Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Dusty in Here...

Anyone who happens to stumble across the Troglodad blog may notice it hasn't been updated in awhile. That's because I've moved on to other projects.

As such, it's probably time to come clean. Troglodad is just a persona. An online troll I developed for a little website called "Mythoughtworld.com".

I'm not really as trollish as Troglodad appears. It was all just an act. Preparation really, for a non-fiction, humourous parenting book.

Alas, I never got that project finished. Real life got in the way and then I got bit by the screenwriting bug. Which led me back to fiction writing and then on to self-publishing.

These days, my time is all focused on that fiction book, which you can read more about over at http://www.StoneSoldiers.info

So it's going to get dustier here at Troglodad. A lot dustier. In fact, I'm letting the .com domain name expire.

Maybe one day in the far future, Trog will return. But for now, I'm putting him back in his cave.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

#HighGasPrices #Whatchagonnado

Dear Hollyweird,
 
I regret to inform you that due to the increase in the price of gasoline, due in part to the officials you helped get elected, I will no longer be able to go see your overpriced films in theaters.
 
You see, not only are your tickets prices too high, but the actual cost to drive to your theaters has become prohibitive. As such, myself and my family will have to stay home and rewatch DVDs we have already paid for, and can rewatch countless times for free. Thereby saving ticket money and fuel- to pay for the fuel we need to go to work, the grocery and to take our children to school.
 
I realize this places a hardship on you and your countless employees. This will undoubtably cause many fine ilms to not be made. But the reduction in your funds may also mean that you will have less to invest in political campaigns, and ultimately gas prices might once again return to more reasonable levels.
 

Sincerely,
 
Average Consumer

Friday, February 24, 2012

CARMAX: The HP of Auto Market Customer Service

In December 2010, after a lot of shopping, my wife and I finally settled on a nice Dodge Grand Caravan from Carmax. We chose Carmax because:
 
A) I'm too cheap to buy something new and watch it depreciate as I drive it home
B) Several people, among them my best pal, went on and on about how superawesomefantastical Carmax is
 
A little over a year later, I beg to differ.
 
The first problem we had with our limited edition 2005 van was a tear in the seat. It has been cleverly hidden with some luggage upholstery repair glue. Problem is, they're heated seats and I park outside during the day. The butt-warming of winter, followed by the hot rays of 2011's summer took their toll. The patch job began to melt and turn gooey, looking like a blob of chewing gum.
 
That really burned me up. Carmax goes on and on about how they won't sell a messed up car- it can't have been in wrecks, etc. etc. Yet here was a clear defect sloppily hidden. I raised hell.
 
To Carmax's credit, they repaired the cut in the seat correctly. And free of charge. Okay, I was thinking, they really are good.
 
Then, the DVD player went out in the van. Actually, it was partially broken when we bought the van. But we didn't realize back then it was a six-disk changer. When we did figure it out, we didn't really care two trys wouldn't play. Four trays were still four times as many as we'd originally thought we'd had. But when the unit completely crapped out, it had to be fixed. It was the main feature we'd looked for when shopping for a van, and the kids had to have it.
 
Fortunately, when we got the van, we opted for the extended warranty/insurance, MaxCare. It ran us about $40 a month. For $50, Carmax would fix about any problem, or we could take it to a shop of our choice and get it approved repairs done for $100.
 
While I could have swapped out the bad DVD player in under an hour myself, seeing as how they cose over $200, we opted to give MaxCare a go. For $50, an electronics guy came out to my work place and fixed the van in the parking lot. Very easy.
 
At this point in my story, Carmax is looking pretty good. But since it's human nature to complain and not compliment, that is soon changing...
 
Recently, the van began to make a weird grinding noise when the A/C compressor kicked on (it runs even in winter as part of a dehumidifcation process). I took it to Carmax to have them look at it.
 
While compressors are covered under MaxCare, it was explained to me that if the diagnostic test revealed it to be some non-covered problem, for example, a bird caught in the engine compartment, I would have to pay $85 for the test. If it turned out to be a covered problem, it would be $50 for the test, parts, repair, etc.
 
About an hour or so later, I got the good news. It wasn't the compressor- it was an alternator going bad. Unfortunately, they didn't have any alternators on hand, and would have to get one from nearby Lexington, KY. They estimated it'd be another three hours before the part got there.
 
What if I wanted to just leave and fix it myself- changing an alternator isn't rocket science. It's easier than changing the brake pads. Well... the Carmax guy explained that if I left, they'd have to charge me $85 for the diagnostic test, since they weren't doing the repair. And that if they repaired it, it would be covered under warranty. I looked online and found out an alternator for the van is over $200. I decided to let them fix it.
 
Next up , I was asked if I wanted a rental car.
 
See, Carmax is big on you dropping your vehicle off and letting them leisurely fix it. I had taken the day off work to get the van diagnosed and maybe fixed, plus a couple of other errands I had to run. It was explained to me that if I go a rental, it would have to be for at least one day, and they would hold the van to fix it. The Carmax guy graciously offered to put the repair in the system as a two day event.
 
I opted against this- because I couldn't take off work the next day to return a rental, go get the van, etc. etc. I asked if I could just wait around for the repair- it was an alternator, how long could it take? This produced hemming and hawing and the Carmax guy dropped into used car salesman mode, being all friendly and chatting it up with me about non-car-related things. I will give CarMax credit for this- all their employees are nice and friendly, never rude.
 
Eventually, I decided to have my retired father-in-law come get me. He drove me home where my back up car was- our old, reliable, 1991 Toyota Camry, still going strong, what with its recently rebuilt engine. No problem, I thought. I could run my errands in the Camry, then use it to drive my wife over to get the van after she got off work. Carmax lets you pick up your vehicle as late as 9PM.
 
Totally not Carmax's fault, but that didn't work. See, the Camry rarely is driven. When I fired it up, in an unbelievable turn of bad luck, its alternator was also bad. Great. No car. Kids at school. Wife at work. Errands to run.
 
I caled Carmax... when is the van going to be ready. The lady who had answered put me on hold. She came back and said I'd need to speak the service department guy- he'd call me in a few minutes. Great. Just great. When you get an answer like that, you know it can't be good.
 
I waited for about an hour, hour and a half. I finally got the call. Seems that at 4:30 PM, they finally had my part in hand. But since they closed at 6:00 PM, they couldn't get the van done- you know, cause they needed to check it after installation, etc.
 
Allright, I'm no mechanic, but I've changed at least six alternators in my life. The last one I was able to drive to the parts store, get the new alternator, return home and install it... in just about an hour and a half. WTF.
 
So now it's 4:30 PM and I have no car. Fortunately, my father-in-law was picking up my wife from work, and my eldest child from tennis practice. But what about the next day? Was I to expect him to drive us to work? Maybe he could brush our teeth and dress us if he wasn't busy.
 
I demanded a rental car.
 
I was given my authorization number and told I had to go through Enterprise-Rent-A-Dirty-Car. I called the nearest one in my hometown. It was 4:50 PM. They put me on hold after I explained what I needed. For five and half minutes. Then they hung up on me. I guess it was quitting time.
 
I called another Enterprise. They were much more helpful. And open until 6PM.
 
Off we raced to the new Enterprise. When asked what car I wanted I explained I was 6'5" and need something that doesn't require me to tilt the seat into the back- because my kids would be in the back. Choice number one was a Chevy Impala. I tried it out. It was liking sticking my face in an ashtray. It reeked of cigarettes. That wouldn't do.
 
Choice #2, the final choice, a Chevy Malibu. I was bale to fit in it, but just barely. And Enterprise made me feel at home, giving me the car dirty on inside and out. Possibly not their fault since I was renting it at the end of the day.
 
Now it's day two. I'm waiting to find out how much longer it's going to take Helen Keller to install my alternator over at Carmax. I know I'm not going to drive the Malibu over the weekend.
 
We'll see where this goes, but I don't think I'll be buying my next car from Carmax.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

@SamsClub The Home of the Bait and Switch?

As SuperBowl weekend approaches, many of you are no doubt contemplating upgrading to a bigger and better television. If you've shopped at Sam's Club before, you may think it is the place to get the best deal on a television. Ordinarily, you'd be right. But not this week.
 
On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, Sam's was offering a Westinghouse, 120Hz, 46" LED-LCD for $568.00. Compared to HH Gregg and Sears, who each want over $700 for the same set, that's quite a deal. I was sure sold.
 
I don't need this TV for any silly football game. I need it to replace a TV that has broken. My 42" LG LCD set. See, I recently had an electrical short in my home. In the course of helping me fix it, my father-in-law decided it'd be a good idea to fan a breaker back and forth, off and on, several times in one second. The next day, my beloved LG developed a problem with its display. Half the screen would go black. A tap on the edge of the case and the picture restored. This continued for days, growing worse to the point that the TV now will suddenly show vertical lines of colors. Meaning I have to get up, tap the edge and hope it comes back on.
 
I need a new set.
 
After much online searching, I finally chose the Westinghouse at Sam's. This morning, January 25, 2012, I checked the price one last time. Oh, ho! It was down to $524. Even better! And it was time for the family's ever-other-week trip for supplies to Sam's anyway.
 
Unfortunately, when we got there, the Westinghouse was nowhere to be seen. I checked my smart phone and discovered the set is now an online-only order. I checked Walmart.com. They have the set for $499.99. Online only. Target? $499.99, online only- but with free shipping.
 
What the hell?
 
Why pull a set that was confirmed in-stock yesterday, and tell customers they have to order it? What's the point of marking something down but not offering it for sale?
 
I asked a sales person. If I ordered online, I couldn't pick the set up- they'd ship it to my home. Next week. I was not happy with this answer. She suggested I go to the customer service desk. That's fine, except there always seems to be a long line there.
 
Here's the deal. Sam's lures people in with the promise of a set at a great price. When you get there, it's gone. All the other 46" LED-LCD TVs are $600 or more. That is a classic bait-and-switch.
 
Why should I give Sam's my money? I mean, if I have to wait for the set I want, why not buy it from Target? I'm not buying a set to watch football on- I'm replacing a TV my kids and I watch daily. I need a set now.
 
This whole thing has me not wanting to shop at Sam's ever again. Target is right down the road, and we shop there every-other-week as well. Why not give Target all our money? The only reason we go to Sam's is to buy in bulk and try and save money.
 
Sam's is using trickery to get as much of your money as possible. They proclaim great deals, and normally they have some. But because they know a lot of folks are all hyped up about sports, they've decided to go greedy and try and fleece the masses. I'd expect that kind of behavior from Walmart. But I thought their cousin company was better.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#ParentTip Teaching Your Kids NOT to Curse

There comes a time in every parent's life when they hear their child utter a profanity for the first time. For me, it was when my oldest was almost 3 and she blurted out "F*CK!"
 
Horrifying.
 
In all fairness, it was my fault. Like a veritable indoor Cody Lundin, I like to go barefoot at home. This is often dangerous when small children lay their toys about. Especially girls with their chintzy vending-machine jewlery. In this case, a metal ring undoubtably made of 50% lead, imported from the finest of Indian jewlers. When I placed my foot on it, then pressed my (then) 265 pounds down on it, it very nearly sliced through my callouses. I immediately exlaimed the F-word, and struck the wall that happened to be nearby. My daughter thought it was hilarious and burst out laughing. For several days thereafter, she would run around and declare "F*CK!" then hit the wall and break out laughing.
 
Not long after, we adopted the "movie talk" policy: you may only use movietalk if you are in a movie, or when you reach 18. It has worked for years.
 
Alas, as the children have grown older and become more exposed to life, they are beginning to hear more and more colorful language. Especially from the internet.
 
Just a few nights ago me and the kids watched some Youtube gamer videos- I'm fascinated by the ways so many people find to glitch and cheat in games. We stumbled across very polissibly the funniest gamer on the internet: ROBBAZ- King of Sweden. Amongst the colorful language we heard from Robbaz was him calling the other team in a commentary of a BF3 match "Pussies" (or as he says it, poo-sies; he has a funny swedish accent). Yoinks!
 
The next night, me and the girls waited in the minivan while the wife grocery shopped (the van having a DVD player and comfortable leather seats- making it far more comfortable than pushing a shopping cart). During this waiting time, my eldest, Sammie, decided to quote Robbaz, and uttered the word "Pussies".
 
Argh.
 
I told her not to say that word... then had to explain why she can't. Crap.
 
I hastily explained that pussies are pussycats, and went into one of my mind-numbingly boring dissertations on the origin of the phrase: how in 1950s people called someone very nice and quiet a pussycat, etc. etc. I then went on to explain that pussycats are the weakest of animals- that even a small child could kill one, and so a "pussy" was someone overly weak. I told her that there was another use of the word that is cursing, and that she didn't need to know it, but just don't use the word and but that Robbaz meant it as a "sissy"-type remark on his gaming opponents.
 
Ha! Clever, on-the-fly lying points for me...
 
Hours later, as I reflected on this, I thought, "Oh, my God, what if my daughter says that word at school? In front of her mother?
 
After a talk with the wife, I decided it was time for a conversation about cursing with my 12 year old.
 
I revealed the origins of the word again... from harmless 1950s & 60s term for a quiet, nice, etc person, to the shortened euphemism for a female body part in the 1970s and 1980s, to it's over use in the 1990s, leading to it cavalierly being thrown about now as a term for a weak person. I equated it to "pantywaist" a term not used much anymore. Then I had to explain that. I stated that I prefer she use "wussy" if she had too, but admitted I don't know the origins of that one.
 
We then went on to cover other profanities, "balls", "Bollux", "fag", etc. etc. I liked to throw the British terms in to demonstrate how something harmless-sounding here might be offensive in other countries and vice-versa. For example, "Tits", another of Robbaz's favorites. I explained teats, boobs, knockers, hooters, etc. I explained that "tit" doesn't have the same offensiveness overseas as here. I should have explained "tit-mouse" but I completely blanked on that one.
 
In the end I answered her questions about other words she's heard at school ("Chode" for example). I explained why boys like to talk about "hot dogs" and "weiners" and why they think it's funny. And I got an agreement that she not repeat any word she doesn't know the meaning of until checking it with me.
 
Thank goodness the wife had already given a Birds and Bees 101 talk. it would have been f*cking awkward to have that conversation with a 12 year old.
 
So to all you Youtubers out there... please watch it with the sex talk. Children are watching.
 
 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Don't Order From WBSHOP.com

Anyone out there in the internet land thinking of ordering from the WB Shop... think twice.
 
I ordered a set of DVDs Nov. 14th. Still hasn't been processed.

I have emailed twice asking wazzup. Finally got a response:
 
nlc-shadow@digilink.net has been notified via email that their
mailbox is full.  If your message is urgent, you should
contact them on the telephone. Thank you.
 
I don't know who nlc-shadow is, but he needs to read his damned emails.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Is your Furnace Working?

It's nearly winter here in the midwest, and that's the time of year that many people find out that their furnace isn't working.
 
Fear not, just because the heat won't come on, doesn't mean you have to panic and call a repairman.
 
Here's a quick troubleshooting checklist anyone should be able to do to get things working:
 
1. Check the batteries on your thermostat. Replace them even. Bad batteries can cause the whole system to go off. Or maybe someone (your kid) played with the thermostat and turned it off, or broke it. Thermostats are under a hundred dollars, sometimes under $50 at your local home improvement store. Changing a thermostat is more complicated than changing a light bulb, but less complicated than changing a bad breaker.
 
2. Check the air returns to make sure nothing is blocking air flow TO the furnace. Gas furnaces have a safety feature where they kick off if they can't pull in enough air. This is to prevent catching themselves on fire
 
3. Check the vents- to make sure they aren't blocked, preventing proper air flow (see #2)
 
4. Check your breakers. Maybe one tripped, shutting off power to a part of the furnace. Like the main or secondary blowers.
 
5. Check the filters- a clogged filter can prevent proper air flow. (See #2)
 
6. Look for an error code light. For example on my Trane, there is a curcuit board with an LED. Through a window in the front access panel, you can see the light blink. Count the blinks. Take off the panel off (when the furnace isn't running)and there should be a chart that tells you what the blinks mean. It might be a return heat sensor (upper limit) that's gone bad (ours has three times in 12 years). If it goes out, the furnace thinks it's too hot and shuts off. (See #2)
 
7. Check to make sure the panels are on right- they have to have a good seal to prevent bringing in outside air. If a panel has been knocked loose, the system may shut off- similar to what happens when you open the door to your dryer.
 
8. Get your make and model number and google, google google. You might find it's some simple other problem.