Let's start by stipulating the following, I will not be doing this entry in one sitting. Being on vacation has given me the luxury of being able to come and go as I please for a few days, and I have no problems with that whatsoever. I hope that the holiday finds everyone safe and surrounded by those they love, I know creepy sentimentality is not something this blog is known for, but I am just hoping my contentedness is not an isolated thing. I am in one of those good frames of mind right now, so much that I don't really want to go back to work come late next week, but will have to anyway. All good things and all that jazz.
Funny thing happened on my way to vacation, actually a couple things, but I will deal with them in the manner I remembered them. For instance, I have added three years worth of books to the Shelfari thing to the right, not that it is the only books I have ever read, those are just the ones I paid attention to for sake of the blog. I will be adding more books to it eventually, as I have time and as I remember other books I have read, but for now it is just the last three years. I know there is some Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, Andrew Vachss, and Lawrence Sanders missing over there just for starters. That is not the reason I brought this up however, I brought it up to say simply “I was wrong.” Those words don't often accompany this page, but in this case I will gladly make an exception.
As I was adding books to Shelfari I was rereading the comments to the first Neverending thread and the discussion of the merits of Kindles and Amazon between Angie and myself. I wrote that then I wasn't likely to purchase stuff from Amazon because I liked the notion of actually having stuff in my hands after making the purchase. Well kids I was wrong. Maybe it has something to do with me using Swagbucks, where so far I have earned $210 in free Amazon cash, and ever since then a large portion of my book buying has come from Amazon as a result with mostly positive results. That being said, it hasn't been perfect, my most recent purchase has proved most troublesome. I ordered from them on Dec 15th, a small Christmas order that I figured I would have in plenty of time for the holiday, at least that is what they claimed on the webpage. So I ordered another book for myself, since I was out of good reading material, and a couple of digital keychains as stocking stuffers for my parents; keychains where you can download digital photos onto them. All seemed squared away, as a matter of fact I received an email the following day saying that the order was already out for shipment. Cool, cool and more cool, since I didn't spend any extra money on faster shipping. Then I get an email saying there would be a slight delay, a problem in shipping as it were. No problem, they still had plenty of time to deliver. Then the problems start. On the 21st I get an email saying delivery was attempted at 1pm, but I wasn't home. That would be correct, usually at 1pm I am at work, but with all my previous Amazon orders it would usually be left on the front porch or inside my screen door if no one was available. I was left a phone number to call the delivery service (Prestige for those of you looking to find a company to avoid in the future). So I call them and state that if no one was around they could feel free to leave the package, I will get it when I came home. Dec 22nd according to the tracking information and again a failed attempt to deliver. After having given them instructions I can't imagine what the failure would be, the front porch didn't go anywhere, so the only possible failure is the driver was incapable of actually lifting the package and setting it down on the porch. Still, I was starting my vacation on the 23rd and maybe they would show up before I left to go home for the holiday. It would be cutting it close, seeing as how my family was coming in the morning, but not beyond the realm of possibility. Well, the phone rings at 10am on the 23rd, I am thinking it will be my family, instead it was something else, which I will deal with later in this blog entry (if you thought this would be short, you really don't know me) so I am still sitting in the confines of my apartment. Timing was not on my side as it were, I had talked to my mom the previous day to see what time they would be showing up, she said in the morning, which dictated how I was to approach the 23rd. If they were coming in the afternoon I was planning to do the last of my Christmas shopping in the morning before they arrived, if they were coming in the morning, I would go home first and then finish my Christmas shopping when I got there, since I still had a present to pick up at WalMart via their Site to Store service, which was already in the store up there waiting for me to pick it up, so my schedule was flexible enough I could go either way. So when I talked to my mom, she said they would be coming down in the morning, no problem I do my shopping there. Well the 23rd rolls around and after the first phone call, the second is my mom, and they are going to be delayed because they have to take the dog to the vet. So now I have wasted the morning when I could have shopped and I don't know the exact time they will be coming in the afternoon, so what was a flexible schedule just became pressed for time because I can't leave and do my shopping now for fear they show up while I am away, and I can't not shop because I am not done yet. The plus was that at least I would be home for the Amazon delivery, which according to the tracking info was out for delivery again. But again I look and there is a failure to deliver message stated at 1pm, which is damn near impossible because my family didn't pick me up till after 3pm, so Prestige can claim they tried to deliver my order, but I know better. I know that no attempt was made and their claim to the contrary was ludicrous, so I fired off a not so pleasant email to Amazon. They are offering to credit my account for the order, which is pretty much all they can do I guess. It is the only really bad experience I have had with Amazon to this point, I just wish it hadn't happened during the holidays on the one time when I needed a package to arrive on time.
Told you I wouldn't be doing this all in one sitting, here is just more proof of that. Besides I have plenty of stuff to get to yet, but my schedule here at home hasn't let me write as often as I would like. For instance, in the last section I mentioned a phone call I got on the 23rd that I was going to deal with at a later time. Well this seems as good a time as any.
As I was waiting for either my family or my Amazon package to arrive on the 23rd I get a phone call. Because I thought it may be the family I went ahead and picked it up right away as opposed to checking the caller ID on my phone. It was a telemarketer, one for a phone company of some sort, but it was the lying sales pitch they used that set me off. Not that I am all that kind to telemarketers to begin with. My last encounter with one on the phone, someone trying to get me to buy a subscription to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, went something like this;
Telemarketer: Is Matt Pritt home?
Me: This is he.
TM: We see that you used to subscribe to the Tribune Review.
Me: No I didn't, I received four free Sunday editions for doing a survey for the Yellow Pages, but I have never had a subscription.
TM: Well we wanted to tell you about a subscription offer we have.
Me: I am really not interested.
TM: But wouldn't you like to receive the paper on a daily basis?
Me: No, I think I already answered that question.
TM: But we can offer you a significant discount on the cover price of the paper.
Me: What language would you like me to converse in, because it is apparent you don't understand English?
TM: How do you normally get your news on a daily basis?
Me: I fail to see how that is really any of your business.
TM: Wouldn't you like......
Me: I think we are done here. 'click'
That is usually how my phone calls go with such people, yet here it was with me waiting on a phone call and I am stuck on the line with someone from a company called “Online Services Incorporated”. The representative is telling me that come January 1st they will be taking over the billing of Verizon long distance customers and the good news is that because of the switch I will be receiving a discount in my phone bill, a savings of $10-$15 a month. I was skeptical, but trying to keep an open mind, so I asked how this would affect my DSL service, since I have everything going through Verizon at this point, and she said my DSL would not be affected, there would just be an additional page on my phone bill explaining the change, but that everything else would remain the same. So I asked what I needed to do next, and she said she would patch me through to another person, one who would simply record my responses for FCC purposes saying that I authorized the changes, which was probably the last red flag I needed to hear. In my dealings with Verizon, if there was ever a problem I could always just deal with the representative on the phone, not be passed off to someone else who would then record my responses. Nonetheless I stay on the line while they wait to patch me up with the other person, a process that took almost 5 minutes meaning they were probably busy being effective in their scam with some other people, but finally I was connected to this second person, who began reading questions on the phone to record my responses. I did the whole name, rank and serial number thing when they got to the million dollar question, do you agree to switch your long distance provider, to which I said a resounding “No!”. This led to my questioner saying she would have to put me back in touch with the representative, to which I said it is really not necessary and hung up the phone. About a minute later my phone rings again and I leave the machine get it and the representative is on there saying, well it looks like you will have to find your own long distance company then.
I could have left it drop there, but now I am pissed that you tried to scam me, so I call Verizon directly and explain what just happened. They assured me that they are not farming out their long distance service, given the size of their company they have no need to deal with independent contractors in such a fashion. Which is pretty much what I expected, so I gave them a Christmas present, I had *69 ed the last incoming call before calling Verizon, so I had the phone number of the people who were running the scam if Verizon wished to pursue it in any fashion. The Verizon rep asked if she could look at my account for a second, to which I said sure, and then she proceeds to tell me I have been paying too much for my service to begin with. It seems that I have been a customer so long that I actually predate all of the bundling options, so I had been a DSL subscriber when it was at the worst possible price, $34.99 a month and because my account had been set up a la carte as opposed to being offered any sort of bundle I was overpaying by $10 a month anyway. So she asked if she could bundle the services, it would require a one year commitment on my part, but I had been a customer for like 7 years and I don't see me going anywhere any time soon so I agreed to the one year deal. Then she said, you know, for the very same price you can be getting DISH Network too, which I kindly said no to, I have seen those offers before, and while you get the TV free for one year, it requires a two year commitment, and on the second year you take it up the pooper on the TV end of the deal, and I am not home enough to be paying an additional $30-$40 a month for a TV I barely watch. Lastly she said, well according to our records, you have a 1 Meg modem, but you should have a 7 Meg one, so we will be sending you a new modem free of charge. Merry Christmas to me indeed. Now I can annoy you online 7X faster than I used to.
So how is this for typical, I haven't even gotten past Dec 23rd yet and I am a full three pages into a blog entry. It is for this reason that I don't blog every day, I just don't have the time for long drawn out entries like this.
Lest we get all topical here and start talking current events, this thing could get even longer without me getting any closer to the end of the entry. I will say this though, the more Julian Assange speaks, the dumber he sounds. He is almost becoming the Paris Hilton of the blogging set these days, once the camera slips away from him he has to say something, regardless of how stupid it may be, just so that people will still pay attention to him. With Hilton, she just flashes her over used disease riddled crotch, with Assange it is just another “oh woe is me because....” pronouncement. Of course the person who will suffer for Assange's actions, Pfc Manning, is at best a mere afterthought in this melodrama. Not that Manning, if guilty, shouldn't be punished, but for all of the whining and crying coming out of Assange's mouth, one would swear he was being made someone's prison bitch, as opposed to profiting handsomely from his endeavor, first by selling the story to newspapers and now signing a book deal. Oh, if only all of us could suffer so greatly.
Okay, enough soap box stuff, back to my story.
So my family finally arrives around 3:30pm or so, again there was no delivery from Amazon and I refused to stay there any longer waiting on a package that I am sure Prestige had no intent of delivering. So off for home for the holidays I went. Of course since I was with the family they felt a need to stop at Golden Coral for dinner on the way home. Not that I am against eating, truth be told I hadn't eaten all day, but by the same token I now had to figure out a way to finish my Christmas shopping without the parental units learning of what I will buy them while I was in their company. I had one gift already at WalMart, thanks to their Site to Store option online, where you pay for the item online and then they ship it free to whichever store you wish to pick it up from. The advantage being that you don't pay for having it shipped to a residence, since Site to Store is free and you can pick which store you want it sent to, so just because I live in Pittsburgh, I could order it and have it sent to the Indiana (PA) store, where I was going to be, to pick it up. Of course that didn't help me with the rest of my Christmas shopping, and I knew that my parents would want to be home for the Steeler game Thursday night, so all I was realistically going to have time to do when I first got home was unpack, go pick up my Site to Store item (a high def TV), figure out a way to hide it and then go home for the football game. With my family gettogether slated for the next day, I wasn't going to have time to shop on Christmas Eve, so I was going to be sneaking out some time after the game, without my parents in tow, so I could finish shopping for them.
Well now, I really need to finish this, because every time I put things off more stuff just piles up. So instead of just putting this off for another day, which I have done for a couple of days now, I will see if I can sit down and just bang this out all at one. But before I get started I should say Happy New Year's Eve for those celebrating. I will be working this morning and New Year's Day as well, but Sammy and I are doing the breakfast sundaes at DeLuca's on New Year's Day, so my year is going to be off to a good start regardless. I am eyeing up the Granny Smith Apple one myself.
Okay, anyway I was in the middle of a story. The problem with me sneaking out to shop for them is since I usually live in the city and take public transportation everywhere (something that may be revisited this year if bus fares continue to go up and service continues to be cut as is once again the plan) I couldn't just hop in my car and take off for the store. And I didn't want them with me, even though I had their larger present bought (a HDTV) I still wanted to get them a few extra things. Yeah, Christmas is the one holiday I actually make a better than average effort for. The problem then was getting to the store, WalMart is open 24 hours which is a plus, and it is of the Super variety so I could get some groceries as well for my dishes for the family shindig, but it is probably a good mile and half walk at least. So now I have to sneak out after they have went to bed, put on ye olde hiking boots and start a walking. Of course this would be the night that creatures, namely parental units, would be doing too much stirring, so I didn't get out until around 3am. By the time I hike over to WalMart, buy my groceries and assorted Christmas gifts and lug two large bags of stuff home it is around 5:30am. I didn't even bother doing any wrapping, I figured I could save that for Christmas Eve night, a rush job on wrapping presents on Christmas Eve wasn't going to drastically affect the quality of my wrap jobs anyway, I suck at that task.
So instead I took a little nap, until 10am or so on Christmas Eve, and then I was up again doing some cooking for the family event later that day. I grabbed some stuff to throw together a quick spinach dip, but like I said before in the blog, I don't want to be the “dip guy”, I decided to make something else as well. The problem being I had never tried this recipe before but nonetheless I decided my family would make the perfect guinea pigs for my first ever attempt at broccoli casserole. And so I went about throwing it together and it came out pretty damn good for a first attempt if I do say so myself, since I tinkered with the recipe a bit, adding more rice and bacon than is originally called for and picking a lesser known cheese sauce that turned out to be quite a decent substitute for the standard Velveeta or Cheese Whiz that I am sure most people would employ.
The thing about Christmas Eve is that, with my grandmother no longer with us, my aunt Amy had decided to host the event this year. If I were in Pittsburgh that actually wouldn't have been to big a problem, I could have taken a city bus or two and made it there with no problem (and it also would have allowed me to Christmas shop during normal business hours on the 23rd as opposed to going out in the middle of the night) but since my family picked me up on the 23rd they also offered to take me to the Christmas Eve party, though they weren't going to stick around for it. It is something that bothers me I admit. If there is anything that I have learned this past year it is simply that you never know how many of these things you are going to get. I guess technically we all know that fact, but there is a certain taking it for granted that also accompanies that thought, that if I miss this one I will make up for it next year, or my petty grievance is reason enough for me to not see the bigger picture, and the significance of the moment is lost over lesser concerns. So I made an effort to convince my mom that she should attend, but I wasn't going to let hers or her husband's indifference about it dampen my overall enthusiasm over having many of my family under one roof for an evening. I gave it the old college try as it were, beyond that I washed my hands of making a bigger issue of it. If they just wanted to drop me off and then leave and then come back, it was on them, not me.
And lets not kid anyone, it was an awesome time. As it turned out I had Amy's name and one of the things I learned from having our monthly breakfasts was that as we were window shopping in the Strip District she had been eyeing some of the knit sweaters in this one shop we went into which is mostly Native American apparel. Usually I don't have that good of an idea of what to get people and I usually end up guessing. I had also gotten an FM clock radio with Ipod dock from one of the vendors at work, which I also gave her, so I think I did okay in the gifting department. My cousin Sarah had my name, and she got me a framed Winter Classic print and a Penguins fleece jacket, both of which are awesome I might add. At one point my parents called to see if I was ready to come home and I pretty much disappointed them by saying “No.” We hadn't even eaten yet let alone exchanged gifts and I wasn't about to let their pettiness rush what was a most pleasant evening.
Eventually I did make it back home, and again I had to wait for the creatures to quit stirring, this time so I could wrap presents and I think I finally finished around 4am. So if I want to blame anything for my current messed up sleeping schedule, I guess I could blame it on my vacation. I don't know how many nights I was up until ungodly hours only to wake up at 9 or 10 am, as opposed to my normal 5:30-6am wakeup ritual.
Well I finally turned in last night. I made it until about 2am before crashing and then getting up for work this morning. I haven't the stamina of my younger years where I can pull off an all niter at the drop of a hat, so I blogged as long as I could before realizing my body might need some sleep.
On the plus side I spent the better part of today at work counting down to breakfast tomorrow. Waffle sundaes sound so good right now. I have been spending enough weekends at DeLuca's so I might as well leave you a link to all of the goodness you are missing out on
So far I have tried a few items off of the menu and they all kick ass. Not that I have a discriminating palate or anything, but I have managed to bounce around the menu a bit and everything I have tried so far has been pretty amazing for diner food.
Anyway, if I am ever going to get to the end of this blog entry I had better get cracking by continuing with my vacation saga.
Christmas morning came and with it the airing of the grievances. Oh wait, that's Festivus. Instead it was the exchanging of gifts. I got a few things on my list, mainly my new leather jacket after years of asking for repairs to the old one on my list. And I hope that the family likes the HDTV, they hadn't hooked it up yet by the time I left, but they were due for a new TV. The old one is the non HD variety and there are some lines showing through on the top of the screen, so I knew a TV was needed, but I wasn't sure how big of one I could get because the cabinet they have the TV in has some limited space. Since I didn't have time to measure it ahead of time, I was working off of memory and went with a 22' model, which will work as the space in the unit couldn't fit anything bigger than a 27' TV. Then again I got them a Blu Ray player last year and I don't know if they even took it out of the box yet, so I guess I will find out on my next trip home if it was a useful present or not. The rest of Christmas was pretty uneventful, just lounging and being lazy, with a good home cooked meal thrown in for good measure.
The next real exciting event probably took place the following day when we all went to visit some family, my aunt and uncle Mouse and Mary. They were the ones that, when my grandmother passed away, Mouse was given her house in the will. He hasn't been staying there, instead his two sons Bob and Scott have moved into it, but they have sunk quite a bit of money into it since taking over. New windows were put in, walls were replastered after getting built up moisture out of them, the kitchen floor was redone, lots and lots of repainting. It was weird being in the house and having it look so different to what I was accustomed to, but at least it is being taken care of rather than left to go to pot. Of course there was the all too much complaining and gossiping about who got what and who did this and that which is what I was hoping to avoid this holiday season, but I did my best to just keep my mouth shut. Now you see why another reason why I wanted nothing from my grand parent's estate, someone would have found a reason to bitch about it even if I did ask for something. When I am dead and gone and there is some tabulations of all of the smart versus dumb things I ever did, not taking anything is going to end up way high in the smart column. This blog page might not be so lucky.
I also got to break out my pool game a couple of times over vacation. It seems Mike has joined a league somewhere in Indiana, and as part of his Christmas presents my mom got him a couple of new sticks to shoot with. So we went out a couple of times to shoot with his friends, one of which was on the pool league with him. Let's just say, if ever I committed myself to shooting pool, I could easily be the best person on their team. I haven't shot in 6 months and there many were times where I actually felt like I was the best shot there.
The only really bad part to the vacation, save for the gossiping part, was that my run as fantasy football league champ came to a end after two straight seasons. The regular season ended with me finishing with an 11-3 record, the best record overall and good for the #1 seed in the fantasy playoffs. Being #1 meant I got a first round bye, so my first playoff weekend was Christmas weekend. Then I went and over thought things. As a general rule when people ask me for advice on fantasy football I tell people that your first few picks are guys that you should expect to play every week they are available, if not then you shouldn't have drafted them in the first place. Sure injuries can come into play, a guy may tear an ACL or something and miss the season forcing you to scramble to find an adequate replacement, but as a general rule if you are drafting them you should be playing them. Enter my #1 pick Adrian Peterson. I drafted him in the first round, second overall, and while he wasn't my best fantasy player this year (that honor would go to Arian Foster), he did nothing that would make me believe he was a bad pick. A solid if unspectacular year, he was still amongst the league leaders in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, I got exactly what I was expecting out of him with a #1 pick. Then the first week of the fantasy playoffs, with me sitting out with a bye, I see that Adrian Peterson doesn't play due to an injury in the Vikings matchup against the Bears. Since it wasn't something that had shown up on any injury report as to be something to concerned about, the benching caught many people off guard and I am sure cost some people some fantasy playoff games out there. But not me, I was off. And I wasn't going to get fooled like everyone else, I would make plans. Glorious plans. Plans that would show that I was indeed the smartest fantasy football player to ever walk the face of the earth. Three peat here I come. I start scanning the waiver wire to see who I can pick up in lieu of AP being off a second straight week. After all, the Vikings were out of the playoff race, playing a Philadelphia team that was still trying to get themselves a bye in the playoffs, why would the Vikings risk a franchise player in a game that meant nothing if they didn't play him the previous week. So I looked and I see a gentleman by the name of Rashad Jennings, running back of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Normally Jennings is a second string guy, but the starting running back in Jacksonville was doubtful for the coming week with a knee injury. And Jennings was running against Washington, one of the worst run defenses in all the NFL. This had the makings of a steal of epic proportions. Fantasy gurus know what I am talking about, grabbing that one unknown quantity that vaults them from mere afterthought to fantasy greatness. A couple of years ago Tyler Thigpen rose from the depths of obscurity to such a station, only to fall back into those depths shortly thereafter. But I didn't care if Jennings had a Hall of Fame career, I was looking for a starter who could amply fill in for Adrian Peterson for a week or two. So scoop him up I did, and I benched Adrian Peterson. And a voice rang down from the fantasy heavens asking if I was worshipping some false god and why I was violating the commandment of benching a first round pick. The gods spoke and I was smote. Jennings scored 3 points, Peterson had 13. If that wasn't enough, the gods then proceeded to kick the ass of the rest of my team as well. San Diego's defense, playing for a post season spot, absolutely imploded against a 2-12 Cincinnati squad minus Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Matt Ryan gets credit for a fumble (-2 pts) when his center bounces a snap back to him. Chris Cooley has multiple drops, including a touchdown pass. My team, save for a couple of performances, became a black hole of suck. As a result I lose by 10 points and am relegated to the 3rd place game, and if 2nd place is the 1st loser than the best I can hope for is being the 2nd loser.
That being said, I made it back to Pittsbuugh and work yesterday, and for all of my worrying that things would go horribly wrong in my absence, nothing of the sort actually came to pass. Not that everything was perfect, and my first order I put in will be a large one, much to Brian's dismay, but the wheels didn't fall off the wagon as it were, Sammy did a more than capable job filling in for me. Enough so that I actually got to focus on catching up on office work as opposed to fixing screw ups. And trust me, there was office work to be had. Ed may be in Florida, but that didn't stop him from sending 4 different faxes of things he wanted me to do which were waiting for me upon my arrival. Plus I had a project or two I wanted to get out of the way, and being we are very slow during the holiday season and most everything was caught up on, I had a chance to do just that.
And with that I think we are almost caught up until current day, at least as caught up as I plan on being for the time being. I am thinking that some changes may need to come to this page again in the coming year, after all I have to have a hook for the audience in some way, shape or form. I just haven't decided on how exactly to go about it yet. Well, that is best left for another day, like tomorrow. For now I am content in that I have bored you for 8 pages, so my work here is done.