Fuck You, Comcast

Airlines, telecoms and cable companies are consistently rated by consumers as some of the most hated industries. Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) coined the term “confusopoly” to describe industries whose pricing structures are impossible to understand and compare. It’s a spot-on accurate and brilliant description.

I’m not a huge fan of Delta, although they haven’t done much to actively screw us lately. We’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any major debacles while flying with them. (Knock wood) I really dislike Sprint – they are ridiculously overpriced, charging me for a data plan for my mom’s dumb flip phone just because I have an iPhone. And did I mention they charged me for a full month under my old plan in addition to my new one, just because I switched to an iPhone 2 days after the start of a new billing cycle? Total dickheads.

But I reserve my deepest loathing and disgust for Comcast, aka Xfinity. Not only do they screw us with their outrageous monthly charge, they have shitty equipment and frequent outages. We have DIRECTV in Phoenix and they are only marginally better. (When the service goes out, they always ask us if it’s raining – it’s the fucking desert, idiots) Choosing between cable/satellite is like choosing between Hilter and Stalin – it’s just varying levels of evilness.

So, why is Comcast currently at the top of my shit list? While sorting through some stuff in the basement today, I ran across a small electronic box with a Comcast logo. After some internet research, I discovered that it was a Digital to Analog (DTA) box. We needed it for a very old TV that couldn’t handle digital signals. A TV I used to watch many years ago while walking on my treadmill. A TV that hasn’t been turned on in at least 3 years and that hasn’t been in our home for at least a year. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

The converter was free when we got it. Then about 3 years ago, Comcast started charging us $1.99 a month for it, which they disclosed in teeny tiny print somewhere on our online bill, which gets paid automatically and which I never look at. Then, because they know nobody notices these things, two months ago they started charging us $2.99 a month for it. But the dickishness doesn’t stop there.

We are being charged for two of these things. Where’s the other one? Who knows? It hasn’t been used for several years either. But we’re still paying for it. Maybe it’s in the house somewhere, but I wouldn’t know where to even start looking for it. It could be in some random box of electronics in the basement or it could have been tossed during the great purge of summer ’12. So now I get to visit the evil minions at Comcast and find out the penalty for losing a piece of shit their equipment. It has to be less than I’ve paid to rent it for 3+ years.

Fuck you, Comcast.

No Pants for You!

My sister-in-law called us via Skype again last night. The first words out of her mouth were “You’ll notice Nola has decided she doesn’t feel like wearing pants this morning.” Yep. She had not only refused to put on her pants, but had proceeded to remove her diaper and spent most of the call galloping around the room wearing only a long-sleeved striped shirt.

She was in quite a good mood about the whole situation, despite being told that she could not watch any of her beloved Peppa Pig cartoons until she put her pants on. About five minutes into the call, our laptop decided to freeze up and needed to be rebooted. When I called back, my sister-in-law didn’t answer right away. Turns out that Nola had peed on her while we were disconnected and she needed to change clothes. Nice timing.

So, Nola doesn’t want to wear a diaper anymore, but she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of knowing when she has to go to the bathroom and asking to use the toilet. Her mom was hoping to avoid potty training until after our Hawaii trip, but it looks like Nola is forcing her hand. I was trying really hard not to laugh. I feel bad for her, but the sight of Nola running around in a shirt and no pants was just hilarious. Have I mentioned how glad I am not to have children?

It’s Gonna Blow

My husband prefers carbonated over still water, so a number of years ago we purchased a SodaStream. I’m not sure it saves much money, but it avoids the hassle of constantly purchasing a supply of club soda and it keeps a lot of plastic bottles out of the recycle bin. Win-win. We’re currently on our second machine.

Last night, right after I had gone to bed, I heard my husband fizzing a bottle of water. Then I heard what sounded like a small explosion. So I got out of bed and went into the kitchen. He uses the small size bottles during the day, but since I was going to bed and he wanted to minimize noise, he had was charging one of the larger, older bottles that we rarely use anymore.

The results were disastrous. Something went terribly awry and the bottle exploded out of the charging station and shot out of the room before disappearing. He was hunting for it when I walked in. I crouched down on the floor and eyeballed the 30 foot water trail. The bottle had landed in our sunroom and was hiding near the sofa. The bottom seal was twisted. The bottles have expiration dates, as the seals will eventually fail, but this one should have been good through the end of the year. An optimistic prognosis, apparently.

The carnage was incredible. We went through half a roll of paper towels mopping up the liter of water from the floor, countertop and wall. Nothing in the vicinity was left untouched. In addition to the fountain of water, the machine had somehow left a large gouge in the the wall about two inches over the top of it. I can’t image the force it must have taken to do that.

The machine had turned into a rocket launcher and the bottle became a bomb. After dealing with the mess, my husband cautiously attempted charging another bottle. It worked fine, but I don’t think either one of us will look at the SodaStream the same way again. Its status has permanently changed from useful and benign household appliance to potential lethal weapon. Respect.

Thoroughly Modern

During our design review meeting on Monday, our builder offered to take us on a tour of a spec home he’s building in our neighborhood. I actually drive by the place three times a week, on the way to my personal trainer’s house. It’s been interesting to watch the progress, so I was looking forward to seeing it up close.

It did not disappoint. The main reason we wanted to see it was to check out the roof pitch. The house is in two sections with a bridge connecting them and each section has a mono-pitched (aka shed style) roof. Our new home will have the same style of roof on each section, but we are going with a lower pitch.

The house is still in a pretty rough stage, but you can see it will be awesome when it’s done. After we finished the tour, we drove around hunting for more modern homes in South Minneapolis. There aren’t a lot of them, but the ones we found were very cool. It’s definitely becoming more of a trend.

As always, I felt better after spending time talking with our builder. He is a very calm person and I find his manner to be very reassuring. He makes feel hopeful that we will actually get this dream house built someday. Not as soon as we originally hoped, but someday.


Cruisin’ to a Dead Stop

We went on a river cruise last night. It’s an annual event hosted by one of my dad’s close friends. We attended two years ago and the cruise part is really nice, but the food is a little lacking. In addition, getting to the boat landing is sort of a pain, as it requires traveling over several major freeways during rush hour.

So, we decided to be clever and leave early enough to have dinner within a few miles of the boat launch. We ended up at a neighborhood tavern/steakhouse fairly close to downtown St. Paul. The food was great and according to our trusty GPS, we only had a ten minute drive from the restaurant to the boat.

We left 30 minutes before the appointed time and quickly found ourselves in downtown St. Paul, less than two miles from our destination. At that point our clever plan fell apart. There was major road and bridge construction between us and our destination. It took 25 minutes to travel less than a mile.

I sent a panicky text message, convinced we would be showing up just in time to see the boat pulling away from the dock. Turns out, the arrival time we had been given was 15 minutes before boarding. So we made it with plenty of time to spare. The cruise was lovely, but I’m not sure it was worth the incredible stress of getting there.

Yeah, Sure You Do

In going through our backlog of mail after returning from Milwaukee, I found two items that looked like actual cards/letters. Which instantly made me suspicious. Marketers have become extremely crafty at disguising solicitations in order to trick you into opening them. Works every time.

The two pieces in question turned out to be solicitations of a different sort. Both were from Phoenix real estate agents claiming to be representing clients with an interest in our undeveloped lot. They made a big deal out of the fact that they had actual clients and weren’t just looking for investment purposes. Which again made me very suspicious. We’ve received requests before and I usually ignore them.

But now that we’re designing our big new house here and are not completely sure what our future housing situation will be in Phoenix, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to respond this time. So I emailed a reply and sent it to both realtors. One responded almost immediately. Of course his response was along the lines of “would you be willing to sell for fair market price?” Stupid question, since I don’t know what that is. I know what we paid and what might tempt us to sell, so send us a number and we’ll think about it.

He did respond with a number, and, while it is slightly more than 20% over what we paid four years ago, we purchased it at the bottom of the housing market in Phoenix. Real estate prices have risen more than 50% over the last four years. Sorry, wrong answer. Still haven’t heard back from the second guy yet. It will be interesting to see if he comes up with something better. Assuming he replies at all.

And Now for the Wait

We had a meeting with our architect and builder today. The plan hasn’t really changed since we reviewed it about a month ago, but it’s been fleshed out to a level of detail that should be sufficient to get a reasonable estimate. Make that an unreasonable estimate, as we’re pretty sure that will be the result.

The architect was late, as per usual. Before he arrived the builder asked us for feedback on how things were going. There was more than a little venting. Our number one concern is the slow turnaround time for changes/updates, followed closely by the hit or miss nature of discussed changes actually making it in to the next version. I don’t have any prior experience working with an architect, but I’m starting to get the feeling these aren’t unusual problems.

Then the architect arrived and we switched to reviewing the plans. While we had previously made the decision to stop “tweaking” until we had a rough estimate, we did decide to change the slope of the roof and some of the exterior material before considering it “done.”

So now what? We wait for the builder’s estimate to come back way over what we are willing to spend and then we figure out a way to cut it back. Mentally we are already doing that. My husband has a pretty solid plan B in mind. The problem is we can’t really have the architect start on a major revision until we know for sure that we have to make cuts. It’s more than a little frustrating.

Skyped Again

We had our second Skype call with Nola last night. It lasted for all of 20 minutes this time. The first 5 were filled with Nola dancing around the room and singing while her mom held the phone. I haven’t laughed that hard in months, I could have watched her for an hour.

She started soccer class this week. It’s her first class with a male instructor and apparently Nola is quite fascinated with him. She was very quick to offer herself up when he asked for a volunteer. I am terrified for her teenage years. I’m hoping she sticks with it for a while, because I would love to see her in a tiny uniform kicking a miniature soccer ball when we go to Australia next year.

Nola’s mom keeps signing her up for different classes to find out what activities appeal to her. The problem is, she likes everything. So now she has 3 classes in a row during the week – gym, soccer and music plus swimming lessons on Sunday. I can’t imagine what her schedule’s going to be like once she starts preschool.

At least Nola finds the video calls entertaining, even if I’m not sure she really understands what’s going on. We’ve decided to try doing them every other week to keep her from getting bored. I’d be happy just watching her on a web cam. You take what you can get when you live on the other side of the planet.

Seven Weeks

We have exactly seven weeks until we leave for Hawaii. Three here, one in Phoenix and then three more here. Time to start getting serious about that bikini body. I need something to motivate me. I am so glad we have this trip coming up. Right now I feel like it’s the only thing I have to look forward to.

So I’ve gone completely overboard by buying essentially an entire new wardrobe just for this trip. Most of that came via my ridiculous three order purchase from Tommy Bahama. White linen shorts – sure! Sheer maxi dress swim coverup – why not? You’d think we were spending two weeks on a high end cruise ship or at one of those overwater bungalows in Tahiti or Bali. White linen shorts and a two year old are just a recipe for disaster. They may not make it back.

I’d be better off with a bunch of super comfy clothes plus lots of swimwear, rather than resort apparel. On the plus side, I’m totally ready for all those Caribbean cruises in our future. I guess we’ll have to make a point of visiting more island paradises going forward. Tahiti is on the way to Australia, after all.

The Milwaukee Mile

So we didn’t drive to Milwaukee just to put miles on the Cayenne, not that that would be a bad thing. We came for our one and only race of the season. It had an oddly compressed schedule, with only one practice late yesterday, another this morning and qualifying only a few hours before the actual race.

So after picking up our credentials yesterday afternoon and hanging around with nothing much going on, we decided to go see a movie. We followed that up with a spectacular dinner at Fleming’s. I had a Kobe beef NY strip that was seriously the best steak I have ever eaten. Probably the most expensive as well. Totally worth it.

Which is good, because that steak was the highlight of the weekend. I hate to feel like I’m getting jaded, but the whole race weekend experience felt like a bust. Maybe I’m too stressed out about the whole house thing, maybe 20 years of attending races and seeing dozens of podium finishes makes a weekend where we don’t do well disappointing. At least the food and the weather was good.