“You Know … I Can’t Do Basic Math”

Cough howdy cough sneaze folks!  I have fallen victim to a summer plague given to me by a certain someone who will go namelindess.  As a result, most of my nights have been spent laying on the couch turning my brain to mush with reality TV – apparently this is the only programming on TV these days.  This has been extremely frustrating seeing as how it has prevented me from some important training runs.  The good news is my steady diet of vitamin C coupled with heavy doses of NyQuil have finally gained the upper hand.  Unfortunately, this hell spawn has reduced me to a short post today (besides, my posts of late have tended to be a little verbose so it is probably for the best).

Tonight’s post is as fresh as it gets folks.  This didn’t happen a year ago like my vacation posts, or even a month ago.  Nope, this entry is based on an experience that happened a mere 4 hours ago.  It isn’t so much one aspect of the event that caused my quandary as it is the contradictory logic involved.  Let’s get to the details shall we?  Linda likes to refer to me as Mr. PVC (actually that is probably one of the nicer monikers she uses).  This is due to the fact I tend to head straight for the white plastic whenever I need to translate a crazy idea into something tangible.  Take for example the Halloween decoration (link) or the latest example of the new bird feeder (link).  She nixed my idea of building our house out of the versatile product.  Needless to say, another project is at hand which involves the need to interchange certain parts.  A few hours in the PVC aisle solved the problem which included the three piece coupling pictured above.  A late design change (after a prototype flaw) required me to purchase 5 more of these couplings to perfect the design.  Not wanting to get confused with the half million (just a slight exaggeration) different coupling options available, I decided to take one of them into the store with me.

After work today, I decided to stop by the local Lowe’s store and finish the material purchases.  Conditioned by the annoying Walmart and Best Buy greeting system coupled with Sam’s Club’s “everyone that leaves the store is a thief” model has made me overly sensitive to causing a shoplifting accusation.  Big thanks to those three stores for making an honest person worry about this – all they need to do is add a TSA patdown when you come in and I’ll be turning Amish.  Holding my little coupler openly in my hand (picture above is almost lifesize), I waited in line at the return desk to get a sticker or something to indicate that I had already purchased it.  My turn came up and I held out my coupler and asked him if they needed to mark it.  The clerk looked at me and said “Oh no, we don’t sticker anything, just go right ahead”.  Ummm okay, that is both refreshing and concerning at the same time.  Hey, this company trusts me … or is it Hey, we have a sucker on the hook.  I decided to give them some credit and went with the former assessment.  Fifteen minutes later I had built the 5 new connectors and headed to the register.  I placed the couplers on the counter and made it clear to the clerk there were actually 10 end parts and 5 middle parts so again, no one thought I was trying to sneak something by them.  At the same time I showed her the one I had brought in and told her I brought that one in with me and put it in my front shirt pocket.  She didn’t hesitate a second and proceeded to ring up the 5 new couplers.  Wow, Lowe’s appears to have a well understood “trust the customer” policy.  There was probably a goofy grin on my face the whole time she was ringing up the items…. and then she hit the total button.

Hit the jump to read the rest about the rest of the experience.

Continue reading “You Know … I Can’t Do Basic Math”

Operation: Pesky Varmint Control

It has been awhile since I’ve embarked on an operation around here.  Most of my time has been spent training for some upcoming runs and dealing with the daily upkeep around the lot.  Unfortunately,  the catalyst for this effort is based in some sadness.  We had to say goodbye to an old friend this month.  While scouting out our lot to set the placement for the house, we became attached a tall sturdy oak in the middle of the woods.  In fact, we liked it so much we actually positioned our house around it so we could enjoy it from our windows every day.  There was a lot of construction near it which might have caused it some undue trauma or possibly succumbed to some tree pests invading the area.  In either case, the tree didn’t make it through the Spring and we had to put it down.

Not only did we lose an excellent source of shade, but I also lost my bird theater since our feeders were hung off its branches.  I literally have thousands of bird pictures as a result of that tree and it was heart tugging to watch it be ravaged by the chainsaws.  Once down my immediate concern went to how to keep from losing all the birds that had adopted my feeders.  In desperation I rigged a temporary solution off of the deck railing.  This sounded like a plan until I came home and saw this one day.

That would be a mother raccoon hanging onto the bird feeder in order to drop seed down to her 3 (actually 4) babies. Unbelievable how intelligent these creatures are. From that point on, those babies came back all day long to feast on whatever the birds dropped into the grass or porch. Of course, this included a passion for digging holes in search of any seeds that may have slipped into a crack. This is unacceptable and since I will not harm a young animal or an adult with its young I was forced to initiate Operation Pesky Varmint Control…for simplicity, lets call it Operation PVC. This was going to take something that can withstand the elements, be easy to work with and be a hindrance to bandits with thumbs. A trip to Lowes was in order and I knew just the aisle to start in. After about 6 hours across multiple trips to Lowes I had gathered the following.

If you are curious how all these fit together, hit the jump to see the rest of the post.

Continue reading Operation: Pesky Varmint Control

Not A Creature Was Stirring, Not Even A Mouse

I must admit, today I was utterly surprised.  Every Christmas Eve, I head out to the shopping malls and popular stores.  No, I am not a procrastinator and usually have all my required gifts already purchased (maybe not wrapped yet, but that is whole different story).  No, the only reason I do this is for the sheer entertainment value from watching holiday shoppers.  The best time to observe people is always at times of stress and there is not too many other days that rate higher on the stress meter than the day before St. Nick breaks into our homes and showers the good with presents.  I can remember the numerous occasions of people attacking line-cutters, angry shoppers engaging store employees, customers wrestling for the last Furbie and the all too common denial of credit card.  For a people watcher this is good as gold and since I was not in any time constraints I could slink back into the crowd and take it all in.

So, off I went today anxious as to what I might observe.  First off, Best Buy.  I wanted to do a quick check to see if there were any last minute reductions on laptops and figured I would check if they happened to have a gift for Linda someone had mentioned a few days ago (again, just a bonus since her shopping has been done for awhile).  There was the usual traffic cop directing traffic through the ridiculous single entrance to Cub/Lowes/Best Buy stores, but he really was not doing that much.  I was not even stopped or delayed once all the way into the parking lot.  This was definitely an odd occurrence.  Once parked, in a semi-filled BB lot I headed into the store expecting to see people defending their finds.  Again, nothing.  Some people were milling about, but that was about it.  I checked out the gift idea and there it was sitting on the shelf and nobody even looking in that direction.  I decided to go ahead and grab it and would instead have fun watching all the people get extremely annoyed in the checkout line.  When I arrived up front, I noticed they had recently put the blue line guides on the carpet and had snaked it out into the store for optimal capacity.  For clarification purposes, I had NO PROBLEM noticing it because I could see it clearly the entire time as I was walking straight up to an empty cashier.  Only two other people were checking out in the 3 other open registers.  This was an absolute first.  I disappointingly paid for my items and walked out of the store in disbelief.

On my way out, my wife called and wanted me to get some driveway salt for her mother who was having difficulty locating it in the Quad Cities.  Excellent, another opportunity to see the mad dash for last chance gifts for Dads.  This soon became ominous when I ended up parking about 8 spots from the door and that included the protection buffer I keep to protect my doors from those who apparently have no appreciation for others.  I crossed over the door beam and walked into a nearly empty store.  I counted no more than 40 people as I walked through the various aisles.  I located in the salt, found some lithium grease for an upcoming blog topic and again walked directly up to the cashier and paid for my items.  This is totally unbelievable.  In fact, I was so amazed, I ended up calling my wife to relay my disappointment.  Luckily she mentioned the dogs probably needed a couple more items for their stockings (don’t laugh, they are treated better than most kids) so I headed down past Cub to the local PetSmart.  This looked more like it.  I had to park pretty far out into the lot (buffer still included) and had a significant walk to the door.  There were definitely more people there than at Lowes, but there was definitely a more low keyed if not joyous atmosphere as people discussed how cute a particular collar was or validated the squeaker actually worked on a particular stuffed animal.  I had my first chuckle of the day since I validated a previous observation I had been working on.  Based on my findings, almost all people will check a squeaker no less than 2 times before they are satisfied that it actually works.  This testing process rarely goes past 4 squeaks because I think people start feeling self-conscious at that point because about then people in view start to stare.

I continued looking around, but could not find a single instance of any stressed out people.  Even the dogs were being nice to each other.  I grabbed a few stocking stuffers and headed up to the cashiers.  There was finally a small line at the registers and by that I mean each of the open registers were checking out a customer.  Finally, I could experience a wait scenario which usually breeds grumpiness.  My chance had finally arrived… NOPE.  A lady walks around the corner and asks to check me out in the register a row over.  So reluctantly, I moved over to that counter and completed the transaction.  She was even very nice indicating that she had not had her fill of unruly pet owners for the day.

Drats!  A complete waste of time.  Where is everyone?  Are the holiday shopping activities really this bad?  Has the economy in Peoria finally caught up with the rest of the States (as of last month, our housing market was still going strong)?  Has the recent Caterpillar announcements on layoffs and pay freezes significantly dampened the holiday festivities?  I doubt everyone has done their shopping early this year for that would be in out of character for the previous 18 or so years I have been making the Christmas Eve run.  For now, my best guess is the bad economy has hit everyone hard.  I will be interested in seeing the final revenue statistics from the local merchants.

Oh well, best wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.