Thursday, November 03, 2005

dale and thomas popcorn doesn’t pop

Dale and Thomas Popcorn has a LOT of issues to work out. Like getting the shipping time right on their website. Like not answering the customer service telephone.

I ordered some of their sample popcorn a while ago after reading about it in Cool News. Or the Wall Street Journal. Whatever. I paid the shipping costs for a couple of sample bags and, eventually, the sample arrived. We liked the popcorn. A lot. I am a popcorn freak and it is just different enough to make it interesting. Not perfect—a lot of crumbs and some kernels in it, but very, very good. Great flavors.

So I ordered some as a gift. According to the shipping info on the website, if they received the order by 2pm Monday, it should ship on Tuesday. Should be plenty of time to arrive at it’s destination in time. Only, even though I submitted the order last SUNDAY, I just got a notice this morning that it is not shipping until TONIGHT and won’t be delivered until NEXT WEEK.

I want my shipping money back unless, by some miracle, it arrives at its destination by tomorrow like it was supposed to. And I want them to correct the information on the website—they’re just building up tons of ill will. And I would like them to answer their frigging customer service line. I tried to call, but just got a message: “The mailbox is full. Call back later.” I wrote to customer service two weeks ago with a question, and have never heard back from them. I wrote to them today, but don’t expect to hear back from that message, either. I went to the blog to leave a comment, but they require that nasty typepad signup, which I won’t do (and no comments allowed on their “yuck yuck we’re fuck-ups” entry. Which I wish I would’ve seen before ordering.)

Next stop, unless I hear from them, is the New Jersey Better Business Bureau. This is a good and different-enough product and it ought to succeed—but it will fail unless they get their act together. It’s not even the Christmas season yet and they’ve already fallen on their asses. There’s not much point in getting all that great publicity if it’s going to be blown away by crap distribution.

posted by lee on 11/03/05 at 08:07 AM
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Friday, November 04, 2005

dale and thomas popcorn update

Unless a miracle occurs, the gift isn’t going to get to where it’s supposed to go until Monday. A miracle isn’t going to occur—it’s just too far away. I did manage to get through to customer service. The woman I spoke to was courteous and, after consulting with her supervisor, said I would get a refund for the shipping charge if the package does not arrive today. Hoo-rah. Still screws it all up. Will I be ordering Christmas presents from Dale and Thomas? Fat chance.

What D&T should have done was offer to ship the order overnight, at their expense. Thereby retaining a customer. But they didn’t.

The second part of my order was also supposed to go out on Tuesday at the latest. It also did not ship. In fact, according to the customer service rep, it’s not due to ship until tonight and, if I’m really really lucky, I will get it by Tuesday. The website says I should get it one day after it ships (Teaneck is not very far from Norwalk), but that’s not gonna happen either. The woman said D&T has been overwhelmed with the volume of orders. I told her to get the company to change the website to reflect the real shipping times and delete the lie. She said she would. We’ll see.

posted by lee on 11/04/05 at 12:10 PM
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

finally, some time working in the yard

What a gorgeous day today: 73 degrees and sunny, and here it is November 5. (Happy birthday Dad!) It’s supposed to be almost as nice tomorrow, though it may rain late in the day.

We spent the afternoon working in the yard. Finally! It already looks better than it did this time last year: last fall, we didn’t rake or do the final mow or cleanup. I did get some tulips and lilies in (and was very glad of it in the spring!), but outside of that, we neglected the yard. But not this year.

Stanley mowed and blew the leaves and I raked (and raked and raked) to clean out the garden beds enough so I could plant my current batch of bulbs. I got some in today and will work tomorrow and Monday on getting the rest in. (Monday is supposed to be lovely as well.) But the major goal this weekend is to get the porch area cleaned up—there’s so much junk cluttering the porch it depresses me to see it (our office looks out onto the porch). Would really love to get the office windows washed as well, but will have to ask Stanley to help me with this.

snake's head irisI planted three sets of bulbs in our raised bed garden today (a small area beneath the picture window in the kitchen. It faces west.) I planted Snake’s Head Iris, an heirloom plant cultivated since 1597. They’re supposed to bloom very early, in March, and be fragrant. I also planted a small red-blooming witch hazel here, as well as a small, white Japanese “forsythia.” While I was cleaning things up to plant, I noticed that some of the daffodils have sprouted—probably because it’s gotten so warm. We’ve only had one light frost.

In the middle of this garden, I planted three asiatic lilies: Stones. I hope they do well here. I planted them behind the box honeysuckle I planted a while ago, which still hasn’t gotten more than a foot tall. It’s a very pretty plant. Stone asiatic lily

I also planted a bunch of little bulbs—most of which, I have no idea what will come up. They came from a “wildflower garden” bulb mixture. These the squirrels will probably dig up and either eat or move, which is ok since I figure if they go for the shallower bulbs, they’ll leave my other bulbs alone. Yeah, right. Stanley said he’d make a cage for me, and I would have gone this route had we not had a foot of rain last month which kept us from even thinking about working in the garden. Now I just want to get them in the ground before we get a hard frost.

Red Hunter TulipI’m really looking forward to seeing how the Red Hunter tulips I planted in this little patch will do. I love they way they look in the catalog pictures because they’re different than most tulips, looking more like red poppies, sort of. A tidy edge rather than ruffled. Though this picture, which I got from the Dutch Gardens catalogue, doesn’t really show it off the way other pictures I’ve seen do. It’s called “The Wisley Tulip” though I’m not sure why (yet).

More "finally, some time working in the yard"

posted by lee on 11/05/05 at 03:04 PM
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Monday, November 07, 2005

knopp vs. moccia

Tomorrow we head to the polls again to vote for our mayor and council people, town clerk, etc. Here, in Norwalk, local politics are partisan, which I’ve always thought was a little strange since, where I grew up, city politics were non-partisan. Or, if it was, it so didn’t matter that nobody really paid attention to it. Or maybe it was that everybody was a Democrat so it didn’t matter. My dad, a Democrat since birth, was on my hometown city council (Southgate, MI) for years, so I have a decent grasp of what local politics are like (I’m not talking about big urban areas here, which is a whole ‘nother ballgame).

At any rate, we have here the Dem incumbent, Alex Knopp, being challenged (again) by Republican Richard Moccia. Along with the various slates of council members. I’m unaffiliated, but I tend to vote the Democratic ticket because I’m a Liberal. (And proud of it.) But I’ve realized that, at the local level, party affiliations just don’t really matter. Traffic, and solutions to traffic problems, don’t seem to fall along partisan lines, for example. Somebody has to pay for the roads getting fixed and school roofs being replaced, and that’s not partisan, it’s just budgeting.

This year, Knopp is running for his third term as mayor. And for the second time, I will vote against him. When he first ran, he pledged he’d do something about the insane traffic around here, and about taxes. The first two years, he did nothing. The second two years, he’s still done nothing. In fact, things have gotten worse. Our taxes are higher and no only are they higher, we have to pay more for services that should be included in the tax bill, such as sewage.

Traffic on Strawberry Hill Avenue and throughout Norwalk has gotten much, much worse. It takes me longer to drive to the stores in West Norwalk (where all the big box stores are located) than it takes for me to drive to Bridgeport (except during afternoon rush hour—but then, forget about getting home). Knopp brags about the business he’s bringing in (or plans to bring in) by condemning existing businesses to build office buildings, but has done zilch to address the added traffic and drain on city services these businesses will bring in. Knopp has had studies conducted. Studies! That cost thousands and thousands of dollars and improved nothing. I would’ve sat in my lawn chair in my driveway clocking speed for a day or two for $100—that would’ve been as useful as the studies (which means not useful at all) and cost a hell of a lot less.

More "knopp vs. moccia"

posted by lee on 11/07/05 at 02:54 PM
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

good news, and an interesting phone call

First, the best news (which, for Stanley and me, was not unexpected): Gordon Joseloff won the race for First Selectman in Westport and his running mate, Shelly Kassen, won as Second Selectwoman. Gordon is founder, editor, and publisher of WestportNow.com. Congratulations Gordon!

Next, here in Norwalk, incumbent Alex Knopp was defeated. Dick Moccia is our new mayor. The race was very close, but it looks like not close enough for Connecticut’s automatic recount mechanism to kick in. Knopp conceded. I’m relieved—I really think Knopp is doing damage to Norwalk. I have no idea who else won here in Norwalk—maybe we’ll find out in the paper tomorrow thought it probably won’t be until Thursday. Other than a couple of incumbents, I voted against the status quo. I did vote to re-elect Kevin Poruban, but voted again Bondi.

There was a proposition on the Norwalk ballot having to do with the mayor appointing the town clerk rather than having it be an elective position. The proposition was so badly worded that they were supposed to post signs explaining what the hell it meant, and what, exactly, one was voting up or down. I saw the sign—on the way out, after I’d voted. I firmly believe town clerk should be an elective position so I voted against the proposition and I hope it fails. Stanley voted against it as well. Town clerks have too much power and too much responsibility not to be accountable to voters every two years.

Oh, good, looks like the Dems are kicking Republican butts in the governor’s office in New Jersey and Virginia. The NJ race was one of the nastiest races I’ve ever witnessed (I TRIED not to watch the NYC market TV stations, but People’s Court is on at the right time on a NYC station, so ... )

DALE AND THOMAS POPCORN UPDATE
Well, today the VP of whatever from Dale and Thomas Popcorn called, apologizing for the screw-up with Dad’s birthday present (which Dad says is the strangest birthday present he ever got). Said it was a fluke that my order got messed up. Then he had a customer service person call me and assure me that they are refunding my shipping fees. The VP offered to send me a tin of popcorn, which was nice but not necessary. I might’ve forgiven them and might’ve been willing to give them another shot, but one of the bags of popcorn I got (the peanut butter popcorn) was mostly crumbs and very little of the good stuff so I ended up giving most of it to the dog. Too damned expensive to get crumbs like that. I have two more sample bags of the stuff that I hope are edible (though Ginger is probably hoping they’re crumbs; I’ll probably catch her stomping on the box)—it IS good stuff ... maybe one more chance ...

Dad emailed me that he and Mom liked what they tried of the popcorn. Took it to bingo to test it out (I hope they won!)

posted by lee on 11/08/05 at 08:36 PM
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

it gets dark so early now

Kind of a strange day, upsetting and peaceful at the same time. I slept past noon (well, I was up reading until very late, or early)—I probably would’ve slept until 3:00 but Ginger nudged me awake. Nothing like a cold wet doggie nose to open one’s eyes—much better than my alarm clock. She won’t go downstairs (usually) until I do. She was probably hungry. I don’t know why she does that—Stanley is usually downstairs long before I am.

But I guess I got enough sleep. I was feeling pleasant, happy to see that a check we’ve been waiting for arrived (oh joy, I can pay some bills now), cranking up the ‘puter to check email, got my coffee ... then Stanley said, “Alice is back in the hospital.” Blood clots in the lungs? Fluid around the heart? We will go to see her on Sunday afternoon, I think, unless she tells us not to. She had a CT scan, which is how the blood clots were found. I hope she knows more about what’s going on tomorrow but I suspect they won’t be able to tell her anything until at least Monday. She’s in Norwalk Hospital, which I loathe almost as much as I loathe Bridgeport Hospital. So I’m pretty upset about that.

maple by the potting shed
(click to enlarge)
We worked in the yard again today. This week, a lot of the rest of the leaves came down. The catalpas are still clinging to half of the dead slabs of leather-like leaves that clunk when they fall. Stanley blew the newest layers of fallen leaves into a pile that is getting huge. I guess he plans on shredding them soon. I planted some more bulbs: tulips and irises and some lilies, mainly. I have more to go tomorrow. It was about 55 degrees out so it wasn’t so bad; it is supposed to be a little warmer Sunday. I have until Tuesday to get the rest in—if I’m running out of time I will plant them in the container garden and move them next year. We still have to get the new rosebush in and one more arborvitae.

This photo was taken on November 2, which was about peak around here. Which was about 10-14 days late this year. This shows the maple next to the potting shed. Right now, the shed is boarded up because the cretins at the middleschool next door to us kept breaking out the windows, and Stanley uses it to store stuff, tools and what’s left of old furniture and other junque. It mostly grows mildew and mold—I can’t even go in it without feeling like I’m suffocating unless the door has been open for a while. Next year, I would like to open up the windows and clean it out and really use it as a garden shed. It’s a pretty area back there, though there is a tree falling over that we need to get rid of. I think if we used it more, it would discourage the teeny boppers from using the area behind it as a trysting spot (the joke’s on them when they get poison ivy!)

More "it gets dark so early now"

posted by lee on 11/12/05 at 08:59 PM
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Sunday, November 13, 2005

unesco world heritage sites

World Heritage Sites is a pretty amazing resource. This is what it’s about:

The WHTour is creating a documentary and educational image bank of printable panographies and online virtual tours for all sites registered as World Heritage by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

All panographies are shooted [sic], assembled and uploaded exclusively on this website by Tito Dupret, a 34 year-old multimedia director from Belgium and Bijuan Chen, his 26 year-old wife and multimedia assistant from China.

So far, they have covered Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eastern Canada, China, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkmenistan, The Philippines, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

This represents 16 % of all 812 WH sites : 131 sites with 750+ panographies.

This project is slowly growing since July 2001 and will need years to complete. The WHTour is alive thanks to the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the World Monuments Fund and Donators.

You need Quicktime to view the images. And be sure to click the links at the bottom to find out more about the way the project is put together.

There are two things that bother me about this project, though. The first is that they need to put up a disclaimer: “To all governments, organizations, companies and individuals : act responsibly. Don’t commercialize, pollute, trash or blow up World Heritage Sites.” Blow up? Sad, but true.

The second is that there are no, as far as I can tell, descriptions or histories of what it is you’re looking at. Maybe they plan to link that in later.

You can sign up to be notified when there are new sites or panographies added (panographies are panoramas you can control—it’s sort of like seeing things as if you were standing there yourself). And you can donate to the project—it’s worth supporting. The maps are pretty good.

I’ve been to only one place on this list—can you guess which one? The saddest is Bam, Iran, as they show photos from before and after the earthquake.

posted by lee on 11/13/05 at 10:07 AM
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

no down time

This is bad—I’ve managed to get so far behind I haven’t had a chance to answer all of my email in days and days even though I’ve composed the replies in my brain. I thought I’d have some downtime, but things just seemed to spring up all at once. A mixture of good things and bad things. A lot of work, projects I’m intensely interested in (one of which I should have completed by Sunday. Maybe.) None of them are boring, alas—each requiring some problem solving so it’s hard to know what to start with each day because I love problem solving. I need to get more organized. (I’m not organized right now—listening to Craig Ferguson as I write this. His monologues are usually very funny, sort of a stream of consciousness that’s both intelligent and bizarre.)

I planned on having our books (as in accounting) up to date by now. I loathe bookkeeping but, until this year, was fairly proficient at keeping it up to date. This year, that habit was shot to hell. We’re merging our businesses, which will be a little schizo in a way, but not really. But I can’t merge the books until I get them up to date. Why don’t we get a bookkeeper, you may wonder? Because it would take me as long to get everything together to hand over as it would to just get everything up to date.

So today, I’m just zooming through a project, things are falling into place with it like they do when I decide to solve things rather than bandaid things, and my mom called. Mom doesn’t call that often, probably because they use a calling card for long distance and by the time she’s punched in the 47 or so numbers she needs to use, it’s hard to remember why she’s doing it. Anyway, she wanted to let us know that my dad is going into the Univ. of Michigan Hospital on November 28 to get his right carotid artery roto-rootered. My sister Kelly, a super-competent nurse (who works at this particular hospital), says it’s a routine procedure, an overnight stay in most cases, follow-up in about two weeks, and he’s good to go. Maybe that will cure his bouts of dizziness. He’s in very good health, manages his diabetes, walks nearly every day, coming up on eight years since his bypass. So I’m going to try not to worry too much.

But our friend Alice is back in the hospital, a flare-up of her Crohn’s and some other stuff going on. I am very worried about her. She’s been in since last Saturday so it’s not something relatively simple. Stanley has been tending her kitties and birds, but I bet her creatures miss her as she mostly worked at home so they’re used to having her there. Stanley’s been friends with Alice for about 40 years, so this is really hard on him ...

More "no down time"

posted by lee on 11/17/05 at 08:59 PM
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Friday, November 18, 2005

humus

http://www.humus.nu/—humus is an online “bookstore” (sort of) where visitors provide designs, illustrations, photographs, and animations which are then put together in virtual moleskines. Which you can view online or download.

posted by lee on 11/18/05 at 10:01 AM
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

the form assembly

Of all the things that are involved in making a website, the one and only task I loathe is building a form. I’m talking about a standards-compliant form that is as pretty as a form can be. I always forget all the tags: label, fieldset, etc. etc. So, wanting to speed things up when I needed to make a reservation form for a site we’re working on, I googled “standards compliant form generator” and hoped. And I found The Form Assembly, which is a breeze to use despite it being built in AJAX, which I’m trying to decide if I really like or if it is a solution in search of a problem. At any rate, here is the URL: http://www.formassembly.com/ At The Form Assembly, brainchild of Cédric Savarese, you can build as many forms as you like for free.

If you don’t want to worry about setting up form processing software and just need to compile the responses, you can set up an account where the form is processed on TFA website and results are posted in your account plus emailed to you. This is priced at 12 cents a response, which you buy in blocks of credit or pay a monthly fee.

Since I already have great form processing software from Will Bontrager, which also builds a database as well as sending out email, etc. (and I need a database for this particular application), I don’t need to subscribe. But I plan to give the subscription component a whirl on an upcoming website that doesn’t need a database.

TFA needs some more finishing—some “Under Construction” pages there and some of the Help is sparse, but it looks like it’s going to be a great site. It already saved me a couple of hours of mind-numbing markup.

posted by lee on 11/22/05 at 03:15 PM
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