Monday, October 20, 2014

Kitty Litter Issue

Every once in awhile I find something I must share with you - simply for entertainment purposes. This is an Amazon customer review (1 Star) for the Scoop Free Self Cleaning Litter Box. And, no, we do not have cats, are not in the market for cats, and to explain how I came about this is way too complicated to bore you with.

These are poor Matt's thoughts on this product. 

Maybe I'm just doing something wrong, but honestly, I can't understand all the rave reviews. I have a 4-month-old kitten and I am well aware that kittens will use up litter much faster than adult cats, but we're still talking ONE CAT and I am only on day 5 of a fresh cartridge and the smell is already so intolerable that I can't be within 5 feet of the box without retching. It literally smells like someone peed in a leather boot filled with oatmeal and then microwaved it for 15 minutes. Anyone that says they manage with one cartridge for 30 days is either a liar, criminally insane or lost their sense of smell in some freak, manure-huffing accident. To contrast, I had no odor problems with the scooping litter I was originally using (I'm talking a post-poopfest, pre-scoop, completely-thrashed litter box too). Also, even with the hood and the carpet (yes - I'm the sucker that bought all the accessories), the crystals get EVERYWHERE. Then there's the price of the refills. $51.99 for three, or $99.99 for six. The audacity to charge over 15 dollars for a piece of cardboard and a pound of litter is breathtakingly criminal, and that's even if they lasted as long as the company advertises. I bought a 3-pack of litter cartridges. With these, along with the one that comes with the box, I thought I would be set for 4 months of scoop-free bliss... how sorely mistaken I was. I am already on the third cartridge and I'm already about to toss it and pop in the last one.

On to the rake system: I will admit that it's a rather ingenious design and I'm sure it's a vast improvement over other automatic liter boxes (I really wouldn't know), but I still think those boys from MIT need to go back to the drawing board. Maybe my threshold for noise is different than others, but I find this box intolerably loud and annoying. The raking itself is loud, but then at the mid point of its direction change, the rake pivots and falls to the other side making a very loud clunking noise. This, of course, is endlessly fascinating for a kitten and he will promptly investigate the noise and end up going inside the box again, setting off the infrared mechanism, ensuring that the cleaning cycle will happen 20 minutes later. I can't really fault the manufacturer for a kitten's curiosity, but I do believe it's something kitten owners should be aware of. In addition to the noise, the rake spacing is still rather wide which will invariably lead to cat poop getting behind, and thusly out of the reach of, the rake system. Sorry, but I never had to scrape crap out of my old litter box with a butter knife. Just let that imagery float around in your head for a couple minutes. I haven't had any problems with urine leaking through the bottom of the trays, but then again, I haven't had a tray in the box for more than a week. However, I did notice that the corners to the tops of every box were broken at the seams; though I don't know if this is from how they were shipped, or a manufacturing defect. Anyway, long story short: I'm switching back to the old box once I use the last refill cartridge... so that should be in about 6 days.

Edit (1/27/08): After browsing around for a solution to the smell, I tried one of the suggestions which is to mix the litter around manually and that definitely seemed to help, though ScoopFree recommends you just leave the box alone and let it do its thing (that's what I had been doing). Someone else recommended using a small amount of baking soda on the bottom of the tray before pouring in the crystals. I'll give that a shot on the next cartridge. Anyway, taking 15 seconds out of your day to mix around the crystals isn't a big deal and if I can squeeze at least 2 weeks of use out of the cartridge, I'll definitely bump up the rating.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Closing From Hell

And I thought last week's saga was a debacle. Well, as Yogi Berra infamously said, "It ain't over 'til it's over". Over? Honey we aren't even close to this damn thing closing.

Last I time I opined on this subject Wells Fargo had replaced a Loan Officer, were working on a federal holiday and expected to get the loan package to the attorney so he could overnight the papers to the buyer for his signatures Tuesday. Well miracles do happen. Wells Fargo came through and the papers were sent. However, somehow UPS Overnight managed to send the papers from Tryon, NC to  Asheville, NC instead of from Tryon, NC to California. (I would not believe it had I not seen the tracking sheet.) So UPS returned the closing documents to Tryon.

So on Tuesday the papers that were supposed to be in California being signed by the buyer (who has yet to see the house) and overnighted back east were still in Tryon. So, Plan B (or rather Plan E by now): email pdf copies, use electronic signatures while the hard copies are (supposedly) being sent across country. Whereby, the attorney will have an electronic copy of the signature of the buyer, my excuted documents (that I have already signed and delivered in advance), and then my brother can sign his part (and any other part I may need to sign with the power of attorney I gave him for that purpose.) Life is good.

Or is it? That was Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon, my brother emails everyone: "I will be out of town Thursday, returning next Tuesday so if the closing cannot take place today, we will have to postpone it until next Wednesday."

Needless to say, this produced a flurry of emails. One from the attorney saying that my brother could sign the papers Wednesday and everything could continue. After all, the buyer and one seller were already signing in absence, why not make the entire closing virtual? Sounded like a plan to me.

That night I got a call from my brother. He had considered what the attorney suggested and the more he thought about it, the more he thought, perhaps, it was not a good idea. He wanted to delay the closing until next Wednesday when he returned from his trip. 

Seriously? I thought. You have got to be kidding. I did not know where to start. I am sure my silence was deafening, or at least I hope it was. My first thought was to to follow Clemmie's (my DH's late family's housekeeper) advice: "Choke 'em and dare 'em to die!" My second thought was, "Have you lost your ever living mind?" But, trying to keep my composure I simple asked, "Why?"

He offered some concerns, each of which I quickly dismissed. Then I frankly said, "With all the crap we have gone through trying to close this deal, you want to delay it another week? Do you know how many other "issues" can pop up in seven days, given the major ones we have dealt with in the past three?"

"So, you think I should sign the papers tomorrow?"

Politely I said, "Yes. I fear what may happen if you don't."

He agreed to sign the papers. 

I went to bed that night thinking over what other obstacles could hinder this closing: something could happen to the attorney (he is a sole practitioner); God forbid there be some major weather event in mid-west that caused a delay to all FedEx and UPS air shipments; the buyer could just show up, see the house and realize the error of his ways; the realtor could be deemed incompetent and all her contracts therefore null and void - oh my imagination ran wild with ideas. Finally I went to sleep.

Wednesday morning I awoke with a sickening feeling, what if the worse had occurred - it was all a dream. There was no buyer, no offer, no contract, no closing. My brother called later to say that he had signed the documents. So the deal will go through, finally. Unless . . . 

I am still waiting for the fat lady to sing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thanksgiving Moves On

Holidays around here have evolved like I am sure they do with most families. When the girls were young we would go to each of our parents' home for big celebrations. My DH's family Christmas was something akin to a Norman Rockwell event, my family not so much. By the time I came on the scene there were already four grandchildren on his side, so Christmas was very special and the crowd was fairly large. Coming from a family of four, with only a younger brother, our holidays looked very sedate. Well, not counting our Thanksgiving celebrations at High Acres when I was younger - but that was in another life time and anything but Norman Rockwell.

As the years moved on, Thanksgiving started being rotated among my DH's siblings' homes. I always enjoyed hosting the event. For one thing it meant that I could get all the little repairs I needed accomplished and major cleaning around the house that went undone because it was his family that was coming. In fact it must have made quite the impression on the girls because a month or so ago I had mopped the sunroom (which it badly needed) and my daughter walked in, looked at it, and remarked, "Wait, are we hosting Thanksgiving this year?" That is sad - but I digress.

Then the room formerly known as my dining room became my DH's office / closet and our kitchen table became the landing area for anything he brought into the house, staging area for any project he started, and depository of the remnants of all those unfinished projects. We could not host Thanksgiving if we wanted to unless we served everyone on TV trays in the den.

So last year my daughter hosted Thanksgiving at her home inluding us as well as her in-laws. In a way it was sad not to be the hostess, but life moves on (and the state of our house does not.) This year she announced she was hosting it and would once again include both families.Since there is a grandchild now involved the game has changed. 

My DH commented that he missed the way we used to do Thanksgiving. I just looked at him, "Seriously? When we had everyone here?" He did not say anything. I continued, "I loved it and wish we could do it again. I thought you hated it. Of course that would involve your doing something with your 'office', the kitchen table, and the yard."

"Oh, I didn't mean that part. That was a pain in the ass. I just liked it the way it was."

"Honey, that was the way it was."

Or perhaps there is some revisionist history he would like to share. Personally I would to have a reason to get those long put off home and yard projects done and the house go through a major clean-up, not to mention host an event. This is the real world. The way I look at it, there are trade offs, when you take the dining room, you give up any chance of hosting holidays. However, a grandchild may make one rethink many things. Alas, I do not think hosting the family Thanksgiving is one of them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Can You Hear Me Now

I came in the house Friday to find my DH walking around with a small black box. "I'm putting this in the bedroom. It is supposed to boost our cell coverage in the house."

Great I thought, why not add a cell tower on top of the freezer. (I just thought that - I know better than to say it aloud, even in jest.) I finished bringing in the bags of groceries. By this time my DH was walking around with another small box. Apparently this was the 2nd part of the "booster".

"I've taken my cell phone and walked all through the house to see where I could get the strongest signal. The best I can get is 2 out of 5 bars in my office. So I am putting this [the black box he was holding] in there."

"Really?" I asked. "I get 5 bars on my phone in my office." This is when I wanted to recall my words - you know, stop the film, cut that part of the dialogue out like I never said it. What was I thinking? I knew where this would go, and it would be long and painful.

Sure enough, he looked at me, "Seriously? 5 bars? I do not get more than a blip of 3 anywhere."

While I was in it, I may as well just keep going, "I get 4 or 5 bars anywhere in the house."

"Let me see what my phone will do in your office." He took it in there - 2 bars. He was not a happy camper.

There was a digital number on one of the boxes indicating the strength of the signal. So for the next 30 or 40 minutes my DH would move the box around the house, then take the second part to another area. Next I would hear him ask, "What does it say now?"

It would bounce from a one or a two.I went about my business. Next thing I knew my DH was on a ladder outside the window. "I thought hanging it outside would give a better signal. What does it say now?"

"A two."

This went on from the top of the sunroom to the window in the kitchen to the back of the house outside our bedroom. Finally he announced that he was hanging it from the eave of the roof. "I think that is the best place."

Later I asked him, "So that boosts cell coverage in the house?"

"Actually no, it strengthens the WIFI signal so your phone can optimize the WIFI network. But I just learned my phone will not work on the WIFI network."

"Well I get 4 or 5 bars and I have no desire to use the WIFI and take a chance on using up data. So if you cannot use it and I am not going to use it, why do we have it?"

"Are you sure you do not want to use the WIFI network?" 

"No", and this is where I want to ask, "Can you hear ME now?"

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Please Port Me

After 16 years of loyal service with Verizon wireless my DH finally convinced me to jump ship and take our mobile service to T-Mobile. Well our $277 monthly bill had a lot to do with it. Not only were they offering incredibly lower prices - they would pay a very gracious amount of our termination fees since they assumed Verizon was going to be none too happy we were taking our marbles aka cell phones and porting our numbers and business elsewhere.

In typical style my DH researched the heck out of their plans, knew what we wanted, had spoken with the T-Mobile folks on line (made notes) and was prepared to walk into the store. Our experience went as follows (I'll give you the reader's digest version.):

  • Our hometown store was initially not very professional - so we left saying we may be back;
  • The store in Columbia was OK until they started refuting most of what we had been told earlier, we left;
  • We returned home and my DH called T-Mobile 800 service again with questions;
  • Armed with more information and assured by the 800 service we tried our hometown store once more. The service was slow and the guy helping us had to stop several times to assist another worker who did not have a clue what she was doing. Then the landlord came in and there was a mild altercation over where everyone should be parking. Next there was some issue about moving all the chairs in the store to the back room. By the time we got to activation, I was confused. Then there were fees we had not agreed on and he could not or would not discuss them. My DH simply said, We are not doing this. It is not worth it". And we walked out.
  • One more call to the 800 number and someone obviously soothed my DH's soul and assured him what he had been told was wrong.
  • I was in Greenville Wednesday and found a corporate store. After explaining my plight, the young lady pulled up the account she saw what the other man had done, explained where we stood, asked a few questions and quickly the account was straight, the lines were converted and the new phones set-up. She even waived some fees.  She arranged for someone reconfigure my DH's phone so he could use it on the T-Mobile service.
Needless to say when I called my DH and told him about my experience he was glad that we had successfully changed carriers, however he was very dubious about someone being able to reconfigure his phone or whether a two hour drive would be worth it. However, the following day as he was leaving the store after getting his phone reconfigured he call thrilled. "Why can't they all be like this?"

So it only took three conversations with the 800 service and four visits to three stores in three different towns, but we have changed services. Yes, it was painful. But the worst part has not even started. I cannot wait to get the termination letters, bills, and calls from Verizon when they realize we have left.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Closing That was to Be

The nightmare continues. You can only have so many moving parts before a wheel or two comes off the wagon. When you have a home in one state owned by two people who live in two separate states being sold to a third party who in turn lives in a third state, three time zones away - are you getting the picture? Now let's add a closing that will take 2 days because part of it is being done via FedEx and a large national bank. 

Well the closing that was orginally scheduled for Wednesday was "temporarily" rescheduled for Thursday. However given on Wednesday no one had a time or place for the closing the following day, not to mention no one had not heard from the bank - it did not look god for the home team. So Thursday morning there was a flurry of emails between all the parties - by this time, we have 2 sellers, a buyer, 2 realtors, an attorney, and a non-responsive bank. No closing on Thursday.

Later I learned that the closing package had been assigned to an incompetent loan officer at the bank - that was bad. He had been fired this week due to his incompetency - that was good. A new person had been hired in his place - that was encouraging. However she would have to figure out where everything stood before anything could be done with the loan package - that was bad. It looked like everything could start moving again on Friday (ie the papers be sent to California and returned) for a closing on Monday - this was good. Monday (naturally) is a federal holiday - this was bad.

Our best guess is Tuesday. And only then if the new loan officer figures it all out, Fedex does not have a stoppage, all the parties can be in one place (with the exception of the buyer whose papers will be sent in ahead of the actual closing), the numbers are correct on the HUD form, and Jupiter aligns with Mars  - will this happen. But like an old car salesman once told me, "Honey it ain't over until the bumper crosses the curb and the check clears the bank."

The fat lady hasn't sung yet. In fact the fat lady hasn't even gotten to the theater. I just hope we have the correct theater and have a fat lady to sing.