Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Gadgets

Machinery and the Difference Between Men and Women

I recently decided to pressure wash the concrete around my house, but I couldn’t get the pressure washer to start after pulling on the cord a few times,  So I did what every smart American woman does when she can’t get machinery to work, I asked a big, strong, burly neighbor to help me.

Sheila moseyed over and yanked the cord a few times but with no success.

I consulted Google and found a video on YouTube showing a guy repeatedly pulling the cord of an identical pressure washer. I’ve put the video below. Skip the first three minutes – he’s just putting gas in the tank, etc. It’s probably better if you read this whole thing before watching the video.

Another site said to check the air filter. I had no idea what it was supposed to look like, but checking helped because when I put the cover back on I noticed a 1-800 number.

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Tomorrow Has GOT to Be a Better Day

Oh my goodness what a day. Things unraveled like the hem of a skirt when that one thread gets pulled and the whole hem starts coming loose and hanging down three-quarters of the way around and the little thread drags on the ground as you walk down the hall. That’s the kind of day it was.

First, the phones rang non-stop. For the most part, each phone call was someone wanting to explain something in the tiniest, most exacting detail, so that the receptionist was tied up and couldn’t get the other calls. The other calls called back which caused more calls.

Then the copier ran out of magenta toner and went on strike. It refused to produce even mundane black and white copies, like some diva who wanted everything just so or she wasn’t going on stage. No problem, because there was a nice pretty box of magenta toner sitting under the yellow and cyan boxes. I moved those and picked up the magenta. It was so lightweight I thought, “This feels empty.” It was!

I’ve only been at this job for about a month, and how was I to know that the previous person stacked two full toner boxes on one empty one to produce the optical illusion that there was, in fact, plenty of toner and no one should worry their pretty little head about it running out? It looked like we were set for a long time.

Come to find out, the toner had to be ordered online, and takes a while to be delivered. No one online would own up to how long it would take to arrive. One company said it usually ships in two days, but if you continued reading you discovered that it was two days AFTER the 1-2 days it would take to process.

I refused to let this waste of a morning finding toner get me down because I had the phone company trainer coming in the afternoon to teach us how to use the phone system. It is so complicated and no one knows how to program the phones, so we were all pretty excited. But the guy who came was over an hour late for his appointment, and he was determined to explain things to us that we had no interest in learning. This phone has about 150 pages of options that make absolutely no sense to anyone who is not a trained technician, and even this guy was scratching his head with the dumb vacant look of a man looking at an Einstein equation on a blackboard. He stared at the phone and cocked his head from side to side like a dog.

I finally asked, “Can we just get the phones to ring and go to one voicemail area, AND change the message to say, “Leave a message after the beep,” instead of saying, “if you want sales, press 108, if you want accounting, press 147, for customer service, press 896, if you want cream with your coffee, press 9432, if you want….” Customers had to listen to about 4 hours of options in order to leave a message, and then, since no one knew how to operate the phones, the messages just went out to space. This is a very convenient way to do business if your end desire is to lose all your customers, which I’m beginning to suspect was the former manager’s intention. That or drive his replacement crazy. It would help explain the dummy toner box.

The phone tech guy told me the instructions and I wrote them down, but before I could test it he had to leave because by now he was 3 hours late for his next appointment. We tried to record an outgoing message but the phone wouldn’t let us. So we called our phone company and they gave us the same instructions, and were baffled when the message wouldn’t record. Then they promised to call back and did not.

Meantime, I tested the phone by calling it from my cell phone, and I got the long, long message, and after waiting for 20 minutes for it to cycle from beginning to end, it said, “That is not a valid mailbox,” and started the whole recording all over again.

There were many more tragedies and mishaps today, but if you’ve stuck with me this far, I’d say you’ve been through enough. Tomorrow HAS to be better or there will be some phone and copier assassinations at work. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

GPS Means Go Past Streets

I have a GPS system in my car, which I think stands for Go Past Streets. It’s very complicated. The little arrow isn’t pointing the right way. If I come to an intersection and the blue line indicating the route I should take is off to the right, I turn right. Then I see that the arrow (my car) is heading away from the blue line.

This is pretty confusing, and I spend a lot of time making U-turns. I didn’t understand it until today when I was giving someone a ride and he started showing me the features. “The arrow is the direction you’re going right now. See, it’s pointing north.”

“But it feels like I’m going south.”

“Nope, that’s north. See the airport in that green area?”

“Oooooh, I get it. So if it’s pointing north, and the blue line is turning east, then I have to make a left,” I said.

“Well, no, you’d be going west then.”

“Oh, so which way is east?”

“It’s where the “3” would be on the clock if your GPS was a clock.”

“Oooooo, I can remember that. I’ll call it “threast!” I was excited after all these months that I could finally understand at least that part of the GPS.

When I first got the car, there was a lady in the dashboard who told me where to go all the time. “Turn right in 500 feet.” She jabbered constantly. I felt like I had a 7-year-old girl in there. “Whatcha doin? Do you want to watch me? Watch me do this? You aren’t watching. Watch me now.” She’d interrupt my favorite songs to tell me stuff even when I didn’t program a destination. “Go home now?” and “You’re gas is getting low.” It was annoying but I was okay with it until she started getting personal. “Are you wearing THAT today?” and “You need to pluck that wild chin hair.” She took her job a little too seriously.

I had to go with my brother yesterday to drop off his car at a mechanic in Vancouver, a few miles away and neither of us knew how to get there. I told him I’d lead because I had the GPS. We got on the freeway and I guess I got a little ahead in all the traffic, so I was trying to watch my rearview mirror and watch for the exit, too. My GPS showed I was supposed to exit, but there were two ramps, and just as the one I was supposed to take appeared on the screen, the phone rang. To my dismay, the phone screen came on and the map disappeared. Which one should I take?”

It was my brother. “Where are you?” he said.

“I just exited, but I’m on a ramp and I don’t know whether to go right or left because I can’t see the map while I’m on the phone.”

“Oh,” he said. “Then I’ll hang up and call you back.”

I watched the screen anxiously but it stayed on the phone. I guess it wanted to make sure I knew how long I’d talked, to whom I was speaking, and – absolutely essential information – that I had disconnected the call. This last was so important that the disconnect screen stayed up for many minutes. I’m sure glad that pesky GPS didn’t rush back and interrupt the screen showing that I had disconnected from my brother. This was information I NEEDED to know.

As usual I made the wrong choice because the blue line started twisting around like a pretzel. I had to make another U-turn. I could see that I would have to turn right soon because a little side-screen came up to alert me it was coming, but before I could see what street I was supposed to turn on and how far it would be, the phone rang again.

“Where are you?” my brother asked.

“I was about to find out just when you called.”

When he hung up, I made another u-turn and we both finally made it to the mechanic’s shop, though I don’t know how. I wish whoever made these things would know that I don’t need to have a screen showing the whole time I’m using my Bluetooth phone. Believe it or not, I know who I’m talking to – I don’t need to read it on the screen during the whole conversation. Other than that, I love my GPS – even though it does make me Go Past Streets all the time.

I Miss My Satellite Radio

They say all good things come to an end. This is especially true with free trials. The satellite radio stations that came with my car were free for 3 months. Unfortunately I ignored them for the first month because there were so many new things on the car to try and learn. It’s a Prius and it doesn’t have a key. You just press a button and the engine starts. Weird, huh? Plus it has a navigation system that it took me at least a month to figure out. I kept trying to code in streets while I was driving, and it kept refusing to respond. I thought it was defective, so I’d push other buttons and whole new screens would come up with all kinds of things to play with. Satellite radio was way down the list of new toys.

Then one day I was somewhere where even the hardiest radio stations couldn’t reach and I remembered the satellite stations. I started pushing scanning and found a million stations in every category – country, easy listening, rap, polka, the All Accordion station – you can get anything on satellite. I came across one with people laughing. The digital readout said it was called, “Laugh USA.”

I listened, and the station lived up to its name, because I laughed, and laughed some more. I was in love. This was the best radio station I’d ever found in my life. There were little 2 or 3 or 4 minute bits of just plain funny stuff. A week or two later, while I was waiting for someone, I went through the stations and found 5 more comedy ones. My next favorite after Laugh USA was Blue Collar Comedy. This station had Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy. Now that there is funny, I don’t care what you say, that there is funny. I looked forward to getting in my car. I often took the scenic route so I could listen longer.

Then I got a letter in the mail saying my 3-month free trial was ready to expire. Gasp! I did not want to PAY for these stations, even though they were reasonable – about $14 a month or so. I started talking myself into being glad that the time was ending. “After all,” I said to myself, “you haven’t listened to any news since you found those comedy stations. You don’t even know how many people have been killed in the Middle East wars, or where the latest suicide bomber is, or what leader has been assassinated, or what mud the Republicans are slinging at Obama, or what tea party Sarah Palin is holding. You are in a vacuum.” I told myself this and looked forward to the day when my comedy shows were gone and I could get back in touch with the real world.

On Saturday afternoon it happened. Right in the middle of a bit Jerry Seinfeld was giving about pilots talking on airplanes, the satellite was snuffed out. I brushed away tears as I turned to regular FM. Immediately I heard the “imma bee” song by the Black Eyed Peas and figured out they meant “I’m gonna be,” then I heard reports from NPR about tornadoes killing people in the Midwest and explosions that took 26 lives and about the fear of a grasshopper invasion in Oregon this coming summer. I switched from station to station and got imma bee and tragedy everywhere I looked.

Know what I decided? Imma bee buying dat satellite radio and be stickin my head all up in the sand and pretendin’ the world be a happy place where da people laughs at people who says stuff like imma bee. That’s what imma bee.

Picture Imperfect

I have been desperately seeking a point and shoot camera. The problem is, there are a million of them, and new ones spring up like popcorn every 30 seconds.

So much selection would seem to make it easy, and they all have a gazillion features, but not one of the camera companies combine them in the way I want.

When you go to websites like photographyblog.com, they start describing a camera as if it’s finally the answer to everyone’s prayers. “The long awaited Canon ST Two Million is packed with so many features you need a database to keep track of them all.”

This is good news, because in all those features, could it be they have the three or four I’m really interested in? I hold my breath and read further. “This camera can make your mother-in-law look like she’s human and fill in the missing teeth of your redneck friends.”

That’s something I’ve always needed in a camera, especially the filling in teeth, so I check that off my list. But what about the rest? “This camera has a built in hover system so you can set the timer, run over and join your family, get in the picture, and run back and catch it so you don’t have to worry about propping it up on a table and everyone having to be on their knees.”

Now THAT’S definitely a clever feature, and not one I’d thought of but I add it to my list because I now feel like I can’t live without it. But will the camera take a good picture? That’s high up on my list, right under “Will the camera break before the warranty runs out?”

Image quality is a tricky subject. It’s subjective, and there are many variables. Most cameras pitch a fit about being required to do something they don’t like. Yes, they’ll gladly take a nice picture on a sunny day, but if it gets cloudy they’ll coat the scene with a grayish tinge. Or they may not like it inside, so low light pictures have the people in the arc of the flash looking like surprised albinos while anyone a few feet back looks like they’ve been painted with roofing tar.

The sample images are not much help, either. If the scenes are picturesque, then any camera takes a good shot. It’s a little like going into Costco and all the big screen TVs are showing the same thing, and they pretty much look identical except for size. I recently bought a TV for my son and ended up picking one by saying, “Eanie, Meanie, Miney, Mo….”

What I’m looking for in a camera is manual controls so I can override the camera’s stupid Auto Mode on those occasions when it doesn’t know as much as I do, which granted is rare but still. I want a big enough screen so I can at least make out the big objects in the picture I just took without a magnifying glass. And I want it to not be so complicated I have to lug around a phone-book sized manual. If on top of that it takes good pictures, that would be a plus. Oh, and I want a super-zoom so I can take pictures of wildlife, but I don’t want one of those huge ones that’s the size of mailbox. I can see myself swinging one of those hunkers up to my eyeball to look through the viewfinder and knocking myself out cold.

I’ve narrowed my choice down to a Canon because you can practically have the DT’s with a Canon point and shoot and the picture will still come out in focus. The model I’ve been waiting for did not get a good review from photographyblog.com. Actually, it got a glowing review, but only a 4 star rating out of 5, which is hard to understand. It’s like a critic saying he loved a movie but only gave it a B rating.

I’m going to get the camera, though. I’m sick to death of looking, and I’m tired of lugging my Nikon dSLR around for snapshots. I don’t think I’ll have buyer’s remorse when another new model comes out in two days, because I’m certain it will not have all the feature I want either.

I will let you know how the camera turns out, and what model it is once I get it straight. It might be an SX 200 IS but could be an SX 210 IS, though I was also looking at an SX 120 IS. As if the camera features weren’t enough of a headache, they’ve got to make all the numbers the same, too? Jeepers!

Cell Phone Secrets

I have procrastinated until the last minute writing my blog and turning in homework for a class I’m taking. But I’m not worried about it because I discovered something very cool that will save me a lot of time so maybe I won’t be behind in the future.

My daughter showed me how to text without having to type each letter. What a revelation! I’ve avoided texting except to my kids when they refused to answer their phones because it took so darned long to do it. My phone just has the numbers and letters together so #2 is ABC. It was such a nuisance because I had to think all the time about whether to hit the number once or twice or three times so it took two hours to type one sentence.

My daughter, in stark contrast, has thumbs that dance over the keyboard like somebody doing an Irish jig. She was sitting beside me on the sofa texting and said, “Wanna see how fast I am?” Before I could say, “Yes,” my phone was beeping with the text message, “I already sent you this message before you could even answer, that’s how fast I am – just like a lightning bolt!”

“How did you do that?” I said in complete awe. I don’t know if I would have been any more amazed if she’d jumped on the ceiling and started walking upside down like that pig in the Simpson’s movie while Homer Simpson sang (to the tune of Spiderman) “Spider Pig, Spider Pig, does whatever a Spider Pig does.” I love that scene.

At first my daughter claimed she was just extremely agile when it came to thumbs, but she finally confessed that the phone had a button that, if selected, allowed you to type each letter on the phone only once and it would automatically figure out what word you wanted and put it in your text. I am not explaining this well, but the gist of it is, instead of having to hit the #2 button three times to get the letter C, I only had to hit it once, then hit my next letter once, and the little genius inside the cell phone would read my mind and know what word I was trying to peck out.

“But what if it doesn’t know or gives me the wrong word?” I asked worriedly. “Then hit Zero and it will give you options,” she said with a sigh, already bored and wanting to continue texting without being interrupted. She texts continuously, but if I ask who she’s on the phone with, she won’t say. “It’s a bunch of people, mom.”

“Like who?”

“Like a bunch of people I know.”

“Can you text them all at one time?”

And then she lets me know how utterly awful it is to have to explain these extremely simple things to a blunder head like me. “YES, mom, now leave me alone.”

I don’t know how she got so impatient. I can remember answering the same questions over and over when she was a kid. Just the simple, “Is it done yet?” must have been asked 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. But did I ever tell her to leave me alone? Maybe – I wouldn’t put it past me. Still, I hardly bug her because she does get so impatient, and I know I was the queen of patience when she was little so I certainly don’t deserve this.

However, I’m not going to say anything because she might get another sweet streak and show me some more secrets of cell phones, so I want to stay on her good side.

Ringing in the New Year with New Phones

I gave my mother-in-law cordless phones for her birthday because that’s what she wanted. I picked a middle of the road model – I didn’t figure she needed six handsets since she’s the only one in the house.

I bought a set of phones for my family a few years ago and got 4 handsets. I thought this was such overkill – we already had several landlines so where would I put all those phones? But it was a good deal so I bought them anyway, and we always had a phone handy when it rang – for the first week. Then my daughter took a handset to her bedroom and it got smuggled up in her comforter and was never seen again.

My son took one outside and lost it – either that or a raccoon got a hold of it. Raccoons like electronics – and flip flops. We found one of my daughter’s, half chewed, in the crotch of the tree the raccoons like to hang out in, along with coins, plastic toys, a keychain, and assorted other by-products of young children. Which left us with two phones, and neither of them work anymore because the batteries won’t hold a charge.

The family took my mother-in-law out to dinner, then I offered to go to her house and set up the phones. It wouldn’t take more than 20 minutes I figured, but you know where this is leading, don’t you? I’m going to tell you anyway. I get there and we have tea, which was nice and wonderful except my eyelids kept drooping because Mexican food makes me so sleepy, and decaf tea was like drinking a sleep aid.

After the same amount of time that I could have taken a nice nap, we went to the computer room to hook up the phones. I had already charged them for her – 16 hours of fighting off my kids who couldn’t stand that there was a new “toy” in the house that they couldn’t play with.

Turns out the phone I’d be replacing had a power cord that was wrapped together with several other cords all neat and inaccessible. I had to spend an inordinate (long) amount of time getting the cord out of the tangle, then had to put the new power cord back into the tangle and wrap clamps back around them.  But I was soon successful at getting the phone plugged in and the telephone line to work.

That’s when the headaches started. I don’t know why gadgets have to be so complicated. I finally had to resort to the instruction manual, which in and of itself was complex enough. My mother-in-law busied herself pushing buttons so that different things lighted up on the phone and occasional interesting noises came out. She went through ten ringtones that sounded like fire trucks, Christmas bells, and police whistles. Who would choose such annoying rings without being tortured into doing it?

We got the ringtones back where we wanted them, set the date and time, though this took many, many tries, and got all the caller ID entries erased because I kept calling with my cell phone to test the latest rings and volumes and racked up quite a few missed call messages on the display of the phone, which was distressing us both. We couldn’t figure out how to erase them, and the manual was being quite obstinate. Finally we found the passage buried on page 496 and followed the instructions to the letter, which was a long process of pressing the menu key, then the delete key, then the key to the city, and the caller ID key. My 20 minute setup had turned into two hours.

When it was all said and done, it was, indeed, all said and done. The phones rang melodiously, the caller ID field was cleared, and we were both exhausted but happy that we saw the job through to the end.

So now my mother-in-law has three new phones, two of which are in her TV room because she doesn’t need another phone anywhere else but we had to do something with it. She’s delighted. As for me, my ears are ringing. Yuk. Yuk. I couldn’t resist.

Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Olsen