brute force, Teflon tape, and a few voodoo curses I picked up in New Orleans, but all to no avail. I panic’d and went to the yellow pages for a professional plumber.

I was lucky. Very lucky. The plumber that returned my call first was a great guy – he was intent on me solving the problem, rather than making money off me. In fact, after he was done admonishing me for going to Home Depot and getting their cheap parts in the first place, his exact comment about labor charges was “I’d hate to take money for simple a job” and I honestly believed him. So by the light of my still blinking modem, I listen to his advice and was told to go get some dope. You heard me: dope – plumber’s dope. I’d never heard of it either, but I was betting that I was just giving some “inside” plumber’s information. However, by Friday, I was mostly broken. Being shoved under the sink, I was in all sorts of bruised pain, and getting back under there wasn’t an option for the time being; I called the guy back and asked him to the house for a Monday appointment.

Saturday was the day of great change resolutions. The modem stopped blinking! Yes, after the entire week of not knowing what was going on, they finally fixed the little beasty. I also got a bit of a better quality picture on the TV’s at the house – I guess the yuts that installed the digital cable opted to give me a tinfoil based wire and never checked the signal strength. Of course, when I ran some DSL speed tests, I found that the cable modem was about 1/3 as fast as my DSL line… go figure. At least there’s minimum contract; I can kill off the service at anytime, but I thought I’d give it some time to see if it bounces back.

After that technological breakthrough, I decided to apply pressure to my luck, so I went to Home Depot again. I think this is the sole place in the world where you can take an vague looking metal can with a blue label called “Block” and ask a guy in an orange apron if this is in fact dope. It seems that it was. So I schlepped on home and went back under the sink and put some dope on the pipe, as my plumber friend suggested. While the dope was setting and drying, I decided to get the obnoxious blue, glue-like substance off my hand and wrench. Easier said than done! After water, soap, and rubbing alcohol, I had to resort to nail polish remover to get the dope off. In all honestly, I had little other choice; I looked like I gave a smurf a hand job. The kicker is that the dope stopped the leak.

Thankfully that ended the week. I’ve got a nice looking new faucet that actually offers water without getting your feet wet. I’ve got a dual connection to the Internet at the moment and will stick with whoever is faster. And some time this week, some new Bose speakers are making their way into my greedy hands; more about that later this week.

Welcome to 2003. And with regards to this weekend’s playoff games, Big Blue can bite my ass until they get a guy that can handle the slap for a field goal… jeez.

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