Mulch Math

Monday was Memorial Day here in the USA.  Since it was a Federal holiday, and I’m a full-time worker, anymore I have the day off from work.  Which sort of screws up my scheduling for the remainder of the week, but what can you do.  I could have chosen Friday as my other day off, and then worked 4 days straight until my scheduled day off next week, OR I could have Wednesday off as I normally do, and then work 6 days.  Since my wife generally schedules her doctor’s appointments on Wednesdays, I figured that was the better choice to make, since I don’t mind working a six-day stretch at a time.

Since it was a day off, we’d decided that we were in need of a trip to either of the big box home improvement stores, Home Depot, or Lowes.  There are three in the vicinity, 20 and 40 miles away, depending on which direction we wished to travel.  If we decided on east (Home Depot), my theory was it would likely be more crowded, as it’s more of a ‘built-up’ area, and there would be more people shopping.  As it turned out, it didn’t make a difference.

A few miles after leaving the house, there was a distinct binging sound from the instrument panel.  We’d just taken the exit and were heading west when I discovered I’d forgotten to gas up the car the day before.  So we were approximately 20 miles from an empty gas tank, we were tooling down the road doing 65 mph and had the AC running full tilt.  The closest gas station was behind us and there wasn’t an exit to turn around at for another 10 miles.  Call it the perfect storm.  I shut down the AC to conserve gas and crossed my fingers that we weren’t going to run out before getting to our exit.  We do have AAA, so if worse came to worse, we could call and they’d bring us 5 gallons of gas, but no one wants to be in that situation, it’s kind of embarrassing, y’know?

As it turned out, we made it to the gas station with a smidge left in the tank.  With disaster averted, we were free to travel to Lowes and do a bit of shopping.  Only when we got to the store, the parking lot was jammed.  Looks like everyone else in the area was taking advantage of the warm weather and making the pilgrimage to get plants, home improvement options and all manner of stuff, taking it home to do whatever with it.   Oh well.

Once we got parked, we made out our game plan.  Roto-tiller hardware first, then mulch and potting soil second.  I’d already checked the website for the store before going, determining that they didn’t have much in the way of small engine repair options, so that was going to have to wait for another day.  Also before leaving, we’d gone out to the backyard and did some measuring, to see how much mulch we were going to be needing this year.  My wife had used the calculator on the Lowes website, plugged in the numbers and came up with about 21 bags, with a presumption of 2 inches of mulch in the beds (originally she went with 3 inches, but that raised the amount of bags to 30, so she went with less depth).  I used a different calculator but made an error, instead of using the measurements as separate pieces of the puzzle, I added them together, creating a huge square footage box, which translated to over 100 bags of mulch.  I only discovered my error later in the day.  Fortunately we didn’t buy the 100 bags!

Going to the hardware aisle, I found an associate, gave him the bolt that I had and informed him that I needed two more just like it.  It took him about five minutes to finally come up with them, though he insisted that the bolts were ¼”, when I used a 7/16ths wrench to remove them.  After getting two nuts to go with them and paying for them, we were about to go to the garden center when my wife decided to interact with the cashier.  She asked him about the mulch and potting soil, and he suggested that we pay for them right then and there, and pick them up at the garden center to save time.  I was ok with that, for the most part, but when my wife said “Five bags“, it stopped me short.  Instead of saying something, I just let the guy ring it up, thinking she’d changed her mind and decided to get fewer bags initially, to be sure they were the right color, or whatever else was on her mind about it. As it turned out, I should have said something, because later in the car she confirmed that she’d erred, she meant TEN bags, not five.

Going to the garden center with the receipt, I was able to find the potting soil easy enough, loaded the bags on a flatbed and rolled it towards the exit.  I talked to one of the cashiers, and asked her to confirm that they were paid for, but she pretty nonchalantly waved me through without even looking at my receipt.  Makes me wonder how much they lose in thievery per month if their employees are that lax.  Or maybe there was something else going on that I was unaware of.  Getting the mulch was a little more driving, as they had a space in the parking lot where the bags were on pallets.  Giving the receipt to one of the burly fellows, they took very little time to pile them in the Edge and we were pretty much done.

By that time both of us were pretty ready to come home.  I wanted to swing by Wal-Mart to check to see if they had anything in the way of small engine repair, but as it turned out they didn’t.  Piled into the car and headed home.

I went back to the Lowes website this evening and checked out their mulch calculator, plugging in the numbers as they were originally measured, and then as a combined total and discovered my error.  What I originally thought was my wife’s error turned out to be my own.  No harm done, but as the saying (sort of) goes ‘measure twice, order once‘.

Round and round we go

As I mentioned earlier this week, we’ve been having trouble getting the vehicle inspected prior to returning it and leasing a new one next month.  There have been a slew of calls between myself and the scheduling people who are contracted to do the job.  Last week would have been the perfect time for this to be accomplished, and I was practically giddy that they had an appointment that could be done when I was not only off from work, but would be available and we could get it out-of-the-way.  The last time that we leased, we were actually able to turn the car in early and drive away with the Edge we have now.  But with the shenanigans we’ve been forced to deal with, that may not be the case this time around.

Over the last couple of days, there have been no less than five phone calls going back and forth.  Granted, if we’d been able to get this done last week, that wouldn’t have been necessary.  The fact that the inspector had our home address, and went to the dealership instead and then instead of calling us directly to see what was going on, just went about her day was pretty infuriating.  Having to cool my heels for 5 hours waiting for what turned out to be no reason pissed me off greatly.  Yes, I’m still ticked about it a week later.  I expressed my frustrations to the several operators with whom I spoke to after the fact, while we were attempting to get a new appointment set up.  To their credit, at least they understood where I was coming from.  One (J.T.) took it upon himself to apologize not once, but a couple of times.  Which, admittedly, make me feel better.  I work in retail, I know mistakes happen.  Packages get mislaid or undelivered, or just plain lost.  People go to the wrong address.  Things happen.  But you don’t just shrug it off and go on to your next appointment!  Make a phone call, call your supervisor who has the contact information.  Do something.  Don’t just blow it off.

The other day, while I was out, another phone call from the dispatch center with another offer.  Unfortunately, it’s for a day that I’m going to be at work, and neither I nor the car will be available for the inspector.  Sure, I could ask that they go to my workplace, but they need to get inside the car, start it up, take pictures and have me available as well for a proper, acceptable inspection.  So, it has to be on a day when both criteria are met.  I call them back (they left a message on the answering machine) and inform them that it’s not possible in that time frame.  The person I’m talking to isn’t overly concerned, since it’s still a month away from the time when we need to turn in the vehicle.  Yes, but sometimes days become weeks and so on, so the sooner we get this out-of-the-way, the better I’m going to feel.  I’ve never been the sort that likes to have that Damocles sword hanging over my head, I don’t like the feeling of ‘impending doom’ if something isn’t done satisfactorily.  Though that’s sometimes odd, since I procrastinate a lot.  I’m complicated, talk to my mother.

Finally, yesterday, I think we got it knocked.  A call from the dispatch center and they have a day offered that actually works for me.  Although it is about 10 days before the time that we’re to turn in the vehicle, so if this doesn’t pan out, I’m not certain what’s to be done.  I made sure I went over every niggling detail with JT on the phone, to be sure there weren’t going to be any screwups.  To his credit, he was patient as well, answering my questions, giving me the information that I asked for and confirming everything so in case there was a problem the inspector wasn’t going to just up and leave.  This has to be done, so it’s going to be done.  Come hell or high water.  I’m not paying a penalty for someone else’s screwup.

Yes, I will update this.

The squeaky wheel got some grease

Over the past week or so, both of my blogs have been running really slowly.  And it’s been frustrating the piss out of me, to use the vernacular.  I’ve been holding off on contacting my web domain provider, since they’ve been pretty open on the hosting website that they’re ‘working to fix the problems’ and have had their collective hands full with misbehaving storage servers, as well as attempting to convert their clientele to a whole new storage facility and hosting platform.  Sometimes one doesn’t necessarily want to add fuel to a fire.  Add in the fact that this is part of a larger problem that has been going on for the better part of the past month.

But this past Friday evening, at least to me, enough was enough.  I’ve already paid my monies to them many moons ago, and I’ve not been getting the results that I’ve come to expect for what I pay this company for.  Even though it was the beginning of the weekend, they tout that their assistance/support is manned ‘24/7, 365 days a year‘ so (in theory anyway) someone is always going to be around to look into a matter from their customers.  Which is supposed to be comforting, if indeed true.  Most companies don’t have customer support heavily manned over the weekend, since weekends tend to be down times and people get paid more for working on Sundays.  Consequently, if you’re going to have a catastrophic disaster, try to have it happen during the week.  If you can.

I accessed the support portion, figured out what I was going to say as succinctly as I could and posted my problem.  Then tried to access one of my blogs and was rewarded with a server error, telling me that the website in question was completely unavailable.  Awesome.  I took a screenshot of the error, cleaned it up in Corel Paint Shop Pro (we all can’t afford Adobe Photoshop) and added that to another post so whoever was going to answer the call had something to look at, in order to help.

As I expected, it took longer than a day for someone to assist.  I worked yesterday, so every now and again (too often I’m sure) I would check to see if someone had answered my call for help.  Nada.  The web provider is located in Germany, so they’re 6 hours ahead of me at any given time.  When I checked in last night around dinner time, though there wasn’t an update at the web server support page, I did get an email from them saying that they were ‘looking into the problem’, but as yet didn’t have a solution, so to be patient.  So, I did my best to comply.  I didn’t go to bed at a decent hour last night, matter of fact I stayed up until about 4:30am messing around with a HTML editor I used to use, that I was delighted to discover still works quite well in spite of being outdated and no longer supported by its creator (Hint: Scroll down to the program that’s called HTML-Kit 292, it’s free!).   It connects to the web via its own internal FTP program, you can edit in code, look at your results in real-time and even do things like CSS for your own websites if you’re so inclined.  It’s not a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, but it can help you learn HTML so you’re not having to pay someone else to create a website.  Pretty nifty program, and the price can’t be beat if you ask me.

Right around 4 am, I checked my email and there was a message from support.  They were aware of the problem and asked me to check both blogs to see if they were loading faster.  They were!  Hooray!  But being the skeptical sort, I thought it better to fire off a reply while I had someone’s attention and ask what the problem turned out to be, just in case it returned.  In my initial message, I worded it in such a way as to ask in an aside whether or not the slowness was possibly due to something on my end, not theirs.  The reason for this is, I have other websites that don’t utilize databases, like the blogs do.  The blogs are the only sites that are loading slowly.  The others pop right up when you type in their addresses in the browser.  The blogs weren’t.  So it was entirely possible that it was something on my end that was causing the problem, perhaps the databases weren’t set up correctly and needed to be edited in some fashion.

James from Support replied within a couple of minutes and stated that it wasn’t my end, it was most definitely theirs.  In the process of upgrading and moving customers to a new dataserver (I’d gone through that migration headache about 2 months ago) they encountered a major problem (that I referenced at the beginning of this post) and have been working diligently to fix it, while still attempting to run said server as well as the old one as ‘flawlessly’ (his word) as possible.  Suffice it to say, over the last couple of months, it hasn’t been flawless.  Watching my bandwidth traffic fall like a lead balloon from 8 GB/month to less than 1 hasn’t been either pretty or satisfying.  Couple that with email outages that last several days at a time, and you can imagine it gets one to thinking perhaps it’s time to pack up and move.  Which I did, as a test balloon with one of my domains.  Not certain if I’m going to leave it there, since the service is more expensive than this one, but if they can’t consistently get their sh*t together, I might end up going where it’s more stable.  I’ve been a customer of theirs since 2006, and it’s been pretty steady for all of that time.  A few outages every now and again, but nothing even closely resembling what’s going on now.  The cachet at the time when I first started with them was that they were outside of the US, so if I wanted to post a little ‘questionable’ content, they were ok with it, to a certain extent.  Nothing illegal mind you, but one has to be mindful of the keyholders at times, and that’s pretty much all I’m going to say about that.

I’ve never been a huge fan of making waves, but sometimes, the squeaky wheel can get a bit of grease.  And that’s not a bad thing.