New Shoes in the Rain

Friday, July 29, 2016

Small victories

Happy Friday to all.  Weekend is almost here!

In the midst of my months-long job search and attack of multiple home-based projects that I’ve detailed here previously, I’ve also used some of my time to address a number of one-off needs for assistance from the makers of various items.  Looks like I’ve gotten resolution on many of them.  Here’s a sampling.

Right after I was displaced, I was cleaning my grill and discovered that my wet-dry vacuum motor was giving out.  So I bought another one, a good brand from a national retailer.   Six gallon capacity tank, attachments, pretty much everything you’d need.

The only problem was that most every time I picked this thing up to move it, the tank would come loose from the main motor assembly. The two were held together by clips and for whatever reason they simply would not stay clipped when the additional stress of picking up the unit occurred.

I e-mailed the manufacturer, and, unbelievably, was told that they recommended I pick it up by the bottom!  I did a bit of online research and found numerous instances of ad copy that noted a “convenient top carry handle” on this model.    I sent excerpts of these ads, and, wouldn’t you know it, they told me that there had been numerous complaints about this and they would send me replacement latches ASAP.  The replacements came with horrible directions, but I was able to replace them and now my vac functions as intended.

Here’s another one:  on an interview trip I was using my noise-cancelling headphones (if you travel by plane regularly and don’t have a pair of these, you MUST get some, particularly now that you can plug in and turn on music or video as soon as you board the plane!) and the mesh bag that Velcros to the back of the case had a complete zipper failure.  Luckily, I removed the contents of the bag (a spare battery) right before this happened.  But now I had no storage bag for adapters, batteries, etc.

I contacted the manufacturer via their online contact form, and in the meantime spoke with someone about an unrelated matter.  That person told me that, no, they don’t have replacements of that bag.  Oh, well, I thought.  Then a different agent responded to my online inquiry and asked for my headphones’ serial number.  I sent that and my address and they’re sending me an entirely new case, no charge.  Not bad.

One more and I’ll stop.  I bought a unique pair of eyeglasses several years ago.  Totally different from what I have traditionally worn, but they’re light, comfortable and pretty good looking.  The manufacturer gave a three year warranty and actually replaced the entire frame, custom to my head measurements, after some problems occurred with the original.  In any case, the current version of the frame has been fine until recently, when some whitish areas began to show up.

My optician no longer carries this line, so I attempted to contact the company, which is based in England.  I wound up having a lot of friendly correspondence with a woman who works for them there, and she eventually referred me to an equally helpful person in Chicago.  They first wanted me to send the glasses in to them, but since I don’t have a spare pair with my current prescription, I told them that would not work.  So finally they agreed to send me some “care cream,” which is a conditioner for the frame materials (they’re made of a high-cotton acetate, so apparently they require special attention).  I received it yesterday, and my glasses look about as good as they did when new.

I suppose that it’s been fortunate that I’ve had the time to deal with some of these issues, so it’s a good thing that these, at least, have turned out well.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me….

Oh, good morning!  Caught me in a little self-celebration, as I turn 56 years old today!  And lest we forget, on this date in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to have walked on the moon!

I have been showered with birthday greetings from friends today and that always feels good.  My wife is going all out to celebrate my birthday (and it’s not even what I would consider a “milestone’) and it should be a good day!

With all of that in mind, I thought I’d never live long enough to see the chaos and hysteria that is coming from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week.  I know partisan politics is exactly that—partisan.  But all of the comments about how the opposition candidate should treated for her various sins are very much over the top!

So are the appearances of all of the Republican candidate’s family members.  I won’t spend time or space dissecting his wife’s address on Monday night that apparently contained some plagiarized passages from our current First Lady’s address in a similar situation.  Two of the nominee’s adult children spoke last night, and the world and the convention hall yawned.  I assume there’s more of this family affair coming, plus the dull VP nominee will speak at some point.  Unless he’s upstaged by the nominee—that appears to be a trend in this campaign!

I honestly think it’s very funny that so many of the speakers will not mention the nominee by name, or will only do so in passing or a limited way.  This is how thrilled the GOP is with their nominee.  We may well see some of the same next week in the Democratic convention, but I would bet that it will at least be better orchestrated than this fiasco.

So the world goes on in spite of this event.  I read that another police officer, this time a captain, was killed in the line of duty in Kansas City yesterday.  It just goes on and on.

I actually wrote to my Congressman, a Republican, after the Orlando mass shooting, asking what he was prepared to do to prevent further such events.  While I was heartened to have received a response (he is, after all, running for reelection), I was disappointed that it was the same old National Rifle Association line that we so often see, referring to protecting the rights of responsible gun owners, etc.

Suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Traveling through time

I bring greetings on this Wednesday afternoon, having just returned from sunny, humid and HOT south Florida last night.  I was there for an interview trip, and by all accounts, things went well.  So we shall see what comes of that.

I often share travel stories in this space, but not to this particular location.  My last visit to Miami, Florida was when I was on the verge of graduating from college, back in 1982!  At that time I felt that a career in supermarket management might be a good fit, as I had spent nearly six years working in a small grocery and had had exposure to nearly every aspect of operations of the store.  I also had an urge to move to Florida in those days, which is a little hard to fathom since it’s not a high priority destination for me now, and I can’t even imagine relocating there at this stage of life.

In any case, my objectives seemed clear, and some time at the library provided me some information about Florida-based grocery chains with ample locations and an established management trainee program.  So I sent resumes to many of them, and received responses from several.  I recall some very basic phone screenings (employers didn’t rely on phone interviews nearly as much as today, of course) and because spring break was coming up I was able to set appointments with two companies.

My first meeting was in the Miami suburb of Hialeah, with the Grand Union grocery chain.  I’m told by a Miami native that the chain went away some years ago, having been absorbed into another chain, apparently.  For some reason, I even remember that I was to meet with a man named Larry Boyajian (suppose a name that distinctive would stick with anyone) and I did on the day appointed, in Hialeah, which is not far from downtown Miami and very close to the Miami International Airport. 

I can still picture Larry:  a small man, deeply tanned with coal-black hair and a neatly trimmed mustache.  He was extremely affable and seemed pretty encouraging about my prospects.

Ultimately I was not chosen for the job.  My assumption was and is that they were better off concentrating on new employees who already resided in the state of Florida, and I never received anything more than a “thank you for applying” letter.

The other chain with whom I scheduled an interview was located in the central part of the state.  I traveled there after my visit with Grand Union, traveling through orange groves and some pretty desolate and lightly populated areas.  I arrived at my prospective employer the next morning only to find that the personnel manager had no record of an appointment.  The receptionist, who was pretty indifferent to my situation and the distance I had traveled, invited me to send my resume by mail—which, of course, I had already done!

As you might imagine, that trip was by car, and I have pretty good memories of the journey.  A good friend accompanied me all the way to Jacksonville, and I left him there at a budget beachside motel, driving all of the next day to Miami and then north to Lakeland the following day.  We reconnected the day after that and then headed home, stopping in Gatlinburg, Tennessee on our way home, because neither of us had been there, either.

Ironic that another job interview thirty-plus years later prompted my second trip to Miami.  This time I flew, so I left Monday evening and returned late last night.   I don’t know when I’ll be back in that area, but I somehow don’t think it will be ANOTHER 34 years!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thinking about what I've done

Good morning, all.  It’s steamy here in central Kentucky right now.  We’ve had some rain, and that just makes it worse!

As regular visitors to this space know, I’ve been without a job for the past four months.  Though I spend an extensive amount of my time researching companies, applying for advertised positions and interviewing (primarily by phone), and will continue to do so until I have the right position, I have also used a good bit of my time somewhat wisely and tackled a few projects both here and elsewhere.

For instance, about two weeks ago our over-the-range microwave oven began emitting an odor of burning plastic, which is not a good thing at all.  My quick research indicated that the circuit board was probably giving out, which meant it wasn’t really a viable option to fix it.

So we selected a replacement oven, which was on sale, and ordered it from a local appliance and electronics dealer.  It came in just as our son and his wife were having a yard sale, then my wife and I went out of town briefly, so finally yesterday I set about installing it.  With the help of several YouTube videos to explain the process and what to be aware of (and honestly, what did we do before YouTube?), I removed the old oven and installed the new one.  It took me about two hours, my wife helped in a couple of brief instances, but we now have a new, correctly-operating microwave.  And I avoided a delivery and installation charge, important while conserving funds!

I also was having some problems with the igniter on my outdoor grill.  Decided to get into that one day and found that the writing between the nine-volt transistor battery (yes, those still exist) and the ignition system had broken in a couple of places.  So I replaced the wiring and the battery receptacle.  Works like a charm now.  Earlier in the spring I had taken the entire grill apart and thoroughly cleaned it, which is one of the nastier jobs I can think of.

I think I’ve mentioned the painting of trim around our house’s interior, which was long overdue.  I have more interior paint, but nothing else in the house really needs to be painted!

When I was displaced from my former position, I also took to mowing not only our yard, which is normal, but our son’s yard, too.  I’m not sure how large it is, but it takes a good two hours to mow it, plus edging and trimming around the fencelines.  It’s good exercise for me, of course, gives me something to do and more importantly it gives him back some time with his family that he would ordinarily have to devote to yard work.  My wife and I helped him with some major work in his yard, too, cutting back shrubbery that grew over his fence in several places and spreading mulch.

I’ve sold a few things on Craigslist and one via a new app called LetGo (think Instagram but for selling stuff).  Nothing major, but it cleared out some unwanted stuff and produced some walking-around money.  We’re also in the process of gathering some unwanted clothes to donate to a local charity for resale.

I’ve redone a couple of brick walkways around our house, and created a rock garden to surround our main bird feeder.  I’ve trimmed hedges, pulled weeds, cleaned our rain barrel twice, cleaned out the garage, cleaned out our cars several times, cleaned out the desk and credenza in my home office, and other small undertakings.

Another thing I did early on is that I spent some time ripping our DVDs into digital form, and donated the disks to the local library.  Freed up some storage space and we still have copies of those movies.  I can probably do more of that but have not yet.

But let’s be honest—I would really rather be working.  Not just for the money, of course, but for the activity and the sense of accomplishment that we all at least hope to get from working.

Here’s hoping that will happen soon—I’m running out of projects!