Taxes, Tips and Time of Sunrise

This one's for Barb!

This one’s for Barb!

If we were having a beer, you’d be picking on me, from the start.

“Hi Cheryl. It’s his turn to pay, but you might want to get his credit card up-front, I hear he hasn’t been paying his bills.”

“You wouldn’t stiff me for a couple Coronas, would you Dan? You are still drinking those bad hombres…right?”

“Yes, I mean, no…sigh, I mean yes I’m still drinking Coronas, and no, I won’t stiff you. And. For the record, I always pay my bills.”

“Not according to the people at Piggy Boats.”

“I love the way you cherry-pick my blog posts just so you can pick on me.”

“Why else would I read them?”

“I like to think they have some entertainment value.”

“They do, I find this very entertaining. Cheryl, put a glass a Meiomi on that tab, but seriously, think about collecting it soon.”

“I think he’s good for a couple of beers, maybe even some wings.”

“Suit yourself, I’d want to see his tax returns before I made that leap.”

“That might not happen.”

“Following the lead of our President?”

“No, battling another unfriendly company.”

“Who are you not paying this week?”

“Not, not paying. They aren’t selling.”

“Huh?”

It should be here

It should be here

“Turbo Tax. Intuit won’t sell me Turbo Tax.”

“What are you talking about? Staples has a big pile of Turbo Tax for sale.”

“Deluxe, Turbo Tax Deluxe, and Premium. I didn’t see Turbo Tax Basic, that’s what I’ve been using.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I don’t know. I can’t even find a decent comparison of the two versions.”

“I hate Turbo Tax. Why don’t you just switch to H&R Block?”

“Is that what you use?”

“Yeah. I used to use Turbo Tax, but you’re right, they make it hard to buy what you want, so I switched.”

“Were you able to import everything?”

“Easy peasy.”

“Connect to your W2 online.”

“Of course, who doesn’t do that?”

“Same price?”

“Cheaper, at least when you switch.”

“Here you go boys. Meiomi and Corona – with our signature hunk of lime shoved in.”

“Thanks Cheryl. So why don’t they want to sell you Basic?”

“I don’t know, they’re always trying to sell you the next higher level. Even when you use it, they keep suggesting that you upgrade.”

“You didn’t call the people at Turbo Tax…did you?”

“I did.”

“After everything you went through with Piggy Boats? Why didn’t you just switch to H&R Block?”

“I’m lazy. I know Turbo Tax. I’ve been using it since 2004.”

“Still, you have to consider your stress level.”

“I just checked a box to get a call back from them. A guy called in less than five minutes.”

“Did he sell you Basic?”

“It took a while, but he says he’ll ‘push a copy down to me’.”

“How long is a while?”

“About 30 minutes.”

“Thirty minutes? What’s wrong with you boy? Time is money…”

“Not around here, unless you start drinking that wine, finish that beer and order some food. That first round was on me.”

“Sorry, and thanks Cheryl, he’s getting carried away. Bring us another round.”

“Food?”

“Wings, Barbecue with Parm-Pep.”

“Calamari.”

“Thanks. Now, before I leave, what’s the deal with your taxes? Are you getting a refund or do you owe them money?”

“I told you I’m good for the tab, Cheryl.”

“I know, but April 15th falls on a Saturday this year. I’m trying to figure out if I should take the day off.”

“Don’t worry. I usually get a little money back. Besides, it might be his week to pay.”

“Let’s hope not. Anyway, I always have to pay, because of the tips.”

“I never get money back. I like it that way. I don’t enjoy lending the government money for free. But, I’m curious, why do you hope I’m not paying that week?”

“Like I said, because of the tips.”

“I shouldn’t suffer because he tips more than he should.”

“I tip the right percentage, but I add the price of the drinks she gives us into the base for her tip.”

“I never thought of that.”

“Probably why she never buys us a round the weeks you pay.”

“OK, here’s your wine, your beer and your wings. And, for the record, he might be right about those free drinks.”

“Message received. Oh, and I meant to say that I liked your photos this week, particularly the absence of the Connecticut River.”

“Funny you should mention that; I have some new ones to show you. It’s been getting light earlier”

Posted in Humor, If having a beer | Tagged , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Thursday Doors – Doorsumptions

Log cabin front door

Log cabin front door

Remember Sesame Street? “♫One of these things is not like the others.” Well, that’s how my doors research went this week. Two buildings that I have long thought belonged together, are completely different things. Different, but interesting.

Once again, I am returning to the giant quadrangle of my graduate school alma mater. Next to the Cathedral of Learning, on the University of Pittsburgh campus, is another gothic stone building. It looks like an appendage of the Cathedral, but it’s totally separate. It is part of the university, it was built to resemble the cathedral and it was built at the same time, but it’s a separate building, with a unique purpose.

The building is the Stephen Collins Foster Memorial. It is a performing arts center and a museum. We will visit it and its doors on another Thursday.

Next to, well, across a small parking lot from the Stephen Foster Memorial is a log cabin. I always assumed it was there to represent “My Old Kentucky Home.” What did I know? It’s not like the log cabin is actually marked as to what it represents. It’s just sort of sitting there, and it’s closer to Stephen Foster’s place than anything else. Still, according to a university website:

The log cabin near the Cathedral of Learning symbolizes Pitt’s origins as a frontier academy of higher learning. Estimated to date from the 1820s or 1830s, the cabin was reconstructed on campus for the University’s bicentennial in 1987.

I grew up in the city, attended the school and have toured the campus numerous times, and I did not know about this cabin. The stories that I found contain more explanation as to why there is no explanation, than actual history. Here’s what I’ve been able to determine:

It is generally accepted that what is today the University of Pittsburgh began in the 1780s as the Pittsburgh Academy. The limited evidence that remains suggests that the academy began in a log cabin.

That makes sense. In the 1780’s most of Pittsburgh’s businesses, offices, homes and buildings were made from wood. Devastating fires in 1845 and 1849, destroyed most of downtown Pittsburgh, including the Pittsburgh Academy and, presumably, its records.

So, this is one of those bits of history that grew out of legend as much as fact. That’s OK. There is enough factual evidence that can be knitted together from a variety of sources to let historians agree that:

It seems in the very least that it can be inferred that Pitt Academy had an early log building in its possession…”

How’s that for certainty?

In an attempt to mollify the naysayers in the larger audience, an article in Wikipedia offers this somewhat apologetic statement:

Even if the history of the school starting in a log cabin is factually unclear, it has been a tradition told within the university for over 100 years and at least represents the era of Pitt’s founding, if not the actual 1st meeting in a log cabin to discuss the institution’s creation.”

Whether or not the school started in a building that kinda-sorta looked like this building is irrelevant for several reasons. First, we can’t prove it one way or another. Second, the school had to start somewhere, and wooden buildings were all the rage at the time. Third, this is an original, albeit refurbished, authentic log cabin that dates from closer to 1780 than 2017. Fourth and perhaps most important, the log cabin has doors.

This post, though merely skirting the boarder of historical accuracy, is most definitely part of Norm Frampton’s fun weekly series: Thursday Doors. If you want to know more about this series, perhaps even participate, Professor Frampton makes it easy. Take the school bus up to the Norm’s place. Look at his doors and then click the blue frog. Easy peasy.

Before showing you the gallery of original (mine) and borrowed photos, I’ll leave you with an update on the current grand purpose of this historic and symbolic building:

For a time after its completion, through at least part of the 1990s, the log cabin served as a visitors’ information center. It is currently used by the Cathedral of Learning grounds maintenance staff to store salt for winter deicing.”

Maybe that explains the lack of signage.

Posted in History, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , , | 70 Comments

One-Liner Wednesday – Who’s a Happy Girl?

One Liner WednesdayOn Sunday morning, Maddie wanted to go for a walk. I was reluctant, because some people haven’t cleared their sidewalks, and I wasn’t in the mood to trudge. I tired playing with her instead.

We played with her little soccer ball, which she stashed on top of Mt. Maddie. So, I told her:

Go get your ball and we’ll go for a walk.”

Zoom!

Up Mt. Maddie. Ball retrieved. She’s smart when she wants to be.

We walked. Later in the afternoon, the temperature hit 60°f (15.6°c) and I put her cot and my lawn chair outside – and – we – sat. Maddie loves to sit.

As has been the case recently, the title has planted a song in my head. This time, from Martina McBride:

Oh watch me go
I’m a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing that you’ll ever see
In the whole wide world
Is a happy girl

There are some photos of our happy girl in the gallery. There’s also a video of her taking her ball onto Mt. Maddie. For extra good measure, Martina’s video is also included. This post is part of Linda G Hill’s fun series – One Liner Wednesday.

Posted in One Line Wed, Pets | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 73 Comments

I’m Not Paying These Piggies

MiMi

That’s MiMi and a good time to look at my phone.

I’ve been fairly transparent here on No Facilities that I am an IT (eye-tea) guy. I manage the department that buys, configures, installs and develops and supports software for our company’s servers, computers, iPhones, iPads and phones.

Phones?

Yes, phones. As in Voice Mail. Yes, I’m the guy, well, historically, I have been the guy who programs our company voice mail system.

Don’t hate me.

Our voice mail isn’t horrible.

What defines ‘not horrible’ these days? Well, for one, if you don’t know the extension of the person you want to talk to, you can say their name. It works pretty well, even with a name like mine that is pronounced differently from the way it is spelled. And, if you don’t even know the person’s name, you can speak to a human being. You can ask to speak to a human. You can dial ‘0’ to speak to a human being, or you can remain on the line and a human being will answer. If you call after our office is closed, you can leave a message – with – a – human – being.

It almost makes you want to buy our insurance, doesn’t it?

Why am I telling you this?

Because, I’m mad.

I received an automated call from “piggy boats” seeking payment of an overdue invoice. Piggy Boats isn’t a real company, but it’s how our voice mail system’s ‘Speech-to-text’ option interpreted the name of the real company that left the message. I’ll keep their name out of this, except to say that they make postage machines. I don’t need to use their real name. As far as I’m concerned, they are Piggy Boats from this day forward.

Piggy Boats sent us an invoice for $96. We didn’t know what the invoice was for. After crawling through their 100% non-human voice mail system, I hung up and sent an email to the woman who negotiated the lease for the postage machine. The cost was for insurance.

Insurance?

Yes, insurance. If your building is destroyed by fire, we need to know that our postage meter will be covered by insurance.”

$96 a month? According to the commercials on ESPN, I can get $50,000 of term life insurance for less than that. Besides, we have insurance on everything in our office.”

I sent my Piggy Boats salesperson the name of our insurance company, the policy number and some other insurancy stuff. She verified the existence of the policy and told me that she would take care of the invoice.

Which is now overdue.

The speech-to-text technology isn't perfect

The speech-to-text technology isn’t perfect

The voice mail I received from Piggy Boats included a phone number that I could call to pay our bill with a credit card. I called the number, with the hope of being able to correct or at the very least complain about this matter.

No – such – luck.

Piggy Boats’ voice mail system is impenetrable. You can pay an invoice, or you can request a copy of an invoice, but you can’t dispute an invoice or ask a question about an invoice, or ask a question at all.

I tried pressing ‘0’ – “OK, let’s start over.”

I tried saying: “Representative” “Operator,” and “Human effing being!” – “I don’t understand, please press ‘1’ for Billing.”

I pressed one for billing, which is how I know I can pay an invoice or get a copy of an invoice, but not speak to a human being. Not even an unhelpful human being in a far-away land.

I could make our voice mail system impenetrable. I know how. I could program it to sit silent when you ask for an operator. I could reroute you to the main menu. I could hang up on you if you say: “operator” “representative” or “human effing being!”

I could.

Instead, we pay a small amount of money, less than the amount that term-life policy would cost, to have some nice human beings in Florida answer your call.

To all my fellow voice mail people: “There should always be an option to let your money-paying customers speak to a human being!

I emailed my salesperson, the one who’s going to regret talking me into leasing this machine, and I dropped this mess into her lap. Maybe she can find a human being.

For the record, my use of the term “Piggy Boats” is in no way meant to offend, insult, or cause any upset to piggies, or boats. As the gallery shows, I like both piggies and boats.

Posted in Customer Service, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 71 Comments

my cat

Sharing Dan’s, the other Dan, not me, not my cat, cat story of survival. It’s s good story, and I owe him one after making a snarky comment over there, last week.

itkindofgotawayfromyou

I’m not really a cat person , but I have a cat . Well , I’ve always had cats since I’ve known Ada . Ada is the cat person , apparently .  Show her a kitten and she’s a goner .

My cat’s name is Cosmo and she’s old and a little too fat and  she’s lazy . She doesn’t get that from me , I should say right off the bat , so you won’t get the wrong idea and come to egregiously erroneous conclusions .  It’s just a coincidence that the beast and I  share a few common traits . I used to have black hair like hers , too , by the way , and I was also never very enthusiastic about chasing rats , either . And we both like chicken .cosmo in box

Ada was in Europe several years ago when Cosmo was , for whatever reason…

View original post 642 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

SoCS Ain’t Misbehaving

socs badge 2016-17Marian, over at Marian Allen dot com, recently wrote a post about when characters won’t behave. We were filled with empathy for her characters. Who are we? Well, we’re those ham-handed, as Dan is wont to say, voices which are confined all week because things have to written in an oh-so-special way. Things have to be easy to read, easy to understand. In fact, we’ve overheard that things should be written at an 8th grade or lower level. Pfft, you made it way past 8th grade, right? Thought so. Is this too hard for you to read? Thought so.

As a consequence of all these constraints: readability, politically correctness, light but not funny, facts not opinion – and no, no alternate facts, we don’t get to talk much. We like to ramble. We like to pull a thread and see where the thread goes. Not like the thread that is hanging off that button on your sweater, we all know where those go. Puk, puk, puk, puk, puk and button gone.

Then you pick it up and put it in that drawer where, 20 years later it’s settled next to the keys for that 1977 Dodge pickup. Taken out by the person looking for the tube of Super Glue that is a) in a different drawer, and b) dried out. The button will be examined and put back, ‘cuz you never know who put it there and what it’s from.

We’re more likely to follow the thread on the back of a tapestry. The kind where if you pull the red bit above the character on the right, the barn in the upper left starts to unwind.

Esther Holsen tapestry- front and back view

Esther Holsen tapestry- front and back view

Those threads are more interesting than the stuff you read in 8th grade. By the way, some of the stuff you read in 8th grade was written so a 4th grader could understand it. This is what’s wrong with the world, people want things dumbed down for them. This is why “newstainment”, yeah, that’s a thing, you can look it up, is so popular. We’d give you an example, but no doubt half of you would be offended. Dan made us promise not to offend anyone. Where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, if you look up ‘newstainment’ you’ll see articles that accuse every so-called news channel of focusing more on entertainment and pleasing their primary audience than facts and stuff. So – tip from the voices – look for an article that lampoons a network you don’t like and become more solidly convinced that you’ve made the right viewing choice.

Sorry if that offended anyone.

But, that is what people tend to do. They look for stuff that supports their existing viewpoint. That’s called, or at least it runs the risk of committing or perhaps it merely supports epistemic-closure. There’s a word you didn’t hear in 8th grade. Wanna know something? This isn’t the first time that term has been used in this blog. Check it out, we wrote about it way back in 2013. Here’ a link for that term, but beware, it’s Saturday and that link takes you to a page that says stuff like:

“…knowledge is closed under known deduction: if, while knowing p, S believes q because S knows that p entails q, then S knows q…”

See, don’t go there. And, if you want to be truly informed in these crazy times, don’t do the stuff that leads you to believe ‘q’ when you don’t know Jack about ‘q’.

Who is/was Jack? My mother used to say “I don’t know him from Adam.” When she was accused of knowing someone she didn’t know. Adam was Adam from Adam and Eve. That Adam. The original Adam, whom my mom did – not – know. I mean she’s old, but… But Jack? Jack isn’t even always a person.

Look up “you don’t know Jack” and you’ll find links to movies, online games and websites. If you think the answer lies there, you don’t know Jack about knowing Jack. ‘You don’t know Jack’ was an expression when we were young voices back in the 70s.

Oh no, we were supposed to talk about ham. Linda said:

“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “ham.” Use it any way you’d like. Have fun!”

Hmmm, ham, ham, well, back in the 70s, we were living in Pittsburgh where they had Chipped Ham – oh that was good stuff.

Chipped ham was invented by Isalys. It was a really thin sliced lunch meat. So thin you kind of globbed it on a sandwich instead of laying out slices. Isalys also invented the Klondike.

We got out a lot more often when we were in Pittsburgh. Part of “maturing” was learning how to confine us in the corner. Anyway, back in the 70s, Jack, was the first part of ‘Jack sh*t’ which further emphasized how little you knew about something. Sometimes, it wasn’t even a something you didn’t know. “You don’t know  Jack Sh*t” was a saying all by itself.

If you want to know Jack; instead of newstainment, read stories from different points of view, analyze them, think about them, fact-check them and then decide for yourself which you believe.

Don’t think you know ‘q’ because you trust ‘S’ – For all you know, ‘S’ don’t know Jack about ‘q’.

We could continue down this road, but we’re getting dangerously close to offending someone. Dan doesn’t want that to happen, and Marian said something about using cattle prods to keep characters in line, so…

If the title reminds you of a song, here’s my favorite version: Sarah Vaughan: Ain’t Misbehavin’

Posted in Current Events, SoCS | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Thursday Doors – Barns in the Snow

Standing strong

Standing strong

I am still playing catch-up on blog reading and blog writing. In addition to the snow last Thursday and Friday, we had a heavy period of “wintry mix” on Sunday into Monday. Wintry mix is short for snow, sleet, rain and freezing rain, aka: heavy wet snow with a thick crust of ice. Kind of like crème brûlée.

While driving around in the wintry mix on Sunday, I spied a barn. I drive by this barn often, but something about the red barn against the fresh snow looked interesting to me. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about Thursday Doors, but more barns followed and, here we are.

Where, exactly is here? Each Thursday, Frosty Norm Frampton hosts a blog-a-poloosa of doors on a website up in the land of the midnight doors. OK, he’s only in Montreal, but that’s 327 miles (526 kilometers) north of me, and I was recently buried in snow.

If you want to join us, take a photo of a door, paint a picture of a door, write a story about a door or dream a little dream of doors. Then, hitch the huskies to your sled and mush your way north on the Internet to Frosty’s place. Check out his icy doors, click on the so-cold-he-turned-blue frog. Add your door and/or check out doors from all over the world. Some of this is a bit of an exaggeration, but there really are doors from all over the world.

You might recognize some of the barns in today’s gallery from earlier posts where I featured the tobacco barns that are common in this part of Connecticut. I won’t bore you with the details again today, but you can click here and / or here, if you want to know more about them.

Weather permitting, I’ll finish a post about some very special doors this weekend and this place will be back to normal next week. Thanks for visiting. Enjoy the doors, and I added a little surprise for you under the gallery.

In case you got a song stuck in your head during my description of Thursday Doors, here’s Mama Cass’ beautiful rendition of Dream a Little Dream of Me. This was also performed by Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald, and probably a few others. If you want to hear Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong perform the song, click here. Otherwise, maybe John will do a Battle of the Bands on this in the future. For now, my blog, my favorite.

Posted in New England Life, Photography, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , | 86 Comments